Roundhouse News

Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum Receives Its 23rd Steamer

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Earlier today the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum in Sugarcreek, Ohio, safely unloaded its newest acquisition, a rare Reading Railroad “Camelback” steam locomotive #1187 constructed in 1903. It is the 23rd steam locomotive acquired for Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum’s collection, and is one of only three Camelbacks still existing, all the others being scrapped and melted down by the mid-1950s.

On July 15, the locomotive was sold in a closed-bid auction held at the Strasburg RR in Pennsylvania, with the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum placing the highest bid. The sale price was not disclosed. Moved to Ohio by three highway trucks, #1187 and its accompanying coal-carrying water tender were rolled off their trailers this morning. A third trailer carrying #1187’s parts will be delivered tomorrow.

“This Reading 0-4-0 Camelback is a unique, unusual and significant type of steam locomotive that is a welcome addition to the Age of Steam Roundhouse,” said William Strawn, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jerry and Laura Jacobson Foundation, Inc., the organization that provided the funds to build AoSRM. “This tiny switch engine rolled on just 4 driving wheels and was able to negotiate tight curves to move railroad cars at factories or waterfront docks. The #1187 was the last Camelback used in regular freight railroad service (1962), and in 1967, with a special Strasburg RR train, made its last run under steam. We are adding another one of a Jerry’s goals to our steam collection,” Strawn added.

Camelback #1187 is a former Philadelphia & Reading Railroad 0-4-0 steam switcher that was specially designed to burn the smokeless anthracite “hard coal” found in eastern Pennsylvania. The Camelbacks needed a special, wider firebox to burn anthracite coal with its lower heating value than found in other types of coal. Consequently, engineers had to operate these locomotives inside a separate cab that was mounted on top of the boiler. It was this hump-back appearance resembling the desert-dwelling animal that gave rise to their nickname, “Camelback.” Firemen shoveled coal into the wide firebox in the usual manner, but from their own small, open-sided cab located at the back of the locomotive. Therefore, the engineer and fireman had to work in two separate cabs on the same locomotive. Perched in his tight cab located atop a Camelback’s hot boiler, the engineer roasted during the summers, and working in his tiny, open-air cab during the winters, the fireman froze.

From 2008-2012, Jerry and Laura Jacobson of Sugarcreek constructed their historically accurate Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum. The late Mr. Jacobson was the owner and operator of the 550-mile Ohio Central Railroad System. Jerry loved old-time steam locomotives and acquired 22 of them for his private collection, believed to have been the world’s largest, privately-owned collection of steam locos. Mr. Jacobson sold his railroads, and spent the remainder of his life constructing his 18-stall roundhouse and back shop complex to restore and display his stable of iron horses. Today, Mrs. Jacobson kindly continues Jerry’s “love of locomotives” tradition and generous support as begun by her late husband.

“Even though #1187 appears in rough shape, AoSRM has all of its parts except for its wood cab that has rotted away,” said Tim Sposato, Chief Mechanical Officer at AoSRM and who shepherded #1187 to its new home in Ohio. “Luckily, included with the locomotive’s purchase is the original drawing of #1187’s cab. That will be a huge help in AoSRM’s cosmetic restoration of this rare little switcher.”

Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum acquires a rare steam locomotive

EG Brooke camel back #1187 1958

The Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum in Sugar Creek, Ohio, is happy to announce that it was the high bidder for an unusual “Camelback” steam locomotive in a sealed-bid auction held on July 15, 2020, at the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania. The amount of the winning bid was not disclosed.

A rare Camelback type of locomotive, #1187 is a former Philadelphia & Reading Railroad 0-4-0 steam  switcher constructed in 1903 that was specially designed to burn the smokeless anthracite “hard coal” found in deposits across the eastern part of Pennsylvania. It was the last Camelback steam locomotive in regular Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) service, and is one of only three such Camelbacks still in existence, all the others having been scrapped and melted down by the mid-1950s.

“The addition of this historically significant locomotive to the museum’s collection was important due to our founder Jerry Joe Jacobson’s long desire to acquire, restore and display it at the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum,” stated Executive Director Noel Poirier. “We are ecstatic and proud to honor Mr. Jacobson’s legacy by successfully acquiring #1187.”

Because of the special firebox construction needed by these Camelbacks to burn anthracite coal with its lower heating value than found in other types of coal, the engineer had to sit and operate his engine in a cab mounted on top of the boiler instead of being attached in its usual location at the back end of the boiler. It was this hump-back appearance resembling the desert-dwelling animal that gave rise to the Camelback nickname of those steam locomotives having this unusual construction.

The fireman shoveled coal into the huge firebox in the usual manner, but from his own small, open-side cab located where the locomotive’s larger cab was normally located. Therefore, engineer and fireman had to work in two separate locations on the same engine, a situation that could be dangerous during the operation of the locomotive. Perched in his cab located atop a Camelback’s hot boiler, the engineer roasted during the summers, and working in his open-air cab during the winters, the fireman froze.

Construction of the beautiful Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum was completed in 2012 by Jerry and Laura Jacobson of Sugarcreek. The late Mr. Jacobson was the owner and operator of the 550-mile Ohio Central Railroad System. He loved old-time steam locomotives and was fortunate to acquire 22 of them for his private collection. In 2008 Mr. Jacobson sold his railroads, and spent the remainder of his life constructing this beautiful, 18-stall roundhouse and back shop complex to restore and display his stable of iron horses, which is believed to have been the world’s largest privately-owned collection of steam locomotives. Mrs. Jacobson continues that “love of locomotives” tradition and generous support begun by her late husband.

“Even though Camelback steam locomotives were operated primarily on a dozen railroads back East, they were also used on railroads out West, in Maine, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and even up in Canada,” Mr. Poirier added. “During the 1880s, three Camelbacks were operated on the predecessor of the railroad that borders our Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum property here in Sugar Creek.”

The Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum offers summertime tours, occasional fire-ups of some of our steamers, and many other special events. We are a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Please visit our website at: www.ageofsteamroundhouse.org , or visit us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Bessemer & Lake Erie No. 643 Update

Boiler and Chassis separated
643's Tender in the Back Shop
The Tender's "Doghouse"
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The winter months and holidays have slowed the movement of B&LE #643 running gear and boiler arrival to the Roundhouse.  However, behind the scenes efforts continue to work out all the intricacies with local and state authorities for using roadways.  Several decisions are also being evaluated regarding the use of railroad flat cars.    Labor and cost are driving factors in this decision making.     We feel that work should be resuming shortly, weather permitting.

Meanwhile the No. 643 tender was inspected and repaired as needed.  The coal bunker and stoker auger system has been thoroughly cleaned of coal, scaled rust and other debris.  This area was painted with good a rust preventive primer and finish coated with gloss black.   The upper elements of the tender that were removed to lower the height for road travel have been carefully reinstalled in their original locations.

The use of the original stoker motor was very beneficial in helping clean the bunker out.  We were very pleased with its performance as it took little effort to start up and run flawlessly for several days of use.

The Brakeman’s cabin, also known as the “doghouse”, was repaired while it was removed, including the rusted areas in the well area in which it sits.  After several good coats of paint in the well, the doghouse was re-bolted to the tender deck.   

The bottom of the tender cistern has eight washout plugs and these have been removed and the water compartment is currently receiving a complete descaling and flushing out of loose scale and flaked rust.  The tender journals looked very well maintained but were still cleaned and had fresh oil applied.  Plans are in place for the entire tender body to be sandblasted to grey metal and repainted using high quality industrial paint.         

In conclusion, Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum would like to thank all of you that have donated to, offered support for, and well wishes for this complicated yet exciting project. 

More updates will be forthcoming as we gain momentum in the next phase.       

Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum Store is Now Online

Want to sport some Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum merchandise or just interested in some interesting Roundhouse inspired gifts? Can’t visit the Roundhouse in person but want to show your support for our mission?

Check out our online store and order Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum logo merchandise, books, gifts, and more. New merchandise is added all the time and we’ll be offering “web only” exclusive deals!

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!

Future official reports and updates about the movement of B&LE 643 from McKees Rocks to Sugarcreek will be posted on our website: www.ageofsteamroundhouse.org.

Bill Strawn, Board Chairman

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Bob Brode - Age of Steam Builder - Passes

bob and jerry

Bob Brode, the general contractor responsible for building the Age of Steam Roundhouse, passed away on January 26, 2019.

Robert Wallis Brode, was born April 18, 1948 in Coshocton, Ohio. He was a 1966 graduate of the Mercersburg Academy and attended The Ohio State University. Bob was an army veteran, and enjoyed playing golf, sport shooting with the guys, and will be remembered for his sharp wit and sense of humor. Bob took solace in visits to the family farm just outside of Newcomerstown. In addition to a daughter, two granddaughters and three sisters, he is survived by his wife of 45 years, Louise, who enjoyed volunteering her time with Bob at the Age of Steam Roundhouse.

Bob retired recently from The W. M. Brode Company in Newcomerstown where he engineered, built and repaired bridges across the United States. The company, founded by his great-grandfather in 1887, was co-owned by Bob and his cousin, George Brode. Bob was a founding director of the Pile Driving Contractors Association and was an active member of numerous professional organizations.

“Bob was a gracious, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and talented man, “ said Bill Strawn, president of the Age of Steam Roundhouse. “I first met him when he visited the Ohio Central Railroad System to help us understand various bridge issues on our railroads. As busy and successful as he was, Bob would always make time to stop in and help us with the myriad of engineering challenges that all railroads face. There is no doubt that his guidance expedited many of our projects, and Bob was highly thought of by all in the industry.” Getting to know Jerry Jacobson, CEO of the Ohio Central, “Bob was later instrumental in the successful construction of the Age of Steam Roundhouse, and remained our steadfast advisor, tour-giver, and beloved friend.”

Bob considered one of his last projects to be his greatest and most fun—building the Age of Steam Roundhouse for Jerry Jacobson in Sugarcreek. After construction was completed, Bob enjoyed giving group tours at the roundhouse and sharing the camaraderie of Age of Steam Roundhouse staff. He loved steam locomotives and shared that passion with other enthusiasts.

Bob was an integral and essential part of the Age of Steam Roundhouse project, during both its construction and during the ensuing years after construction was completed. Without Bob’s expertise, guidance and dedication, this wonderful place would not exist in its current form. Bob’s attention to details ensured everything was “just right,” culminating in a realistic shrine built for steam locomotives. Bob also continued close association with AoSRH with his daily visits to check on “his baby.”

Wanting to gather more information, Bob accompanied roundhouse tours, taking notes about the historic locomotives on display from the more experienced tour guides. He also gathered historic information from AoSRH handouts and other sources, and did his homework well. Louise prepared note cards for Bob’s evening tour guide rehearsals at home, and for his occasional referral during the Saturday roundhouse tours he began conducting. Bob certainly had fun whenever he led a tour, and it showed in his facial expressions and body language.

Bob was a man with traditional “old school” values who was much admired and whose company we greatly enjoyed. He had many friends at the Age of Steam Roundhouse and his presence will be missed by all.