John P. Maloney's Skyway Memory

John P. Maloney writes:

Howdy... I'm John Maloney, currently a Naval Intelligence officer in the US Navy... for 7 years (1980-1987) I was a "cast member" at Disneyland while in high school and college. Although the majority of my career there was spent in Fantasyland Merchandise ("your name embroidered free"), I spent my last year as an "attractions host" or in other words, a ride operator. Worked the Skyway (both terminals belonged to Fantasyland, as both Autopia belonged to Tomorrowland), It's a Small World, and Matterhorn Bobsleds (still my #1 favorite ride). Anyway, my favorite Skyway memory... anyway the most deeply burned into my brain, follows:

I was working a Grad Nite at the Fantasyland terminal (Skyway to Tommorowland, officially)... another RO and I were working Load and Dispatch, respectively... i.e. we were both on the side of the terminal where guests board and go off on their merry way. He had a theory that if you kept the gondola (by the way, "bucket", though very often heard, was verboten terminology) slowly moving, like the Peoplemover, guests would assume it couldn't be completely stopped, and hurry to board (as with most attractions, a station back-up was a bad thing)... The mechanism which spaced the gondolas on the cable was pretty simple; a timer (set by the operators according to how many cabins {the approved term} were on the cable) counted down, and released the cabin which was set in the "trap".... SOP was that a cabin would only be placed in the trap when the door was closed and the secondary latch was set.... well, as I was dispatch (the last guy to have control of the cabin) it was my responsibility to enforce the above.

A foursome of happy high school grads (women) boarded in their fru-fru gowns (very practical amusement park wear) and as we were trying to close the door, kept pressing down their gowns with their fingers (very close to the hinges and edges of the door). Suddenly, the trap opened and the cabin began its descent down the inclined beam (tech aside: the cabins rolled down an overhead ramp before coupling to the cable... gaining enough speed to roughly match that of the cable, allowing a shock-free clamping of the cabin to the cable) and I ran down with it, screaming "E-stop, E-stop!!!", a call for my compatriots to hit one of the big red buttons which stopped the cable. Once the cable stopped (I think the SOP had it taking 16 ft to come to a halt), the cabin was just out of the chalet (over the gnarled pine tree which surrounded the cables, remember it?) and the "wicked witch's tunnel" in Storybookland/Casey JR... I was on the edge of the platform, and was just able to keep a hand on the cabin...... I latched it, reminded the girls to keep their hands away from the door (this was part of the boarding litany) and the cable was restarted.... I sure enjoyed my next break!.....


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