WGH Transportation Engineering was a specialist company operating between 1989 and 2016 from their headquarters in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Their business focused on the supply of amusement rides to the leisure industry and specialist transportation, such as inclined lifts and automated passenger transportation systems, to the wider sector.
WGH was founded by Andrew Howarth, John Martin and Tony Brown, the Managing Directors of Gyro Mining Transport (GMT). GMT specialised in the supply of some of the most sophisticated narrow gauge locomotives and large inclined rope-haul transport systems in the world to the coal mining industry.
Anticipating the suitability of their existing products to the amusement sector through the application of creative and innovative engineering and design, they adventured into this industry almost seamlessly upon the decline of the British mining industry in the 1980s.
Through its history, WGH worked with some of the biggest names in UK leisure including; Jorvik Viking Centre, Cadbury World, Legoland, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Alton towers and Dreamland. Additionally, they delivered international projects in the Middle East, Europe and East Asia.
WGH’s first significant project was the suspended monorail at the New Lanark Visitor Centre in Scotland. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001, the ride built for The Annie McLeod Experience combined engineering with the Pepper’s Ghost illusion and it remains one of the site’s key attractions to this day.
This project was followed by the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival funicular in South Wales in 1992. The first funicular to be built in the UK since 1902.
Some of the company’s most prominent projects were the design of the automated platform for the London Eye in 1999, the inclined lift in the Urbis Centre in Manchester for which they received the “Project of the Year 2003” award, the mechanical systems for Alstom’s linear motor accelerated unmanned aircraft launcher in 2008 and the concept for the Vectus PRT project.
Vectus PRT looked into innovative ways to provide intelligent and environmentally friendly, personal public transport for the 21st century and was first tested in Sweden in 2006.
The concept was based on providing autonomous vehicles to carry passengers between designated stations and several installations followed, including one in Suncheon Bay Ecological Park in South Korea in 2010.
In the leisure industry, WGH created a long list of iconic rides such as The London Dungeon boat ride, Wallace & Gromit at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and the dark ride for the Titanic Experience in Belfast. They also recommissioned the UK’s oldest rollercoaster at Dreamland, Margate in 2014 as part of the £18m restoration project to reopen the park.
WGH stop trading as an independent company in 2016 when it was acquired by Stage One Creative Services Ltd.
The WGH archive is held at the National Fairground and Circus Archive at the University of Sheffield Library. It provides a new perspective to the history of the popular entertainment industry through technology and design and together with the Orton and Spooner and the Savages of King’s Lynn collections, it covers over a century of ride manufacturing history and practices.
By Arantza Barrutia, Collections Manager National Fairground and Circus Archive
University of Sheffield Library