Keeping My B&LE Motive Power Streak Intact

Illinois Central 1034 leads a coal train into Conneaut in a view looking west on Old Main Street.

Illinois Central 1034 leads a coal train into Conneaut in a view looking west on Old Main Street.

Since March the number of former Bessemer & Lake Erie locomotives clad in orange and carrying B&LE markings has dwindled. Owner Canadian National sent former Illinois Central SD70 units to its Bessemer Subdivision to replace the former B&LE SD40T units.

Being a fan of the IC, I’ve made three trips over to the Bessemer since March to photograph the “new” IC units. They actually are not new at all, having been built years ago before CN swallowed the IC.

One B&LE tunnel motor continues to provide road service on the ex-Bessemer. The 905 has soldiered on, usually as a trailing unit among two or three IC SD70s.

The scuttlebutt among B&LE fans is that the 905 won’t last much longer on its home rails. Presumably, it, too, will be sent west for rehab and re-assignment. The fans doubt that the tunnels motors will be sent back to the ex-B&LE.

Whatever the case, a recent visit to Conneaut, netted me a sighting of the 905 along with three IC SD70s. That keeps my streak of seeing at least one B&LE unit in a motive power consist on the Bessemer Sub alive, even if that streak, like the tunnel motors, appears to be living on borrowed time.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A spot of orange reflects in Conneaut Creek. For now, there is still Bessemer orange to be seen.

A spot of orange reflects in Conneaut Creek. For now, there is still Bessemer orange to be seen.

En route to the upper yard, I get a glimpse for the first time of a train on the lead over Conneaut Creek. The water was calm enough to make a reflection.

En route to the upper yard, I get a glimpse for the first time of a train on the lead over Conneaut Creek. The water was calm enough to make a reflection.

It's work in the upper yard complete, the power set returns light to the lower yard, crossing Conneaut Creek in front of the boat launch site.

It’s work in the upper yard complete, the power set returns light to the lower yard, crossing Conneaut Creek in front of the boat launch site.

Pulling out of the yard for head room as the road job goes about making up its train.

Pulling out of the yard for head room as the road job goes about making up its train.

My favorite image of the day was made when the train sauntered out of town along Conneaut Creek with the ex-Nickel Plate trestle in the background.

My favorite image of the day was made when the train sauntered out of town along Conneaut Creek with the ex-Nickel Plate trestle in the background.

We only had time to chase the train to Pond Road just inside of Pennsylvania. Alas, the light was against us.

We only had time to chase the train to Pond Road just inside of Pennsylvania. Alas, the light was against us.

A wide-angled perspective at Pond Road.

A wide-angled perspective at Pond Road.

Gaining speed as the train heads into a wide tunnel of trees.

Gaining speed as the train heads into a wide tunnel of trees.

Kicking up a little dust in a parting shot.

Kicking up a little dust in a parting shot.

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