NOTE: Peoria Area Rail Users are posted alphabetically by railroad station
For years, the number of rail users in downtown Peoria steadily declined to zero. Suddenly, in January 2007, one came back. In a way, it was both new and old. New because the rail user, PMP Fermentation Products, hadn’t used rail in the 22 years it operated its food additives plant on N. Water and Irving Street. Old because former owners of the plant had used rail service.
The first, Leisy Brewing Company, operated from 1884 to 1919. Then in 1927, Premier Malt Products purchased the shuttered plant to produce, what else…malt products. Production began in June 1928. Expansion and new equipment came in August 1931.
In November 1932, Premier Malt Products merged with Pabst Brewing Company’s to create Premier-Pabst Corporation. Unfortunately, the Great Depression took its toll and the malt plant had to close several months for lack of business, reopening in February 1933.
Prohibition ended in December 1933, by which time Premier-Pabst had begun retrofitting the old Bartholomew Manufacturing Co’s Peoria Heights factory into a brewery. The Irving Street plant, or Plant No. 4, would produce malt for famous Pabst Blue Ribbon and other beers.
Premier-Pabst added a malt syrup plant in 1934 and a grist mill in 1938. At the latter, 3,000 to 5,000 bushels of white corn were milled into grits for use at company breweries. Also in 1938, Pabst dropped “Premier” from its name.
Pabst Brewing Co. Plant No. 4 was a major rail user for years. The Illinois Rail Plan 1980 Update notes that customers on Rock Island’s Peoria-Bureau line generated 2,900 carloads in 1978. While some of this amount could have been attributed to Cook Industries in Henry and perhaps even Peoria Barge Terminal’s downtown dock, Pabst’s grist mill no doubt generated most of it.
Unfortunately, Pabst’s business declined in the late 1970s. Cutbacks were inevitable. The malthouse at the foot of MacArthur Highway closed in July 1980 and the Peoria Heights brewery closed by April 1982. That left the grist mill on Wayne Street. Pabst’s Industrial Products Division was renamed PMP Fermentation Products in 1982. But Pabst continued its decline, and the grist mill closed at the end of 1984. Closure was part of a deal to sell PMP Fermentation to Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co.
PMP Fermentation’s food additives business expanded through the 1980s and 1990s. A new $50 million fruit acid plant opened adjacent the existing facility in 1997. Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co sold PMP to Fuso Chemical in 2003. It was Fuso that decided to move fruit acid production to China, leaving dormant a plant less than a decade old.
Perhaps the spike in fuel prices, and consequential rise in transportation costs prompted PMP Fermentation Products to install rail facilities. Construction started in the fall of 2006 and the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad delivered the first tank car of corn syrup in mid-January 2007. In a year or so, the company also began shipping liquid sodium gluconate by rail.
There are seven spots for corn syrup-sized tank cars. Liquid sodium gluconate is loaded at the first of these. Annual traffic is likely between 350 and 400 carloads.
- David P. Jordan