The Crown Sheet Boiler


| March/April 1985



LP gas burner

LP gas burner from Suburban furnace being adapted for firing the Crown Sheet Sales boiler.

108 Garfield Ave., Madison, NJ 07940

'The film is fiction, the boat is real.' I can still hear Jim Hendrick's voice as he answered the questions of reporters about the AFRICAN QUEEN then nudging the pier at the Norwalk Boat Show. It was about then, as I was trying to fix the wobble type bilge pump of the QUEEN, that I made the promise to myself to build a replica of that movie great, the AFRICAN QUEEN steam launch. I'd been writing about so many different steam powered projects that I figured that it was about time for me to do something myself. What is that old epigram, 'Those that can, do; those that can't, write'?. . . or something like that.

A great many home craft work shops have produced steam engines of a variety of sizes and form but it's the boiler that slows many down to a walk. The boiler would be my first operational step. That is when I came across an advertisement for a small boiler that seemed to just fit my needs. It seems that that same approach had appealed to many others for some 150 of those boilers had been delivered to steam fans and others at this writing. This is the story of what I did to make mine operational.

The item that I am referring to is that advertised under the banner of Crown Sheet Sales of Allentown, Pa. The specifics are a 17' wide by 24' high by 27' long boiler with an 11' diameter by 17' combustion chamber and twelve 1 5/8' flue tubes. I drove out to Allentown to take a look and when I first saw the one that I finally bought I termed it a Scotch marine boiler, though later, I was to revise this to be an internally fired, horizontal return tubular boiler. No matter, it only weighed 250 pounds and I could handle it on a tilt bed trailer, loading it by myself alone.

Antecedents of these units have interesting facets. Blue Ray built them originally for a duty not now clear, but financial problems forced them into bankruptcy, I am told, and the company's assets were taken over by Columbia Boiler of Lancaster, Pa. From there, Mr. Schaller of Allentown acquired the stock and began to market them under the nom de plume of Crown Sheet Sales. Crown sheet is a fitting name when one considers that he was, at one time, Treasurer of the Wanna maker and Southern Railroad, a steam powered tourist operation in the Pennsylvania Dutch country. Any old time steam railroader will tell you that you don't let the crown sheet run dry unless you have an appointment with the angels.

Out of the 150 or so units that I could determine had been shipped, maybe two thirds were to steam fans. The others went to very utilitarian projects from domestic hot water heaters to steam sources for commercial uses. Then there are something like, say, twenty that are intended for steam launches. Wouldn't it be interesting to learn how each of these have been fitted out for service? Particularly the one that went all the way to Fairbanks, Alaska; or the pair, one to Maine and one to Florida.