One of each…

I saw these Saturday, but I thought I’d post it later rather than never.

The Iowa Interstate Railroad operates three major locomotive types – GP38-2s (nos. 700-721), SD38-2s (nos. 150-153) and ES44ACs (nos. 500-516). There is also a GP38-2 (No. 600) mated to slug No. 650. The IAIS also has a second slug, No. 651.

Seeing one of each of the major types on Saturday evening’s PESI (PEoria IL to SIlvis IL) freight was a real treat! The 28-car train is shown south and north of Chillicothe.

I can’t close without showing this potash train IAIS brought to Peoria Saturday morning and afternoon. ES44AC No. 504 and GP38-2 No. 701 handled 105 loads, dropped them on the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad’s Pekin mainline at Grove, added SD38-2 No. 152 and coupled onto PESI in TZPR’s East Peoria Yard. Scenes are a mix of stills and video from Bureau Jct. to Peoria.

– David P. Jordan


PIA vs. CIRA January 2016

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A reader asked about recent passenger figures for Peoria International Airport the first three months of 2016. Unfortunately, the airport has not issued a press release to provide these figures. However, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics releases scheduled passenger traffic by individual airport after three months.

So if you want to compare January 2016 and those from a year earlier, we see a 5.3 percent decline in scheduled passenger traffic at PIA. Not an unexpected situation given Caterpillar’s recent cutbacks.

Jan. 2015 – 45,796
Jan. 2016 – 43,387

Then I looked up figures for Central Illinois Regional Airport (CIRA). Something which surprised me is that CIRA has experienced a severe decline in passengers – 19.2%!

Jan. 2015 – 31,142
Jan. 2016 – 25,173

Recent additions to CIRA by Allegiant Air (more flights to Orlando-Sanford), American Eagle (3rd DFW roundtrip) and Delta Connection (2nd summer flight to MSP) in the past year would suggest some growth. Obviously, Mitsubishi’s closure has had some effect, though I suspect Caterpillar’s downsizing is also a factor here as well.

The effect State Farm Insurance’s emphasis on regional centers in Phoenix, Dallas and Atlanta is having on CIRA is not yet clear. But the first two locations are likely influencing American Eagle’s buildup of CIRA-DFW flights from one to three roundtrips since October 2013.

The Pantagraph ran this article on March 27 trying to explain the decline. It includes the standard line about changes in the airline industry. Yet it also admits Peoria and Springfield airports saw growth last year. The real reason for CIRA’s unfortunate decline is that AirTran Airways’ three daily low-fare nonstops to Atlanta (and daily service to Orlando) distorted this region’s air service in CIRA’s favor. When AirTran withdraw in 2012, that distortion ended, and there has been a re-balance, i. e., fares are higher, but more equalized among PIA, CIRA, SPI, etc. This re-balance continues.

Whatever the case, if January trends hold, PIA will probably handle just above 600,000 passengers in 2016 while CIRA will see about half that figure.

– David P. Jordan

Louisville & Indiana Railroad

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Pardon a little departure from the usual Peoria-centric content, but my article on the Louisville & Indiana Railroad came out this week in The Short Line issue #235.

The Short Line is a locally-published magazine, but covers North America’s shortlines, industrial railroads and tourist lines. Copies of TSL can be obtained at Mike’s Scale Rails in Peoria, Illinois, by subscription or by contacting the editor.

– David P. Jordan

PIA Int’l Terminal To Open In Late-May!

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Our new international terminal will be open for travelers late next month.

The PJStar is reporting that the new $11 million, 22,000-sq. ft. structure is awaiting delivery of two jetways before it enters service. Both will serve domestic and international passengers. An open house is planned for May.

At first, the facility will be used for domestic flights since U. S. Customs lacks funds to hire the necessary five employees for for staffing, and scheduled flights to international destinations have yet to be announced.

According to WMBD Radio 1470, corporate jets seating no more than 15 seats can be cleared at present. Interestingly, American Eagle will be using this facility due to plans to tear up and replace pavement where its gates are located in the main terminal.

Besides the obvious Allegiant Air flights to leisure destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico, it would be nice if Peoria could attract nonstop, summer season charters to Europe. Now-defunct American Trans Air offered a few of these to London, England in the late 1980s using widebody Lockheed L-1011 Tristars.

These days, Airbus A-330s and Boeing 767s would be more appropriate for such flights. Yet I’m not sure the new international terminal can handle anything that large. I believe it was designed to handle planes up to Boeing 757 size.

Hopefully, there will be some flexibility and the terminal can handle some of the larger jets. Whatever service is gained in the near future, I know I will be looking forward to an open house this spring.

– David P. Jordan

John Deere Combine Train?


I finally bagged a whole train of John Deere combines!

I’ve shared video of Norfolk Southern’s unit “high-wide” train 055, which was combined with Roadswitcher D46 on its eastbound leg back to Normal, Illinois on Wednesdays, then a separate train from Normal to Savannah, Georgia (with a Norfolk/Portsmouth, VA section split off at Atlanta). This train was operated primarily for Caterpillar, which sent a large volume of machinery assembled at Aurora and East Peoria to export markets. Train 055 handled traffic bound for Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Australia and probably parts of South America as well. Komatsu truck chasses built at Peoria were often shipped in these trains as well.

The worldwide downturn in demand for mining machinery has reduced shipments so much that 055 has run sporadically or not at all since early 2013. If it does run, 055 originates infrequently at Decatur, Illinois where the last pickup is made.

But another machinery manufacturer sends its exports via dedicated trains – Deere & Company. Combines assembled at the firm’s Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois are sent to East or West Coast ports for export on a regular basis each year from about March/April to October. Trains are assembled at BNSF Railway’s Barstow, Illinois yard then sent to Galesburg where a crew change is made and they run either east to Norfolk Southern at McCook, Illinois (via Indiana Harbor Belt; one known destination is Dundalk Marine Terminal in Baltimore, Maryland) or west to the Port of Tacoma, Washington.

Finally, I saw BNSF’s John Deere combine train Saturday afternoon, April 9, 2016. These trains operate about twice a month from March/April until about October. The 56-car train was expedited through Galesburg quickly. After stopping southwest of the city for a crew change, the train raced westward.

Below is my favorite video of Norfolk Southern’s combined 055/D46. I shot this March 28, 2012. Of 75 cars, 51 are Caterpillar loads from Aurora and East Peoria.

Saturday’s U-BAITAC1 08A (Unit Train, Barstow IL to Tacoma WA, 1st Section, 8th Day of the month, etc.) is shown entering Galesburg and then leaving it after a crew change at Clay Switch, located just southwest of the city.

– David P. Jordan

PIA Survey Offers Clues To Future Destinations

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Peoria International Airport is seeking input on possible new destinations.

This survey asks its users to rank three cities by preference. They are Destin, Florida, Los Angeles, California and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Not mentioned is that service to either of the three would be offered by Allegiant Air. That’s because all three are “focus cities” for the Las Vegas-based carrier which has served Peoria since March 2004.

Allegiant Air began operations out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in 2009, and currently offers a few flights a week to 25 cities. These include midwestern points like Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, Iowa, Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Springfield, Missouri. If those cties can get LAX, then Peoria can as well.

Allegiant Air added Myrtle Beach to its network in 2009, and has been building a focus city there since 2010. Typical among Allegiant Air’s focus cities, Myrtle Beach is a popular tourist destination.

Destin, Florida is the location of the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport. Allegiant Air begins seasonal service there from seven points in May and June. The airport is actually combined with Eglin Air Force Base, and services a tourist hot spot.

Los Angeles is my preference. Continental Airlines offered Peoria same-plane service in both directions from 1977 to 1981 (via Kansas City, later Denver). Access Air offered same-plane service via Des Moines and/or Colorado Springs in 1999.

– David P. Jordan

Union Pacific MPECL – April 5, 2016

Tuesday afternoon, I caugfht Union Pacific’s regular Peoria-to-Clinton, Iowa freight.

And I’m glad I did.

For one thing, boxcar traffic is relatively rare for local freight trains. Kinda of sad, actually. So I take noticed when those regular trains you see around here have boxcars.

More importantly, I shoot video of them.

Tuesday’s MPECL (Manifest, PEoria IL to CLinton IA) had UP 7376 & UP 4185 and 34 cars. The three boxcars up front were likely loaded with locomotive wheels. These were shipped by Amsted Rail’s Griffin Wheel Div. in Keokuk, Iowa and are problably bound for a Union Pacific locomotive shop.

Scenes are at Pioneer Station (near the Ridgeview Elementary School) and west of Edelstein (just north of the BNSF Transcon).

– David P. Jordan

More Decline at the PJStar – Ice Meth Seizure and Bomb Scare at PIA Covered Right Away; 2015 Passenger Figures, Wait A Month

I feel sympathy for future historians who attempt to use the Peoria Journal Star as source material for events of 2016.

Last Thursday morning, March 31, at the Peoria International Airport, a woman planning to fly back to Washington, DC was stopped for possessing suspicious materials. During a routine X-ray baggage check, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee flagged devices which resembled a bomb. So the terminal was evacuated and a police bomb squad was called in to investigate. The materials were soon determined to be fake, but two flights were delayed, and another was diverted to Moline.

The materials which prompted the evacuation turned out to be devices used by abortion clinics to show employees what a bomb might look like. They’ve passed through airport security before without a problem (likely because appropriate advance notifications had been made ). No harm, no foul, except that taxpayers will foot the bill for bringing out the police bomb squad.

While this was legitimate news, its quick and sensational coverage through multiple articles demonstrates just how far journalism has fallen. If you were writing a comprehensive history on local commercial aviation, which information is more important – a bomb scare which turned out to be nothing or record passenger figures for the most recent year?

Passenger figures, obviously.

The Peoria Journal Star has become a poor and inconsistent source for local history. Sensationalism wins every time. News of a January 8 “ice meth” seizure appeared on the paper’s website that evening, and in the print edition the next day. A press release detailing 2015 passenger figures appeared on the airport’s website on January 12, yet it took the paper nearly a month to report it!

So ice meth seizures and fake bomb scares are reported right away. Actual history, i .e. record passenger figures, are ignored for a month.

No problem…the obituaries are bigger now.

– David P. Jordan