AoSRM Takes Delivery of ‘Camelback’ Locomotive

The Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum in Sugarcreek this week completed delivery of a rare Reading Railroad “Camelback” steam locomotive.

No. 1187 is the 23rd steam locomotive acquired by AoSRM and one of only three Camelbacks still existing.

The museum acquired the locomotive during a closed bid auction conducted by the Strasburg Rail Road.

The locomotive and its tender were moved to Ohio by truck. A third truck carrying parts is expected to arrive on Wednesday.

“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.

“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,” he said.

Built in 1903, No. 1187 was the last Camelback used in regular freight railroad service before its 1962 retirement. It last operated under steam in 1967.

The locomotive began service as a Philadelphia & Reading Railroad 0-4-0 steam switcher that was specially designed to burn the smokeless anthracite “hard coal” mined in eastern Pennsylvania.

Camelbacks needed a special, wider firebox to burn anthracite coal with its lower heating value than found in other types of coal.

Consequently, engineers operated the locomotive inside a separate cab 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.

“Even though No. 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.

“Luckily, included with the locomotive’s purchase is the original drawing of No. 1187’s cab. That will be a huge help in AoSRM’s cosmetic restoration of this rare little switcher.”

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