MISSOULA — Thanks to the innovation of a local metal fabricator, Missoula's popular Carousel is re-opening much sooner than expected.
Reporter Dennis Bragg went behind the scene for an exclusive look at the repairs, and the smiles with the re-opening.
The Carousel for Missoula had to be shut down in late July after a main bearing failed in the century old ride's apparatus. And because of the age of the ride, there was real uncertainty about how to get it going again.
"When Cole, our head mechanic, told me that we had to shut down I thought 'what are we going to do?' This is like the middle of our busiest season. And we were afraid at first we were going to be shut down for two-or-three months. We were really delighted when Andy Troutwine of 'Andy's Shop' came in and said 'I can fix that!'" A Carousel for Missoula Executive Director Theresa Cox.
But it takes some serious detective work to figure out what was wrong with a ride more than a century old.
"It really does yeah. And Andy has a friend named Mike who works with him," Cox sid. "And Mike did a lot of Internet research and then they talked about things. And then they looked at things. Then they put things together. Andy is really a genius."
The bearing wasn't an easy fix, even with all the drive gears removed. Troutwine says he had to fabricate a special "collar" bearing, which was able to be opened and snapped around the main drive shaft.
Without that design, the entire support structure of the ride would have had to be dis-assembled.
In addition to the mechanical achievement, Cox says the organization appreciates everyone's patience -- and excitement when things started up again Thursday morning.
"It's really exciting to see people come in and ride the Carousel instead of standing at the gates and looking sad about not being able to ride the Carousel," Cox said.
Even with the engineering heroics it's still been a financial setback for the Carousel operation -- that's where your donations can still help out.
Children have already been leading the way, making their own donations to help get the ride up and running. And Missoula real estate firm Engel & Völkers has started a GoFundMe page.
"Funds are always welcome. But of course we're going to make up about a thousand dollars a day from the 15-days that we were closed. So that's quite a gap in my budget that was already pretty tight anyway," Cox told MTN News.
This weekend, the Carousel and Baskin Robbins will be partnering at the Western Montana Fair to raise funds for the attraction.