PIA – A History: Trunks Leave, Ozark Grows (1960-1964)

The last post in this series covered 1958-1960, detailing the new terminal which opened in May 1959. Airline schedules from the Official Airline Guide, January 1960 edition, were included. I’ll now analyze 1960-1964.

The new terminal brought optimism thatthe 1960s would bring larger aircraft and more flights. Indeed, the Peoria Journal Star reported May 13, 1959 that American Airlines might replace its 40-seat Convair 240s with 70-seat DC-6s, and eventually the new turboprop Lockheed Electra. Likewise, Trans World Airlines intended to phase out its 40-seat Martin 404s with 81-seat Lockheed Constellations.

Optimism shattered when Trans World Airlines announced January 13, 1960 its intention to drop Peoria from its network. Then American Airlines made a similar announcement March 9 that year. As a courtesy to TWA’s 13 years of service, Peoria industry did not oppose the airline’s petition. American Airlines, however, faced a two-year battle before the Civil Aeronautics Board, the Illinois Commerce Commission and even the Cook County Circuit Court.

Like TWA, American Airlines had reduced Peoria service in the mid-1950s and was content to allow Ozark Air Lines increase its market share. The Local Service carrier fed passengers to long-haul American and TWA flights anyway.

AMERICAN AIRLINES
A single-daily southbound and northbound flight linked Peoria with Springfield and St. Louis. Oddly, service to Chicago-O’Hare was northbound-only and Chicago-Midway southbound-only. To compensate, American subsidized passengers’ helicopter or ground (bus, limo, taxi) service between the two facilities if a connection was necessary. A 40-seat Convair 240 operated both flights.

American informed the Greater Peoria Airport Authority March 9, 1960 of its intention to petition the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to drop both Peoria and Springfield from its route network. City leaders opposed this petition on grounds Ozark Air Lines’ service was deemed inadequate, and the prestige of losing Trunk Airline service was too great, no matter how limited.

The situation worsened April 24, 1960. The same day TWA dropped its Chicago (Midway)-Peoria “turnaround,” American shifted its Peoria-to-O’Hare flight to Midway.

On June 1, CAB approved a temporary suspension of service then on June 29 the Illinois Commerce Commission gave the nod. Both agencies required hearings for permanent suspension, however. The ICC conducted those hearings on September 8 while CAB did so January 9, 1961.

Both Peoria and Springfield feared lazy service if Ozark remained their only carrier. Ozark countered with plans for expansion and fleet expansion.

The Civil Aeronautics Board favored the Trunks’ desire to hand off small cities to Locals, so Peoria and Springfield faced an uphill battle to retain American Airlines. On March 2, 1961 the Peoria Journal Star noted that 56.2 percent of Peoria air passengers fly beyond Chicago or St. Louis, and that 86 percent of air miles generated were long haul. In American’s view, it didn’t need to serve Peoria (or Springfield) directly; Ozark could simply hand off those passengers at Chicago or St. Louis. Its own service was unnecessary competition, a wasteful duplication of service. Withdrawal would strengthen Ozark.

American Airlines left no stone unturned in its battle to drop the two downstate cities. It went to Cook County Circuit Court where a hearing was held June 12, 1961.  A good thing because CAB rejected American’s petition on October 18. The airline vowed to take its case to the Illinois Supreme Court.

I’ve been unable to find a date, but American Airlines eventually shifted its flights from Midway to O’Hare. This action took place on or before April 29, 1962. Midway was completely abandoned by airlines in July.

My notes may be incomplete, but it appears American was granted a re-hearing before CAB, which on June 15, 1962 authorized the airline’s request. But on July 2, the Illinois Commerce Commission blocked this move. Peoria wanted to appeal, but Springfield agreed to drop its opposition in return for Ozark’s promises of comparable service. American Airlines dropped both cities on August 13.

Even as American Airlines sought to end service here a few of the airline’s large, four-engine turbojets visited the city for crew training. The Greater Peoria Airport offered congestion-free air space. One of the airline’s 707’s performed touch-and-goes here on May 6, 1961. This was the city’s first visit by the type, one of which returned on January 28, 1962. A brand-new Convair 990 performed touch-and-goes here on March 7 that year, 11 days before entering service.

Seven American Airlines DC-7s were chartered by 600 Shriners and their wives to fly from Peoria to San Francisco. Departures took place December 27, 1963 and returned (from Los Angeles) on January 4, 1964.

LAKE CENTRAL AIRLINES
Louisville, Kentucky petitioned the Civil Aeronautics Board in April 1964 for new routes to points in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and West Virginia points via Lake Central Airlines. Included among proposed routes was Peoria-Louisville service. Nothing ever came of it though.

LINCOLN AIRWAYS
This proposed intra-state carrier would use refurbished DC-3s planned to link many downstate cities, including Peoria, with Chicago-O’Hare. Ozark opposed its petition before the Illinois Commerce Commission, claiming it would cut revenue and weaken its service. Plans were revealed in early September 1963. Ozark lost its bid to dismiss Lincoln Airways’ petition during ICC hearings that November. Although the ICC scheduled hearings May 25-26, 1964 nothing more was heard of this airline.

OZARK AIR LINES
This Local Service Carrier entered the “Jet Age” on January 4, 1960 when it inaugurated Fairchild F-27 turboprop service. Service was unprofitable, but federal subsidies covering flights to small cities ensured the airline stayed in the black. Loss of TWA at Peoria strengthened the carrier. TWA, in fact, maintained its sales office at PIA, with Ozark handing off passengers to the airline at both Chicago (Midway) and St. Louis.

Both Peoria and Springfield saw Ozark’s service as inadequate, and the St. Louis-based carrier took steps to change its image. The airline increased its Chicago-bound flights from four to six on May 1, 1960 bringing weekday service to 17 departures.

On June 1, the Civil Aeronautics Board gave Ozark permission to expand Peoria service by eliminating stops at Champaign, Decatur and Springfield on some Chicago flights. Ozark could not carry local passengers between Peoria and Springfield. CAB action changed that, and service began August 1. On October 1, Ozark eliminated some tag-ons (Peoria-Springfield) or one stop (Peoria on Chicago-Springfield-St. Louis) to increase seating capacity in select markets.

Improvements had only begun. On May 1, 1961 Ozark shifted three Peoria-Chicago roundtrips to O’Hare, enabling direct connections with the Trunks’ increasing jet services. The same month, it revealed interest in turbojets – five twin-engine British Aerospace BAC-111s – by 1966. Also, the airline sought used Convair 240s, Martin 404s and more modern Viscounts were being considered to supplement th F-27 fleet. Convair 240s were chosen, and four joined the fleet in 1962. First service with the type began August 13 that year.

Around June 1961, a deal was made in which Ozark assumed ground handling for American Airlines at Peoria (and Springfield). On September 5, Ozark began a new morning flight to O’Hare and a second flight (via two stops) to Minneapolis/St. Paul, increasing to 18 weekday departures.

Ozark shifted its last Midway flights to Chicago-O’Hare on April 29, 1962. A large expansion added two more terminals at O’Hare at the start of the year, enabling sufficient capacity to consolidate all flights at the newer and larger facility. This gave Peoria seven weekday departures to what became the world’s busiest airport, mostly on larger F-27s or Convair 240s.

The end of Trunk service to Peoria gave Ozark a monopoly, but the airline promised a bright future with expansion. Promises were kept in 1963 as the carrier took over space previously used by American Airlines and rented the terminal’s third floor so it could consolidate its reservations center there. Three more O’Hare and one St. Louis flight (via Springfield) were added on September 3. A Convair 240 replaced a DC-3 on a third two-stop Minneapolis/St. Paul flight. Through service to Tulsa on an F-27 also began on this date.

TRANS WORLD AIRLINES
TWA announced January 13, 1960 its intent to withdraw from Peoria. The airline’s local market share had been 54 percent in 1954, but only four percent in 1959. Lacking opposition, the Civil Aeronautics Board approved TWA’s request on March 4, 1960. The Illinois Commerce Commission gave its nod for a two-year suspension in early April. In these hearings, it was revealed TWA’s Peoria flights lost $18,000 in the last quarter of 1959.

Service ended April 24, 1960. As mentioned above, TWA maintained its ticket sales office at PIA’s terminal. On May 17, 1961 the Peoria Journal Star reported that the airline’s local business was up since service ended a year before. That Ozark feed passengers to TWA at Chicago and St. Louis was satisfactory, and would continue to be so for years to come.

AIRFIELD IMPROVEMENTS
By summer 1960, several expansion projects were underway: Work began extending Runway 12-30 835′ to the northwest, making it 8,835′ (including 1000′ overrun). A 2,400′ taxiway was built from main ramp to north end of Runway 18-36. T-hangars on the airfield’s east side were moved west of the terminal for 169th ANG ramp expansion.

The USAF Thunderbirds, using F-100 Super Sabres, performed here on Sunday, July 17, 1960, drawing about 10,000. The team gave a repeat performance on September 22, 1963 when static displays included an F-86, KC-97, C-121, F-100, F-89, B-57, F-84 and T-33.

GOP presidential nominee, Vice-President Richard M. Nixon, flew a United Air Lines DC-6 to make a Peoria campaign stop on September 14, 1960.

In January 1963, GPAA purchased land south of Smithville Road (bordering the airport) for future extension of Runway 4-22 to the southwest.

INTERNATIONAL BOO-BOO, ETC. 
Aircraft type was not identified, but the Peoria Journal Star reported February 12, 1962 that a Trans-Canada Air Lines plane carrying 34 Hewitt Equipment Co. Ltd. customers from Montreal were confined to the plane in Peoria because immigration officials neglected to sign necessary paperwork. A second plane with 54 on board was due the next day. A local official called Montreal to solve the problem. Both flights were likely operated by Douglas DC-4s.

A Canadian Pacific Airlines DC-6 brought 70 Canadian municipal officials to Peoria February 18, 1962 to view earthmoving ideas from Caterpillar. No immigration problems were reported with this one. The plane left February 22.

An Ozark DC-3 damaged a wingtip when it brushed a treetop during a landing attempt here in late-March 1963. The flight skipped Peoria and flew on to Chicago.

PASSENGER TRAFFIC DIPS, RECOVERS
In 1960, PIA handled 94,986 passengers, a 3.3 percent drop from 1959’s record 98,214. Traffic slid further in 1961 when only 91,573 went through PIA’s terminal. A recession spanning April 1960 to February 1961 factored in the decline. That and an earlier recession in 1957-58 forced Caterpillar to reduce its workforce from 27,000 at the end of 1956 to 20,000 four years later, no doubt reducing air travel by company officials.

Traffic rebounded massively in 1962 when PIA handled 104,189 passengers, a 13.7 percent gain, marking first time passenger traffic passed the six-figure mark. In 1963, passengers surged to 119,723, a 14.9 percent increase!

Below are flight schedules culled from the Official Airline Guide, March 15, 1964 edition. Ozark Air Lines boasted 24 weekday departures with multiple nonstops to Chicago-O’Hare International Airport, and one- or multi-stop flights to Des Moines, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul and St. Louis on a mix of Fairchild F-27 turboprops, Convair 240s and Douglas DC-3s. See corresponding route map below.

PIA March 15, 1964 Pg. 1PIA March 15, 1964 Pg. 2

PIA Routes March 1964

– David P. Jordan

TP&W Ethanol/Manifest, Saturday, March 25, 2017

When I see an eastbound TP&W freight ready to depart East Peoria, I don’t wait for blue skies.

There weren’t any such skies Saturday, but this train was too neat to pass up. I had just left the downtown library and decided to check for the possibility of another TP&W ethanol train.

Wouldn’t you know it, I found the head end of the 109-car train well past Carver Lane. As soon as I arrived, it began moving. So I turned around and headed for my favorite first spot to catch eastbounds out of East Peoria: Farmdale Trestle.

I chased it to Secor. I had to give up on one or two locations due to rain or drops on my camera lens, but I’m happy with what I got. Other scenes of this eight-and-one-half minute video were taken in Washington (two locations), Cruger, Eureka (whole train) and Secor, where you can see the entire train in one shot!

The first 27 cars were carload freight blocked onto the head end of an 82-car ethanol train bound for CSX Transportation in Lafayette, Indiana (destination is in Florida). This number includes a buffer car on either end. The BNSF covered hopper might be loaded with ingredients for a birdseed plant in Reynolds, Indiana (contents are transloaded at the Co-Alliance elevator in Remington then trucked the final leg). Fourteen green Incobrasa covered hoppers are likely loaded with soybeans, while eight empty limestone hoppers are heading back to Rogers Group/Newton County Stone Co. at Perkins, Indiana. Other cars are for CN at Gilman and CSX at Lafayette, Indiana.

– David P. Jordan

BNSF Peoria Local – April 19, 2012

I upload most of my videos to YouTube. This was an exception until today.

It shows the old BNSF “Peoria Local,” L-CHI107, rolling through Edwards, Illinois on April 19, 2012. After sunset around the Ft. of Chicago Street, the crew switches an empty carbon black car from Caterpillar’s Rubber Processing Facility (“Cat Tire”). BNSF 2037 & 2119 had 16 cars.

This was back when “107” ran Monday thru Friday, regardless of traffic levels, with an assigned crew. For periods of a few months, particularly in fall and winter, it reverted to an extraboard crew and ran only two or three days per week. In May 2015, “107” was abolished and replaced by M-GALPEI and M-PEIGAL, which normally operate Monday & Thursday and Tuesday & Friday, respectively.

– David P. Jordan

Friday’s Union Pacific MPECL

I caught Union Pacific’s MPECL this afternoon, and glad I did.

The 27th car, UTLX 600827, displays a Corn Products logo, which means the
car is leased to Ingredion Inc. I’ve never seen a Corn Products/Ingredion
tank car on this train before, so UP has new business, probably sorbitol
consigned to a western (or Mexican) customer. (Ingredion owns a sorbitol plant at Mapleton, served by the TP&W.)

A pair of SD70Ms, UP 4116 & UP 4950, are shown pulling a 31-car train past the Akron Services elevator north of Dunlap.

– David P. Jordan

Iowa Interstate Coal Train!

I caught the Iowa Interstate’s weekly coal train late this afternoon.

Led by three Norfolk Southern units (NS 9233, NS 2620 and NS 9120), the train’s 96 cars were loaded at the Shay Mine near Carlinville, Illinois for ADM in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Power and train runs through on the Iowa Interstate.

I shot scenes at Rome, Chillicothe and near Hopewell off Rt. 29.

– David P. Jordan

P&PU. South Bartonville. 2003.

Remember the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway?

On August 20, 2003 I caught this P&PU Extra Switcher enroute to Cargill Fertilizer Co. with 15 potash loads. It was led by SC15A-3 802, built by Peoria Locomotive Works as demonstrator unit PL-1500.

Change came soon: Cargill Fertilizer Co., located in the Pekin Bottoms, merged with IMC Global on October 25, 2004 to create Mosaic Crop Nutrition LLC. On November 1 that year, Genesee & Wyoming Inc’s newly-created Tazewell & Peoria Railroad Inc. began a 20-year lease of the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway.

But 802 is still in the area, working at Alter Metal Recycling Co.’s recently-acquired Behr Iron & Metal facility at 2424 W. Clarke Street in Peoria.

– David P. Jordan

PIA Breaks February Record!

IMG_1216 - Copy

Peoria Int’l Airport broke its February passenger record.

According to today’s press release, 47,385 passengers went through the local airport last month. The previous record, 45,806, was set only a year ago.

The press release attributes the record to new service to Charlotte and Destin (Florida), and larger jets to Dallas/Ft.Worth. If this trend holds, PIA will resume its string of record annual passenger traffic in 2017.

The Peoria Journal Star posted this story an hour ago.

– David P. Jordan

Sunday Surprise on the Iowa Interstate!

Sunday afternoon, I caught Iowa Interstate’s PESI extra, shooting video and stills at Sankoty, Mossville, Chillicothe and Hopwell.

IAIS 708 and 153 led 64 potash empties, but a third locomotive was a gem to capture. SOU 5088 is a high-hood Norfolk Southern GP38-2. Not many of these remain on the roster.

Word is the unit is enroute to Des Moines, Iowa to replace the current yard switcher which suffered mechanical issues.

– David P. Jordan

Norfolk Southern. East Peoria. 1995 (Part 2)

I shot these twelve photos of Norfolk Southern Train D41 on August 21, 1995. It shows the Decatur-bound train departing East Peoria with CNO&TP 3235 and NS 4602 (a SD40-2 and a GP49, respectively, both high hoods) and 54 cars.

The train was a bit longer than usual. Credit goes to a dozen Caterpillar tractor and equipment loads and a block of 15 ADM ethanol tank cars. Being a Monday, though, there probably wasn’t a pickup at the TP&W before leaving town.

Finally, note the two 89′ piggyback flat cars mixed with double stacks. One has a single TP&W-marked trailer, the other has two. TP&W purchased 400 of these in 1995, and you could see them at Caterpillar’s Morton parts warehouse as well as the Nestle USA/Libby’s cannery across the street.

Caterpillar could have sent tractor parts to its Mississauga, Ontario parts warehouse by rail (routed Norfolk Southern to Buffalo, NY then either Canadian National or Canadian Pacific from there). August 21 was probably a week or so early for canned pumpkin to be moving.

Norfolk Southern eliminated some low-volume intermodal lanes in 1997, and TOFC business in and out of East Peoria was probably among them (container traffic continued officially until early 2000).

– David P. Jordan