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Crown Metals
by Denis M. Larrick
[Dennis Larrick is a former employee of King’s Island amusement park outside of Cincinnati, OH. He has graciously provided the Parktrains Website with considerable information on Crown Metals locomotives. This article is edited together from several of his historical essays.]
Here is a list of the 36" gage, 25 ton Crown steam locomotives that I know of as of March 6, 2001.  As far as I can tell, they built 21 of them.  If anyone can correct or enlighten me further on the history of a particular engine or its whereabouts today, please email me at so we can update this site.  I also need the construction numbers (c/n) on most of the engines as I have only a few at this time.
The Purpose of this History
Obviously, the first reason to write this is so that we may all share what we know about our favorite subject.  But it is also written out of respect for the people who gave us the Crown locomotives in the first place.  Although Bert Williams still supports the train customers by making available replacement parts, he now does it with a low profile through his current enterprise under a name other than Crown.  I'm told by those who know him that he is a friendly person but is not particularly geared towards fans.  He is a businessman and his time is valuable, therefore one of the purposes of this article is to give the park railroad fan a point source of information so that Bert is not bombarded by curiosity questions.  For that reason, I ask you to have the courtesy to refrain from trying to contact Bert unless you own or are buying some Crown equipment and need parts or information on your train.  I'm sure that at times the business of building park steam locomotives became just as stressful as any other job (can you imagine being a small contractor and working with some of those big corporations?), but I wouldn't have minded being there to find out !!  Most of us can only dream of having the opportunity to build full sized 36" gage steam locomotives for a living.
This is NOT One Person's Effort...
I am amazed at the speed of the Internet and how willing people are to help find data. I would like to thank a multitude of people (in no particular order) who have over the last year helped get this information together:  Sharon Deckard, Olin Anderson, Bruce Pier, Dave Barnhardt, Roy Keeley, Wes Barris, Mike Thidemann, Mike Hood, Michael Patrick, Tim Smith,  Kathy Bellew, Hope Graham, Robert Henson, Erik Beard, George Elliott, Patrick Mueller, Roger Netz, Vince Ferrari, Dave Sherron, Dennis Dalla-Vincenza, Henry Morris, Jeff Badger, Charlie Cook, Chris Ahrens, Ted Rita, Ken Riddle, John Harbeck, "engineer1876", Brad Smith, David "carboiler", James Hefner, Bob Harbison, Terry Shirley, Dan MacKellar, Ben Nolan, Darren Ferreter, and of course the infamous Matt Conrad who has put together this wonderful website to keep many of us from getting anything at all productive done at work or home.  If I have left anyone out, I apologize.
Where They Were Built
To those expecting to see a run down second hand industrial building along the Monongehela River, the Crown erecting shop was a huge surprise.  Much of the machining and final assembly of the Crown engines (including the 25 ton engines) took place at the farm of Kenneth S. Williams and his son Bert, on a scenic hilltop near Elizabeth, PA, southeast of Pittsburgh.  At first glance, it appeared to be a thoroughbred horse farm with beautiful white fences and red roofed white buildings among the meadows, but the huge white barn out back held a horse of a different breed.  I'm told that at one time, different test tracks (including 14", 15", 16", 24", 30", and 36" gages) ran in different directions from the farm complex with the 30"/36" line following a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley.  Including all gages, the total production was probably in excess of fifty engines and who knows how many cars.  Crown started with 15" gage in the 1950's and ended production sometime in the early-to-mid 1980's.  Towards the end, several diesels were produced at customer request, but the vast majority of the Crown engines were steam, including all of the 36" gage engines.

A Detailed Description of the Parts of a 36" gage Crown 4-4-0
There were two distinct designs of the Crown 36" gage 4-4-0 locomotive: the 4000 lb. tractive effort model of the 1960's, and the 5700 lb. tractive effort model which was produced starting about 1970.  Minimum curve radius according to the Crown catalogs was 150' (the tightest curve -"The Big Fill"- on the famous Georgetown Loop in Colorado is 183' radius).  I have long suspected that the "shortness" or "chubbiness" of the engines when viewed from the side was to reduce the wheelbase and make it possible to operate on the space saving tight radius curves that a park might want.  As opposed to the 4-4-0's at Disneyland California and Disneyland Paris, and the Harpur 4-4-0's at Atlanta's Six Flags over Georgia, Houston's Six Flags Astroworld, and the Durango roundhouse in Colorado (all of which were basically 5/8 size models of standard gage engines), the Crowns were FULL scale replicas of narrow gage engines.  In all ways other than length, the Crown 4-4-0 was comparable in dimensions (weight, wheel and cylinder diameter, clearances) with the typical 36" gage 4-4-0 of the 1870's.  With the exception of Carowinds "Melodia" (see listing of engines below), I know of no parts that were used from old prototype locos.  Everything was built new and everything was welded.

The engines of the 1960's had 9"x16" cylinders, drivers of about 45"? diameter with delicate spokes, and spoked pilot wheels.  They were designed to pull about four 80 passenger coaches.  Cabs were wood with a flat roof which had an arch in the middle.  Windows were rectangular.  Smokebox and boiler diameter were quite small.

Monroe Boiler of Pittsburgh supplied the ASME code welded steel boilers for the engines I have personally known and the ones I ran at Kings Island in 1972-1973 (5700 lb. T.E. models) were 22.6 Boiler Horsepower (I believe the state law at the time required a licensed engineer on anything 30 Boiler Horsepower and over).  The boilers had 52 fire tubes, 2" diameter as I recall.  Newer Crowns popped at about 190 PSI.  The second pop went off about 3% of operating pressure above the first one, per ASME code.  They had 1.5" blowdowns in the two rear corners of the mud ring, and a belly blow near the front of the barrel (unusual but handy).  Crown boilers had a very steep wagon top before the (real) steam dome, but the incline was only in the jacket.  The boiler was indeed taller at the rear, but the front of the larger course was vertical, parallel to and stayed from the backhead to simplify fabrication (this info comes from the crew at Omaha.  I haven't actually seen this).  Gate type blowdown valves were used for throttles (they were hard to pull and were very sensitive).  These were fitted with nice looking brass levers cast for the purpose.  The dry pipe left the rear of the (rear) steam dome, turned down the center of the backhead through the throttle, and passed back through the boiler and into the smokebox.  Commercial mechanical (reciprocating) lubricators were used for the cylinders (piped into the top of the steam chests), but the air brake pumps used brass hydrostatic displacement lubricators on the backhead next to the (vertical) throttle pipe.  As delivered, each engine had a steam gage, a double needle brake gage, and a single needle gage to show brake cylinder pressure on the engine.  Each engine had a reflex type water gage with fluted flat glass.  That may have not been prototypical of the 1800's era, but they sure were easy to read and a lot safer.  We also had three try cocks if the water glass broke, but we never needed them.  

Two types of domes were used on the 36" gage engines:  (1) the signature "Crown" dome which was similar to Baldwin but had a concave curve ending in a sharp corner rather than the convex bead of Baldwin design, and (2) a fluted dome similar to half of an old toilet float ball.  Rogers Locomotive Works was most known for the fluted dome, but I believe Crown started using this dome when they built a replica of the UP #119 (see list below) which was not a Rogers engine.  Unlike Baldwin which used a bigger dome cover on the steam dome than on the sand dome, the signature Crown dome casting came in only one size and the casting was used on both the sand and steam domes.  If a park ordered two engines, one engine usually had two Crown domes and the other engine had three domes, the middle one (sand) being the fluted style.  The tops of all three domes were at the same elevation, making the first two tall and the third rear (steam) dome short. On three dome engines, the front dome represented a second steam dome (again, early Rogers practice - the "General" originally had three domes in the 1850's), but on a Crown it was a fake.  However, with or without the third dome, Crown did commonly pipe the whistles off the boiler barrel at this location which was not very far above the water line.  When carrying the water too high, the whistles squealed, gurgled, and showered the crew (there was no glass in the cab windows).  In our case, the whistles were brand new six chime Nathans which could have come off of 1940's road engines and it wasn't long before the neighbors were complaining about the noise so we brazed bumps on the levers to limit travel.  When you waited on our station platform and heard that whistle, you braced yourself to be run over by a filthy roaring 300 ton Mallet in full gait, only to soon see a colorful little 25 ton teapot come chugging around the bend.

1" Penberthy injectors were common.  The valve for the steam side of the injector was up on the backhead, but the water side valve handle was on the cab floor in front of the crew seats so you had to bend over to reach it (they were lifting injectors so there was really no need to adjust the water to prevent draining the tender on to the track. You could just leave them set to the correct flow).  The overflows of the injectors were conveniently located to run down your back while you were reaching in to oil the eccentrics on the valve gear... you had to watch your fireman when you oiled around !!

Most of the 1960's Crowns were either coal or wood fired, at least when they were originally built (some were later converted to propane).  The propane firing mechanism (in 1972) was a torch burner on a bracket above the cab floor which shot a 6" diameter flame in through a hole in the fire door, and it was like riding next to a jet engine.  The propane valve was located outside the back of the cab (at least on the Kings Island engines) where you had to stick your arm out the back window of the cab to adjust it (perhaps for safety so it was easy to access if you had to leave the cab quickly?).  We soon moved that to in front of the fireman where it was easy to use.  The photocell circuit (to shut off the gas if the flame went out) was located under the fireman's seat.  On the propane engines, there was no need for an exhaust nozzle or petticoat pipe in the smokebox for a strong draft through the grates (since there WERE no grates !!).  You just had a 4" pipe sticking up into the bottom of the smokebox so the exhaust didn't make much noise (we added a pipe reducer and later added nozzles to make them bark a little more).  We also added ring blowers around the exhaust stand to get a better draft out of the blower when standing at the station.  The stacks were, or course, just pipe shotguns with ornamental sheet metal diamonds and balloons applied.  When the engines were new, we had to blow up steam in the station on hot days since the pressure drop in the propane tanks would frost over the outsides of the tanks, limiting gas pressure and making it difficult to keep steam up.  The Kings Island crew wrapped the propane tanks with insulation and copper tubing steam coils to solve that problem.

I don't know the type of frames used on the early 36" gage Crowns, but later ones used British style solid plate frames instead of the more common American contour, with the slabs being 1.25" thick x 10" high.  There was no worry about cracking one of those frames !!  The engines had prototypical three point (milk stool) suspension, with equalizing levers between the drive axles (both sides) and leaf springs on all four drivers.  The frames had drive box wedges that had to be occasionally adjusted.  Drive boxes had waste cellars and were oiled the old fashioned way with a can.  Valve gear was prototypical Stephenson inside eccentric, and you had to crawl between the boiler and the frame ahead of the lead drivers to oil the waste cups (OSHA wasn't around in the 1800's !!). 

Side rods were slabs, round at the ends, and had strips of metal welded on so the rods looked like they had flutes milled into the sides.  Commercial bronze sleeve bearings were used with none of the old fashioned wedges to take up for wear (modern materials had their advantages!).  Rods were lubricated with stick grease (alemite) by screwing down a long bolt through a threaded tube full of grease on top of the crank pin bearing.  Crossheads were single guide bar Laird style with oil cups on top.  Wrist pins had zinc fittings for grease, as did the pilot wheel hubs for greasing the journals.  I can't remember if the pilot trucks had swing links or not, but they rode well so I would assume they did.  I had one engine up to 30 MPH one night after hours without cars, and although the pilot truck rode fine, the drivers were obviously counterbalanced for low speeds.  Fortunately, the only decent straight track we had was over a high trestle, so my fireman chose not to jump off !!  

Cylinders and steam chests were not jacketed, so cylinder head and steam chest top bolts were exposed.  The cylinder cocks were bobber type, manually operated through levers and the 12" high control lever stuck up through the cab floor conveniently where you could close the cylinder cocks with your left foot.  Standard D valves were used in the steam chests.  Packing glands were two bolt style, and we experimented with teflon packing after getting tired of changing the graphite rope packing.  The cylinders were block castings that bolted to the frame and we checked them regularly to make sure the bolts didn't loosen up (it is rumored that one well known 36" gage park railroad with engines of another manufacturer found this out the hard way after filling a tunnel with steam!).  The cylinder saddle under the smokebox was heavy sheet metal with an access door in the front.  The sides of the saddle sloped inward towards the top, something I've never seen on any other engine.     

Drive wheel brakes worked from the independent (straight air) brake control stand only, but the tender could be set with either the independent or the trainline control.  The coaches of course only responded to the trainline brake stand.  Per prototype, the pilot truck had no brakes.  Crown acquired the patterns and patents to the "one lung" 9.5" bore x 10" stroke Westinghouse (WABCO) steam air pumps around 1959-1960 (Bernie Watts at Backshop Enterprises in Wheatridge, Colorado purchased them from Bert eight to ten years ago, I'm told) and these were built new not only for the Crown engines, but for other customers as well (I think an East Broad Top engine has one).  The trains had complete straight air and trainline air with triple valves.  The drive wheels had self truing emery shoes.  The two brake stands were modern self lapping type mounted one over the other (independent on top) on an angle iron frame directly in front of the engineer.  Although you could "set" them to a given reduction, I found it more fun to "work" them like they had traditional application and lap position notches. 

The engines I ran were provided with air ringers on the bells and air operated sanders.  The sand domes also had a 1/4" plate gate valve in the bottom which was opened by pulling back on a big rod coming through the front of the cab.  I used the gate to break up the sand occasionally.  Builders plates on the smokebox sides had crisp cast in lettering which made a nice brand in your arm if you leaned the wrong way stepping down from the running board over the cylinders after filling the sand dome.

Many of the engines had cast iron headlight brackets made from architectural gingerbread bought (I believe) from the Julius Blum company.  Most engines had actual sealed beam type lamp housings which appeared to come from a prototype diesel manufacturer.  The box headlights were brass on engines built until about 1971, afterwards cast housings were used.

Cowcatchers were welded up out of 2"x4" steel tube.  Genuine link and pin draw bars were mounted on the cowcatchers, and we used them to move the dead engine around by pulling the knuckle out of the tender of the live engine and using the pin of the knuckle coupler as a link and pin coupler.  Pushing a 25 ton engine by hand wasn't easy though we did it at least once (I was a LOT younger then).  We also moved dead engines (very slowly) by hooking the air compressor to the throttle pipe while the steam manifold (which contained the throttle) was isolated from the boiler by the main shutoff valve.  Our little electric air compressor probably wouldn't have lived through trying to pump up the whole boiler.  Since propane settles, we weren't allowed to have pits and so we had to lift the engines up on screw jacks when we wanted to do heavy maintenance under them.  To use the jacks, we had to manhandle large steel cross beams under the frame of the engine.

The water legs in the tender (to the left and right of the fuel bunker) were empty.  Water only occupied the space behind the fuel bunker since most park engines are never more than a mile from a water tower.  Since oil doesn't take up as much space as propane, Carowinds #2 had a passenger bench across the front of the tender fuel bunker... a 4-4-0 cab that would seat five !!  On the post 1970 propane engines, a step on the front of the fuel bunker led up to a walkway down the center of the tender.  Three vertical 100 gallon propane bottles on each side of the walkway led to a header pipe down the center of the walkway.  The main regulator and the main shutoff valve were on walkway at the front of the tender.  Most tenders had a toolbox across the back for sound systems, etc. similar to those on many 1880's period Colorado narrow gage engines.  Tender frames were 6" channel iron.  The tender water hatch was not hinged.  It was a heavy 1/4" plate "cap" that you could lift off and walk away with it if you wanted.  The tender had two drain pipes from the upper deck to the track for those of us who would sit on the back of the tender and talk to the girls (er, patrons) and forget to shut off the water tower.  I knew I had a full tank when I felt my pants getting wet.  That usually cooled the conversation with the "patrons" in more ways than one.  When stopped in the station, I would look at the condensation line on the side of the tender (or feel for temperature) to see where the water level was.  The bead around the top of the tender was 1" rod stitch welded on.  The tender and coaches had ornate full sized brake wheels with ratchets and pawls that worked.  We used the one on the tender every time we tied up in the engine house, but the coach brake wheels were soon disconnected so the patrons couldn't play with them.  It sticks in my mind that the Gregg archbar trucks on the tender and coaches (24" diameter wheels) came from Belgium (narrowed meter gage?).  The tender and coach trucks had standard waste journals which had to be packed occasionally like the old days (I can't remember ever having a hotbox running at 10 MPH !!).  With the advent of roller bearings on the mainline railroads, these should be tough to find in the future (one of my clients, Magnus Farley in Fremont, Nebraska, still makes them on special order even though they have ripped out the production line for waste journals).  The ends of the coach seats usually had a custom medallion cast into them designed especially for the park that bought the train.  All coaches I have seen have been all steel.  The knuckle couplers were connected directly to the coaches through pivot pins with no draft gear springs, so the passengers knew when the slack ran in (and those all steel cars could make a noise !!).  The 14 bench, 80 passenger coaches were 37' long and looked a bit toy like on the 150' minimum radius curves that Crown recommended, but that was part of the appeal of the 36" gage Crown trains.  In fact, when you would get a kink in the track on a hot day, it was enough to pull the brake hoses apart and set the "big hole" (emergency brake).  Then you had to crawl under the train and drain the auxiliary reservoirs on the coaches so that you could move the train far enough to reconnect the hoses and pump the trainline back up.   In typical caboose first railroading tradition, we extended the brake pipes first and fixed the track second.  The problems kept the ride fun !!

The numbers on the 30"/36" gage locomotives seem to run somewhat in chronological order, but also seem somewhat arbitrary (there are two #4's, two #7's, and #12 and #17 were built after #19).  As of this writing, I don't know the exact order in which they were built or in what years the first and the last of them were built.  It was a busy little factory until the boom in theme park construction dried up in the mid 1970's.  In addition to the 36" gage engines, Crown built perhaps a dozen and a half 24" gage engines, a handful of 14, 15", and 16" gage engines, and at least one diesel-hydraulic 30" gage engine.Almost all of them are still running. 

Around 1970, Crown redesigned its 36" gage 4-4-0 engines as 5700 lb. tractive effort machines (at 175 PSI) to handle up to six 80 passenger coaches.  The catalog claimed they could move 2400 passengers per hour on a nine minute, one mile ride with a 1% grade and 150' radius curves.  The engine and tender were approximately 22 tons dry (25 tons in working order), with a 42" diameter, 400 gallon boiler of 22.6 Boiler Horsepower (boiler horsepower is a measure of heating surface).  Engine and tender were 45' long and 12'-6" high over the stack.  They were given 10"x16" cylinders, solid pilot wheels, and the drive wheels were reduced to 42" diameter with beefy spokes resembling 2x4's, resulting in 130 Brake Horsepower at 180 PSI boiler pressure (brake horsepower, on the other hand, measures actual mechanical engine power for a given RPM at the wheels).  When Kings Island contracted for their trains (1970-1971), an engine and tender cost $ 72,500, and a 37' long, eight ton coach cost $ 13,500.  By the time the 1983 catalog was published, the price had risen to $ 288,000 for an engine and tender (in Year 2001 dollars, that would be $506,313), and $ 58,000 for a coach (remember double digit inflation?).  
All in all, they were true nineteenth century technology except for the welded construction, propane firing (on some), and modern air brake controls.  Running them was one of the true highlights in my life.
The Crown Diesels
Although most of the diesels produced by Crown were in 24" gage (they looked exactly like the 24" gage steamers except for piping and a muffler sticking up out of the tender), one or two engines qualify to be included in this history because they were big enough for the crew to ride inside the cab and were built from 36" gage parts.  Crown built one or more 30" gage diesel-hydraulic 4-4-0 steam outline locomotives towards the end of the company's life.  They had 3500 lbs. of tractive effort and were driven by a gearbox on the front drive axle (the second pair of drive wheels received power through the side rods from the first pair).  The engine was a six cylinder, 330 cu. in. Waukesha.  They had 42" drivers and were 34' long over the tender.  The 30" gage Crown diesel-hydraulic 4-4-0 engines used the domes, bell, pilot wheels, headlight components and drive wheels of the 36" gage Crowns, but the coaches resembled the 24" gage coaches.  The engine's cylinders were small and inclined.  Perhaps they were castings from Crown 24" gage engines, or perhaps they came from some small Porter engines that Crown found cheap (H.K. Porter WAS in Pittsburgh).  That is a story to research at another time. 
When I was with Kings Island, Kings Productions was planning the (now Paramount's) Canada Wonderland park north of Toronto, and supposedly Crown was building at least one of these 30" gage engines for that park.  A picture in the 1982 Crown catalog shows #1 with front foot boards (instead of a cowcatcher) on the test track at the Crown plant which might have been for that park.  But even though advance publicity in the year before Canada Wonderland's opening featured a train ride as one of the attractions, no train ride was ever installed.  I have heard two stories: (1) Canadian red tape forbid foreign locomotives and therefore the engine never arrived at the park, and (2) the engine really was shipped to Toronto but was never used and then went to a fairgrounds in Wisconsin.  I don't have a clue which is true, but maybe if someone is reading this in Wisconsin, they can research that part of the story.  We do know that Dorney Park in Allentown, PA installed a 30" gage Crown (the "Cedar Creek Cannonball") in the early 1990's, shortly after the park was acquired by Cedar Fair.  It looks exactly like the one in the catalog except it has a cowcatcher, but that could have been added later.  So we have another great mystery for park railroad trivia fans: is the Dorney engine really ex-Wisconsin, ex-ex-Canada, or was it built new for Dorney?mailto:dlarrick@kbd-technic.commailto:dlarrick@kbd-technic.comshapeimage_1_link_0shapeimage_1_link_1
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