President (1954 to 1971)
John Allen had dreamed of being an engineer but choose a career in radio and sound amplification after graduating from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He started working at PTC in 1929 when he was contracted to install sound systems in a new fun house the company was building. He then found himself working for PTC and in 1934 moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Holyoke, Massachusetts to operate the Mountain Flyer roller coaster at Mountain Park. During his time at Mountain Park Mr. Allen studied the coaster and it’s structure carefully.
The following year when he returned to Philadelphia, Mr. Allen became PTC’s production manager working under Herbert P. Schmeck. John Allen became the company’s main problem solver very quickly. Mr. Allen briefly departed from PTC in the 1940’s but then soon returned in the late 1940’s. Herbert P. Schmeck stepped down as President in late 1953, and on January 8, 1954 John Allen became PTC’s new president.
In 1955 Mr. Allen started designing coasters, his first being a junior coaster. By 1956 three coasters of his junior design were built, the Sea Dragon (one of these three coasters) still remains in operation at Columbus Zoo in Columbus, Ohio.
Through the 1950’s Mr. Allen continued to design coasters and kept PTC busy marketing kiddieland rides as a response to a slowing roller coaster industry.
As the 1960’s rolled around John Allen’s innovations continued with the Golden Nugget of Hunt’s Pier. The Golden Nugget was a specialized dark ride and he had developed a tire-based drive system that propelled the cars through the ride. Mr. Allen also made great strides in perfecting the articulating roller coaster train by the mid 1960’s.
In 1971 John Allen stepped down as president of PTC, however he remained the company’s head designer. The amusement industry began to expand and he continued to design over two-dozen wooden roller coasters, 13 of which still operate today. Many attribute John Allen with the “Coaster Boom” of the 1970’s, which reawakened the public’s desire for classic wooden roller coasters.
On August 17, 1979 John Allen passed away at the age of 72. His absence was felt greatly by the industry, but his legacy lives on fueling inspiration to those who wish to follow in his footsteps.