P&PU. South Bartonville. 2003.

Remember the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway?

On August 20, 2003 I caught this P&PU Extra Switcher enroute to Cargill Fertilizer Co. with 15 potash loads. It was led by SC15A-3 802, built by Peoria Locomotive Works as demonstrator unit PL-1500.

Change came soon: Cargill Fertilizer Co., located in the Pekin Bottoms, merged with IMC Global on October 25, 2004 to create Mosaic Crop Nutrition LLC. On November 1 that year, Genesee & Wyoming Inc’s newly-created Tazewell & Peoria Railroad Inc. began a 20-year lease of the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway.

But 802 is still in the area, working at Alter Metal Recycling Co.’s recently-acquired Behr Iron & Metal facility at 2424 W. Clarke Street in Peoria.

– David P. Jordan

Norfolk Southern. East Peoria. 1995 (Part 2)

I shot these twelve photos of Norfolk Southern Train D41 on August 21, 1995. It shows the Decatur-bound train departing East Peoria with CNO&TP 3235 and NS 4602 (a SD40-2 and a GP49, respectively, both high hoods) and 54 cars.

The train was a bit longer than usual. Credit goes to a dozen Caterpillar tractor and equipment loads and a block of 15 ADM ethanol tank cars. Being a Monday, though, there probably wasn’t a pickup at the TP&W before leaving town.

Finally, note the two 89′ piggyback flat cars mixed with double stacks. One has a single TP&W-marked trailer, the other has two. TP&W purchased 400 of these in 1995, and you could see them at Caterpillar’s Morton parts warehouse as well as the Nestle USA/Libby’s cannery across the street.

Caterpillar could have sent tractor parts to its Mississauga, Ontario parts warehouse by rail (routed Norfolk Southern to Buffalo, NY then either Canadian National or Canadian Pacific from there). August 21 was probably a week or so early for canned pumpkin to be moving.

Norfolk Southern eliminated some low-volume intermodal lanes in 1997, and TOFC business in and out of East Peoria was probably among them (container traffic continued officially until early 2000).

– David P. Jordan

Union Pacific. South Pekin. 2003.

More historical video!

I shot what I believe to have been an extra section of Union Pacific’s MPRPB (Manifest, Proviso IL to Pine Bluff AR) depart South Pekin the late afternoon of August 19, 2003. UP 4978 & UP 9036 have 38 cars.

Note about half the train was made up of tank cars carrying BP North America markings (“AMCX” for Amoco, some with BP logo). I’d guess this was some regular movement out of BP’s Whiting, Indiana refinery (served by the Indiana Harbor Belt R. R.). Lacking haz-mat placards, I’m not sure what the cars contain/contained.

The regular MPRPB was always a lengthy train with between 80-120 cars and appeared in the area earlier in the morning. So that and its short consist lead me to believe this train was an extra section, probably carrying symbol “MPRPBX.”

At the time, Union Pacific’s ex-C&NW Peoria Sub was host to two daily through manifests – MPRPB and counterpart MASPR (Manifest, Alton & Southern to Proviso IL). Of course, MCLPE and MPECL each ran three times a week in those days as well.

– David P. Jordan

Ferromex Unit on Union Pacific’s MPECL!

I shot Union Pacific’s MPECL (Manifest, Peoria IL to Clinton IA) making its regular Tuesday afternoon run.

I knew a Ferromex SD70ACe had been reported at Adams Street Yard Sunday, so I figured it would be on this afternoon’s train. I was correct, but it didn’t lead. In fact, it was one of five units (UP 3185, UP 4285, FXE 4077, UP 8868 and UP 8536) leading a 40-car train.

The train’s consist was made up of the usual loads and empties from the Illinois & Midland, Keokuk Junction Railway, Tazewell & Peoria Railroad and Toledo Peoria & Western.

Scenes are at Pioneer and Rt. 90 near Edelstein.

– David P. Jordan

Norfolk Southern. East Peoria. 1995.

Through the years, railroads change their basic carload freight operations. They do this due to shifts in traffic patterns, business gained or lost, etc.

From 1988 until late 1995, a pair of East Peoria-Decatur locals, D41 and D42, handled all carload traffic on Norfolk Southern’s Bloomington District. Train D41 left the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway’s East Peoria Yard late each weekday afternoon, pulled TP&W interchange at Farmdale, made a pickup at Normal’s Good Yard (mostly Diamond Star Motors/Mitsubishi vehicles), and worked the Bloomer Line interchange and the Central Soya soybean processing plant at Gibson City. It also handled customers at Galesville and Monticello. A 2:30am arrival was scheduled at Decatur.

Counterpart D42 left Decatur after an 11:30pm call time, always past Midnight. This guaranteed an East Peoria arrival after sunrise the next day. Customers at Monticello and Galesville could be served northbound, but cars for Gibson City were typically hauled to Normal’s Good Yard and left for D41. A setout was made there (mostly empty autoracks) as well, and at the TP&W’s Farmdale interchange. The rest of the train went on to P&PU’s East Peoria Yard.

It should be noted that in the beginning, Good Yard-based roadswitcher D47 handled D41 and D42, power and all, west of Normal. A new connection between ex-Wabash and ex-Nickel Plate lines at Gibson City, placed into service in early 1990, eliminated a time-consuming runaround move. But one railfan publication* shows D41 and D42 continued to operate only between Decatur and Normal as late as Spring 1992.

I’m unable to confirm when D41 and D42 crews started running the length of the Bloomington District, but probably no later than 1993. Diamond Star Motors’ output had slumped in 1992 and 1993 but when output boomed again in 1994 and 1995, roadswitcher D47 probably lacked the time to make an East Peoria “flip.”

I rarely saw D42, but D41’s predictability allowed me to wait for it in late-afternoon. I saw it numerous times in 1994 and 1995. In October 1995, heavy Burlington Northern interchange shifted from Chicago to Peoria and NS added another pair of East Peoria-Decatur trains, D45 and D46. Eventually, D41 was dropped in favor of an East Peoria-to-Bellevue (OH) manifest symboled 410 and D45 became the work train from East Peoria to Decatur. Numerous changes were yet in the future.

The above video montage shows SD40-2 6125 and what appears to be GP38-2 5120 pulling 15 intermodal platforms and 14 cars of mixed freight out of the P&PU’s East Peoria Yard on July 12, 1995. Before leaving town, D41 will pull TP&W interchange (probably 5-10 cars) at Farmdale.

*CTC BOARD RAILROAD NEWS, May 1992, Issue No. 9, P. 7

– David P. Jordan

United Express Picks Champaign/Urbana! (Updated)

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Champaign/Urbana is getting a new airline.

In a move sure to heat up competition and bring lower fares, ExpressJet Airlines dba United Express begins thrice-daily service out of Willard Airport starting June 8. The new service will be flown with 50-seat Embraer 145 twin jets.

This gives Champaign a second legacy carrier for the first time since 2010 when Delta Connection dropped its Detroit flights. Since that time, American Eagle has been Willard’s sole scheduled air carrier, offering nonstops to Chicago-O’Hare and Dallas/Ft. Worth.

Last November, the Wall Street Journal ran an article noting a new strategy for United Airlines in that it would add some 20 small cities to boost revenue and market share.

CIRA OR WILLARD?
United Express served Willard Airport before. Its legacy dates to 1983 when Mississippi Valley Airlines (MVA) added Willard. Air Wisconsin acquired MVA in 1985. That carrier adopted the United Express branding systemwide in late October 1986 and continued to service here until February 1993.

United Express more recently served Bloomington/Normal’s Central Illinois Regional Airport. Four daily flights on 32-seat Dornier 328 turboprops started in September 2000. Regional jets were phased in a few years later. Surging fuel prices and a declining economy prompted the carrier to ended service to CIRA in early November 2008.

Unknown is whether United Express looked at CIRA for new service. Favoring Willard is its distance from existing stations (Peoria and Springfield), an American Eagle monopoly (i. e. high fares) and a potentially larger catchment area*.

*Champaign’s metro area of 232,000 and nearby Danville’s 81,000. This number is considerably higher than Bloomington/Normal’s MSA of 191,000. 

Thanks to commenter “Mike” for the heads up!

UPDATE (Feb. 27): The News-Gazette posted a story this morning. The official announcement came today.

(NOTE: Above photo taken September 9, 2007)

– David P. Jordan

TP&W Ethanol/Manifest – 2/18/17

The Toledo Peoria & Western Railway continues running unit ethanol trains.

I saw the most recent on Saturday, February 18. A trio of former Iowa Chicago & Eastern SD40-2s – 3441, 3440 and 3443 – led 102 cars out of East Peoria in early afternoon. The first 20 cars were mixed carload freight. The trailing unit ethanol train was shorter than usual – 82 cars including a buffer car on either end.

The 8 minute, 34 second video includes scenes at Farmdale, Washington, Cruger and just west of Secor. The whole train is shown at the last location.

– David P. Jordan

Norfolk Southern’s Bloomington District Remains an Interesting Piece of Railroad!

The loss of outbound finished vehicle business from Mitsubishi Motor Mfg. of America’s Normal, Illinois assembly plant did not end the excitement of railfanning Norfolk Southern’s Bloomington District.

Regular mainline locals (D32 and D36), two Normal-based roadswitchers (D47 and D49), grain and coal extras keep the railheads shiny. Even better, auto traffic has returned thanks to Volkswagen’s surprising little-publicized diesel reprogramming operation at the former Mitsubishi plant’s rail facilities.

I’ve written before about the VW operation.You can read about that here.

Examples of recent train action on the East Peoria end of Norfolk Southern’s Bloomington District can be found below. First, on Saturday (Feb. 11), I caught Norfolk Southern’s 402 coal train at Farmdale and TZPR’s Farm Creek through truss bridge. CP 8853, NS 2603 and NS 9237 have 93 coal loads for the Iowa Interstate.

Monday (Feb. 13) afternoon, I heard about a Norfolk Southern vehicle train passing Crandall Jct. enroute to East Peoria, and quickly left home to investigate. I caught some radio chatter on my way down to East Peoria and heard the symbol “D4W.”

The train was an extra called out of Good Yard, and the second reported train of Volkswagens “turned” at TZPR’s Wesley Jct. so they could be properly unloaded at the former Mitsubishi auto ramp in Normal.

Rivian Automotive purchased this plant about the same time Volkswagen began temporary use of its rail facilities for diesel reprogramming, so I’d assume VW is paying Rivian rent, or this falls to Vascor Logistics, which operates the former auto ramp. If so, that would be a shot in the arm for the fledgling upstart Rivian, which doesn’t plant to begin auto production (and some doubt they ever will) until 2019.

NS 9756 & NS 2738 pull 54 autoracks across E. Washington Street, roll through TZPR’s Farm Creek through truss bridge, back up then pull forward at Wesley East, and crosses W. Washington Street, where street lamps provide decent lighting for night video.

– David P. Jordan

Gritty, Industrial Railroading, Part XVIII

Six decades ago, BF Goodrich announced plans to build a $5 million chemical plant just north of Henry, Illinois.

The public announcement came on March 19, 1957. This plant, which was to produce anti-oxidents for use in the petroleum, rubber and plastics industries, was expected to be online by Spring 1958. Groundbreaking took place May 14. Steam boilers were fired up on May 19, 1958 and production began on June 2. The public got a chance to view the new plant several months after it opened. The Peoria Journal Star noted October 25, 1958 that the plant used 35 acres and had 65 employees.

The best part – and I know you already guessed this – was that the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Railroad extended rail access to the plant. A new station, Goodrich, marked the location of a wye and industrial track just north of Henry.

Plant expansions ocurred with frequency. A small addition opened in 1959 added an anti-zonant chemical to the plant’s products. Goodrich didn’t allow a September 26, 1963 blast get in its way; it repaired the section used to produce rubber accelators and doubled capacity in the process! In September 1964, Goodrich announced it would double the size of its Henry plant and create 100 jobs. Poly-Vinyl-Chloride (PVC) resin production began in the new addition on November 24, 1965.

A second company, this time Davison Chemical Div. of W. R. Grace Co., announced in September 1965 that it would build a $4 million granular fertilizer manufacturing facility south of the Goodrich plant. The Rock Island also extended service to this plant, which opened in early 1967. An ammonia terminal, complete with barge dock, was built around the same time.

Goodrich wasn’t done with expansion. In 1969, it completed an addition which added 50 employees and facilities to process PVC resin in solid cube (and colored) form. Yet another increased PVC resin capacity in 1973.

Sadly, the Rock Island Railroad reported its last annual profit in 1964, and endured a drawn out battle to merge with the mighty Union Pacific. After the Interstate Commerce Commission approved Union Pacific’s bid (with undesirable conditions) on November 1974, the Rock lost its suitor. A severe business downturn and an inability to pay its debts forced the Rock to entered its third bankruptcy, on March 17, 1975.

Uncertainty, fueled by talk of shutting down the railroad in a matter of weeks, made shippers nervous. For many, rail service was absolutely necessary. The Rock cut costs and improved cash flow, but never regained profitability. A strike over compensation shut down the carrier on August 28, 1979. The federal government ordered Kansas City Terminal Railway to assume directed service from October 5. In January 1980, a federal bankruptcy judge rejected the railroad’s reorganization plan, and ordered liquidation.

The Rock Island began embargoing traffic in mid-March 1980, and completely shut down at the end of the month. On April 2, the Elgin Joliet & Eastern Railway assumed directed service from Joliet west to Bureau Junction then south to Peoria. This arrangement lasted two months. Then in early June, Burlington Northern extended service from Peoria north to Henry.

Poor track conditions and inevitable derailments made service unprofitable, so BN ended operations north of Mossville (and reportedly north of Peoria) on October 1, 1981. Fortunately, service to the chemical plants continued as the Chessie System’s Baltimore & Ohio, which began operations from Joliet west to Bureau Junction in August 1980, extended service down to Henry.

This created a costly problem for BF Goodrich’s large, rail-dependent facility. Shipments of one primary feedstock, vinyl chloride, originated in Calvert City, Kentucky, but the preferred routing – Illinois Central Gulf to Peoria, thence the Rock Island (and subsequent directed-service providers) to Henry – was no longer available. Instead, BF Goodrich was forced to use a circuitous and costlier routing via Chicago.

The solution? Purchase one of the last rail assets not yet sold by the Rock’s bankrupt parent. At this late date, the Henry-Peoria line was to be scrapped if a buyer couldn’t be found. In June 1985, BF Goodrich purchased this stretch, a portion of which had been unused for nearly four years (P&PU ran the line from Peoria to Mossville).

Goodrich had no interest in entering the railroad business, so subsidiary Lincoln & Southern Railroad, contracted with the Iowa Interstate Railroad to operate the line. The IAIS acquired trackage rights on CSX Transportation (into which B&O had been merged) between Bureau Jct. and Henry to connect Peoria with its mainline across Illinois and Iowa. Service began June 22, 1987.

As soon as track conditions allowed (probably when full rehabilitation was completed in 1989), vinyl chloride and other chemical shipments originating on the Illinois Central in western Kentucky and Louisiana began routing via the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway and the Iowa Interstate. Although the IAIS hauled the majority of inbound BF Goodrich traffic, CSX handled all plant switching.

In 1993, BF Goodrich spun off its PVC resin business to The Geon Company. A merger with M. A. Hanna created PolyOne in 2000, which in turn sold its PVC resin business to Mexichem in 2013. In 2001, Goodrich sold its performance materials business to Noveon. Lubrizol acquired Noveon in 2004, and two years later Emerald Performance Materials acquired certain Lubrizol assets, including the Henry plant.

W. R. Grace sold its Henry granular fertilizer plant to Henry Fertilizer Co. in 1988. Agrium US acquired the facility in 1995 and expanded it. United Suppliers LLC, the present owner, acquired the plant in 2002 after a short period of dormancy.

Then rail service was about to change for the better. CSX allowed the less traffic-dense portion of its “New Rock Subdivision” (leased for 99 years from 1981) to deteriorate. A May 2004 derailment just south of Bureau Junction involving a Peoria-bound Iowa Interstate train was the last straw. CSX slapped a 10-mph speed restriction on the line. The Class 1 entered into negotiations with the IAIS and came to a deal in which the latter would operate the line from Utica to Henry via Bureau Jct. under a sublease agreement. This change became effective February 3, 2006. The IAIS subsequently rehabilitated the line, restoring 25mph operation south of Bureau Junction.

The sublease agreement meant the IAIS could finally provide direct service to Henry’s major industries. Better and more frequent service by the IAIS has increased business. Taking another step up the improvement ladder, the IAIS acquired the Lincoln & Southern Railroad on December 30, 2006.

At present, Iowa Interstate provides as-needed service to four industries located just north of Henry at Goodrich – Emerald Performance Materials, Mexichem Specialty Resins, Ozinga Materials and United Suppliers LLC. The daylight “Bureau Switcher,” or BUSW, works here as needed, probably a minimum of three days a week.

I shot the video above on February 10, 2007. IAIS 703 came down from its Bureau Junction base, backed into the industrial track and left two phosphoric acid tank cars for United Suppliers. Then, it shoved a carbon sulphide car and eight vinyl chloride cars onto the north leg of the industrial track. The carbon sulphide car was probably for Emerald; the vinyl chloride cars definitely for Mexichem.

– David P. Jordan

A Rare Move on BNSF’s Dunfermline Subdivision

This video was shot February 1, 2017 at Bryant, Illinois by the owners of the former Illinois Central Electric Railway interurban depot. It was a rare move to see on a line where the only reguar traffic is coal bound for Illinois Power Holdings LLC’s Duck Creek Station.

For awhile, empty twin-bay covered hoppers were stored on an unused portion of the line north of the power plant junction switch at Dunfermline. The train, led by BNSF 3885 & CSXT 7832, probably had 100 cars. The market for frac sand may be improving, so the stored cars are re-entering service.

NOTE: This video uploaded to my youtube channel with permission by owner.

– David P. Jordan