Posts Tagged ‘B&LE 643’

Repair Work Continues on B&LE No. 643

February 3, 2020

In an update posted to its website the Age of Steam Roundhouse said it continues to study how to move former Bessemer & Lake Erie No. 643 from its current location in Pennsylvania to Sugarcreek.

AOS said winter weather and the holidays slowed the movement of the locomotive’s running gear and boiler.

The update said staff continue to work with local and state authorities for use of highways but the use of railroad flat cars is also being evaluated.

“Labor and cost are driving factors in this decision making,” the update said.

AOS staff also have inspected the tender of the 643 and made some repairs.

This included removing from the coal bunker and stoker auger system old coal, scaled rust and other debris.

Workers painted the tender with a rust preventive primer and finish coated with gloss black.

Upper elements of the tender that were removed to lower the height for road travel have been put back into place.

The brakeman’s cabin was repaired during the removal process. Workers removed rusted rusted areas in the well area in which it sits.

The cabin was repainted and then was re-bolted to the tender deck.

The eight washout plugs in the bottom of the tender cistern were removed and the water compartment is currently having scale removed. Workings are also flushing out of loose scale and flaked rust.

The update said the tender journals looked very well maintained but were cleaned and oiled.

Eventually, the tender body will be sandblasted to grey metal and repainted with high quality industrial paint.

AOS Reports on Recent Work at the Roundhouse

November 14, 2019

The Age of Steam Roundhouse in Sugarcreek recently released its fall report on what the shop forces have been up to in the past few months. Here are some of the highlights.

Open-window coaches Nos. 3659, 4979 and 5010 were sold in October and will be moving to their new owners during November. The report did not say who bought the coaches.

Former Canadian National/VIA Rail Canada combine No. 9300 has had its old roof replaced with a new rubber/fiber one.

The car had been built as a coach by Canadian Car & Foundry in 1954 but later converted buy CN into a 52-seat combine.

Former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie wreck train diner White Castle also received a rubber/fiber roof. This car had been built in 1918 by Pullman as open-section sleeper Aukland. It ended its career in wreck train service.

Tool car 5012 (Conneaut) is slated to receive a rubber/fiber roof. The former Wabash RPO/coach was built in 1920.

Boiler work on former McCloud River Railroad 2-8-2 No. 19 is nearing completion.

The work includes installing washout plugs, boiler studs, water glass fittings, globe valves and other components.

No. 19 is due for a hydrostatic test and its front tender truck is being reassembled, which includes installation of the newly reprofiled wheel sets.

Former Morehead & North Fork 0-6-0 No. 12 was in steam during the annual Swiss Festival in Sugarcreek this fall.

No. 12 was moved to the recently renovated former Wheeling & Lake Erie depot in Sugarcreek for the festival, which marks the cultural heritage of the village’s founders.

AOS also had displays, information and souvenir items at the depot.

Accompanying No. 12 was former Wheeling & Lake Erie steel caboose No. 0222.

The tender from former Bessemer & Lake Erie 2-10-4 No. 643 arrived at the roundhouse on Oct. 18 and was lifted off its big Buckeye six-wheel trucks and devoid of everything removable to reduce weigh.

The 49-foot long tender traveled to Sugarcreek from McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, on a highway trailer that had to see-saw around sharp street corners.

Doubled-headed highway trucks were used to get the tender up the steep ramp to Pennsylvania Route 51 at the start of the journey.

Work continues in McKees Rocks to separate No. 643’s boiler and piping from its massive frame, cylinders and driving wheels.

The parts that have been removed from the steam locomotive have been catalogued and moved to Sugarcreek by truck.

Thus far there have been four truck loads of parts that have made the trip.

Ex-B&LE Steam Locomotive Move to AOS Underway

September 27, 2019

The move of former Bessemer & Lake Erie 2-10-4 No. 643 to the Age of Steam Roundhouse began recently with the arrival of a trailers loaded with parts from the locomotive.

In a news release, AOS said the parts were removed from the locomotive, which has sat for several years in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, and catalogued, tagged and photographed.

Among the parts that have been removed and documented have been both sand domes, two air compressors, air tanks, lubricators, piping and a smoke box door.

The news release said AOS personnel have been pleasantly surprised that most nuts and bolts were removed after applying plenty of penetrating oil. However, some parts had to be heated or removed with a torch.

Directing the disassembly work was Tim Sposato, AOS’s chief mechanical officer, and Michael Venezia, project manager for the transport of No. 643

AOS staff have been meeting with city officials, crane operators and heavy-haul trucking companies to conduct route studies in preparation for moving the 643.

Because the weight of the locomotive might damage underground utilities, it might be necessary to move the locomotive’s frame, driving wheels and running gear by rail on a multi-axle flat car.

Current plans call for moving the tender, boiler and all removed component parts by truck.

A film crew has been documenting the move of the 643 and plans to create a documentary to be shown at the roundhouse.

They are using drone cameras during the heavy lifting, loading and movement phases of the project.

The documentary program will feature video of the locomotive being taken apart, moved and reassembled.

It will also include historic film and interviews. AOS is seeking information and stories from those who worked with No. 643 during the past 30 years.

If you have stories and photos to share, contact AOS through its website at

AOS to Acquire ex-B&LE Steam Locomotive

August 6, 2019

B&LE No. 643 has been sitting in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, for several years awaiting restoration or a new home. (Photo courtesy of Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum)

The only surviving Bessemer & Lake Erie 2-10-4 Texas-type steam locomotive has been acquired by the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum in Sugarcreek, Ohio.

AOS announced on Monday that it has reached an agreement to acquire B&LE No. 643, which for the past several years has been sitting in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.

In a news release, AOS thanked Glenn Campbell and the Steel City Railway Historical Society for agreeing to allow the locomotive to join the AOS collection of 21 other steam engines.

The later Jerry Jacobson, who founded AOS, had long dreamed of some day owning No. 643.

During its active service life the 643 was a heavy-haul steam locomotive designed to move iron ore, coal, and other high-density commodities to and from Lake Erie.

It was built in 1944 but retired in 1952 as the B&LE phased out steam motive power in favor of diesels.

The 643 and two other smaller steamers were preserved by the B&LE in a roundhouse in Greenville, Pennsylvania.

Nicknamed “The King,” the 643 is believed to be one of the largest non-articulated steam locomotives in the world.

It is slightly more than 108 feet in length, more than 16 feet tall and weighs 308.32 tons without coal and water.

With 26 tons of coal and 23,000 gallons of water the 643 would weigh 908,720 pounds, which is more than 454 tons.

AOS said future announcements about moving the 643 to Sugarcreek will be made on its website at

Stranded B&LE Steamer May Find New Home

February 13, 2015

A landlocked Bessemer & Lake Erie steam locomotive may find a new home about 20 miles away from where it sits today in McKees Rocks, Pa.

The 2-10-4 No. 643, which has long languished in outdoor storage, may be moved and put on display in Tarentum, Pa.

That city recently received a $500,000 Federal Community Development Block Grant and plans to spend $250,000 to build a pavilion to house No. 643. Borough Manager Bill Rossey told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the locomotive has been offered to the borough at no cost as a tourist attraction.

“There is an antique steam engine sitting in McKees Rocks that we are trying to get up here and put it on display,” he said. “It’s been restored, and we want to keep it nice. It’s privately owned and the guys who own it approached me.”

The prospective donors were not named in the newspaper article.

“In talking to them, it sounds to me like they have about $1 million in this engine. They don’t have any other place to put it,” Rossey said. The 643 would be displayed along Fifth Avenue. Built by Baldwin 1943, No. 643 was stored in the B&LE roundhouse in Greenville, the last remaining 2-10-4 from a fleet of 47.

In 1983, the locomotive was sold to Pittsburgh rail enthusiast Glen Campbell. He restored and test fired the locomotive in the late 1980s but it never pulled any excursions.

It has been stored outdoors at the AGF Warehouse in an industrial area of McKees Rocks for several years. The locomotive will need to be moved by truck because the track on which it rests is no longer connected to the nearby CSX mainline.