Dedicated Craftsmen Earn Expertise in Maintaining the Nation’s Largest Fleet of World War II Amphibious Ducks

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Original Wisconsin Ducks, a favorite family attraction in Wisconsin Dells, boasts a maintenance crew with over 165 combined years of experience preserving the distinct military craft.

WI Ducks Mechanics

Original Wisconsin Ducks Mechanics

Maintaining these unique vehicles is something that takes great care and skill.

They are playfully referred to as the "Quack Staff," but the crew responsible for maintaining the fleet of more than 90 Original Wisconsin Ducks – the nation’s largest fleet of World War amphibious Ducks – has one of the most important jobs in the operation. After all, much of the safety and integrity of the 68-year-old business is in their hands. The attention to safety along with fun is what makes the Original Wisconsin ducks a favorite family attraction in Wisconsin Dells.

"Maintaining these unique vehicles is something that takes great care and skill," said Dan Gavinski, general manager of Original Wisconsin Ducks. "It’s an attribute that has been honed over time by those who first began maintaining these original World War II military craft and is being passed down to new generations of Duck maintenance professionals."

The commitment to a high-quality of craftsmanship is evidenced in Original Wisconsin Ducks’ exemplary safety record, Gavinski said. For more than six decades, the nostalgic attraction has safely carried millions of visitors in and around the scenic trails of the Wisconsin River where it winds through the ever-popular Wisconsin Dells. But getting a Duck into tip-top shape to carry passengers is no small feat he explained.

While these recreational tour Ducks were never in the war, they are rarely found in operational condition. Most were surplus vehicles that remained stateside and were in good shape to start. Over the years, Original Wisconsin Ducks has procured the vehicles from various collectors and operators, sometimes traveling overseas to get them.

It takes a staff of mechanics two months to prepare a newly acquired Duck for its new tour of duty shuttling vacationers Gavinski said. The Ducks often require corresponding parts, which were predominantly packaged from 1950 to 1952 and stored in Europe. Today several parts are custom made because they are no longer available. In addition, the vehicles are outfitted with a variety of modern mechanical and safety upgrades to ensure the performance and viability of the fleet. When finished, the Ducks are essentially like new again, except for some modifications for non-military use such as adding seats and a special canopy to shade passengers on a hot summer day, according to Gavinski.

Since its inception in 1946, Original Wisconsin Ducks has recruited an impressive crew of maintenance professionals who have truly become experts at preserving the novel fleet.

"Our full-time mechanical experts work on the Ducks year-round," said Gavinski. "They have more than 165 combined years of experience working daily on the Ducks and are likely the foremost authorities on these distinct military craft."

In addition, over the years, Original Wisconsin Ducks maintenance staff has worked extensively on mechanical, structural and safety upgrades to the vehicles to improve the performance and viability of the fleet. For example, Gavinski says, the Ducks are being converted to power steering and have been outfitted with disc brakes for maneuverability. Extensive new safety features have also been implemented, including adding fuel shut-off valves, electrical power shut-offs, additional bilge pumps and breakaway canopies, all of which could aid in an emergency. New sensors for fumes, high-water and fire are also among the new safety equipment.

With this dedication to detail and quality workmanship, Original Wisconsin Ducks has grown to a fleet of 90 Ducks, the largest amphibious tour duck operation in the United States, and likely has earned its own place in the history books.

Original Wisconsin Ducks is a classic Wisconsin Dells attraction taking thousands of visitors on land-and-water tours of the region each year. Original Wisconsin Ducks’ 2013 season runs mid-March through early November in Wisconsin Dells. Tours are one-hour in length. For more information about Original Wisconsin Ducks, please call (608) 254-8751 or visit wisconsinducktours.com.

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Andrea Novotny
Novotny Communications
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