Dodgems are easily one the most popular funfair ride available to hire. There are some absolutely fabulous examples available. Unfortunately there are also some complete cowboys, operating complete garbage. Read our 6 tips on dodgem hire to avoid the junk.
This type is the modern, slightly larger, ofton oblong shaped dodgem track. The ride essentially folds up on itself, and is then raised hydraulically off the floor allowing wheels to be fitted. The main advantage of this type is speed. Generally a smaller crew, can erect a continental dodgem in half the time of the traditional type. They also tend to be more highly decorated, with better sound systems and airbrushed artwork. The main drawback is the fact that they need to be driven into position. They cant be taken over a wall, through a narrow gate or up stairs.
The traditional dodgem on the other hand, dismantles into small sections. It can be carried into almost any venue. The drawback with the ride, is the fact that it can take 6-8 hours to erect, as opposed to 3-4 hours for a continental type.
2 Find Out Exactly What You Are Getting
Most rides of either type, need 2 heavy goods vehicles (averaging around 7 m.p.g), a support vehicle. Generator, 4-6 staff. 2 days to set up, operate and dismantle. Insurance, maintenance and general running costs. All legitimate operators have these as fixed, unavoidable expenses. So when someone offers you a dodgem for half the price of everybody else, you should be suspect.
I know of 2 unscrupulous operators with the following deals;
The first would offer you dodgems for around £800. Less than half the going rate. You would book them thinking you are getting a super deal. When the dodgems arrive and erected, you find that they have no lights, no music, no rain cover and 4 dodgem cars. When you query this sorry state of affairs, you are shown a folder with a picture of the £800 dodgems in, which is what you’ve hired. The operator would then turn a page showing a picture of the £1000 dodgems, which is the same ride but with a rain cover added. This process would be repeated a page at a time, until the final picture showed a fully set up dodgems for around the £2200 mark. Your choice at this point is to go ahead with the rubbish you’ve hired. Or pony up another £1400 to get a proper specced set up.
The Second Deal
The second one was even worse. They guy would quote a super low price, but when you wanted to book you have to agree to fork up a £500 non refundable deposit. The day before your event, you are informed that the dodgems, sadly, have broken down, but don’t worry, you are going to be supplied with a simulator ride, or a Miami or similar. When you complain that’s not what you want and ask to cancel, you are told you don’t get your deposit back. Again your choice is to accept what you are offered, or start court proceedings Would you win? Most probably, but would the hassle and stress be worth it?
3 Agree Your Operating Times
This is a must, a standard time slot is around 6 hours opening. They also need to be consecutive hours. We had one client booked us for 6 hours and wanted 3 hours one day, and 3 2 days later. Sorry, but the price quoted wasn’t to cover the ride being tied up for an additional 2 days. You wouldn’t be able to do that when you hired a car, so why would you think you could in this scenario.
4 Agree Set Up Times
Usually dodgems are erected the evening before they are needed, and dismantled straight after the event. Depending on the work load, an operator may agree to leave them in situ when the event finishes and come back the next day. However don’t just presume this. Quite often we can be operating on a saturday night at one venue, and need to be in position at another Sunday morning.
5 Make Sure You Receive All The Safety Docs
Of all our 6 tips on dodgem hire, this one is the most important.
Currently a reputable operator should be able to supply as a minimum;
Public Liability Insurance Certificate Of At Least £5 Million
Daily Check Log Book
Adips Annual Inspection Certificate
The good operators will go farther and supply additional health and safety documentation. With regards to the ADIPS certificate, check it out at ADIPS.co.uk to ensure it is genuine. The advent of the scanner and photo shop means a young kid can alter the date or name on a certificate. Same goes for the insurance.
6 Ask For Testimonials
The best operators in the hire arena tend to specialise in these jobs exclusively. Some operators spend most of their time at traditional funfairs, and the private jobs are an afterthought. That’s not to say some of these aren’t quite good. They are, but the best operators tend to pay more attention to customer service, and operate to a higher standard. By all means ask for contact names at some of the larger corporate clients they have had. A good operator should have no issue with sending you details of jobs they have done.
If after reading our 6 tips on dodgem hire you are still unsure, by all means drop us an email asking for help.
Have you ever wondered about when the fair comes town. It suddenly appear on your doorstep, almost overnight in many cases?
The funfair owner just gets up one day and decides to come and set up in the park across from your house right?
Erm, no, not exactly. Most events are planned months in advance. Indeed many fairs follow a regular date, in some cases stretching back hundreds of years. They tend to be the culmination of much planning, regular meetings, inspections and so on.
We were responsible for a few years for the fairground supplied in conjunction with the summer festival at Gainsborough. I had happened across the event whilst passing through the town one summer day. I contacted the organisers about attending with some attractions at the following years event. This was politely declined, and I tried again the following year with a similar result. Out of the blue I received an email asking if I would like to supply a couple of candy floss and Popcorn stalls. So cue a meeting with the relevant people, a deal was agreed and I was asked to supply all of my safety documentation.
A few weeks later, again out of the blue, the organisers asked if I would be interested in supplying a full range of attractions. This meant another meeting and plans being discussed. This proceeded quite well, until it was pointed out that the council couldn’t agree this with us directly, it had to be put out to tender to a minimum of 3 operators.
All 3 of us submitted tenders, and eventually we were notified that we had been successful.
After receiving the green light, we submitted details of the actual line up we proposed along with safety documentation. Then the council Health & Safety team contacted us asking for an onsite meeting. Cue another trip to Gainsborough to talk through their concerns.
Full steam ahead now, or so we thought. Until we were informed that part of the car park could not be occupied. It turns out that a local solicitors needed 24hr access to their building. So this meant a rewrite of the plan, and some modification to the line up we were bringing.
The day before the event, we had to be in Gainsborough to oversee the setting up and siting of rides. We were obviously there for the day of the event. Also the day after to ensure we had cleaned the site up and caused no damage. Oh, and the organisers wanted a debriefing meeting to discuss any issues that had come up.
So you can see, far from just rolling up, we had not only to deal with numerous organisations and individuals at the planning stage. We also had to travel to Gainsborough a number of times, for in the end what was a 1 day event.
When the fair comes to town, its the result of a lot of hard work, before the rides even turn up.
Our crazy golf has been a big hit this season. We have however been inundated with requests for a more ‘wedding’ themed layout. We finally got around to putting together our initial wedding course for a client. Pictured here are our initial wedding crazy golf 9 holes. Like most things we will modify and adapt this at it evolves and we come up with better ideas.
Slalom the love letters, around the rotating wedding shoes, miss the stacked hearts and then into the birdcage. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
The iconic symbol of love is the heart. And we have lots of them, in various shades. Throw in a bouquet or two and you have our second hole.
Hole 3…Ducks Of Love
Our classic rubber duck hole. Through the ducks of love, avoid the funfair shooting gallery ducks, then up the ramp and into the bath.
Hole 4…Let Them Eat Cake
An important part of the day. The wedding cake. A selection of cakes, with fun toppers.
Hole 5….Make A Wish
Through the wishing well, dodge the windmill, and into the hole. On a role now.
Hole 6…Diamond Geezer
Dodge the diamond solitaire. Loop the loop of the engagement ring, up the bridge and into the hole.
Hole 7…Lucky Horseshoes
Lots of luck here, horseshoes galore.
Hole 8…Can The Can
The classic wedding cans attached to the back of cars as the happy couple flee the scene.
Hole 9…Mr & Mrs
The final hurdle, through the wedding party of skittles, slalom the happy couple (Which can be Mr & Mr or Mrs & Mrs) and up the ramp to the finish. Bobs your Uncle.
Of course you don’t have to have our wedding crazy golf for your event. You can just as easily have one of our multi themed golf courses.
Another of our looks at some of the major funfair events throughout the UK. One of three fairs to carry the name ‘Goose Fair’. nottingham is the largest. The others being in Tavistock and Colyford East Devon.
History dates the event back to a royal charter in 1284 granted by King Edward I. Though fairs in Nottingham were thought to predate this. Originally taking place in September, it was moved to an October date in 1752 when the Gregorian calendar was adopted.
It has taken place every year since then, save for 1646 when an outbreak of the bubonic plague stopped it, the two World wars, and obviously 2020 when the covid pandemic struck.
The creation of fairs by royal charter was a common occurrence in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. King Henry II had granted a charter for an annual Martinmas fair in Lenton Priory in November. This gave prominence to that event and prevented other fairs from competing with it. The 1284 charter giving Nottingham it’s own fair saw the event grow in size and prestige.
Records first mention the Goose Fair name in 1541, where it is referred to in borough records as ‘goosey fair day.’ The name comes from the thousands of geese driven from Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire to be sold in Nottingham. Like many fairs it started as a trade fair, for the sale of livestock, geese and most famously its high quality cheese. At this time it was based in the Old Market Square.
In common with other events of the nature, side shows and other entertainment was added to the event, gradually diminishing the trade element. As shops evolved and transport links increased, annual events like this were no longer a necessity to stock up the larder. The dawn of steam and mechanisation saw rides being added to the event. The traditional carousels, switchbacks, gondola rides and animal manageries gradually increasing in mumber.
As the event spread out it overwhelmed the market square and began to cause problems with congestion, not helped by the increase in traffic through the town centre. The decision as taken to move the event in 1928 to the Forest Recreation ground. A move resisted by the showmen, but in the event proving ideal, being twice the size of the market square.
Held annually on the recreation ground for five days, it boasts over five hundred attractions. Everything from traditional carousels to the latest white knuckle thrill attractions.
The roundabout on the approach to the fair is notable for its giant fibreglass goose called ‘Goosey’ which appears in the run up to the fair taking place. The Lord Mayor opens the event with the ringing of a pair of silver bells. Still a massively popular event attracting over 500,000 visitors annually the fair has an excellent record as regards safety and trouble happening.
Another in our series of portraits on the great fairground artists. Sid Howell, and indeed his father Albert, were two highly regarded painters at the firm of Orton Sons, & Spooner. Or more commonly Orton & Spooner as it was referred to within the funfair industry.
The company produced some of the most ornate and elaborate rides, stalls and showfronts during the early part of the 20th Century. Indeed little since has come close to matching their style, both the early rococo theme or the later Art Deco. They were well known for employing the best of artisans and artists to work on their rides.
Sid Howell was born in 1906 in Bristol, but moved with the family to Burton On Trent, the homebase of Orton and Spooner. He not only studied art at school, but was helped with additional coaching from his father, and received actual working experience at the firm.
By the time he was 18, he had completed a study course at Burton Art School, and eventually qualified to teach the subject.
Many would assume that he would follow his father in to the amusement ride firm, but he chose a different path, instead accepting a position as trainee draughtsman at Branston Artificial Silk. Sadly this didn’t work out as the company folded three years later.
Orton Sons, And Spooner
When Sid found himself unemployed in a period where jobs were scarce, he ended up joining his father Albert decorating funfair attractions. He brought the benefits of a new younger generation to the company. His knowledge of new techniques and his introduction of newer styles was evident in the standard of work being turned out.
The father and son team were a perfect match, especially on the many jungle scenes they painted together.
They were interrupted during the war years, as were most ride manufacturers. But happily by 1946 the company was back producing rides.
Edwards Ben Hur
Robert Edwards owned a Noah’s Ark that had been built in the mid 30’s. He placed an order for the ride to be rebuilt.
The rounding boards were painted in the familiar jungle theme, quite probably by Albert. Sid however designed and painted a scene from Ben Hur on the main front panels. At over 40ft wide and 15ft tall it was a stunning work of art. This was widely recognised as the finest work of his career. Keep in mind that the front not only had to look right at ground level, but also when it was placed in the air. Add in the fact that the front was curved, and you have an idea of the level of skill involved in his creation.
Much of the fabulous artwork from these early artists has been lost, either when the rides were retired and scrapped, or when, as often happened they were repainted to keep them fresh.
Sid eventually left Orton & Spooner as work from the showmen gradually dried up. The company turned away from the industry .
Sid had a spell undertaking freelance work, and worked at an amusement park, and also Blackpool’s famous illuminations.
He died in 1966, but the immensity of his talent lives on in his finest work.
His son, Alan S. Howell, researched and wrote a book about the artists of Orton & Spooner titled ‘Men At Work‘. This is fetching sums in excess of £100 for a paperback copy. It would be well worth a read if you can get your hands on one.
The golden years of fairgrounds in the UK, pretty much the Victorian era really. Saw numerous home grown companies providing the ever expanding scene with rides and shows that were works of art. Sadly like much of British industry, few ride manufacturers still remain. The legendary names of old seem to limp along in various forms until about the last third of the 20th century before finally fading away. Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd was one such name, responsible for some of the most ornate switchbacks, arks and shows ever to appear on the fairground, they ended as equipment handling manufacturers before ceasing to trade around 1977.
Originally they were two separate companies. The first being the Lion Carriage Works. Set up by George Orton who manufactured gypsy wagons as well as drays and carriages for other industries. Based in Burton upon Trent, he received his first commision for a Showman’s wagon around 1883. At that period in history, showmen not only lived in their wagons, but they tended to be highly carved and ornate and formed the front part of a travelling show.
A young man named Charles Spooner, owner of the ‘Swan Works’, in Burton was one of Orton’s suppliers. A wood carver who had been apprenticed to Walter Gifford Hilton he supplied drays and carts to the thriving brewing industry in Burton.
Orton contracted him to provide carvings for his showfronts and wagons. This symbiotic relationship flourished to the point that the two companies were amalgamated in 1925 as Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd.
They soon expanded their range into the full scale building of rides and showfronts and came to dominate the market. Their highly ornate, exquisitely decorated constructions were far in advance of the plainer, less impressive offerings from competitors, indeed the breathtaking scale of their offerings haven’t been matched since.
The picture above is a typical example taken from one of their scenic railways. Superbly detailed and robustly constructed, these cars were said to weigh around 1500kg’s each, with a complete ride in the 35-40 tonne bracket.
They built their first scenic for Holland Brothers in 1912, some 57 feet in diameter and powered by no fewer than eight electric motors. Over the next twenty years they completed over 30 of these rides.
World War I
The first World War, saw the company requisitioned to produce aircraft hangers, but successfully re launched into the fairground market in 1919 with another scenic railway.
Their final scenic was delivered in 1925, with the type coming to the end of its popularity. Smaller and lighter attractions now ruled the roost, with Noah’s Arks, Waltzers and Speedways being in demand. They also turned out an estimated 50 dodgem tracks, along with ghost trains, shows and side stalls. They built the first skid ride for the famous Midlands showman Pat Collins in 1928.
Sadly George Orton passed away at the age of 81 in 1924. The company now being in the hands of his sons, and Charles Spooner, who had married his daughter Anne.
From the onset the business employed only the best artisans and artists. The father and son teaming of Albert and Sid Howell being responsible for some of the stunning art gracing the fronts and rounding boards of these rides.
The Ben Hur front for Edwards ark was considered to be Sid Howells greatest work. The image above doesn’t do justice to the sheer size and scale of the work which was around 15ft high and over 40ft long.
Charles Spooner gained a reputation as being amongst the finest wood carvers in the business. Creating examples of pretty much everything required on rides at that time. The company was quick to respond to current affairs. Producing animals carved as Generals during the Boer war, and armoured cars and tanks during WWI.
They successfully transitioned from their early Rococo style creations, as the country moved into the Art Deco period. They produced modern, for the time, decor with curves and swooping forms. Decorated with modern airplanes and train engines, mixed in with bright colours and influences of the exotic from the far east and Egypt.
In common with much of industry, they gradually moved away from the one off hand crafted work. To a more standardised production line using stencils and patterned parts. To keep up with increased demand and competition this was a necessary evil. It did mean though that we would never again see the wonderful fronts and carvings for which they had become famous.
World War II
Charles Spooner died at the beginning of WWII. The bulk of the companies efforts being the manufacturing of military vehicles during the war.
They recommenced work in the fairground industry after the war. But it was a changed world, demand from the showmen was dropping off, and they began to diversify into other engineering work. 1954 marked the final break with fairground manufacture, and the company soldiered on until finally falling into receivership in 1977.
Orton, Sons and Spooner Ltd will be remembered as one of the greats of the last century.
Not exactly our usual post this one. If you have come here hoping for some more stories of the cock up’s we have made. Or a review of a funfair manufacturer. Then I can only apologise.
The only connection we have with the star of this post, is that we are now based in Yorkshire. Oh, and I have a pilots licence, though not for rotary craft (helicopters).
Most of us drive. Some of us quite a lot. A split second mistake could be disastrous, leaving any of us with serious injuries, possibly life threatening. At times like that we are quite likely to need these guys. So letting everyone know about them is always worthwhile.
History Of The Air Ambulance
The first air ambulance service started in 1933. With a flight from Wideford Airport in Orkney. A night time flight was made from the same location in February 1939 using car headlights to help during the take off and landing.
The aircraft, registration G-ACEW was a General Aircraft Monospar.
This was a fixed wing aircraft (think aeroplane) rather than the more common helicopters you see today. Both types of aircraft have their advantages. Fixed wing tend to be faster and have a longer range. Heli’s the ability to land in small spaces such as on a minor road, or in an industrial estate.
Emergency Air Ambulances
Generally the modern service is based on helicopters. These are used to respond to medical emergencies in support of land based ambulances. Nearly all of them are charity funded. With the charities either owning the aircraft directly, or contracting in private service providers.
The staff are usually seconded from the NHS and local ambulance services. There are a surprising number of Air services around the UK covering most of the country.
Our local service was established in October 2000. Currently they operate two Airbus H145 aircraft. Like most of the services they are reliant solely on the donations of individuals and organisations.
Originally developed between Airbus and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The craft is basically the front end of Eurocopters EC135 and the rear of a BK117 C1 helicopter. A previous joint production between the two companies.
Nostell Priory Base
The charity was originally based in Nostell Priory, an estate in Yorkshire that was purchased by the Winn family in 1654. A family that originally made its fortune in the textile trade in London during Tudor times.
The first active heli, was based at Leeds/Bradford airport, where overnight maintenance facilities allowed a high state of readiness. A new operations centre was built and became operational at Nostell in 2013, including a hanger and aircrew accommodation and the aircraft moved to that base.
A second aircraft and base was opened in Sheffield in 2007, but closed a year later. With the aircraft being rebased first at Bagby in Thirsk, then eventually sharing a base at RAF Topcliffe with the 645 Gliding Squadron.
There are landing pads for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance at most of the major regional hospitals including Leeds, Hull and Middlesbrough allowing high speed patient delivery straight to casualty.
One of the services most high profile cases was the high speed crash suffered by Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond at Elvington airfield. Hammond was driving a jet powered drag car called Vampire, powered by a Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus turbojet engine, when he crashed at 319 MPH.
He was airlifted to Leeds General Infirmary by the aircrew and spent five weeks recovering, including two weeks in a severe coma.
The Yorkshire Air Ambulance relies entirely on charity donations. head over to their website and check out some of the merchandise on sale to support their operations.
Another selection of misadventures from our past history.
Keep Them Wheels Turning 2010
When we first started and was operating on a limited budget, we frequently had problems with equipment failures and vehicle breakdowns. As we grew and ended up in a position to buy better equipment, and also put back up systems in place we found that things seemed to run a lot more smoothly.
However the law of averages caught up with us the other day, we had quite a busy schedule, calling at a small village in Surrey to apply 125 chair covers and sashes and set up a chocolate fountain, then on to Sevenoaks to set a number of stalls and a couple of catering carts up, back to the first venue to drop two members of staff off, then I continued on to Walton on Thames to operate a candy floss and popcorn cart. As soon as I finished I derigged everything and shot back to the first venue with the intention of picking my staff up to travel home to Yorkshire, grab a couple of hours sleep, load the van up with the rest of the equipment for the Sevenoaks job and set back off down South.
Bang Goes The Tyre
Everything was going great guns when a bang, signalled that I had a tyre blown out, ‘great, just what I wanted on a lane in the middle of nowhere, a tyre change.’ In time I ended up wishing I was changing a tyre, because when I crawled under the back of the van I discovered the spare wheel missing (it was a hire van). I rang the owner and ot him out of bed, “ring the AA he said, the van is covered”, trouble is when I explained the problem they informed me that under their terms of service, not having a spare wheel meant that I wasn’t covered. Rang John again, “Ring a tyre firm he said and bill me”. An hour later after ringing every number I could find on the internet I rang John again. After an exchange of ideas, he informed me that he was setting off with a spare wheel, wonderful, the three of us only had to sit and wait in the van whilst John covered the 216 miles to us.
Now before John set off he had to nip up to our place and pick up the items I needed for the next day, this included a striker (test your strength machine). On our striker the base unit is made from 20mm steel plate to give it the weight needed to remain stationary whilst being hammered. The base unit is kept on a small set of wheel which allow it to be moved about the yard. When John and my other half lifted it into the van, John had not realised that the wheels were not part of the structure and left his fingers underneath when they dropped it into the back of the van. My wife rang me to tell me that John was running around the yard squealing about his fingers. She wasn’t in the mood for sympathy and told him that if he went to the hospital they would only tape his fingers up, and she offered to lend him a roll of tape to ensure he got on his way quicker.
When he arrived at our end the first thing he did was show me his fingers, which by then were black and blue and quite swollen. Bloody well serves him right for removing the spare wheel.
Mobile Bar Buzz 2010
We recently installed a bar at an event for a major motor industry manufacturer and a games console company. This was a pre paid job with us supplying a fixed package of drinks, including cocktails and one of our Jagermeister tap machines.
The event went stormingly with everyone in fancy dress and the room buzzing. Sabine Schmitz (the German female racing driver who raced Jeremy Clarkson around the Nurburgring race track, with Jeremy in a Jaguar S type, and Sabine in a Transit Van, she lost by only 9 seconds. Ms Schmitz and a cohort of German friends managed to consume our stocks of Jagermeister, before moving onto frozen Margarita cocktails with an added shot of Vodka, something our cocktail mixologist insisted you couldn’t do, but the Schmitz party proving you obviously could!
De Computer Sez So 2010
Quite often nowadays I don’t have time to keep this blog updated. Odd occasions I do have time I sometimes struggle for something newsworthy to write. Occasionally however something drops in my lap that I just have to put on here. I recently added a new van to our line up, and insured it with the company that insurers our other CItroen dispatch. In common with our other insurances we pay in a lump sum at the start of the insurance term. A couple of days ago the postman knocked on the door to deliver a registered letter from said company, upon opening it I read a formal notice that as I had not settled an outstanding amount they would be cancelling my insurance unless it was paid in the next 7 days. Now this puzzled me as I know I paid in full at the start of the policy term.
Upon reading further down the page, the amount outstanding was in large bold type to make it more noticable. It read that I owed them £0.00 that’s right Zero pounds and zero pence. I sent them a very nice email admitting that I owed this amount and asking if they would like a cheque for £0.00 or would they like it in cash in which case I would send them an empty envelope.
February, which is usually our quietest month (although this year turned out to be a busy one), saw us managing to fit a 3 day break to Amsterdam in. I have been there in the past both when I was single, and also spent part of my honeymoon there whilst touring Europe.
As is normal nowadays, everything was booked online a few weeks before, with the booking system informing me that actual airline tickets are no longer issued, we instead have E tickets. Anyway a couple of days before we were due to fly I discovered that my other half’s E ticket had been issued in her maiden name, and knowing that airlines are particularly picky about names since 9/11 I rang our carriers, KLM straight up. “No problem Mr Moody, said a pleasant Dutch voice, we can change names quite easily.” was followed by “Oh, sorry we can’t change your ticket”. Upon inquiring as to why, I was told that since I had booked them through a travel agent, the agent would have to make the name change request. I duly rang the agents to do this. (No problem Mr Moody, that’s quite easy, please hold the line”, was again followed by “Oh, we can’t do it”. The reason this time turned out to be the fact that it was Saturday, and the KLM office which deals with name changes doesn’t work weekends.
SO we ended up being told that we should get to the airport early, and the ticket desk there should change the name for us. On the morning we were flying we arrived bright and early only to be met with a queue of about 80 people! We informed an airport attendant of our predicament and asked if there was anyway of getting the ticket sorted sooner, upon asking to see our ticket, his reply was “I wouldn’t worry about your ticket mate, that flight was canceled last night”, turned out that the plane we were supposed to be on didn’t land because of fog.
Five bloody hours were in that queue for. Mid way through it the rumour seemed to be that the next available flight was the day after.Not wanting to lose a day of a short break, I got my laptop out, connected to KLM’s site and booked three seats on a later flight, reasoning that I would worry about refunds later. After booking the seats I was informed that I would have to pay for them at the ticket desk, so I would still have to stand in the bloody queue.
Anyway as we reached nearly to the front of the queue I discovered that the ticket agent was in fact booking people on the same plane I had just reserved 3 seats on, great it looked like I would have 6 seats on the flight, but at least one of the 6 would be in my wife’s current name. I duly reached the front of the queue to meet the ticket agent, a short stern faced lady who looked like she would make a good concentration camp guard in the movie industry.
I was just about to launch into a tirade about waiting 5 bloody hours and not being informed of cancelled flights when a young man dropped a bundle of papers on her desk and exclaimed innocently “These need taking care of when you get a minute”, the look she gave him would have welded steel from 40 paces, and her reply of “You know what you can do with those Stephen, shove them up your bloody arse!” seemed to modify my temper somewhat.
As she turned that steely gaze upon me I gave her my best smile, what I hoped was a slightly pleading look in my eyes, and informed her that not only did we need our flights sorting out, but my wife’s ticket was in the wrong name. Her eyes narrowed, her shoulders tightened and a visible shudder ran through her, taking a hold or herself she sighed loudly, stared towards the heavens, closed her eyes for a long moment then sorted everything out for us.
Amsterdam turned out much as I remember it, the Dutch must be the most laid back and pleasant race in Europe, and we spent a pleasant 3 days strolling around the city, with a short trip to the seaside town of Vollendam thrown in. THe first tram we boarded into the city centre, I asked the conductor for the price of the ticket (most locals use pre paid cards much like the oyster system in London), he just smiled and told me not to worry and get of when we were ready.
The next day having some experience of the tram system, we boarded the tram outside our hotel and I asked for 3 day passes. The lady conductor smiled sweetly and apologised for having run out of them. “It is not a problem”, she said, “Just buy them from a ticket machine when you get off”. Can you imagine that, over here it would go like this, “3 Day passes please”, “Can’t do that mate I’ve run out” “Oh, well can I buy them when I get off at the other end” “No sorry can’t do that you need a ticket to travel” “Oh well give me 3 tickets please” “Sorry, just told you I’ve run out!”
Mid way through I had a headache coming on so thought I would nip into a chemist for some pain relief. What greeted me must have been one of the barest shelves of painkillers I have ever seen, about the size of a television set, it contained pretty much only what you could buy from a late night garage in this country. Upon inquiring about something a bit stronger I was informed that I would need a doctors prescription. “So let me get this straight,” I said, “I can walk into anyone of a million coffee shops and buy cannabis or marijuana, without any problems, but if I want something stronger than 400mg of Ibuprofen I need a prescription?”. “That’s pretty much it”, replied the chemist. “Strange country”, “Yep” came the retort, along with that pleasant Dutch laid back smile.
Ready to come home, we reached Schipol airport, and found that they have a fully automated system to book in and be issued with your boarding card. I entered our E ticket number, only to learn that I was booked on the flight along with our daughter, but not my wife. It made me think of a recent case where an immigration official had waved his wife off at the airport in London, went back to work and added her to the known terrorist list of people banned from entering the UK, and then proceeded to live the single life until he was found out 4 years later, in the meantime his wife had spent 4 years stuck in Pakistan unable to find out why she wasn’t allowed to board a flight back to England!
As it turned out, because of the name change we had made at Bradford, my wife had received a separate reservation, which no one had bothered to inform me of.
Our look today is at one of the larger ride manufacturers on the States. Currently producing a range of amusement rides, roller coasters, people movers and giant wheels. Chance Rides operate from a 40 acre site with around 310,000 sq ft of buildings in Wichita Kansas. The area is regarded as the aviation capital of the world, and provides a large pool of highly skilled workers, along with many specialised manufacturers.
The C.P. Huntington Train
The original C.P. Huntington was a locomotive purchased by the Central Pacific railway, the third of their loco’s in 1863. When it was sold to the Southern Pacific railway company it was named in honour of Collis P. Huntington, their third President.
Richard Harold Chance, who had originally been building small trains for the Ottaway Amusement Company since 1946, designed a 2ft guage replica of the Locomotive. In 1960 he began to build these using petrol, diesel, propane or electric engines for sale to amusement parks, zoo’s and similar.
The very first one was delivered to the Joyland Amusement Park in Wichita. Replacing their original miniature train that had operated since 1933. It has been the most popular park train model since The Allan Herschell Company merged with Chance closing down the production line for their Iron Horse train. The company has built over 400 trains and coaches for customers around the globe. With prices running upwards of $200,000 for an engine and $60k or so for a coach.
Chance Manufacturing was incorporated in 1961 and by 1971. They launched their first carrousel (deliberately spelt that way by Chance) after they had acquired the Allan Herschell Co. At that time the largest Amusement ride manufacturer in the States. Their designs were modified to a more ornate decorative style. The company then acquired Bradley & Kaye in 1986, another carousel manufacturer to acquire their stock of molds. David Bradley had reproduced many of the historic carousel figures in fibreglass and had over 60 molds for them. When the D.H.Morgan carousel company was merged into the group it added even more unique figures for the company to use.
This wide range of ornate, highly detailed animals has become something of a trademark on Chance built carousels.
D.H. Morgan Acquisition
When Chance acquired Morgan, and formed Chance Morgan, they didn’t just get access to the companies line of carousel figures. But also its roller coaster manufacturing line up.
They had built coasters as early as 1969, producing the Walter House designed Toboggan. A portable ride where a train climbed up a vertical tower before spiralling back down the outside. They built 32 of these and also introduced a children’s big dipper coaster.
The integration of the D.H. Morgan line took their ability to design coasters to a new level. With their own track manufacturing technology and the ability to offer a range of designs.
1967 saw the first Ferris wheel from Chance, debuting at the Iowa State fair. Carrying 32 passengers in 16 cars. Their first park model was an 8-ft Giant Wheel for an amusement park in Minnesota. A tie up with Ronald Bussink, of Switzerland and Dutch Wheels BV, part of the Vekoma rides organisation saw the combine building observation wheels. Giant wheels that place the riders in cabins or pobs rather than seats. They acquired the rights from Bussink Design GmbH to build and sell the R80XL 76metre wheel in North America.