AOS Wins Bidding for Camelback Locomotive

An E&G Brooke Camelback locomotive at Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, in 1958. (Photo courtesy of Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum)

The Age of Steam Roundhouse has acquired another steam locomotive for its collection.

AOS was the high bidder for a “Camelback” steam locomotive that was sold this week during a sealed bid auction conducted at the Strasburg Rail Road in Pennsylvania.

In a news release, AOS declined to disclose the amount of its winning bid.

No. 1187 is a former Philadelphia & Reading Railroad 0-4-0 steam switcher constructed in 1903 that burned anthracite coal mined in eastern part of Pennsylvania.

It was the last Camelback steam locomotive used in regular Interstate Commerce Commission railroad service one of just three such Camelbacks still in existence.

“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,” said AOS Executive Director Noel Poirier in a statement.

The news release said that 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 the locomotive in a separate cab mounted on top of the boiler instead of being situated at the back end of the boiler.

This hump-back appearance gave rise to the Camelback nickname.

The fireman shoveled coal into the firebox in the usual manner, but from a small, open-side cab located where the locomotive’s larger cab was normally located.

Having the engineer and fireman working in separate locations could be dangerous.

Engineers were sitting atop a Camelback’s hot boiler and thus roasted during the summer. The fireman working in an open-air cab during the winter was exposed to extreme cold.

“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,” Poirier said.

“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.”

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