According to this April 26 Peoria Journal Star article (I didn’t see it until Sunday night), volume for 2012 was just under 32 million pounds. This was up from 2011′s 30.7 million pounds, but as you can see, no other quarter recorded a 22 percent gain!
The article states that 2013′s figures in January and February were down 8 percent from the same period in 2012.
MY TAKE: The national economy has never really recovered from the 2008-2009 downturn, and air cargo is far more costly than it used to be thanks to high fuel prices. Thus, much potential air freight is trucked. A lot of it likely goes down I-74 to Indianapolis. International cargo may be trucked to Chicago-O’Hare and flown from there in passenger jets.
After the report of a 22 percent gain in cargo volume, I felt hopeful that PIA was shooting for volumes of the late 1990s and early 2000s (50-60 million pounds). When came subsequent reports of rosy passenger figures, but without mention of cargo figures, I suspected something was wrong.
It seems that good figures are reported, bad figures are not. I prefer to see them regardless.
This blog mainly focuses on hardware, but I’m making an exception.
Steve Jaeger, who occasionally comments on this blog, is resigning his post as Executive Director of TransPORT, WMBD Radio 1470 reports. He is moving to Florida to serve in an economic development role with Walton County. His current position ends May 15.
We first met at the Apollo Theatre in downtown Peoria the evening of October 12, 2007. Apollo was showing The Narrow Margin, a 1952 noir film, and a 1990 film of the same name. Sharon Deckard of the Illinois Prairie Railroad Foundation, and myself, helped out with railroad-themed presentations and prizes for the event.
Like me, Steve has a passion for transportation, whether air, highway, rail or water. His knowledge and experience will be a great asset in whatever endeavors he pursues.
I’ve now finished my series analyzing the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission’s 1977 report on the Peoria Gateway. So now it is time for more Q & A. As always, feel free to ask any question related to transportation. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find one.
To the best of my knowledge, the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway never published its own freight train schedules, at least not for the public. Only passenger trains, including those of owner and tenant lines, appeared in P&PU public timetables.
But there is one source that helped me formulate an accurate (or somewhat accurate) table of P&PU train operations. That is the Agreement Between the Peoria and Pekin Union Railway Company and Yardmen and Switchtenders Represented by United Transportation Union Agreement. My copy of the agreement was effective March 7, 1938 but revised up to June 1, 1976, which is near perfect for the time period of this series.
Searching through this document, one finds considerable detail regarding P&PU train operations. The railroad worked round the clock with first shift beginning work between 0630 and 0800 hours, second shift between 1430 and 1600 hours and third between 2230 and midnight. Let’s look at East Peoria Yard assignments as detailed in the UTU Agreement. NOTE shifts are also referred to as “tricks.”
- 1st, 2nd and 3rd trick A-1 Assignments – yard switching north end of A Yard - 1st, 2nd and 3rd trick A-2 Assignments – yard switching south end of A Yard - 1st, 2nd and 3rd trick B-1 Assignments – yard switching south end of B Yard - 1st, 2nd and 3rd trick B-2 Assignments – yard switching north end of B Yard - 1st, 2nd and 3rd trick P&S Assignments - 1st, 2nd and 3rd trick Hiram Walker & Sons Assignments - 1st, 2nd and 3rd trick West Side Assignments - 2nd Trick C&NW Assignment - 1st, 2nd and 3rd trick Kickapoo Assignments - Caterpillar Assignment - Harvester* Assignment - Pekin Independent Assignment - Extra Assignment
*“Harvester” refers to Caterpillar Building HH, which was built in 1929 to produce combines. This technology was sold to Deere & Company in 1935 and HH was converted to road machinery assembly.
Unfortunately, assignments described above most likely reflect operations in 1938, not 1977, by which time there was simply no need for 13 switching assignments (C&NW, Kickapoo, P&S, Hiram Walker and West Side) on the Peoria side of the river.
P&PU still served over 100 customers in the early 1950s, mostly in Peoria. Following the Second World War, and especially after the Korean War, changing transportation economics after the completion of new and improved highways shifted much freight from rail to truck. Business expansion required larger facilities while both industrial plants and warehouses closed multiple facilities in favor of larger regional operations.
Other industries closed or reduced operations: Hiram Walker & Sons’ Plant #2 on W. Clarke Street and National Distillers Product Company both discontinued whiskey distilling in the early 1950s; bottling and shipping operations continued for awhile longer. Commercial Solvents closed its S. Darst Street operation by 1964 and Armour & Co closed its slaughterhouse in 1967. The Peoria Union Stock Yards, which shipped 3,500 outbound carloads to eastern markets in 1952, had ceased regular rail shipping by the mid-1960s. Hiram Walker & Sons suffered declining sales for its liquors and temporarily closed its distillery during 1975, resuming operations at half the plant’s capacity in early 1976.
Other reasons for reduced switching operations is the City of Peoria is the decline of activity at Union Depot. By 1950, only three passenger trains arrived and departed daily. In five years, there would be none. The final blow was when P&PU opened its diesel locomotive facility at Creve Coeur in August 1958. The Peoria Roundhouse closed and remaining classification work at the adjacent 90 and 91 Yards moved across the river to the newer and larger East Peoria Yard.
All jobs were based at the P&PU’s Creve Coeur offices. The 12 assignments switching at East Peoria (divided between “A” and “B” yards) were probably still used in 1977, though some were likely annulled for lack of business. Intermediate switching declined rapidly from the mid-1960s onward. Nevertheless, new businesses that developed along Wesley Road (Amoco and Mobil bulk oil terminals, Central Illinois Dock Company, Illinois Grain Corp, Agrico Chemical, Amoco Fertilizer, McNally Fertilizer) were probably serviced by yard assignments.
In addition, Caterpillar underwent massive expansion at East Peoria after World War Two. Building KK began producing diesel engines in late 1947 and Building LL began steel fabrication operations in 1950. Although the company moved motor grader and scraper production to Decatur in 1955, parts warehousing to Morton in 1958, marine engines to Mossville in 1959 and foundry operations to Mapleton by 1970, track-type tractor and component production increased. A new warehouse, Building RR, opened in late 1972 to support East Peoria manufacturing, and the former foundry was converted into a forge plant by 1975.
Remaining non-yard assignments in 1977 included Pekin local, Kickapoo Job, West Side and P&S assignments (one or two shifts each), transfers and occasional extras.
Owner and tenant lines contributed a still large number of freight trains in 1977. Based on the best information I have available, these were:
-daily transfer of interchange cars to Bridge Jct. and East Peoria
- 9 to 10 loaded unit coal trains weekly for interchange to Chicago & Illinois Midland on Wesley Jct.-Pekin mainline
- 9 to 10 empty unit coal trains weekly from Chicago & Illinois Midland (P&PU switch crews sometimes deliver these to BN on Peoria’s south side)
Chicago & Illinois Midland
(See description of BN coal trains)
Chicago & North Western
- daily Peoria Wayfreight delivering interchange to East Peoria
- daily Peoria Wayfreight receiving interchange at East Peoria
Chicago Rock Island & Pacific
- daily transfer of interchange cars to East Peoria
- daily freight from Indianapolis (PE-9) arrives East Peoria
- daily freight to Columbus OH (PO-8) departs East Peoria
Illinois Central Gulf
- daily freight from Mattoon (276) arrives East Peoria
- daily local from Mattoon arrives (292) East Peoria
- daily freight to Mattoon departs (275) East Peoria
- daily local to Mattoon departs (291) East Peoria
- daily transfer from Allentown arrives East Peoria
- daily transfer to Allentown departs East Peoria
Norfolk & Western
- daily freight from Frankfort IN (FP-65) arrives East Peoria
- daily freight to Frankfort IN (PF-62) departs East Peoria
Toledo Peoria & Western
- daily transfer of interchange cars to East Peoria
The following TP&W trains used P&PU trackage between P&PU Jct. in East Peoria and Iowa Jct. on Peoria’s far south side.
- Keokuk IA to East Peoria (No. 120), daily
- East Peoria to Fort Madison IA (No. 121), daily
- Fort Madison IA to East Peoria (No. 122), daily
- East Peoria to Keokuk IA (No. 123), daily
- East Peoria to Mapleton “Kolbe Local,” daily-except Sunday
- Mapleton to East Peoria, “Kolbe Local,” daily-except Sunday
- daily transfer to Burlington Northern and Rock Island*
- daily transfer from Burlington Northern and Rock Island*
*TP&W and CRI&P alternated handling monthly on transfer work while TP&W and BN alternated every six months.
Obviously, the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway was still quite a busy railroad in 1977.
Peoria area rail lines are poised to resume normal operations by mid-week.
A BNSF service advisory notes that as of April 25, its Peoria Subdivision is out of service between Milepost 36 (two miles west fo Edwards) and Milepost 47.6 (just south of Harmon Highway). But the company appears to have finished repairs. The eastbound “Peoria Local,” which tied up on Edwards Siding late Wednesday, April 17, has gotten bigger. That’s because another eastbound local left in Gilson Siding for more than a week made its way to Edwards over the weekend. The two trains are now combined, and await reopening of the Tazewell & Peoria RR’s Illinois River Bridge.
A Union Pacific work train was spotted at Pottstown on the Nelson – Barr line Sunday evening, but most work appears to be complete.
Iowa Interstate completed repairs to washed out sections of track between Henry and Sparland on Saturday. The regular northbound local, stopped just north of the McClugage Bridge the early morning of April 18 due to washouts between Henry and Sparland, then parked just south of Chillicothe for over a week, returned to its Bureau Jct. home Sunday morning. That evening, another local made its way to Peoria in anticipating full restoration of operations on the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad. Reportedly, second Minnesota grain train for Aventine Renewable Energy in Pekin is due whenever TZPR can accommodate it.
The Tazewell & Peoria Railroad’s Illinois River Bridge is still in the raised position and cars are parked on both ends. Track segments are still underwater in downtown Peoria, and on the far south side. Archer Daniels Midland’s River Track is still under water at S. Darst Street.
When the TZPR lowers its bridge and clears those cars, an IAIS crew can fetch an empty Des Moines-bound Norfolk Southern grain train parked in East Peoria for well over a week. Likewise, a Cedar Rapids-bound Norfolk Southern coal train has been parked in Normal for about a week, waiting for floodwaters to recede and TZPR’s bridge to reopen.
The TZPR apparently ran its first train to and from Pekin on Sunday. Due to lingering floodwaters on the riverfront, TZPR’s Pekin local gained access to Aventine Renewable Energy, taking two feed and 18 alcohol loads to East Peoria in the afternoon. See video below (note rusty railheads in first scene):
The article pretty much tells us what I’ve been writing here. However, we do learn that Caribbean and Mexico flights are still on the agenda.
While it’s unlikely those flights will be added anytime in the near future, [airport director Gene] Olson said the airport is shooting for those additions to manifest themselves near the end of 2013 or beginning of 2014.
This is good news, though the timetable seems awfully short to prepare a temporary Federal Inspections Services (FIS) facility to process international passengers. Perhaps if they start soon (say next month) remodeling the former mail encoding center can be completed in no more than six months?
I’ve already reported Allegiant Air’s recent introduction of Airbus A319s to its Phoenix (Mesa) – Peoria route. I actually spent a good part of Friday shooting video of various arriving and departing airliners. I missed some flights, but did managed to shoot enough scenes to create a record that is representative of PIA’s airline service. [Also note two Caterpillar corporate jets are shown - a departing Challenger 850 and an arriving Challenger 600. The former is basically a Canadair Regional Jet.]
Eat your heart out Bloomington, Peoria has its own A319 service
Seriously, Allegiant Air began using a 156-seat Airbus A319 April 1 on its Phoenix (Mesa)-Peoria roundtrips. The planes replace a McDonnell Douglas MD83, which was configured for 166 seats.
But don’t fret Mad Dog fans, those aircraft are still being used on Allegiant’s Las Vegas, Punta Gorda and St. Petersburg/Clearwater flights. It is only a matter of time, however, before they’re replaced by newer and more efficient Airbus A319s and A320s. Maybe 5-10 years?
In the near future, when Allegiant Air starts its long-awaited flights to Mexico (Cancun) and/or Caribbean points, it will likely use A319s.
If rail passenger service to Peoria is feasible, it would involve same-train service to and from Union Station in Chicago. But the Amtrak/IDOT study initiated in 2006 but not completed until 2011 called for a East Peoria-Normal rail shuttle to connect passengers with existing Amtrak service.
I’ve already explained why this is a bad idea. Unfortunately, the plan’s boosters keep making it worse, slower and costlier.
They’re now proposing an interurban-type service between Peoria and Bloomington airports, with stops in between in downtown Peoria, East Peoria, Morton, Goodfield, Carlock, Normal and downtown Bloomington.
You read that right. The news transportation idea to link Peoria with the nation’s intercity rail passenger network is going to require a circuitous routing with all new right-of-way, serve both downtowns and stop five more stations in between. One who boards in downtown Peoria will be lucky to reach downtown Bloomington (and that bus connection to the Amtrak depot in Normal) in under two hours.
Something similar has already existed. Not between the two airports, but between Peoria and Bloomington downtowns. The Illinois Traction System began this service on April 21, 1907. Multiple frequencies catered to those traveling for business and leisure.
The ITS service was successful in those early years because it catered to local travelers whereas the steam roads did not (one could also ride the Lake Erie & Western Railway and Peoria & Eastern Railway between Peoria and Bloomington). Then came the automobile and publicly-funded paved highways.
The interurban could only survive as a freight-hauler. A portion of the route linking Peoria with Bloomington and Decatur was targeted for salvage during World War Two, but it was spared thanks to grass roots opposition in online cities and towns. Wartime gas rationing returned heavy patronage to the railroads anyway. But a short time after the war ended, people returned to the roads. The interurban lost money on its passenger service, and there was no hope for another revival.
On February 21, 1953, Illinois Terminal Railroad electric interurban passenger cars between made their final runs between Peoria, Bloomington and Decatur. The tracks between Mackinaw, Bloomington and Forsyth (just north of Decatur) were scrapped shortly thereafter. In June 1955, Illinois Terminal ended its Peoria-Springfield-St. Louis service.
The last passenger service between Peoria and Bloomington ended in June 1955 when the Peoria & Eastern’s train from Indianapolis began turning at Pekin. This train lasted until October 1957.
Interstate 74 was completed between Peoria and Bloomington between 1961 and 1966. Today, it is possible to drive between the two metro areas in under one hour. Although there is considerable commuter traffic in this corridor, origins and destinations are spread far and wide.
Unless we close Interstate 74, Route 150 and Route 9, reviving an interurban-type service is a waste of taxpayer’s money and will not attract enough patronage to sustain it existence.
I’m a hard-core rail enthusiast, but I’m also realistic. This is 2013, not 1953. Transportation infrastructure and travel habits have changed. Cities have sprawled out and population isn’t as contentrated as it used to be. Proposals in IDOT’s embarrassing 2011 feasibility study were bad enough, why make it worse?
LOCAL ANGLE: Air cargo operations at Peoria International Airport shouldn’t change much in coming years. That’s because FedEx has already been handling USPS business for twelve years. Had FedEx lost to United Parcel Service, it would have had to park a number of planes and furlough crews.
I believe a large portion of freight loaded onto FedEx planes at Peoria is USPS mail. Around February 1, the carrier started using Boeing 757-200C’s on its Memphis (TN) - Madison (WI) flights, which stop at Peoria Friday evening (southbound) and Saturday morning (northbound). Older Boeing 727-200Cs are being retired, so with a significant portion of business secure, we can expect 757s to take over all local flights soon.
Saturday morning on my way to Bloomington, I noticed that the storage tracks next to Caterpillar Building SS were full of railcars loaded with machinery. That evening, I drove by the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad’s East Peoria Yard to find those cars had been pulled and arranged in a string of 22 cars. I was able to snap this photo Sunday morning.
Normally, machinery loads are accumulated on this track for shipment via Norfolk Southern. But there is something odd about the way these cars are loaded. That’s because 19 of the first 21 each hold three bulldozers. One is loaded with four and the last one has just one. There is also a gondola loaded with a D11R shovel.
I say odd because only multiple D6′s are loaded on flat cars out of East Peoria. Every other machine (D7-D11 and pipelayers) are loaded one per car. Obviously, these cars are not for shipment. Instead, they were loaded onto flat cars to be moved away from potential flooding. When the danger has passed, some or all of these machines will likely be brought back to Building SS.