Roundhouse News

Roundhouse Reports

Bessemer & Lake Erie No.643 - September Update

The initial study of how best to move Bessemer & Lake Erie 2-10-4 #643 from McKees Rocks, Pa., to The Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum in Sugarcreek, Ohio, has been completed by AoSRM employees and our 643 project manager. Nicknamed “The King,” the 643 will be carefully disassembled into smaller component parts, and then loaded by cranes onto super-haul truck trailers for the all-highway journey to Ohio.

Site preparation in McKees Rocks has begun in order to accommodate the staging of the heavy lift cranes and the 200-foot long super trailers that will be required to move 308.23 tons of iron horse history! B&LE 643’s tender will be moved first, after its wheel sets have been removed and shipped separately due to tonnage and height restrictions along the route. Currently, survey crews are driving and mapping several potential highway routes that will be presented to the Departments of Transportation of both Pennsylvania and Ohio for their approval. This is a very extensive part of the pre-move process necessary to receive the permits that we must have for each truck movement. All underground and overhead utilities, bridges, tunnels, etc., that are located on the selected route must be identified. Because city streets and country roads were not designed to support such a huge load as the 643, any temporary relocation of–or potential damage to–these entities must have a solid mitigation plan in place prior to movement of “The King.”

To reduce tonnage where possible, our current plan provides for the 643 to be stripped of all external, bolted-on appliances (such as the air compressors, injectors, power reverse, etc.). All removed appliances–including the locomotive’s cab and the brakeman’s “doghouse” on top of the tender–will be shipped separately by truck. The boiler will be removed from the frame as one component, and the frame, cylinders and running gear will remain together as the second component, and each will be shipped on a super-haul trailer. Due to the extreme tonnage of each of these components, as well as the hilly highway terrain, each trailer will require a truck on the front to pull, and another on the back end to push, much like railroads do with diesels every day. It is quite possible that two trucks will be pulling and one pushing!

Some may question why B&LE 643 will not be moved by rail. The answer, again, is based on the huge locomotive’s extreme weight and rigid wheelbase length, both of which exceed the maximum bridge capacity and minimum curvature existing on the Ohio Central Railroad.

We will produce a video documentary telling the 643 story from start to finish, as “The King” proudly ascends his throne in the center stall at the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum!

Future 643 reports and updates will be posted on this website.

Bill Strawn
Board Chairman, Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum

[wpedon id=1955]

More From Roundhouse Reports:

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!

Roundhouse Reports

Steam to Victory Recap

United States Army locomotive No. 2630 leads a train of WWII-era military vehicles during the Steam to Victory event.

On July 5 and 6, 2019, the Age of Steam Roundhouse hosted Steam to Victory, an event to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings and to celebrate the role that railroads played in the war effort.  This unique event brought together WWII reenactors, historic military vehicles, and the Roundhouse’s own collection of WWII-era trains.

The “star” of the railroad exhibits was US Army 2-8-0 locomotive No. 2630, which was unveiled at the event after an in-depth cosmetic restoration.  Resplendent in Army Olive Drab paint, No. 2630 was featured leading two restored Army flatcars and a Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad caboose.  Atop the flatcars, military vehicles were displayed including an M3 half-track, M8 Greyhound armored car, a Jeep, and a unique “Weasel” tracked vehicle.  This unique exhibit represented a World War II train moving important equipment off to battle.

Around the Age of Steam grounds, numerous military displays welcomed guests with immersive experiences.  Visitors learned about the living conditions of soldiers on the front lines from reenactors of both the Allies and Axis forces.  Vehicle rides and small arms demonstrations gave guests a taste of how this impressive equipment was used in war.  Twice a day, the reenactors marched off for a simulated skirmish where US troops stormed a German bunker.  The Ohio Amish countryside surrounding the Roundhouse were a good stand-in for the similar fields and hills of Western Europe.

Other components of the Age of Steam railroad collection were also on-hand for guests to view.  Grand Trunk Western 4-8-4 #6325 led two restored Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad passenger coaches, simulating one of the thousands of troop trains which shuttled soldiers around the US.  One of the most colorful exhibits was a steam locomotive tender made up to represent the red, white and blue “Buy War Bonds” tenders created by the Nickel Plate Road as a means of advertisement to help in the war effort.  Another tender sported the insignia of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, which Age of Steam Roundhouse founder Jerry Jacobson served in.  Finally, 0-6-0T tank engine #4 proudly displayed its heritage as a US Navy switching locomotive.

Age of Steam Roundhouse would like to thank the following organizations for their participation in Steam to Victory:

  • Crew 1944 / 5th Rangers, Co. B and Baker Co.
  • 101st Airborne / 502nd PIR
  • 100th Jager Division
  • 352nd Infantry Division
  • Marlboro Volunteers Military History Mobile Museum
  • Dennison Railroad Depot Museum
  • Forever Young Singers

Despite some hot weather and a few pop-up thunderstorms, Age of Steam Roundhouse’s first large public event was well-attended and received positive feedback.  Stay tuned to the Roundhouse mailing list, website and social media channels as we work to develop more exciting events and experiences in the coming months.

More From Roundhouse Reports:

Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum Acquires Bessemer & Lake Erie No.643

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

Previous slide
Next slide

More From Roundhouse Reports:

Roundhouse Reports

Bob Brode - Age of Steam Builder - Passes

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.

Roundhouse Reports

Wheeling & Lake Erie 0-6-0 #3960 Arrives

After nearly a decade of discussions with the City of Canton, Ohio, the Age of Steam Roundhouse is happy to announce that it has purchased and received its latest locomotive, former Wheeling & Lake Erie 0-6-0 No.3960. Displayed in Canton for 33 years but moved away during 1991, the 0-6-0’s stripped carcass and tender had been sitting outdoors in Minerva since 2006 while ownership issues and plans for the engine’s future were debated. To remain within the letter of the law and be fair to everyone, the City of Canton had to offer No.3960 for sale to the highest bidder that offered also the best future for the forlorn 0-6-0. The Age of Steam Roundhouse won the bid, and No.3960’s boiler was separated from its frame, and along with its tender, were loaded onto four flatbed truck trailers and moved to the AoSRH facilities in Sugarcreek on October 9, 2018, for unloading the next day.

The history of No.3960 was uneventful, but an interesting one. To save about $7,000 per locomotive from the cost of commercially constructed locos, from 1928 to 1930 in its well-equipped back shop in Brewster, Ohio, W&LE built twenty 0-8-0 switchers of proven USRA design. They were so successful that between 1929 and 1940 Brewster built 30 copies of the USRA’s 0-6-0 switcher. All fifty locomotives rolled on 51-inch driving wheels, had Nicholson thermic syphons in their fireboxes and Chambers front-end throttles in the smokeboxes. As was W&LE practice, road number series reflected 10-per cent 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, on June 8, 1935, 0-6-0 No.3960 was completed in Brewster Shop. Nearby Canton was home to the Timken Roller Bearing Co., 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 0-6-0 No.360 was used down 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, No.360’s future home. In 1957 NKP heavy USRA 2-8-2 No.678 (ex-W&LE No.6008) was chosen for display in Canton’s Mother Goose Land Park, but was later deemed too heavy (i.e. too 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 0-6-0, 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 360 was relettered on June 12, 1973, to its original identity as W&LE 3960. Continued neglect by the city led to No.3960 being acquired by Silver Throttle Engine And Museum (STEAM) that had high hopes of rebuilding the 0-6-0 to steam again, and on July 19, 1991, the 0-6-0 was removed from the closed Mother Goose Land. No.3960 went to south Canton, then to Louisville before it ended up inside a Quonset hut 16 miles from Canton in Minerva where hopes were high, but funds were low. Seeing no possibility for it to be even cosmetically restored, in 2004 STEAM traded the disassembled No.3960 (in return for a diesel and three coaches) to Jerry Jacobson, lifelong lover of steam locomotives and owner of the Ohio Central Railroad System.

In 2006 STEAM was dispersed, and No.3960 was evicted to an adjoining Ohi-Rail track. Never owning No.3960, STEAM had no legal right to trade it to Jerry Jacobson, and the City of Canton rightfully reclaimed possession of its wayward 0-6-0. Thus began the decade-long discussions about No.3960’s future, including Canton’s dream for the loco’s next owner to rebuild it and operate excursion passenger trains in the city once or twice a year.

The forlorn No.3960 will undergo a massive cosmetic restoration by Age of Steam Roundhouse to replace dozens of rusted, lost, and stolen parts, but this seemingly endless, sad saga will now have a happy ending in Sugarcreek.