Rail Work Equipment

Bobber Caboose – PC&Y 20

Builder:Pennsylvania Railroad
Original Owner:Pennsylvania Railroad

Bobber cabooses – see our CO&E 0100 page for an explanation of the name – made for a rough ride for crew members keeping watch from the rear of the train.

This wood-sided bobber was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1905 for use on its freight trains across its system. We have not yet found its original PRR number. Replaced by more modern cabooses (“cabin cars” in PRR parlance), the little caboose was sold to the Pittsburgh and Ohio Valley Railway around 1920. It served the P&OV, Shenango Furnance Company, and finally the Pittsburgh, Chartiers and Youghiogheny Railroad as its number 20. All primarily served Pittsburgh’s booming steel industry.

Retired by the PC&Y in the 1960’s, the caboose passed into the private ownership railroad executive Fred Okie. Okie donated it – along with Carnegie Steel engine #14 – to the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation in 1978. The engine and caboose joined other historic railroad equipment on display at Station Square, the newly-renovated shopping center based in the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie passenger terminal. Accordingly, the caboose was adorned with a P&LE logo.

Another Station Square renovation caused the engine and caboose to be moved to a display site in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. When the borough chose to seek a new home for the equipment, Jerry Jacobson successfully bid on the little train set and they were moved to Sugarcreek in late 2013.

A little worse for wear after so many years outside, this historic little caboose finally received a thorough overhaul in 2020. Age of Steam restoration specialists replaced rotted wood, cleaned up metal components, and applied a new coat of paint. The bobber is now restored to its former look as PC&Y 20.

Steel Caboose - WM 1880

Builder:WM Hagerstown, Maryland Shops
Original Owner:Western Maryland Railway
Class:AAR Class NE (caboose)

Built to provide safe, functional accommodations for crew members at the rear of freight trains, the caboose is a symbol of the Classic Era of American railroading. Train conductors used cabooses as their offices to fill out forms, organize switch lists and do other paperwork. Other caboose crew members, called “brakemen,” would maintain a watch ahead for mechanical and safety issues from the elevated “cupola.” After being replaced by electronic monitoring equipment in the 1980s, cabooses mostly disappeared from the American railroading scene.

Caboose 1880 was built in 1940 by the Western Maryland Railway’s own Hagerstown, Maryland car shops. Along with over 50 identical sister cars, 1880 was assigned to freight trains across the WM system. After serving WM’s corporate successor, Chessie System, the caboose was eventually purchased by Jerry Jacobson and moved to his Ohio Central Railroad.

During 2014, Age of Steam Roundhouse crew members restored caboose 1880 back to its as-built 1940 look.

160 Ton Wreck Crane - P&LE X300505

Builder:Industrial Works – Bay City, MI
Original Owner:Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad
Capacity:160 Tons
Class:Maintenance of Way

Derailments, from the typically minor ones to the occasionally catastrophic incidents, disrupted the flow of trains along the railroad. If trains could not run, the railroad could not deliver goods and passengers, so companies staged wreck trains at most major terminals to be “on call” when accidents happened. The central component of these wreck trains was the wreck crane, sometimes known as a wreck derrick or simply “wrecker.”

When an accident occurred, the nearest wreck train would be quickly hauled to the site. The train carried the necessary equipment, tools and employees to get the railroad running again. Cranes could re-rail locomotives and train cars, or lift them onto flatcars to tranport back to workshops for heavier repair. Sometimes flatcars with pre-made track panels were included, and the crane could install these panels to permit a temporary connection, letting trains slowly slip by active worksites.

The Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad purchased 160-ton wreck crane X100003 from Michigan’s Industrial Works – later known as Industrial Brownhoist – in 1919. Typical of most railroad cranes at that time, X100003 consisted of a heavy-duty flatcar supporting the crane’s boom, hoist equipment, operator’s cab and a small steam engine to power the hoist. The boom could rotate about its base, and outriggers could be extended to increase stability at a worksite.

Eventually, the crane was converted to diesel engine power and renumbered X300505. When the P&LE sold off large amounts of equipment in the early 1990’s, Jerry Jacobson purchased the entire McKee’s Rocks Wreck Train, including this crane. X300505 served the Ohio Central Railroad for many more years. The wreck train joined the Age of Steam collection when Jerry sold the Ohio Central in 2008.

Steel Caboose - W&LE 0222

Builder:W&LE Ironville Shop
Original Owner:Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway
Class:AAR Class NE

One of a handful of pieces in the Age of Steam with local ties, caboose 0222 was built in 1949 by the Wheeling and Lake Erie’s own Ironville (Toledo) Ohio car shop. The original Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway included a line that stretch from Zanesville northward all the way to Cleveland. One wonders how many freight trains 0222 trailed past a certain cornfield outside Sugarcreek that would be transformed into the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum many years later.

After serving the W&LE and its corporate successors the Nickel Plate Road and Norfolk and Western, this caboose became the property of a tourist train operator in Minerva, Ohio. After that organization went out of business, Age of Steam acquired the car. After a multiple-year wait, 0222 finally moved by train to the Roundhouse in 2015.

Age of Steam crew members carefully sanded and repainted the caboose following the original paint blueprints. While numerous former W&LE steel cabooses still exist, 0222 is among very few restored to as-built condition and paint.

Bobber Caboose - CO&E 0100

Builder:John Uher / CO&E RR
Original Owner:Coshocton, Otsego & Eastern RR

Getting their nickname from the way that a floating bobber danced in the water on the end of a fishing line, “bobber” cabooses tended to ride rough and jostle riders. This was primarily due to their short length and use of only two, “fixed” (i.e., non-swiveling) axles with four wheels.

While economical to construct and operate, bobber cabooses were dangerous because of injuries—and even deaths—to railroad crewmen who were knocked-over while working in the rough-riding cars. Also, just one broken wheel (an all-too-common occurrence during the 1890 to 1920-era) meant that a 4-wheel bobber trailing behind a moving freight train could not stay upright on only three wheels, and would immediately derail and crash.

During 1913 the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 298 outlawing the operation of bobber cabooses in the State of Ohio, with a period of time alllowed for the change-over to longer cabooses that rode on eight wheels, not four. The bobber design quickly took a backseat to larger and smoother-riding cabooses with a pair of two-axle wheelsets. Because of their small size and light weight, retired bobbers often had their wheels removed and were used across the railroad system as yard offices, crew shanties and storage sheds.

While the 0100 fits right in with the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum’s historic railroad equipment, this caboose is actually one of the newest-built pieces in the collection.

The Coshocton, Otsego & Eastern was a little-known coal hauler which served a coal mine in central Ohio. In 1917, the CO&E became part of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway, but was eventually abandoned after the mine shut down. The obscure little railroad faded into the history books and W&LE’s corporate records.

During the 1990s and 2000s, train enthusiast and Ohio Central Railroad employee, John Uher relaid 1 mile of standard gauge track on the CO&E’s former right-of-way near Coshocton, Ohio. He acquired a small GE diesel switching locomotive – now also part of the AoSRM’s collection – and ran short trips for family and friends along his little railroad. For rolling stock, Mr. Uher built his own caboose, primarily referencing a single photo of a similar one for guidance! Displaying a strong attention to detail, he outfitted his very accurate bobber caboose with all of the tools and fittings one would find inside the real thing.

Sadly, Mr. Uher passed away in 2010. Jerry Jacobson acquired John’s railroad equipment and moved it to Sugarcreek. Caboose 0100 still sees occasional trips around the AoSRM facility and resides safely inside the Roundhouse when not in use.

Idler Cars - P&LE X300504 and NS 960088

A railroad wreck crane’s constant companion was the idler car, sometimes known as a “boom car.” The idler car was typically a re-purposed flatcar or gondola which would be coupled directly ahead of the crane and below the crane’s long boom, allowing the crane to be coupled to the rest of the train. In addition to providing space for the crane’s boom, the idler car was usually outfitted to carry equipment needed for wreck cleanups, for example tools, spare wheels, or lengths of panel track.

Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum owns two idler cars. Former Pittsburgh and Lake Erie X300504 was the mating idler car for our 160-ton former P&LE wrecking crane. Jerry Jacobson purchased the entire P&LE wreck train in the 1990’s, at which time X300504 became Ohio Central Railroad X502. X300504 was built from a P&LE gondola car.

Former Norfolk Southern idler car 960088 was built from a flatcar and includes special toolboxes and other fittings to carry railroad wheelsets, lifting cables, and tools. Prior to purchase by the Ohio Central, 960088 was assigned to the Bellevue, Ohio wreck train.