Parties In Morton Rail Dispute To Meet April 1

This is no April Fools, the Surface Transportation Board has set a meeting for 9:00 tomorrow morning so the parties involved in Fort Transfer Company’s dispute with the Toledo Peoria & Western Railway can clarify facts.

Representatives from Fort Transfer, Keokuk Junction Railway, Norfolk Southern and TP&W are to attend. See here for decision. Hopefully, a solution will be found shortly.

– David P. Jordan

American Eagle DFW Upgrade Delayed (Updated)

IMG_8082 - Copy
An American Eagle CRJ700 on approached to Chicago-O’Hare International Airport. Peoria travelers may have to wait to board these jets to Dallas/Ft Worth. 

Peoria won’t be getting larger jets to Dallas/Ft. Worth on March 29 after all.

American Airlines’ online schedules and timetable effective March 8, 2015 show no change in frequency and aircraft type tomorrow on Envoy Airlines dba American Eagle’s Peoria-Dallas/Ft. Worth flights. I checked random dates through June 1, and still no change.

This is strange, because Peoria International Airport posted this press release January 13, confirming what one of my commenters informed me last November 25.

Perhaps United Express’ decision to begin Peoria-Houston flights changed American Eagle’s plans, and they deemed it best to compete by maintaining three daily roundtrips to Dallas/Ft. Worth with the same type of aircraft (50-seat Embraer 145s)?

Hopefully, airport officials can shed some light on this apparent change.

UPDATE (March 30): Online schedules now show Canadair RJ700s being used beginning July 2. Frequency drops from three to two daily roundtrips on May 1. During the June, one of two PIA-DFW roundtrips will be flown by a 44-seat Embraer 140.

– David P. Jordan

Trains In The Heartland

I couldn’t find a current flyer online, nor do I have a copy handy to scan, so I found information for this weekend’s event here:

All aboard! Trains in the Heartland is pulling into the Astroth Community Education Center (ACEA) Saturday & Sunday, March 28-29!

Hosted by Heartland Community College and model train Club N Scale of Bloomington-Normal, this special two day event is an opportunity to visit a train show and see model train layouts in multiple scales, including 12-year old Tommy Dyrek’s own HO-scale layout. Special programming will be available each day delighting train enthusiasts of all ages! Admission is just $3 and kids 12 and under are free. All proceeds benefit the HCC Foundation’s scholarship fund.

Astroth Community Education Center (ACEC), Millennium Ave, Normal, IL 61761 (Heartland Community College campus)

Saturday, March 28
10 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Sunday, March 29
11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Cost: $3 (kids 12 and under are free)

Saturday presentations
– Railroads in McLean County by Mike Matejka of the McLean County Museum of History 10:30 a.m.
– Monticello Railroad Museum -1:30 p.m.

Sunday presentations
– Operation Lifesaver – 11:15 a.m.
– Amtrak and National Park Service Trails and Rails Program – 1:30 p.m.

– David P. Jordan

Morton Railroad War Update

The Toledo Peoria & Western Railway’s “Sur-Rebuttal” to Fort Transfer Company’s March 20 letter to the Surface Transportation Board was posted yesterday.

Highlights include some discussion about Sunday’s movement to retrieve three tank cars at Morton. Something stood out on page 5:

The Supplemental Rebuttal, pp. 2-3, now acknowledges that transloading and substitute truck service is an option for Fort Transfer. However, for some unknown reason, Fort Transfer (blaming it on the customer), says that TPW’s yard that is 9 miles away is inadequate, and that it wants to use substitute truck service from 60 miles away. TPW does not understand why trucking from its yard would be any different for Fort Transfer.

They’re referring to this from Fort Transfer’s letter from March 24:

Furthermore, the consequences of TP&W’s actions in arbitrarily removing the line from service are having acute, immediate negative consequences. On Monday, March 23, 2015, Fort Transfer spoke with its customer whose shipments have been diverted by TP&W to the storage facility maintained by Fort Transfer’s competitor in Farmer City, IL. During the course of the conversation, the customer advised Fort Transfer that it wants Fort Transfer immediately to begin transloading its commodities that have been diverted to Farmer City by TP&W and move them to Fort Transfer’s facility in Morton. This would involve moving the product at substantial expense a distance of almost 60 miles. This requirement is based on the customer’s expressed fears that the storage facilities in Farmer City may be inadequate to handle the anticipated volume of product that must be delivered to the farmers in the upcoming days and weeks. As Fort Transfer has previously testified, transloading from East Peoria, which is less than nine (9) miles away, is virtually impossible.

So one of Fort Transfer’s customers is having its tank car shipments diverted to [Heartland Ag] in Farmer City, but the customer fears limitations to storage capacity there so it wants to material transloaded and then trucked to Morton, 60 miles away.

Obviously, herbicide would be transloaded at an approved location (Heartland Ag, a Fort Transfer competitor) and then trucked – likely at customer’s expense, not Fort Transfer’s – to Morton. Now consider if rail service to Fort Transfer is not resumed, and Heartland Ag believes it could take advantage of its competitor’s plight and add storage capacity. Fort Transfer will have lost business permanently.

So TP&W’s attorney does not understand the problem?

Fort Transfer filed a reply to TP&W’s Sur-Rebuttal today. It disputes TP&W’s claims of having to “walk” its train Sunday when it moved three empty tank cars from Fort Transfer’s location to the Norfolk Southern connection at Crandall Jct.

Also challenged was TP&W’s claims of congestion between the TP&W and TZPR yards in East Peoria should four weekly Keokuk Junction Railway (KJRY) trains be added to the mix.

My conclusion is that TP&W’s excuses for embargoing rail service on its Morton Industrial Lead is reminiscent of the fight with the KJRY over the West End in 2003-2005. Hopefully, the STB will either order TP&W to resume service or negotiate sale to the KJRY with necessary trackage rights to ensure that carrier direct interchange with TZPR.

– David P. Jordan

Gritty, Industrial Railroading Part XIV

Just two months ago, I posted video showing the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad (TZPR) switching PMP Fermentation Products Inc’s downtown Peoria food additives plant. But yesterday evening, I again caught TZPR not only switching the plant (pull empties, spot loads) but pulling a loaded tank car as well!

PMP Fermentation Products manufactures food additives such as sodium gluconate, gluconic acid and allied products. Some are bagged for shipment in granular or powdered forms with liquids in plastic or steel drums. A product called “S-45,” which contains 30 percent liquid sodium gluconate, is available for shipment in bulk by rail.

Tank car NATX 75361 is loaded with S-45 (chemical name is sodium gluconate).

– David P. Jordan

Morton Railroad War: Fort Transfer Replies To TP&W (Updated)

Fort Transfer Company has replied to the Toledo Peoria & Western Railway’s March 17 letter to the Surface Transportation Board.

Update (March. 24): Fort Transfer’s rebuttal letter to TP&W offers a detailed explanation why transloading liquid herbicide from tank cars to trucks at the TP&W’s East Peoria Yard is not feasible. First, two of Fort Transfer’s customers require them to transload at approved sites, and TP&W’s yard is not one of them. Second, while direct tank car-to-storage facilities are not available for Fort Transfer, transloading on its own private property enables it to use non-driver employees, higher weight per trailer and provides spill protection. Finally, transloading would require the company to hire (and qualify) more drivers.

A follow up letter was posted today. Fort Transfer notes that its competitor is in Farmer City, Illinois. Although not named, this company is Heartland Ag Inc. Both are apparently supplied by Syngenta Crop Protection out of St. Gabriel, Louisiana. Fort Transfer’s follow up letter reveals that Heartland Ag doesn’t have the storage capacity for all the herbicide diverted to its Farmer City facility and wants to truck it to Fort Transfer in Morton!

TP&W’s earlier letter claimed the Morton Industrial Lead is “unsafe” and that there is a broken rail near the Norfolk Southern crossing at Crandall. Yet, TP&W made a run to Morton Sunday to fetch the three empty tank cars sitting at Fort Transfer’s place of business without making repairs. Several photos of this move can be found at the bottom of Fort Transfer’s letter posted today.

– David P. Jordan

Gritty, Industrial Railroading Part XIII

This one will be a little different that the usual fare. Previous posts of this series have focues on Peoria-area industries, but this one is in Davenport, Iowa.

The Eldridge Spur begins at a location known as “Water Works” on Canadian Pacific Railway’s Davenport Subdivision and meanders generally northward for 9.7 miles. The line is out of service from Brady Street in Mount Joy to the end of track at E. Iowa Street in Eldridge. This includes trackage serving a relatively new industry, a now 175,000 sq. ft. steel processing plant built by Roll & Hold in 1997. This facility closed in 2009, but Chicago-based Ryerson Inc. purchased it and began a steel plate processing operation in 2011. Unfortunately, Ryerson has not used rail for steel deliveries, nor is there any sign it will.

Nevertheless, the Eldridge Spur serves two customers – Deere & Company’s Davenport Works and gelatin manufacturer PB Leiner. The video above focuses on the former, because switching operations can be viewed from public areas.

The video begins as CPRS GP40 #4614 and SOO GP38-2 #4434 pull five empties along the classic, curved trestle. Second scene is at 29th Street in Davenport. The tank car was delivered to PB Leiner.

Most scenes show switching operations near Deere & Company’s Machine Loading building. The train crew pulled four empty flat cars north to the plant spur switch near the Highway 61 overpass and switched ends (I didn’t see this operation; the crew likely performed a “flying switch”) so they could shove the cars along the spur.

Reaching the Machinery Loading building, the crew had to wait for personnel to unlock the gate and open the building door. Then they coupled to four flat cars each loaded with two Hitachi ZX290LC-5 hydraulic excavators. All eight cars were pulled out to a stub track where the loads were left so the empties could be spotted at the Machinery Loading building.

When the train crew finished at the Machinery Loading building, they grabbed the four excavator loads off the stub track and pulled them back to the Eldridge Spur.

Final scenes show the train rolling across Kimberly Road (note the massive cantilever-style flashers) and the wooden trestle by Water Works.

Finally, I’m not sure why Hitachi-branded excavators are being shipped from Davenport, Iowa. Deere-Hitachi Construction Machinery Corp. is a joint venture formed in 1988, but machines such as the ZX290LC-5’s shown above are normally assembled at Kernersville, North Carolina. Davenport assembles articulated dump trucks, four-wheel drive loaders, motor graders, log skidders and cabs, but may assemble other equipment when demand is high and/or stores machines assembled at other plants for subsequent shipment.

– David P. Jordan

Steam For Flood Relief

Heavy rains in June 2008 caused much flooding along the Mississippi River, particularly in the Quad Cities area. So the Iowa Interstate Railroad partnered with The Salvation Army ran steam excursions to raise funds for those in impacted areas. Details here.

The excursions took place Saturday, October 18 that year. Both of RRDC’s Chinese QJ steam locomotives pulled a 66-car freight from Iowa City to Rock Island. After arrival at Rock Island, the QJ’s were split, paired with a GP38-2 and passenger cars for excursion duty. Three trips were made to Silvis and two were made to Walcott, Iowa.

The video starts at Wilton, Iowa where the double-headed freight train emerges out of the fog. A water stop afforded a brief view at Walcott. Next, the train makes a smoky run out of Walcott toward Rock Island. Excursions to Silvis and Walcott are shown last.

– David P. Jordan

Anheuser Busch Resumes Rail Beer Shipments From St. Louis Brewery!

Remember four years ago when Anheuser-Busch’s St. Louis brewery ceased beer shipments by rail?

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the last shipment occurred March 13, 2011. A-B’s Manufacturers’ Railway subsequently ceased operations and a contract switching carrier (Foster Townsend Rail Logistics) was tasked with delivering inbound raw materials.

It was the end of an era.

Damaged lading was the likely reason behind A-B’s decision to switch to trucks for all beer shipments from St. Louis. Some of us believed this change was temporary, and we were correct.

“Reducing carbon emissions” is the stated reason rail beer shipments resumed the first week of March. But in four years, the increased transportation costs of trucking probably exceeded any losses from damaged lading. The St. Louis Business Journal reports the resumption of rail shipments here.

Interestingly, I blogged about this on the old PeoriaStation March 28, 2009. That post is preserved because it was used by Manufacturer’s Railway in its discontinuance of service petition with the Surface Transportation Board! See pages 11 and 12 at the link provided.

– David P. Jordan