Part Eight


April 27, 2002

Monday (April 22) and Tuesday saw the completion of the mechanism for the clock prop - a number of welded parts were required to make it strong enough to stand the somewhat violent action of the 'skull slinger'. It seems to be happy operating at about 30-40 p.s.i., and requires dual timers for operation, along with a digital audio playback device for the soundtrack. The skull will end up a few feet away from and just above the heads of the front seat riders. Naturally, it must be placed just out of their reach.

Monday also saw the arrival of the metal for the cars and track. Thank goodness we had three persons available to wrangle the ton-and-a-half load off the truck. We decided to leave a heavy pile of 1/4" x 6" x 20 foot rails on wood blocks outside the warehouse until we needed them for fabrication. (Eventually they would indeed rust, but millable metal comes coated with a rust inhibitor. With but a short wait ahead for these pieces, outdoor storage is not a problem.)

On Thursday, Byron spent an evening calibrating the band saw to make precise cuts for the first Charon frame pieces, which he then manufactured. At the same time, I worked at attaching the hot rail to the prototype track loop with acetile block insulators. By the middle of next week, we'll know how the pickup assembly will have to be shaped to work most effectively.

Big Relief Department: The fire inspector has given us a go-ahead, and he reportedly was delighted with his test ride in Lizzy. We expect to get a confirmation from the Moving Amusement Device Inspector on our low-voltage rail system in a day or so (the use of a 48 Volt system would be less expensive, and still quite non-lethal.)

Friday brought a pleasant surprise - the front area of the ride warehouse was filled with a large concert stage monitor system, as Down (Phil Anselmo's project band which has just released its second album) plugged in for a closed session of sound check work. Behind the scenes in the sweat shop, Byron and I assembled the initial Charon frame as the air pulsed appropriately with metal noise. Steve Joseph (our manager) walked by, flashing us the V-for-Victory sign. For a moment I felt as if I were in a WW-II movie, holding the metal steady while welders assembled a bomber fuselage. I know - it's only rock and roll, but I like it.

Incidentally, if you've never tasted Dark Southern Metal, go out and get DOWN II - A Bustle in Your Hedgerow. There's even a bluegrass-and-blues flavored Dobro-driven tune in the mix. Go on, buy it - you know you're curious.

I ran into Phil, who had just taken a ride in Lizzy with his wife, and he congratulated us on the car; a full-circle sort of experience, as it was he who had first expressed interest in a ride for House of Shock.

Almost everyone in the stage crew rode Lizzy, and repeatedly expressed the opinion that she was killer. Several of the crew must have thought her a cool toy, as they took numerous repeat rides.

We are very proud of Lizzy. She can now rightfully call herself a world-class groupie, having survived the amorous attentions of both a band and its road crew.

Monday, April 29 - Tonight, we finished modifying the hot pickup to work on the real-world version of the hot rail. To my total and utter surprise, it worked flawlessly on the first round, and just kept improving as it broke in. We let it run - the frame alone - for about 20 minutes, then added the car body and some passengers - us. At one point, with a wierd load configuration, the pickup jumped the track. (Just having yours truly aboard constitutes a wierd load.) All that was required was a tensioner adjustment, and Lizzy just kept rignt on going. She's a real dark ride car now. If you haven't had a nightcap, drink a toast to her. First try successes aren't the rule in prototyping, but it's really nice when one happens.

At right, you can see Lizzy's chassis with the body removed, sitting on the powered track. After she broke in the hot rail, the infamous sparking and arcing seen on old dark ride cars running on 110V.A.C. virtually vanished altogether.