Designed by Charles Paige of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, it opened as the park’s newest thrill machine in 1935. It is one of only three Mobius racing wooden rides in the world (if you start on the right hand side, you’ll finish on the left and vice versa).
Joseph Emberton designed the ride’s iconic station. He was the park’s go-to architect during the late 1920s and 1930s and the sandwich bar next to the ride was named in his honour until recently. After many years of changes, the station rebuilt to its original look for the 1991 season and was reopened by Red Rum.
For most of the ride’s existence, it has been hidden from almost all pathways. Firstly, by Emberton’s Fun House and currently by Valhalla. If you ride the Grand National, you will see things that you can’t see from anywhere else in the park – especially since the demise of the park’s monorail. If you look into the centre of the ride you will see the ‘backstage’ area of the park, with various ride parts, former ride vehicles and the park’s greenhouse where the parks horticultural efforts take place.
As with all the wooden coasters at the Pleasure Beach, the Grand National uses trains supplied by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. The rolling stock on the Nash are a modern variant due to damaged sustained in the 2004 fire. Throughout most of the 1990s, the ride ran with four 4-car trains, however in 1998 these were reduced to three car trains and this configuration has remained.
After the trains depart the art-deco station and make their way towards the lift hill, the tracks remain parallel for the majority of the ride. It’s not uncommon for riders to ‘slap’ hands as the trains navigate the lift hill and the long turns at the Northern and Southern tips of the ride.
As with many of the park’s rides, the presentation is minimalist, but there are a couple of nods to the famous handicap steeplechase that gives the coaster its name. As you crest the lift hill you pass under a sign stating “They’re Off”, with other areas of the ride designated as “Beecher’s Brook”, “Valentine’s” “Canal Turn” and “Winning Post”.
Tragedy struck the ride on 20th May 2004. The station, trains and ‘Winning Post’ area of the course were destroyed, causing the ride to be closed for the remainder of the 2004 season. During the rebuilding process, the trains were replaced by new PTC hardware and a new braking system was installed by Kumbak Coasters. It reopened in on 28th October 2004 and continues to operate.