Roundhouse News: Roundhouse Report – Winter 2022-23

Roundhouse Report - Winter 2022-23​

Greetings! Over a year has passed since our last Roundhouse Report was published, and we here at Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum are excited to share some of the recent happenings in our restoration backshop and around the facility.

Age of Steam's New Car Storage Shed

new car shed construction
new car shed construction

The largest project this year at the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum has been construction of a 464’ x 65’ car shed that covers four existing storage tracks. This structure is being used to protect our growing collection of rail cars that have been restored or are awaiting restoration. The open-air storage shed will prevent rain and snow from causing rust and interior water leaks. The shed will also block direct sunlight from fading the cars’ exterior paint and degrading interior fabrics inside closed-up, stored passenger cars.

This 30,000-square foot structure has exterior lighting and a surveillance system, but will be used strictly for car storage, not repairs. As of this writing, finishing touches are being applied and most of the stored railcars have moved in. For safety reasons, the new car shed will not be open to the public at this time.

In recognition of a generous grant from the Timken Foundation of Canton, this impressive new addition will be called the Timken Foundation Car Shed.

Bessemer and Lake Erie Hopper Cars Acquired

We were fortunate to find a pair of 88-year old, 3-pocket hopper cars hiding down in West Virginia. These former Bessemer & Lake Erie hopper cars were donated by the Kanawha Railroad, LLC (formerly Big Eagle Railroad) and are lettered BER #311 and BER #326. Fortunately, the pair also carries their original road numbers stenciled on their truck side frames, B&LE #90878 and B&LE #90366, respectively. These two venerable veterans endured a lifetime of hard service moving heavy loads of iron ore and coal, and were inadvertently “preserved” inside an unused hopper car coal dumper. AoSRM acquired ownership and transported them using highway trucks to Sugarcreek, arriving in October.

PRR Boxcar Restored to Original Appearance

Pennsylvania Railroad Class X29 boxcar

This Pennsylvania Railroad Class X29 boxcar was beautifully restored in our shop by patching smaller rusted areas with Bondo body filler and welding-in new steel to replace larger, rusted-out side sheets. Our 93-year-old car was repainted into its original 1929 paint scheme with its original PRR road number, 51121. The paint color was carefully matched to a paint swatch loaned by the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society. Old PRR lettering diagrams were painstakingly followed to confirm that the car’s final lettering was spot-on. The beautifully refurbished Pennsy boxcar #51121 rolled out of AoSRM’s backshop in the summer of 2022 looking as good as new.

Our thanks go to Bruce Smith of the PRRTHS and John Frantz of Mt. Vernon Shops for their contributions of artwork, diagrams and paint swatches to ensure the accuracy of this project. More information on this boxcar is available here.

Lightweight Combine #9300 Repainted

Lightweight Combine #9300 being painted

In 1954 a series of lightweight 76-seat air-conditioned coaches were constructed for the Canadian National Railway. These cars were used on most of CN’s passenger trains, including the renowned Super Continental. Most were sold to VIA Rail Canada in 1977 and a few years later some were rebuilt as 54-seat passenger-baggage combination cars (“combines”). Jerry Jacobson’s Ohio Central Railroad System bought one of them, #9300, for service on steam-powered passenger excursion trains. Recently, this combine was given an exterior restoration back to its original 1954 paint scheme of black and olive green with yellow striping.

These photos show the progression of the painting and masking process after body work was finished, starting with yellow paint for the stripes. Next came black paint, then green. Finally lettering and logos were applied for CN’s American subsidiary, the Grand Trunk Western. More details on our entire CNR coach set are available here.

PRR Fire Hose Storage Shed & Cart

Fire Hose Storage Shed
Fire Hose Cart inside the Storage Shed

Recently acquired for our collection is this fire hose storage shed and its two-wheeled hose cart that were once owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. It is unknown at which yard or locomotive facility where this piece of fire-fighting equipment was used, but the shed is representative of such “hose houses” found all across the Pennsy and many other railroads.

During restoration, the hose house received some new replacement wood, but care was taken to keep this structure as original as possible while still restoring it to an operational state. A fresh coat of red paint and neat white lettering have been applied to the exterior, but its interior and hose cart have yet to be refurbished. Not many of these once-ubiquitous buildings have survived, so we were happy to have an opportunity to save, restore and exhibit this one for everyone to enjoy.

Reading 0-4-0 Camelback #1187 Receives Cosmetic Restoration

Age of Steam workers have scraped off layers of accumulated paint, rust, scale, and grease from deteriorated 0-4-0 Camelback #1187. The engine and tender were thoroughly cleaned, and several stored appliances and associated piping have been re-hung in their proper positions on the boiler. The smaller, open-air rear cab for the fireman was repaired and re-applied. The badly rusted engineer’s cab that sits atop the boiler is being rebuilt. Protective paint was applied, and the tender was once again lettered for the Reading Railroad. Additional work will be accomplished during the winter so that Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum visitors may enjoy seeing this rare and beautiful Camelback in all its glory when our next tour season begins on April 1, 2023.

W&LE 0-6-0 #3960 Receives Cosmetic Work, UT Grid

W&LE 0-6-0 #3960

Previous visitors taking Roundhouse tours saw a “checkerboard” grid pattern that had been painted onto the bare boiler of one of our locomotives during a boiler survey. This led to questions and answers about how boilers work, safe locomotive operations, and the incredible power of steam. This topic fascinated our tour-takers, so a new subject was added into subsequent Roundhouse tours. When that locomotive received a full cosmetic restoration, the grids were painted over and this conversation piece was no longer a part of our tour.

Wheeling & Lake Erie 0-6-0 #3960 was already in the backshop receiving a general cleanup and some fresh paint, so it was selected to receive the same checkerboard grid pattern. When a locomotive is to undergo a Federal Railroad Administration-mandated, 15-year/1,472-day inspection, hundreds of these 12” x 12” squares are onto the outside (and inside!) of the boiler. Each square is numbered to allow easy identification during non-destructive testing. By using an ultrasound testing (UT) device similar to those used by doctors on mothers-to-be, a measurement of the thickness of the remaining boiler steel can be taken and cataloged. These measurements are then used to calculate the safe operating steam pressure that can be used in the boiler of that particular loco. The stripped-down #3960 was the perfect locomotive to receive that UT checkerboard grid and will add a little-known story back into our Roundhouse tours. Currently there are no plans to restore #3960 to operational status.

B&LE 2-10-4 #643 Update

We frequently receive questions about the status of moving former Bessemer and Lake Erie 2-10-4 #643 to the Roundhouse from its longtime storage location in Pittsburgh. The locomotive’s tender and many other major components were safely moved to Sugarcreek just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Extracting the massive engine itself is a complicated endeavor due to the surrounding tight city streets, active rail lines, and other nearby public and privately-owned infrastructure. AoSRM continues to work diligently with the appropriate parties to finalize the plan for moving the engine to Sugarcreek. As soon as all of the details are in place, we will relocate the locomotive and wrap up this long-term project. Updates will be shared as they become available. We look forward to displaying #643 at Age of Steam, this engine’s first time on public display in decades.

McCloud River RR 2-8-2 #19 Restoration Continues

McCloud River RR 2-8-2 #19 in the shop
McCloud River RR 2-8-2 #19 new parts fabricated

1915-built McCloud River Railroad 2-8-2 #19 has been in the backshop for quite some time now, with nearly every component having been removed, inspected, and repaired as needed. As work progressed many more necessary repairs were uncovered, including old repairs that had been made on top of even older repairs. In such situations, completely new parts were cast at the local steel foundry or machined in our shop.

#19’s boiler has been fully inspected and necessary repairs – including a new firebox door sheet and a patch on the front tube sheet – have been completed. Newly built superheater units, tubes and flues have arrived and are ready for installation. Receipt of many restoration materials has been delayed by COVID-caused unemployment and supply-chain challenges.

Recent work on #19 includes a thorough inspection of all brake rigging. During inspection large amounts of wear were found on some supporting components. These were welded-up and re-machined as good as new, and all-new pins and bushings were machined in the shop and installed. All of the locomotive’s frame pedestal surfaces – which guide the driving box shoes and wedges up and down – needed welding to build up missing steel. These surfaces were then re-machined to provide smooth, flat contact planes. Since you can’t simply set up a locomotive frame in the nearest milling machine, the machine shop crew designed and built an innovative portable milling machine that was bolted to #19’s frame and that allowed precision resurfacing of all of these built-up welds. (Great job, guys!)

The laying-out of #19’s cylinder centerlines was undertaken so that the cylinder bores are exactly parallel to the locomotive’s frame. This is important because #19’s pairs of pistons, piston rods, driving rods, and valve gear are connected together, so all of these parts must operate in a unified manner for the smoothest operation. Two other recently completed projects were the machining of the steam dome seat where the soft copper “round-ring” will sit and be squeezed to ensure a steam-tight fit between #19’s steam dome and its newly fabricated steel dome lid. This lid and its round-ring seal must contain the 185 pounds of steam boiler pressure constantly being pushed against them. Support springs and hangers for #19’s main driving axle have come to the workbench as the next project.

The Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum will continue its complete and safe restoration of #19 until it is ready to operate once again. We will periodically update you as to this loco’s progress and look forward to returning this famous engine to service soon.

Season's Greetings

Thank you for your continued support of the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum. We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. More tours, events and exciting updates are coming in 2023. We look forward to your next visit to the Roundhouse!

red caboose decorated with christmas lights