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.