After the American Civil War, amusement parks began to appear around the country, and most were popular for people of all ages and backgrounds. Miniature steam railroads provided the most important and long-enduring rides, and in fact these rides are still popular at modern theme parks. The Cagney company, first in Niagara Falls and then in New York City, made “park locomotives” starting in the early 1880s. These locomotives were made by the thousands for the next 50 years, with the style changing only slightly, but with several sizes being offered. Track gauges ran from about 12-inch to 30-inch but the 15-inch gauge, like ours, was by far the most prevalent. The Model D was the most widely produced Cagney Locomotive produced over the company’s entire history.
These park railroads pre-dated “scenic railways,” now called roller-coasters, and certainly pre-dated the live-steam hobby of building locomotives scaled down from full-size ones. To have been “scale,” the Cagneys, and all other park engines, would have had a narrower gauge for their size or, conversely, a larger locomotive for their gauge. Except for the undersized drive wheels, the Cagney is a miniature version of the New York Central Railroad’s famed #999, on display in Chicago. They were highly practical, however, and many were run thousands of miles until they were worn out. They could pull passenger trains of up to 10 cars, depending on the grade of their railroad. Even though lacking in authentic scale, the Cagneys were beautifully crafted with nice brass embellishments, such as injectors, bell, and trim work.
This particular locomotive apparently escaped heavy use and therefore the scrap heap, and it has not been operated for more than 70 years. T. Clarence Marshall traded with the late opera and movie star James Melton for this engine in the 1950s. Melton received a 1916 Twin Six Packard in return.