Hidden deep within the depths of Forbidden Valley lies an ancient creature, so powerful it created a substantial hole in the Staffordshire countryside. Twisting and turning through the rocky terrain, Nemesis creates a unique experience for new and seasoned thrill seekers alike and is still regarded by many as one of the top roller coasters in the world. Sit back – it’s fright time!
- Min. Rider Height: 1.4m
- Max. Rider Height: None
- Ride Photography: Yes
- Fastrack: Yes
- Manufacturer: B&M
- Ride Type: Inverted Coaster
- Opened: 19th March 1994
- Cost: £10 million
- Track Length: 716m
- Max. Track Height: 20m
- Max. Speed: Approx 81km/h
- G-Force: 4G
- Bolts: 7452
- Weight: 440 Tonnes
- Passengers per Car: 32
- Capacity: 1400 riders per hour
- Duration: 1 min 20 secs
As you approach the queue-line, situated in the heart of Forbidden Valley, you are first greeted by the distinctive roar created as the rollercoaster hurtles around its course. Entering the queue you descend into the pit passing a waterfall before walking beneath the lift hill element of the ride as trains ascend above your head. Turning left you follow a path alongside the main station – themed as the Nemesis Monster itself – you make your way up a short flight of steps before looping around to left to make your way into the station. As you wait, you can see the ride fly by at eye level increasing the level of anticipation you feel. Finally you enter the station – where there is the option to queue separately for the front row – and make your way down a short ramp to the batching area.
Riders self-batch into a total of 8 rows of four – six rows for general riders, the first row has its own queue and the final row can be reserved for disabled riders. Once the previous train has released riders, the air gates open allowing you to board the train. Any loose articles can be deposited in cages on the far side of the station. Taking your seat you pull down the white overhead restraint, locking it into place, before securing the seatbelt at the base of the restraint. Once all restraints have been confirmed to be locked and secured the floor beneath the train lowers before the train moves steadily out of the station.
Upon exiting the station the train takes a right turn towards the lift-hill and begins its ascent over the queueline which snakes beneath it. Once at the summit of the lift-hill the train makes a small dip before turning 180 degrees to the left descending 104ft down the first drop and into a right hand corkscrew. Continuing on a downward path, the train then enters a 270 degree right hand helix before rising up into the second inversion – a zero–g roll where riders experience a feeling of weightlessness. Following this, the train makes a right-hand stall turn into a vertical loop (which can be seen from the queueline by the station), before a left stall turn into another corkscrew. Passing through an underground tunnel, the train makes a final 180 degree turn before entering the brake run and pulling slowly into the station.
Once the train is secured in the station the restraints are released and you are able to leave the ride, collecting any loose articles deposited in the cages. You exit the station via a gate opened for you by one of the ride team and make your way down a short ramp. As you walk away from the ride you are able to view your on-ride photograph in a shop to the right hand side.
Thought to originate from a dimension beyond our imagination, the creature descended on Earth 2 million years ago – no one knows where it came from or what it wanted. Lying dormant for centuries, the Nemesis creature was disturbed during routine maintenance in Forbidden Valley. Furious at being discovered, the creature went on a rampage ripping up buildings and trees, causing havoc in the surrounding area. After top secret investigations by historians, archaeologists and the Ministry of Defence one think became clear – it had to be controlled. The creature was eventually pinned down using a special task force and 250 tonnes of steel, bent and twisted into the coaster track we see today. Watched over by Phalanx – a specially formed military unit, the Nemesis creature has remained restrained, however one thing is clear – Nemesis may be trained, but will never be tamed.
First opening on 19th March 1994 billed as ‘The Ultimate Thrill Ride’, Nemesis was Europe’s first inverted roller coaster (and only the second to be built in the world – the first being Batman: The Ride at Six Flags Great America). Restrictions placed upon the ride through planning rules forbade the attraction to be seen above tree height forcing Alton Towers to blast out the pit the ride now calls home. The result – a unique thrill ride twisting and turning around the rocky terrain creating near misses and white knuckle moments.
Designed to be a replacement for the Thunder Looper, the original proposal for the ride was a design from Arrow Dynamics. The company was working on a prototype pipeline rollercoaster and it was this that ride designer John Wardley first looked at. Codenamed Secret Weapon one (SW1) the ride was to be themed around a secret military facility and have a track length of just 300 metres (980ft) due to the restrictions placed upon the park. However, due to a combination of technical issues with the design of the ride and financial problems being encountered by Arrow Dynamics, the project was placed on hold.
One year later, under the codename Secret Weapon 2, the project was revived. This time, in order to accommodate a larger ride, rock blasting was undertaken in the area the attraction was to be built. However, once again the project was to be abandoned. Having ridden the prototype ride developed by Arrow Dynamics, designer John Wardley described it as being slow, cumbersome, boring and inefficient.
Rumours were circulating of a rollercoaster design being installed at Six Flags Great America by Bolliger and Mabillard (B&M), something which would be the first of its kind in the world – an inverted roller coaster (where the trains are located beneath the track and your legs dangle freely) with inversions. John Wardley entered into discussions with the general manager at Six Flags to gain further information regarding the ride and, after experiencing the completed attraction, Batman: The Ride, wanted to add a similar ride to Alton Towers.
Given the codename Secret Weapon 3, the proposals and design for the ride was developed throughout 1992 with Wardley working alongside Stengal Engineering to develop a layout which wouldn’t just thrill and excite those on the ride, but also appeal to those watching with many elements being at eye level for non-riders to observe. It was the then Marketing Director at Alton Towers, Nick Varney, alongside John Wardley who came up with the name Nemesis and the concept of an alien creature trapped beneath the ground.
The ride finally officially opened on 19th March 1994 (having had soft opening from 16th March). It was the first B&M attraction to be installed outside the United States of America and proved to be a huge success. Nemesis would prove to be the pioneer in a series of innovative thrill rides to use the ‘Secret Weapon’ code name – a code name which would become synonymous with future first of their kind and world beating attractions at Alton Towers Resort.
In January 2022, Alton Towers submitted an application to confirm the lawfulness of maintenance works to Nemesis, with the intention of increasing the rollercoaster’s lifespan. It was proposed that the majority of the roller coaster’s track sections would be replaced, including 89 of the 117 supports, along with work to strengthen and improve the foundations. In September 2022, it was confirmed that upon Nemesis closing at the end of the season it would undergo the planned refurbishment and reopen in 2024. Therefore, 6th November 2022 was the final day that the ride operated in its original form, with the occasion being marked by the Phalanx commencing their investigation into Nemesis’ abnormal behaviour. This culminated with 30 lucky ‘final test specimens’ riding on the very last train alongside John Wardley, the ride’s creator, and John Burton, the Creative Lead for the refurbishment project.
Work began on Nemesis in 1991, with the initial blasting for the ride’s large pit. Not many pictures of construction exist on the internet, so we’re proud to bring you this selection.
John Wardley Q&As
Nemesis designer John Wardley has joined us for various Q&A sessions on events over the years, including Nemesis@20 where he provided fascinating insights into the development of Nemesis.