As with the Conrail and Illinois Terminal profiles, the Commission’s Norfolk & Western history repeats erroneous information that Conrail retained trackage rights between Mackinaw and Farmdale Jct. on Illinois Terminal and between Farmdale Jct. and East Peoria on the Norfolk & Western. ILLINOIS RAIL PLAN UPDATES from 1979 and 1980 studied the Illinois Terminal line and neither mentions Conrail trackage rights. I’d like to know the Commission’s source.
The Commission’s document included no N&W customer list. But based on some railroad industry documents (Open & Pre-Pay Station List, February 1, 1985), the “Grain Connection” section of the Official Railway Guide’s September-October 1988 edition, and information found in both Deer Creek and Goodfield centennial books, I believe N&W still served customers in Tazewell and Woodford counties in 1977.
Evidence for most of these can be found in the aforementioned Open & Pre-Pay Station List (OPSL). Customers listed inside at Congerville, Goodfield and Deer Creek are confirmed to exist in the 1970s. I think the reason none appeared in the Commission’s document is that that railroad didn’t provide the information because they generated so little traffic, and most had no rail facilities of their own. In fact, these probably generated no more than 10 or 20 cars annually. Let me go through each one to explain my criteria for the 1977 list. First some history.
The Norfolk & Western Railway expanded to the Midwest on October 16, 1964 when it acquired the New York Chicago & St. Louis (“Nickel Plate”) and leased the Wabash. It was the Nickel Plate that had served Peoria. At the time of the merger, grain elevators typically used boxcars for grain loading. Short hauls were quite common. Soon, railroads (and leasing firms) began acquiring large fleets of covered hoppers, and large grain terminals were built to load 100-car unit trains (including one on the N&W – Cargill at Gibson City in 1968). By the early 1970s, processors had begun to refuse boxcar shipments. The Soviet Union’s massive grain buying in 1972 and 1973 contributed to severe railcar shortages. Large grain terminals had priority. So if they hadn’t already, a lot of small country elevators like those at Congerville, Goodfield and Deer Creek had switched to trucks.
With completion of I-74 between Peoria and Bloomington in 1966, elevators in between them probably ceased rail shipping to “traditional markets.” But the emergence of new, more distant markets were a possible reason for rail shipments in 1977. In 1967, Anheuser Busch Companies’ Indiana Corn Products built a wet corn milling facility on Lafayette, Indiana’s north side. A. E. Staley Manufacturing Co. built its own wet corn mill on the city’s south side in 1977 (and purchased Busch’s facility in 1982). Each plant consumed a lot of corn. Local shortages would require grain buying from out of state, like in Central Illinois. And N&W’s Peoria District served Lafayette directly.
|Congerville Elevator & Co||Congerville||Grain Elevator|
|Cargill Inc – Nutrena Feeds Div||Goodfield||Feed Mixtures|
|Goodfield Elevator||Goodfield||Grain Elevator|
|Mathis Lumber Co||Goodfield||Building Materials|
|Morton Buildings Inc||Goodfield||Metal Fabrication|
|Semmerling Fence & Supply||Goodfield||Fencing|
|Raeuber Building Supply||Deer Creek||Building Materials|
|Schultz By-Products Inc||Deer Creek||Pet Food Ingredients|
|Central Illinois Light Co.||Farmdale||Misc.|
CONGERVILLE ELEVATOR & CO The Official Guide’s 1988 “Grain Connection” says this one had a siding for 20 cars and could load five at a time. Bell Grain Co had purchased it in 1983, and the “Grain Connection” entry lists it under that company. This to me suggests that N&W actually served them during Bell’s ownership.
CARGILL INC – NUTRENA FEEDS DIV. Built by Agri-Pride Pelleted Feed in 1963, and purchased by Cargill in 1976, this facility was located on Rt. 117 and did not have direct rail access. The OPSL listing may imply that Cargill transloaded bulk ingredients on the rail siding in town. Corn could be obtained locally, but typical feed ingredients like brewers’ rice, wheat flour, wheat germ, rice bran, bone meal and wheat middlings might have been shipped from suppliers (including other Cargill facilities) from at least a 150-200 miles away. Traffic managers had to employ rail-to-truck transloading. In fact, such practice is still common today for small feed mills not located on a rail siding.
GOODFIELD ELEVATOR had a long history and was known to be served by the Nickel Plate in the 1950s and probably into the 1960s. By the late 1960s, however, large grain trucks and interstate access likely ended railcar loading, at least on a regular basis. But according to the Goodfield Centennial Book, Agri-Pride (“Pellet Service Center”) purchased this elevator in 1966, leased it to Farmers Grain Coop of Eureka in 1970, and sold it to Bell Grain in 1982 (Bell’s website says 1981). Ownership by the feed mill suggests railcars of bulk feed ingredients may have been unloaded for them at this elevator. (NOTE: this customer wasn’t mentioned in the OPSL.)
MATHIS LUMBER CO A division of Affiliated Home Centers Inc., Morton and Chillicothe lumberyards were known to use rail in the 1970s. This one probably did as well. Lumber unloading and storage took place on the west side of Harrison Street, south side of the tracks.
MORTON BUILDINGS INC located its Goodfield plant south of I-74 in 1975 to fabricate metal building components and also paint items such as steel beams. With no direct rail access, Morton Buildings would have had to transload on the elevator siding at Harrison Street. That this facility is mentioned in the OPSL leads me to believe they received (or shipped) at least a small volume of steel products in those early years.
SEMMERLING FENCE & SUPPLY INC purchased longtime fence manufacturer Hohulin Bros. Co. in the 1970s, and may have used the Goodfield plant as a distribution facility (Semmerling had a fence plant in Brighton, Michigan). Like the others, railcars would have been unloaded on the elevator track at Harrison Street. Rolled fence fabric might have been loaded into railcars as well, though only for large volume shipments to distant points, like western states.
RAEUBER BUILDING SUPPLY was located north of the N&W, east of Logan Street in Deer Creek. There was room for a spur track, but the company may have unloaded material from railcars on the siding along Locust Street.
SCHULTZ BY-PRODUCTS INC is an interesting one. The old John Cundiff Grain & Coal on Locust Street in Deer Creek ran into legal troubles and went out of business in 1972. I had only a vague recollection of a grain elevator being there, but coming across letters to the editor of Morton’s Tazewell News dated August 2 and 9, 1976 sparked some interest. A couple of Deer Creek residents complained of a foul odor emitting from the “Rival dog food plant.” One noted that this was not the case the prior summer (1975). I never could find any listings for a Rival plant in Deer Creek, but I believe it and Schultz were the same.
A Google search reveals Schultz was formed on October 18, 1974. The Deer Creek Centennial Book notes Schultz’s parent company was Darling Delaware, which today is Darling International. So ingredients such as meat scraps, animal fats and tankage (meat and bone meal) were the source of foul odors in the summer of 1976. These materials were found in the region, but short-haul rail shipments were much more common in 1977 than they are today. I can imagine tank cars loaded with tallow or lard oil and/or 40′ boxcars loaded with bags of (or bulk) tankage being spotted here from time to time by the N&W local.
CENTRAL ILLINOIS LIGHT CO. The OPSL book shows a Semmerling Fence & Supply served by N&W at East Peoria. I’ve found nothing to verify this. Predecessor Nickel Plate once served a couple of brick yards in East Peoria, but these were long gone by 1977. A 1975 government document detailing potential abandonment of the N&W between Farmdale and P&PU Jct. notes there was one customer at Farmdale, but fails to identify it. A spur switch that still exists in 2013 may have served an industry at one time, possibly the CILCO (Ameren) substation off E. Washington Street.
Finally, a curious omission at Goodfield where the OPSL book is concerned is Dietrich Manufacturing Inc., or DMI. This manufacturer of crop production, fertilizer and tillage equipment was founded in 1961, and moved to its present site a few years later. Subsequent expansion grew the plant to 233,000 square feet. Perhaps DMI purchased pre-fab components, rather than raw steel? Such practice would make truck delivery more likely. Markets for dual wheel assemblies, gravity wagons and fertilizer application equipment may have been regional, so truck shipping made sense as well.
Peoria & Pekin Union will be next profile.
- David P. Jordan