NOTE: Peoria Area Rail Users are posted alphabetically by railroad station
Peoria Barge Terminal’s website says the company has been in business since 1957, and that it began operating at the Sanger Street site in 1968. But the company can probably trace its origins back to the Peoria River-Rail Terminal, which was dedicated at the Ft. of Fayette Street in downtown Peoria on June 15, 1931.
The opening coincided with the completion of the Illinois Waterway. Commodities handled included Caterpillar machinery, coal, fertilizer, road salt and steel. In an era of heavily regulated transportation pricing, railroads were only beginning to innovate, so bulk commodities like fertilizer and grain were still being handled in boxcars. A Peoria Journal Star photo with an article dated January 22, 1957 shows two 40′ boxcars at the terminal, each being loaded with 25 tons of phosphate rock.
The earliest local media reference I’ve found of Peoria Barge Terminal’s Sanger Street facility is from Peoria Journal Star’s May 1, 1968 morning edition. Enough 40″ pipe for 100 miles arrived by barge from a Pittsburgh-area US Steel mill. In addition, 204 pipes 30″ in diameter arrived by railcar. An accompanying photo shows pipes laying south of the P&PU bridge and along the riverfront.
The City of Peoria owned the land occupied by the Peoria-River Rail Terminal. So in late 1981 when the City decided not to renew the lease, Peoria Barge Terminal consolidated operations at its Sanger Street facility. Illinois waterway transportation guides from 1984 and 1988 reference Peoria Barge Terminal’s Sanger Street facility as having rail access with spur tracks in the rear. I believe these were old distillery spur tracks from the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway that entered what is now R. A. Cullinan & Sons property on Monarch Street.
In 1993, Peoria Barge Terminal benefited from ADM’s track capacity expansion. Along with construction of ADM’s South Yard, a spur was built to serve the barge terminal directly, offering dockside rail-to-barge and barge-to-rail options. With rail access off of ADM’s River Track, Peoria Barge Terminal could be served by three railroads: Chicago & North Western, Peoria & Pekin Union and Toledo Peoria & Western.
Rail service to Peoria Barge Terminal is a mixture of odd, seasonal or temporary business. Since the 1990s, C&NW/UP received scrap metal and melted steel bars, P&PU deliver steel, Komatsu trucks and receive ballast, and TP&W received a loaded side-dump ballast car. In spring 2009, I noticed a number of boxcars there. I can only figure these cars contained zinc ingots and/or water softener salt. Most had BNSF, and CN markings while a few displayed markings of Atlantic & Western (ATW), Georgia Northwestern (GNRR) and Progress Rail Services/Sidney & Lowe RR (SLGG). I believe the Union Pacific Railroad handled switching duties this time. The interesting thing is that one car I photographed (SLGG 11235) was among 99 similar cars that were leased to The Andersons Inc subsidiary Carcat ULC in 2005. The Andersons does in fact sell salt in pellet form.
Suffice if to say, I’ve noticed no rail business at Peoria Barge Terminal since spring 2009. The closest thing to regular rail business was the shipment of scrap metal via C&NW/UP to Sterling Steel LLC (Northwestern Steel & Wire until 2001). But even that hasn’t moved in several years.
- David P. Jordan