Tommy G. Robertson engine operating at Six Flags St. Louis, typical of Crown's 3 ft (914 mm) gauge offerings.
|Industry||Ridable miniature railway|
|Headquarters||Wyano, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
|Products||Locomotives, passenger cars|
Crown Metal Products was a manufacturer of steam locomotives based in Wyano, Pennsylvania founded by Ken Williams in 1959. The company produced steam locomotives and carriages of various sizes for amusement park railroads. The firm ceased production in 1989, however, many of the engines produced continue to operate at amusement parks across the country.
The firm has its roots in the early 1950s, when Ken Williams, a machinist and railway enthusiast of Wyano, Pennsylvania, purchased a miniature steam locomotive, presumed to have been built by the Cagney Bros., and decided to construct his own engine of the same design. In the summer of 1959, Williams was visited by Gaylon and Sallie Borders of Flora, IL, who had taken an interest in his engine. Gaylon then placed an order for a locomotive of Williams' design, which would become the first locomotive to be built by the Crown Metal Products. This engine was given the name "Little Toot", and over the following decade, more engines would be produced for parks, zoos, and other amusement attractions.
The locomotives produced by Crown were narrow gauge live steam engines of various sizes, ranging from 15 in (381 mm) gauge to 3 ft (914 mm) gauge. All engines built were of the 4-4-0 wheel arrangement, with the exception of Carowinds engine no. 1 "Melodia", a 2-6-2 rebuilt from a 0-6-2T built by Porter in 1897. Most engines were styled after the typical American 4-4-0 type engines of the mid 19th century, with most having two domes, similar to the Jupiter engine, The General, and the Inyo. However, some of the 3 ft (914 mm) gauge offerings featured three domes in the vein of engines such as the William Crooks and the Countess of Dufferin. The engines were built to burn coal or wood as fuel, though many were later converted to propane or compressed air. Busch Gardens Williamsburg purchased two 3 ft (914 mm) gauge engines that, while built to the same specifications as the typical Crown offerings, were given European style appearances. Similarly, their sister park in Tampa bought two engines of the same size, these having African styling.
Crown also constructed the open-air excursion coaches that were usually provided with the engines sold, as well as a set of standard gauge excursion coaches for the Greenfield Village's Weiser Railroad.
By the 1980s, tighter Federal Railroad Administration regulations for operating steam engines, the inherent dangers of boiler failures, as well as the significant amount of work required to keep steam engines maintained on a daily basis, resulted in the Crown engines falling out of favor, with more parks opting for diesel engines or steam-outlines (locomotives powered by diesel or gasoline engines but given the outward appearance of a steam locomotive) for their railways. The most popular steam-outline engine is the 2 ft (610 mm) gauge replica of the C.P. Huntington locomotive produced by Chance Rides, which continues to be produced for park railways around the world. Crown Metal Products was shut down in 1989, with all remaining orders fulfilled by 1990.
Ken's son, Bert Williams, continued to support the Crown locomotives, providing replacement parts and service through his company, Castle Ridge Products of Claysville, Pennsylvania, until 2004. That year, the necessary tooling, jigs, inventory and rights were purchased by Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Tweetsie Railroad currently handles parts, restoration and service of Crown locomotives.
A large number of Crown-built engines continue to operate at amusement parks, recreational parks, and tourist railways. Below is a partial listing of parks that currently operate, or previously operated, Crown engines:
|Assiniboine Park||2 ft (610 mm)||One locomotive built in 1964 for the Assiniboine Park. Currently in operation.|
|Busch Gardens Tampa||3 ft (914 mm)||Two built for park with South African styling, as well as two additional engines acquired from Six Flags St. Louis and Kings Dominion, respectively. One of the two original engines is currently out of service, and is waiting to be rebuilt.|
|Busch Gardens Williamsburg||3 ft (914 mm)||Two built for park, one German styled, the other British styled, along with a third engine acquired from Lakeside Amusement Park, of Salem, Virginia.|
|Canobie Lake Park||2 ft (610 mm)||One engine.|
|Kings Island||3 ft (914 mm)||Two engines.|
|Knott's Berry Farm||2 ft (610 mm)||One engine. Operating on the park's Grand Sierra Railroad. Two additional engines not built by Crown and a "Galloping Goose" motor rail bus operate on the park's 3 ft (914 mm) Ghost Town & Calico Railroad, which is a separate attraction.|
|Lagoon||2 ft (610 mm)||Two engines operating, one European styled acquired from defunct Busch Gardens Houston park. A third engine is on static display.|
|Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium||2 ft 6 in (762 mm)||One engine, with two additional engines not built by Crown.|
|Six Flags St. Louis||3 ft (914 mm)||Originally two engines, one sold to Busch Gardens Tampa, other continues to operate.|
|Worlds of Fun||3 ft (914 mm)||Two engines, one currently undergoing an overhaul, during which the second is intended to operate. The second engine was originally built for Kings Dominion in Doswell, Virginia, acquired by WOF from the former Dry Gulch, U.S.A. park in Adair, Oklahoma.|
|Al Zawra’a Dream Park||3 ft (914 mm)||One engine, confiscated from Kuwait Entertainment City during Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait between 1990 and 1991.|
|Fort Fun Abenteuerland||3 ft (914 mm)||One engine.|
|Doe River Gorge||3 ft (914 mm)||One engine, with an additional engine not built by Crown. Crown engine originally built for defunct Pioneer City park, later moved to Carowinds, eventually acquired by Doe River from Huntsville Depot, currently being restored to operation.|
|Kirby Family Farm||3 ft (914 mm)||Two engines, with three additional engines not built by Crown. Both Crown engines originally built for defunct Six Gun Territory park, and sold to the Historic Jefferson Railway after the park's closure. One of the Crowns was later placed on display at the entrance to the Underground Atlanta attraction in Atlanta, Georgia, while the other continued operation. The Kirby Farm acquired the first engine from Underground Atlanta in 2017, intending to place the engine on display until funding is available for restoration to operation, and the second from the Historic Jefferson Railway in late 2019.|
|Knoebels Amusement Resort||16 inch
|One engine, fired with anthracite coal. 3 additional trains in park (separate attraction) not from Crown Metal Products.|
- "Crown Metal Products". infinitevillage.com. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- Matt Conrad. "The Original Parktrains Website". web.archive.org. Archived from the original on November 13, 2002. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- "Crown Metals". trainweb.org. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- "Greenfield Village Perimeter Railroad: from concept to reality". The Henry Ford. May 9, 2013.
- Matt Conrad. "parktrains/crown". web.archive.org. Archived from the original on August 20, 2000. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- "Our Famous Steam Locomotive Shop | Tweetsie Railroad". tweetsie.com. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- "Tweetsie’s History | Tweetsie Railroad". tweetsie.com. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
- Frontier City Official Website
- Matt Conrad's Park Train Information Page
- Unofficial Crown Fansite
- Old Hickory Railroad, operates a 36" gauge Crown
- Veteran's Memorial Railroad, operates a 24" gauge Crown
- Surviving Steam Locomotive Search - Crown Metal Products
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