Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On the road...

Are we there yet...?

Just a note to all our faithful readers; This week we are on the road, first at Stanford University, where Terri is attending the K-12 d.school for Educators Program. Then we'll be in the LA area for some more research - this time from another member of both the Arrow family and a former Disney employee, who has lots of memories about the "middle" years between 1956 and 1972. So, hang in there and browse back thru the 72 other previous blog postings, download a copy of Building Disney's Dream or contact us directly for a .pdf version - and invite your friends!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Walter Schulz (Update!)

Walter Schulz

I've just been contacted by the daughter of Walter Schulz, who started as Arrow's part-time accountant, became a full partner, and apparently stayed on after the sale to Rio Grand Industries.

She has already shared some very interesting information regarding her dad's involvement with Arrow which fills in some significant details and gaps in the story.

I'll be posting updates here, and revising the text of Building Disney's Dream, as it comes in.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ed Morgan - Strong in the background

Of all the research I did for Building Disney's Dream, personal material on Ed Morgan was the most difficult to come by, although in terms of commonality he was literally closest to home for me. Ed didn't talk much about himself. When he did talk, it was often in praise of his dear friend Karl Bacon.  Rob Reynolds quoted Ed in his book, Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers;

"I don't want to be a big shot; I want to share any attention with Karl. I definitely wouldn't have been as successful had I not met Karl Bacon. We generated ideas and projects together, often over lunch in the conference room. I was the guy that made them happen from the mechanical standpoint; Karl was the guy who did the math. We complemented each other completely and without strife of any kind.”

Ed's family and uncle Holden had moved to Palo Alto in 1928. Ed graduated from Palo Alto High school in 1933. My family moved to Palo Alto in 1961 and I graduated from Paly in 1972.

Ed's Palo Alto High Graduation Photo
Ed's first job out of high school was working as an automobile mechanic at Barron Park Auto in 1935. He was working 60 hours per week, making about $1500 per month and paying $30 a month in rent. That was at a time when a car cost $580, gasoline was19 cents a gallon, a house cost $6,300, bread was 8 cents a loaf, milk was 47 cents a gallon, a stamp cost 3 cents and the average salary was $1,500 per year.  He was clearly a hard working man.

My first job during high school was pumping gas at Don's Union 76 in Menlo Park. I loved working on cars and also worked at the European Stable in Redwood City for several months, after I graduated from college. Ed wasn't a number cruncher. Back then, I hated math.

Ed and Betty in 1945
When my family moved to Palo Alto in 1961 Ed was living at 1060 Oregon Avenue, just a few blocks east of our address on Bryant.  I must have ridden my bicycle and later driven my car, past that spot hundreds of times on the way to the Palo Alto airport or yacht harbor.

About 1961
Ed was from nearly the same generation as my dad, who was born in 1923. My dad worked for the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, who also contracted work to Arrow. My dad also wasn't much to brag on himself, but was always ready to lend a helping hand and instinctively knew which end of any tool was the handle.

Ed also got his own design patent:

I was awarded my first Design Patent, D335,288 on May 4, 1993.

So, although I never met Ed Morgan personally, I think I would have liked him a lot.

About 1986

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reviews of Building Disney's Dream

I'm pleased to announce that after nearly a year of research, writing, and preparation, Building Disney's Dream is now available on the iTunes Store. If you liked the blog, you should love the book.  If you'd like a copy in .pdf format (non-iOS users) and can use DropBox, contact me directly via email at; dwf@d-innovation.biz.

Robert Reynolds, author of Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers wrote:

"Building Disney's Dream contains an amazing amount of detail which is the result of passionate research.  Reading it, I’ve learned a number of things which I hadn’t even known before.  

I especially liked the parts about the Arrow Huss and S & S mergers, which filled in the details which Ed and Karl didn't elaborate on during my interviews with them.

This book contributes significantly to our knowledge of the amusement industry in this precisely detailed account of Arrow Development. The extensive research has uncovered many gems from the early days of Disneyland and the development of the tubular steel roller coaster. 

I highly recommend Building Disney's Dream as a valuable addition to any history of Disney or the theme park industry."

Didier Ghez, author of Walt's People said; "I absolutely LOVE it."

Don Lancaster says:

"This book is interesting, informative and a lot of fun. Mr. Francis' love of the topic is obvious from the moment you begin reading, which results in a book that draws you in and holds your interest.

I have a large collection of books on Imagineering, theme park design and the ride design, and I often find that many of the books that I buy contain very little new information for me. That was  not the case with this book. I already knew some things about Arrow, especially regarding their work with Disney, but this book contained a lot of information and stories that I had never encountered before. It is clear that Mr. Francis put a great deal of work into researching the people behind Arrow and their contributions to the roller coaster and theme park industries.

The illustrations in the book are wonderful. There some beautiful pictures of Arrow rides (including an amazingly beautiful picture of a carousel), drawings from patent applications, old Arrow marketing materials and much more.

To be honest, the book jumps around a bit. At one moment it can be discussing the history of the company, then change topics to a specific ride, then to a specific ride designer, then to certain elements of ride design. It took me a bit to get used to it, but the style actually serves the book well. It gives the book a more conversational tone that helps to communicate the author's passion for the subject matter.

If you enjoy books on theme parks or roller coasters and the people behind them, or even if you are just curious about the topic, I highly recommend this book."

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dumbo Under the Hood

Parading Pink Pachyderms

Arrow co-founder Andy Anderson's daughter Carolyn kindly shared this image of the Dumbo attraction concept art. It was provided to Arrow by Disney and has some interesting details which differ from the current configurations.

The official story about the Dumbo attraction reads:

"As a jovial organ melody begins, Dumbo gracefully lifts off from the ground and magically begins to fly round and round above a dancing water fountain. Feel the wind race across your face as faithful friend Timothy Q. Mouse—resting on a decorative hot-air balloon in the center of what looks to be a vintage circus-themed toy—directs the action with help from his “magic” feather."

Werner Weiss's wonderful Yesterland site web page has some terrific photos taken between 1954 and 2006 which reveal some interesting changes over the years. If you do some detective work, there is even more to the story.

Dumbo was one of the opening day attractions at Disneyland, however, the Wikipedia article says that Dumbo opened on August 16, 1955 - a month after the July 17th press opening. The delay was caused by a problem with the system's hydraulics, which had been sized to lift 500 pound elephants that ended up weighing 700.  Karl and Ed explained it this way:

"Disney gave us so much work that we couldn’t do it all... so we hired an engineer to help with Dumbo. He used... accumulators... one for each elephant.  But they would get out of balance, since there was nothing to separate the oil from the nitrogen." 

An accumulator is the hydraulic equivalent of a capacitor.  Partly filled with pressurized gas and partly filled with liquid, it is used to smooth out oscillations in the fluid flow and act as a pressure reserve when the pump capacity isn't large enough to handle temporary overloads. The problem is that without a barrier between the hydraulic fluid and the gas, the gas can begin to permeate into the fluid. Then, if the pressure is released, the gas expands and creates foam, like when you first open a bottle of carbonated soda.

The Dumbo lift system was supposed to use pressure in the accumulators to balance the weight of the elephant cars and riders while the main pump provided the power to move them up and down. In theory it was a great idea, but by the time the cars were delivered they'd gained 200 pounds of weight over the original specification, which probably overloaded the system. As the elephants flew up and down, alternately raising and quickly dropping the pressure, the high pressure gas in the fluid began to expand and cause it to foam. There was no way to keep the oil and gas separated the result was that the system became very unstable. 

The short term solution was to leave Arrow employee Paul Harvey there to do what Ed called "milking the elephants." Between rides, Paul would drain the system and put in fresh hydraulic fluid. Karl designed a fix, but it delayed the actual opening day by a month.

Paul Harvey - Elephant Milker
Other changes include the color of the elephants, Timmy's whip, and moving ears.

In the planing stages there were ten pink pachyderms, patterned after the Pink Elephants on Parade part of the Dumbo story, which explains the color in the concept art above. Walt changed them all to grey, so they all became Dumbo.

Timmy with whip (left) and feather (right)
Moveable and Fixed Ears (Yesterland)

The moving ears were also a victim of Dumbo's hydraulic system insufficiency. They were removed as a part of a weight reduction effort, probably because they were easier to change than the main hydraulic cylinders which were upsized in later versions. (See below)

For comparison, here is an image of another type of hydraulic system which Arrow would have been very familiar with, and possibly inspired by, in 1955 from their automobile repair work;

Northern Tool's Engine Hoist (2014)

Eventually it all sorted out, but as the old saying goes; The Devil is in the Details.

By the way, there may be a new Dumbo style ride on the way. Last year, Disney filed a patent (20110312428) for one with airplanes on extensible arms.

Planes comes to the Magic Kingdom...?

This would mark a return to the granddaddy of this theme of go-round, designed by Clifford F. Kennedy in 1939;

In the mean time, you could try doing one of these in your back yard;

Well... maybe not.

For those of you who can stand a little math, here is a basic static vector analysis just to see the magnitude of overload those 200 extra pounds created;

As you can see, what started out as 2700 pounds of force at the lift point turns into 3800 pounds; a 40% increase. Which is part of the reason why the later style lift cylinders are fatter and huskier, as shown on the left below.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Logger's Revenge (1977)

For over 100 years the family owned Santa Cruz Sentinel faithfully reported on goings-on in the area, with particular emphasis on items of local interest like surfing and agriculture, so it's natural that they would proudly report on activity at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, which opened in 1907.

Today we're looking at a particularly large and lavishly photographed 1977 article by Dale Pollock, detailing the construction of the Logger's Revenge flume ride, which opened that season.

It is interesting to note that the Morgan mentioned in the article is Ed's son Dana, who had left Arrow in 1974 to became the general manager of the Boardwalk. When Huss purchased Arrow from RGI in 1981, Dana was appointed president of Arrow-Huss. Two years later, he would start D. H. Morgan Manufacturing. DHM's first order was to build new trains for the Boardwalk's Giant Dipper Roller Coaster.

The article also mentions that there were forty other Arrow flume rides at amusement parks around the world, so the break from Disney hadn't hurt cash flow too much over the previous several years.

Additionally, in November of 1977, Arrow would announce their plans to produce a whole new type of ride; the suspended roller coaster, the first of which was The Bat at King's Mountain, so the little Arrow train still had plenty of steam left in her. (The article's proclamation of the death of the Wild Mouse, which ran from 1958 to 1976, was a bit premature, as Wild Mouse style coasters would continue their runs at Santa Cruz, at least thru 2014.)

More than 24,000 gallons of water per minute will flow thru the fiberglass flume set atop steel pillars 55 feet above the beach.

Santa Cruz Sentinel - Thursday January 27, 1977

A Million Dollar Splash

Logger’s Revenge Taking Shape at the Boardwalk

Sentinel Staff Writer

The Wild Mouse is dead. Long live the Logger’s Revenge!

Rather than a fantasy from "Alice in Wonderland,” the above slogan might serve to announce the fact that the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has a new ride, an expensive flume contraption that will cause a $1 million splash.

The Logger’s Revenge will take patrons on a wild and wooly trip 55 feet above the beach, riding a jet stream of water coming out at the rate of 24,000 gallons per minute.

To add to the verisimilitude of the experience, a replica of an old saw mill will be used as the loading platform, and the boats themselves resemble huge hollowed-out logs, albeit made of fiberglass and foam padding.

“We feel this will be a real natural for this area with its logging history’, observed Dana Morgan, supervising the 27 construction workers who are busy completing the ride for its April 1 grand opening.

The decision is never as easy as saying, “Let’s have a new ride,” explained Don Theobald of the Seaside Company.  There are 40 editions of the logger’s ride at amusement parks around the world, all manufactured by the Arrow Development Company of Mountain View.

A replica of an old Santa Cruz Sawmill begins to take shape at the Boardwalk 
"It has been the largest volume ride at Marriott’s Great America,” Theobald admits, but he stresses that the Boardwalk has been eying the attraction for some time, especially as the wild mouse was turning gray after 18 years.

Morgan, who used to work for the Arrow ride wizards, points out that no two of the logger rides are the same.  The Boardwalk is also distinguishing it’s version with the realistically-furnished sawmill, which will have a working 14-foot water wheel, and a heap of logging artifacts, thanks to the advice of Bud McCrary from Big Creek Luber.

Its the ride itself that grabs the boardwalkers, of course, and the flume experience should be one they will not easily forget.  The log boats will leave every 10 seconds on their twisting path up the fiberglass flume, which towers above the beach on heavy steel supports.

That means over 1300 riders per hour who will ride the 2 1/2 minute excursion, from the rough-hewn station over the Southern Pacific railroad tracks, and then down a perilous 45-foot hill until the logboats  hit the water with a resounding splash.

For all the thrills and chills, both Morgan and Theobald stress that the Logger’s Revenge is a very safe ride.  When loggers would actually ride logs down a flume, it was extremely dangerous,” Theobald notes.  “This ride is extremely safe, since the safety factor is our prime concern.”

Construction has been under way since Oct.15, with giant cranes hoisting the immense support pillars up, along with setting the supports in heavy concrete bases.  All the materials have been painted green to blend with nearby foliage, and Theobald and Morgan proudly cite the fact that nary a tree was cut down to install the ride.

Steelworkers ready the large supports for the fiberglass flume sections.
(Note the distinctive Arrow styling.)

That doesn’t mean there won’t be changes at the Boardwalk with the new attraction. Three other rides had to be adjusted to make room for the newcomer. Now the Cave Trains will wind their way around the basement support pillars, while th eAuto-Rama will have a few poles to navigate around, too.

The water is what makes the flume ride work and this particular model has a reservoir built into it that will hold 60,000 gallons of water, constantly filtered and recycled.  Two 250 horsepower pumps will push the water up the flume, at which point gravity takes over to circulate the liquid propulsion and return it to the reservoir.

The boats are actually  slowed down by their impact into the water at the end of the 45 foot drop, where a large pond will be constructed to catch the overflow.  Electronic controls will make sure the boats don’t run into one another and there’s even a trouble-shooter to check the troubleshooting equipment.

The major difficulty in setting up a new ride, Morgan relates, is to jibe all the different plans, factors and space limitations.  Almost a year of designs preceded the start of construction, in which “we had to sandwich all the required components together to meed the requirements of capacity and length.”

In other words, there isn’t much room for new rides at the Boardwalk. As Theobald notes, looking up at the the venerable Giant Dipper.  “Now we’ll see if steel and fiberglass will last as long as the Dipper’s wood frame which has been here for 52 years and 21 million rides.”

The Giant Dipper doesn’t have to worry, but the poor Wild Mouse lies dismembered and forgotten in a nearby parking lot.  Now the Logger’s Revenge is the new king, silently waiting for the screams and squeals of its future passengers come April 1.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk Coasters & Flume 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

Karl Bacon's Footprints

Over the course of his career at Arrow, Karl Bacon was included on six shared and awarded five individual patents:

Shared Patents
3,006,286 (1959) - Amusement Vehicle Apparatus - K. W. Bacon et al.
DES 189,828 (1960) - Amusement Ride Car - Karl Bacon and Edgar Morgan
3,114,332 (1960) - Bobsled Amusement Ride - Karl Bacon and Edgar Morgan
3,167,024 (1960) - Bobsled Amusement Ride - K. W. Bacon et al.
3,251,595 (1962) - Air Car and Supporting Apparatus - Ed Morgan and Karl Bacon
3,404,635 (1968) - Boat Amusement Ride - K. W. Bacon et al.

Individual Patents
3,830,161 (1973) - Flume Boat Ride with a Double Downchute
3,865,041 (1973) - Rotary Platform Vehicle Passenger Loading System
3,853,067 (1974) - Boat Amusement Ride with a Spillway
3,889,605 (1974) - Amusement Ride with Helical Track Portion
3,972,527 (1975) - Passenger Powered Rotating Amusement Ride

A closer look at these reveals some interesting details, some of which should be obvious to many current amusement park guests and also offer a glimpse into the trajectory of Karl and Arrow's history.

3,006,286 isn't long as many patents go, only five pages containing eight claims and six figures, most of which detail the pivoting nose-wheel assembly which guides and powers the car. As far as the technology goes, it's clearly descended from railroad trucks, with the exception of the use of a layer of polyurethane on the wheels to quiet the ride.  

It is a complex mechanism, with six wheels of three types, a spring loaded electrical pickup, casters and pivots and plenty of machined parts and bearings held together with nuts and bolts.

Dark Ride Front Truck
(Snow White, Mr. Toad, Alice)

What came next stepped things up significantly in terms of scale and was contained in three patents;  DES 189,828 (1 page, 1 claim, 5 figures), US3114332 (13 pages, 13 claims 12 figures) and US3167024 (4 pages, 2 claims, 5 figures).

Whereas the Amusement Vehicle Apparatus was for a fairly sedate dark ride, the Bobsled Amusement Ride was a whole system comprising a mountain with significant elevation changes, cars running on twin tubular tracks with an active speed regulation system, including a water splashdown.

Matterhorn Mashup

As complex and innovative as the Matterhorn was, it paled in comparison to the detail and level of precision required to create the next attraction; US3,251,595 - Air Car and Supporting Apparatus, aka the Flying Saucers.

With 18 Figures spread over 14 pages and 11 claims, the Air Car and Supporting Deck had it all; Pneumatics, Hydraulics, Electromechanics and thousands of pressure sensitive valves which had to automatically open and close at just the right time to keep the saucers flying. Some might say that the Air Car was a bridge too far for Arrow. Karl and Ed knew how important proper valve operation was.  An entire section of the patent was devoted to them which began:

"An important element of our invention lies in the structure and mode of automatic operation of the valves which are closely spaced in each unit."

Flying Saucers Air Table Valve
The operation of the valves isn't that complex, at least conceptually. The valve position is controlled by four things; There is pressure above and below the seal, (orange) a spring (66) and gravity. To move the valve up and close it, apply pressure to Port 2 and the piston moves up. Once closed, the plenum pressure, present everywhere in the chamber, tends to keep the valve closed. When the air car moves by, the increased pressure of the air trapped under the vehicle skirt tends to press down on the top of the valve, forcing it open. Once air is moving by Port 3, the local pressure begins to drop, which tends to reduce the pressure on the top side of the seal (in the blue area) and force the valve back up. (There is also a controlled leak at Port 1.)  If you can get the pressure balance right, all it takes is a little blockage above the top opening and things work. You don't even need to be in a fancy car, any flat sheet of plywood will do.

Karl and Walt contemplating levitating

However, things don't always work in the field the way they do in the shop.  When the system was designed in Mountain View, the volume in the chamber under the air table was larger than when the ride was built in Anaheim. This difference in size caused variations in the chamber pressure that caused the valves to spontaneously open and dump the the saucers and guests. (oops!) Changing the chamber volume was out of the question and the control needed to deal with the variations hadn't been invented yet.

The Flying Saucers attraction ran exactly five years, from August 6, 1961 to August 5, 1966. The patent was filed on May 11, 1962 and finally issued May 17, 1966, just three months before ride closed.

The last ride patent for Disney, 3,404,635, was filed on April 16, 1965 and issued October 8, 1968, almost two years after Walt's death. It illustrates most of the features used on Pirates of the Caribbean. Side by side passenger loading, conveyor belts moving the boats, a rectangular guide in the waterway, followed by a horizontal guide wheel. (9 pages, 7 figures, 12 claims)

Arrg... shift yer cargo, matey!

With the shift to in-house R & D at Disney and the sale of Arrow to Rio Grande Industries, Karl's direction and focus shifted to other things.  The patents from 1973 thru 1975 were for flume rides, corkscrew style track, the type of two level boat and water control system developed for Pirates and a rotary loading platform.

What is particularly interesting is the scope and scale of the last patent Karl filed; US 3,972,527; Passenger Powered Rotating Amusement Ride (1975), which was a continuation of a previous patent filed in 1974.

Karl's Last Ride
The primary object of the invention described in the patent was to provide an improved ride that was simple to manufacture and economical but one which still provides a thrilling experience for the rider. 

Reflecting back on the previous ride systems which Karl had created, some of which have never been matched, it's interesting to reflect on how one of the brightest amusement ride engineering minds of the last century reverted to a simple, manually powered swing for it's last patent.

Final Destination?
Maybe it's at least partly because we're all going to end up somewhere like this... someday.