Railway Preservation News

Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?
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Author:  Bobharbison [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:26 am ]
Post subject:  Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

I gave this question some thought yesterday while operating one of the double-headed Crown 4-4-0 locomotive at Remlinger Farms, the local pumpkin patch and kiddie amusement. The railroad runs on about a mile of track, operates all summer long and during weekends in October they double head to add a couple of coaches for increased capacity during the Harvest Festival Days (Or whatever they call it...)

The engines are 2 foot gauge Crowns built in the 1960's and so are approaching 50 years old. They are real steam, propane fired.

My question is this: If this 2' gauge railroad had "real" locomotives, for example, Baldwins or Alcos, and ran doubleheaders hauling beets or sugar cane during harvest season, people would come from everywhere to take photos.

But for some reason, because the engines were built to haul people in an amusement park, they're not "real" and nobody cares. Can anyone explain that to me?

I also run standard gauge steam, and it's funny, aside from the size, there's not much difference. They all work about the same, and produce power in roughly the same way, even those oddball geared engines, though they do it in a round-about manner.

Why is it that park trains are the Rodney Dangerfield of steam? Yes, I understand the disdain for CP Huntingtons and the like, and it's hard to look macho at the controls of a G-16. But why do the steamers get lumped into that group as well?

The 2 foot gauge engines at Remlingers, the 30 inch gauge at Portland Zoo and the 3 foot gauge at Disney all put in an honest day's work. Disney probably hauls annual passenger loads that many a local commuter line would envy! Why aren't they appreciated more? (I will credit Railfan for doing a recent article on the subject, and saying pretty much the same thing...)

Author:  J3a-614 [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 12:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

I nominate that the problem isn't the steam trains themselves, as much as the style of operation and appearance, i.e., gaudy paint, fake diamond or balloon stacks, sometimes a real "hokey" atmosphere ("amusement park" or "carnival" atmosphere) that has trains looking like something of a caricature.

We (cough, cough) "serious" rail enthusiasts think steam should be gritty and painted black. The problem is, the (cough) "great unwashed" (cough) crowd is perceived as being a bunch that would hate looking at authenticity, would think it too drab or too depressing. Think of how many takers you would get if you offered a real hobo experience, complete with sadistic conductors along the lines of Ernest Borgnine's "Shack" in "Emperor of the North Pole!"

Having said that, I think there is plenty of room for brighter colors in our "serious" members, as exhibited by the authentic restorations and reproductions of 19th century locomotives. I also think there is a great deal of room for more authenticity in the park operations, particularly in color schemes and certain other details. The question is, how do you convince the park management?

Author:  Al Stangenberger [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 1:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

Well, there is one driver in New Orleans who will henceforth give amusement park trains the respect they deserve ...


(there are two more photos following in that series)

Author:  J3a-614 [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 3:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

Bob, is this you?


YouTube clips:



Looking at the clips, particularly the second one, suggests your operation with these little Crowns is larger and better than most. As a member of the "gritty and black" group (hey, I like engines with the "flying pumps" look of the C&O, along with the road's more modern coal-burning power, note the user name!), I would say shoot some black paint on those wheels!

Seriously, your operation an the Remlinger Farms is, to my eye anyway, reminiscent of the long, long gone Mount Gretna railroad in Pennsylvania.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Gret ... ge_Railway


How many park railroads are of the beauty and quality of Remlinger Farms or the Mt. Gretna?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5BI5M7r ... er&list=UL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-5UcZiO ... er&list=UL

Now, if you could talk the management at Remliner into building you a proper engine house, which could be a neat "backstage" attraction. . .but would the management and customers approve of what might be considered an "ugly industrial facility?"

Author:  Bobharbison [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 4:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

J3a-614 wrote:
Bob, is this you?

Right railroad, but the wrong Bob. (Well, the right Bob for the railroad, but it's not me...) The one in Chris' report is Bob Moe, he's the one built and operates the railroad and he's also general manager, or some title to that effect, of the "Fun Park" portion of Remlinger's farm. He's also the one who rebuilt the engines and deserves all of the credit for the operation.

I'm simply one of his "extra board" engineers. I work there on rare occasions during the summer months, and then typically work a couple of weekends during the Fall Festival where having two engines in operation means you need double the normal number of engineers, so I help fill in along with the regular crew roster.

Yesterday we had matching Crown 4-4-0's (or close to matching anyway) and matching engineers named "Bob". ;)

Since I'm already steam qualified via the Mt Rainier Scenic, it was simply a matter of getting checked out on the engines and getting familiar with the line, and at the frequency they run trains, by the end of the first day you're pretty well up to speed.

I would agree with your comments on the operation, and appreciate them, but I certainly can't take any of the credit for it.

Author:  dinwitty [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 5:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

Real in the sense did the equipment come from commercial operation regular railroad use? There are real 2 foot gauge railroads. Crown made engines and equipment more for the park railroad than serious commercial use. How "real" is more and attitude.
Put it in perspective your hauling people for real, sure its a real train.
For all the model railroads out there, its more virtual, but represent -real- trains.

Author:  Bobharbison [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 5:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

I understand that there's no way to answer this, as different folks will have different opinions.

However, I have to wonder what defines a commercial operation? They weren't built for some model railroader to have in his backyard. They were designed to haul passengers, and do it on frequent headways and for many days of the year.

Crown made engines and equipment more for the park railroad than serious commercial use.

Start adding up how many miles these things put on each year and how many people they hauled and see if you don't agree it's serious use. As for "commercia", have you priced an admission ticket to the local theme park lately? Remlinger's isn't bad, but the 3 foot gauge trains at a certain park infested by giant mice will put a big dent in a $100 bill, or maybe even require more than that! Those people are definitely a revenue business.

You're right, Crowns were always designed as Park trains, came with gaudy paint schemes and fake stacks, but when you get right down to it, they're still real steam pulling real loads. I don't know how the engine can tell what load is in the cars.

We've already touched on the paint scheme. Real trains are BLACK, not some gaudy paint scheme like green with brass bands or red with brass or, heaven forbid, Orange and Red...

Is is the age of the engine? If so, does that mean Iowa Interstate's 2-10-2's aren't real? Not built by a real manufacturer? Well, gee, I wonder if it says "Made in China" on the bottom of those 2-10-2's?

Author:  JR May [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

Thought I'd chime in since I have managed a 3' gauge operation and now own some park train equipment. Some had said this 3' operation, using true antique steam era equipment, was not a railroad since it ran in a big loop. I felt it was since it carried tens of thousands of people per year for a fee, kept to a rough schedule, and kept safety in mind. If you thought of it as anything less than a railroad then you did not, in my mind, have the proper focus on safety.

As to park train equipment, my one set is also 24" gauge but is a gas powered F unit coming in at about 4,000 pounds just for the locomotive. As used originally it moved people from point A to point B and again was probably tens of thousands passengers per year. It was a pleasant ride, but was a people mover. I would tend to call this a railroad, although on a different scale. I would not call it an amusement ride.

15" gauge Cagney locomotives, and similar units built by Herschell and House of David for example, could fall into either category. Many such locomotives were used to haul tens of thousands of people as part of a transportation system in a park or exposition. The term used at the time was "miniature railway" which I think applies nicely whether talking about a 1904 Cagney or even my gas powered F unit as originally used. I would suggest that both are true locomotives and ran on miniature railways.

Running a 24" gauge gas powered CPH in a tight circle on a board walk amusement area I would not call a railroad. I would put this into the amusement category. MTC equipment, although nicely finished, always seemed to me to be more of an amusement ride so again in the amusement category.

So, I'd look at the application to determine whether you are looking at a "miniature railway" or an amusement ride. The miniature railway would probably rank a bit more respect.

As to colors, well look to Europe for interesting color schemes. Color really does not need to be part of the definition.

However, size matters. We are talking about smaller equipment so the respect factor is probably reduced.

Are park trains the Rodney Dangerfield of railroad equipment? Probably so, but keep in mind how popular Dangerfield was and how much money he made. In the end, he commanded a lot of respect.

J.R. May

Author:  Dennis Storzek [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

I don't think you want to compare this to "commercial" operation, but rather "common carrier" operation. As in, it's got to make the scheduled run, all day, every day, with reasonable availability and few on-the-road failures. It is my impression that the valves in Crown products are lacking, among other things. They might run day after day on a two mile loop; give it a try across a hundred mile division and report back.

Author:  Al Stangenberger [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

Bobharbison wrote:
We've already touched on the paint scheme. Real trains are BLACK, not some gaudy paint scheme like green with brass bands or red with brass or, heaven forbid, Orange and Red...

To get away from the gaudy paint scheme and phony stack issue when considering park trains, look at the 1/3-scale steam locomotives built for use at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, some of which are still operable at Cal Poly's Swanton Ranch.


Are these "real" locomotives?

Author:  EDM [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 7:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

I've ridden behind the Cagney at Strasburg a few times, and just listening to the stack tells me its a real train. I think the engine works harder than 475 or 90, taking into consideration it's size. It is smaller, but still doing some real work; doing real work to my way of thinking makes it a real train (or more properly, locomotive).

Author:  J3a-614 [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 7:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

Although only 15-inch gauge, what must be considered one beautiful little road has to be the Redwood Valley in California--and it's been around a while, since 1952:


http://www.californiadaytrips.com/image ... ailway.jpg

http://www.discoverlivesteam.com/photoc ... alley3.JPG


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2ySq_I8 ... re=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sb_ewlKr ... re=related

Let us also recall that Crown built a number of 36-inch gauge locomotives that weighed 25 tons and used full Westinghouse air brake equipment, including steam-driven air compressors.

http://www.trainweb.org/parktrains/Feat ... etals.html

From the description above, I would not be inclined to consider these engines "fakes," although I have to admit to wishing the as-delivered paint and other details were a little different. . .but I'm in the black engine crowd, not the amusement park business, so what do I know?


http://www.trainweb.org/crownmetalprodu ... l#bigcrown


http://ogaugerr.infopop.cc/eve/forums/a ... 8762923517

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0i7HWMf3 ... re=related

Several Crown locomotives were doctored up to look like European power:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72ZrDyT8 ... re=related


A Harpur amusement park locomotive, also of 3-foot gauge and about 25 tons:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDltHKWh ... re=related

Of course, for comparison, the "real" thing, Davd Markoff's little jewel, E&P No. 4:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8Z0mMsN ... re=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ferhyc25 ... re=related


Author:  J3a-614 [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 8:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

An important, if somewhat delicate point to consider. . .

How big an explosion do you get from one of these smaller engines if you let the water get too low?

Author:  Dave [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 9:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

Yes, they are real.....but they are more like commuter lines than common carriers. A successful amusement park train will pile on lots of mileage trip after trip, day after day, while a museum operation might work a couple days a month.

Might be interesting to compare the use Bob's Crown gets to the use the "real" 2 footer in Maine gets, on either a mileage or an operating day basis. Probably Wales is the best comparison, since the Ffestiniog actually connects with the mainline passenger service, and runs a LOT of trains as well. I think the Crowns are considerably lighter since they were never designed to haul loads of slate from a quarry, but they do a creditable job.

There's probably a size related breaking point, not necessarily based on gauge. The Swanton engines compare favorably to the Crown 24" from my perspective, and anything smaller than Crown 24 seems like a Live Steamer to me. The WW I trench engines are very light and certainly real, and I'd make room in my backyard for any of them.

Of course, no matter what the size, any "steam outline" amusement park hog is BOGUS, like those busses decorated to resemble trolleys. Trying to appear to be something you're not demonstrates a lack of basic intergity, as opposed to being a legitimate even if generic replica of something real.


Author:  Ed Kelley [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Are Park Trains "Real" Trains?

The Venice Railway makes a compelling case. A pair of purpose-built, 5-ton Prairies designed by an SP civil engineer for what might have been North America's only 18" common carrier street railway. The operation was eventually reclassified as an amusement ride and dwindled to its demise amidst the crunchy boardwalk Venice Beach became, but the design of the locomotives themselves—the under sprung suspension, outside valve motion (not bad for 1905) and Vanderbilt boilers—made them their own beasts. As I recall my good friend and former VMR No. 2 engineer Phil Reader once saying, "It's 5 tons, and it can kill you. That makes it a real enough engine to me."



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