Friday, December 14, 2018

Matterhorn and Rocket

Happy Friday, everybody! I have two interesting scans for you today to help you cope with the strain of the holiday season. I didn't want to say anything, but you are looking a little frazzled. May I suggest a mug of hot cocoa (with mini-marshmallows) and some old TV shows? I recommend "The Invaders". A Quinn Martin production!

Let's start with this neat (but not 100% in-focus) image of the Matterhorn as it was under construction. Cool, daddy-o. Within the metal skeleton you can see at least one lift hill; I'm always surprised that the actual ride portion of the Matterhorn only consisted of the lower 2/3s of the structure, but I suppose it got too tight above that. The scaffolding up high mostly obscures the part that has already been "skinned" with faux rock and snow. Notice the Monorail support column to the right.

Next I have this interesting photo from the Hub, circa March of 1958. There is an odd roofless bandstand (right where the "Partners" statue is today, I believe), and the Disneyland Band is performing. Those white poles focused cosmic rays to improve their virtuosity. Does anybody know anything more about that bandstand - why it was there, and for how long?

Zooming in, we can also see that the distant Moonliner is surrounded by scaffolding for some reason. At first I thought that it was there so that the TWA logo could be removed (I can't see it!) after that company stopped their sponsorship, but that wouldn't happen until 1961. I suppose it is possible that the rocket just needed repainting after three years of SoCal weather; the extreme expansion and contraction from the alternating heat and cold of the day must have taken its toll on the paint.

For some reason I like vintage photos showing guests in coats and hats. Was it a Sunday, or was it just plain chilly?


Nanook said...


If it weren't for that fabulous image of the Matterhorn caught with its pants down - oh, the horror-! [Mothers' - shield thy children's eyes...], I suspect all I'd be thinking about is that 'bandstand' plopped right down in the Plaza (Hub). Its existence is certainly above my pay grade. Hopefully someone will know the in's and out's of it.

Thanks, Major, for these unusual images. And now - onward to the Quinn Martin Epilogue-!

Melissa said...

I love Tired Grandma and Earflap Hat Kid from the bandstand picture.

TokyoMagic! said...

That scaffolding around the Moonliner looks like the gantry next to a real rocket that's about to takeoff!

TokyoMagic! said...

By the way, that Matterhorn shot is REALLY nice! I can't believe that none of the people in the photo are looking up at the half-constructed mountain. You'd think that they see something like that everyday!


Wow!! I’ve never seen shots of the TWA Moonliner in rehab scaffolding before. Great images! I recall people visiting Disneyland back in the day generally avoided taking pictures of rehabs and construction activity - I know guests slides and photos do show that - but tend to be rare.

K. Martinez said...

Today's photos are awesome! Both are so fantastic, I can't pick a favorite. It helps that I love construction and rehab photos of Disneyland. I loved "The Invaders". Such a classic show. Thanks, Major.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

Whenever I see these type shots of the Matterhorn I can't help thinking that the structural engineers had to do on a bender after the imagineers told them "Walt wants a replica of the Matterhorn" and no is not an option. This all before CAD when hand drawings had to be made of this monster. Must have gotten it right as we are coming up on it's 60th birthday and it's still standing.

Nice shots, thanks for posting.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I really wonder if that bandstand was placed there for a special occasion, and the Disneyland Band performed there because… well, why not? It sure didn’t last very long. Ha ha, Quinn Martin did love his epilogues, didn’t he?

Melissa, Earflap Hat Kid looks like he belongs in Pittsburgh in the winter!

TokyoMagic!, you’re right, it does!

TokyoMagic!, I can’t imagine some people weren’t fascinated by the fake mountain being built right in front of them, but a lot of them were probably more interested in the spinning rockets, or other more attractive things.

Mike Cozart, I think I have another nice photo of the Moonliner surrounded by scaffolding; but I can’t seem to find it when doing a Google search. Maybe later today I’ll see if I can’t link to it.

K. Martinez, fairly recently somebody had the entire series run of “The Invaders” on YouTube. I’m sure it was not entirely legal, but if you are watching it on a tablet or smaller device, the quality was totally fine.

Alonzo, you are so right, and I believe that Bob Gurr said that he had to basically teach himself calculus so that he could work out the track layout. Math! My mortal enemy!! Those were the days when a guy would get something done because he had to do it.

JC Shannon said...

Any photo of the Moonliner is a good one. I suppose it did need a paint job and a makeover now and again. What with all those trips to the Moon and back. It is something to think that SpaceX is landing their rockets just as Werner von Braun and Walt imagined back in the day. It is hard to believe that at one time the Matterhorn wasn't there. Walt and the Imagineers were hard at work building a mountain with the first ever tube rollercoaster. Let's just say it, Walt was waaaaaaay ahead of his time. Thanks as always to the Mr. Major for giving us all such a glimps into the magic of Disneyland.

Anonymous said...

Construction shots of the Matterhorn are always fascinating to me. I have always wondered why the concrete and plaster started at the top and works down instead of from the bottom up as would normally be done.

This photo is earlier in sequence than others I have seen and I think it shows the reason this was done. The lower part of the mountain that holds the roller coaster was left open longer to facilitate building the coaster, while the upper part could be closed in sooner, speeding up the work. The schedule for this project was amazingly short.

The wooden ribs visible just below the last scaffold level are formwork guides, these would hold reinforcing bars to develop the contours of the fake stone. Can't tell if these were ultimately abandoned in place, or if they were removed after the concrete placement.

I worked on a big "fake rock" project where we used metal stud framing for a similar purpose. The reinforcing steel is bent over a plastic backing over the framing into rough shapes approximating the rock contours, and then concrete is sprayed over the reinforcing, same technology used for swimming pools. Then the concrete is sculpted as it cures, and a plaster color coat applied over the top when cured.

In my project, I made a clay model at 1/2 inch to the foot from the designer's sketches and then used a contour gauge to take "slices" of the rock design every two feet. We enlarged the contours to life size using hand sketches on a grid (all before computers) and developed the metal framing shapes from that.

It came out pretty good, but not the Matterhorn, because we didn't have a roller coaster inside. I wish I could tell you where and what the project was.

The work done by the Imagineers before CAD is nothing short of amazing. My favorite though is the concrete work in the PeopleMover tracks and station. Epic, Tour De Force, etc. doesn't come close.

I love the Moonliner with scaffolding, as TM says, it looks even bigger and more real.

Also had a hat like the Minnesota Kid. I loved that hat.

Thank you Major.


Major Pepperidge said...

Jonathan, it’s funny, I watched a SpaceX launch, and when the booster rockets returned to the landing pad, the legs popped out of the sides, supported by struts in a manner that looks very similar to the Moonliner. It really IS like those old rocket guys predicted. And yes, it is kind of amazing to think that the Matterhorn was the very first rollercoaster with tubular track - pretty much the standard these days, as far as I am aware.

JG, it might be hearsay, but I have heard that they added the skin from the top down because any drips and drops wouldn’t be a problem that way, which makes sense when you think about it. I kind of think that the wooden forms were left there, but don’t really know for certain. I know that Disney used the sprayed concrete (“gunite”) for many things, such as Schweitzer Falls. I think I’ve seen your “sliced contour” method used for other things, but can’t remember what those things were, off the top of my head. I have a lovely shot of the Peoplemover track with some of its wonderful and pleasing curves, coming up. Might not appear for many weeks, but this gives you a reason to live! I never had a hat with ear flaps, but I wish I had one now. Seems kind of pointless in SoCal, since it was 64 degrees today.

Melissa said...

Pretty much everyone in my family had a hat like that at some point. Great for chopping and carrying wood in a New York winter.

Nanook said...


Somewhere in my family photo collection, there's a shot, or two, of me with a similar 'flapped' hat, standing in the backyard of the Manhasset (Long Island) home of my cousins. If I can find it, I'll send it along for [perhaps] a future posting...

Matthew said...

Late to the party... ah-gain. I used to love how you used to arrive at the top of the lift and come out into the daylight only for a moment to get a glimpse of Main Street U.S.A., the parking lot and Anaheim Convention Center before making a turn back into the mountain. In this photo you can see the top of the lift and that turn.

Also, it appears those white poles (along with focusing cosmic rays to improve virtuosity) are holding bullet shaped, colored lights to provide evening lighting. I don't know when this bandstand arrived nor when it left. After reading everyone else's comments... why it was there and how long remain a mystery.

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle

Nancy said...

Cool picture of the Matterhorn. I love how they put up the construction walls, then its like don't look up, nothing to see here!

Its like Star Trek IV when they were loading the glass onto the cloaked Klingon ship to save the whales; helicopter hovering in mid air but nothing odd looking here! lol

great view of the Moonliner, like they are prepping for launch!

nice set of pictures today :D