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Karl Bacon, Engineer (February 16, 1910 - November 14, 2008)

by Eric Tavenier, ©
January 7, 2009
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Karl Bacon was born in Oakland, Maine on February 16,1910 to Harold and Evelyn Bacon. Karl passed on November 14, 2008, at the age of 98. He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Jane Bacon, his daughters Nancy and Sue, his grandchildren Scott, Nicole, and Roger, and great grandchildren Evan and Nathan.

One of the Nation's pioneers in engineering, his life and accomplishments have touched many. Living through the hardships of the depression, he can be remembered as one who achieved the American dream to its fullest. He and Ed Morgan started their company as a small machine shop in Mountain View, California in 1946. Their company, Arrow Development, made a lasting impact on the roller coaster industry. The team collaborated with Walt Disney to create many of the attractions at the Disney theme Parks. Karl and Ed introduced tubular steel tracks on Disney's Matterhorn roller coaster, revolutionizing roller coaster technology forever. This paved the way for Karl and Ed to create stronger, faster, and smoother roller coasters eventually capable of maneuvers thought to be impossible, such as the corkscrew.

These incredible engineering feats were accomplished without the aid of computers. Even more remarkable was the fact that Karl had no formal engineering education. He was entirely self-taught, and was considered to be one of the best in his field.

Innovators as well, Karl and Ed created entirely new categories of rides (flume ride, spinning teacups, flying saucers), and added a new element to the classic carousel design to take riders soaring up and down at their whim. Karl and Ed were inducted into the "Hall of Fame and Living Legends" by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions in 1998. Their accomplishments at the New York World's Fair and numerous amusement parks around the world are admired each and every day.

With so much success, Karl was an incredibly humble man who shied away from any attention. He was dedicated and loving to his family, and is a source of pride and admiration to many. His legacy lives on in those who admire his work, and every smiling amusement park patron.

more: The History of Arrow Development..

about the author

I am the founder of, and had the unique experience growing up with Karl as my next door neighbor.
I remember Karl inviting all of the neighbor kids to be his first live test ride on the 'corkscrew' ride. My brother got a summer job making boats for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Karl's home workshop was right across the fence from my dads and we spoke often. He represents the spirit of can-do innovation in engineering and influenced this engineer personally. Good bye Karl.



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