Manufacturer(s): Eli Bridge, Eyerly
Debut year: 1960
First UK produced: 1980
Last UK produced: 1980
Total UK number: approx 40
Summary: Once again an innovative patent by the US engineer Eyerly, the Rock-o-plane uses a Big Wheel structure with egg-shaped cages that can be rotated upside down using a wire braking system. Known variously as Skyliners and Eggs.
The early history of the Rock-o-plane is little known in the UK. A single example exists from around 1960, but it is uncertain whether any others made the trip from the USA. The first Rock-o-plane is recorded in the Skegness amusement park in 1962, and is travelling with the Remblance family by 1970. This machine remained a novelty until the end of the 1970s when showman John Manders bought a machine. Shortly after this, the import of Rock-o-planes became prolific, led by showmen such as Keith Emmett, J. Manning and the Mulhearn family, who were extending links over the USA.
The Rock-o-plane remained an imported ride - with Eyerly and Eli Bridge machines coming over regularly from the USA where they were a staple part of the carnivals. The ride took some time to catch on in the UK - and it was generally considered a white-knuckle experience that also involved some degree of skill by the rider in applying the brakes at crucial junctures to create either spin or a sustained upside-down position. No UK manufacturers took up the challenge of constructing Rock-o-planes, but a development occurred around 2000 with UK owners developing a forward-facing seating arrangement and essentially trademarking a new ride experience.
Showman William Wood used ride companies in Brigg and Sheffield to construct his Rock-o-plane, which utilised a DC motor drive mechanism from a Tilling-Stevens lorry. His original machine could travel in both directions and had no brakes for the riders, although engineer Pete Smith (Bennetts, Nottingham UK) designed a second set of cars with a braking system.
A hybrid ride emerged in the 1970s, with three Loop-plane rides being converted to small, double-sided Rock-o-plane style rides known as Over Riders. These rides were basically designed to extend the novelty of the Loop-o-plane ride, and looked compact in comparison to a standard Rock-o-plane. A scratch built Over Rider was constructed by the Church company for Henry Waddington in the 1908s, and this was quickly cut-down to resemble a standard Rock-o-plane.
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