150 years ago this year, the predecessor to the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad, the Shenango and Allegheny was completed from Shenango to Pardoe in order to transport coal from the pardoe mine to the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad, later part of the Erie. 

50 years ago, Roy Beaver, the retired Vice President and General Manager of the company published a centennial history on the railroad titled, "The Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad, 1869 - 1969," the first of a number of publications that covered the Bessemer Route.

 

15 years ago yesterday, May 10th, 2004, the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad, a road that is adored by a small but dedicated group of railfans and forum members disappeared into the Canadian National system.

The Bessemer Route had become a fallen flag.

In those fifteen years there have been many aesthetic appearances to the properties. For the longest time, orange and black diesels powered the ore and coal trains, this came to an abrupt end in early 2015 when CN brought into former Illinois Central power to the route. That effectively ended the Bessemer identity at large with only a few orange engines and hundreds of increasingly rough and leaking hoppers to move the ore. 

In the 15 years since CN acquired the Bessemer traffic has largely gone down; fortunately iron ore still moves between Conneaut and North Bessemer once a day. Coal traffic, along with other aggregates and interchange traffic has largely disappeared. A resurgence of coal traffic in 2014 - 2015 in some ways brought about the end of the Orange era. 

Recently CN has decided to replace the battered fleet of hoppers with new hoppers to handle the ore trains. These will be a welcome sight on the Bessemer, they even have B&LE reporting marks. At the same time, the 905 is leaving the property, leaving the 867 and 868 as the only remaining orange engines on the route. These two locomotives along with the 862 are the only remaining original Bessemer and Lake Erie units on the former Bessemer route.

The Greenville shops sit quiet, empty, and falling apart where an increasingly small group of people remember what the Bessemer was to the town of Greenville and the communities that it served.

 

B&LE map

http://www.rr-fallenflags.org/ble/ble-map-nc.gif

--------

So what made the Bessemer so special?

This was a small railroad that operated in a big time way. A 1965 report indicated that on an average day, some 6 through trains south and north along with 6 mine runs, 3 drag runs, and 3 locals operated on the system. Some 21 yard crews were also called on a typical day. 

This railroad also accomplished the following;

- First Railroad to complete the transition for Steam to Diesel in the early 1950's. The Bessemer of course preserved the Texas Type #643, which has had an unfortunate existence since it left Greenville in 1983.

- The Highest tonnage per mile of any Class One Railroad in the United States.

- First railroad to have continuous welded rail laid in its entire main line. The Bessemer used 155 lbs per yard rail; the heaviest rail in the United States.

Most importantly the Bessemer had an outstanding safety recorded, provided livelihoods to hundreds of people, and was a conveyor belt for mineral traffic in Western Pennsylvania. 

Bessemer meme.

 

Attachments

Photos (2)
Original Post

I'm owld so when I think of Pittsburgh I think Steel. When I think of Steel I think Blast Furnace and that means Iron Ore. When I think of Ore I think of The Bessemer. The B&LE was part of the conveyor belt that brought Ore from the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota to Pittsburgh. As Ore went, so went the Bessemer. Two thirds of American steel production is now from scrap and takes place in mini-mills spread across the landscape so that is pretty much that. By now Pittsburgh has (2) Blast Furnaces (at the Edgar Thomson Works).

Lew

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.

 

 

This railroad also accomplished the following;

- First Railroad to complete the transition for Steam to Diesel in the early 1950's. The Bessemer of course preserved the Texas Type #643, which has had an unfortunate existence since it left Greenville in 1983.

No desire to upset anyone but ........As information, and a matter of fact, some other small regional Class I's at the time, most notably NYS&W and Monon,  had entirely dieselized in the mid to late 1940's.  NYS&W 1945, Monon 1949.

 

 

 

 

 

Number 90 posted:

Was the B&LE a "dark" railroad, or did it have block signals on its main line?  If there were signals, did CN leave them in place?

Had, and still does, a full CTC system in place complete with searchlight signals. There are currently a few rumors about their fate, but as of now they are still standing and functioning proud. 

All WM fans have true class! 

GP 40 posted:
 

 

This railroad also accomplished the following;

- First Railroad to complete the transition for Steam to Diesel in the early 1950's. The Bessemer of course preserved the Texas Type #643, which has had an unfortunate existence since it left Greenville in 1983.

No desire to upset anyone but ........As information, and a matter of fact, some other small regional Class I's at the time, most notably NYS&W and Monon,  had entirely dieselized in the mid to late 1940's.  NYS&W 1945, Monon 1949.

 

When did the G,M&O dieselize? IIRC they were early adopters.

My small layout definitely has the B&LE distinction...a customized Lionel 4-6-2, a MTH AS 616, 3 Lionel SD-38's, 14 jeeps, 13 coal hoppers, 2 customized cabooses (done before MTH came out with them...i won a customizing service as a raffle winner at Rainbow Gardens), 3 custom passenger cars, 2 MTH sand cars, an MTH crane, 2 custom flatcars, and 2 custom gondolas. I didn't leave out the sister railroads....2 custom Union RR gondolas, a custom Union RR flatcar, and a DMIR flatcar with an CN ISO tank. Dave Minarik ( Mercer Junction) has an extensive railroad  at his shop and home featuring the Bessemer. The B&LE hauled iron ore thru nearby Coolspring Twp. on its way to the Pittsburgh steel mills. The Bessemer may be a Fallen Flag, but it's far from forgotten.

BobbyD posted:
GP 40 posted:
 

 

This railroad also accomplished the following;

- First Railroad to complete the transition for Steam to Diesel in the early 1950's. The Bessemer of course preserved the Texas Type #643, which has had an unfortunate existence since it left Greenville in 1983.

No desire to upset anyone but ........As information, and a matter of fact, some other small regional Class I's at the time, most notably NYS&W and Monon,  had entirely dieselized in the mid to late 1940's.  NYS&W 1945, Monon 1949.

 

When did the G,M&O dieselize? IIRC they were early adopters.

Information I have on hand (back issues of Trains magazines along with reference books) suggests late 1949 for GM&O complete dieselization.......but the fly in the ointment, so to speak is, they kept a steam locomotive on the active roster through 1951, using it as a stationary boiler at a roundhouse.

Taconite Hauler posted:

My small layout definitely has the B&LE distinction...a customized Lionel 4-6-2, a MTH AS 616, 3 Lionel SD-38's, 14 jeeps, 13 coal hoppers, 2 customized cabooses (done before MTH came out with them...i won a customizing service as a raffle winner at Rainbow Gardens), 3 custom passenger cars, 2 MTH sand cars, an MTH crane, 2 custom flatcars, and 2 custom gondolas. I didn't leave out the sister railroads....2 custom Union RR gondolas, a custom Union RR flatcar, and a DMIR flatcar with an CN ISO tank. Dave Minarik ( Mercer Junction) has an extensive railroad  at his shop and home featuring the Bessemer. The B&LE hauled iron ore thru nearby Coolspring Twp. on its way to the Pittsburgh steel mills. The Bessemer may be a Fallen Flag, but it's far from forgotten.

I had these custom painted the passenger car ,that is nice match for the as616IMGP2709IMGP2710IMGP2711

Attachments

Photos (3)

Terry,  the Bessemer Lake Erie passenger cars I customized, were painted black, with the Bessemer lettering above the windows, and sites like Saxonburg (Lynn Sontum), Albion, Conneaut Lake, Greenville, Butler, and Branchton on the sides.  You have the WOW factor, when Lynn did yours......

Thanks Sam!!  Another favorite RR! I used to go to the Bessemer yard and watch the interactions between  the B&LE and the Union RR.  The B&LE, Union RR, and the DMIR, all owned by US Steel.   (somewhere in my garage are some B&LE rail spikes!!)

___________________________________________________________________

 

Pete

 

Boynton Beach, FL. 1035 miles south of Pittsburgh, PA.

 

The P & LE: Operated 1/10 of 1% mileage of class 1 railroads, but moved more than 1% of the nation's tonnage!! THE Little Giant!! 1879-1992 A great regional railroad!!

Add Reply

Likes (2)
Post
OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
330-757-3020

www.ogaugerr.com
×
×
×
×
×