Arrow Development, founded in 1946 by Ed Morgan, Karl Bacon, Angus Anderson, and William Hardiman holds a significant place in the history of the theme park industry, revolutionizing the way amusement rides were designed and constructed.
Over its decades-long existence, Arrow laid key foundations that nearly all major coaster and ride manufacturers use today. No other manufacturer has been as influential as Arrow. Let’s look at how this Arrow changed the theme park industry and continues to leave an indelible legacy.
Humble Beginnings and A Man With A Dream
Image: DisneylandIn its early years, Arrow Development focused on creating custom machinery for a variety of industries, including some kiddie rides. Their rides were reliable and well-built and caught the attention of the one and only, Walt Disney. Arrow was hired to aid in manufacturing several rides for Disneyland’s opening day including Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Mr. Toads Wild Ride, Mad Tea Party, and the iconic Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
Walt Disney was so impressed with Arrow Development that Walt Disney Productions purchased a 1/3 stake in the company in 1960 and over the years Arrow would assist in the creation of over 2 dozen Disney attractions.
The company’s true breakthrough, however, came in 1959 when it designed and built the first tubular steel track roller coaster for Disneyland: Matterhorn Bobsleds. Arrow’s success in introducing tubular steel track technology propelled the company to the forefront of the amusement ride industry. The unique design featuring tubular steel tracks set a standard for future roller coaster designs and inspired a wave of imitations around the world. Nearly every future and competing coaster manufacturer would go on to use their own tubular steel track.
Revolutionizing The Theme Park Industry
Image: Silverwood Theme ParkArrow’s impact extends beyond roller coasters to other attractions though. Their log flume, El Aserradero opened at Six Flags Over Texas in 1963 and was the first of its kind. This log flume became a staple in many theme parks and Arrow would go on to build over 40 variations.
Arrow Development would also create the runaway mine train coaster with the first opening at Six Flags Over Texas in 1966. The mine train model would become extremely popular, and a dozen would be installed throughout the 1960s and 1970s. However, the 1970s would see Arrow Development push the boundaries of ride design even further with the introduction of the first modern inverting roller coaster.
Premiering at Knott’s Berry Farm in 1975, Corkscrew featured two thrilling corkscrew inversions. It was the first coaster to invert riders twice. It currently still operated at Silverwood Theme Park. Arrow Development would build ten more exact replicas of Corkscrew in the following four years.
Soon, Arrow would create the teardrop loop and add loops to their steel coaster model. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Arrow would create massive looping coasters like Loch Ness Monster which included the first interlocking inversions, and Great America Scream Machine which featured a whopping seven inversions.
Image: Busch Gardens WilliamsburgArrow would not be known for only their inverting steel coasters, however. In 1978 they would create a racing hybrid coaster (long before the creation of Rocky Mountain Construction). Gemini at Cedar Point features Arrow’s steel tubular track with a wood support system and dueling tracks.
In 1981, Arrow installed the first suspended roller coaster, The Bat at Kings Island. Although this installation would close after only two seasons, the company would work out the kinks and go on to build other successful suspended coasters like The Big Bad Wolf at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. They would even get the chance to redeem themselves at Kings Island when Top Gun, now known as The Bat, opened in 1993.
Arrow Development were not afraid of taking big risks and making big leaps…

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