Needing a place to safely store and restore his fleet of railroad old-timers, Jerry acquired 34 acres of farm land located immediately adjacent to the Ohio Central Railroad main line track, and right alongside a road named Smokey Lane (how appropriate!). Located just 2-1/2 miles south of the village of Sugarcreek (notice that the village spells its name with one word), the Age of Steam Roundhouse site is surrounded by picturesque Amish farms with their horse-drawn buggies, plows and reapers. What a beautiful sight it will be for draft horses and their iron brethren to labor and cavort in juxtaposed pastures.
On this land Jerry and his staff have overseen the construction of storage tracks, a store house, coal dock, wood water tank, ash pit, back shop and the jewel of the site, a complete, working, 18-stall, brick roundhouse surrounding a 115-foot turntable and turntable pit. Other than a few, small roundhouses recently built for railroad museums, we believe that this is the first full-sized, working roundhouse built in the U.S. since 1951 (NKP in Calumet, Illinois).
Not following a particular railroad design or style, these structures have been erected in the same architectural appearance as railroad buildings of the 1920-era, but with some modern-day modifications for safety, comfort and economy of construction and operation. Of particular note is the roundhouse’s 53,000-square foot insulated roof that is supported by old-time Amish timber framing fashioned from 12x12 oak columns and 12x16 beams and rafters measuring 10x10 and 10x14. These intricate roof trusses are held together with tightly fitting mortise and tenon joints using the laws of physics as applied to the age-old science of tension and compression, and then made fast with hand-hammered 12-inch oak pegs.
Roundhouse stalls 1 through 7 measure 124 feet deep with track lengths of 110 feet, while stalls 8 through 15 measure 96 feet deep and have track lengths of 80 feet. Track #1 extends through the back wall of the roundhouse and into the attached–but separate–shop building, so Track #1 has a stall and track length of 160 feet inside the roundhouse. The shop’s two tracks have lengths of 148 and 99 feet, respectively.
Blueprints allow for the roundhouse to be expanded with eight additional stalls in the future, and a museum – constructed in the same architectural style as the roundhouse for visual continuity – is planned right next door. A vast collection of locomotive builder’s plates, number plates, headlights, bells and whistles will be safely displayed inside the new museum. Your tax deductible gifts and donations of railroad rolling stock, locomotive builder’s plates, bells, whistles, collectable hardware, spare parts, tools, repair manuals, blueprints and photos to our 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation and museum at the Age of Steam Roundhouse always will be welcome.
The back shop adjacent to our Age of Steam Roundhouse measures 116’ x 152 and has a footprint larger than that of our former Morgan Run Shop. It is equipped with construction pits, an overhead crane with 30-ton capacity, and special steam-era machinery such as wheel lathes and a McCabe flanger for big firebox jobs, as well as a vast assortment of smaller power tools and historic parts. The shop has two, side-by-side drop tables for removal of steam locomotive driving wheels and 3-axle diesel trucks that share a common release track located between them, a one-of-a-kind installation believed to be the only such construction in the history of the world. Safe, indoor storage areas are being provided for steam locomotive air compressors, power reverses, injectors, stokers, throttle assemblies, headlights, gauges, whistles, etc. A separate, 14,000-square foot storehouse was built behind the roundhouse during Phase 2 of this project.
The Age of Steam Roundhouse and back shop have dual roles. Not only will both be used to maintain our current and future roster of steamers, but also both will be used to teach future generations of steam locomotive repairmen these fast-disappearing job skills. This will insure that this knowledge and these crafts – and the old steam locomotives that utilize them – continue in service and are passed on for the benefit of future generations.