Builders’ Plates Needed for Restorations of Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum Steamers

By John B. Corns

The talented, experienced and dedicated steam locomotive repair and restoration experts at the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum work diligently to locate, acquire, and install rare appliances for accurate physical representations of all 23 of these beautiful beasts currently housed in the museum’s collection.

As for those locomotives being rebuilt for return to operation, sometimes the exact, old repair parts are not available. Beggars can’t be choosers, and back shop workers must select close-substitute items for acquisition, restoration and attachment to bare boilers. Difficult-to-find items—such as injectors, turbo-generators and cross-compound air compressors—sometimes can be substituted with similar, suitable replacements that will not adversely affect a locomotive’s operation or performance. If a replacement steam pressure gauge were selected for use in the cab, few folks would ever know or care if that gauge was not original to the engine. But if a totally wrong major appliance were applied—such as a big, flat, side-mounted Worthington feedwater heater instead of a smokebox-mounted, cylindrically-shaped Elesco version— the visible and operational differences would be quickly known. That doesn’t usually happen, as such large items are difficult to remove, so stayed on the retired, preserved locomotives.

But more common, easily removed collectible hardware—such as builders’ plates, bells, whistles and headlights—were often “liberated” (stolen) by souvenir hunters from long lines of locomotives headed to the scrap yards. Sometimes a down-and-out old steamer would be selected for donation to an on-line town, pulled from the dead line, and spruced-up with parts liberated from other unfortunate locos still in line. So, oftentimes the original items are not those seen on saved locos.

Perhaps the most collectible locomotive hardware items are builders’ plates. With large numerals, they carry a locomotive’s specific, identifying serial number, thereby serving as birth certificates of sorts. Those serial numbers are easily checked and recognized as being accurate or not, and therefore, great care must be given to builders’ plates for application to preserved engines, as plates must be selected carefully, or reproduced accurately, to maintain a locomotive’s historical identity.

Recently listed on e-bay, AoSRM discovered for sale an Alco Schenectady builder’s plate that had been removed from one of our locomotives long before we acquired the steamer. It is unknown just when and under what circumstances this plate had been removed from the locomotive, but we were thrilled to acquire and bolt this long-absent artifact back onto its former, rightful place on a cylinder. With both original builder’s plates again in AoSRM possession, the 0-4-0T was once again complete.

That got us thinking about other builder’s plates that are missing from some of AoSRM’s steamers, so to help us locate them, I am asking for your help. Please look through your collections of builders’ plates and let us know if you have any of those plates that are missing from our locomotives. AoSRM does not lay claim to your property and has no intention to attempt to reclaim any plates, but we would love to purchase, trade or otherwise acquire any of your plates that at one time were attached to our locomotives. If nothing else, good copy plates would be acceptable if you prefer to retain your originals. Look around in your basement and garage for any forgotten plates, and check their serial numbers with our list (below). We hope you are successful in your search. Please contact AoSRM if you are able to assist us. Thanks!

Here is a list of those builders’ plates that the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum is seeking to acquire:

#1 0-4-0C New Orleans Sewerage & Water H.K. Porter 1915 #5731
#2 0-4-0F Columbus & Southern Ohio Electric Heisler Loco Works 1940 #54
#3 0-4-0T Southern Wood Preserving Am Loco — Schenectady 1926 #66308
#4 0-6-0T U.S. Navy/BEDT #13 H.K. Porter 1919 #6369
#9 2-6-2 Caddo & Choctaw/MᶜCloud River Baldwin Loco Works 1901 #18596
#12 0-6-0 Southern/Morehead & North Fork Am Loco — Pittsburg 1905 #37672
#13 2-8-0 KC&NW/Buffalo Creek & Gauley American Loco – Brooks 1920 #61579
#14 0-4-0T Carnegie Steel/U.S. Steel H.K. Porter 1897 #1726
#19 2-8-2 Yreka Western/Oregon Pac & East Baldwin Loco Works 1915 #42000
#33 2-8-0 Lake Superior & Ishpeming Baldwin Loco Works 1916 #43108
#96 2-6-0 Grand Trunk Rwy/Canadian Nat’l Canadian Loco Company 1910 #937
#105 0-6-0 Sturm & Dillard Co. Baldwin Loco Works 1917 #44886
#401 2-10-0 Alabama Tennessee & Northern Baldwin Loco Works 1929 #60341
#643 2-10-4 Bessemer & Lake Erie Baldwin Loco Works 1944 #70057
#763 2-8-4 Nickel Plate Road Lima Locomotive Works 1944 #8671
#1187 0-4-0C Reading Baldwin Loco Works 1903 #21831
#1190 0-6-0 Buffalo Rochester & Pgh/Balt & Oh American Loco — Brooks 1904 #28753
#1278 4-6-2 Canadian Pacific Canadian Loco Company 1948 #2435
#1293 4-6-2 Canadian Pacific Canadian Loco Company 1948 #2450
#1551 4-6-0 Canadian Northern/ Can National Montreal Loco Works 1912 #50778
#2630 2-8-0 U.S. Army Transportation Corps Baldwin Loco Works 1943 #69858
#3960 0-6-0 Wheeling & Lake Erie W&LE Brewster Shop 1935 —
#6325 4-8-4 Grand Trunk Western Am Loco — Schenectady 1942 #69631