Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad Model Train Fun

by RTMuseum

The Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad model train in this post is owned by Ed Cronin of Saegertown, PA. His dedication to the project has taken over his entire basement and has provided hours of fun for himself and his friends!

Bessemer Lake Erie Model Railroad

Track Plan From Railroads You Can ModelThe model railroad in my basement was begun in 1983. In the book, Railroads You Can Model edited by Mike Shafer, I found a track plan (attached) that I adapted to fit in the available space.

I chose the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad to model and selected the steam to diesel transition period (early 1950s) to portray. The route from Pittsburgh (North Bessemer) to Albion, PA is modeled with the Hilliard’s Branch, the Erie Branch, and the Conneaut Branch simulated.

The track is code 100 Atlas flex track with Peco and Shinohara switches. Tortoise switch machines are used for all powered switches. The main line run is over 500 feet taking about 15 minutes to complete at prototype speeds (40 mph maximum). Control of the trains is by wireless throttles that allow the crews to walk around the room to stay with their train, setting off and picking up cars along the way. Filtered DC current is used with a progressive block control system that automatically connects the correct throttle to the proper train. The locomotives are sound equipped using sound through the rails. Recently site-specific background sounds have been added.

Bessemer Lake Erie Model Railroad

From its beginning the railroad was designed for operations – that is, having several train crews operate a number of trains duplicating car movements that really took place. It is very easy to keep 12 to 15 people busy operating the railroad. We require a dispatcher to control the movement of trains operating on the main line via radio communication and a CTC (Centralized Traffic Control) panel, yardmasters to control the yards, and engineers and conductors who operate the trains and maintain radio contact with the dispatcher and yardmasters.

The CTC Panel Bessemer Lake Erie Model Railroad

The CTC panel is a replica of the original that was built by the Union Switch & Signal Company and put into service in 1956. The occupancy detectors and switch controls and indicators are all operational, however signals have not yet been installed. We have sufficient equipment to operate in the early 1950s with both steam and diesel locomotives and the 1970s with an all diesel fleet. The scenery on the layout is about 95% complete.

Not only has this project given my friends and me many hours of enjoyment but it has also been a great learning experience. I have learned from studying railroad history, model building techniques, civil engineering, carpentry, electronics, theatrics, and art. It is a truly multifaceted hobby!

Ed Cronin

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul October 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Very nice work Ed!

This scene is one of the very best I have ever seen, most convincing. To my mind, so much of what is missing on otherwise excellent layouts is the sky itself and you have nailed that! Someday, I am going to be doing something similar with the NYO&W, especially with a curved and illuminated sky backdrop to make it all seem outdoors real. How about some telegraph poles with clear glass insulators along that beautiful river?

As to signals, I am about to re-launch the N&G Railway signal line of signals but greatly expanded and with many technical improvements. Please let me know if you’re interested; “Union Switch & Signal” Upper and lower quadrant Order Boards, Style’s “H” and “H-2″ searchlights, Style “R” colorlights, Style’s “B” and “S” U.Q . & L.Q. semaphores, all to exact H.O. scale. Glad you used my F Units in your shot! Thanks. —Paul

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Dick Herchenroether November 11, 2011 at 6:24 pm

I learned of your hobby through a mututal high school friend who gave me your email information. But since I have been browsing I thought to post a comment here.

Hobbies do indeed seem to get out of hand. But that happens when the seemingly straightforward toe dipped in the water (a model railroad layout) leads one to learn about a whole industy, and from that the economics of a region during a certain a time period. There is also a learning curve to use the technology of today to illustrate yesterday. The result is a stunning lesson in history brought to life by attention to detail. Our local historical group includes railroading from the 1850s (Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne and Chicago – part of PRR operations). http://benavon.com/BAAHA/ for old newsletters. We expect to publish an interesting story in May, 2012 about the Clifton Station. The station house was literally on a cliff adjacent the tracks.

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