Cincinnati Streetcar

My first public streetcar ride – Cincinnati, Ohio, Saturday, June 17, 2017.

I traveled to the Cincinnati area Friday evening to shoot video at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Int’l Airport. I did this Saturday morning. Before leaving for home that afternoon, I decided to ride Cincinnati’s new streetcar line.

The Cincinnati Bell Connector opened to the public on September 9, 2016. The line uses citty streets and connects major points of interest including the Cincinnati Public Library, Great American Ballpark, Government Square and Findlay Market. Streetcars had previously served Cincinnati residents from 1889 to 1951.

I parked near the public library, where I boarded one of Cincinnati’s five Spanish-built Urbos 3 vehicles. I rode down Walnut, along 2nd Street and then up Main until 8th & Main. I didn’t ride the entire route because my time was limited. Video shot from inside the streetcar and outside.

The Cincinnati streetcar project was controversial. It costs money, and whether future benefits outweigh costs is up for debate. Expansion is possible, both within the City of Cincinnati and across the Ohio River into Kentucky.

Since this blog primarily focuses on Peoria, Illinois, I’ll close with a reminder that our city had a streetcar system until 1946. Could it ever be revived? Not likely. Creating a downtown loop and a line across the Robert H. Michel Bridge into East Peoria would be incredibly costly, and is unnecessary. Unlike Cincinnati, downtown Peoria has plenty of parking space in close proximity to points of interest and is a relatively easy drive any time of the day, or day of the week.

– David P. Jordan

Warbonnet-Led BNSF Freight On Peoria Sub – June 10, 2017

A derailment involving several cars of a westbound loaded feed train Monday afternoon messed up operations a bit on BNSF Railway’s Peoria Subdivision.

The regular Monday freight from Galesburg to Peoria, M-GALPEI had cleared the line by early afternoon, tying up at the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad’s East Peoria Yard. Several hours later, a 100-car, Modesto, California-bound unit feed pellet train (loaded by ADM in Decatur, delivered by Canadian National to BNSF) G-PEIMOD derailed several cars on a bridge just north of the Harmon Highway bridge.

If not for 10mph slow orders imposed after recent flooding, the derailment would have been far more serious. I shot this feed train (possible G-PEIMOD or G-PEIFRS) on Easter Sunday (April 16), and at 4:43 you can see they’ve already begun to accelerate as they near Harmon Highway.

The feed train had locomotives on both ends, so cars on either end of the derailed cars were pulled in the clear, some left at Edwards Siding and moston the New Long Main, seen from the S. Adams Street viaduct. That is where both cuts were on Saturday morning when M-PEIGAL, believed the first of the week (normally, trains would have run Tuesday and Friday) departed TZPR’s East Peoria Yard.

A friend gave me a heads up, so I managed to capture video of the 79-car train at Edwards, Rockhill Road (between Edwards and Oak Hill) and Elmwood. Icing on the cake was the train’s motive power – BNSF 625 and BNSF 539 – both still wearing Santa Fe red-and-silver Warbonnet colors. The first, in fact, is still lettered for Santa Fe.

Besides two Caterpillar tractor loads, coiled wire rod from Keystone Steel & Wire and gluten feed pellets, distillers’ grain and steepwater from Pacific Ethanol were typical traffic on Saturday’s train.

– David P. Jordan

Sixteen NS Heritage Units Down, Four To Go

I’ve seen sixteen of Norfolk Southern’s twenty Heritage Units introduced in 2012 to celebrate the carrier’s thirtieth birthday.

The sixteenth was NS 1073, an SD70ACe painted in Penn Central colors. I got it after a last-minute attempt to capture NS 1073 leading the Iowa Interstate Railroad’s regular evening train CBBI (Council Bluffs IA to Blue Island IL) Saturday evening.

Although I raced up Rt. 40 to Sheffield in hopes of intercepting it there, the train was already past, and I barely made it to Bureau Junction in time to confirm its location.

I captured a few stills at Bureau and had to settle for low-light video at DePue. NS1073-IAIS 505-IAIS 516 lead 114 cars, the first seven of which are intermodal cars of three units each.

I mounted my camera on a tri-pod, but now I wish I had just held it. A soft joint on stick rail sub-leased from CSX Transportation caused noticeable vibration.

NOTE: Norfolk Southern’s Heritage Units arelisted below. An asterisk* indicates those which I’ve seen.

NS 1065 (SD70ACe/Savannah & Atlanta Railway)*
NS 1066 (SD70ACe/New York Central Railroad)*
NS 1067 (SD70ACe/Reading Company)*
NS 1068 (SD70ACe/Erie Railroad)*
NS 1069 (SD70Ace/Virginian Railway)
NS 1070 (SD70Ace/Wabash Railway)*
NS 1071 (SD70ACe/Central Railroad of New Jersey)
NS 1072 (SD70ACe/Illinois Terminal Railroad)*
NS 1073 (SD70ACe/Penn Central)*
NS 1074 (SD70Ace/Delaware Lackawanna & Western)*
NS 8025 (ES44AC/Monongahela Railway)*
NS 8098 (ES44AC/Conrail)*
NS 8099 (ES44AC/Southern Railway)*
NS 8100 (ES44AC/Nickel Plate Road)*
NS 8101 (ES44AC/Central of Georgia Railroad)
NS 8102 (ES44AC/Pennsylvania RR)*
NS 8103 (ES44AC/Norfolk & Western Railway)
NS 8104 (ES44AC/Lehigh Valley Railroad)*
NS 8105 (ES44AC/Interstate Railroad)*
NS 8114 (ES44AC/Norfolk Southern Railway)*

– David P. Jordan

Peoria Int’l Airport Flight Schedule & Analysis June 2017

IMG_1216 - CopyIt is again that time of year!

I normally use the month of July as the basis for this annual post, but the peak in airline service this year appears to be in June.

So far, Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport is having a good year. The airport authority has posted press releases to boast of record passenger traffic for each of the first three months. Numbers are 5.5 percent higher than last year (157,431 vs. 149,181). If trends continue and there are no service losses, the 2017 tally will be another record (623,134 passengers x 1.055 = 657,406). The actual figure will end up being between 650,000 and 675,000.

Let’s analyze by airline.

June 2017 schedules show the highest service levels here since this carrier added Peoria on March 3, 2004. Flights to Destin/Fort Walton Beach (Wednesday & Sunday), Las Vegas (Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday), Orlando-Sanford (Wednesday & Sunday), Phoenix-Mesa (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday), Punta Gorda/Fort Myers (Monday, Friday & Saturday) and St. Petersburg/Clearwater (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday) total 19 weekly departures, with four each on Saturday and Sunday, two each on weekdays. All aircraft types in the Allegiant Air fleet except the Boeing 757-200 are deployed to these routes.

Nonstops to Destin/Fort Walton Beach began this past Wednesday (May 24),bringing the number of destinations to six, a level not offered here by a single airline since Ozark Air Lines’ shift to a hub-and-spoke system in the early 1980s.

Future new destinations are possible. A 2016 survey asked flyers for their preferences among three destinations: Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Los Angeles and Myrtle Beach. We now have the first. Several midwestern cities – Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Sioux Falls and Springfield (Missouri) – have service to Los Angeles. Service to Myrtle Beach seems the least likely.

The next new destination may be out of the country. Allegiant Air is believed to be behind a number of small midwestern cities’ construction of international facilities. Weekly, probably seasonal, nonstops to Cancun (Mexico), Nassau (Bahamas), Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands) and/or Montego Bay (Jamaica) are likely in the not-so-distant future.

Last summer, American Eagle offered a total of seven weekday departures to Chicago-O’Hare (four) and Dallas/Ft. Worth (three). Frequency iremains unchanged, but service to Chicago-O’Hare and Dallas/Ft. Worth has been reduced by one roundtrip to each while twice-daily Charlotte nonstops began in early November 2016. Those to American Airlines’ big Texas hub dropped in favor of larger, two-class jets. Chicago-O’Hare service has been reduced to three during the slower winter season. Service levels will probably remain at this level thanks to Charlotte service.

Word is American Eagle’s Charlotte flights are full and kicking Delta’s butt. Charlotte is, after all, an easier southeast hub than Atlanta.

Regional partners have been shuffled. Mesa Airlines replaced Envoy on the Dallas/Ft. Worth flights when larger jets were introduced here in February. Chicago-O’Hare service is now handled by SkyWest Airlines and the new Charlotte is handled by PSA Airlines. Charlotte and Chicago-O’Hare flights are operated with 50-seat Canadair CRJ200s.

American [Eagle] has the Peoria market covered with nonstops to its three largest hubs so I don’t expect new destinations. Philadelphia would be nice, but connections to the Northeast region are available through Charlotte and Chicago-O’Hare.

Service levels remain largely unchanged from last summer with three weekday roundtrips to Atlanta, two to Detroit and one to Minneapolis/St. Paul. All flights are operated with 50-seat Canadair Regional Jets. SkyWest handles the sole Minneapolis/St. Paul roundtrip while Detroit is split between that carrier and Endeavor Air. All Atlanta flights are operated by Endeavor Air.

Atlanta weekday frequencies are being reduced from three to two from July 1 through August 22. This is a curious move on Delta Connection’s part. The summer season should rate the highest frequencies and capacity. American Eagle’s new Charlotte flights are believed to be a factor. Perhaps Delta isn’t being as competitive as is should be? The airline could challenge American Airlines for dominance between Peoria and the southeast if it upgraded to larger jets (65-seat Canadair Regional Jet 700s) on all flights. It will happen eventually…if Delta doesn’t blink first.

As for others, Minneapolis/St. Paul service is offered daily except Saturday. There is a business case for maintaining this service, but whether it remains long term is unclear. Peoria has retained its Detroit service when Bloomington/Normal has lost it. Apparently, Delta is winning a lot of local travelers to and from the northeast region, and also Canada, Asia and Europe.

Service to Chicago-O’Hare adds up to four weekday roundtrips, and three on Saturdays. All flights are on 50-seat Embraer 145s with all ExpressJet Airlines and TransStates Airlines each responsible for half.

Failure of Houston nonstops has left United Airlines’ regional partner at a disadvantage in the Peoria market. Of course, recent bad publicity has done further damage to the carrier’s business. Reformation is underway. Its success will have to be reviewed in the future.

The local airport authority has made public its intent to persuade United [Express] to restore Denver service. I believe this will happen sooner rather than later, probably next year. This depends on the need to be competitive as well as local demand. Consequences of such a move may be the reduction of Chicago-O’Hare nonstops from four to three, however.

Bloomington-Normal’s Central Illinois Regional Airport (CIRA) is no longer a threat to Peoria. There is little advantage for local travelers to make the drive. Like CIRA, parking is free at Peoria and fares are low. CIRA did post a slight increase in passengers in 2016, marking the end of a four-year decline.

But CIRA may soon face some serious competition to the east. United Express begins three daily roundtrips out of Champaign-Urbana’s Willard Airport to Chicago-O’Hare on June 8. The new service may draw potential passengers away from CIRA (like from Decatur), thus forcing reductions in frequency and/or service.

I’ve compiled scheduled airline service at Peoria Int’l Airport for June 2017. Note that Allegiant Air schedules vary quite a bit during the same month (I’ve noted dates in the right-most column). Unlike last year, I color-coded entries by airline.

PIA June 2017 P. 1PIA June 2017 P. 2

PIA Routes July 2017

– David P. Jordan

Rock Island 630 & 652 Hauled Through Davenport, Iowa!

Two original passenger “E-units” which once led Rock Island streamliners are bound for a new home.

Both units ran to and from Peoria on the Peoria Rocket. The 630, resplendent in a “Golden Rocket” scheme applied for builer Electro Motive Division’s 50-anniversary in 1972, pulled a fantrip from Chicago to Peoria in September that year. A love-it-or-hate-it Bicentennial scheme was applied to 652 in 1976.

These units enjoyed stints at the Midland Railway out of Baldwin City, Kansas. No. 630 had been purchased from the Rock Island by a Kansas City museum in May 1979 and restored in 1988 to a livery similar to its original dress. No. 652 was preserved and then restored to its original paint scheme by the Midland museum in 1994. Both units were sold by the Midland Railway to Sabin’s Manly Junction Railroad Museum in 2009.

Slant-nose E-6A #630, built in 1941, and E-8A #652, built in 1952, are the property of Dan Sabin and have been cosmetically restored to wear an early 1960s-era simplification of the classic crimson-and-maroon livery worn by locomotives which powered the Rock Island’s famous Rocket fleet.

Sabin, president of the Iowa Northern Railway, had worked for the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad for a decade starting in 1968 as a student train order operator, eventually becoming the nation’s youngest dispatcher three years later at age 18. So his interest in the units requires no explanation.

Mid-America Railcar in Kansas City, Missouri repainted both 630 and 652 prior to shipment to Manly. I received word that Canadian Pacific would haul these units on a regular freight train (Kansas City to St. Paul No. 475) through the Quad Cities sometime on Monday, May 22. I wouldn’t get out of work until 3:00pm so the later the better.

Fortunately, 475 was later. I arrived the east side of Nahant Yard in Davenport, Iowa in time to capture it making a set out. Both 630 and 652 presented a splended appearance as they passed before my lens. The appearance of the Eldridge Branch local with two Deere & Company hydraulic excavator loads was icing on the cake!

I waited until evening in hopes of seeing 475’s departure north. Even  better, I caught counterpart 474 (St. Paul to Kansas City) while waiting in downtown Davenport.

Perhaps an hour later, 475 received permission to depart Nahant Yard. Scenes are at West Davenport and in downtown Davenport next to the Government Bridge.

– David P. Jordan

Sunday Train Action!

Iowa Interstate manifest PESI (Peoria IL to Silvis IL) rolls through Mossville, Illinois on May 21, 2017. A trio of GP38-2s 719, 712 and 715 have 111 cars. Tank car right behind the potash empties was an amines load (UN 2734), possibly from Mapleton, Illinois.

A Toledo Peoria & Western Railway eastbound rolls under US 24 at Cruger, Illinois then Eureka (whole train) on May 21, 2017. GP50 #5015 and SD40-3s #3443 and #3442 have 101 cars – 20 nitrogen fertilizer solution loads, a buffer and 80 ethanol loads.

– David P. Jordan

Temporary Delta Connection Frequency Reduction

IMG_1216 - Copy

According to Delta Airlines’ online timetables, daily roundtrips between Peoria and Atlanta will be reduced from three to two for the period July 1 thru August 22.

The reasons for this are unclear. A shortage of equipment (use of 50-seat CRJ200s continues) or competition from American Eagle’s new Charlotte service are both possibilities.

Fortunately, it appears to be a temporary reduction.

– David P. Jordan