Peoria Station Miscellany

Some recent happenings in the Peoria area:

On November 20, Peoria Int’l Airport dedicated 250 new parking spaces to handle growing passenger business. The airport posted this news item on its website last Tuesday. Suspiciously, the authority hasn’t been releasing monthly traffic figures, which makes me believe numbers are down from last year. Caterpillar cutbacks might be offset in part by lower fares with the collapse in fuel prices.

On November 25, BNSF unit grain train G-BTRPGA9-23A derailed four cars (#10 thru 13) of 110 as it entered the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad at S. Darst St. in Peoria. Two of the cars overturned and spilled their contents, but the others remained upright. The train, loaded with corn, was bound for ADM in Peoria.

– David P. Jordan

Keokuk Junction Rwy. Monster Pipe Train!

The Keokuk Junction Railway ran a monster unit steel pipe train from Mapleton to LaHarpe on Sunday and Monday.

I caught it this morning as it sat just east of Smithfield. Reportedly, the train ran Sunday and tied up for the night beween Canton and Cuba. I shot video and stills between Smithfield and Sciota.

The first KJRY pipe train ran on Sunday, August 2, 2015 with 40 cars. I caught one November 6 with 29 pipe loads (and 34 mixed freight on the rear). So it was a real treat to encounter a train Monday with 50 cars of pipe!

Pipe is going to Twin Rivers Yard in Keokuk, Iowa for transloading to trucks, which take it to a staging area somewhere near the planned path for the Dakota Access Pipeline, which when complete will run from northwest North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.

– David P. Jordan

3rd Encounter This Month with MPECL!

Union Pacific 4057 and 4865 pulled 61 cars out of Adams Street Yard on the far south edge of Peoria this afternoon. Running as MPECL (Manifest, PEoria IL to CLinton IA), I caught it rolling past Akron Services’ Akron, Illinois elevator.

Sometime this year, Union Pacific implemented a new schedule for this train. From its re-instatement in July 2011 until sometime in 2015, MPECL departed Peoria around sunrise on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Counterpart MCLPE arrived here, usually before sunrise, on Sundays and Thursdays.

Now, MPECL can be seen departing Peoria in early- to mid-afternoon on Tuesdays and Fridays. Counterpart MCLPE apparently runs on Sundays and Wednesdays (presumably during the night).

For about a month or so, these trains have been involved with handling a heavy volume of steel pipe that originates in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and ends up on the Keokuk Junction Railway for the final leg to Keokuk, Iowa where material is transferred to trucks. Pipe is for the Dakota Access Pipeline project. It seems every MPECL has empty pipe flats, so one can expect every MCLPE to have pipe loads, probably up to 40 at a time.

– David P. Jordan

Remember the Peoria Railfair?

Here are 6+ minutes of highlights from 2008’s “Peoria Railfair” at Barrack’s Cater Inn on Pioneer Parkway. The event was organized by Sharon Deckard’s Illinois Prairie Railroad Foundation and supported by Pioneer Industrial Railway and the Toledo Peoria & Western Railway. The Tazewell & Peoria RR provided some literature for the event, which was held on September 20-21, 2008.

The purpose of the event was to promote public awareness of the operational status and economic potential of the city-owned Kellar Branch. For a decade, the trail groups, the Peoria Park District and the City of Peoria on one side, and the Pioneer Industrial Railway and rail enthusiasts on the other, battled in the media and the local blogosphere over the merits of converting the line to a recreational trail.

Lacking prime media interest, turnout was low, but if one or two people, particularly young children, were inspired by the display of two locomotives, fueling a new fascination with railroads, then the price, time and effort put into it was worthwhile.

The first four minutes show PREX 2032 and IORY 1501 (then assigned to the TP&W) running up the Kellar Branch on Friday, September 19, 2008. The last scenes are at Pioneer Parkway the following day.

– David P. Jordan

PIA – A History: Events of 1948

In the previous installment, we analyzed scheduled airline service, and interest by a myriad of air carriers. Now, we look at various happenings during the year 1948.

First, it should be mentioned that two months before 1947 closed, Springfield’s new Capital Airport was added as a stop on existing American Airlines and Chicago & Southern Air Lines routings via Peoria. The new facility was managed by the Springfield Airport Authority, an independent municipal corporation enabled by a 1945 Illinois law to own and operate airports in a designated area.

Dwight Rohn desired to devote more time to his Rohn Flying Service, so the Park Board replaced him with DeWitt Collins, who had previously served as manager from 1934 to 1942. Collins was born October 29, 1901 in Winthrop, Iowa. An aviation pioneer, he heard about a plane crash near Cedar Rapids, bought the parts for $100 and had them hauled by truck 40 miles to his home where he re-assembled them into an airworthy plane!

Along with a friend, Collins traveled as a barnstormer and put on air shows, flying passengers and doing parachute jumps. He later moved to Dubuque, Iowa where he ran a flying school, and also sold and serviced aircraft.

Collins ran Peoria Flying Service from 1934 to 1942. During the Second World War, he worked for the Civil Aviation Administration in Chicago and in Rochester, Minnesota. In Minneapolis, he served as the CAA’s senior inspector. He returned to Peoria in January 1948 anticipating a new position as manager of the city’s municipal airport.

On March 4, 1948, TWA added Quincy, Illinois as a stop on its Chicago-Peoria-Kansas City route. Service was to have started March 1, but bad weather held it up for three days. Both westbound and both eastbound flights made the stop.

On April 1, American Airlines displayed one of its new, 40-seat Convair 240 propliner. Plans were revealed that these planes would replace DC-3s on Peoria flights on June 1, though this did not happen just yet. The Peoria Star reported on July 31 that this aircraft would again be on public display here August 6.

In the last half of April, TWA initiated night service to Peoria on a flight routed Newark-Philadelphia-Pittsburgh-Columbus-Chicago-Peoria-Kansas City. Arrival here was scheduled for 9:00pm with departure ten minutes later. This was an additional flight for Peoria. There was no westbound counterpart, however.

On June 30, TWA’s 2:40pm departure to Chicago was moved to three hours later, enabled connections to a New York-bound Constellation. The 5:40pm departure provided same-plane DC-3 service to Columbus, Pittsburgh and New York.

TWA’s night flight increased total flights on all three airlines to 11 arrivals and 11 departures on weekdays. Unfortunately, this expansion proved short-lived. American Airlines dropped half of its Peoria service on November 1. Lost were the 3:28pm flight to Chicago-Midway and the 8:17am flight to St. Louis, and Tulsa, etc. Apparently, American Airlines’ action violated the Public Utilities Act, and the Illinois Commerce Commission required the airline to explain its actions at a Chicago hearing on December 14. That day, American announced the flights would return May 1, 1949 for a six-month trial.

Also in November, Chicago & Southern Air Lines petitioned the Civil Aeronautics Board to abandon all of its Peoria service. I’ve not found the exact dates, but for a brief time in 1948, flights routed via Peoria also stopped at Bloomington to and from Chicago.

TWA began scheduled air cargo service here on July 1, 1948. A C-47 arrived from Kansas City at 9:40pm and departed fifteen minutes later for Chicago-Midway, continuing to Columbus, Pittsburgh and New York.

While this was Peoria’s first scheduled air cargo service, at least one exotic service pre-dates it. On July 2, 1946, a C-47 owned by Sears Air Transportation Co. flew fresh sea food from New Bedford, Massachusetts to Peoria for Ken-Mar Packing Co.

Meanwhile, San Antonio, Texas-based Slick Airways waited for authorization to begin scheduled air cargo service to Peoria.

Peoria Municipal Airport held an air show on June 13, which was attended by 25,000 spectators. Static displays included a B-29. And what may have been the first landing at this airfield by a jet aircraft, a P-80 Shooting Star, took place after a performance that afternoon.

As early as 1948, it was suggested that the 169th would eventually deploy jet fighters to its Peoria base, but with the stipulation that a longer runway of at least 6,000′ to be provided to accommodate them. Meanwhile, plans were underway to expand both aircraft parking areas and its main hangar.

Unfortunately, the 169th suffered its first fatality in in 1948. On the evening of September 27, two P-51 Mustangs collided in front of the passenger terminal. One aircraft was on its takeoff roll while the other, piloted by 2nd Lt. Edwin O. Tice, was taxiing. Tice was killed and his aircraft badly damaged. The accident revealed a need for onsite fire protection.

The Park Board considered extension of Runway 4-22 to the northeast, but close proximity of Monroe School District No. 70 to airfield’s northeast side became an issue. The school demanded closure of the runway while airport officials wanted the school moved. Things heated up because Monroe desired to construct a new building. DeWitt Collins, however, informed school district president George Yingst that if his school went ahead with such plans, the airport would invoke the aeronautic zoning code to prevent it. The issue would eventually be resolved.

Next, we’ll look at some pivotal issues which affected Peoria Municipal Airport in 1949, including mine subsidence, Chicago & Southern Air Lines’ plans to drop service and more.

– David P. Jordan

KJRY Getting A New Customer?

The old Carter Lumber spur at S. Powell Road near Mapleton, Illinois is being cleared and prepared for a new transloading operation.

The spur was constructed, probably in the early 1970s, for Carter Lumber Co., but as some have told me, received very few carloads of lumber via the Toledo Peoria & Western, which served it at the time. One can bet that it never again got lumber by rail after Carter opened its Heyworth, Illinois distribution center in November 1980.

Carter closed its Heyworth facility in spring 2001 and sold the Mapleton store to RP Lumber. Like most retail building material stores, supplies such as lumber are purchased through wholesalers.

Since the Keokuk Junction Railway acquired TP&W’s West End in February 2005, this track has been used for car storage. So on my most recent visit (Friday, Nov. 6), I was surprised to see trees cleared and rock poured along the track.

I figured that either this was for company purposes (expanded car repair?) or a transloading operation. I’ve been able to confirm that this work is in fact for a transloading operation, and that chemicals will be involved.

More details as I find them. See photos showing recent clearing.

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– David P. Jordan