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Carsonia Park
Reading, Berks County, PA


Carsonia Park, as with so many, began as a trolley park. The idea for Carsonia Park was created in October of 1894 by the Union Traction Company of Reading to increase it's weekend ridership. General construction began in May of 1896 and the park opened to the public in June of that year. The park was built on a 145 acre farm in a swampy area which is today known as Pennside.

Initially the park only consisted of the peaceful gardens, lake and the natural springs which it was built upon. Soon there was an Edison Parlor and Theater. As time passed, rides were added. Early rides included an Armitage-Hershell Carousel, Shoot the Chute (a common big attraction at early parks), a Miniature Railroad and a Toboggan Pleasure Railway (Roller Coaster).

The park added many rides and attractions and changed others over the years. In October of 1939 trolley service to the park ended. This marked a decline which lasted until 1950 when the park was closed. All the rides were removed and most of the land was used for a housing project and  for a public park with a pool. The lake and Beer Garden (which is now a popular restaurant) are still at their original locations. The park was bounded by what is today Carsonia Avenue, Butter Lane (actually the creek parallel to it), Park Street and Parkview Avenue, just below Mt Penn on the East side of Reading.

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Opened: 1896

Closed: 1950

Location: Bounded by Carsonia Avenue, Parkview Avenue, Park Avenue and Stony Creek in the Stony Creek Mills area of Reading,

Remains: Beer Garden is still a restaurant & one building.

Trolley Park: Yes

Book - The Passing Scene, volumes 1 - 12 by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser

Web Site - The Historical Society of Berks County's Carsonia page

[Carsonia Park Crystal Ballroom]The Ballroom burned in August of 1968 in a spectacular fire. Arson was the cause as three kids who were thrown out returned to seek revenge. The flames were visible all around the area and extra firefighters (volunteers) were called in. I was lucky enough (or unlucky enough as the case may be) to have seen the fire as a child. The view to the right is looking from roughly the dam at the lake toward Parkview Avenue. The Thunderbolt Coaster is visible in the background. Today, this shot would be looking toward the public pool. A new Rec (recreational) center was built just behind where the ballroom sits and the "Tot Lot" kiddie playground is where the Ballroom once was.
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Please note: much additional Cuddle Up information will be posted in a short while. Some of the notes have changed as well due to new information. Stay tuned.

The above photo shows what is likely the first Cuddle Up at Carsonia, a smaller ride than the one that replaced it. Above is an overview shot.

A side view with some landscaping on the first Cuddle-Up

A view of the later Cuddle-Up, one of the big 5 wheel models with 12 cups, which were the most fun.   Additional notes on the above picture. This picture may not be from Carsonia Park. I will be researching this some more in the near future. So far, I have only found that Carsonia purchased an 8 cup, 4 disk ride from PTC and the original Berks Engineering ride was also an 8 cup, four disk ride. The ride in storage is a four disk ride so this picture may be labeled incorrectly. Stay tuned.

Rides and Attractions

Following is a list of rides and attractions that were present at one time or another in the park.

  • Carousel - 1896 Armitage-Hershell of New York - lasted two years
  • Carousel - 1904 by Dentzel of Philadelphia
  • Carousel - PTC #29 which went to Port Arthur, Texas in 1944, currently being refurbished in Texas. Persistent rumors HAD put this ride in storage in the "coal regions" of PA. That rumor might apply to one of the other Carousels from the Reading area.
  • Shoot the Chutes - Removed to construct pool
  • Old Mill (Venetian Boat Ride)
  • Old Mill (Venice / Trip to the Orient) - 1905
  • Toboggan Pleasure Railway - by JA Griffiths (who originally worked for LA Thomson, inventor of the modern roller coaster and built many toboggans)
  • Roller Coaster - 1903 Ingersoll Construction Co., Pittsburgh PA. (Ingersoll was a well known coaster designer and started a chain of Luna Parks throughout the USA)
  • Thunderbolt - 1932 by John Miller (Miller was the master of coaster design, inventing many safety devices. The Thunderbolt had a distinctive Miller look to it).
  • Scenic Railway (A Trip to the North Pole) [Another coaster of older design, probably built by Griffiths or Thompson]
  • Whiz Bang - Was supposedly at Twin Grove Park, whereabouts unknown
  • Circle Swing (Airplane Ride) - 1904 Traver Engineering, had moved to Twin Grove Park (Schuylkill County). It is still there in storage. None of these rides are in use in any park at this time. If the Twin Grove/Carsonia ride is restored, it will be the only one operating.
  • Cuddle-Up - 1929 by Berks Engineering, Reading PA [This ride seems to have been the prototype ride. PTC later purchased the rights to sell this ride in the USA]
  • Cuddle-Up - Philadelphia Toboggan Co. (PTC), moved to Rocky Springs after Carsonia closed, currently in storage. Likely the only one left in North America.
  • Ferris Wheel (2)
  • Dodgem cars
  • Speedway - battery powered "Hupmobile"
  • Stratoship
  • Caterpillar
  • Roundabout (Thrill) - patented by Oscar Olsen
  • Pretzel [classic dark ride by the Pretzel Company of NJ]. This might be the ride that is in storage at Twin Grove Park??
  • Noah's Ark (Cave of the Winds / Castle of Mirth) [another classic ride that was quite common with only one remaining in the US - at Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, PA] Ark's were built by a number of manufacturers and it is unknown at this point who built this one.
  • Palace of Fun [funhouse]
  • Sum Fun Laundry [funhouse]
  • Bubble Bounce
  • Penny Arcade
  • Carsonia Park Calliope Truck
  • Skee Ball Alleys
  • Carsonia Theater
  • Edison Parlor
  • Bowling Alley
  • Skating Rink
  • Laughing Gallery
  • Bavarian Beer Garden [modified but still at same location and is now a restaurant]
  • Swimming pool [not the same one as the two that are on the site today]
  • Crystal Ballroom [Sadly it burned in August of 1968 due to arson]
  • International Miniature Village [Became "Roadside America" and is still on display in Shartlesville, PA]
  • Penny Arcade
  • Baseball field
  • Crystal Lake - 10 acres in size - still there in a somewhat modified form.

Known Remains

Little remains of the park site. If not for the lake, it would be difficult to even tell a park existed. Finding the park site is easy if you are familiar with the area. Check Reading maps for the Pennside/Stony Creek area and check the streets listed above.

  • Still inside what was the park boundary is the Beer Garden, which is now a Restaurant (Anthony's) at the corner of Byram and Navella Streets.
  • Most of the lake is still there as well as some of the woods behind the lake. A large portion of the woods have been removed in recent years, including the remains of trolley tracks that were there in the 1970s
  • Two buildings were moved behind the park, one is still there and the other burned a few years back.
  • Another building was moved and converted into a house nearby.
  • Some light stands are still in use around Reading, including at the restaurant listed above.
  • The miniature train is owned and operated by the Reading Society of Model Engineers (RSME) as the Laurel Run RR.
  • The PTC Cuddle Up is privately owned and in storage.
  • The Circle Swing is at Twin Grove Park, Pine Grove, PA.
  • The Whiz Bang was also supposedly at Twin Grove Park, Pine Grove, PA.
  • The International Miniature Village, has become "Roadside America" in Shartlesville, PA
  • The Carousel is still in Texas and is being restored.
  • A ticket booth is located in a private yard around Reading.
  • Some wood from the Thunderbolt was used as attic rafters in a nearby house.


 Warning: all photos are copyrighted - DO NOT COPY

Defunct Amusement Parks wishes to thank everyone listed above for sharing their information