Mitsubishi Shutdown: Impact on Norfolk Southern’s Bloomington District

Mitsubishi Motors North America is closing its Normal, Illinois assembly plant, thus ending car production in the continent. The plant has been a major source of business for Norfolk Southern. So what impact will the closure have on rail operations?

First, lets look at current operations on Norfolk Southern’s Bloomington District.

NS runs a pair of mainline locals between Decatur and Good Yard in Normal. Train D32 runs north during the day, typically arriving its destination in late afternoon or during the evening. Counterpart D36 has been reported to depart in late evening, and sometimes after midnight.

From my observations, these trains aren’t necessarily running seven days per week, more like five. I’ve seen D32 on Sunday, so I’m thinking the cycle begins Sunday and ends Thursday with D36 running Monday thru Friday. I have, however, noticed NS running a D36-like train departing Good Yard early Saturday afternoon. On occasion (March 14), there was a crew change at Gibson City, so perhaps the regular switch crew (D47) peddled the train to Gibson City where another took over.

Three switch jobs are based at Good Yard. Operational details below:

D46 – (7:00am) Run to Tazewell & Peoria RR East Peoria Yard and back.

D47 – (3:00pm) Assembles outbound D36 and classifies inbound D32; some local switching done as necessary. NOTE: I’ve also seen switching action at Good Yard Saturday and Sunday afternoons, so extra jobs must oprate regularly as well.

D49 – (11:00pm) Does industry work – switches AgRail LLC in Bloomington, Evergreen FS at Yuton, Midwest Fiber in Normal and Mitsubishi.

Additional traffic includes grain shuttles D5J and D5K, which handle ADM Decatur grain from Yuton (sometimes co-loaded with Holder and Arrowsmith) and AgRail. Train D5R switches customers on the Mansfield-Urbana line. Unit grain trains for southeast points are loaded at Cargill AgHorizons’ Gibson City terminal and received in interchange from the Bloomer Shippers Connecting Railroad (BLOL), also at Gibson City.

Since early 2014, the Iowa Interstate (IAIS) and Norfolk Southern have interchanging heavily at Peoria. Loaded 60-, 80- and 93-car car ethanol trains (add at least two buffer cars) run frequently. Add ethanol empties, quad-weekly Knoxville (TN) to East Peoria manifest train 115 and weekly coal movements, you have about 20 trains per week due to IAIS interchange.

Working from Bement north to Gibson City (includes the Mansfield – Urbana line) then west to Bloomington-Normal, NS serves the following industries:

Piatt County FS – Monticello*
Topflight Gan Company – Monticello
Viobin USA – Monticello
Monticello Railway Museum – Monticello
Toflight Grain Company – Lodge*
Premier Cooperative – Galesville
Galesville Chemical Co. – Galesville*
Galesville Elevator – Galesville*
The Andersons Inc/O’Malley Grain Co. – Mansfield
The Andersons Inc. – Rising
Emulsicoat Inc. – Urbana
Dart Container Corp./Solo Cup Company – Urbana
Cargill AgHorizons – Gibson City
Solae LLC – Gibson City
Evergreen FS Inc. – Arrowsmith
Evergreen FS Inc. – Holder
AgRail LLC – Bloomington
Midwest Fiber Inc. – Normal
Mitsubishi Motors North America – Normal
Evergreen FS Inc. – Yuton

*Denotes a dormant or rarely-served industry but with siding still in place.

When Mitsubishi closes down operations, Norfolk Southern won’t need three switch jobs working out of Good Yard. They’ll most certainly eliminate one (D49) and possibly two (D46 or D47). Trains D32 and D36 should remain.

Should Mitsubishi and/or the State of Illinois find a buyer for the plant, operations will quickly return to normal. And if a potential buyer makes full use of the plants 240,000 vehicles a year capacity then NS may have to add a dedicated automotive train to forward traffic to connections at either Bement or Decatur.

Below are scenes of NS train operations in the Bloomington-Normal area. First is D32 on October 24, 2012. Second shows D36-type train on March 28, 2015 backing up because it couldn’t make Bloomington Hill!

As a result of Mitsubishi’s impending closure, things will change. How much is anyone’s guess, but the above analysis is probably close to correct.

– David P. Jordan

Mitsubishi To Exit N. America

The Pantagraph is reporting that Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America is ending production of cars in the United States. The bad news is this means an end to production at the Normal, Illinois assembly plant. The plant made 69,178 Outlander Sports, considerably less than full production capacity of about 122,000.

The good news is, MMMA wil try to find a buyer. That may be easier said than done, given the cost of doing business in Illinois as compared to neighboring states. But marketing an existing plant at least offers a chance for interest.

Norfolk Southern Railway serves MMMA on its Bloomington District. Autos are loaded into autoracks and shipped to regional distribution centers and ports for export. Scrap metal is also shipped from this plant. When it operated at its peak production in the early 2000s, NS also delivered coil steel.

– David P. Jordan

Another CN Local . . .

Power for Wednesday’s East Peoria-bound CN Local wasn’t as exciting as Saturday’s appearance by EJ&E 702, but the consist was interesting. C44-9W 2655 and SD70I 5608 led 20 cars.

Note the tenth and eleventh cars, NATX 2004 and NATX 2008. Both carry haz-mat placards carrying the number, 3082, which is used for liquid herbicide. Both cars are bound for interchange (via the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad) to the Toledo Peoria & Western, which will deliver them to Fort Transfer Company in Morton. Nearly two weeks ago (around July 10), Fort Transfer received its first tank cars since an embargo on traffic was imposed in February (and lifted in late April).

Video contains scenes at IC Jct. in Pekin and on the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad along Wesley Road at Hilliards. Two still photos conclude the show.

– David P. Jordan

EJ&E 703 Returns To Peoria (Area) After 35 Years

No, this isn’t the first time EJ&E GP38-2 No. 703 has been on Canadian National Railway’s “Peoria Local.” But it is the first time I’ve seen it this year. The unit’s appearances began this spring – May, I believe. I’ve wanted to catch it, but couldn’t.

Until Saturday, July 18.

EJ&E No. 703 was one of several GP38-2s known to have worked the six-days-a-week Peoria-Ottawa turn for the two months Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway provided directed service on the dying Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Co. between Joliet and Peoria in 1980. Fast foward to 2015, EJ&E has been absorbed by Canadian National and its motive power and rolling stock is roaming its parent’s network.

This isn’t the first time EJ&E power has been seen on CN’s Peoria Subdivision (formerly Illinois Central Railroad’s Peoria District). I caught EJ&E SD38 No. 667 (still in orange paint) on the Peoria Local in April 2012 and EJ&E SD38 No. 664 (wearing CN colors) in August 2014. But this is the first year I believe that a GP38-2 has been seen in these parts.

Today’s train had EJ&E 703, CN 5951 (an ex-Kansas City Southern SD40-2) and 25 cars for the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad’s East Peoria Yard. While the EJ&E unit didn’t actually make it into Peoria city limits as in 1980, you could say it came in the back way in 2015!

As is often the case, the TZPR dispatcher instructed the CN local to turn left onto the East Lead toward the Illinois River Bridge and back into the yard. This meant the EJ&E 702 would lead southbound as well. Alas, the crew was nearing its hours-of-service (twelve) and a re-crew was necessary. Although this was expected around 6:00 or 6:30 in the evening, the train sat in the yard, coupled to its outbound train, past sunset. When I left the area about quarter til eight, the train had yet to depart.

I’m glad, though, that I saw it arrive.

– David P. Jordan

TP&W SD40-2s, Heavy Grain Train!

Last March, the Toledo Peoria & Western Railway received four former Iowa Chicago & Eastern Railway SD40-2s for road freight and grain train service. All four were delivered lettered for sister Rapid City Pierre & Eastern Railroad.

Two of the SD’s have since been re-lettered and re-numbered for TP&W (RCPE 6403 & 6415 became TPW 3440 & 3441). The others (6453 & 6456) still display RCPE lettering, and all wear blue and yellow paint.

I hadn’t caught these units moving in daylight until about 6:20 Thursday evening when TPW 3441 and RCPE 6456 rolled 54 corn loads through East Peoria enroute to ADM Grain Co. in Peoria.

– David P. Jordan

Ask Peoria Station

I posted the last one only recently – June 28 – but I hereby declare it time again for some Q & A. Ask any transportation/industry-related question.

As always, if I don’t know the answer to your question, I’ll find an answer.

– David P. Jordan

Monongahela Rwy. “Heritage Unit” Visits Peoria! (Video)

NS 8025 leads empty ethanol train 65Q into East Peoria, Illinois on July 9, 2015

The following Norfolk Southern Railway “heritage units” have visited [East] Peoria since January 2013 – NS 1065 (Savannah & Atlanta), NS 8114 (original Norfolk Southern), NS 1070 (Wabash), NS 1066 (New York Central) and NS 8098 (Conrail). All but NS 8114 ran through on the Iowa Interstate before returning to NS at East Peoria.

Now add another – NS 8025.

The Monongahela Railway was created in 1900 by the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railway to build along its namesake river to reach several coal mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Eventually, the Baltimore & Ohio became a part owner of the MGA. Pennsylvania RR-successor (through Penn Central) Conrail ended up with 100% control and absorbed the MGA in 1993.

In 2012, Norfolk Southern introduced 20 units resplendent in paint schemes of predecessor railroads. Conrail’s former Monongahela Railway trackage transferred to NS control in 1999. Thus, NS considers Monongahela as part of its heritage.

UPDATE: I shot Iowa Interstate train PESI (PEoria, IL to SIlvis, IL) departing Peoria with NS 8025 leading.

– David P. Jordan

NIMBYS and Economic Development (Corrected)

Normally, I ignore Elaine Hopkins’ PeoriaStory blog. Occasionally, though, it alerts me to items of interest. The most recent is this Facebook page called “Cramer at the Crossroads,” created by the owners of Sun Dappled Farms, 115 N. Cramer Road, Elmwood, Illinois. It says

We received notice last week of a Peoria County zoning hearing July 9 on a proposal to develop a large chemical storage/sales and grain storage/drying facility adjacent to our property.

Concerns are

Aside from concerns about dust and chemical risks, the proposal estimates an additional 4000 semi trips on Cramer Road per year, most of them braking and accelerating directly in front of our 100 year-old houses (where currently 10 or 15 minutes can pass during the day without any vehicles at all). There will also be spray rigs, fertilizer trucks, anhydrous hauling, etc.

The location of this proposed facility is the long-dormant Cramer elevator, which is along the now-abandoned Union Pacific Elm Industrial Lead.

The proposal states that the new project will not substantively impact neighbors etc. because they are locating at the site of the former Cramer elevator (currently out of service for many years). But the old elevator was designed to be served by RAIL. The footprint they propose is at least 4 times that of the old facility. They will be adding new facilities for anhydrous and bulk chemical storage and transfer, as well as at least 2 new 90 foot diameter grain bins.

The proposal is from Akron Services, which operates agricultural facilities at Akron (southwest of Edelstein), Brimfield and Glasford.

Mention of rail access is curious. The old Cramer elevator had probably ceased rail shipping before 1970, long before it closed. Given the new facilities’ description, you have to wonder why they aren’t locating adjacent an active rail line (though chemicals can be hauled by truck the short distance from Illinois River barge terminals, namely Kingston Mines).

Sun Dappled Farms objects to this development because

Along with our cherished farm, we are concerned for Cramer. The communities of Hanna City, Farmington and others are working on a Rails to Trails conversion for the abandoned railway track that Cramer was built around. Rather than lose Cramer to a new stark and industrial landscape, we would like to be part of further business development to help bring Cramer back as a community gathering point and crossroads

Sound familiar? You just can’t have a bike trail for nature lovers if they have to pass close to industry, right? The rail line is already gone, but when the issue is economic development vs. a bike trail, then the former should be given priority.

– David P. Jordan

BNSF’s Peoria Local . . . in Pics, Video!

Thursday evening, I caught BNSF’s westbound Peoria Local. No real highlights on this day’s train, though it is always nice to see Caterpillar tractor loads.

One “weird” car is ninth in the consist. Coal cars are supposed to be empty going west. Not the case with this one. The train crew told the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad dispatcher they had 33 loads and ten empties. I can identifiy nine of those empties, so I’m think that coal load could be shown as empty in BNSF’s car distribution system.

– David P. Jordan

Adventure on the Keokuk Junction Railway!

On Monday, June 29, 2015, a group of railfans chased the Keokuk Junction Railway’s westbound freight from Hollis, Illinois (where it grabbed a ballast car) thru Mapleton (the usual starting point) to Bushnell in the western part of the state. PREX 2003 led FP9s 1750 and 1752 and 15 cars.

Scenes are at Hollis, Reed City Road, Glasford, S. Trivoli Road, Highway 22 (just west of Canton), Cuba, N. Grant Keime Road (just southwest of Cuba), the “new” Spoon River Bridge (just east of Seville) where the train stopped and posed for photographers, from above at Marietta and finally, banging the BNSF diamonds at Bushnell.

It was a great adventure. Shortlines do things differently, which was perfected illustrated by Monday’s run. The train crew not only peddled 12 empties, but also three ballast cars for work enroute. They fixed minor washouts at Smithfield and just south of Bushnell. At Rawalts (just east of Canton) and New Philadelphia, the train pulled cars from sidings so a contractor’s weed spray truck could work.

NOTE: The video is longer than it should be. I inadvertently repeated the Spoon River Bridge and Marietta scenes, but those are so cool, you’ve got to see ’em twice anyway. Repeated scenes begin at 11:26 and end at 13:50.

– David P. Jordan