In Memory of Richard Jacobs

Services for 13-year Akron Railroad Club member Richard Earnest Jacobs, who died early Tuesday afternoon, will be Sunday (June 28) at 2 p.m. at Apple Creek United Methodist Church, 269 West Main St.,with the Rev. Ken Curren and the Rev. Michael Koch officiating. Burial will be in Apple Creek Cemetery.

Visitation will be Saturday at Apple Creek United Methodist Church from 6 to 8 p.m. and one hour prior to the service on Sunday. Auble Funeral Home in Orrville is handling the arrangements.


Richard Jacobs

Known to his friends as “Jake,” Mr. Jacobs, 83,  joined the ARRC on Feb. 22, 2002. He was one of the club’s most prolific photographers and continued to go trackside with his camera to photograph trains as recently as this past March.

He also was a frequent program presenter at ARRC meetings. In some years, Mr. Jacobs presented two programs during the year.

Many of his programs featured images made during one of his two yearly trips to ride excursion and tourist trains in various places in North America.

However, he also often showed images that he made over the years of various railroad operations.

His last presentation, given at the July 2014 ARRC meeting, was such a program. He showed images made during a trip in the 1970s with his son Gary to see soon-to-be fallen flag railroads.

Mr. Jacobs was a retired aeronautical engineer who worked as a fluid systems engineer in the launch vehicle program for NASA, which he joined in 1956 after graduating from Purdue University with a degree in engineering.

He initially enrolled at Purdue in 1950 and four years later as a junior began taking courses in aeronautical engineering. One of his classmates in a 1954 laboratory was Neil Armstrong, who also went on to work for NASA and in July 1969 become the first man to walk on the moon.

In a letter to the editor of The Daily Record of Wooster that was published after Mr. Armstrong died in August 2012, Mr. Jacobs said that he sat next to Mr. Armstrong in class. “Little did I realize what he was destined to do. He was quiet and studious in the lab,” Mr. Jacobs wrote.

Mr. Jacobs’ tenure with NASA brought the upstate New York native to Cleveland where he worked at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory, which later became the Glenn Research Center.

With NASA, Mr. Jacobs worked in what he described as the biggest testing facility at the time. During his career, he helped to design auto control systems and was in charge of testing facilities that worked on advanced turbine research.

He also worked for nearly 20 years in the Space Shuttle program. “I have always been proud to have been part of an outstanding scientific and engineering team that kept the United States at the pinnacle of scientific leadership,” he wrote in that letter to the editor of The Daily Record.

Mr. Jacobs worked for NASA for 27 years before joining Analex, Inc., a support contractor, where he worked for 17 years before retiring in 2000. He moved to Wayne County in 1995.

His work with Analex took him to San Diego, Florida and Houston. During his days in California, Mr. Jacobs often spent time photographing railroad operations there.

But his favorite railroad was the Erie Lackawanna, whose operations in Northeast Ohio he documented. Some of those images were featured in the book Akron Railroads, published by Arcadia Press and written by ARRC President Craig Sanders.

Mr. Jacobs’ images appeared in several other books, including Canton Area Railroads and the series of books about the former Pennsylvania Railroad that were co-authored by David Oroszi and Steve Hipes and published by The Railroad Press.

In recent years, Mr. Jacobs was a frequent contributor to the ARRC blog. Many of his posts documented the operations of Norfolk Southern locals serving Wayne County as well as the CSX trains that passed through Sterling, where he often hung out on Wednesdays with other members of the informal group the Sterling Loopers.

Other posts chronicled the trains that he saw during his travels in Ohio and elsewhere.

Mr. Jacobs joined the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society in 1985 and served for several years as the editor of the group’s newsletter.

He could usually be seen riding the many ORHS excursion trains that operated on Northeast Ohio rail lines until 2014. If he wasn’t riding the train, Mr. Jacobs would be chasing it.

Mr. Jacobs began making photographs of railroad operations at age 9. Much of his early work was done with black and white film. He switched to color slide film early in the Penn Central era and estimates that he amassed a collection of more than 20,000 slides.

In recent years, he had become a digital photographer, filling up 15 SD cards with his SONY digital SLR camera.

Mr. Jacobs had a fondness for Chevy Trail Blazers, which he drove while chasing trains.

He was born on March 7, 1932, in Oswego, New York, the son of William and Margaret (Horr) Jacobs. He graduated from Gloversville (New York) High School in 1950 and from Purdue University in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in aeronautical engineering.

He is survived by his longtime partner, Barbara Cormell, of Apple Creek; a son, Gary (Andrea) Jacobs of North East, Pennsylvania; a daughter, Melanie Jacobs of Moreland; three grandchildren, Jennifer Jacobs, Robin Becker and Richard (Brandi Thomas) Becker; and a great-granddaughter, Thalia Becker.

Mr. Jacobs had beaten cancer several years ago, but revealed in early April that the cancer had returned. In the past few weeks he had received hospice care.

Memorial contributions may be made to LifeCare Hospice, 1900 Akron Road, Wooster 44691; the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society, 145 Depot St., Orrville 44667; or the Apple Creek United Methodist Church, 269 W. Main St., Apple Creek 44606.

Online registry and expressions of condolence may be made at the funeral home’s website at


One Response to “In Memory of Richard Jacobs”

  1. James L.Leasure Says:

    God, I will miss Richard.
    You will never be forgotten!

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