Posts Tagged ‘Bessemer & Lake Erie’

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

IC 1038 Looked Familiar

February 11, 2021

With another Super Bowl game in the books, I was looking through photographs I made during railfan outings on past Super Bowl Sundays with Marty Surdyk and Craig Sanders.

On Feb. 4, 2018, the day the Philadelphia Eagles upended the New England Patriots 41-33, we caught an inbound Canadian National train at Conneaut with Bessemer & Lake Erie SD40-3 No. 905 on the lead and Illinois Central SD70 No. 1038 trailing.

That meant the 1038 would lead coming out of the lakefront at Conneaut. We were surprised, but happy that B&LE SD38AC No. 867 was put on for the outbound move.

We chased the southbound as far as Hartstown, Pennsylvania, with intermediate photo stops in Albion (shown below) and Conneautville, Pennsylvania.

For some reason, the IC 1038 looked familiar to me. 

In my search for upcoming stories I found where I had seen it. In August 2007 Ursula and I were vacationing in the Galena, Illinois-Dubuque, Iowa area.

We visited the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, which is adjacent to the CN (former IC Iowa Division) mainline.

After we toured the aquarium, I heard activity outside on the railroad.

Mystery solved; that is where I had seen and photographed IC No. 1038. That date was Aug. 7, 2007

In the top image, the CN train in Conneaut is passing under U.S. Route 20.

In the second Dubuque photo, look at the road sign at the far right edge of the image.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

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

Bessemer Memories

January 4, 2021

For the longest time the Bessemer & Lake Erie maintained its identity even after the Canadian National takeover in 2004.

During my many visits to the B&LE I was greeted with the Bessemer orange such as the image on top that I made on July 6, 2007.

However on Aug. 20, 2001, a strange but more than welcome visitor appeared.

The Bennett Levin Pennsylvania Railroad E8A locomotives pulled a private car excursion over the Bessemer. That train had arrived in Erie, Pennsylvania, the previous day

On Monday, Aug. 20, 2001, the special departed Erie on CSX and got onto the Bessemer for a rare mileage trip and is shown above in a view made from the U.S. Route 20 bridge in Conneaut as the train snakes along Conneaut Creek and passes beneath the Nickel Plate trestle.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Good Place Now to Catch IC ‘Death Stars’

November 19, 2020

Not that long ago if you wanted to photograph SD70 locomotives that had been built for the Illinois Central and still wore their “death star” livery a good place to go was Canadian National’s Bessemer & Lake Erie Subdivision.

Back in early spring 2015 CN sent a fleet of ex-IC SD70s to the B&LE where they were, for the most part, standard motive power for most trains.

Of course I was pleased by that and my trips to Conneaut increased dramatically along with my chases of trains on the ex-Bessemer.

But motive power assignments change and in recent months CN has sent an infusion of different motive power to the ex-Bessemer.

The IC SD70s have gone elsewhere, including back to their original stomping ground.

You won’t see ex IC SD70 motive power on every train on the former Illinois Central mainline between Chicago and New Orleans but based on my experiences of the past year the odds of finding one are greater now than they had been.

To be sure, CN is slowly repainting the SD70s into its own colors and I’ve even seen motive power sets of pure SD70s in CN red, black and white.

But there are enough “death stars” still on the rails so that if you spend any time railfanning the one-time Mainline of Mid-America you have a reasonable chance of catching one of them leading a train.

That was the case on a recent Sunday when I ventured over to the CN Champaign Subdivision where good fortune fell my way.

I was driving north on U.S. Route 45 when I spotted a southbound in the distance led by ex-IC No. 1036.

A quick turnaround on an intersection rural road had me headed for South Tuscola (top image) where the siding in Tuscola ends on the south end.

Adjacent to the tracks were corn fields still awaiting harvest. In the background are grains bins of the massive Archer-Daniels-Midland facility at Tuscola that is served by CN and Union Pacific.

After getting my photos here, I sped off for the Dewitt Avenue bridge in Mattoon. This is the northernmost of the five bridges that span the former IC tracks in my one-time hometown.

Interestingly, this was only the second time I’ve photographed a train on the ex-IC from Dewitt Avenue.

Earlier in the day I had caught the “death star” duo of Nos. 1000 and 1029 leading a northbound at Pesotum.

Pairs of “death stars” are not necessarily common, but not unheard of either.

I had caught one of these duos earlier this year. That had also occurred in Pesotum but with a southbound.

It was like going back in a time machine to when the IC was still an independent railroad run by the legendary E. Hunter Harrison.

In time the SD70s will either be repainted or sold off and “death stars” will no longer be seen on the ex-IC. But in the meantime I’ll look for as many of them as I can.

Recalling the B&LE-NS Interchange at Wallace Junction

November 1, 2020

 Back in the 1990s interchange traffic between the Bessemer & Lake Erie and Norfolk Southern was a regular happening at Wallace Junction in Pennsylvania.

Loaded coke off the Bessemer was delivered to NS at Wallace to be delivered westward.

On days off from work I would venture to Pennsylvania with the hopes of catching activity.

On days that Marty was off, he and his brother Robert would pick me up and we also had good luck on the Bessemer.

Shown are some highlights I was able to get on Thursday April 17, 1997.

The top image shows a B&LE train departing with a few cars of freight and empty hoppers at Girard

In sequence below we see NS eastbound empties arriving at Wallace, the B&LE leaving Girard, a B&LE train passed through the yard in Albion and an NS westbound at Ashtabula that had picked up coke loads at Wallace.

At the time, the B&LE still used the yard in Albion, but today most of the yard is gone and there is no activity there.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas