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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.”

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Roundhouse Reports

Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum acquires a rare steam locomotive

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.

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