A fifth map in the Commission’s profile marks the locations of five railroad yards located just outside the immediate Peoria-East Peoria-Pekin urban area. The map is difficult to read so I’ve plotted these yard’s locations in red.
1. ATSF YARD - 2697 CAR CAP.
All Santa Fe trains passing through Chillicothe stopped there to change crews in the engine and caboose. In fact, conductors were assigned their own caboose, so these too were changed at Chillicothe until the practice ceased in 1967. Although the yard’s noted capacity of 2.697 (another sources says 2,375) cars suggests it once handled a large volume of classification, likely much diminished well before 1977. But Martin-Marietta’ sand and gravel pit, the Rock Island interchange and operations related to crew changes did leave some work for switch engines.
2. ATSF YARD - 50 CAR CAP.
The Santa Fe’s Morton Yard was a two-track facility located between E. Main and Jackson streets. It was used by local trains to switch nearby industries. During the pumpkin season when the daily-except-Sunday Streator-Pekin roundtrip was split into Pekin-Morton and Streator-Morton turns, this yard was used to swap trains
Not denoted on this map was Santa Fe’s Morton Trailer-On-Flat-Car (TOFC) ramp. Located at the west end of a stub siding by the Libby’s cannery, it was probably built by the mid-1960s to serve the nearby Caterpillar Tractor Co parts distribution center.
3. CIM YARD - 600 CAR CAP.
The Chicago & Illinois Midland Railway’s Powerton Yard was built to support Commonwealth Edison Co’s adjacent electric generating station, which opened in 1928. This plant’s massive capacity expansion during the 1970s prompted C&IM to add more tracks, and in 1977, there were four tracks and a short run-around on the west side of the mainline and two tracks on the east side. It should be noted that the C&IM once had a small switching yard in Pekin proper, but switch crews were relocated to the expanded Powerton Yard in 1972.
4. CNW YARD - 1600 CAR CAP.
The Chicago & North Western Railway’s South Pekin Yard began operations in September 1913 after the railroad had mostly completed its Peoria-to-Girard line extension. Built to connect with coal hauler Macoupin County Railway, South Pekin handled mainly black diamonds for more than a decade. In 1927, the C&NW and Litchfield & Madison began operating two pair of daily merchandise trains between Proviso (Chicago) and E. St. Louis. A half century later, some eight or nine merchandise trains plus seasonal extras stopped at South Pekin for a crew change and/or re-classification by the three-shift switch engine. Local freights based here worked the ex-M&StL Elm Subdivision, local customers and the P&PU and TP&W interchanges.
5. ITC YARD - 250 CAR CAP.
The Illinois Terminal Railroad Company closed its Farm Creek Yard at East Peoria on August 1, 1966, thereafter relying on the Toledo Peoria & Western (1966-1969) and the Peoria & Pekin Union (starting in late 1969) East Peoria yards as the local terminus for its daily merchandise trains. Congestion, missed connections and threats by shippers to divert traffic to competitors prompted ITC to look for a solution.
Although published materials on this subject tend to be vague regarding the actual problem and solution, it seems that opening Wilson Yard at Allentown (between Mackinaw and Morton) in September 1975 enabled ITC’s newly-established Allentown-East Peoria Switcher to classify inbound Train 200 from E. St. Louis, pre-block cars for connections (Santa Fe at Morton, TP&W at East Peoria and Burlington Northern, Chicago & North Western and Rock Island via P&PU), thus making connections easier. Likewise, the new yard allowed ITC switch crews to make up Train 203 for E. St. Louis instead of relying on P&PU to do it.
The next phase of this profile provides a summary history and description of each line and a list of shippers. The next posts will emphasize local rail shippers in 1977.
- David P. Jordan