Universal Mobility, Incorporated

In 1960, a man by the name of Hendrik “Hank” Pater founded a new corporation in his hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah: Advanced Welding Engineers (AWE). Pater is company president and general manager. In about 1963, AWE merged with another Salt Lake City firm, Steel Contractors, Inc. (SCI), of which Pater was president.

The business these two companies in varied within steel manufacturing, but it would turn to building tramways for ski resorts. One project SCI was part of was a tramway at Treasure Mountains! Park City, the longest gondola high ride in the country at the time. SCI fabricated towers and crossbars for the gondola lift.

In 1965, SCI was involved with another tramway project in New Mexico. Pater served as the principle consulter for SCI.  Sometime between then and 1967, Pater left Steel Contractors to form a new company, Constam Corporation. This company was founded to enter the monorail systems market, since monorail systems were growing in popularity.

Constam was awarded the opportunity to build a monorail system that was a mini-monorail system, known as a minirail. This system was designed by Habegger Engineering Works of Thun, Switzerland. Habegger previously installed three minirail systems, two in Europe, and one in Canada for Expo 67.

1964-06-04 The [Franklin] News-Herald (p7)

The Habegger minirail system called Telecanape, at the Swiss National Exposition, in 1964.

The opportunity Constam gained was an agreement with Habegger to build a minirail system at the California Exposition in Sacramento, California. The project was announced in December 1967, with the ride scheduled to open in 1968. With no major issues, the minirail system at the Cal Expo opened in 1968 for the California State Fair.

With this first success in 1968, Constam had the chance to move forward with a second minirail system. This project would be on the other side of the country in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Announced in December 1968, the ride that would be called Monorail was scheduled to open in June 1969.

Underneath Monorail

This picture is from underneath the Monorail at Hersheypark, from 2016.

Around the time of the opening of Monorail at Hersheypark, Constam reorganized into Universal Mobility. The company was branded as Unimobil / Habegger and the systems installed at the Cal Expo and Hershey were called Unimobil Type II.

Miami Downtown People-Mover Environmental Impact Statement (p2-56)

Unimobil/Habegger Type II – as shown in an environmental impact statement for a possible downtown Miami people-mover system.

The first monorail UMI would sell after Hershey was a minirail system to Magic Mountain, in Valencia, California. The ride was named Metro and had several stations in the park. Metro opened in 1971.

Metro remained in operation for the next 30 years, closing in 2001. It wasn’t until 2011 that some of Metro was dismantled. The trains for Metro were sold to Hersheypark, along with a small amount of track. Parts of Metro still stand in Six Flags Magic Mountain today, including one of the old stations.

The remainder of the monorails UMI constructed at theme parks were a new system called UM Tourister Type II. Three were constructed: Carowinds (1973), Kings Island (1974), and Kings Dominion (1975). The Carowinds Monorail would be closed in 1994, while the Kings Dominion system would be closed in 1993. The Kings Island system was also closed in 1993. In 1999, Jungle Jim’s International Market purchased the minirail system and it continues to operate to this day.

1983 Metropolitan Transportation Planning (p411)

A UNIMOBIL / Habegger monorail system shown in a 1983 Metropolitan Transportation Planning document, page 411.

In the mid-70s, UMI began subcontracting the manufacture of fiberglass components of the trains to a company called Intermountain Design Inc. (IDI), of Salt Lake City. This relationship would continue for as long as UMI would exist.

IDI did have other jobs. This included – a full  decade later – designing the lavatory for Air Force One during the George H.W. Bush presidency. IDI would manufacture the fiberglass components of at least the monorail systems built after 1975.

Three other Tourister monorails were built, one at Minnesota Zoological Garden in Apple Valley, Minnesota, which opened in 1979. An agreement was made between UMI and the zoo in August 1977. Only part of the ride officially opened in 1979, with the remainder of the route opening in 1980. It was also subject of a US Department of Transportation winterization test to understand how well certain monorail systems could operate in winter conditions.

1982-01 Downtown people mover (DPM) winterization test demonstration: UMI

This is the front cover of the DPM Winterization Test Demonstration in which UMI participated. The final report was issued in January 1982.

 

The monorail at the Minnesota Zoo was closed in 2013. Officials from the zoo commented that to renovate and update the ride would cost around 40 million dollars, which simply wasn’t feasible.

In 1981, UMI was contracted to build a monorail for the soon opening ZooMetro in Miami, Florida. UMI then contracted Budd Company, of Detroit, Michigan, to assist in the construction of the system.This Tourister system opened in December 1982.

This would lead to UMI’s final monorail – which was built at the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition. UMI decided to create a subsidiary company that was a joint venture between Budd Co. and UMI. This company was named Unimobile 84, Inc. after the minirail system.

While the monorail at the expo was the most popular ride at the event, the exposition itself was not generating the kind of revenues they were expecting. Unimobile 84 pushed to get revenue, and a deal was struck between the company and the fair. However, it was apparent the fair was unable to meet the terms of the agreement. Unimobile 84 eventually sued the fair organizers themselves to get payment; this did not fare well in the courts (pun not intended). Unimobile 84 took the case to Federal Appeals Court, in which they lost.

It was apparent that this venture hurt Universal Mobility, Inc., as they would not sell another monorail after this point. The Transportation Group, Inc. (TGI), a branch of Bombardier Inc., purchased UMI in 1989. The most valuable asset was a new design UMI had been working on, which was the UMI Type III monorail. TGI would go on to use some of the Type III designs in other projects.

UMI did offer a few other systems, though none of these ever seemed to be sold. One system was a UNIMOBIL Transporter System. Another was a tram service called Unimobil Unitram. The tram was available for sale in at least 1985-1986.

1986-Spring A Shuttle Bus for the University of Central Florida

A picture of a Unimobil Unitram, sold by UMI, in at least 1985-1986. This image was in a Master’s thesis for the University of Central Florida discussing the need for a shuttle bus service.


This is the complete history of Universal Mobility, Incorporated, from the 1960s to the end of the 1980s. Out of their nine minirail systems, four still operate today, including their oldest two. For a company that has been defunct for nearly 30 years, with a system long since outdated, that’s a pretty good accomplishment.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section. To see references for this article, click here. Thanks for reading!

Habegger Maschinenfabrik AG

Habegger Maschinenfabrik AG is a company in Thun, Switzerland. It was founded by Willy Habegger in 1943. They began manufacturing a type of monorail they were calling a “minirail” sometime in the early 1960s. At the time, the company was called Maschinenfabrik Habegger.

The first monorail Habegger designed was for Expo64 in Lausanne, Switzerland. Habegger worked in conjunction with Von Roll Corporation. The ride featured a turntable transfer system named Telecanape. It was one of the more popular attractions at the Swiss expo. When the expo concluded, the ride was removed from the site. Part of the system used there was then bought and moved to Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the United Kingdom for the 1966 season. The system remained in operation through 2012, when it was closed.

1964-06-04 The [Franklin] News-Herald (p7).jpg

A picture of the Telecanape monorail system at Expo64, printed in The News-Herald of Franklin, PA, June 4, 1964, page 7.

The following year, Habegger changed its name to Habegger Engineering Company. They coordinated with Von Roll to build a second minirail system. This time, however, Von Roll used their own monorail trains, the first in Von Roll’s Mk II series of monorail trains. This was seen at the Zurich Transportation Expo. From this point for about the next two decades, Habegger and Von Roll would not work together on monorail projects.

In 1967, Habegger hired the Canadian division of the British firm Hawker Siddeley to manufacture several trains for the monorail system to be operated at Montreal’s Expo ’67. This system was called Minirail, and part of the system operates in La Ronde amusement park. Habegger contributed their own monorail trains from the 1964 Swiss event.

The significance of Habegger’s design of a minirail was the concept of the rail the train ran on. The other significant part of the design was the autopilot system that was on board Habegger minirail systems. The autopilot system was designed by Habegger and manufactured by a German electronics company, Honegger Elektronik AG of Zurich.

With the popularity of Expo ’67, and the interest in monorail systems growing in the United States, Habegger partnered with Salt Lake City, Utah, firm Constam Corporation to sell and manufacture monorails in the United States. Habegger licensed their autopilot system to Constam, while Constam was responsible for fabricating the steel and trains for the system.

Under this agreement, Constam would construct two monorails, one in Sacramento, California, in 1968, the other in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in 1969. Later in 1969, Constam was reorganized into Universal Mobility, Inc. (UMI). UMI and Habegger’s ties grew closer as they branded their monorail system as Unimobil / Habegger. Under the new arrangement, they sold their first monorail to Magic Mountain in 1970. This was the last old monorail system they sold, which they named UNIMOBIL Type II.

Miami Downtown People-Mover Environmental Impact Statement (p2-56)

Unimobil/Habegger Type II – as shown in an environmental impact statement for a possible downtown Miami people-mover system.

At the same time, Habegger built two minirail systems at Fuji-Q Highlands in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi, Japan, which opened in 1970. These two systems were the last Habegger systems built outside of the United States.

They developed a second-generation monorail system called the UNIMOBIL Tourister Type II, which was sold to five properties between 1973 and 1984. Universal Mobility ended up going out of business, with their assets being sold off in 1989.

In 1980, Willy Habegger lost control of his company when it entered a liquidity crisis. Berner Kantonalbank took control and sold the company to Von Roll in 1982. (Von Roll possibly sold a segment of the Habegger branch to Waagner-Biro in 1984.) Von Roll folded Habegger into their monorail division, with that division being called Von Roll Habegger.

1986 Von Roll Habegger brochure (p1)

The cover of a Von Roll Habegger Monorail brochure, circa 1986.

In 1993, Von Roll Habegger was sold to Westinghouse AEG, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This would mark the beginning of a period of company reorganizations for the monorail division. Westinghouse AEG itself was a subsidiary of AEG Schienenfahrzeuge GmbH of Germany. AEG Schienenfahrzeuge was a subsidiary of Daimler-Benz, the well-known German automobile manufacturer.

In 1995, Daimler-Benz proposed merging of their rail transportation division with the rail transportation division of another company, ABB of Zurich, Switzerland.  ABB and Daimler-Benz reached an agreement in which both companies would own 50 percent of the company. The new company was founded on January 1, 1996, operating under the brand name Adtranz. Formally, Adtranz was called ABB Daimler-Benz Transportation. In 1999, Daimler (then called DaimlerChrysler, after acquiring Chrysler Corporation in 1998) bought out ABB’s share of the company; the formal name was changed to DaimlerChrysler Rail Systems. The company kept the Adtranz brand name.

Beginning in August 2000, Bombardier, Inc., a conglomerate and manufacturer of mass transit equipment, airplanes, etc., announced it was going to purchase Adtranz. After a regulatory review process with the European Union, Bombardier purchased Adtranz for $725 million. A representative for DaimlerChrysler said at the time that the company was focusing on their automotive divisions.

The former Von Roll Habegger monorail division continues lives on in Bombardier today, part of the Bombardier Transportation division of the company.

Willy Habegger was able to purchase part of his company back, establishing the modern Habegger Maschinenfabrik AG. Habegger purchased the lifting technologies division, and the company continues to focus on that to this day. He passed away on April 16, 2002, having retired from the business in 1993.


Thank you for reading. The next article will be about Universal Mobility, Incorporated, which will be available later this week. 

Miniature Train Company

This is my Tuesday series about ride manufacturers who have made rides for amusement parks. Today’s article is about Miniature Train Company.

Miniature Train Company, of Rensselaer, Indiana, operated from 1932 to 1956. It was founded by Paul Allen “P.A.” Sturtevant.

Sturtevant began making miniature train rides in 1929 out of a machine shop in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The first model Sturtevant made was intended to be a toy for his son – it was an electric powered miniature steam type train. Friends of Sturtevant suggested he should sell the train commercially. He took their advice and began selling; it quickly became a success.

1950-04-08 The Billboard (p71)

This advert was featured in The Billboard on April 8, 1950, on page 71.

With that success, Sturtevant created a new company, the Miniature Train & Railroad Company (MT & RC), in 1932. After the first streamliner train, the Zephyr was released, MT & RC developed their own miniature version. They then began selling a G-12 miniature train. The company was quite successful which forced the company to continually expand operations, especially in the post-war years. This led to the development of the G-16 Limited and Suburban model miniature trains.

1950-09-05 The Billboard (p71)

Advert from The Billboard, September 5, 1950, page 71.

In 1948, the company relocated to Rensselaer, Indiana, and at about the same time was renamed Miniature Train Company (MTC). In November 1956, it was announced that Allan Herschell Company had acquired Miniature Train Company. Allan Herschell continued selling a MTC branded train until 1963. Allan Herschell Company would be sold to Chance Rides in 1970.

1952-04-12 The Billboard (p62)

Advert from The Billboard, April 12, 1952, page 62.


To read more about other ride manufacturers, click here.

Bradley & Kaye Amusement Company

This is my regular Tuesday series about ride manufacturers who have made rides for Hersheypark. Today’s article is about Bradley & Kaye.

Bradley & Kaye Amusement Co., was a ride manufacturer company which existed in Long Beach, California. The company was founded by Dave Bradley and Don Kaye when the duo started purchased Beverly Park in 1945. They focused on having kiddie rides in the park, and this became one of the parks that influenced the development of Disneyland.

Don Kaye, who had a background in music, decided to return to the music industry, leaving Bradley & Kaye. Dave Bradley said that after Kaye left, he decided to keep the name the same.

Starting in 1947, Bradley & Kaye produced a portable kiddie roller coaster, the Little Dipper. In late 1948, Allan Herschell Company reached an agreement with Bradley & Kaye to construct and sell the coaster and another kiddie ride, a boat ride.

1948-01-31 The Billboard (p65).jpg

Advert for the Little Dipper manufactured by Bradley & Kaye.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the company produced a variety of other rides including a children’s balloon ride. Hersheypark has this ride, called Balloon Flite.

Balloon Flite [large]

Balloon Flite, in 2016.

Balloon Flite has been in several different locations since being installed in 1982. It was originally placed in Carrousel Circle, to replace Flying Bobs (right across where it currently operates). In 1987, the ride was relocated to a spot next to Fender Bender. It was again relocated in 1989 to Pioneer Frontier, to make way for the addition of Tiny Timbers.

Balloon Flite was placed into storage in late 2003, as construction for Storm Runner began. The ride was pulled out of storage in 2005, and reinstalled in Founder’s Circle, in the spot Giant Wheel had stood from 1973-2004. Balloon Flite has remained in this spot since.

Dave Bradley ended up selling the assets of Bradley & Kaye to Chance Rides in December 1986. Chance’s interest was in the carousel animals Bradley & Kaye produced.


To read more about other ride manufacturers that have made rides for Hersheypark, click here.

Wapello Fabrications Company, Inc.

This is my regular Tuesday series about ride manufacturers who have made rides for Hersheypark. Today’s article is about Wapello Fabrications Company. 

Wapello Fabrications Company, Incorporated (WAFABCO), is based in Wapello, Iowa, and was founded by June Hardin. Hardin purchased a company in 1973 which eventually became Wapello Fabrications. The company produces kiddie inflatable rides, the kinds you could get into and bounce up and down in.

June Hardin was president of Wapello until she passed away in 2013. Hardin also served on the boards of American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Amusement Industry Manufacturer’s and Suppliers (AIMS) International.

Hersheypark owned one of WAFABCO’s rides, purchasing one called Moonwalk in 1996. The ride was installed in the park for a time starting in 1999, through 2003, and was used for Hersheypark In The Dark and was in Santa’s Castle during Hersheypark Christmas Candylane.

2003-moonwalk

Moonwalk on a 2003 map of Hersheypark.

Eventually, Hersheypark discontinued using the ride during Christmas Candylane and the ride was removed from the park.


To read more about other ride manufacturers that have made rides for Hersheypark, click here.

Larson International, Inc.

This is my regular Tuesday series about ride manufacturers who have made rides for Hersheypark. Today’s article is about Larson International, Incorporated.  

J & S Rides DBA Larson International, Inc., is a ride manufacturer from Plainview, Texas. Larson is best known for their ride, Fireball and the 22M Giant Loop. In 2011, Larson acquired Sellner Manufacturing, best known for their Tilt-a-Whirl ride.

frontier-flyers-shawn-marie-mann

Frontier Flyers, from 2013. Photo courtesy of Shawn Marie Mann. 

Hersheypark has another well known Larson ride, a Flying Scooters called Frontier Flyers. Installed in 2003 behind Dry Gulch Railroad’s station and Pioneer Frontier Food Court, the ride has 8 cars, allowing for 16 riders at a time. You are spun around in a circle and you can control how far the car swings out from the center by controlling the wing on the back of the car.

Hersheypark had a prototype version of this ride, called Aerial Joy Ride. Frontier Flyers was installed as a recall to that ride, which was in Hersheypark from 1941-1961.


To read more about other ride manufacturers that have made rides for Hersheypark, click here.

 

Sellner Manufacturing Company

This is my regular Tuesday series about ride manufacturers who have made rides for Hersheypark. Today’s article is about Sellner Manufacturing Company. 

Sellner Manufacturing Company, Inc., was a ride manufacturer based out of Faribault, Minnesota. The company was founded by Herbert W. Sellner in 1923, when Sellner created a water toboggan slide, and then began producing their most well known ride, Tilt-A-Whirl, in 1926. Sellner was acquired by Larson International, Inc., in 2011, when the Sellner family decided to exit the business. A restored Tilt-A-Whirl car sits on a corner in the town of Faribault, a reminder of the classic ride invented there.

1954-02-27-the-billboard-p53

Advertisement; The Billboard, February 27, 1954, page 53.

Hersheypark purchased one ride from Sellner, Tilt-A-Whirl, in 1982. It was installed in Carrousel Circle in 1983, replacing the Monster. The description of the ride in a 1983 press release was:

NEW for Hersheypark’s 1983 season is a TILT-A-WHIRL on which courageous riders are flung around a circular track. The waved construction of the track causes each gondola, and its occupants, to tilt and whirl!

tilt-a-whirl-shawn-marie-mann

Tilt-A-Whirl in it’s second location, in Comet Hollow, from 2010. Photo courtesy of Shawn Marie Mann.

Tilt-A-Whirl was relocated to Comet Hollow in 1995, replacing the Chance Rides manufactured Rotor. Tilt-A-Whirl remained in this spot until 2011, when construction for Skyrush was beginning. The ride was relocated back to it’s original spot in Founder’s Circle (Carrousel Circle was renamed Founder’s Circle in 2005).

tilt-a-whirl-shawn-marie-mann

Tilt-A-Whirl, shortly after being reinstalled in its original Founder’s Circle location (now called Founder’s Way, originally Carrousel Circle), in 2012. Photo courtesy of Shawn Marie Mann.


To read more about other ride manufacturers that have made rides for Hersheypark, click here.

Wisdom Rides, Incorporated

This is my regular Tuesday series about ride manufacturers who have made rides for Hersheypark. Today’s article is about Wisdom Rides, Incorporated. 

Wisdom Rides, Inc., was founded by Jerry Wisdom in 1969, as Wisdom Industries. The company is based in Merino, Colorado. Wisdom has produced rides such as the Gravitron and the Tornado.

Viper, 2016 York Fair

Viper, at the 2016 York Fair, is a Wisdom Rides / Venture Rides Manufacturing hybrid.

Hersheypark purchased one of their rides, The Howler, a Tornado ride, in 2008. The Howler has eight cars and fits four riders per car. You have the ability to spin your car as the ride is spinning.

Howler STITP 2008

The Howler, during Springtime In The Park 2008. Photo courtesy Shawn Marie Mann.

The Howler was placed in the spot formerly occupied by Conestoga (1984-2002) and Frontier Virtual Theater (2003-2007). It was installed at the same time the Intamin roller coaster Fahrenheit was constructed, replacing Western Chute-Out.


To read more about other ride manufacturers that have made rides for Hersheypark, click here.

SBF-VISA Group

This is my regular Tuesday series about ride manufacturers who have made rides for Hersheypark. Today’s article is about SBF-VISA Group. 

SBF-VISA group is based in Casale di Scodosia, Italy. The name of the company comes from the combination of two companies, S.B.F. Srl, and VISA International (no relation to the credit card company, Visa).

S.B.F. Srl, was started by Italo Frison in 1952 and was formed as an Srl (the Italian version of an LLC) in 1959, making bumper cars and various kiddie rides. VISA International was started in the nearby town, Montagnana, in 1990.

Hersheypark purchased one ride from SBF-VISA in 2002, a Mini-Pirate. Hersheypark used this ride during Christmas Candylane 2002, operating the ride under one of the Giant Wheel arms (Giant Wheel was not operated during Candylane). The ride was permanently installed in 2003, replacing Earthmovers. Earthmovers was relocated to Dutch Wonderland.

mini-pirate-w-op-shawn-marie-mann

Mini-Pirate, in 2013. This photo and the featured photo are courtesy of Shawn Marie Mann.

Mini-Pirate is a miniature kiddie version of the Pirat, located on the north side of Music Box Theater, from where Mini-Pirate is situated. Mini-Pirate sits adjacent Fender Bender and Dizzy Drums, as well as Ladybug. The ride can fit 12 kids.

Mini-Pirate continues to operate in this spot to this day.


To read more about other ride manufacturers that have made rides for Hersheypark, click here.

KL Industries

This is my regular Tuesday series about ride manufacturers who have made rides for Hersheypark. Today’s article is about KL Industries. 

In 1982, Hersheypark renovated the hollow into Spring Creek Hollow. One of the rides added were Paddleboats. This ride was manufactured by KL Industries, of Muskegon, Michigan.

The paddleboats Hersheypark had were of KL’s Sundolphin brand, the first year KL began making these kind of boats. The boats Hersheypark had were a Sun Dolphin 3 seater pedal boat. KL continues making these kind of boats, as well as a variety of other boats under several other brands.

Paddleboats storage

Boats for Paddleboats in the storage area, 2006.

Paddleboats docks

Paddleboats dry dock and wet dock, 2006.

1985 circa Paddleboats

Paddleboats were originally orange, to fit the orange theming of Spring Creek Hollow, circa 1985.

Paddleboats was an extra-charge ride, meaning you had to pay money in order to ride it. The ride typically cost five dollars per rider over the years. In the ride’s final season, 2006, it cost six dollars per rider.

When a group would pay to ride the Paddleboats, you would then go to the dock where there was a floating dock. Boats would be loaded between the dry tock and floating dock. Attendants would help keep the boat steady so guests could get in the boat. Up to three people were allowed in a boat. You were permitted to boat from the low bridge near Comet all the way to Comet’s bridge over Spring Creek. There were signs at either end of the area which told people to not go beyond those points.


To read more about other ride manufacturers that have made rides for Hersheypark, click here.