- Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers: the Story of Ed Morgan and Karl Bacon, Ride Inventors of the Modern Amusement Parks by Robert R. Reynolds. 1999. 192 pp.
- Creators of the Autopia;
- Developed and designed the water propulsion systems for it’s a small world and Pirates of the Caribbean;
- The tubular steel roller coaster design and fabrication for the Matterhorn;
- Execution and development of the much beloved Flying Saucers.
The summer I was sixteen, my father was out of town on a job, and my brother and I and a couple of friends needed a summer project. Someone suggested we build a roller coaster, it seemed like a good idea at the time, and our lot was ideal, in that it was very deep from the street in front to the alley in back. Demonstrating a total lack of planning, we started out with an eight foot folding step ladder. The first drop started at the top of the ladder. The track bed was of 1 x 12 inch pine with side boards nailed to it. The coaster car was a short plank supported by four roller skates modified for this purpose.
In operation, we pulled the car to the top of the ladder, climbed in, and took off. Great fun, but think of how much better it would be if it were higher and longer! The next step was to add 2 x 4 inch legged supports progressively higher up. We saw right away that they were unstable, and had to add diagonal bracing. We were learning fast, but not fast enough to sit down and plan and consider the consequences.
This stage, when finished, required an extension ladder to reach the top. it provided a fast ride–too fast at the end of the track. Our solution to this was too add track with a small hill. (Pages 17-18)
|Walt Disney tests the flying saucers at the Arrow Plant.
|Walt Disney and Joe Fowler, in the front row, hold on for another drop.
They were asked to design Space Mountain, in 1966, and it was a far different layout than the one that debuted at the Magic Kingdom. “In the original plan there would have been four separate coasters within the structure, The tracks would also penetrate the building and continue outside the mountain for a portion of the ride.” Ultimately, Disney wanted Arrow to move their facilities to Walt Disney World but Arrow declined. Disney had enough in-house talent after the opening of Walt Disney World, that they no longer needed Arrow for manufacturing. This signaled the end of a more than 20 year relationship.
Ed and Karl relate other stories of their developments for Knott’s, the infamous Freedomland and various Six Flags parks. You realize that Arrow did a lot more than build and design for Disney, but they always saved the best for Walt. Chances are, if you have visited any amusement park in America (or most of the world), you have ridden a ride created or designed by Arrow.
I have read a few other reviews in which the book has been critiqued for the grammar and writing style. Most of the issues I had with the grammar were related to the transcriptions of the interviews. The interviews are related as is, with minimal changes in structure. The anecdotes are still priceless and perfect for the Disneyland fan.
You will gain a new perspective for the development of the theme park and most modern ride systems. Ed and Karl happened to be in the right place at the right time, but they also had the skills and talents to succeed. As I read the book, Ed and Karl reminded me of Walt and Roy in their relationships. They really needed each other to succeed. Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers is a perfect book for anyone interested in theme park history and early Disneyland development.