Harry Guy Traver (November 25, 1877 – September 27, 1961) was an American engineer and early roller coaster designer. As the founder of the Traver Engineering Company, Traver was responsible for the production of gentle amusement rides like the Tumble Bug and Auto Ride. However, Traver's coasters became legendary for their unique twisted layouts and thrilling, swooped turns. At a time when most coasters were built from wood, Traver was the first coaster builder to utilize steel for the primary structural material.
Traver was born in Gardner, Illinois. In 1919, he founded the Traver Engineering Company in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, which created amusement rides, including the Tumble Bug, The Caterpillar, Laff in the dark, Auto Ride, and the Circle Swing, a ride similar in concept to the earlier Captive Flying Machines ride popularised in the UK by American-born inventor Sir Hiram Maxim. He died at New Rochelle, New York in 1961.
Notable roller coasters
Traver's "Giant Cyclone Safety Coasters" were what made him the most famous (or notorious) of all coaster designers. His most famous coasters were the "terrible trio", all built in 1927. They were:
- "The Cyclone" – Built in Crystal Beach, Ontario.
- "Lightning" – Revere Beach, Massachusetts.
- "Cyclone" – Palisades Park, New Jersey.
All three shared the same twisted layout and utilized trains based on a Prior and Church design (the Great Coasters International Millennium Flyers are patterned after this rolling stock). After leaving the station, the trains would turn 180 degrees and ascended the lift hill. Coming off the lift, the trains dove down to the right, climbing to a sharp jog to the left. A drop and hill followed, and then a severely pitched double helix. Coming out of the helix, the train entered a figure 8 banked at 89 degrees. After the figure 8, a spiral hill led under the lift, where a jarring series of bunny-hops were placed, After those, the train turned 180 degrees into the "Jazz track", which consisted of the track pitching one way then the other fast and repeatedly. The "Jazz track" was an element of all Traver coasters. (NOTE: Wood coaster company Custom Coasters International would later make a similar element to "Jazz track" called the "trick track" which would be featured on Shivering Timbers at Michigan's Adventure and the now-defunct Villain at Geauga Lake.) After the "Jazz track", a final spiral drop led to the brakerun. The entire ride lasted 40 seconds from the top of the lift; while Traver claimed that the force exerted on passengers was in excess of 4Gs, it is actually likely to have been significantly higher.
The Cyclone at Crystal Beach survived the longest of the three, lasting until 1949. An urban legend holds that on the "Lightning", a passenger plunged to her death on the second night of the coaster's opening. On May 30, 1938, Amos Wiedrich was riding the Crystal Beach Cyclone, when at the top of the 90 foot lift hill he stood up to remove his jacket. The train plunged downwards, and he was thrown onto the tracks in front of him, only to be hit a moment later by the coaster's train. The Cyclone kept a nurse at the station whenever it operated (though constant structural and mechanical failures prevented it from ever running an entire season) – this was rumored to be in order to rouse fainted passengers, treat wounds related to the violent nature of the coaster, or even for the purpose of lowering Crystal Beach's insurance policy. Most likely, a nurse was kept on staff for the sake of marketing and to attract more riders.
One of his coasters was known as the Jazz Railway. The Jazz Railway was the forerunner of the modern Wild Mouse Coasters that are built to this day.
- US patent 830687, Harry G. Traver, "Circle-Swing", issued 1906-09-11
- US patent 1805266, Harry G. Traver, "Amusement coaster railway", issued 1931-05-12 – Cyclone design
- US patent 1806102, Harry G. Traver, "Amusement ride", issued 1931-10-13 – Cyclone design
- US patent 1827303, Harry G. Traver, "Amusement ride", issued 1931-10-13 – for the Tumble Bug
- Munch, Richard (1982). Harry G. Traver: Legends of Terror. Fairview Park, OH: Amusement Park Books, Inc. ISBN 0935408029.