Arrow Development – The Birth of a Dream – Part 1

Written by Dexter Francis. Posted in Disney, Features



Published on May 18, 2014 at 10:00 am with 7 Comments

Today, Dexter Francis reaches into his treasure trove of Arrow Development photos and information to bring us the origin story for the company which has created so many beloved roller coasters and attractions over the years, including dozens for the Walt Disney Company.
When Angus “Andy” Anderson, Karl Bacon, Bill Hardiman and Edgar Morgan left their jobs at the Joshua Hendy Iron works in the fall of 1945, they knew what they wanted to do, but had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
All four were talented and capable foremen at Hendy. Anderson was a trained electrician, Morgan had years of experience as an automotive mechanic, Bacon and Hardiman were both machinists and Hardiman was also an accountant.
The war had been good for business at Hendy, as America had ramped up production to supply the troops, the orders flourished. Hendy built torpedo launchers and hundreds of giant marine engines for Liberty ships. Their foundries and machine shops worked around the clock, with families passing food and snacks thru the security fences to their hungry husbands and fathers. Everyone was eager to help fight the Axis’ Powers threat to the free world.
With the end of the war, and the union pressing for changes, the four men decided it was time to go out on their own. During a dinner at San Francisco’s Forbidden City restaurant, Andy, Bill, Ed, Karl and their wives celebrated their new partnership. Although many of the details of that dinner are lost, they undoubtedly split the check, as they would in everything else over the next twenty years, including the titles of President, President, Secretary and Treasurer.
Arrow was literally started from scratch, on an open parcel of land just north of downtown Mountain View, purchased in December of 1945 which was a portion of the W. P. Angelo estate.  The first section of the building was cinder-block and reinforced concrete, a wise choice, as the location was just a few miles from the San Andreas fault, which had destroyed Hendy’s San Francisco shops back in 1906.  Photos of the construction site show a curb style roof, the same type as those on Hendy’s buildings in Sunnyvale, which provided plenty of ventilation and light.
The walls were up by March, and construction was complete by August, of 1946, which allowed work on their first job; blowers for test burn-in furnaces for the Navy, to be done inside. The building would be expanded later, as demand for Arrow’s services grew, along with the fledgling electronics and aerospace industries, which would eventually earn the area the nickname “The Silicon Valley”.



Over the next few years Arrow would provide engineering design and fabrication services to many companies in the South Bay, including Hewlett Packard, who had provided several audio oscillators to Disney for testing and calibration of the audio systems needed for Fantasia’s unique multi-channel Hi-Fidelity sound. Arrow also made models for a patent attorney in San Francisco, concrete tamping equipment, trailers, truck beds and bodies, as wells as doing automotive machine shop work, making crop spraying equipment for Luscombe and fabricating hard-to-find parts for foreign cars.

Their first big contract for amusement park ride was for a carousel and kiddie car ride for the City of San Jose’s Alum Rock Park.
Originally a staff of six would share all the work, but over time their number would expand to 16 and later, over 200. In 1950, they would begin work on a small scale Mississippi stern wheel paddle boat called Lil” Belle for Peralta Park in Oakland, which would play a role in their future with Walt Disney.
Lil Belle Photo Full 2
But in 1949, that was only a distant gleam in their eyes.
For more on the Story of Arrow Development and Walt Disney, visit and
Dexter Francis’ eBook on Arrow; “Building Disney’s Dream Rides – Arrow Development – The Little Company that Could” will be published later this spring.
We’ll have part 2 of this fascinating story for you very soon!

About Dexter Francis

Dexter Francis is on the trail of the story behind the story of Walt Disney Imagineering and Arrow Development. A peculiar blend of artist, engineer, storyteller and business analyst, he loves uncovering the hidden connections between seemingly unrelated events which lead to breakthrough innovations. Rob Reynolds, the author of "Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers" described Dexter’s latest book as a “…precisely detailed account of Arrow Development, based on extensive research that has uncovered many gems from the early days of Disneyland and the development of the tubular steel roller coaster. I highly recommend Building Disney's Dream as a valuable addition to any history of Disney or the theme park industry."

Browse Archived Articles by

  • Dusty Sage

    Thank you SO much Dexter. Arrow is such a fascinating story.

    Looking forward to part 2.

  • weaselwrangler

    Hendy’s is still there, by the way. It’s a little shocking to be driving through Sunnyvale and see a complex that looks like it’s 100 years old. I think it’s owned by Northrup-Grumman now.

  • WDWHound

    If you are interested in the history of Arrow, I HIGHLY recommend Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers by Robert Reynolds. It covers the early history of the company, including the work for Disney, and includes lots of comments from Arrow’s founders. This is one of my favorite books in my theme park and imagineering library. Sadly, I believe the hard copy is out of print, but Amazon has a Kindle version.

  • Dexter Francis

    Hound – Yes, Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers is what motivated me to look deeper into Arrow. I grew up just a few miles from their 1555 Plymouth site and recall seeing the tracks when I drove by on the Bayshore Freeway. For a while, I thought the Moffett Drive-In had a rollercoster!

    Reynolds did a good job of retelling Karl and Ed’s recollections, but there is much more. I’ve gathered thirty years of Arrow Development and Arrow Dynamics literature, hundreds of images, plus material on the Anderson and Hardiman families that Rob didn’t include in his book, just so folks can hear the rest of the story.

  • Mysterium

    Hi Dexter, This is Bob Reynolds, the guy who was lucky enough to interview Ed and Karl for Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers back in 1999. I think it’s fantastic that you are writing about Arrow and these fine gentlemen. I have never met two more gracious individuals and I realize that there is a lot that was left out of the book due to space constraints. I congratulate you for digging deeper into the story of all the people who along with Ed and Karl made Arrow so special.

    I’ve moved on to novels with Masters’ Mysterium: Wisconsin Dells but that original book influenced me greatly. I even named a small town in my novel Morgan!

  • TheKramer

    Enjoyable! Looking forward to the next installment!

  • Dexter Francis

    @ TheKramer – While you are waiting for the next installment, don’t hesitate to drop in on the blog @ We’ll be posting new material at least three times per week and it will be different than the articles we’re writing for MiceChat.

    By the way – Thanks very much to everyone here for their visits and coments. Its great to get the feedback and see the page counter go up. (If I had a nickel for every hit, I could explain all the effort to my friends who don’t quite get why I’m doing this. Ha!)