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Crown Metal Products 4-4-0 - East Swamp & Gatorville No. 3 (the "Link Train")

CMP Catalog

Above, a Crown Metal Products catalogue (date
unknown). Image courtesy Doug Corry.

Interesting facts

Although No. 3 was built as a coal burner, it is now operated using compressed air from a compressor housed in the caboose.

Between 1960 and the late 1980s, Crown Metal Products, owned by Ken Williams and headquartered in Wyano, PA produced over fifty steam locomotives for the amusement park industry. They were all 4-4-0 "American" types and were either 15", 24" or 36" gauge models.

Ken named his first train "Little Toot," which became a kind of brand name for all the locomotives built by Crown Metal. The company ceased to exist in the early 1990s, but most of its products continue to operate in parks around the country.

Below, the Link Train in the museum yard.

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History

No. 3 is a 24" gauge locomotive built at Crown Metal Products' works in Elizabeth, PA. It was
owned by Edwin A. Link, who is best known for
inventing the Link Trainer, an on-the-ground flight simulator used in World War II to train military
and civilian pilots.

No. 3 is coupled to two open passenger cars, an enclosed Parlor Car, and a "caboose" housing
the air compressor which currently powers the
train. Link named his train the East Swamp & Gatorville, but it is now known as the "Link Train."

Edwin Link

Edwin A. Link.

In the 1920s, Edwin Albert Link developed the Link Trainer, a device with a cockpit and controls that produced the motions and sensations of flying. Much of the pneumatic system was adapted directly from technology used in the family's automatic piano and organ factory, the Link Piano and Organ Company in Binghamton, NY. He then formed the Link Aeronautical Corporation in 1929 to manufacture the trainers. Ironically, his first customers were not flight training schools but amusement parks, where the early models served as amusement rides.

Link's first military sales came as a result of what the press dubbed the "Air Mail Scandal," when the U.S. Army Air Corps took over carriage of U.S. Air Mail in 1934. Twelve pilots were killed in a 78 day period due to their unfamiliarity with Instrument Flying Conditions. The large scale loss of life prompted the Air Corps to look at a number of solutions, including Link's trainer. Eventually, the Air Corps bought six, and the Link company then started to expand rapidly.

During World War II, the ANT-18 Basic Instrument Trainer, known to tens of thousands of fledgling pilots as the "Blue Box" (although it was painted in colors other than blue in other countries), became standard equipment at every air training school in the United States and Allied nations. During the war years, Link produced over 10,000 Blue Boxes, turning out one every 45 minutes, and more than half a million airmen were taught in Link Trainers, as well as many others in the Allied countries. They were also used at War Bond Drives (one was used at a Flagler Street rally.) A number of examples have survived around the world, and the Link Flight Trainer has been designated an Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Link Trainer

Above, a "Blue Box" at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, OR.

In 1953, Link established a foundation to support research and education in aeronautics and oceanography. The Link Foundation began awarding grants to universities and non-profit organizations, but Link was not just a pioneer in aviation.

After he sold his aeronautical company in 1954, he turned to underwater archeology and underwater research, developing equipment for deeper, longer lasting and more secure diving. He designed several submersible decompression chambers and the first small submersible designed for lockout diving, allowing divers to leave and enter the craft while underwater.

Steam trains were another of Link's interests, and he also established the Link Antique Steam Foundation, Inc., as well as building a track on the grounds of his Harbor Oceanographic Institute, in Ft. Pierce, FL for the East Swamp & Gatorville train. It was donated to us by the Institute in 1990, and now provides educational rides for our visitors on Saturdays and Sundays as well as during weekday school-group visits with advance notice.

 
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Above, No. 3 in the museum yard.

No. 3 failed its hydrostatic inspection in 1998, when it was converted to compressed air. The company that checked the boiler for us said the flus were beyond repair. Up until then, it was operated on coal.

The Institute also donated a half-scale model of Robert Stephenson's steam engine, the "Rocket." The original, which was built 1829 in Newcastle Upon Tyne in the United Kingdom, incoprorated new design features that would become the template for most steam engines in the following 130 years.

Details

Status: On display, operational (using compressed air).
Acquisition Date: 1990.
Built: Crown Metal Products, Elizabeth Work Shop, Pennsylvania (date unknown).
Fuel: Coal burner as built / compressed air as operated now.
Cylinders (diameter x stroke): Two 4½ inches x 7 inches.
Working pressure: 175 psi under steam / 100 psi with compressed air.
Tractive effort: 1,100 lbs.
Air Brakes: Bendix-Westinghouse rotary compressor driven from front driving axle on engine.
Hand Brake in cab operated by engineer.
Valve gear: Stephenson (inside).
Height to top of cab: 5 feet 3 inches.
Height to top of stack: 6 feet 6 inches.
Length engine and tender: 19 feet.
Total weight, engine and tender dry: 6,000 lbs.
Total weight, engine and tender in working order in steam: 8,000 lbs.
Driving wheels: 18 inches diameter.

Below: the Link Train in December 2006. Photo by lazytom.

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