Norfolk Southern Train 115 – Feb. 28, 2015!

In late January 2014, the Iowa Interstate Railroad and Norfolk Southern Railway began shifting some of their interchange business away from congested Chicago to Peoria. In February and March that year, the IAIS delivered three or four loaded ethanol trains weekly to the NS while NS delivered about four weekly Knoxville TN to E. Peoria IL freight (Train 115) and occasional empty ethanol trains to IAIS.

The neat thing about this use of the Peoria Gateway is that IAIS and NS also exchanged a decent volume of mixed carload freight. Such traffic typically seen interchanged via the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad at East Peoria included

Corn syrup from ADM at Cedar Rapids IA (IAIS to NS)
Corn starch from Penford Products at Cedar Rapids IA (IAIS to NS)
Corn gluten feed from Penford Products at Cedar Rapids IA (IAIS to NS)
Corn gluten meal from Penford Products at Cedar Rapids IA (IAIS to NS)
Denatured alcohol from ADM at Cedar Rapids IA (IAIS to NS)
Phosphoric acid from PCS Phosphates in Lee Creek NC (NS to IAIS)
Coiled steel from ??? (NS to IAIS)
Steel rebar from ??? (NS to IAIS)
Baled scrap cardboard from ??? (NS to IAIS)

Unfortunately, heavy early April 2014 flooding damaged track and bridges near East Peoria so severely that Norfolk Southern embargoed the western end of its Bloomington District for eight days. Meanwhile, southeast-bound ethanol trains and carload traffic had return to a Chicago routing. After the embargo was lifted, these trains again resumed their Peoria routing, but those 115 and empty ethanol trains stayed on a Chicago routing for a while. Then after track repairs eliminated slow orders, NS Train 115 and empty ethanol trains resumed their Peoria routing.

The train shown in the video above had two Norfolk Southern locomotives – D8-40C 8725 and D9-40CW 9701 – and 78 cars. Those cars are broken down below:

7 cushion coil cars (steel coil loads)
10 tank cars (denatured alcohol empties)
3 cushion coil cars (steel coil loads)
2 tank cars (denatured alcohol empties)
1 cushion coil car (steel coil load)
5 tank cars (denatured alcohol empties)
3 tank cars (corn syrup empties)
12 tank cars (denatured alcohol empties)
1 “pressured-aide” covered hopper (corn gluten meal? empty)
1 “pressure-differential” covered hopper (corn starch? empty)
12 tank cars (denatured alcohol empties)
1 “pressure-differential” covered hopper (corn starch? empty)
10 tank cars (denatured alcohol empties)
1 covered hopper (buffer car)

It took until February this year for carload freight (listed above) to shift back to a Peoria routing. Hopefully, spring weather won’t bring floods and the heavy Peoria interchange will continue uninterrupted for many years to come.

– David P. Jordan

Another Round Of Iowa Interstate Detours, Part II

On Sunday, October 9, 2011 I caught this Blue Island IL to Council Bluffs IA freight (BICB) detouring down the Iowa Interstate’s Bureau Jct. to Peoria branch and then BNSF westward toward Galesburg. The above scene was along Route 8 between Pottstown and Edwards.

Note the lead locomotive is IAIS 513, an ES44AC painted in classic Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific late-1940s, 1950s and early-1960s era black and crimson. The 513 and two other “GEVO” – 504 and 508 – lead a 96-car train.

I should also note that 513 was one of the units on the train that derailed at Tiskilwa the prior Friday. After being pulled to Bureau Jct. and inspected, the unit was deemed safe to return to service.

– David P. Jordan

Another Round Of Iowa Interstate Detours, Part I

On New Year’s Eve 2007, BNSF derailed another freight train at Colona, once again blocking IAIS traffic. But Peoria saw no detours, most likely due to the deteriorated condition of BNSF’s Galesburg-Peoria line. BNSF did, however, hosted a detouring Iowa Interstate feed train on New Year’s Day 2008.

Nearly four more years passed until more detours. On October 7, 2011 Council Bluffs IA to Blue Island IL manifest CBBI derailed 26 cars at Tiskilwa, Illinois, closing the line for four days. BNSF had rehabilitated its Galesburg-Peoria line, so Peoria saw several detours during this time.

I caught a detouring CBBI at Gilson, Illinois on BNSF’s Galesburg-Peoria line on Saturday, October 8, 2011. The 113-car train was led by ES44ACs 500, 510 and 508.

– David P. Jordan

“Officials have not publicly identified the airline involved”

Take a deep breath, this doesn’t involve Peoria.

Not directly anyway. The headline is actually the last sentence in this Quad City Times article, which concerns a drop in daily passengers flying to the nation’s capital. Quad City International Airport director Bruce Carter is worried that the daily average has dropped from 41 passengers a year ago to 15 or 18.

As some of you know, Quad City leaders have for some time lobbied for nonstop air service to Washington DC’s Dulles International Airport, mainly due to defense industry travel related to the Rock Island Arsenal. The effort received a boost last year when Illinois’ legislature approved a $1.5 million subsidy.

Those funds have been frozen pending review by Illinois’ new governor, Bruce Rauner. So the article’s last paragraph caught my attention.

Both Carter and Rumler said the agreement with the airline is in its final stages. Officials have not publicly identified the airline involved.

Except it is pretty obvious which airline is involved. Neither Director Bruce Carter nor Chamber of Commerce’s Paul Rumler need to tell us. Molly Folley, airport authority chairwoman gives it away.

“Because it is a gateway, it (the flight) is not just for people flying to D.C.,” she said, adding that the flight also will open up travel to international destinations. “That helps increase the chances of making the service a success.”

This is just another way of saying the carrier involved maintains a hub-and-spoke network at Dulles. United Airlines is the only choice here, folks. So a daily roundtrip operated by ExpressJet Airlines dba United Express using a 50-seat Embraer 145 is likely, and possibly without a subsidy.

Washington DC service overflies United’s Chicago-O’Hare hub, so passengers will pay a premium. Not sure if the higher price will be deemed superior to the risk of a delayed connection. Perhaps United [Express] should consider offering two daily roundtrips – one nonstop and the other nonstop – tied with Peoria? Airlines shed such routings by the late 1990s or early 2000s, but reduced costs compared to that period coupled with today’s lower fuel prices might offset such inefficiency.

The higher frequency and potential for more passengers with a Peoria tie-in might even require larger aircraft, perhaps a 72-seat Embraer 170 operated by ExpressJet parent SkyWest Airlines? Even with higher fares, larger jets and nonstop service would no doubt draw passengers from competitors who routing passengers via Chicago-O’Hare (American Airlines) or Detroit (Delta Air Lines).

We know that like the Quad Cities, Peoria has been lobbying for Washington, DC service. Perhaps working together can bring success?

– David P. Jordan

Diamonds Aren’t Forever

The Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS) was forced to detour its trains not once but twice in 2003. On November 21, a BNSF freight train derailed at Colona, Illinois destroying the at-grade crossing with the Iowa Interstate.

At-grade crossings of two rail lines are called “diamonds,” and are difficult to replace when damaged or destroyed. That’s because the angle at which the tracks cross are unique. The cross track must be custom-fabricated, and takes months to do so.

This being the case, BNSF replaced the IAIS crossing with a switch. Another switch installed at the east end of the former crossing would enable IAIS to restore full service on its own mainline. Until then, trains CBBI and BICB between Council Bluffs IA and Blue Island IL had to detour via BNSF between the Quad Cities area, Galesburg and Peoria.

I caught one of these, BICB in late afternoon, November 22, 2003, at W. Farmington Road running westbound on BNSF’s Peoria Subdivision. The train had six engines and 81 cars. A block of 14 intermodal cars on the rear included 34 platforms.

– David P. Jordan

Second May 8, 2003 IAIS Detour

After chasing Iowa Interstate freight RIBI from near Chillicothe to Bureau Jct., I went home for lunch, then went back out in the afternoon knowing a westbound detour was due. Sure enough, I encountered train CBBI in downtown Peoria. It had three engines and 55 cars – a short consist on paper, but ten double stack or spine cars equaled 30 platforms.

I shot video from Leland Street as it crawled along Peoria & Pekin Union Railway track toward the BNSF connection near S. Darst Street. BNSF’s old mainline is in the foreground. Note Archer Daniels Midland Co’s former Hiram Walker & Sons distillery in the background. Also notice near the end of the video a livestock truck crossing the tracks in the distance at South Street as soon as the train clears. Like being in a time warp, Peoria still has a small, active stock yard and an adjacent slaughterhouse (Calihan Pork Processors)!

Note the large number of Trailer-On-Flat-Car (TOFC) cars on this train. You won’t see that anymore as IAIS piggyback ramps at Newton, Iowa (which served a now-closed Maytag refrigerator plant) and West Liberty, Iowa (privately-owned) have closed. Facilities at Council Bluffs and Blue Island seem to handle only containers in double stack or spine cars.

– David P. Jordan

Washout, Derailment, Detour, Repeat…

On May 1, 2003, the Iowa Interstate Railroad suffered a washed out culvert and a derailed train near Tiskilwa, Illinois. Two engines and five cars were on the ground. The mess was cleaned up the next day so regular operations could resume.

Unfortunately, the same bridge was lost again the morning of May 5. This time, repairs would take longer so to continue operations, detours were made via the Bureau Jct. – Peoria branch, the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway and BNSF’s Peoria and Barstow Subdivisions.

As soon as BNSF’s permission was granted and crews rounded up, IAIS detours started on May 7. A “Bureau Switcher” crew took 71 cars to Peoria and a P&PU crew made the delivery to BNSF’s New Long Main on the city’s south end for pickup later. That evening, an RIBI train departed Rock Island for Blue Island.

I caught RIBI the next morning. The 14-minute, 49-second video above contains scenes of the entire six engine, 100-car train running between Chillicothe and Sparland, a briefly runby just south of Henry, the entire train again at Putnam and a slow runby at Bureau Jct.

The detours concluded May 12 when the track was restored at Tiskilwa.

– David P. Jordan

New Mini-Series: Detours

It’s a mess for the railroad, but a treat for rail enthusiasts.

I’m talking about the need to detour freight and passenger trains due to a derailment, washout or maintenance issue. You get to see freight trains of a railroad that don’t normally ply certain routes, and you may see Amtrak passenger trains on line segments which are presently freight-only. The Peoria area has seen its share in recent years.

But Peoria area railroads have a long history of detours. Some of these occurred with frequency. Case in point. Whenever the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific RR suffered a derailment between Chillicothe and Joliet, the Peoria Rocket would use the Santa Fe between those points.

Perhaps the most sensational detour occurred November 2, 1956 after a Rock Island work train failed to stop and collided with an eastbound Santa Fe freight at Princeville. Two westbound Santa Fe streamliners, The Chief and the Kansas Citian, had already passed Joliet, so TP&W made arrangements for them to come off Santa Fe’s Pekin District at Streator Jct. (Eureka) and re-join home rails at Lomax, just east of Fort Madison, Iowa.

Makes you wonder if anyone photographed either of the two Santa Fe streamliners in East Peoria or Peoria? What a rare occasion!

Fast forward to recent times, the Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS) has suffered derailments and/or washouts between Colona and Bureau in Illinois, forcing the regular Blue Island-Council Bluffs manifest trains to detour, sometimes through Peoria.

I can document three periods in which the IAIS did this:

– May 5-12, 2003 (washout, derailment at Tiskilwa)

– November 21-24, 2003 (BNSF derailment destroyed crossing at Colona)

– October 7-10, 2011 (IAIS derailment at Tiskilwa)

I should note that a BNSF freight train derailed at Colona in on December 31, 2007. This forced the IAIS to detour its through freights, but not via Peoria. They ran on BNSF’s Barstow Sub to Galesburg then the Cameron Connection to the southwest to get on the Chillicothe Sub. I’m sure how many did this (one for sure on January 3), but Peoria did not see any detours. The BNSF did handle an ADM feed train for the IAIS to Peoria, however.

In the coming days, I’ll write up a brief story and embed video I captured of both 2003 detours and the one in 2011.

– David P. Jordan