Carousel Reopens With a Little Help From Our Friends


A Carousel for Missoula reopened on Thur., Aug. 8, following a fifteen-day closure due to a broken cylinder bearing. On the evening of July 23, Carousel mechanic Colt Davidson and volunteers discovered the broken bearing while investigating why the Carousel was noisier and bumpier than usual. Davidson immediately suspended operations until the bearing was fixed.

Andy Troutwine, a local machinist and owner of Andy’s Shop, heard about the problem from several friends, who suggested he might be able to help. Shortly after noon on July 24, Troutwine met Jack Gillespie, one of the original crew that had reassembled the 101 year-old carousel frame and motor, on site and determined he could fabricate a replacement for the bearing.

Andy Welding

While the old bearing could easily be removed by cutting it off the machine, the question of how a new bearing would be put on remained. If the new bearing could be made in two parts, which would be welded together on site, the fix would be relatively quick and easy. If it had to be made in one part, much of the Carousel would have to be dismantled so it could slip over the top of the center pole. The mechanics were also concerned they would find underlying problems when the gear assembly was dismantled.

Broken Cylinder Bearing

In fairy tales, heroes arrive on white horses. In real life, they are as likely to come to the rescue in fully-loaded crane trucks. With the help of his friend, Mike Seitz, who did extensive research on old carousel frames, Troutwine quickly fabricated a new cylinder bearing. Davidson, Troutwine and Seitz spend several days raising the bull gear above the cylinder bearing, removing the bearing, placing the new parts and reassembling everything. Luckily, no further problems were found, and the trio was even able to restore the original configuration of the bearing during the repairs. A solution that could easily have taken months was completed in just 15 days. To make a great deal even better, Troutwine and Seitz refused to accept payment for their work.

The broken cylinder bearing came just five weeks after Dragon Hollow Playarea reopened following an extensive closure during which it was refurbished and expanded to make it an all-inclusive playground.

Bull gear suspended above the bearing

“It’s been a long summer of disappointed kids,” said Carousel Executive Director Theresa Cox. “Everything we’ve done in the play area and on the Carousel was for the benefit of those who visit these community-built treasures, but it is hard to tell a three-year old that he can’t play in Dragon Hollow or ride the Carousel because it needs to be fixed.”

The public has been very understanding of both closures and very supportive of the work being done. Carousel staff and volunteers raised nearly $350,000 for the work on Dragon Hollow, and several donations have come in to help replace the revenue the Carousel lost during the closure. Dawn Maddux, of Engel and Völkers Real Estate organized a GoFundMe page to help pay for repairs on the Carousel and to help the not-for-profit recoup some of the funds lost during the closure. Engel and Vöklers matched all donations made through Aug. 10.

Mike (left) and Colt (right) working on the fix

Betsy Grimley, President of the Board of A Carousel for Missoula Foundation, notes, “During the three short months of summer, the Carousel makes 50% of its operating income for the year. To lose 15 of 92 days was a huge hit for us. Andy’s donation of the repair work, Dawn’s GoFundMe and the other donations we have received have helped tremendously, but our net loss for the closure was about $1000 a day, and we will be working on filling that gap for the remainder of the year.”

In addition to financial help, several local machinists came forward to offer their services, and an engineer from Boeing offered the company’s services if the parts could not be made locally.

Shiny new bearing ready for installation

“The support we have received from this community since the dream of a Carousel first caught on in the early 1990s has been incredible, and it continues to this day.” Cox says. “The sign out front tells you all you need to know about Missoula ~ If magic can happen anywhere, it will happen in Missoula, where dreams are followed and promises are kept, and where people believe in making a life as well as making a living.”

The community is invited to meet the men who fixed the Carousel, and to celebrate its reopening at a community-wide gathering on Tues., Aug. 27, from 6 to 8pm, at the Carousel. The Carousel will provide lemonade, cookies and free rides. Donations to offset the lost revenue will be accepted, but there is no charge to attend the event.