Train built and air-test finally complete, Iowa Interstate's PESI 04 road freight takes the signal to depart off TZPR's West Lead yard track as it slow rolls at 10 mph across the Illinois River lift bridge into Peoria behind a pair of non-turbocharged EMD 645s of both the six and four axle type, respectively. The large 104 (1x103) car consist of Tazewell & Peoria interchange traffic consists mostly of empty grain hoppers returning to Flint Hills Resources in Menlo, IA and the ADM facilities at Cedar Rapids and Clinton, via CPRS, all saving room for a solitary loaded alcohol tank for the CSXT in Chicago. The train will swing north at Bridge JCT onto TZPR's Peoria Uptown Division for the approximate 6-mile trip through the city's downtown area before hooking up with home rails at Peoria Heights for the remainder of its trip to Silvis, IL. At the time of this photo, Iowa's fleet of six-axle EMD SD38-2s were rumored to be storage bound upon the arrival of three new General Electric ES44ACs to the property. The railroad at one time had a fleet of eight SDs (150-157); Originally all built for Reserve Mining Company in October of 1978, they later found themselves in the leasing business being utilized on various railroads throughout the country, sent to GATX (General American Transportation) in the late 80s and LLPX (Locomotive Leasing Partners) in the mid-to-late 90s. Between the years of 2005 and 2007, in an effort to revamp their insignificant locomotive roster, the Iowa Interstate eventually purchased all eight of the SD38-2s from LLPX, along with 22 four-axle GP38-2s, after the then 150-153 were already on property for leasing purposes. Once arrived, the 154 and 155 were painted in company colors at Council Bluffs, IA while the other six were sent down to MidAmerica Car on the Missouri side of Kansas City for their paint and mechanical work. Spending nearly eight years on the system, IAIS later decided to put four of its eight SDs up for sale, the 154-157. Both 154 and 155 were sold January of 2015 and delivered to their new owners, the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad via the BNSF at Rock Island. The pair were later purchased by the Louisville & Indiana (LIRC) for a short stint of use before being returned back to the CSS, which is where the two currently reside to this day. The 156 and 157 were sold April that same year to CIT Equipment Finance Corp (CEFX) and both later going on lease to Cando Contracting Limited north of the border in Manitoba. While retaining their remaining four SDs, 150-153, for another several years, the IAIS made a decision to purchase three new ES44AC "GEVOs" from General Electric in the fourth quarter of 2019, adding on to their current fleet of 17 which were built and delivered between 2008 and 2015. Once arrived, these were to replace the railroad's aging EMD six-axle fleet and the race to secure final photographs of these things were on, to which I participated in. Delivery of these new GEs was completed in February 2020 and just as thought, their four remaining EMD SD38-2s, including the pictured 153, were quickly sent to the locomotive facilities at South Amana, IA for final 92-day inspections and storage prep. The fleet currently sits stored in the RIP tracks at Silvis Yard behind the car repair shop, awaiting a future of uncertainty. Once the latest and greatest power a struggling shortline could get its hands on, now cast aside like many others of their type in the face of bigger and better new motive power.
This steel truss lift span, which dates back to 1985, is the third generation of movable type bridges here at this location. The current lift structure replaced a bascule span constructed in 1911 which replaced a swing style bridge built in 1881. It stretches 1,080 feet in length over the waters of the Illinois River, lifting up a 307 foot navigational channel section for boat passage, and is crossed by six different railroads including the TZPR, TP&W, KJRY, IAIS, UP and BNSF. Set up for double track, the P&PU (Peoria & Pekin Union), now TZPR, did major rehab work on the currently active south track summer of 2001 and once completed, the north track was ultimately taken out of service, not needed due to lack of traffic. Although still in place over the bridge itself, the rest of the north main is torn up beyond both ends. A small tower just behind me houses the bridge's lift operator and office of the TZPR Railroad's on-duty trainmaster. Once also home to TZPR dispatch operations until they picked up and moved to there current Genesee & Wyoming shortline dispatching headquarters at St. Albans, VT in 2016. Just over a year prior, this bridge was involved in an accident when a towboat heading downriver pulling two barges collided with the bridge, shearing off the top of the vessel's pilothouse. This is one of two lift bridges spanning the river in the Peoria area, the other situated to the south in Pekin belonging to Union Pacific and the tracks of their Peoria Subdivision running between Nelson, IL and Springfield, though that structure is highly inaccessible.
This is one of most popular photo locations for railroad photography in the area and I was glad to have snapped this IAIS SD38-2 led train just a month before it was thrown into long-term storage.