Sunday, August 28, 2022

Temperature 81 Degrees, Sunshine and Patchy Clouds

Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum

This was the last museum on our list of places to visit before we left Scenic Hills RV Park. I discovered it while doing an internet search of attractions in the vicinity of the park. It is the

This museum is the fulfilment of the dream of one man. Jerry Jacobson fell in love with the railroad and steam locomotives when he was just a kid. He spent untold hours sitting next to local station and telegraph operators listening to Baltimore and Ohio steam locomotives go barreling by. Later as an adult he purchased 90 miles of ex-Wheeling and Lake Eerie Track which he called the Central Ohio Railroad. In time through various acquisitions he assembled what became the 10 railroad, 550 mile Ohio Central Railroad System. In 2008 he sold the entire operation to yet another railroad for a reported 234 million dollars.

But now he had a problem on his hands. What to do with the various steam locomotives, other railroad cars, and assorted tools he had been collecting over the years. His answer was to purchase 34 acres of land in Sugarcreek, Ohio adjacent to an existing Ohio Central mainline railroad track. On this land he built

2 miles of storage tracks, and an 18 stall brick roundhouse

that surrounds a 115 ft turntable which is constantly used as equipment is moved around the yard.

There is a working wooden water tank which local craftsman made in the style of the 1930’s to 1950’s

and a depot also in the style of the same era that houses a small museum and a gift shop.

As for the roundhouse, it was was constructed in 2011. It is huge, 48,000 square feet with solid masonry walls and heavy timber framing. It is one of the largest heavy timber structures in America. All materials used in its construction came from local sources. It was the first large roundhouse built in the United States since 1951. It too was built to reflect the style of roundhouses in the 1930’s to 1950’s era.

The roundhouse is a working one with a fully functional back shop where specialist’s and volunteers work to repair and restore historic steamers, such as the one above.

The steamer above that is currently being restored is the #19 engine from the Oregon, Pacific and Eastern Railway. It’s the same train that was used in the 1973 movie Emperor of the North, with Ernest Borgnine as a brutal conductor seeking to take out Lee Marvin’s train hopping hobo during the Great Depression.

But #19 is just one of 23 steam locomotives in the roundhouse in various states of preservation and restoration.

This is #12 which has already been restored to operational status. It was acquired by the museum in 2011 and promptly went into the back shop for inspection and the roundhouse crew developed a restoration plan. Countless parts were repaired or replaced. In 2018 it finally received a fresh coat of black paint and chuffed out of the back shop under its own power. It was the first derelict steam locomotive totally rebuilt for service at the roundhouse.

Some of the locomotives have had just a cosmetic restoration. For instance

This is #2630 when it was found and purchased by the museum.

What it looks like today. This is what we learned about this locomotive: Upon America’s entry into World War II, the United States Army Transportation Corps (USATC) commissioned development of a locomotive which could be built quickly and inexpensively in large numbers to be deployed on railways around the world. The result was the S-160 class, a 2-8-0 Consolidation locomotive limited in size and weight to ensure compatibility with Europe’s lighter construction of rail lines.

It was acquired by the museum in 2015 and shipped via several trucks to the museum. In 2018 it received a complete cosmetic restoration to as-built appearance. Because there is so much internal damage to the smoke box and boiler it cannot be resorted to operational status.

Some of the locomotives are rather unique, such as

This is a 3 tank compressed air locomotive. The three tanks stored compressed air and were filled from a three inch line alongside the track that would connect to the valve in the photo above. This allowed locomotive use inside enclosed areas without the fumes, heat and sparks associated with burning coal. The parent company, H.K. Porter, built more than 400 compressed air locomotives for use in mines, factories, textile mills, refineries, munitions plants, food handlers, sugar cane plantations and even the street railways of New Orleans.

This is believed to be the  the only standard-gauge compressed air locomotive surviving in the U.S., if not the world, and is one of the most unique engines in the museum collection.

Unfortunately, the museum does not have an air compressor that generates enough pressure to sufficiently charge the tanks so currently it is not operational.

One more and it is sort of famous

Constructed in 1942 this locomotive hauled both war time freight and passengers between Detroit and Chicago. In September 1948 this locomotive was chosen to pull President Truman’s re-election campaign special. This assignment would lead to No.6325’s eventual preservation; in 1959 it was put on outdoor display in Battle Creek, Michigan.

In Battle Creek a group of local railroad enthusiasts started a project to restore the locomotive to operational status. But enthusiasm and funds both quickly dried up and by 1992 the locomotive faced being sent to the scrape yard.

Jerry purchased the engine while he still owned his own railroad and after three years of reconstruction it finally steamed again under its own power on July 31, 2001. For years it pulled numerous special excursion trains until it was again sidelined in 2005 with drive axle bearing issues. It now resides at the museum and has not run since.

There are many more locomotives on display each with their own unique story. But it’s not just locomotives being preserved and stored in the roundhouse.

There is all kinds of equipment that is stored there, most of it in working order.

And everywhere you look you’ll find parts and pieces waiting to be installed on various locomotives due to be restored. What happens if they can’t find a particular piece they need?

They make it. The smokestack on the right had a hole in it, so on the left you can see the mold for the casting for a new smokestack.

In the small museum in the depot there is also a wall with a number of builder’s plates on display. These are heavy, cast metal signs that displayed important information about each stem locomotive built such as the builder’s name, a serial number and date of construction that was affixed to each locomotive for a permanent identification of that particular engine. Some of these plates are worth over $13,000!

All in all, it was definitely worth leaving late the day of our departure so that we could tour the museum. We both learned a lot about what the railroad was like in the glory days of steam. If you ever happen to be in the vicinity of Sugarcreek, Ohio I would highly recommend taking a tour of this fascinating museum.

Yup, I came home with a new T-shirt

Thanks again for spending some time with us.  It’s always great to be able to share our story with family and friends. Comments? Feel free to share them with me. And always remember, cherish every moment of every day that God gives you and live those moments to the fullest. 

Our continuing mission remains the same: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before.


  1. I like how each engine has its own story and history. And by learning about each train, one can learn about history. Glad you got the T shirt. Laundry day may have been getting close!


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