Posts Tagged ‘Bessemer & Lake Erie’

15 Cars of CN Train Derail in Pennsylvania

March 31, 2023

News reports indicate that 15 cars of a Canadian National train derailed north of Pittsburgh on Wednesday on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie.

No hazardous materials were involved in the derailment, which occurred about 8 a.m. on Wednesday in Brady Township in Butler County.

The derailment site is about 40 miles north of Pittsburgh. Workers were still cleaning up the derailment site on Wednesday night.

Remembering the B&LE Erie Branch

January 29, 2023

I’ve never seen a train on the Erie branch of the former Besemer & Lake Erie, but some of you have. Edward Ribinskas sent along these photographs that he made over the years.

These images are from his “favorites over the years” series.

The top image of Norfolk & Western No. 611 was made on Aug. 11, 1984, when it was running a Buffalo, New York, to Albion, Pennsylvania, excursion.

It is shown crossing U.S. Route 20 in Girard, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 11, 1984.

Also shown are images made at Girar and Platea, Pennsylvania, on April 17, 1997, and at Girard on April 30, 1997.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

CN Testing Renewable Fuel Locos on B&LE

February 14, 2022

Canadian National has begun testing renewable fuel locomotives on its Bessemer & Lake Erie line in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Railway Age reported that the testing is being conducted in partnership with Progress Rail and Renewable Energy Group.

Locomotives in the test use a blend of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel. The locomotives began operating on Feb. 1.

CN officials told Railway Age that the test program will run for approximately two years. One of the project objectives is to gain a better understanding of the long-term durability and operational effects of renewable fuels on locomotives, particularly during cold weather.

The fuel is being supported by Renewable Energy and contains high-percentage blends of biomass-based fuel, including both biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel.

CN Buys Wabtec Battery Locomotive for B&LE

November 4, 2021

Canadian National is buying a battery-powered locomotive from Wabtec to use on its Bessemer & Lake Erie subsidiary in Pennsylvania.

The locomotive is a FLXdrive battery-electric freight locomotive, which CN said is the first 100 percent battery heavy-haul locomotive for the region. It is CN’s first battery-electric locomotive.

Funding to purchase the locomotive came in part from a grant from the  Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Wabtec said the FLXdrive technology can reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 30 percent.

Grants to Fund Green Motive Power in Pennsylvania

November 3, 2021

Pennsylvania has awarded $8.7 million to three projects that will replace diesel switch engines with green motive power.

The funding will go to U.S. Steel ($4.5 million), the Bessemer & Lake Erie ($2.9 million) and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority ($1.2 million).

The grants are being awarded from the Marine and Rail Freight Movers Grant Program of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

U.S. Steel plans to replace two diesel switchers with lithium-ion battery powered units. The new switchers will operate at the Clairton Steel Works and the Edgar Thompson Plant.

The B&LE also plans to a diesel-powered switcher with a new lithium-ion, battery-electric unit.

SEPTA will replace a diesel locomotive built in 2008 with a new EPA Tier 4-certified diesel-electric locomotive with idle-reduction technology.

Playing a Hunch Paid Off

July 16, 2021

Last Sunday Marty Surdyk and I were headed home after a day with the Oil Creek & Tutusville tourist railroad in Pennsylvania.

But we made a stop in Conneaut where we parked across the CSX tracks from the Conneaut Railroad Museum. It was just after 5 p.m. as we saw volunteers from the museum departing after closing for the day.

We were hoping to catch CSX No. 3194, the Spirit of Our Law Enforcement unit, which was on the point of the Q010.

What we didn’t know is that it had passed through Conneaut about an hour earlier.

Around 6 p.m. we heard horns coming from the southeast. It definitely was not CSX, but possibly Norfolk Southern or the former Bessemer & Lake Erie (now Canadian National). They sounded for two or three crossings then everything was silent.

About 15 minutes later on a hunch we drove to the Main Street crossing of the Bessemer and sure enough there was the rear of a CN empty ore train dropping into the harbor yard.

After it disappeared past the former Nickel Plate Trestle, we went back to staking out CSX by the museum.

Eventually we went back down to Main Street in case a CN train would come out before we had to head for home.

On a hunch we went down to the overlook on the west end of the Bessemer facilities. In a stroke of good luck we saw the train that arrived earlier was on a loop track loading iron ore. Here are a few photographs that I made of it.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Familiar Face From My Past

July 13, 2021

I was set up in Onarga, Illinois, waiting to photograph a southbound Canadian National train on the former Illinois Central. The train had a consist of all hopper cars and I wasn’t sure if they were carrying or on their way to pick up coal or stone.

A cut of the cars, though brought back reminders of my past. I spent many years railfanning the former Bessemer & Lake Erie between Conneaut and Greenville, Pennsylvania.

So I had seen BLE reporting marks many times not to mention locomotives in the Bessemer orange livery.

About a third of the way into this CN train was a cut of cars with BLE reporting marks. Another cut was positioned toward the rear of the train.

It was good to see something from the past that I haven’t seen for a while even if it was just a set of reporting marks.

Last Stand for Solid Bessemer Power: Part 2

June 9, 2021

Continuing the story of the June 2014 outing on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie, after getting a southbound in Albion, we set up at Springboro, Pennsylvania.

After getting the train there we headed south on Pennsylvania Route 18 and eventually heard talk on the scanner of a Conneaut-bound train.

We hoped for a meet at KO north of Osgood. We got there in time for the southbound but the northbound had gotten by us.

After photographing the southbound we worked our way back to Albion and waited.

I got some good photographs across the street from our earlier stop. We then set up in Conneaut on the hogback at Welton Road to catch the train dropping toward the harbor.

Thus ended a great day of documenting a true Bessemer motive power consist with some CSX and Amtrak mixed in.

In the top photograph the southbound passes through Springboro. That same train is seen again at KO north of Osgood.The northbound is shown at Albion and then at Conneaut at Welton Road.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Touch of the Bessemer in East Central Illinois

June 9, 2021

Ed Ribinskas has been telling the story this week on this site of a June 2014 outing during which he and I photographed trains on the former Bessmer & Lake Erie.

Today as was true at the time of that outing, the B&LE is a paper railroad, a subsidiary of Canadian National. But railroads find it advantageous for various reasons to keep alive the “identities” of companies that have long since become fallen flags.

At the time of our 2014 outing, motive power consists wearing B&LE colors and markings were in their twilight years, soon to be replaced by other CN motive power.

Little did we know that day that the new power coming to the former B&LE would be SD70s built for the Illinois Central and still wearing the IC “death star” livery.

Let’s zoom ahead six years. Not only are the all Bessemer locomotive consists a thing of the past on the ex-B&LE line but so for the most part are those of IC SD70s.

Interestingly, many of those IC units have gone back to where they began life, working on the former Mainline of Mid America between Chicago and New Orleans.

It was on the former IC that I found last Sunday in Onarga, Illinois, a vestige of the B&LE in the form of hopper cars with B&LE reporting marks. They were in the consist of a southbound train on the Chicago Subdivision.

It is as though it was destined that in my railroad photography travels the B&LE and IC would become intertwined.

I’ve yet to see a former Bessemer locomotive on the former IC still in Bessmer colors and markings. I don’t know how many ex-Bessmer units are left on the CN roster let alone are still painted in their original orange livery.

I found it uncanny how much Ed remembered from our 2014 outing. Most of the memories he cited I’d long since forgotten.

I remember getting the Lake Shore Limited and the eastbound CSX stack train with the BNSF motive power. I also remembered that we were in Lake City, Pennsylvania, when we caught those trains.

I keep my digital images in separate filing systems on separate hard drives. One system organizes photographs by subject matter and the other is organized by date.

Looking at the images for June 18, 2014, jogged my memory. We did, as Ed said, catch a CSX and NS train in Conneaut, but about the time the CSX train came it started raining.

My folder shows we caught three CSX trains in Lake City before Amtrak showed up. After it passed we checked out the Bessemer branch from Albion to Wallace Junction near Girard, Pennsylvania. The rails didn’t show much sign of use.

We then made our way back to Conneaut, but my folder doesn’t show any images made of a train there. As I read Ed’s story I couldn’t figure out where the southbound and northbound trains passed if it wasn’t just south of KO Road.

As a point of information, the control point at KO Road that some railfans continue to describe as KO is now known by CN as Sandy. There are two main tracks between Sandy (milepost 91.5) and Karen (milepost 93.6)

The tracks come together north of KO Road and then the Greenville Subdvision diverges a short distance south of the grade crossing of KO Road.

It was not uncommon for meets to occur just south of KO Road where the Greenville Subdivision diverges from the Bessemer Sub. Marty Surdyk and I caught a meet there back in April 2007.

In looking at a CN timetable for the Bessemer Subdivision it seems the northbound could have met the southbound at Karen and we failed to see it, or they met at MD, a siding of 9,640 feet between mileposts 104.8 and 102.6 between Hartstown and Conneautville.

That is located in an area in which it can be challenging to chase a train. You can go back there and get an image but chances are you won’t see that train again.

In looking at my master photograph folder from that day, I found that we did see the northbound at KO Road. The head end must have been past us already when we arrived, but I have a few images of the rear of the train going through the signal bridge. The meet likely occurred at Karen.

The former B&LE is a nice piece of railroad that I enjoyed documenting over the years. Like so many other rail lines it took many trips there to learn the territory and I haven’t covered all of it or learned all of it.

You have to be patient, persistent and, as Ed’s story suggests, get a little lucky.

I’m told that the operating pattern of the Bessemer Sub has changed in the past year. Trains now arrive in Conneaut in the afternoon and may not depart until after dark.

That might mean having to go south to find a northbound train and chasing it to Conneaut rather than waiting in Conneaut for something to go south as I did most of the time.

But if you can make it work, the rewards can be immense.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Last Stand for Solid Bessemer Power

June 8, 2021

Our June 18, 2014 outing had a game plan in place. Craig Sanders and I set out to start with eastbound Amtrak No. 48 and then focus on the Bessemer & Lake Erie knowing that solid Bessemer motive power was nearing the end.

We were fortunate with our catches on this day, and our predictions were correct because the following year the majority of Bessemer motive power was transferred elsewhere on the Canadian National system.

We began early in Conneaut to set up for the Lake Shore Limited if it was on time which would be about 6:50 a.m. Soon we found out it was running close to three hours behind schedule.

We saw a CSX and a Norfolk Southern train and then put Plan B into place.

We kept a sharp ear on the scanner for the Bessemer since that was our main objective, but worked our way to Lake City, Pennsylvania, knowing we could get back to intercept the Bessemer once we heard radio chatter on its frequency.

At Lake City we photographed five trains on CSX, including Amtrak. Once we heard the Bessemer squawking we worked our way to intercept a train coming out of the Conneaut harbor.

The top image is an eastbound CSX stack train led by BNSF motive power at 10:17 a.m. in Lake City.

Next up is the Lake Shore Limited at 11:02 a.m. Note that it still had Heritage Fleet baggage cars.

Our first shot of the Bessemer after its Conneaut departure was at Pond Road in Pennsylvania at 11:55 a.m. The same train is seen at 12:38 p.m. passing the site of the location of the B&LE passenger station in Albion, Pennsylvania. I’ll continue describing our good fortune in Part 2.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas