Roaring Twenties Railroading!
Written by: Gary Dolzall
The Bessemer & Lake Erie, a route coming soon to Train Simulator, brings 1920s railroad operations to life!
The upcoming Bessemer & Lake Erie route for Train Simulator brings to vivid life the bustling and diverse operations of this extraordinary American railroad, re-creating not only the memorable 1920s era of heavy steam railroading, but also the time when train orders, tower operators, and classic semaphore signaling governed movements on the busy B&LE.
As recounted in “Andrew Carnegie’s Railroad”, the Bessemer & Lake Erie was, first and foremost, created to haul iron ore south from the docks of Lake Erie to the steel mills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But B&LE was also blessed with extensive coal tonnage, much of which originated in lineside mines and moved north to the Lake Erie docks, as well as mixed freight and even modest passenger services. The Bessemer & Lake Erie also enjoyed the benefits of extensive interchange and bridge traffic, thanks to its connections with notable eastern railroads including the Baltimore & Ohio; Erie; Pennsylvania Railroad; New York Central; and Nickel Plate Road.
Masterfully created by G-TraX, the upcoming Bessemer & Lake Erie route for Train Simulator authentically represents the bustling B&LE of the “roaring twenties.” The railroad is rich in heavy tonnage traffic, powered by classic steam, and operated in the manner that preceded today’s CTC signaling and radio communications. Operations on the railroad –replicated in the realistic career scenarios of Jim Friedland – are governed by “Form 19” train orders, lineside towers at junctions and key operating points, and traditional, classic semaphore signals.
With its density of traffic, the Bessemer & Lake called upon numerous large yards and facilities to keep its traffic moving and to maintain its equipment. None of these facilities was more impressive or expansive than the great harbor and dock complex on the shores of Lake Erie at Conneaut, Ohio, at which ore was unloaded from Great Lakes freighters, coal was loaded on “lakers” during the navigate season or stored in winter, limestone was handled, and an active Great Lakes railroad carferry service was served.
To lug heavy ore south from Conneaut first meant climbing to Albion, Ohio, and southbound ore tonnage was often shuttled in multiple cuts the 14 miles to Albion and its staging yard. Proceeding south, B&LE trains passed through Meadville Junction (20 route miles from Albion), connection with the road’s branch lines to Conneaut Lake and Conneaut Lake Park.
Further south, between KO and KY junctions, B&LE operated two lines. The main line (often called the “High Line”) proceeded directly between the two junction points, while the Greenville branch (sometimes called the “Low Line”) took a more westerly routing to the town of Greenville, home to the B&LE’s large erecting, car, and locomotive shop complex, and to Shenango, location of a yard and interchange point with the Erie Railroad.
Approximately 110 miles south of Conneaut, B&LE reached the key operation point of Butler, Pennsylvania. The Bessemer & Lake Erie operated three yards in Butler: Calvin Yard mainly handed mixed and local freight; Butler Transfer Yard was an assembly and staging point for coal and ore trains as well as interchange with the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh (a B&O predecessor); and the Interchange Yard, which handled interchange traffic with the Baltimore & Ohio and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Nearby in Butler was Standard Junction, which served to connect B&LE with various lineside industries, most notably the sprawling Standard Steel plant, home to steel, railcar, and automobile production.
Extending some 34 miles from Butler to North Bessemer, Pennsylvania, the south end of the B&LE terminated at busy North Bessemer Yard and provided the all-important connection with its sister U. S. Steel road, the Union Railroad (URR), which handled ore traffic on the last leg of its journey to Pittsburgh’s steel mills.
To move the diverse tonnage of the B&LE, the upcoming Train Simulator Bessemer & Lake Erie route includes two highly authentic steam locomotives – the railroad’s venerable 0-6-0 steam switchers as constructed by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1909, and the railroad’s potent D-1-A class 2-10-2s built by Baldwin in 1919. The diminutive (91.5 tons) but potent (41,000 pounds of tractive effort) 0-6-0 is provided with both standard and sloped-back tenders and serves the role of not only B&LE yard power, but also the in-plant switcher of Standard Steel at Butler. B&LE’s burly D-1-A 2-10-2 “Santa Fe” types numbered 19 in total. With 63-inch drivers, 30 x 32 cylinders, and a loaded weight of 292 tons, the locomotives predated but were similar in design and size to the standard USRA Heavy 2-10-2.
Hauling tonnage (and passengers) of course requires rolling stock, and the equipment included in the upcoming Bessemer & Lake Erie route is yet another remarkable highlight of this extraordinary route – with period-authentic boxcars, flatcars, gondolas, hoppers, refrigerator cars, tank cars, pickle cars, cabooses, crane cars, and heavyweight baggage, coach, and commuter coaches all included, many in various liveries and with multiple loads!
The Train Simulator Bessemer & Lake Erie route, as developed by G-TraX and the talented team of Rick Grout, Wayne Campbell, Jim Friedland, and Michael Stephan, delivers in exciting and challenging fashion the heavy steam-era railroading of the “roaring” 1920s – and it’s all coming soon to Train Simulator! – Gary Dolzall ■
The Bessemer & Lake Erie route for Train Simulator, coming soon from G-TraX, will take you to the “roaring” 1920s and the captivating age of classic American steam railroading. Along the shore of Lake Erie at Conneaut (Ohio) harbor, B&LE 0-6-0 235 stands below massive Hullets unloading ore for transport to Pittsburgh’s steel mills. Screenshots by Gary Dolzall. To manage its heavy tonnage and maintain its equipment, Bessemer & Lake Erie called upon numerous large yards and servicing facilities, including those at Albion, Ohio, 14 miles south of Conneaut. Baldwin-built B&LE D-1-A class 2-10-2 502 is at Albion engine terminal at dawn breaks (above). With 63-inch drivers, 30 x 32 cylinders, and a loaded weight of 292 tons, the D-1-A class locomotives predated but were similar in design and size to the standard USRA Heavy 2-10-2. Later in the day, B&LE 0-6-0 235, a 1909 product of Baldwin, is spotted in front of Albion’s sand facilities (below). Note: Screenshots may depict content still in development. On Train Simulator’s upcoming Bessemer & Lake Erie route, B&LE 2-10-2 505 pounds through KY Junction (above). Between KO and KY junctions, B&LE operated two lines: Its main line (often called the “High Line”) which proceeded directly between the two junction points, and the Greenville branch (sometimes called the “Low Line”), which took a more westerly routing to the town of Greenville, home to the B&LE’s large shops complex. The single-track line in the scene above is the route to Greenville. At B&LE’s Greenville erecting and car shops (below), diminutive 0-6-0 229 is preparing to move a baggage car onto the shops’ transfer table. Greenville was home to a 17-stall roundhouse, from which B&LE 0-6-0 235 emerges and eases onto the turntable (above). As the steam switcher takes a spin on the Greenville turntable, Bessemer & Lake Erie “Santa Fe” No. 517 awaits its next duty (below). Along with iron ore, coal was Bessemer & Lake Erie’s major tonnage staple, and much of the bituminous coal hauled by the B&LE was mined near the railroad. B&LE 2-10-2 513 is working Hallston Mine, which is located at the end of a one-mile B&LE spur south of Grove City. Butler, Pennsylvania, approximately 110 miles south of Conneaut, was a key operations point for the B&LE, home to three yards, interchange point with three railroads including the Baltimore Ohio and the Pennsylvania, and site of the sprawling Standard Steel plant. On a snowy day, B&LE 2-10-2 505 chugs into downtown Butler (above), then a short time later eases into the railroad’s Butler yard complex (below). At the B&LE’s southern terminus of North Bessemer, Pennsylvania, 2-10-2 505 is just beginning a northbound journey over the railroad as it rolls past XB Tower. This remarkable upcoming Train Simulator route recalls the time when train orders, tower operators, and classic semaphore signaling governed movements on the busy Bessemer & Lake Erie. The experience of big, classic American steam awaits on the upcoming Bessemer & Lake Erie route, and whether from the engineer’s seat aboard a big-boilered 2-10-2 (above) or from trackside (below), the experience of roaring 1920s railroading promises to be unforgettable!