Posts Tagged ‘Bessemer & Lake Erie railroad’

Some Early 2000s Bessemer Favorites

February 7, 2021

Even though Canadian National acquired the Bessemer & Lake Erie in 2004, the following 10 years Bessemer power appeared on trains. Shown are a few of my favorites of Bessemer orange in the first decade of the 2000s.

In the top image a northbound is ready to duck underneath U.S. Route 20 on July 6, 2007.

Next up is a southbound in Conneaut on June 16, 2010, followed by a southbound in Conneaut crossing Conneaut Creek and winding around the hogback on June 9, 2006.

The fourth image is a southbound at Hartstown, Pennsylvania, on July 6, 2007; while the last image was made at KO Road just north of Greenville, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 2008.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Belle of a Day (Part 2)

February 8, 2018

Two of the four former Bessemer & Lake Erie locomotives assigned to the Bessemer Subdivision of Canadian National team up to help assemble an iron ore train in Conneaut.

We were sitting in Marty Surdy’s Jeep waiting for Norfolk Southern train 888 to finish its work in the yard at Conneaut and resume its trek to Buffalo, New York.

From the back seat Ed Ribinskas said he thought he heard locomotive horns behind us. We were facing northward.

I stepped out of the vehicle and heard what sounded like the faint sound of a horn similar to those used by Bessemer & Lake Erie and Illinois Central locomotives. It didn’t sound like anything I’ve heard on NS or CSX.

I got back in the Jeep, feeling hopeful that a Canadian National train was headed our way on the former B&LE.

Several minutes later Ed said, “we’ve got something on the Bessemer.” He had heard the crossing gates for the Old Main Street crossing activate.

We scrambled to get into position to get a photograph. As the train rounded a curve south of the crossing I noticed the lead locomotive had an orange face.

Four former B&LE locomotives still wearing their original colors and markings are assigned to CN’s ex-B&LE property.

Leading the way into town was SD40T-3 No. 905 with a pair of ex-Illinois Central SD70s trailing, Nos. 1034 and 1038.

I always get excited at seeing IC motive power, but I had even more reason to want to photograph this train.

About three weeks earlier I had been in Conneaut with fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler when a CN train with IC 1038 on the point came out of the yard.

However, I missed an opportunity to photograph it across frozen Conneaut Creek. Today I was going to get a second chance at that.

We spent much of our time while the CN train was working in the yard chasing NS 888, which had a Kansas City Southern “Belle” on the lead. Once we returned to Conneaut after getting our last image of the 888, it didn’t take long for the CN train to come out.

After spotting its headlight, we made a mad scramble for the highway bridge over Conneaut Creek.

However, IC 1038 was not on the lead. The crew had added SD38AC No. 867 to the motive power consist and it was leading. I’ve seen the 867 and the 905 on the former Bessemer property over the past few years, but never in the same locomotive consist.

What we had was a Bessmer “sandwich” and there would be no IC SD70 leading the train out of town. But getting an ex-B&LE on the lead coming and going in Conneaut is an oddity these days.

The train came out far enough to block the grade crossing for a short time before backing up to clear. The radio silence indicated that the crew was done assembling its train and the conductor was making his way to the head end.

We talked about where to photograph the departing train and settled on getting it near Welton Road in the middle of a horseshoe-shaped curve.

After getting the train there Marty suggested trying again at Pond Road in Pennsylvania. That plan was complicated when we wound up on a dead end street trying to find our way back to U.S. 20.

That wasted time would cost us the photo op at Pond Road. The locomotives were going across the road as we approached from a half mile away.

Plan B was to get it along Old Albion Road just east of U.S. 6N. The good news was that we got there with time to spare. The bad news was that Marty took one look at the site and decided there was too much brush along the right of way.

We fell back on Plan C, which was to look on the fly for a road that would lead to the tracks. The first one we tried ended instead at someone’s home.

Reversing course, we made our way back to Old Albion Road and continued eastward.

Although we didn’t stop to inspect it, we noted where the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Erie & Pittsburgh branch crossed the road. Just to the south is a through-truss bridge over the West Branch of Conneaut Creek.

I made a mental note to come back here someday on a railroad archaeology expedition.

We rolled into Albion and after Marty got his bearings we set up at a popular railfan photography location at the Albion Mill.

The tracks come around a curve here become single track. There still stands a pair of searchlight signals.

Four other fans were already there, including former ARRC junior members John Puda and Cody Zamostny.

It was from them that we learned of the head-on collision earlier that day between Amtrak’s Silver Star and a parked CSX auto rack train in South Carolina that killed two Amtrak crew members.

Having gone this far into Pennsylvania, we were pretty much committed to chasing the CN train further south. It was getting to be late afternoon and there wasn’t enough time to go back to Conneaut to seek trains on NS or CSX.

It had been several years since Marty had chased a train south of Albion on the former Bessemer, but he was able to navigate the territory just fine.

We set up at the feed mill in Conneautville for our next photo op and then headed for Hartstown.

Marty wasn’t sure if he remembered his short cut to avoid the traffic in Conneaut Lake, but it came back to him once he got there.

We drove past the shuttered for the winter Conneaut Lake amusement park, which triggered some reminiscing about the days when Grand Trunk Western 2-8-2 No. 4070 pulled excursion trains for a short distance on a B&LE branch that ended at the park.

That branch came off another branch that once went to Meadville, Pennsylvania. Both branches are long gone.

Ed and Marty had seen the Conneaut Lake steam operation, which ran in 1973 and 1974, but I knew little about it until I started doing research for my Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad book.

The 4070 would go on to run for several years on the CVSR back when it was known as the Cuyahoga Valley Line.

Marty said that photographs of the 4070 in action on the B&LE branch to Conneaut Lake will be part of the July ARRC program to be presented by Bob Todten.

We arrived at the U.S. 322 bridge over the CN tracks at Hartstown and it would be our last photo op of the day.

It took a little longer than I expected for the southbound iron ore train to come into sight.

We got our photos and headed west for Ohio on U.S. 322, taking it to Ohio Route 11 and then back to Lake County on Interstate 90.

Along the way we observed the remains of a former railroad right of way that turned out to be a New York Central branch that once ran from Andover, Ohio, to Oil City, Pennsylvania.

Somewhere in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, we again crossed the former PRR’s E&P right of way.

Back in Ohio we crossed a former NYC line that ran between Carson and Latimer.

Through the late 1950s this line had a nightly passenger train conveying through sleepers between Pittsburgh and Buffalo, Toronto and Albany, New York.

Seeing the remnants of these abandoned lines, even if briefly, just whetted my appetite further for a railroad archaeology trip in early spring before the trees leaf out.

We watched the Horseshoe Curve website camera while eating pizza at Ed’s dining room table.

Then we ran some trains on Ed’s HO layout in the basement before heading home and catching the second half of the Super Bowl.

SD40T-3 No. 905 leads a Canadian National train into Conneaut.

A wider perspective of the iron ore train along the ice-covered waters of Conneaut Creek.

The crew has finished assembling its train and the engineer is waiting for the conductor to come up to head end before leaving town. First of a two-shot sequence made at the Old Main Street grade crossing.

Crossing Conneaut Creek as the CN iron ore train approaches the apex of a horseshoe-shaped curve.

The traditional rounding the curve image in Albion in a two-shot sequence. It has been a few years since I’ve caught a locomotive with an orange face coming at me here.

Coming into Conneautville at a location we’ve photographed at many time before.

At the end of the siding in Conneautville.

The CN iron ore train comes into Hartstown. At last I got photographs that say “it’s winter.”

The last photograph of most enjoyable day and chase.

 

 

My B&LE Motive Power Streak Remains Intact

July 30, 2015

Having finished switching in the yard, the southbound train on the Bessemer Subdivision of Canadian National sit just north of the crossing with Old Main Street. The engineer is waiting for the conductor to be brought out by truck.

Having finished switching in the yard, the southbound train on the Bessemer Subdivision of Canadian National sit just north of the crossing with Old Main Street. The engineer is waiting for the conductor to be brought out by truck.

It has been more than a year since Peter Bowler and I had chased trains together so we were long overdue for an outing.

Everything fell into place one recent Sunday as we made plans to meet early – as in 5:30 a.m. – to travel to Conneaut to catch a train on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie.

But the first order of business was getting Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited just east of Conneaut.

No. 48 was running about 10 minutes late when it rushed past us in the early morning light. We then went to see if we could intercept an inbound B&LE train at Albion.

As we drove toward that city, I heard the detector go off at MP 117 and then heard the crew call out over the radio a 10 mph slow order for MP 125. They were at MP 122.

That was a good omen. The train was coming. But our luck ran out when we found a bridge closed on U.S. Route 6N a couple miles short of Albion, Pennsylvania.

Further bad luck hit when Peter discovered the Pennsylvania Gazetteer he had brought was missing. We still don’t know where or how he lost it.

Relying on A GPS on Peter’s smart phone, we searched for crossings west of Albion, but we never saw the train.

As we were driving back to Conneaut, we heard the sound of a remote control switch being toned up on the radio. It turned out to be the creek switch at the south end of the Conneaut yard and we missed the head end of the train, although we did see the rear.

All we could do was wait for it to come out once it was done switching in Conneaut yard. It first poked its nose beneath the Norfolk Southern trestle at 11:17 a.m.

As the crew was switching, I was able to ascertain from their radio communication that the lead locomotive facing south was Illinois Central No. 1018.

Given that B&LE owner Canadian National sent a fleet of ex-IC SD70s locomotives to its Bessemer Subdivision last March that was not a surprise.

But I had heard the crew talking about a 905, which I knew from an online posting was B&LE SD40T-3 No. 905, which is the only tunnel motor still working on the Bessemer Sub.

It turned out that the 905 was the second unit behind the 1018, so that kept my streak intact of having a B&LE locomotive in every train I’ve ever photographed on the ex-B&LE.

The motive power consist also included CN 5336 (SD402-W) and IC 1019. The CN locomotive was one of the rattiest looking I’ve ever seen. It had the appearance of someone having taken a blow torch to burn paint off its flanks.

I’ve seen trains come out of the Conneaut yard and go past the Old Main Street grade crossing while switching, but I had never seen one stop just north of the crossing when it was done.

That provided a rare opportunity to make an image of the motive power sitting still on a curve with good lighting.

When I spotted the CN truck coming to drop off the conductor I knew the train would be leaving soon.

We relocated to the U.S. 20 bridge. I’ve photographed here before, but had yet to get an outbound move with an IC SD70 in the lead.

Mindful of the U.S. 6N bridge closing, we had mapped an alternative route to Albion via Pennsylvania Route 215 and Old Albion Road.

We waited for the train at the crossing of Route 215, which was a new photo spot for me.

We then did some traditional B&LE photo locations in Albion, Conneatuville, Hartstown and at KO Road.

The latter is widely known as KO Junction, but CN now calls it Sandy. The dispatcher told the crew that it would re-crew at Sandy.

No new crew was on hand to board the train there so we went into Greenville to look around. That, though, is for another story.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The waters of Conneaut Creek were still as the train came out for head room while working the yard to build the train.

The waters of Conneaut Creek were still as the train came out for head room while working the yard to build the train.

Perhaps you need to be a die hard Illinois Central to have taken, let alone, posted this image of IC 1018.

Perhaps you need to be a die hard Illinois Central to have taken, let alone, posted this image of IC 1018.

Getting underway for a southbound trek from Conneaut.

Getting underway for a southbound trek from Conneaut as seen from the U.S. 20 bridge.

A new photo site on the B&LE for me was just west of the crossing of Pennsylvania Route 215.

A new photo site on the B&LE for me was just west of the crossing of Pennsylvania Route 215.

Trying an angle I've never done in Albion of the train coming out of the siding and onto the main at the start of CTC territory.

Trying an angle I’ve never done in Albion of the train coming out of the siding and onto the main at the start of CTC territory.

Coming 'round the curve in Albion.

Coming ’round the curve in Albion.

Trying a motion blur shot on the north side of Conneautville.

Trying a motion blur shot on the north side of Conneautville.

At Hartstown with the swamp in the distance.

At Hartstown with the swamp in the distance.

The crew start to tie 'er down at Sandy, which many know as KO Junction.

The crew start to tie ‘er down at Sandy, which many know as KO Junction.

Tied down at Sandy and awaiting a new crew to continue southward.

Tied down at Sandy and awaiting a new crew to continue southward.

 

Keeping My B&LE Motive Power Streak Intact

May 29, 2015

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.

Still Some Orange Tunnel Motors on the B&LE

April 15, 2015

The classic image at Conneaut of a train coming out of the yard along Conneaut Creek now features Illinois Central SD70 locomotives.

The classic image at Conneaut of a train coming out of the yard along Conneaut Creek now features Illinois Central SD70 locomotives.

My “orange” streak on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie remains intact. By that I mean that I’ve yet to see a train on the Bessemer Subdivision of Canadian National that did not have at least one orange B&LE locomotive.

It also means that the days of all orange B&LE locomotive consists are probably past.

In late March, CN began assigning Illinois Central SD70 locomotives to its Bessemer Sub. Since then, the IC units have been the lead unit on many of the trains on the B&LE.

Online reports indicate that two of the 900 series SD40Ts still on the Bessemer Sub have been removed from service and are slated to be sent west for rehabilitation. Speculation is rampant that all of the tunnels motors will soon be gone.

But during a visit to the Bessemer last Saturday, I found a southbound train with two tunnel motors, Nos. 907 and 905, albeit in the trailing position.

I followed the train of empty coal hoppers from Conneaut to KO road near Osgood, Pa. Here is a sample of what I was able to get.

When the train departed Conneaut at 11 a.m., there were a dozen or so railfans lining the banks of Conneaut Creek or standing on the Old Main Street bridge.

There may a lot of discontent with the disappearance of the orange B&LE locomotives in favor of black IC units, but fans have been turning out in large numbers to document this transition period on the Bessemer.

At each photo stop I made, there were five or more other fans also on hand with license plates from Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Obstruction on the rails.

Obstruction on the rails.

Slowing to pick up a crew member at Old Main Street in Conneaut as well as to do a roll by inspection.

Slowing to pick up a crew member at Old Main Street in Conneaut as well as to do a roll by inspection.

Picking up speed at Pond Road just inside of Pennsylvania.

Picking up speed at Pond Road just inside of Pennsylvania.

Passing RX in Albion, Pa. By now it had become quite cloudy.

Passing RX in Albion, Pa. By now it had become quite cloudy.

On the north side of Conneautville, Pa. This was a new photo location for me.

On the north side of Conneautville, Pa. This was a new photo location for me.

Rolling past the wetlands and into Hartstown, Pa. The view is from the U.S. 322/Pennsylvania Route 18 bridge.

Rolling past the wetlands and into Hartstown, Pa. The view is from the U.S. 322/Pennsylvania Route 18 bridge.

Passing over the detector at Hartstown, Pa.

Passing over the detector at Hartstown, Pa.

Through the signal bridge at KO. It sure could use a new coat of paint.

Through the signal bridge at KO. It sure could use a new coat of paint.

About to cross KO Road near Osgood, Pa. With this image I headed back north, my chasing of the B&LE being done for the day.

About to cross KO Road near Osgood, Pa. With this image I headed back north, my chasing of the B&LE being done for the day.

Bessemer Orange Fading to IC Black

April 8, 2015

My first glimpse of an Illinois Central SD70 on the Bessemer & Lake Erie came in Albion on a northbound train.

My first glimpse of an Illinois Central SD70 on the Bessemer & Lake Erie came in Albion, Pa., on a northbound train.

I photographed my first Bessemer & Lake Erie locomotive on Nov. 12, 2005. It was a beautiful late fall day with warm weather and blue skies.

Ed Ribinskas and I had ventured to Conneaut to photograph Norfolk Southern trains on the trestle over Conneaut Creek.

Getting a B&LE train that day was a bonus. It wasn’t much, just a yard job coming out of the yard for head room.

B&LE No. 868 had its nose against a cut of hopper cars, but I didn’t care. That orange and black unit looked sharp in the autumn sun.

Over the next nine years I made occasional forays to the Bessemer, sometimes with Ed, sometimes with Marty and sometimes with others.

It always amazed me that the orange and black motive power on the B&LE remained for as long as it did.

There always seemed to be rumors about replacement locomotives being sent to the Bessemer, but those never seemed to show up.

Reportedly, locomotives painted in parent Canadian National colors worked on the B&LE, but I never saw one nor did they last for long.

Fast forward nine years. I’m again in Conneaut with Ed. There is a yard job working and doing a lot of talking on the yard channel.

At one point someone says there is an inbound train that is expected to arrive around lunch time.

We head for Albion, Pa., where the signal that you can see from East Pearl Street displays an approach indication.

We also hear the detector south of town announce that a northbound train has passed through.

We parked and walked to the east side of the crossing. A fresh coating of snow covered the ground and some of it clings to the rails. At least the sun is out.

In recent weeks, the railfan cyber world has been talking about six Illinois Central SD70 locomotives being assigned to the Bessemer Subdivision. Being that the IC is my favorite railroad, I consider this to be fantastic news.

The opportunity to see an IC unit is what prompted me to call Ed and suggest that we go to the B&LE on Saturday morning.

The gates go down at Main Street and a locomotive nose comes around the curve. It has the famed IC “deathstar” on the nose. I’m quite elated.

I see orange behind the two IC SD70s, Nos. 1032 and 1034. Then I see red. That is not so good news. It means that a CN unit will be leading when the train leaves Conneaut.

At least it is bright red and looks good, unlike the other two CN units on the B&LE that all but scream to be repainted.

Ed and I chased the train back to Conneaut, getting it from the U.S. 20 overpass as it comes into town off the horseshoe curve.

As the train makes its way into the yard, I hear a locomotive horn on Norfolk Southern and a longtime dream of mine of getting an NS train over a Bessemer train finally comes true.

Later, Ed and I are sitting in my car by the Old Main Street crossing waiting for the road crew to finish its work in the yard and head out of town.

We talk about past outings that we’ve had on the Bessemer. Ed tells of the time that he and Robert Surdyk, walked along the tracks toward the yard to photograph two F units sitting there.

I reminisce about an April 2007 outing I made with Marty Surdyk in which I chased a B&LE train out of Conneaut for the first time.

As Ed and I traded stories, it dawned on me that today represents the end of an era for railfanning on the Bessemer.

The B&LE that I had come to be quite fond of was going away. No, the railroad itself will still be there and I’m still excited about the prospect of seeing motive power consists of all IC black and white.

As much as I like the IC, those locomotives will always seem a little out of place on the Bessemer.

The B&LE was a boutique operation that hauled iron ore pellets and limestone for the steel miles of Pittsburgh.

If the Bessemer hauled any other freight, I never saw it. There is a siding at Conneautville, Pa., that could, presumably, be used to deliver agriculture products.

But I never saw a boxcar or a manifest freight on the Bessemer, only hopper cars.

Last year the B&LE started handling coal and that was the commodity that Ed and I saw being pulled on Saturday out of Albion.

With centralized traffic control, well maintained rail and searchlight signals, the B&LE had the look and feel of a big time railroad even if, relatively speaking, it wasn’t that large and had a low level of daily traffic.

The B&LE will continue to have those things and it will continue to cater to the needs of the steel industry.

It was, after all, once owned by U.S. Steel and its reason for existence has not changed. We won’t be seeing intermodal traffic on the B&LE anytime soon and probably never.

A lot of B&LE fans are upset that the orange and black SD40Ts are being taken away and that motive power with Bessemer orange will become rare if not nonexistent.

I’m thankful that I took the time to photograph the Bessemer when it still had its B&LE character.

But now a new chapter is about to be written and I’m going to make sure that I get over there to document it.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

IC 02b

The nose of IC 1032 is battered and bruised and the unit looks like it could use a shower to wash away the road dirt and grime.

 

The full consist is on display as the train leans into the curve on the north side of Albion, Pa.

The full consist is on display as the train leans into the curve on the north side of Albion, Pa.

One benefit of winter is that the trains are easier to see when coming through a forest.

One benefit of winter is that the trains are easier to see when coming through a forest.

A wide perspective of the B&LE train grinding and twisting its way through the valley of Conneaut Creek.

A wide perspective of the B&LE train grinding and twisting its way through the valley of Conneaut Creek.

Think of all of the history that has been seen out of the windows of that house on the hillside overlooking the B&LE tracks in Conneaut.

Think of all of the history that has been seen out of the windows of that house on the hillside overlooking the B&LE tracks in Conneaut.

Heading into the yard where there is plenty of work to do.

Heading into the yard where there is plenty of work to do.

Bonus! Norfolk Southern train 145 crosses over the top of the inbound B&LE train. It is the first time I've gotten an over and under image of these two railroads.

Bonus! Norfolk Southern train 145 crosses over the top of the inbound B&LE train. It is the first time I’ve gotten an over and under image of these two railroads.

Words that are quite pleasing to me, even if they seem out of place.

Words that are quite pleasing to me, even if they seem out of place.

The classic image of a B&LE train along Conneaut Creek. In this case, though, the train is backing into the yard.

The classic image of a B&LE train along Conneaut Creek. In this case, though, the train is backing into the yard.

CN 5422 leads the train out of the yard for good. Conneaut Creek is to the right and few people are fishing in it today.

CN 5422 leads the train out of the yard for good. Conneaut Creek is to the right and few people are fishing in it today.

It might be the last B&LE SD40T that I ever photograph in action. It is trailing CN 5422 at Pond Road.

It might be the last B&LE SD40T that I ever photograph in action. It is trailing CN 5422 at Pond Road.

 

When the B&LE was Still All Orange

July 20, 2014

A southbound ore train approaches Pond Road on June 18, 2014.

A southbound ore train approaches Pond Road on June 18, 2014.

Ever since Canadian National acquired the B&LE about a decade ago rumors have swirled that the bright orange and black Bessemer EMD motive power would soon be gone or at least repainted into CN colors. One rumor was that former Illinois Central units were on their way to the B&LE.

But none of these rumors ever came to pass. But the times they are a changing on the Bessemer. CN power has arrived at the B&LE for an apparent indefinite stay.

Back on June 18 fellow Akron Railroad Club member Edward Ribinskas and I ventured out to the Bessemer & Lake Erie where we had the good fortune to catch two moving B&LE trains. At the time we marveled at the all B&LE motive power in the consists of both trains.

The next day, though, the long-rumored change occurred. Two CN units, one a freshly painted SD60 and another a grungy-looking SD40-2W, showed up on the Bessemer along with some CN hoppers.

A report on Trainorders.com by a railfan who lives in Pittsburgh reported last week that the infusion of CN units was prompted by a shortage of motive power and hoppers that came about when the B&LE back in April landed a contract to carry coal from the Conneaut docks to a US Steel plant in Duquesne.

The report said that the coal movements were the first over the B&LE in five or six years. Reportedly, the assignment of CN power has enabled the railroad to send some of its B&LE units to the shops for repairs. It is not clear if all B&LE motive power consists are a thing of the past.

Whatever the case, here are some pure B&LE consist from the “good old days” that weren’t all that long ago.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

BLE02

About to come ’round the curve at Albion where the line to Conneaut splits with the branch to Girard, Pa.

BLE03

The southbound shows a little reflection in a puddle as it comes into Springboro, Pa.

BLE04

Surprise! A northbound goes into the siding at KO Junction north of Greenville. It would meet at the other end of the siding the southbound that we had been chasing.

BLE05-x

Several minutes later the southbound shows up and passes beneath the signal bridge with the searchlight style signals.

BLE06

We decided to break off the chase of the southbound and focus on catching up to the northbound on its way to Conneaut.

BLE07

We had a hard time catching up to the northbound and thought we had missed it at Albion. But the signal indicated otherwise and after waiting for a while, we finally got it.

BLE08

Our final photo op on the B&LE was at the Welton Road crossing in Conneaut. Here, trains come around a horseshoe curve.

BLE09

Another view of the northbound train about to cross Welton Road.

The Camel’s Nose is Inside the Tent

December 11, 2013

ADB_7788

ADB_7900

ADB_7913

Back in mid November I went over to check out the Bessember & Lake Erie one morning. I wanted to see the new Canadian National unit that has shown up on the property. It looks pretty bad as you might expect, but on straight aways you can still get a good shot. Also, I noticed when the lead unit blew its horn that there is no more oscillating headlight. I’m not sure when that changed.

Photographs by Adam Barr

Another Successful ‘Easter Egg Hunt’

April 3, 2013

A Norfolk Southern Genset switcher does its work at Conway Yard near Pittsburgh on March 30.

A Norfolk Southern Genset switcher does its work at Norfolk Southern’s Conway Yard near Pittsburgh on March 30.

My Easter of 2012 featured a very successful “Easter egg hunt” when I got Norfolk Southern No. 8100, the Nickel Plate Road heritage locomotive.

This year was even more successful and also included the NKP 8100. We started in Pittsburgh at Conway yard where we found a new Genset, No. 300 and also one of the few remaining SD60s still in Conrail paint. So far so good.

We then went to Mckees Rocks and photographed the 643 a Bessemer & Lake Erie 2-10-4 steam engine. It is now out in the open and, hopefully, it will be saved.

Next we found an old New York Central Flexivan conatiner now used for storage. The NYC heralds are clearly legible.

Then the NS “Honoring Our Veterans” unit went west. We chased this train back to Conway.

We then got a report that the NKP 8100 was leading a train to Buffalo, N.Y., and off we went to Conneaut to catch him there.

We pulled in just as the new crew was getting on. After a few quick photos at the yard, we headed for the bridge east of town where we got him leaving town as well as an inbound NS freight.

We were not finished. A Bessemer train came in and after a short wait this train went south as a light engine move. We decided to chase this train because photography conditions would be much better. If we had chased the NKP heritage unit, it would have been more backlit on its way to Buffalo. We followed the B&LE engines to Greenville, Pa., getting many good photos along the way.

Thus concluded yet another Easter Egg hunt. I can’t wait for next year.

Will this former B&LE steamer every be restored?

Will this former B&LE steamer every be restored?

Still showing its New York Central heritage.

Still showing its New York Central heritage.

The Veterans tribute unit makes an appearance.

The Veterans tribute unit makes an appearance.

Still wearing its original Conrail blue.

Still wearing its original Conrail blue.

A B&LE train rolls into Conneaut on Saturday afternoon.

A B&LE train rolls into Conneaut on Saturday afternoon.

The power that brought the B&LE train up returned light to Greenville, Pa.

The power that brought the B&LE train up returned light to Greenville, Pa.

A brace of orange "Easter eggs."

A brace of orange “Easter eggs.”

The trailing BNSF unit adds a splash of color to this westbound train on the Conneaut trestle.

The trailing BNSF unit adds a splash of color to this westbound train on the Conneaut trestle.

B&LE on the Edge of Night

January 15, 2013

A southbound Bessemer & Lake Erie ore train rumbles up the grade near Saxonburg, Pa., on Saturday. I liked this shot because of the star effect on the headlight and ditchlights, and how they illuminate a bit of snow fog on the tracks.

A southbound Bessemer & Lake Erie ore train rumbles up the grade near Saxonburg, Pa., on Saturday. I liked this shot because of the star effect on the headlight and ditchlights, and how they illuminate a bit of snow fog on the tracks.

Last Saturday my friend Adam and I were in the Pittsburgh area doing some railfanning. About mid afternoon we decided to check out the Bessemer & Lake Erie at a location that Adam had learned about near Saxonburg, Pa., on Train Orders.com.

We knew that the B&LE often has a southbound ore train that arrives in the Pittsburgh area in late afternoon but we couldn’t be sure if it was running today. Not long after we arrived at a spot next to the B&LE tracks along Golden City Road, we saw an Internet report that a southbound B&LE train has passed through Conneautville, Pa., at about 11:30 a.m.

We then heard the dispatcher talking to a northbound train and in the process mentioning a southbound ore train. A subsequent Internet posting had the SB ore train through Grove City, Pa., at 3:15 p.m.

We pulled out some railfan magazines and waited. And waited. And waited. I estimated that the train would arrive about 4:30 p.m., but that time came and went and there was no sign of a train.

It had been a mostly cloudy day and as it kept slipping toward the 5 p.m. it was getting darker. Many photographers would have given up and gone home but we decided to stick it out a little longer.

About 4:50 p.m. we heard a rumbling of diesel locomotives working hard. The noise kept getting louder. What a beautiful sound that was. In a way I wish we had tape recorders rather than cameras.

Lead engine No. 910, an SD40-3TM poked it nose around a curve. The train was virtually crawling and all three locomotives were growling.

Adam and I have photographed the B&LE numerous times between Conneaut, Ohio, and Greenville, Pa. This was our first foray onto the “southern end” of the B&LE. Photographing the line below Greenville is going to be one of our objectives in 2013.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

There was still some lingering snow cover at this location.

There was still some lingering snow cover at this location.

The wide angle shot.

The wide angle shot.

At this location, the tracks enter a long curve heading southbound. Somewhere around the curve  is a siding named SX. The train is shown crossing a one-lane bridge over Golden City Road.

At this location, the tracks enter a long curve heading southbound. Somewhere around the curve is a siding named SX. The train is shown crossing a one-lane bridge over Golden City Road.

We relocated about three miles south to the grade crossing at Deer Creek Road. I have a love-hate relationship it this photo. I like how the lights of the train are illuminating the rails. Yet I hate that I “pulled the trigger” too soon. It would be a better shot had I waited until the locomotive nose had been closer to the mile post. And yet . . . I like how the brush distorts the ditch lights. I would have had that effect if I had taken the photo with the train closer to the milepost.

We relocated about three miles south to the grade crossing at Deer Creek Road. I have a love-hate relationship it this photo. I like how the lights of the train are illuminating the rails. Yet I hate that I “pulled the trigger” too soon. It would be a better shot had I waited until the locomotive nose had been closer to the mile post. And yet . . . I like how the brush distorts the ditch lights. I would have had that effect if I had taken the photo with the train closer to the milepost.

By now the train has crested the grade and must be going down hill or have reached level ground because its speed was considerably more than it had been up the line on Golden City Road.  Also note that the top rotating headlight is on, which it had not been in earlier photographs.

By now the train has crested the grade and must be going down hill or have reached level ground because its speed was considerably more than it had been up the line on Golden City Road. Also note that the top rotating headlight is on, which it had not been in earlier photographs.