Another of our quick look at major fairs, a little different this time as it is in the Netherlands. Dating back to 1570, the Tilburg Kermis is the largest fair in the Benelux region, attracting over a million visitors annually which makes it big by any standard.
Playing host to upto 250 attractions spread over a 4.5km city centre site Tilburg is held around the third week in July. Like many fairs in the UK, it started as a market, being held to honour Tilburg’s patron saint. Unlike many UK based events though, the local community and businesses play an active part in the event. With local pubs and restaurants staging music events, large scale DJ sets and themed evenings. A stark contrast to the UK based scene, where many local businesses close for the duration of the fair.
One of the most popular days of the fair, is Pink monday (Rose Maandag). Celebrating lgbt values, it brings gays and lesbians from across Europe, with many of the attractions sporting pink decor for the day. Attracting over 350,000 visitors this is a definite boost for the event. The slogan for the day is “Be Gay For A Day”
The event even has it’s own radio station. Kermis FM, offering a mix of information about the event, traffic data and kermis style music.
The final day of the Tilburg Kermis sees a massive procession towards the pius harbour. Culminating in a 15 minute firework display.
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.
Another of our favourite snacks, hot fresh popcorn. Answers to some of the questions we receive. If you have any others just add them in the comments and we will try and answer them for you.
How Was Popcorn Invented
The answer to that s lost in the mists of time. In 1948, in New Mexico, Herbert Dick and Earle Smith discovered small beads of corn, and popped kernels. This was inside a cave known as the Bat Cave. When they were tested with carbon dating, they were found to be 5600 years old!
The Aztec indians used popped corn, not only as food, but also to decorate clothing and ceremonial wear.
In north America, colonists were popping corn after adopting it from the native Indians. It was also used as a breakfast cereal with milk and sugar. By the 1800’s it was one of the most widely eaten snack foods.
How Does Popcorn Pop
The popcorn kernels contain a minute amount of water, surrounded by soft starch inside a hard shell. As it is heated up, the water expands and the pressure starts to build. This pressure builds against the hard outer shell, which eventually gives way. As it bursts the soft starch rapidly inflates turning the kernel inside out. The steam is released and the corn is popped, ready to eat.
Where Do Popcorn Kernels Come From
We have all eaten popcorn niblets, or corn on the cob. Turns out that doesn’t make popcorn. A particular species of maize called ‘Zea mays everta,’ is the only variety that pops. Though there are over 100 strains of this with different flavours. One strain produces the mushroom shaped popcorn, whilst another turns into the snowflake style, which tends to be the most popular for snacking.
Is Popcorn Bad For You
It’s low in fat and high in fibre. Really it is a healthy snack. BUT, as soon as you start adding butter, caramel, sugar, salt and toffee it ceases being healthy. So you could keep it as a natural healthy snack, but where is the fun in that. It should be slathered in butter, and sugar. Or if you are American or just plain weird, salt.
Are Popcorns Carbs
Yep definitely are. Around 74g in every 100g in fact. So definitely high on the scale.
Will Popcorn Help You Poop
As a matter of fact it will, it is high in fibre so it can provide relief from constipation. And it sure as hell will be a lot more pleasant than a suppository.
Is Popcorn Harmful To Cats
Popcorn itself isn’t no, but some of the additives and toppings may be, so before sharing with your feline friends it would be wise to check with your vet. The unpopped kernels can be harmful to their teeth, or even pose a choking hazard.
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.
Some of the ride manufacturers out there are universally known throughout the world. The big boys, Mack, KMG, Chance are all household names (well within funfair and amusement operators households).
Our name this week isn’t one we have heard much about. Possibly because it was folded into the Chance rides organisation in 1986.
In 1945 Dave Bradley and Don Kaye purchased Beverley Park in Los Angeles from the Frock and Meyer Amusement Company. Aiming for the family market they filled the park with children’s rides, believing that the park should be spotless, and that the customers needed to look like they were enjoying themselves.
Dave Bradley was an economics graduate who held an impressive catalogue of career changes. He worked as a reporter, managed the big bands of Freddy Martin and Russ Morgan, worked as a production manager at a radio stations, and a toolmaker for Lockheed Martin.
The park is credited as the inspiration for Disneyland, with Disney and his daughters being regular visitors, indeed Dave Bradley assisted Walt Disney in the planning of the original Disneyland, travelling throughout Europe to photograph rides for him, and working as a consultant on the original Disneyland. Dave’s first wife Bernice had worked in the Disney Studios research department, before leaving to help run the park full time.
Throughout the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s most of the major Hollywood stars visited the park with their children, with Errol Flynn, Lana Turner and Carol Burnett being regulars.
Don Kaye decided to return to his roots in the music business, leaving the company in the hands of his partner, who decided to leave the name unchanged.
1947 saw the company designing a mini roller coaster for kids, called the little dipper. This was licensed to the Allan Herschell company, one of the countries biggest manufacturers. This was a portable ride which could be carried on a 20ft trailer.
The Red Baron
A popular aeroplane themed ride was introduced in 1972, being delivered to Opryland. Based on the WW1 German Ace pilot of that name, the rides were themed with red triplanes and on some white planes decorated up with the British Flying Corps roundel.
Dave Bradley realised at this point that a full time manufacturing facility was needed to keep pace with the orders they were receiving. this was set up in Long Beach California.
During the first half of the 70’s Bradley & Kaye built Red Barons, Jeep rides, Dark rides, stunt rides and more. The company seemed to quite happy with custom commissions, and introduced an innovative small coaster for Storeyland. Called the ‘Ice Berg Coaster’ it followed the contours of the land through the park, skimming across a lake, and dropping down a cliff.
One highly advanced ride the company came up with was the Barnstormer. Kind of like a modern starflyer, but instead of seats the riders were in aeroplanes, which circled 100ft off the ground. The advanced part was the ability of the planes to dive 50ft under the riders control. The ride only operated a few seasons, never quite agreeing with the winds encountered 100ft up.
Dave Bradley was an acknowledged expert in Carousel working on this genre of ride as far back as 1951. He was employed by the great Alfred Hitchcock as an adviser for the carousel scene on the film ‘Strangers On A Train.’
Bradley took moulds from a number of classic carousel horses present on historic rides. He developed new fabrication methods and became highly regarded for these. Indeed this was one of the reasons that Chance Rides took over the company, to access this ‘stable’ of horse designs.
A log Flume was produced in 1978 for Hot Springs Arkansas. A1200 ft model with two lifts, based on an unusual chain lift mechanism, rather than the normal belts. They also produced a number of custom rides for Canada’s Wonderland, and dual swinging boats for Little England in Florida.
1986 saw the Bradley & Kaye draw to a close as it was taken over by the Chance Ride group. They wanted their elaborate collection of horse moulds, and another innovative name faded into relative obscurity.
Nottingham…yes that’s right I said Nottingham is home to an Insta worthy coffee shop…with a twist. The twist being the fairground theme oh and the hidden tattoo parlor too!. Neon Wolf opened in January.
An Insta worthy coffee shop at Darby Road
The coffee shop that can be found on Derby Road, is home to fluorescent pink lights creating a candy floss like haze and both dodgem and waltzer cars for tables and seats. Don’t worry though the custom made cars have been fitted to the flooring meaning that you won’t be spun round whilst enjoying your coffee. You also don’t have to dodge other people in your dodgem car whilst trying not to spill your tea!.
The fun theme to this coffee shop has caught the eye of many Instagram users who have deemed the cafe as an Instagram worthy coffee shop. In today’s society that is among one of the best compliments to receive. There are now 4.20 billion social media uses around the world. This figure has shown a growth of over 490 million people in the last 12 months. With more than 37% of the population using Instagram it’s important that businesses utilize social media. Due to the coffee shop being Insta worthy it means that visitors will be more likely to take photos and share it to their Instagram site. This meaning all their ‘followers’ will see the post. This is basically free advertising as once people see the photo they may wish to visit the coffee shop too
The waltzer car has been manufactured especially for the cafe rather than being a second hand piece from a waltzer. Being custom made ensued that then cafe could put their own touch to the center piece. They had them fitted out with velvet seating and labelled with the phrase ‘sorry mum’ and ‘cry wolf’ in reference to the hidden tattoo parlor under the cafe. The dodgem cars have been restored as they was in very bad condition. With the outside framework being reconditioned and the interior being fitted with the same velvet seating as the waltzer cars.
Goose Fair Vibes
Many visitors have said that the cafe gives them major goose fair vibes. Nottingham goose fair is one of the biggest events on both the showmen and public’s social calendar’s. The goose fair turns up to Nottingham the first week of October and can be traced back more than 700 years. Originally a trade fair selling geese among other things it has now evolved into one of the largest fairs in the country. Nottingham Goose fair is now home to more than 500 attractions.
So for 51 weeks of the year if your missing your goose fair fix then you need to visit Neon wolf.The Instagram worthy coffee shop and take a seat in the waltzer car and imagine your being spun round till your dizzy!
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.
Over time we have managed to acquire 5 highly detailed prints of some of our family transport on the fairground, they show some of the classic British trucks that were once so prevalent, not only on the fairground scene, but worldwide.
Roland Tucker’s Scammell Pioneer
Owned by Roland Tucker, a well known Yorkshire showman, this was a fabulous example of its type. Scammell was a late Victorian era wheelwright and coach building business that provided maintenance services to owners of Foden steam wagons. Eventually they were asked by a customer to build a high power haulage unit. World War I put a stop to the project, but equally proved the concept of mechanical haulage over horse drawn carts. By 1920 Scammell had presented a concept for a new model at the Commercial Motor show, taking 50 orders during the event and launching one the worlds most famous heavy haulage marques.
Designed as a 6 x 4 off road vehicle for use in Britain’s colonies where the roads were less than pristine. A bit like the A road network in the UK today. THe combination of incredible suspension travel, with excellent traction and a low revving high torque engine gave it impressive performance. Eventually being chosen as the basis for a heavy artillery tractor during WWII. The type was also developed into a heavy recovery vehicle and a tank transporter. The units were equipped with a Gardner 6 cylinder engine developing a mighty 102 BHP, driving the four rear wheels through a constant mesh gearbox with a top speed of 24mph and powering a Scammell winch.
Our family model was named Invader and used to tow
Dunny Tucker’s S36 Foden
Foden, one of the most popular makes on the fairground scene along with E.R.F, which stood for Edwin Richard Foden, a member of the Foden family who resigned and started a new firm specifically to build diesel powered trucks, rather than the steam wagons that Foden insisted on continuing with.
The company was originally founded towards the end of the 19th Century, and came to prominence when it won MOD trials to supply a series of 3-ton wagons for the military. The family split over diesel power led to the creation of ERF, but Foden was quick to switch its own production to diesel power. Sadly the last Foden rolled of the production lines in 2006 when the American owners Paccar mothballed the brand.
Dunny’s S36 tractor unit, was in the classic funfair style of carrying a couple of generators to power the rides, and towing a couple of trailers, in this case a waltzer ride.
Robert Moody’s E.R.F. ‘Sabrina’
The family split that led to E.R.F.’s creation, saw a range of well regarded vehicles produced. They were built in much the same style as Foden’s offerings, with glass fibre cabs, Gardner engines (though over the years Cummins, Caterpillar, Rolls Royce and Detroit diesel engines were also offered) and Eaton/Fuller gearboxes.
The model above was the KV or Kleer Vue cab. Most of them were typical flat fronted cabs, what the Americans call cabovers. But a number of bonneted versions were produced and proved popular with brewery operators. The rather large appendage on the front led to them being christened ‘Sabrina’ in homage to a busty television personality of the era (her real name was Norma Ann Sykes) a glamour model famous for her tiny 18 inch waist and erm, rather large 41 inch upper works.
This vehicle was used to carry a children’s ride in the North East, and eventually ended up at the end of its life with the engine being removed to build a generator with.
A.R. Moody’s Foden 4000 Series
Another entry from the Foden stable, this one was unusual in that it started life as a 4000 Series model, which is actually more modern than the picture shows. The reason was the company that owned it had all day cabbed vehicles (the type that didn’t have a bed built in), and their changing work pattern meant that they needed a sleeper cab. Rather than purchase a new vehicle, they swapped the cab for an older type cab they had in a corner of the yard. The lorry had a 14 litre Cummins engine, a type revered for its high power and torque, though less well liked for its high fuel consumption.
This carried a pair of silenced generating units, along with supplies for a catering unit, and was used to tow the owners 40ft living caravan, along with occasional trips with a children’s ride attached.
A.R. Moody’s Atkinson MkII
The last entry is from Atkinson Lorries, another old British brand. The original firm, like many others manfactured steam wagons. However it didn’t make the transition to diesel and eventually was fading away, before being bought and re established to manufacture diesels. Again using the well trodden path of those days, ie, a Gardner engine, David Brown gearbox and Kirkstall drive axle. Eventually graduating to Rolls Royce, Perkins and Cummins engines as Gardner’s began to lag behind in power outputs.
This one carried two children’s rides from the famous British ride manufacturer of Coulson’s of Ripon. It had a Gardner 5LW engine producing 94 BHP and a two speed eaton back axle that doubled the number of gear ratios. I remember it well as I spent hours painting and polishing it as a kid. Then as others got more up to date transport, hours begging my dad to swap it in. This he refused to do, until one day travelling through the Tyne Tunnel, we passed a broken down vehicle, a short time later the recovery vehicle saw us travelling that slowly they tried to recover us, due to the low engine power and the large caravan on the back meaning we were at about cycle speed on inclines.
He swapped it in shortly after for a Seddon Atkinson 400 series, which at the time was a quantum leap forward in British lorry engineering, and had the ‘high’ powered Gardner 6LXB engine with the startling output of 180 BHP.