Ask Peoria Station

In coming days or weeks, I’m planning an update on current airline service at Peoria International Airport. As usual, I’ll analyze based on July schedules.

In the not-too-distant future, I’ll be posting an in depth history of local aviation, with emphasis on the present airfield since scheduled airline service was restored (after eight years) on May 1, 1945.

I learned recently that someone is writing a PIA history commissioned by the Metropolitan Airport Authority of Peoria. Hopefully, it will cover the rich history of airline service, aircraft types and facilities. I’m sure MAAP can provide good data and illustrations.

With that, it is time for Q&A. Have at it. As always, if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find one.

– David P. Jordan

TP&W Eastbound Freight

I finally caught a TP&W train led by the company’s “new” power.

When Canadian Pacific Railway sold nearly 670 miles of the Dakota Minnesota & Eastern (DME) from Tracy, Minnesota west to Genesee & Wyoming Inc. subsidiary Rapid City Pierre & Eastern (RCPE) a year ago, the deal included 52 ex-Iowa Chicago & Eastern (DM&E subsidiary) SD40-2s, five ex-DM&E SD40-2s and five ex-DM&E GP38-3s. Most were assigned to the new RCP&E, but some have made their way to other G&W shortlines.

Last fall, DM&E GP38-3 3835 became IMRR 2084 but retaining its blue-and-yellow paint. Then in March, four RCPE SD40-2s migrated to the TP&W for mainline service. Numbered 6409, 6415, 6453 and 6456, all still wear blue-and-yellow. Two of these – 6409 and 6415 – are now TPW 3440 and TPW 3441.

The TP&W put pairs of SD40-2s on the road freights and the Indiana Local. The former trains generally operate at night, but the longer days make a daylight encounter more likely, especially when the crew runs out of time around Cruger and a yard crew has to relieve them.

TP&W trains TPMEPHL and TPMHLEP generally run three cycles per week between East Peoria and Effner on the Illinois-Indiana state line. If the crew has time, it may work as far as Goodland or Remington. Typically, the train departs East Peoria Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening and returns after the crew rests.

I finally caught one of these Wednesday evening. RCPE 6453 and RCPE 6456 led two other units enroute to new homes (ISRR 4040 and TPW 3830) and 89 cars. The first 67 cars were grain empties. The remainder, 22 cars of mixed freight (mostly empty).

I took the first 37 seconds at Farmdale Road, about a mile from TP&W’s East Peoria Yard. The rest is a 7 minute, 8 second runby in Washington, Illinois just off old Rt. 24.

– David P. Jordan

PIA To Offer TSA Pre-Check

I didn’t see this until last evening, but Saturday’s Peoria Journal Star dead tree edition contained an article entitled, Peoria airport will offer precheck. WEEK TV-25’s website had an article on Friday.

According to the Transportation Security Administration’s FAQ’s, eleven airlines participate in the program. So if you’re flying out of Peoria on regional partners of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, you can use Pre-Check.

See here for a list of airports and airlines in Illinois that are participating in the program. Not surprisingly, Chicago-O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport are in the program. So are the Quad City International Airport and Champaign’s University of Illinois-Willard Airport. No word if Bloomington-Normal’s Central Illinois Regional Airport is planning to offer it.

– David P. Jordan

CMI Marketing Campaign Reveals Possible Future Air Service for Central Illinois

Today’s News-Gazette updates us on plans for a marketing campaign designed to increase air service at Champaign’s Willard Airport. The University of Illinois owns and manages the airport. Plans are to contract that function to another entity.

What stood out was this run-down of possible new destinations and what it tells us about prospects for air service expansion in other central Illinois cities.

— In the hunt for new air service destinations, Charlotte, N.C., might be the most likely East Coast candidate. American Airlines has hinted it may consider one airport in central Illinois for service to Charlotte, which has been a hub for American acquisition US Airways. New York and Washington are considered “unlikely” destinations for Willard, but Miami is a possibility.

— The UI has talked with another major carrier, United Airlines, about possible service. United has indicated service to Washington — Willard’s most desired destination — is unlikely, but Newark, N.J., is a possibility.

— The other major air carriers, Southwest and Delta, are unlikely to extend service to Champaign-Urbana. Southwest has largely pulled out of regional airports, and Delta isn’t going into regional airports it doesn’t already serve. The UI is talking with smaller airlines, such as Allegiant, about other possibilities, including less-than-daily service to Florida.

This one is interesting. American Airlines has hinted it may consider one airport in central Illinois for service to Charlotte. My guess is that Bloomington-Normal or Peoria would be beneficiaries, and most likely the latter given Caterpillar’s major presence in the Charlotte region, including nine facilities and about 2,000 employees in North Carolina alone. Some of these plants are new or have been expanded in the last few years, and generate steady business travel. Not enough to support Charlotte service on its own, but certainly enough to help make it profitable. Champaign has no chance of getting American Eagle flights to Charlotte. Same for Miami.

If United Express service to Washington (Dulles?) is unlikely from Champaign, then I see little chance for Bloomington or Peoria either. Makes me wonder if the Quad Cities really has a chance either, given the new governor’s policy if freezing state subsidies (approved last year) pending review. Probably not. And if United Express has indicated that Newark is possible, then Bloomington or Peoria are more likely than Champaign.

Given some recent discussion of its rising passenger numbers and a second jetway, this has to be disappointing for Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. Delta isn’t going into regional airports it doesn’t already serve.

It’s great that Champaign is trying to expand its air service offerings, but there are reasons they’re now limited to American Eagle flights to Chicago-O’Hare and Dallas/Ft. Worth. FlightStar Corporation. If that firm’s maintenance hangars aren’t expanded to accommodate larger jets, the city could lose that too.

There are reasons Bloomington and Peoria have dominated Central Illinois air service for years now – location and size, respectively. Loss of AirTran Airways at the former has eliminated a distortion. Peoria has benefited wildly, so has Springfield. Bloomington will hang on a bit, but the jury is still out on Champaign.

– David P. Jordan

TP&W Engine Leads IMRR Train on TZPR Track

Got that?

Greenwich, Connecticut-based Genesee & Wyoming Inc. owns three local shortlines – the Illinois & Midland Railroad IMRR), Tazewell & Peoria Railroad (TZPR, leases the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway) and the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway (TPW). The TZPR’s status as a switching and terminal railroad and area hub plus a power-sharing agreement can create some interesting variety of motive power on the three lines.

This is best illustrated by an Illinois & Midland RR transfer run from TZPR’s East Peoria Yard to Powerton Yard, located just southwest of Pekin, on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. TPW 2056 led 35 cars of mixed freight. The video below shows brief run-by’s at the Gavilon Fertilizer access road crossing in Creve Coeur and at N. 2nd Street in Pekin and the the entire train at Distillery Road next to Aventine Renewable Energy. (Note IMRR 30 switching in the distance.)

Traffic on Tuesday’s train included six sodium bi-carbonate loads (“ASHX”-marked covered hoppers) for the Kincaid Power Station, 12 feed loads for the American Milling Co.-operated barge dock at Crystal Lake, six coal loads (“stragglers” in IMRR parlance) for IMRR-served power plants and a tank car loaded with amines (UN 2735).

I caught this train April 4, but longer days now enabled me to capture the train yesterday in more than one spot without too much shadow.

– David P. Jordan


Boxcars used to be so much more common on Peoria area freight trains. Most industries in the area that once made heavy use of this type of rolling stock have either switched to trucks or gone out of business.

So it is a treat to see these cars where they’re uncommon. The Iowa Interstate Railroad’s Peoria Subdivision is a good example.

Sunday evening, I happened to catch train PESI (PEoria IL to SIlvis IL) rolling through Chillicothe. When I saw the two 60′ hi-cube boxcars embedded mid-train, I had to turn around and record the train’s passage.

I chose the old Rock Island depot in Chillicothe because (1) overcast would blur the train as it accelerated to the allowable speed limit (25mph) which it would maintain until it neared Bureau Junction, and (2) darkness would fall before that time. Here are the results.

A trio of NS locomotives (8367-6692-9532) led 124 cars. The train did speed up after clearing the last crossing (Moffitt Street), and my video blurred a bit in several places, but I got it as best I could.

Years ago, Rock Island freight trains arriving and departing Peoria were heavy with boxcars. That’s because they handled freight for the area’s biggest industries – Bemis Co. (paper rolls), Corn Products Co. (bagged corn sugar), Hiram Walker & Sons (whiskey), Keystone Steel & Wire (barbed wire and nails), Pabst Brewing Co. (beer) and the Peoria Journal Star (newsprint) but also for interchange with other railroads, especially Illinois Central Gulf and Illinois Terminal. That began drying up as the bankrupt carrier was forced to liquidate its assets after March 31, 1980, thus changing traffic patterns and forcing lots of shippers to switch to trucks.

The two boxcars on last night’s northbound freight were loaded, and I’ve been told they’re bound for Altoona, Iowa where Merchants Distribution Service operates a large (134,000 sq. ft.) warehouse. The boxcars appeared to be “XP” type cars used for paper service. They originated on Norfolk Southern somewhere in the southeast.

– David P. Jordan

Morton Rail Service Update

TP&W informed the Surface Transportation Board that it planned to restore full service on the Morton Industrial Lead by late April. I checked the Surface Transportation Board website ( for updates, but didn’t see any. Thanks to a commenter, I checked again this morning and both TP&W  and Fort Transfer sent letters to the Board confirming the Lead is back in operation. TP&W’s letter was posted on April 30.

TPW hereby certifies that sufficient repairs to the Morton Industrial Lead have been completed in accordance with applicable standards, the embargo has been cancelled (see attached confirmation), and service is available to both Fort Transfer Company and Morton Builders.

Fort Transfer’s letter was posted on May 4.

In response to the Board’s request, Fort Transfer Company (“Fort Transfer”), by and through its counsel of record, files this response to Toledo,Peoria & Western Railway Corp.’s (“TPW’s”) request that this proceeding be closed. By its letter, TPW has advised the Board that it was able to make sufficient repairs to the Morton Branch line to lift its embargo and renew service to Fort Transfer and Morton Builders, the other shipper that is located on the line. Fort Transfer acknowledges that the line has been reopened for service.

(Wish they’d get the name “Morton Buildings” correct 😛 )

This is good news. Hopefully, TP&W will make good on its commitment and Fort Transfer and Morton Buildings will find satisfaction with renewed service.

– David P. Jordan

A Train on National Train Day

Today is National Train Day. So what could be better than seeing and photographing a train?

I happened to be downtown when an Iowa Interstate train from Silvis, Illinois rolled through enroute to East Peoria. Train SIPE was led by NS 6906 (an SD60E) and UP 9762 (a C44-9W) with some empty ethanol tank cars blocked on the front of a loaded ethanol train.

Most of the tank cars displayed “BRCX” markings, which belong to Bunge North America. This gives us a clue as to the train’s origin. Most of the Iowa Interstate ethanol trains routed to Norfolk Southern at East Peoria are loaded at Archer Daniels Midland’s Cedar Rapids, Iowa plant complex. The origin for trains with a number of tank cars marked “ADMX” is obvious.

The Iowa Interstate serves three ethanol plants directly: Patriot Renewable Fuels in Annawan, Illinois; Flint Hills Resources in Menlo, Iowa and Southeast Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE) in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Bunge North America is SIRE’s largest shareholder, so it is logical they’d contribute rolling stock for transportation. It’s a good bet then, that today’s train was loaded at Council Bluffs, Iowa. Click photos to enlarge.

At Morton Street in Peoria

Seconds later…by 1967 Rock Island depot

At 1900 Rock Island depot and…

…going away. 

– David P. Jordan