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    Sad Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    Our friend at the OC Register, Mark Eades, has shared the sad news that Bud Hurlbut passed away in his sleep last night at the age of 93. Bud is most fondly remembered for building Knott's Berry Farms Calico Mine Train and Timber Mountain Log Ride. He was an industry innovator. And though his name may not be as well known as those who built Disneyland his impact on theme parks was equally important.

    Bud's Mine Train turned 50 years old last year. In commemoration, we ran the following photos in our In The Parks column. We hope this gives you an idea about the strength and determination of one man to accomplish so much with so little ...


    CALICO MINE TRAIN TURNS 50 YEARS OLD NOV 22th:


    Early artist rendering of the Calico Mine Train


    On November 22nd, 1960, passengers first boarded the Calico Mine Train ride at Knott's Berry Farm. It was only months earlier, in May of the same year, that Disneyland had opened the Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland attraction at Disneyland. With very similar ride systems and theme, comparisons were inevitable. After 50 years, this brilliant family attraction continues to endure . . . and delight.


    Concept art for the prime real estate in Calico Square.


    We spoke with Chris Merrit (co-author of Knott's Preserved) and Harry Suker (Bud's right hand man) for this tribute, their help on today's article and love for this attraction are profound.

    Bud Hurlbut was the man responsible for designing some of the most memorable Knott's attractions. In the early days, each attraction was independently owned and operated. Bud was the first person to be allowed to build multiple attractions in the family owned park due to his meticulous attention to detail and upkeep. When Walter Knott decided to demolish the Mark Smith Horse Show arena which once stood on the lot of land where the mine ride is today, he enlisted the help of Bud to build an attention grabing attraction. And that's exactly what they got.

    Walter Knott worked closely with Bud over the years - particularly during the design of the Calico Mine Ride. Bud (now in his 90's) recalls, “So, I started drawing up a dark ride. One day I was looking at it and Mr. Knott said he’d like to bring to my attention that this area was pretty good land. He said, “That’s the best there is in Knott’s, right there in Calico Square. You better think about what you’re doing, don’t come in here with a Bewitched Village or some other thing!” Bud knew it had better be good.

    The employee newsletter, 'The Knotty Post', reported that there was an overall joint investment of $750,000 between the Knott family and Hurlbut initially. The concept started out as a two-story dark ride, with little cars carrying two people at a time. Eventually, Bud's ideas turned that into a seven-story building with engines that carried upwards of 50 passengers at a time. The estimated final cost was close to $1,000,000 by the end. Just think about what a tremendous sum that must have been to come up with in those days.


    Early Pictures of the construction.


    Just a tangle of metal and scaffolding at first



    Bud began early concepts along with Dick Bagley and Harry Suker sometime in mid-1959. The Mark Smith Horse Show arena was cleared by Fall of 1959, and they started construction in earnest soon after. During the design and development stages, Walt Disney would often stop by and offer advice. He was a model train man and this was the ultimate train set.

    The mine was a unique attraction. It would take passengers on a ride through the dark and sometimes scary caverns of a working Mine presenting many technical challenges. The passageways would be very tight and confined, and that led to but one of many challenges. Bud didn't want diesel or gasoline to be used on the engines, as the exhaust fumes within the narrow, low-roofed and claustrophobic tunnels inside the attraction would have been unpleasant to smell - and possibly even dangerous. He purchased modern battery powered mining locomotives, built by General Electric. The final theming to make them look like engines of the 1800s would be done by Hurlbut.





    Another unique feature of the ride was its indoor lift hill, located mid way through the attraction, which pulled visitors up into the breathtaking glowing cavern scene. Bud himself developed the enforced chain drive that was specially engineered to pull the trains up a very steep grade. The lift hill also reversed engineering convention seen at every other theme park in those days by placing the motor for the chain lift at the top of the hill rather than at the bottom.


    Lowering the engines onto the track.


    We spoke with Harry Suker about the construction of the ride and learned that the most challenging aspect of the construction had nothing to do with these new ideas, but rather with financing. Harry mentioned, "When you have a project like this, you are always running over cost, you cant foresee these things. We were building everything from the ground up." Bud initially paid for everything himself, including rent of the land (a standard agreement of concessionaires at Knott's in the earlier days) and all demolition of the mammoth concrete arena for the former horse show. Hurlbut had to sell almost all of his holdings to finance the attraction - including his ranch, his home in Whittier and his brand-new Cadillac. He says, "...I didn't have nothing else to sell... my wife and I drove around in a pickup!" He finally came to Walter Knott and told him he didn't have enough money to finish the construction. Bud recalled, “So, I had to go to Mr. Knott and tell him, 'Hey, I’m down to the bottom of the barrel.' And he says, 'Well, you know what you’re doing, right?' And it was the only time I really didn’t tell him the truth. I said yes!” Walter Knott told him that he didn't have to pay rent for a while, and that he would help by making a promotional film to advertise the attraction - 'A Family Builds A Mountain' - which was shown on television throughout early 1961.


    The T.V. guide ad that featured the special show.


    The long awaited day finally came "We opened and the ride worked. Many were skeptical" said Suker. People came from far and wide to see this brand new family attraction and it turned out to be a smash success.

    Hurlbut inspecting the scenery in the attraction.



    One of the only known photographs of Walter and Cordelia Knott aboard the Calico Mine Train

    Even Bud's old friend Walt Disney returned to see how it all turned out. Bud recalls, “I remember one time, Walt Disney came over to ride it, and he had some friends with him. And he told me he was kind of in a hurry, and he wanted to ride. I said O.K. and at that time there was nobody out in front there… and we walked back to the trestle and the whole line was full of people! He said, 'My God, that’s a sneaky thing! Here there’s 200 people in line back here and I didn’t know there was anybody!'" Bud had invented the very first hidden switchback queue - something used by theme parks all over the world to this day.



    Walt and his team of Imagineers thought that it was an amazing family attraction. Later Walter Knott allowed Bud to invite them back later to take much longer looks at the ride after hours. They were particularly fascinated with the Cavern room at the top of the lift hill.



    The Calico Mine Train ranks as a Knott's legend and certainly one of the best dark ride attractions of all time. The ride is a highly themed, richly detailed adventure that takes you to the 3,000-foot level of an 1880s mining operation - encountering underground waterfalls, mysterious caverns and dangerous cave-ins. It still has that 1950s/1960s design feel to it. It is very much an experience like it was upon opening 50 years ago. When asked why the ride has survived, Harry Suker mused, "It was an 8 minute family attraction that the whole family could enjoy together. It's an interesting ride. Nobody had done anything like it before"


    The Mine Train ride today

    Disney's Mine Train through Nature's wonderland faded into Yesterland long ago, but the Calico Mine Train is now celebrating 50 years of taking families on an unforgettable adventure. It has survived the test of time because of the determination of its designers to create a one of a kind family experience that everyone could enjoy together. And with any luck, the ride will receive the loving care and refurbishments it needs to thrive for another 50 years.

    Our warmest congratulations to Bud Hurlbut, Harry Suker, Knott's Berry Farm and an endless list of employees (past and present) who made this attraction their home over the last 50 amazing years in the Calico mines. Thanks for the memories!


    Happy 50th Birthday!!!

    Special thanks to Chris Merritt of Knott's Preserved.com for his contributions to this article and interview with Bud Hurlbut. Also,
    much thanks to Harry Suker for taking the time to speak with Fishbulb about the building of this classic attraction. We'd also like to extend our appreciation to Chris Jepsen of the Orange County Archives for the use of their images for this tribute. And finally, thanks to Knott's Berry Farm for access to the attraction and employees for information related to this article and for maintaining this attraction for 50 wonderful years!

    We hope that all of our readers will make a special point of visiting Knott's and the historic Calico Mine Train. Bring the whole family, that's what this attraction was built for!
    If you have thoughts, photos, or rememberances of Bud, we'd love to hear them.
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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    Sad news. RIP
    Mike



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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away



    Going out to the real Calico last month reminded me of his contributions, and the contributions of Knott's in general.
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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    If you are looking for additional information about the Legendary Bud Hurlbut, OC Register reporter (and former Disney Imagineer), Mark Eades, had also written a great story about Bud's Mine Train (with video): Knott’s Mine Train still rolling after 50 years - Around Disney : The Orange County Register give it a look.


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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    I believe that OC Register article had a video interview with him about it. He was looking old, well he was in his 90s. But at least he lived long enough to see it hit 50 years. Let's hope this doesn't suffer the fate of the Soapbox racers or Kingdom of the Dinosaurs.

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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    Just heard the news about Bud's death, I'm saddened deeply at the loss of an amazing man! I learned so much throughout the years working for him. Bud was cut from the same cloth as Walt Disney; hard working, creative and innovative!
    There were so many times in Castle Park when we would sit in the original Carousel from Knott's Berry Farm that used to be next to the Lagoon. He would tell stories about the Knott family and his weekly lunches with Walt Disney in his Buena Park home. As I'm writing this, playing on my iPod is "Over the Waves" from a Wurlitzer 153 a.k.a Katy Lou. This was one of Bud's favorite sheet rolls that played in our band organ at Castle Park.
    I'll never forget visiting the Hurlbut Amusement Co. shop on Western Avenue near Knott's on my days off. This is where all the shop guys gathered around Bud at the head of the table, and shared ideas on work at hand or BS about other Amusement parks. I was always glued to every word! If only I could visit one more time...
    Well, I could fill a journal with stories of Bud and the Knott family. So instead, with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I bid a dear friend a final good-bye.
    Bud, I picture you prancing in spirit like a beautiful Dentzel Stallion off into the sunset! Goodbye and thanks for everything you did for me..... Edward
    Gotta love them pink Flamingos !

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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    OC Register has just posted a loving tribute to Bud Hurlbut. Much thanks to Michael Mello and Mark Eades at the Register for such quick but competent work on this story: Knott’s Berry Farm icon dies - Around Disney : The Orange County Register
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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    Quote Originally Posted by eddieofinnerspace View Post
    Just heard the news about Bud's death, I'm saddened deeply at the loss of an amazing man! I learned so much throughout the years working for him. Bud was cut from the same cloth as Walt Disney; hard working, creative and innovative!
    There were so many times in Castle Park when we would sit in the original Carousel from Knott's Berry Farm that used to be next to the Lagoon. He would tell stories about the Knott family and his weekly lunches with Walt Disney in his Buena Park home. As I'm writing this, playing on my iPod is "Over the Waves" from a Wurlitzer 153 a.k.a Katy Lou. This was one of Bud's favorite sheet rolls that played in our band organ at Castle Park.
    I'll never forget visiting the Hurlbut Amusement Co. shop on Western Avenue near Knott's on my days off. This is where all the shop guys gathered around Bud at the head of the table, and shared ideas on work at hand or BS about other Amusement parks. I was always glued to every word! If only I could visit one more time...
    Well, I could fill a journal with stories of Bud and the Knott family. So instead, with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I bid a dear friend a final good-bye.
    Bud, I picture you prancing in spirit like a beautiful Dentzel Stallion off into the sunset! Goodbye and thanks for everything you did for me..... Edward
    That was beautiful Edward. Thank you!
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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    Sad to hear this news. I'm glad he was able to live to see his attraction turn 50, and the fact that he was able to see the great appreciation people had for his work. May he rest in peace.
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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    For all of us who loved Knott's, worked there, or cared about theme park history, this news hit like a ton of bricks. The fact that Bud was humble and publicity-shy kept many theme park fans from knowing who he was. He was a genius, an innovator, a successful (and ethical) businessman, and was clearly admired and loved by those who knew him.

    I was up late last night thinking about what to say about Bud's passing, and put most of it into my blog: O.C. History Roundup: Bud Hurlbut.

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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    Quote Originally Posted by Trader_Chris View Post
    For all of us who loved Knott's, worked there, or cared about theme park history, this news hit like a ton of bricks. The fact that Bud was humble and publicity-shy kept many theme park fans from knowing who he was. He was a genius, an innovator, a successful (and ethical) businessman, and was clearly admired and loved by those who knew him.

    I was up late last night thinking about what to say about Bud's passing, and put most of it into my blog: O.C. History Roundup: Bud Hurlbut.
    Thank you Chris. You did an AMAZING job paying tribute to Bud in your article. I'll add a link to today's In The Parks blog and strongly encourage anyone who is reading this thread to click the link as well.
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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    We posted the following tribute to our In The Parks column late last night, but I'd like to share it with you here as well.

    Christopher Merritt - Author of Knott's Preserved, former Disney Imagineer, and Art Director for Universal Studios Singapore - sent us some touching thoughts about Bud Hurlbut:
    This is a huge loss, as Bud Hurlbut was a titan of the theme park industry. He influenced me with his designs in such a major way, it is hard for me to put into words. When I was a boy, riding the Calico Mine Train & Log Ride at Knott's Berry Farm were magical experiences. I was fortunate enough to meet Bud and Lou Hurlbut at the THEA awards back in 1998, and Bud was nice enough to invite me out to Castle Park to do my first interviews with him for my Knott's history book project. He was so sincere and humble - you wouldn't think this unassuming man could have been capable of all his achievements, but that was Bud. In addition to his amazing attractions at Knott's, he had hand-built motorcycles and airplanes. He operated some of the earliest and most successful kiddie parks in the Los Angeles area. He could easily afford the most expensive steak dinner every night, but preferred to eat hot dogs at his "Big Top" circus tent at Castle Park. He had close relationships with Walter Knott and his family, John Wayne, the Nixon family - and all his loyal employees. He was a class act through and through.

    His little shop and offices across the street from Knott's (next to what once was the Alligator Farm) consisted of a charming barn attached to a colonial styled building. It was surrounded by eucalyptus trees and free-roaming chickens. It reminded what Knott's was once like to me as a boy growing up in Orange County. When you'd visit him in his office, he'd say something like, "That chair you are sitting in? That's the same chair Walt Disney sat in when he used to visit me here!" I'll never forget lunches we'd occasionally have with Bud, Tony and myself at the Claim Jumper on Beach Blvd. Once, for the entire lunch, Bud and Tony discussed their respective design philosophies behind the Calico Mine Train and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (which Tony was heavily influenced by). They both did little sketches on the paper coasters - I still have them to this day.


    I made it a point to stay in touch with Bud, and update him on what I was doing. Thanks to the magic of Skype, I've been able to call him from the job site here in Singapore with relative ease. Looking out over the construction, while communicating with one of my childhood heros was both surreal and magical to me.

    Bud lived a life worth living – and I will always be grateful to him for his friendship and advice.
    Last edited by Dustysage; 01-07-2011 at 10:50 AM.
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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    Bud was an amazing man who filled the Knott's Berry Farm canvas with some stunning attractions. He defined Knott's as it grew from Farm to theme park and created so many rides and experiences that became the shining memories of my childhood.

    I wish I could take one more spin on the Tijuana Taxis, but I'll hop on the Mexican Hat Dance instead (far superior and much faster than the Tea Cups!).

    Your talent lives on, Bud! Thank you.

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    Re: Knott's Legend Bud Hurlbut, Father of Mine Train and Log Ride , Passes Away

    Rest in peace Bud. The world was a better place
    with you in it.

    May you be chainlifted up to theme park heaven..
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