Paxtang Park

Paxtang Park was a trolley park in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The park opened in 1893, remaining in operation through the 1929 season.


The park was opened in 1893 when the land was rented by the East Harrisburg Street Electric Railway Company from S.S. Rutherford. The land was fenced and a pavilion was constructed. In 1894, the park added a Switchback Railway roller coaster. In 1895, East Harrisburg Street Electric Railway Company was reformed into Harrisburg Traction Company (later renamed Central Pennsylvania Traction Company), and Paxtang Park also became part of that. In the park in 1895, a carousel (often called “flying horses” at the time) and a Switchback Railway roller coaster were opened.

In 1896, a 1,000 seat pavilion was constructed. No significant improvements were made in subsequent seasons. Prior to the start of the 1897 season, the Switchback Railway was torn down, and a new building was constructed in its place. In 1902, the park hosted a large convention of people from the German Baptist Brethren. An auditorium was built by the German Baptist group and was removed at the conclusion of the event.

1902-05-17 Harrisburg Star Independent (p1)
Headline from Harrisburg Star Independent, May 17, 1902, page 1.

The 1896 pavilion was expanded in 1903. In 1905, the first ride, a figure-eight roller coaster called Coaster Flyer was installed. In 1906, the park was significantly improved when the railway that went through the park was moved underground. The park also added a swimming pool that was 150 feet long and 50 feet wide. These expenses cost $6,000 ($151,687.88 in 2016 dollars). A ride, Miniature Railroad, was added in 1907. A new restaurant was constructed for the 1909 season. An athletic field featuring a baseball diamond was opened in 1912.

Harrisburg Courier, May 26, 1912, page 6.

An attraction called “The Giggler” was opened in 1914. This appears to have been a funhouse. At the end of the season, Coaster Flyer was closed and construction began to replace the coaster with a new larger version. The second version of Coaster Flyer opened in 1915.

From Harrisburg Telegraph, May 21, 1915, page 4.

A new swimming pool was added in 1916, replacing the old pool added in 1906. Two new rides were added in 1918: The Whip (likely manufactured by W.F. Mangels Company), at a cost of $12,000 ($191,242.65 in 2016 dollars) and a ride called “submarine swings”.

From Harrisburg Telegraph, May 29, 1920, page 10.

In May 1922, it was announced the park would be closing at the end of the season, because Central Pennsylvania Traction Company had no interest in renewing the lease for the property. In August 1922, Thomas E. Kerstetter of Newark, New Jersey, via his company Kerstetter Amusement Company, obtained the option to continue running the park from the estate of S.S. Rutherford.

In February 1923, Kerstetter announced Paxtang Park would be enlarged, and several new rides would be added. This included a new roller coaster,  an airplane swing, a new carousel, and an Eli Bridge Company Big Eli wheel. When the park opened for the season, the general manager was S.E. Eastmen.

In 1924, the park was being managed by Standard Amusement Company of Newark, New Jersey, likely a successor company to Kerstetter Amusement Company. Further investment was put into Paxtang Park: a Skooter ride, a kiddie Airplane Swing, and a ride called Ginger Snap, a kind of Whip, were introduced for the 1924 season. These would be the last new rides installed at the park.

From Harrisburg Telegraph, May 1, 1925, page 14.
1927-05-26 Harrisburg Telegraph (p14)
From Harrisburg Telegraph, May 26, 1927, page 14.
From the Harrisburg Telegraph, July 1, 1927.

After the 1929 season, the park abruptly closed before the start of the 1930 season, with the Big Eli wheel being shipped to New Jersey. Steelton Bank & Trust Company closed the park formally on April 21, 1930.

Ride information

  • Ferris Wheel
    • Opened: 1923
    • Closed: 1929
    • Relocated to Prell’s Broadway Shows, Newark, NJ
    • Currently operated by a fire department in Maryland for carnivals
    • Manufactured by Eli Bridge Company

Four roller coasters operated at Paxtang Park:

  • Switchback Railway
    • Opened: 1894
    • Closed: 1897
    • Unknown designer / manufacturer
  • Coaster Flyer I
    • Opened: May 25, 1905
    • Likely renovated in 1911
    • Closed: 1914
    • Manufactured by T.M. Harton
  • Coaster Flyer II 
    • Opened: May 24, 1915
    • Closed: 1922
    • Unknown designer / manufacturer
  • Jack Rabbit
    • Opened: 1923
    • Closed: 1929
    • Designed by John A. Miller

If you are interested in other defunct parks, click here

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