Monday, February 27, 2017

Three Decades of Arrow's Cars

Fiat Toppolino

From the very beginning Arrow Development was working on and with cars. One of their first jobs was making hard to find replacement parts for a tiny Fiat Toppolino in 1948.  At the same time, Arrow was developing one of its first kiddie rides; a small portable carousel featuring tiny pill bug like cars, a few of which are still running in San Jose's Alum Rock Park. They weren't much more than bodies with fixed axels and wheels. The carousel turntable pulled them around and there was no way to steer or brake.

1948 Arrow Kiddie Car Carousel

Arrow "Pill Bug" Kiddie Car

One of their first powered cars was the ArrowFlite.  Not only did Arrow do the vehicles, they designed and built a gas station, complete with a pump and a lift. The cars featured twin steering wheels, although they didn't actually work, as the car ran on a single track which provided both power pickup and guidance.

Kiddie scale gas station

Anderson Family Cousins Showing Off

By 1957 there were a handful of the small ArrowFlite tracked car ride installations, mostly on the west coast.  Their add listed; Woodland Park in Seattle, Easbey Amusement (Arrow's Demo Park) in Palo Alto, Gold Coast Shows in San Jose, Suker's Kiddieland at the corner of Compton Avenue & Firestone Boulevard in Los Angeles, Disneyland (Midget Autopia) Nu-Pike in Long Beach, Elitch Gardens in Denver, Peppermint Parks in Houston and Ward's Kiddie Park at Coney Island, NY. Soon Arrow would expand further into custom fiberglass work, with the short run Kaiser-Darrin mini-replicar.

1957 ArrowFlite Advertisement

Kaiser Darin Mini Cars
The the center guide rail system Arrow developed on the smaller cars was adapted for use on their larger sports and antique cars - which caught Walt Disney's attention when the early Autopia cars and track were taking a beating at Disneyland. Arrow's steering system used a variable width center guide to keep the cars from running into the curbs. Walt visited the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to have a closer look. Soon thereafter Arrow was hard at work on the 1963 Mark IV Autopia upgrade. This was supplanted by the Bob Gurr Corvette like body in 1967, but the center guide remained and is still in use in Anaheim and Orlando.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk 1961
Autopia with center guide rail

At the same time there were plans afoot for antique car rides for the 1964 Worlds Fair. Arrow provided the vehicles and track for the Avis Antique Car ride, described in the official guide;

Open-topped antique cars, reproduced to five-eighths scale, provide a pleasant ride through an old-fashioned country setting. Each car seats up to five, and anyone 10 years or over can drive. A single pedal - accelerator and brake combined - controls the one-cylinder engine that pushes the cars along at a top speed of four miles an hour; the ride takes four minutes. Avis also operates a rental service for automobiles and power boats at the Marina landing.

1964-65 New York Worlds Fair AVIS Cars

By the mid-70's Arrow had provided antique car rides for fifty amusement parks. Their catalog featured full color images of the four models; A French Taxi, Flyer, Ford Touring and Cadillac.

Mid 70's Antique Car Catalog
There is interest in preserving and restoring these vintage rides, both antiques and sportsters. It is often a daunting task of love moving from a rusted chassis to a restored work of art and auction prices can reach - and sometimes exceed - those of a new, much more modern automobiles.

Sport Chassis Restoration

Restored Sport Coupe

Restored Hamburg Antique

An upcoming auction at Barrett-Jackson features an AC Cobra inspired Autopia car restoration. 

Note the information sheet is headlined by our blog banner (!)

Cobra Inspired Autopia Car Restoration

Interior shot with our Blog Banner (!)

Today Arrow's fingerprints, or perhaps shadow are still on the Autopia. 

I'd love to see Disney partner with Tesla and convert the attraction to all electric, with solar panels on the roof, of course, rather than running single cylinder gasoline engines. That would be both future and retro, as Arrow had battery operated versions of it's cars too, some of which were built by Morgan Manufacturing when Ed Morgan's son Dana started his own company.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

King Arthur's Carrousel

The story of the creation of the King Arthur's Carrousel, like the story of its namesake king, is the stuff of legend. Thanks to a recently disclosed document, we also have a better idea of how much Disney paid Arrow Development for their engineering work, which involved completely renovating and enlarging the carousel from Sunnyside Park in Toronto, Canada.

1897 Dentzel from Woodside Amusement Park
Note that the outside row are all "standers"

The Sunnyside Park Dentzel carousel operated from 1922 to the mid 50's. Although some sources claim it was built in 1875, there are no records confirming that. Originally a three row model, with the outer row all "standers" it became the foundation for another piece of Walt's dream.

Griffith Park Carousel

Without increasing the diameter of the turntable, Arrow Development added another course and converted all the horses to jumpers, like the 1926 Spillman carousel which Walt loved at Griffith Park.  This doubled the mechanical load on the drive mechanism, as every crankshaft had to be lengthened and modified to drive two added rows of jumping horses.  By this time Arrow had plenty of experience, having built several other carousels, up to 45 feet in diameter.

Arrow Ponies at Roeding Park

Five of King Arthur's horses came from the carousel from San Francisco's Playland at the Beach, just a few miles up the peninsula from Arrow's shop in Mountain View.  Four of those - the ones with the broomstick tails - ended up on King Arthur's and one was given to Disney Imagineer #1; Roger Broggie. That makes the King Arthur figures a mix from Sunnyside, Ward's Kiddieland from Coney Island, and Loof and Dentzel horses from Playland in San Francisco.

1907 Seattle Luna Park Looff Carousel (note the crouching tiger)
Note the tiger and the starburst medallions.
Marianne Steven's family kept the tiger when
they sold the carousel to San Francisco

Playland Looff about 1940 - Outer row standers and leapers

The Playland Carousel was built in 1906 by renowned designer and craftsman Charles I.D. Looff and intended to be installed in San Francisco, however the great 1906 earthquake and fire put that plan on hold.  In 1907 it was installed at Luna Park in Seattle. It finally made it to Playland-at-the-Beach in 1913, where it operated for nearly 60, years, until 1972. The carousel was next purchased by a private collector who put into storage.  In 1998, it was purchased by the City of San Francisco.

Marianne Stevens with friends

There appears to be some confusion about provenance because there were two Luna Parks, one located at Coney Island and the other in Seattle. The Looff Coney Island, Luna Park, Broadway Flying Horses Carousel was built in 1890 and ended up at Shoreline Village in San Diego.

Roger Broggie's Dentzel Pony

Arrow converted the third row standers on the Sunnyside Park Dentzel to jumpers by removing their legs and carving new ones. The chariot benches were removed and their woodwork was re-purposed to decorate the "calliope" tenders and passenger cars of the Casey Jr. Circus Train.  A Wurlitzer #157 Band Organ face was used as decoration, and motifs from  Sleeping Beauty were also added.

New framework from Brass Ring Entertainment under construction - 1955

According to an article in E-Ticket Magazine King Arthur's current horses are all "outside row" quality.  There are mounts for 72, which enables a rolling maintenance schedule of four-on-four-off, which also explains why horses will appear to change location from time to time.

Spiffing up ponies in Burbank
(Yes, that's "Jingles" on the right.)
A Disney expenditure authorization document dated May 5, 1955, gives some added details regarding the level of effort involved in the creation of the King Arthur Carousel;

Disney Expense Authorization #236, signed by George Whitney
who founded Playland and attended Disney's pitch at the NAAPPB
Convention in Chicago in 1954.

The text reads; 

To cover the additional amount of $5000.00 in authorizing the total amount of $20,000.00 for modification work being accomplished by Arrow Development Co. on the Carrousel for Fantasyland.

The work previously authorized by E. A. No 40, dated 11/10/54, in the amount of $15,000.00. 

This increase is based on re-estimations of the "Estimated cost to complete",  per Arrow Development Co. of 5/1/55.

This increase covered by a budget increase of $5,000 on 1/1/55.

These figures and dates add some fascinating details to our understanding of both Disneyland's development costs and schedule and the history of Arrow Development. Changes to one of the anchor attractions were still under way as late as May and the budget for it had grown by 1/3, with two months of work still remaining. 

In today's dollars, the King Arthur's cost, just thru May 1955, would be $1.82 million. As a point of reference, Brass Ring has advertised a fully restored 1890 Looff at $2.75 million.  

Fortunately the Playland Carousel has been restored and is operating again in San Francisco at the Children's Creativity Museum. Its still not clear where the five Dentzel horses which made it to Disney came from.  Perhaps the good folks at Playland-Not-at-the-Beach can shed some light on the matter, as they have much of the documentation from Whitney's Playland.

Four white steeds prancing in the California sun.

By the way, for some absolutely stunning Illions carousel horse images visit the Carousel History page.  Thanks to Patrick Wentzel for additional research and corrections - df

Monday, February 6, 2017

Arrow Homage at Big Thunder Mountain

Look for this on your walk up to the Big Thunder pre-show building

Disney Imagineers are noted for their painstaking attention to detail and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Walt Disney World is no exception. The preshow que area is filled with real and Imagineered artifacts, but this one caught my attention because of its association with Arrow Development.

Before Andy Anderson, Karl Bacon, William Hardiman and Ed Morgan founded Arrow, they worked together at the Joshua Hendy Iron Works in Sunnyvale.

Hendy Factory in Sunnyvale

The Joshua Hendy Iron Works was founded in San Francisco in 1856, initially to supply equipment to the placer miners hoping to strike it rich in the California Gold fields. The Hendy factory would become leading supplier and manufacturer in the mining industry, supplying ore carts, crushers, stamp and ball mills to mines around the world.

Hendy Stamp Mill @ WDW

Upon Joshua Hendy’s death in 1891, the company was taken over by his nephews Samuel J. and John H. Hendy.  Samuel died in March 1906 and the Great San Francisco Fire and Earthquake destroyed the factory in April.  Hendy relocated down the penninsula, to Sunnyvale, lured by an offer of free land.

By the late 1930s, the company was in deep financial trouble,  with only 60 employees. Hendy was in receivership when Charles E. Moore established a controlling interest in 1940 and started to land contracts with the US Navy for torpedo tube mounts and marine steam engines.

Hendy Marine Engine Ad

Eventually Hendy’s employment rolls would swell to over 11,000, as crews worked around the clock to fill the wartime orders. By June 1943, the unions were pressing for reduced overtime and threatening work slowdowns, which Karl Bacon and Ed Morgan would recall as part of their reason for striking out on their own, starting Arrow Development, initially as a machine shop and used machine tool vendor.

Karl Bacon is third from the left, arms folded, in the second row.

Their jobs at Hendy provided Karl and Ed valuable experience in welding, casting, machining and design, which would prove useful on their carousels, boats, miniature trains and kiddie car rides. Even Hendy’s stepped, mansard style roof would be  reprised on Arrow’s first building at 243 Moffett in Mountain View.

We don't know the name of this wartime Hendy "Rosie" installing steam turbine blades, but she has remarkably well developed - and hairy - forearms! (;-)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Counting the Costs (1955)

November 1955 Tea Cups

Original documents related to the early days at Disneyland still surface and provide interesting insights. A file copy of an expense authorization dated April 8, 1955 gives some clues regarding costs associated with Dumbo and The Mad Tea Party attractions;

The BUDGETED AMT line declares $60,000.00 for the Mad Tea Party and $37,000.00 for Dumbo. In 2016 dollars, those equal $533,131.34 and $328,764.33 respectively.

The Balance entries reveal that there was still $19,766 remaining on M.T.P but only $981 on Dumbo. With the Park opening just over three months away, there must have been both a cost overrun and a schedule slip well under way. We've told story of Dumbo's opening day performance in another post.

Walter Schulze, the MBA behind Arrow's eventual financial success probably had the original, signed copy of this in his filing cabinet, but his daughter Linda says all those documents were discarded years ago. Enjoy this little peek into Arrow and Disney's earliest days.

E.A. No. 204

Dumbo Concept Sketch

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Alice's English Twin

Many people are familiar with the Alice in Wonderland attraction in Disneyland.  Walt initially planned for it to be a walk-thru; "down the rabbit-hole, through the maze of doors, the Rabbit's House, past The Singing Flowers, Dodo Rock, the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, climaxing in the courtroom of the Queen of Hearts."

Imagineer Claude Coats was the show designer for the entire attraction, including the vehicle and received a patent for it's ornamental design on January 12, 1960.

But Arrow’s imagination also crossed the Atlantic. Over the years Arrow sold several rides to Blackpool Pleasure Beach in England and one of them took passengers on a journey thru Alice in Wonderland, housed inside a 10,000 square foot stone castle. The UKRides website indicates that the rights to do the ride were licensed from Disney before it opened in 1961.

Cheshire Cat Themed Vehicle Bodies at Blackpoool

An article on Arrow Development in the Sunday September 2, 1962 San Jose Mercury News described the English Alice;

"The ride began with the sensation of tumbling 30 feet down a rabbit hole, progressed thru a tiny door, then a mammoth door, past the croquet party with flamingo heads mallets. The Mad Hatter, Red Queen, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, a 40-foot caterpillar, Father William dancing back and forth with a snake on his nose, the looking glass zoo, and talking flowers were all there, over 4 dozen figures in all."

"Missing was the somewhat frightening overtone imposed by the Queen when she snapped “Off with their heads!”. “We chose to tackle it from the standpoint of a child’s pleasant fantasy,” an Arrow spokesman said. Wonderland marked Arrow’s debut in the foreign market."

Blackpool's Steeplechase

As with Disney, Arrow would provide other ride systems to Blackpool including a Steeplechase and the Pepsi Max Big One roller coaster, in 1994. Note the design of the cross-ties in significantly different from earlier Arrow tracks.

Pepsi Max Big One

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mr. Toad's Hot Rods

Uncle Walt and Admiral Joe in an Arrow Antique Ford - about 1954

A letter addressed to Mr. Richard Irvine at W.E.D. Enterprises, dated January 6th, 1953, seems to be the opening move in a relationship that would span two decades;

January 3, 1953 Letter to Dick Irvine @ WED

It reads:

Dear Sir:

Thank you for your inquiry on our stern wheeler boat. I regret that we do not have the photographs and information on it worked up yet. However we are having these things prepared and will forward some to you as soon as they are completed.

We were quite pleased with the amount of interest shown in this boat even though the pictures we showed at the convention were very sketchy. This early interest caught us a little unprepared as we had not planned on releasing the advertising on it for another month. We are rushing it through, though, and you should have your copies very shortly.

Very truly yours,
by W. J. Hardiman

Walt Disney had asked Dick Irvine to help construct Disneyland. Dick moved to the Disney Studio in 1952 and ended up heading design and planning for all Disneyland attractions, including the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. He would became executive vice president and chief operations officer at WDI in 1967.

The boat mentioned in the letter is Arrow's Lil' Belle, which would be delivered to Lake Merritt park in Oakland, California, mid-January in 1954. The advertising materials mentioned in the letter are probably information sheets which were published by Arrow later that year;

Lil Belle's Specifications

The convention mentioned was probably the 1952 annual meeting of the National Association of Amusement Parks, Pools and Beaches, which was held in Chicago at the Hotel Sherman in early December.

Walt had need of a riverboat. It would be a couple more years before the Mark Twain would launch at Disneyland. Her hull was built at the Todd Shipyard in San Pedro and the superstructure was built in pieces on the 20,000 Leagues sound stage in Burbank, trucked to Disneyland and bolted together like a kit. It was so well done that most people never notice the bolted together sections today. The Disney Studio Machine shop built the engines, which were engineered by Dick Bagley..

The other thing planned for Disneyland were "dark rides" which would take guests thru two stories in Fantasyland. Arrow had been building small, replica antique cars and Walt was interested, so he visited Arrow's shop in Mountain View, California.

Two Walts (Schulze and Disney) flank Karl Bacon,
Dick Irvine, Joe Fowler and Ed Morgan.

The rest of the story goes that the design for the Mr. Toad vehicles was basically worked out from a concept sketch that was given to Arrow and used to loft a set of templates, right on the shop floor in Mountain View.

The result is familiar to us all:


This original Mr. Toad car was offered at auction recently and sold for $30,000. The auction item description offers some interesting details:

"The Toad ride was first considered as a form of roller coaster, with the cars following a downhill track towards obstacles (such as parked cars), which would move out of the way at the last minute. Disney ultimately decided that the ride would not be appropriate for small children and the elderly, and it was toned down. 

Disney art director Bill Martin designed the ride to carry the original themes of the film. “Viewing the film was part of the design process,” he later recalled. “I made the track layout to start with, but we went through storyboards galore. Since the point was to convert Walt’s cartoon films to rides in Fantasyland, those dark rides were developed from the original 4 x 8 storyboards and concept sketches made for the animated films.” 

The most art-intensive of the three original dark rides was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. It was designed to last 1 minute and 38 seconds, a pace to accommodate nearly 700 people an hour. There were a total of twelve original Toad cars, with nine on line (entering Toad Hall every eleven seconds) and three held in reserve. These cars were the same ones in use for over forty years. 

The original cars were named individually as Mr. Toad, MacBadger, Mole and Ratty, with two each of Toady, Cyril, Winky and Weasel. Arrow Development built them with two hundred pounds of fiberglass* and sheet metal, and was some of the first equipment delivered for the new park."

Ed Morgan said that there weren't engineering drawings of the bodies. They lofted templates from Bruce Bushman's sketch of the Mr. Toad car and went directly to fabricating sheet metal parts.

Bruce Bushman's Mr. Toad Cartoon sketch

Bob Gurr examining Winky and Ratty in 1997 - before restoration.

Bob Gurr bought the two cars in the photo from Disneyland in 1997. He said somewhat modestly, that they both needed a lot of cleanup. He sold Ratty to Leon Janzen, and it was sold at auction after his death for $3,800, not including fees and shipping.

A Much Nicer Example

Soon to follow were five more ride systems and a key role in providing future rides for Disneyland and Walt Disney World. According to both Ed and Dana Morgan, Arrow supplied the ride systems for Snow White, It's a Small World, The Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Dumbo, and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in Fantasyland at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, as well as the Autopia cars, parking lot tram cars, Pirates of the Caribbean and was the manufacturer and installer of the Omnimovers for the Haunted Mansion and If You Had Wings. Arrow also did the ride system for Peter Pan in Orlando, but not Anaheim.

*The Disneyland Mr. Toad cars were hand made of sheet metal, while the the Disney World cars were fiberglass. 

Attraction Poster