Roundhouse Reports

Bessemer & Lake Erie No.643 - September Update

The initial study of how best to move Bessemer & Lake Erie 2-10-4 #643 from McKees Rocks, Pa., to The Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum in Sugarcreek, Ohio, has been completed by AoSRM employees and our 643 project manager. Nicknamed “The King,” the 643 will be carefully disassembled into smaller component parts, and then loaded by cranes onto super-haul truck trailers for the all-highway journey to Ohio.

Site preparation in McKees Rocks has begun in order to accommodate the staging of the heavy lift cranes and the 200-foot long super trailers that will be required to move 308.23 tons of iron horse history! B&LE 643’s tender will be moved first, after its wheel sets have been removed and shipped separately due to tonnage and height restrictions along the route. Currently, survey crews are driving and mapping several potential highway routes that will be presented to the Departments of Transportation of both Pennsylvania and Ohio for their approval. This is a very extensive part of the pre-move process necessary to receive the permits that we must have for each truck movement. All underground and overhead utilities, bridges, tunnels, etc., that are located on the selected route must be identified. Because city streets and country roads were not designed to support such a huge load as the 643, any temporary relocation of–or potential damage to–these entities must have a solid mitigation plan in place prior to movement of “The King.”

To reduce tonnage where possible, our current plan provides for the 643 to be stripped of all external, bolted-on appliances (such as the air compressors, injectors, power reverse, etc.). All removed appliances–including the locomotive’s cab and the brakeman’s “doghouse” on top of the tender–will be shipped separately by truck. The boiler will be removed from the frame as one component, and the frame, cylinders and running gear will remain together as the second component, and each will be shipped on a super-haul trailer. Due to the extreme tonnage of each of these components, as well as the hilly highway terrain, each trailer will require a truck on the front to pull, and another on the back end to push, much like railroads do with diesels every day. It is quite possible that two trucks will be pulling and one pushing!

Some may question why B&LE 643 will not be moved by rail. The answer, again, is based on the huge locomotive’s extreme weight and rigid wheelbase length, both of which exceed the maximum bridge capacity and minimum curvature existing on the Ohio Central Railroad.

We will produce a video documentary telling the 643 story from start to finish, as “The King” proudly ascends his throne in the center stall at the Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum!

Future 643 reports and updates will be posted on this website.

Bill Strawn
Board Chairman, Age of Steam Roundhouse Museum


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