The year 2020 has been challenging for the entire world’s population, with effects of the COVID-19 pandemic reaching proportions that no one could have envisioned a year ago.
With that being said, the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum has been able to meet these challenges and continue pushing forward the best that we could. Our public tour season was abbreviated, with limited sizes of 10-person tour groups and social distancing being maintained. Fortunately, after a brief Ohio-mandated shutdown of all shop restoration activities, AoSRM was able to meet—and exceed—the State of Ohio health guidelines to restart our important Mission Statement of historic railroad preservation.
This complicated year has allowed some re-thinking toward our goal of getting the Yreka Western 2-8-2 #19—also known as Oregon Pacific & Eastern 2-8-2 #19—back into steam operation. Our original plan was to run #19 and use-up its few remaining service years prior to its receiving recertification of the FRA-mandated 15-year inspection. But after much thought and discussion, we decided to continue #19’s restoration and repairs toward the greater goal of a more complete rebuild in addition to its required 15-year inspection.
This detailed and oft-deferred repair work will continue through 2021, allowing AoSRM shop forces to address additional areas that need closer attention on locomotive #19. We understand that there are many followers of #19 who are eagerly waiting for the return to full operation of this wonderful locomotive, just as we are. So, please understand and be patient as AoSRM marches forward with this much-needed and much-desired project.
This winter we will also start mechanical and cosmetic restoration to some of the historic freight cars on our roster, as well as several of our open-window coaches. In the future, these refurbished cars will be used around the facility for display and operational events.
The AoSRM facilities and rolling stock collections continue to grow, and as a result there is need for an additional building to house general railcars and diesel locomotives. We are currently working with a local architect for the design of a vintage-looking building that will be known as the Car Shed. This proposed protective building will be wide enough to cover four storage tracks and be nearly 500 feet in length. We have few details, but our plan is to construct this structure during 2021. More updates will be posted in the future.
There are no new updates regarding the final movement to Sugarcreek of the separated running gear and boiler of ex-Bessemer & Lake Erie 2-10-4 #643, which continue sitting in McKees Rocks, Penn. The COVID-19 pandemic has halted all progress regarding non-essential projects in Allegheny County. We understand the concerns that local authorities have, and AoSRM is patiently awaiting the earliest opportunity for our team to resume movement of this monster locomotive. Meanwhile, using one of the original Baldwin Loco Works builder’s plates from B&LE 2-10-4 #647, we had a new pattern made for casting of aluminum reproduction builder’s plates that will be applied to #643. A few extra repro #643 plates were made, and are for sale on e-Bay and through the AoSRM’s gift shop.
AoSRM’s newest locomotive acquisition, ex-Philadelphia & Reading 0-4-0 Camelback #1187, was moved from Strasburg Railroad to AoSRM during August 2020. The loading and trip to Ohio were very successful and smooth with the help of the Strasburg RR and Venezia Enterprises, Inc., to get #1187 to its new home. This rare Camelback—just one of three in existence—was immediately placed into the back shop to receive a new, wooden, tender end beam to secure the rear coupler for moving the loco and tender. The old, wood tender beam was very rotted, allowing the coupler to sag by several inches. After repairs, #1187 and its tender were moved into the roundhouse for storage until eventual cosmetic restoration occurs. We are researching for technical data, photos and drawings of #1187.
In closing, we would like to wish everyone a joyous Holiday Season as well as the best to all in the New Year. During the Holidays, please remember our Veterans, both past and present, as we can never thank them enough for all they have done to protect our freedom.