Sunday, May 29, 2016

Teenaged Wild Mice



Arrow Dynamics produced four Wild Mice ride systems, two opened in 1999 and are still operational after 17 years. A fourth has been running at Great America, just a few miles from Arrow's Mountain View site, since 2001.

Arrow's wild mouse coasters have a large flat section of upper track consisting of sharp turns with high lateral forces and lower sections of track with a few drops and/or bunny hops.

Myrtle Beach Mouse (Closed 2006)

Their first wild mouse coaster opened at Myrtle Beach Pavilion in South Carolina in 1998. Arrow built three more wild mouse coasters over the next three years before their final bankruptcy, and the remaining assets were bought by S&S.

Michigan Mouse

The second opened at Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon. Built at a cost of $2 million, it is 1,268 ft long, 68 ft high with a run time of one minute and 30 seconds.

Main Controls for Valleyfair's Mouse

The third mouse is at Valleyfair in Shakopee, Minnesota -  It's 1,257 feet long, has a top speed of 30 mph, also lasts 1:30 and carries 1,000 riders per hour in 8 cars with four riders per car.

Great American Mouse

The fourth is Psycho Mouse at California's Great America, has been running for 15 years and is also 1257 feet long. 

Arrow's Wild Mice were supposed to offer a lower cost alternative, primarily for smaller amusement parks, to Arrow's larger and custom coasters. The Arrow Wild Mice were so sturdily built that industry insiders said if you were ever caught in an earthquake, you'd want to be on one.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Danny the Dragon's Legacy


Danny the Dragon at Storytown
Danny the Dragon may not be Arrow's most famous ride system but he may be the best loved. Created for Freedomland, Danny was probably the first amusement park use of guide-by-wire technology, which has since become commonplace in factory automation, but when C. L. Paulus et al filed the patent (2,339,291) in April of  1940. It stated the purpose and subject of the invention as

...a method and apparatus for controlling the movement of mobile bodies and more particularly to an electrically operated signal and automatic steering mechanism for mobile bodies... according to a prearranged course.

The illustrations reveal a system with two magnetic coil pickups and a cable carrying a varying electrical current.




In Paulus' implementation the electrical and mechanical functions are coordinated to allow one or more vehicles to traverse one or more paths automatically without human intervention. Danny did this by following the pulsating electromagnetic field emitted by the buried wire.


There were at least two Danny the Dragon rides. One opened in June 1960 at Freedomland.  He was bought by Great Escape in Lake George, when Freedomland closed. At the end of 1996, Danny was taken out of service and parked in the maintenance area. San Jose's Happy Hollow Danny opened in March of 1961.

Happy Hollow Danny
Freedomland/Storytown/Great Escape Danny

In May of 2010, as part a $72 million park transformation, Happy Hollow Danny went really green - swapping his gasoline engine for an electric motor and a new guidance system.



The concept of following an electromagnetic trail has been used in many other environments and is still being updated. For example, in April of 1997 Kawasaki Heavy Industries announced a heavy-duty automated guided vehicle (AGV) system capable of transporting 25 ton coils of sheet metal. It used autonomous navigation on a logically-defined route map and a grid calibration system based on the detection of transponders (RFID tags) rather than wire guided system. Other systems follow a string of pearls magnet path or navigate in a two dimensional magnet grid.

Closer to our hearts and era is the new Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters attraction in Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure;




On an interesting side note, Christopher Merrit reports on Facebook that Both Bob Gurr and Marc Davis were working on a version of this in late '72 - early '73. Apparently the artwork for Marc's version was very similar to Danny the Dragon and appears to have been trackless. The Bob Gurr version was on a sort of monorail beam.

With Rio Grande Industries having purchased Arrow in May of 1971, and Danny never having been a high production volume system, there may not have been a lot of motivation to pursue AGV technology further until The Great Movie Ride, which opened in 1989.

Disneyworld's Great Movie Ride

BTW - although not related to Arrow directly, the Hollywood Tower of Terror also has a guide by wire AGV element which is discussed in a clip from Modern Marvels;








Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Arrow Rides at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

For those who may have missed it, ACE, the American Coaster Enthusiasts, has recently released a near feature length documentary on the history of Arrow Development, which features some interviews with several ex-Arrow employees. Some of the material didn't make the final cut, including a segment on Arrow rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Here is a link to that:



I was already familiar with the auto ride and Mine Train, but somehow I'd missed the kiddie boats.


The full  hour and eleven minute Legacy of Arrow Development video is here:


My credit appears at 1:08, as D. Wm. Francis - Historical Reference and Writing Assistance, so, I guess that qualifies as my 15 seconds of fame. ;-)

Over a year of effort and a lot of travel went into this. Many of the still images are from my collection.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Walt's Tribute to Arrow


An article written Thursday, July 14th, 1955, and a video clip from the Disneyland TV show broadcast just a few days before the opening of Disneyland details some of the last minute preparations.

Particularly interesting is the last paragraph which reveals when Dumbo left Mountain View for Anaheim. Compared to today's year long Install - Test - and Adjust periods, Dumbo was *really* flying fast and low!




"Amusement rides built in the local area and based on the famous Walt Disney animated cartoon characters were featured on “Disneyland” television show last night on Channel 7. (KGO TV San Francisco -df)

Arrow Development Co., located at 243 Moffett Blvd., Mountain View, engineered and constructed five rides which were shown in the narrated film, along with other parts of Disneyland equipment in various stages of completion by other manufacturers.

"The film was made in April when we were in the process of re-assembling an old Merry-Go-Round and refinishing the carved wooden horses.” William Hardiman, company supervisor for the Disney work, said yesterday. (Wednesday July 13th, 1955 -df) “A camera crew and script man spent one day taking pictures of us at work.”

Five Rides Featured

The Mountain View company’s rides to be featured on the TV program will be the Merry-Go-Round, decorated as a tent of King Arthur, complete with charging horses, Casey Jr., a nickname for “The Little Engine That Could”, a whirling ride called the “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”, and two others called “Mister Toad’s Hotrod” and “Snow White.”

All decorations on the pieces were done at Disneyland. Only the design and construction of the basic pieces was done by the Arrow Development Co.

“Disney told us what he wanted and we had to get busy and engineer it.” Harriman said. “Sometimes we had a sketch, but more often he just described what he had in mind and left us to really put it in some form.”

Casey Jr.

Casey Jr., a replica of a cartoon train engine, has bulging eyes which give the illusion of looking right at you. By using a chain pull, Casey Jr., will pull a six car train full of children up a 50 percent grade in Disneyland. His smoke stack is designed to roll back with the apparent strain of the pull up the hill, characterizing the story of "The Little Engine That Could.”

The "Mad Hatter” ride has six huge whirling cup and saucer “seats,"on each of three platforms which also rotate. The entire base of the ride goes around in the opposite direction, throwing the riders by centrifugal force against the sides of the teacups. This was designed completely from scratch by the Mountain View Company, on the basic idea of the tea party from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Figures of the Mad Hatter and other characters fill in the center of the basic platform.

"Mr. Toad’s Hotrod” is based on the Disney film “Wind in the Willows.” People sitting in replicas of the hotrod, vintage about 1902, will ride through a dark tunnel illuminated with black light to produce such sensations as crashing through a fence into a hay field and colliding with a train. Another ride on the same idea is designed on the theme of “Snow White”, with conventional seats.

The last ride the company built for Disney, a “Dumbo Ride” left for Disneyland in Anaheim by truck late last night and will be decorated and installed there in time for the public opening Monday. Dumbo seats, flying ears and all, are attached to 10 rotating arms which also go up and down. The Arrow Development Co. designed and built the mechanism.

Representatives of the company this weekend will test all the equipment they built, which is now installed in the park."

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Down to the Wire

Casey waits for Disney's Finishing Touches
From the internal references, this article was written Thursday, July 14th, 1955, the day after the Disneyland TV program on progress at the park was broadcast on Wednesday, July 13, 1955. Disneyland opened three days later, on Sunday, July 17th, 1955. 

Amusement rides built in the local area and based on the famous Walt Disney animated cartoon characters were featured on “Disneyland” television show last night on Channel 7. (KGO TV San Francisco -df)

Arrow Development Co., located at 243 Moffett Blvd., Mountain View, engineered and constructed five rides which were shown in the narrated film, along with other parts of Disneyland equipment in various stages of completion by other manufacturers.

"The film was made in April when we were in the process of re-assembling an old Merry-Go-Round and refinishing the carved wooden horses.” William Hardiman, company supervisor for the Disney work, said yesterday. (Wednesday July 13th, 1955 -df) “A camera crew and script man spent one day taking pictures of us at work.”

Five Rides Featured

The Mountain View company’s rides to be featured on the TV program will be the Merry-Go-Round, decorated as a tent of King Arthur, complete with charging horses, Casey Jr., a nickname for “The Little Engine That Could”, a whirling ride called the “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”, and two others called “Mister Toad’s Hotrod” and “Snow White.”

All decorations on the pieces were done at Disneyland. Only the design and construction of the basic pieces was done by the Arrow Development Co. 

“Disney told us what he wanted and we had to get busy and engineer it.” Harriman said. “Sometimes we had a sketch, but more often he just described what he had in mind and left us to really put it in some form.”

Casey Jr. Circus Train

Casey Jr.

Casey Jr., a replica of a cartoon train engine, has bulging eyes which give the illusion of looking right at you. By using a chain pull, Casey Jr., will pull a six car train full of children up a 50 percent grade in Disneyland. His smoke stack is designed to roll back with the apparent strain of the pull up the hill, characterizing the story of "The Little Engine That Could.”

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

The "Mad Hatter” ride has six huge whirling cup and saucer “seats,"on each of three platforms which also rotate. The entire base of the ride goes around in the opposite direction, throwing the riders by centrifugal force against the sides of the teacups. This was designed completely from scratch by the Mountain View Company, on the basic idea of the tea party from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Figures of the Mad Hatter and other characters fill in the center of the basic platform.

Toady Ride Vehicle


"Mr. Toad’s Hotrod” is based on the Disney film “Wind in the Willows.” People sitting in replicas of the hotrod, vintage about 1902, will ride through a dark tunnel illuminated with black light to produce such sensations as crashing through a fence into a hay field and colliding with a train. Another ride on the same idea is designed on the theme of “Snow White”, with conventional seats.

Early Dumbo Concept Art

The last ride the company built for Disney, a “Dumbo Ride” left for Disneyland in Anaheim by truck late last night and will be decorated and installed there in time for the public opening Monday. Dumbo seats, flying ears and all, are attached to 10 rotating arms which also go up and down. The Arrow Development Co. designed and built the mechanism.

Representatives of the company this weekend will test all the equipment they built, which is now installed in the park.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Trolley




One of the unsolved mysteries about Arrow's early ride systems was the nature of the "San Francisco" style trolley. Thanks to Bill Hardiman's grandson Michael, we now have pictures. 

It's very different than what I'd imagined, appearing somewhat like the streetcars which have served the City By the Bay for decades, but on a miniature scale, matching that of Arrow's streamline locomotives. 

Note also the names Mickey, Donald and Limited on the side of the cars, which may be more evidence of Arrow's tight relationship with Disney. These images were shot at an Arrow Playland demonstration park in San Lorenzo Village, in the East Bay. The fire station is visible across the street in the third image.




Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pacific Ocean Park Banana Train

Much to my surprise and delight the Summer 2002 Issue of The "E" Ticket Magazine has a ten page article in it about Pacific Ocean Park with some nice photos and text with a scene by scene description of the ride;


"Rolling thru the Longhouse area, the six plantation type Banana Trains (build by Arrow Development) were beautiful ride vehicles. The open passenger cars had exteriors authentically faced with bamboo, and carried fifteen passenger each. The trains had a very different appearance because the cars were pushed from behind along the spindly track by the little thatch-roofed locomotives. The down sized "steam engines” were actually electric, but were convincing enough with their self contained water tenders, copper boiler jackets, diamond stacks and operators shaded from the sun by palm branch cab covers.


One after another, the Banana Trains loaded passengers, then “steamed” from the high-roofed longhouse and int the tropical “South Seas” jungle ahead. The track to be followed on this tropical fun trip, run by a beachcomber, around the island from one thrill to another was a figure eight, with the return track descending from the mountain and crossing above the outbound section. The railroad’s light rail was crudely laid on thin, wide spaced ties which inspired very little confidence as you looked down from the first car, and watched it flex under the weight of the train.



The track led a winding path through and under native thatched huts on stilts (where a few menacing "New Guinea Headhunters” threatened from the rafters. Then it plunged into the “authentic South Seas vegetation" ahead. A display of tribal dancing in a bamboo fenced village was then seen along the right before the tracks began their climb up the rocky slopes at the base of the volcano. As the Banana Train ascended, it passed a group of “carnivorous vultures,” nesting among the rocks, which glared with hunger at the passengers.


The train then entered the first several dark tunnels in the mountain. Out in the sunlight, framed by the curving spiral of track, the “live” volcano’s pots of bubbling lava could be seen within the cones of the cauldrons below. Twittering bats, thunder and lightning, a noisy “tropical rainstorm” and an “earthquake” were among the excitements enjoyed by the passengers before coming out into the sunlit center of the volcano, thru a short tunnel, then out again in the fresh ocean air, the Banana Train creaked over the spindly track and trestle onto a short section directly above the Pacific Ocean.


You weren’t out there long, but there was time to stare down at the water, towards the lights of Santa Monica Pier, then back into the tunnel ahead. The train then descended past the huge nest and broken eggshells of the Gooney Bird, who flapped and shrieked “Hello… hope you enjoyed your trip.” at the passing trains."