Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Joe Jacobson’

In the September ARRC eBulletin

September 18, 2017

The September 2017 issue of the Akron Railroad Club eBulletin features a tribute to the late Jerry Joe Jacobson.

Jacobson, 74, died on Sept. 13 after a long illness and was a lifetime member of the Akron Railroad Club. He was the best friend the club ever had and we would not be the organization we are today without his generosity in allowing us to sell tickets for various steam excursions in order to raise money.

The tribute to Jerry includes an overview of his life, a personal tribute written by ARRC member Paul Woodring, and a story Jerry and the ARRC.

This month’s issue also has report from our picnic in the Valley held this past Sunday and a wrapup of our day in Vermilion held last month.

To obtain a copy of the eBulletin or to subscribe, send an email message to Single copies and subscriptions are free.


Jerry Jacobson Tribute Page Created

September 15, 2017

The family of Jerry Jacobson has created a page on the website of the Smith Funeral Homes in Sugarcreek and Bolivar for the public to write tribute to Mr. Jacobson.

The page can be found at

The family has also said that those wishing to send notes or sympathy cards to the family should send them to the Age of Steam Roundhouse, 213 Smokey Lane Road S.W., Sugarcreek, OH 44681.

In lieu of flowers and other memorials, Mr. Jacobson wanted contributions to be made to the Olive Branch Ministries, 2068 Leetonia Road, Leetonia, OH 44431. Its website can be seen at:

Mr. Jacobson, who founded the Ohio Central System, built the AOS roundhouse and owned a fleet of steam locomotives and other railroad equipment, died on Wednesday at age 74 after a long illness.

In Memory of Jerry Joe Jacobson

September 14, 2017

Jerry Joe Jacobson, who had a lifelong passion for steam locomotives that he generously shared with others and who was a champion of short-line railroads, has died.

Mr. Jacobson, 74, died on Wednesday at 9:15 p.m. (Sept. 13, 2017) surrounded by family members after a long illness. He had been in hospice care.

Mr. Jacobson

A life member of the Akron Railroad Club, he was the founder and chief executive officer of the Ohio Central System where he was able to indulge his steam dreams by purchasing a fleet of 10 steam locomotives, many of which were restored to working order.

Mr. Jacobson’s steam locomotives pulled excursion trains on the Ohio Central and a few pulled revenue service freight trains.

Between 1988 and 2004 the Ohio Central ran scores of steam-powered excursions ranging from the Sugarcreek-Baltic tourist trains to photo freights to side-by-side steam double and triple headers to ARRC excursions.

Thousands of passengers and trackside observers made countless memories of those trips that have been preserved in written accounts, photographs, movies and video tape.

About the time that he sold the Ohio Central on Sept. 30, 2008, to Genesee & Wyoming Industries, Mr. Jacobson began developing the Age of Steam Roundhouse on a 34-acre tract near Sugarcreek to serve as the home of his 10 steam locomotives, 22 diesel locomotives and 24 passenger cars.

Although not envisioned as a museum, the roundhouse has hosted visits by large groups and is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of another era of American railroading.

Mr. Jacobson’s passion for steam motive power began as a boy growing up in Cuyahoga Falls where he would walk or ride his bike to the Akron Division tracks of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and watch steam-powered trains pass by during the twilight of steam in Northeast Ohio.

When he was 13, a friendly crew invited him to climb into the cab of a locomotive and to take the throttle as they set off a car on June 20, 1957. He even remembered that it was B&O Mountain-type 4-8-2 No. 710.

“It was exciting,” he said years later. He vowed some day to own a steam engine and maybe even a railroad.

Mr. Jacobson wrote that what once seemed like a “never-ending steam world had, by my teenage years, become only a fond memory, recalled through photographs, film and the all-too-rare steam excursion.”

Upon graduation from high school, Mr. Jacobson was unable to land a job working for a railroad.

He joined the U.S. Army as his father had once done, serving in the 82nd Airborne Division.

“Of the many words used to describe Jerry Joe Jacobson perhaps his most favorite was ‘paratrooper;’ more specifically, Sergeant Jacobson, parachute rigger, Company B, 407 PIR, 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army. He continued his military service with the U.S. Army Reserve, eventually rising to the rank of Captain,” said a statement posted today on the Age of Steam Roundhouse website.

Mr. Jacobson went on to a career as a nurse-anesthetist. He studied at Kent State University for two years and later received a degree in anesthesia from a teaching hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he spent weekends at the steam‐powered Strasburg tourist railroad.

The AOS obit said that Mr. Jacobson came to appreciate the simple, quiet life of the surrounding Amish community in Pennsylvania.

He moved back to Ohio and began his anesthesia career in maternity suites and operating rooms at hospitals in Northeast Ohio.

He would later make his mark as the “doctor of sick railroads.”

He finally got into railroading after the State of Ohio acquired from Conrail in 1982 a 35-mile former New York Central branch line between Minerva and Hopedale.

For two years Mr. Jacobson was involved with Ohi-Rail, which operated the line. On May 1, 1984, he purchased a controlling interest in the short line, which had two diesel locomotives, two full-time employees and a roster of as-needed part-timers.

At Ohi-Rail, Mr. Jacobson honed his philosophy of short-line railroading that would later become the motto of the Ohio Central, “big enough to serve you, small enough to care.”

A year later the State of Ohio selected Mr. Jacobson to operate another cast-off short line, a former Pennsylvania Railroad branch between New Lexington and Zanesville known as the Ohio Southern.

In 1986, the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation asked Mr. Jacobson to operate a 4-mile former Erie Lackawanna industrial branch that would become the Youngstown & Austintown.

That brought Mr. Jacobson’s railroad portfolio to 73 miles and five full-time employees.

It was during this era that Mr. Jacobson bought his first steam locomotive, a Baldwin 0-6-0 from Jackson Iron & Steel in Jackson, Ohio.

By the late 1980s, Norfolk Southern was divesting its former Nickel Plate Road branches in southern Ohio, some of which had been part of the original Wheeling & Lake Erie.

Mr. Jacobson negotiated with NS for two years before he was able to buy the 71-mile Zanesville line (Zanesville-Harmon) on April 16, 1988.

He named it the Ohio Central Railroad and it would become the centerpiece of the Ohio Central System.

The line had several freight customers who required daily switching that NS was not willing to provide, but Mr. Jacobson was.

Mr. Jacobson sold his interest in Ohi-Rail and focused on rebuilding the OC. He acquired 22 miles of trackage rights over the CL&W Subdivision of CSX – now owned by R.J. Corman – between North Beach City and Warwick.

The OC expanded in 1990 when Mr. Jacobson became the operator of the former Pennsy Panhandle mainline between Columbus and Mingo Junction.

OC formed a subsidiary, the Columbus & Ohio River Railroad, to operate this property.

Mr. Jacobson continued to acquire short-line railroads and at its peak the OC system included 486 miles operated by 10 railroads in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The OC was based in Coshocton, Ohio, where Mr. Jacobson built an office building on Paper Mill Road and a locomotive shop at Morgan Run east of town.

As Mr. Jacobson’s railroad empire grew, so did his steam locomotive fleet. He traded his 0-6-0 Baldwin to Steamtown USA in 1986 for ex-Canadian National 4-6-0 No. 1551.

In October 1988, No. 1551 was steamed up and soon began pulling OC excursion trains.

No. 1551 was the primary motive power on the 7-mile Sugarcreek-Baltic tourist trains that began in summer 1989.

It was a family affair with Mr. Jacobson’s wife, Laura, selling tickets and running the gift shop while his son, Joe, worked as a trainman and manned a snack bar at the Sugarcreek station.

The Sugarcreek-Baltic train operated four times a day, but not on Sunday in deference to the beliefs of the large Amish population in the region that Sunday was the Lord’s Day.

Other locomotives that Mr. Jacobson acquired included Alco 2-8-0 No 13 (former Buffalo Creek & Gauley); 4-6-2 No. 1293, a Pacific-type built for Canadian Pacific by Canadian Locomotive Company; 4-8-4 No. 6325, an Alco Northern type that was built for the Grand Trunk Western; 2-8-0 No. 33, a Consolidation type that once ran on the Lake Superior & Ishpeming in Michigan’s upper peninsula; and 0-4-OT No. 3, another Alco that once worked on the W&LE.

Nos. 6325 and 1293 became mainstays in OC excursion service.

Mr. Jacobson and the OC sponsored a 1997 rail festival in Dennison that drew photographers and steam fans from as far as Germany, Japan and South America. It featured four locomotives in steam.

The Dennison steam festival was reprised in 2004 with Nos. 1293 and 6325 playing a starring role.

During the years that Mr. Jacobson owned the Ohio Central, its employees offered special instruction so that hundreds of Boy Scouts could earn their railroad merit badge

The railroad hosted excursions for railroad groups and historical societies; campaign trains for candidates for public office; special sightseeing and grade crossing safety excursions for government agencies; and even wedding trains so that couples could get married aboard the train.

Not long after selling the Ohio Central, Mr. Jacobson made a $10 million donation to the Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia where a barracks has been named Jacobson Hall. Two of his sons attended the academy.

He also established the Jerry & Laura Jacobson Foundation.

Work on the Age of Steam Roundhouse began in 2008 and was completed in 2012.

Designed with the appearance of a 1920s locomotive terminal, it was the first large roundhouse built in America since the Nickel Plate Road completed a facility in Calumet, Illinois, in 1951.

Mr. Jacobson had a long affiliation with the ARRC. Initially joining on March 22, 1961, Mr. Jacobson dropped out while serving in the military. He rejoined the club in October 1965.

On June 21, 1991, he offered the club a complimentary trip on his Sugarcreek tourist train. Club members later dined at the Swiss Hat restaurant in Sugarcreek and two traditions had been born.

In 1992, the ARRC Ohio Central steam excursions moved to October and the club began selling train and dinner tickets.

Proceeds from those trips helped replenish the club’s depleted treasury, which had dipped below $100 in the early 1990s. Pulling those ARRC excursions were Nos. 1551, 1293, 13 and 6325.

Nos. 1551 and 13 combined during an Oct. 15, 1994, excursion to tackle Baltic hill and nearly 700 witnessed Ohio Central’s first steam doubleheader.

Many of the ARRC trips operated between Sugarcreek and Morgan Run. A diesel might pull the train in one direction while steam pulled it in the other.

During the Morgan Run lay over, passengers explored the shops complex and viewed the array of equipment on a storage track awaiting restoration or sale.

Some trips featured Ohio Central’s “new” F9As 6307 and 6313, which Mr. Jacobson purchased from VIA Rail Canada and had repainted in a striking Tuscan red pinstripe livery that mirrored the livery of PRR passenger diesels.

The Oct. 2, 2004, trip would be the final Ohio Central steam excursion for which the ARRC could sell tickets to the public.

The Sugarcreek excursion trains had ended in 2003 and the railroad offered no public excursions in 2005. However, it operated an excursion free of charge for ARRC members and their families on Oct. 22, 2005.

On Oct. 7, 2006, Ohio Central again offered ARRC members a complimentary excursion.

An RS-18 pulled the train to Carmen and No. 1293 took the train up the Apex branch. The club’s first excursion east of Dennison featured a record seven photo runbys at five sites. It was Ohio Central’s first steam operation on the Apex branch.

Mr. Jacobson also arranged for the ARRC to have a car on Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad excursions pulled by No. 1293 in 2007 and 2008.

The club was able to sell tickets for those trips and the proceeds from the 2008 trip boosted the treasury to a record balance.

During dinner at the Swiss Hat following the 2003 excursion, the officers of the ARRC awarded Mr. Jacobson a life membership in the club.

Mr. Jacobson would occasionally attend ARRC meetings and he usually attended the December banquet.

He knew many ARRC members by name and never forgot his roots as a railfan. He was easily approachable and enjoyed sharing stories about his railroad and its steam program.

On June 1, 2013, at Mr. Jacobson’s invitation, ARRC members toured the Age of Steam Roundhouse.

Mr. Jacobson had been scheduled to present a program at the March 2016 ARRC meeting, but was unable to attend.

Instead, club members Craig Sanders and Paul Woodring gave a salute to Ohio Central steam program with still images and video.

The last ARRC event that Mr. Jacobson attended was the 2016 end of year dinner.

Mr. Jacobson was born June 27, 1943, in Jacksonville, Illinois, the son of Douglas L. and Helen R. Jacobson.

The family later moved to Cuyahoga Falls where Mr. Jacobson graduated from Cuyahoga Falls High School in 1961.

They lived on Chestnut Boulevard and Mr. Jacobson in high school was a wrestler and drummer in the band.

After his Army service, Mr. Jacobs became an anesthesiologist, working at Brentwood Hospital in Warrensville Heights and St. Thomas Hospital in Akron.

He is survived by his wife, Laura L. Jacobson and his children; sons Joe, Jesse and Jay, and daughters Julie Jenifer and Jana. Details about services are pending.