Reading 0-4-0 “Camelback” No. 1187

Builder:Baldwin Locomotive Works – Philadelphia, Penn.
Serial Number:#21831
Wheel Arrangement:0-4-0
Driver Diameter:50″
Cylinder Bore x Stroke:16″ x 24″
Boiler Pressure:200 psi
Pulling Power:20,890 lbs. tractive effort
Engine Weight:52 tons
Length:48′ 10″
Fuel:Anthracite Coal
Capacity:Coal – 5.5 tons; Water – 3,500 gallons

Railroads – like any well-run business – constantly seek to control costs and find more efficient methods to accomplish their goals. One of the more unique ways this concept manifested itself in the early days of steam railroading was the innovative “Camelback” locomotive design.

The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad served numerous anthracite coal mines in Eastern Pennsylvania. Anthracite is harder and denser than typical bituminous coal and burns slowly with high heat and minimal smoke. These properties made anthracite a popular choice for heating buildings in the days before gas and electric heating. The mines shipped anthracite in gravel-sized lumps; the remaining dust and small pieces (referred to as “culm”) were piled outside the mine and forgotten about.

John Wooten served as the General Manager of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad beginning in 1876, having previously worked as the P&R’s Superintendent of Motive Power. He noted the growing culm piles along the railroad and envisioned using this anthracite waste for low-cost locomotive fuel. To do so, the locomotive firebox needed to be wider and shallower than the designs that were then popular. By widening the firebox grate to the full width of the locomotive and moving it above the drive wheels, Wooten created a locomotive which could make use of anthracite and save his company money. With these changes, however, the locomotive cab no longer could fit on the rear of the boiler; the solution was to move it forward, straddling the boiler in front of the firebox. The engineer would operate the engine from this cramped enclosure; the fireman scooped coal while standing on the tender deck and was almost completely exposed to the elements. This unique design was nicknamed “Mother Hubbard” or, more popularly, “Camelback.”

The Camelback concept saw mixed success; anthracite-hauling railroads embraced the idea but the engines were never especially popular with crews. The cramped cab sat directly over the driving rods, which put the engineer in danger should a rod break at speed. The fireman suffered through all four seasons of Pennsylvania weather with minimal shelter. Noting these safety concerns, the Interstate Commerce Commission eventually outlawed construction of new Camelbacks in the late 1920’s.

Philadelphia & Reading 0-4-0 #1187 was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1903. After a long career switching cars in yards for its owner (and its successor, the re-organized Reading Company), the engine was sold into industrial use with the E&G Brooke Iron Company in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania and re-numbered #4. The Strasburg Railroad – a pioneering tourist railroad in Lancaster County, PA – acquired the engine in 1962, and it was run to Strasburg under its own power. The little Camelback proved too light for most of Strasburg’s trains, and it last ran in 1967. After being displayed in the Strasburg yard as well as at the neighboring Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, the engine was eventually deemed surplus. Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum purchased #1187, and the engine arrived at the Roundhouse on August 3rd, 2020. Plans call for this unique addition to receive a full cosmetic restoration in the future.


Bessemer & Lake Erie No. 643

Builder:Baldwin Locomotive Works – Philadelphia, PA.
Serial Number:#70057
Wheel Arrangement:2-10-4 “Texas”
Driver Diameter:64″
Cylinder Bore x Stroke:31”x 32”
Boiler Pressure:250 psi
Pulling Power:96,700 lbs. tractive effort (109,800 lbs. with trailing truck booster engaged)
Engine Weight: 523,600 lbs. (261.8 tons)
Tender Weight:377,740 lbs. (188.87 tons)
Length:112 ft.
Fuel: Coal
Capacity:Coal- 26 tons; water – 23,000 gallons

The Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum (AoSRM) in Sugarcreek, Ohio, is excited and pleased to announce that it has successfully acquired B&LE 643, which is the only remaining 2-10-4 Texas Type steam locomotive of the 47 built for the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad.

B&LE 643 is a heavy-haul steam locomotive that was designed and built to move iron ore, coal, and other high-density commodities to and from the Great Lakes region. Built in 1944, the 643 saw an early retirement in 1952 due to the increased introduction of diesels to the Bessemer & Lake Erie’s locomotive roster. Fortunately, the 643 and two other smaller steamers were preserved by the B&LE in its roundhouse in Greenville, Pa.

B&LE 643 will become the largest locomotive in the AoSRM collection. This behemoth is just over 108’ long, stands over 16’ high, and weighs 308.32 tons without coal and water. Add 26 tons of coal, and 23,000 gallons of water, and B&LE 643 tops the scales at 908,720 lbs., or more than 454 tons!

AoSRM founder, Jerry Jacobson, nicknamed B&LE 643, “The King,“ as it is believed to be one of the largest non-articulated steam locomotives in the world. It had been Jerry’s life-long desire to acquire this historic iron giant to restore and display with the other 21 steam locomotives in his collection. The Board of Directors and dedicated Staff at the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum, are deeply grateful to Glenn Campbell and The Steel City Railway Historical Society for saving B&LE 643 in McKees Rocks, Pa., and for their selflessness, by assuring the locomotive’s long-lived future at the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum.

The Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum would like to recognize and honor the efforts of The Ernest Stern Family and his son, Rick Stern, of Pittsburgh for their direct and dedicated involvement in the critical phases of restoration of B&LE 643. Their one time ownership, and financial investment in the 643, are responsible for much of the early work performed that has greatly helped its survival for these many years!

The King has arrived!

On January 31, 2024, former Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad steam locomotive #643 arrived at the Age Of Steam Roundhouse Museum.  With the arrival of the boiler and running gear, the entire locomotive is all together again and fulfills a lifelong dream of our Founder Jerry Jacobson.

Columbus & Southern Ohio Electric Company 0-4-0F No. 2

Builder:Heisler Locomotive Works – Erie, Penn.
Built:March 1940
Serial Number:#54
Wheel Arrangement:0-4-0 Fireless
Driver Diameter:36″
Cylinder Bore x Stroke:21″ x 20″
Boiler Pressure:250 psi
Pulling Power:14,700 lbs. tractive effort
Engine Weight:42 tons
Weight on Drivers:

Constructed by Heisler Locomotive Works in 1940, this little locomotive is a “fireless cooker” switcher. This unique engine design was popular for use in areas where flammable substances were handled, such as in textile mills, chemical plants and coal-burning power plants. Fireless locos operated without the need of a fire to heat boiler water to make steam. Instead, these engines used heavily insulated boilers to store pressurized steam and hot water, both supplied from a separate source. At normal atmospheric pressure water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, but under higher pressures it does not boil. Consequently, as the fireless locomotive performs work and uses steam, the boiler pressure drops, thus allowing the superheated water to start boiling again and make additional steam. When the quantity of water and steam inside the boiler was used-up and reduced to the point where the boiler needed refilling, the locomotive would have been recharged from the separate source. Typically, a fireless engine could be operated for about eight hours on a single charge of superheated water.

Little No. 2 was built for use at the Columbus and Southern Ohio Electric Company’s electric generating plant in Groveport, Ohio. There No. 2 and fireless sisters No. 1 and No. 3 were used to shuttle hopper cars full of coal around the property. Both No. 1 and No. 2 were eventually retired and donated to the Penn-Ohio Railfan’s Association. For several years these two fireless locos were stored in a field south of Canfield, but No. 2 was acquired by the Old Express Restaurant in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and moved to its diner display site on June 13, 1974.

Over the years the building and No. 2 passed into the ownership of Travel Centers of America and went through a number of different tenants. Finally, the structure was scheduled for demolition in 2017, and the future plans for the property did not include the old locomotive. In stepped the Age of Steam Roundhouse, with an offer to purchase the engine and preserve it in Sugarcreek.

The locomotive was tightly squeezed between a city street and an old railroad station—and, with electric power lines hanging overhead—made for a difficult extraction. After some clearing work to create space, a highway truck was backed-up to the engine and the 54-ton 0-4-0F was carefully winched aboard the lowboy trailer. No. 2 arrived in Sugarcreek in January 2018.

Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway 0-6-0 No. 3960

Builder:W&LE Brewster Shops – Brewster, Ohio
Built:June 1935
Serial Number:#33
Wheel Arrangement:0-6-0 Switcher
Driver Diameter:51″
Cylinder Bore x Stroke:21″ x 28″
Boiler Pressure:200 psi.
Pulling Power:41,200 lbs. of tractive effort
Engine Weight:82.5 tons
Weight on Drivers:

To save about $7,000 per locomotive over the cost of commercially constructed locos, the ever-thrifty Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway built twenty 0-8-0 switch engines between 1928 to 1930 in its well-equipped back shop in Brewster, Ohio. As 0-8-0’s were being successfully completed and deployed, the W&LE decided to turn to 0-6-0’s. Between 1929 and 1940, Brewster built 30 home-grown 0-6-0’s which were copies of the proven United States Railroad Administration design. All fifty locomotives included modern Nicholson thermic syphons in their fireboxes and Chambers front-end throttles in the smokeboxes. As was W&LE practice, road number series reflected 10 percent of an engine’s tractive effort, the 3951-3980-series for the B-5 class 0-6-0s, and the 5106-5125-series for the larger C-1a class 0-8-0s. It was very unusual for a small, 481-mile long railroad to construct any steam locomotives, but W&LE Brewster Shop built 50 of them!

After 7,230 manhours and at a cost of $28,686.56, 0-6-0 No. 3960 was completed at Brewster on June 8, 1935. Nearby Canton was home to the Timken Roller Bearing Company, and locomotives and freight cars of on-line W&LE were used to test the then-new idea of applying roller bearings to railroad equipment. Completed on September 25, 1935, W&LE 0-6-0 No. 3965 was the world’s first steam switcher built with roller bearings on all axles, including tenders (12.5 tons of coal and 8,150-gallons of water), as were all subsequent Brewster 0-6-0s.

All fifty Brewster-built switchers became property of the Nickel Plate Road with the December 1, 1949, leasing of W&LE by NKP. The homemade 0-6-0s were renumbered 351 to 380, with former W&LE No. 3960 becoming NKP No. 360. During its last year of active duty, No. 360 was assigned in Zanesville and made its last run under steam on October 31, 1957, when it chugged past a corn field that—53 years later—would become the site of the Age of Steam Roundhouse. In 1957, ex-W&LE 2-8-2 No. 6008 was chosen for display in Canton’s Mother Goose Land Park, but was later deemed too heavy and expensive to make the short, four-block trip by truck from the nearest rail siding. So, the smaller No. 360 was pulled from the dead line, cosmetically restored in Brewster Shop and placed into the park on June 19, 1958.

By 1971 weather had taken its toll on the engine, so a local W&LE fan cut off the boiler jacket with a hammer and chisel, and removed the water-logged asbestos insulation surrounding the rusting boiler and cylinders. Repainted in a thick coat of black enamel, NKP No. 360 was relettered to its original identity as W&LE No. 3960. The engine continued to sit outside and slowly deteriorate in Canton, eventually being acquired by the Silver Throttle Engine Association and Museum (STEAM), a group which had formed to restore it. In 1991, the engine was removed from the park, and after stops in south Canton and Louisville ended up in Minerva, Ohio. In the mid-2000’s, with STEAM low on funds, Jerry Jacobson attempted to acquire the engine, even sending a diesel locomotive and three coaches to Minerva to trade for the #3960. However, STEAM soon disbanded, and it was determined that Canton still had legal claim to the engine, setting off a decade-long discussion over No. 3960’s future.

After years of communications, the city finally placed No. 3960 up for auction, and Age of Steam Roundhouse was the high bidder. The wayward switcher is badly deteriorated and in need of significant work, but it is finally home in Sugarcreek and will eventually receive a full cosmetic restoration.

General Electric Diesel Locomotives

GEd 25-ton No. 2 was built in 1951 for the New York and Pennsylvania Paper Company for use on the 36” gauge railroad inside its plant in Johnsonburg, PA. Later purchased by John Uher and modified to standard gauge, the engine ran on John’s private Coshocton, Otsego and Eastern Railroad. While only 175 horsepower, No. 2 is frequently used to move much larger engines around the AoSR site.

Fairbanks-Morse Diesel Locomotives

H12-44 #1802 was built in 1956. After serving on the Yankeetown Dock Railroad and the North Carolina Port Authority, #1802 was sold to the Ohio Central Railroad via e-Bay. You truly can purchase anything online these days!
Another U.S. Army veteran now in the Age of Steam collection, H12-44 #1852 was built in 1953. After being sold by the Army to the North Carolina Port Authority, #1852 eventually found its way to the Ohio Central Railroad. The engine was purchased on e-Bay along with identical #1802.