by Paul Ruben
When Huss unveiled its concept for the Topple Tower at the IAAPA trade show in 2002, I was fascinated. Imagine the Leaning Tower of Pisa run amok. We’ve all seen observation towers and drop towers, but a 63-foot tower that both spins and sways? Huss rides are good, but this was inspired.
You can imagine my excitement when Marineland in Niagara Falls, Canada, opened one of its own. It was within driving distance of my home, so off I went. Maybe it was just an excuse to visit my friend, John Holer, owner of Marineland. John is not what I consider an animal nerd, but animal nerd is an anagram of Marineland.
Guests were eager to ride the park’s newest attraction. Admittedly, the line was not as long as I encountered in Italy at the original Leaning Tower of Pisa. But it was that good I didn’t mind the Pisan queues.
The Topple Tower combines broad appeal with a unique new ride pattern. Riders begin their experience by climbing aboard a circular gondola facing outwards with their legs dangling. As the 40-passenger gondola begins its vertical ride up the main tower, it begins to rotate. Once the passengers reach maximum operating height, the entire tower topples towards the ground.
Atop the tower, and faithful to Marineland’s theme, sits a giant replica walrus. I think the park should have named the ride the Wobbly Walrus, since it also features walruses in its shows.
It was fascinating to watch this tower sway back and forth, changing the direction of the dip as it moved. Riders seemed to enjoy it, but there wasn’t any screaming like on more aggressive rides. These were gentle thrills and as such the park is marketing it as a “family thrill ride.”
Marineland’s Topple Tower doesn’t have a dancing water fountain threatening riders from below as several others do (in a similar fashion to a Huss Top Spin). This would have raised the adrenaline level for sure. Before getting on, I wanted to feel what it was like to tilt 60 degrees, and that’s what you see me doing in the photo here. It wasn’t easy, but I didn’t topple over for the very same reason the tower doesn’t topple to the ground; we both have counterweights.
Eventually I climbed aboard, and what I discovered felt more like a rocking chair, a rocking chair that’s about to fall over and spinning at the same time. A little unnerving, but it was lots of fun. It would have been even better, of course, if they had added wheels to the ride. Then we could rock and roll.