The Grand National


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Ocean Boulevard, Promenade, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY4 1EZ


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Statutory Address:
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Ocean Boulevard, Promenade, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY4 1EZ

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Blackpool (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


A wooden ‘Möbius loop’ racing rollercoaster of 1935, designed by Charles Paige and Harry G Traver, with a concrete Moderne station by Jospeh Emberton completely replaced in 1990 to the original designs.

Reasons for Designation

The Grand National, a wooden rollercoaster built in 1935, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Date and rarity: as one of only six pre-Second World War wooden rollercoasters in the country, and the fifth example in the world of a Möbius loop racing rollercoaster, of which only two pre-war examples survive; * Designer: the ride also has strong associations with the prolific rollercoaster designer Harry G Traver, and the notable designer Charles Paige, of whose work this is one of only three operating examples; * Survival: the track’s original configuration and essential character have been retained; * Historic interest: as an important and evocative aspect of the popular seaside heritage of Blackpool, one of the foremost English seaside resorts, and Blackpool Pleasure Beach, its internationally-significant amusement park; * Group value: with the other listed structures at the Pleasure Beach, in particular the other major wooden rollercoaster the Big Dipper (Grade II, National Heritage List for England 1436080) and with Sir Hiram Maxim’s Captive Flying Machine (Grade II, NHLE 1436214).


Blackpool Pleasure Beach is the best-known amusement park in the country, and with its five wooden and five steel tracks has been called the rollercoaster capital of the United Kingdom. Evolving through a partnership between two operators who first brought rides to this shoreline in 1894 and 1896, the Pleasure Beach has always been at the forefront in amusement technology and development, and has successfully renewed its offer over the last 110 years. However, there is no other park that still reflects so much of the history of this industry.

The Grand National was opened in 1935 as the main new ride in what was then, 'the greatest programme of capital expansion in the history of the Pleasure Beach'. Leonard Thompson took over running the Pleasure Beach in 1929, and having bought out John Outhwaite’s heirs and achieved an acceptable route for a road extension that threatened to bisect the park, in 1933 he embarked in earnest on the programme described above, assisted by an architectural and engineering ‘dream team’. Following the construction of the Roller Coaster, American designer Charles Paige worked on the Grand National, with his countryman Harry G Traver. Traver had recently built the Cyclone Coaster at Long Beach, California, and the Grand National was a similar ‘racing’ rollercoaster. Paige added the sophistication of a ‘Möbius loop’, in which cars appear to swap between side-by-side tracks without any crossover taking place (the feat is achieved by having a single track that makes two parallel circuits, passing through the station twice, and a ride duration that only takes passengers around half of the full circuit). The Grand National was only the fifth such rollercoaster in the world (the first was John A Miller’s Derby Racer of 1913 at Euclid Beach, Cleveland, Ohio), and was seen at the time as a revolutionary new ride and one of the most exciting rollercoasters in the world. It is now one of only two extant pre-war ‘Möbius loop’ rollercoasters in the world (the other being the Racer at Kennywood, Pennsylvania).

The original concrete and glass station was designed by leading British Modernist architect, Joseph Emberton, who was employed to bring a unified, streamlined appearance across the park. However, in 1990 the decision was taken to address previous alterations and current repair needs by means of a complete rebuild of the station, based on the original drawings. This replica was also damaged by fire in 2004 and repaired. Fires have also destroyed the motor-house and motors (1980), and some of the track (2004). From 1980 onwards, changes have been made to the structure including replacing original nailed details with coach screws and through-bolts, replacing manual braking and control systems with a fully automated electronic control system, installation of a new transfer track and additional strengthening, either of steel bracing or enlarged timber sections.


A rollercoaster of 1935 by Charles Paige and Harry G Traver, with a station of 1990 to designs by Joseph Emberton, and with later modifications.

MATERIALS: timber with steel reinforcements and a concrete and glass station.

PLAN: broadly L-shaped, aligned east-west at the western end and north-south at the eastern end, with the station at the west end.

DESCRIPTION: sited to the east side of the northern half of Blackpool Pleasure Beach, with the station close to the visitor entrance to the park.

The main track sits atop two parallel vertical grids of timber, whose varying height causes the track to rise and fall. The two grids are connected and braced by horizontal timbers at the same intervals, and diagonal timbers running from each corner to its opposite on the other side. Additional bracing is found on the face of each grid, running diagonally but not always between corners. Raking shores also support the grids at high level. The rails comprise layered timber boards, the top layers being wider than the others to retain the under-friction wheels. Along the top of the boards is fixed a shallow metal strip on which the running wheels rest. Similar strips run along the inner face for the side friction wheels, and along the soffit of the top boards in areas where negative-G is achieved and the under-friction wheels are employed.

From the station, short curves loop and descend to the north and south and then head east (the south loop crossing under the northern inward route) to the bottom of the lift hill, which rises from west to east to a height of 62ft above the ground. The lifting mechanism comprises a looped chain which runs up the centre of each track on the lift hill, running on geared sprockets driven by an electric motor* housed in a brick structure* to the north of the lift hill. From the top of the lift hill the track turns to the north and descends through a double dip, followed by a steep rise. It makes a high-level 195-degree right turn reaching the park boundary* with Bond Street and heading back to the lift hill, through two drops with a crest between. It then turns away from the lift hill again, through a left-hand 195-degree aeroplane bend, back towards the north west corner, dipping twice to below-ground level and rising again. It now runs through the superstructure below the higher-level track, turning 195 degrees to the right, to exit the superstructure and run alongside Bond Street, parallel with the first descent, through three dips separated by crests. Entering the superstructure again below the aeroplane bend, it turns 90 degrees to the right, exiting the superstructure again and descending parallel with the lift hill, through bunny hops and running beneath an access bridge* before rising again and splitting into the station after 3,400ft (a complete circuit comprising two rides would double this).

The station comprises a central timber platform with a glazed timber control-house* at the east end, and accessed by steps* at the west end. Stainless steel railings* control the queue, with cast-iron gates allowing access to the tracks on either side. Outside each running track is a transfer track which can be moved into line with the running tracks (of which sections can be pushed under the platforms), to allow additional trains to be added to the ride. Exit steps* descend through the centre of the platform and emerge at the south west corner. The 1990 Art Deco station superstructure* consists of a concrete spine, planar roofs and a slender tower, supported by steel columns.

MAPPING NOTE: some sections of the ride pass beneath other structures; these sections are described in the text above and are included on the listing, but are not mapped.

* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the aforementioned items are not of special architectural or historic interest.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 03/10/2018


Books and journals
Bennett, Peter, Blackpool Pleasure Beach - A Century of Fun, (1996), 55-84
Brodie, Allan, Whitfield, Matthew, Blackpool's Seaside Heritage, (2014), 82-9
Walton, John K, Riding on Rainbows, (2007), 39-78
Rollercoaster Database, accessed 27/05/16 from
Heritage Assessment by Professor V Toulmin, 2016


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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