From 1919 to 1932, Beaver County resident Harry Traver was the world’s largest producer of amusement park rides.
According to Richard Munch who wrote a book on Traver entitled Harry G. Traver: Legend of Terror, the Traver Engineering Company, located in Beavers Falls, Pennsylvania, built more than 2,000 rides in the United States, Canada, and other countries. He secured numerous patents on ride designs and related equipment.
Traver designed and built some of the most popular rides of his time. These rides included the Circle Swing, Tumble Bug, Caterpillar, Laff in the Dark, and Auto Rides. Traver wasn’t just a ride designer but a dedicated builder, manufacturer, and salesman for amusement ride and devices. He also ventured into lighting fixtures, fountains, replacement parts, Fascination arcade games, and roller coasters for amusement parks.
Traver designed and built roller coasters during a period that is referred to as the “Golden Era/ Age” of American roller coasters. While his roller coaster designs were marvels, the structure was also unheard of at the time. Traver used steel structures for his wooden coasters and believed one day steel would be used entirely on roller coasters. While most people during his time thought the idea was unheard of, the concept of steel coasters came to fruition decades later. It was Traver who actually introduced the first steel roller coaster.
Although Traver constructed more roller coasters than designed, he did design and build three roller coasters, which became known as the “Terrifying Triplets.” These rides were the Lightning at Revere Beach, Cyclone at Palisades Park, and Cyclone at Crystal Beach Park. The Crystal Beach Cyclone is considered by historians and roller coaster enthusiasts as the most extreme roller coaster ever built.
Interestingly enough, the residence where Harry Traver and his family lived in Beaver Falls stills stands today. The house has been commonly called the “Castle on The Hill” by many and is rich in folklore stories.
Apparently during the timeframe that Traver owned the house, he entertained all sorts of people from the circus and amusement park industry.
It is without a question Traver left a mark on the amusement park industry and ride design. Although there are many questions regarding his rides and ideas, Traver became a major influence on the individuals and companies who came decades later.
Although the Traver Engineering Company may be gone, the thrills and terror that came out of Beaver still remain in our region’s history. Due to his accomplishments and contributions to the amusement park industry, Harry Traver was inducted into the IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions) Hall of Fame in 1992, its third year of existence.
Written by Richard Munch, Harry G. Traver: Legends of Terror is an excellent book that details and highlights his life and accomplishments. Please note that the book is out of print.