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  • The Peoria & Pekin Union Railway Part II


    Left: PP&U SW9 No. 606 moves stealthily across the new Illinois River bridge on a very frigid January day in 1985 with a cut of cars destined for Peoria-side interchange. Transfers and local switching keep the P&PU's fleet of EMD switchers busy for at least two shifts, six days a week.

    Right: SW9 606 at work again, this time in warmer weather four months after photographed in the scene on the facing page. The venerable EMD is working the ADM (Archer-Daniels Midland) plant on the Peoria side of the river, one of the largest on-line firms served by the "Peoria Gateway." ADM processes grain products.

    Peoria Union Station, owned by P&PU, hosted but one train when this scene was recorded on June 25, 1955-the last day it would host varnish. Peoria & Eastern's Peorian is about to depart for Indianapolis for the last time; the following day it would begin terminating at Pekin. For many years, all Peoria steam roads used Union Station, the electric lines having their own facilities. Eventually Rock Island moved to its own station nearby.
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    As we said in part I, when it comes to modeling a terminal road like the Peoria & Pekin Union, the possibilities are intriguing. And unlimited. There simply is no single "right" way to do it because of the many factors to be considered given each modeler's situation. But then, there really isn't one "right" way to do any layout. The P&PU track plan shown here is just a suggestion; more important are the methods to use to arrive at workable, prototypical layout designs.

    Now, I've been doing model railroad track-planning off and on for about 20 years, but the P&PU proved to be somewhat of a stumper, mainly be cause of the number of railroads involved. I started by planting myself at one of the PTJ drawing tables, on top of which I placed a blank sheet of draw ing paper-you know, one of those nice, white, crisp sheets of drawing tissue just yearning to be created upon. Enthusiasm at a high pitch, I armed myself with a pencil in one hand, compass and straightedge in the other, and spread P&PU photos about the desktop for inspiration. I waited. And stared. The paper remained blank.

    I tried to make my hand start a track plan, but it seemed paralyzed (my co-workers insisted it was my brain that was paralyzed). Eventually, I went home, defeated. Tomorrow was an other day. When I returned then, the paper was still blank! No P&PU track plan had materialized. Hmmm. Time for a more systematic approach.

    If you have similar problems getting a track plan underway, here are some tips. It's a systematic approach that can be applied to the prototype modeling of any railroad, including the P&PU:


    While that may sound like a dumb statement -- I mean, I know we're going to model the P&PU-you need to be somewhat specific. If you say you're going to model the Union Pacific, it's probably safe to assume you don't intend to model the whole UP, from Port-land, Oakland and Los Angeles to Chicago and everything in between. Determine what segment you intend to duplicate, imitate or "imaginate" (for those of you who may want to model a fictitious portion of the UP that could theoretically mesh into a real-world UP system). Do this as a sketch or as notes, whatever works best for you.


    What elements in the railroad or segment of railroad you intend to model make it distinctive and/or are important to its operation? Make a list of those items. For example, let's say you plan to model the Rio Grande, specifically the main line between Denver and Glenwood Springs, Colo. Here's a list of elements distinctive to the route or important to its operation (in order of appearance, from east to west):

    1. Denver Union Station 
    2. Prospect Junction and North Yard (Denver) 
    3. Big Ten loops 
    4. The tunnel-laden climb along the Front Range 
    5. Boulder Canyon 
    6. Moffat Tunnel 
    7. Winter Park/West Portal 
    8. Tabernash (old helper wye) 
    9. Gore Canyon 
    10. Bond Uunction with Dotsero Cutoff
    11. Dotsero Cutoff 
    12. Glenwood Canyon 
    13. Glenwood depot

    It's from this list you choose those items in particular you want to model, or have room to model. You'll likely have more elements listed than you can feasibly model, be it from a space standpoint or time availability. My list for the P&PU:

    1. East Peoria yard 
    2. P&PU Junction (including curved bridge over Farm Creek) 
    3. Wesley Junction 
    4. Illinois River bridge 
    5. Bridge Junction 
    6. Union Depot 
    7. 90/9 1 yard and roundhouses 
    8. Iowa Junction 
    9. Kickapoo Yard 
    10. CTC double-track stretch between Wesley Junction and Pekin tower 
    11. Pekin tower/Big Four Junction 
    12. Corn Products plant (Pekin Energy in later years) 
    13. C&IM Power ton complex 
    14. ADM plant

    Obviously, there's more here than the average person can model (unless this is to be a club layout, or a pike for a person who is building the layout as a career). By the way, you might wonder why item 13 is within the list, since it's not even on the P&PU. Well, part of it is purely bias: I'm an ardent admirer of the Chicago & Illinois Midland. But more importantly, the Powerton power plant complex and the C&IM facilities that go with it are an integral part of P&PU operations. The BN and C&NW coal trains today provide the bulk of mainline traffic on the P&PU.

    Right: Commonwealth Edison's power plant at Powerton, just south of Pekin is a landmark facility in the Peoria area and an important customer for Chicago & Illinois Midland (which Edison owns) and thus-indirectly P&PU. C&IM No. 31, one of two rare EMD RS1325's, shoves a cut of hoppers back into the plant. On our P&PU layout, this trackage would lead to the exchange tracks.
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    As you put your track plan together, you'll be able to determine which elements really are feasible to include.


    Basically the question is, "steam or diesel era?" (or both). But you can be more specific than that if you want. And do take into consideration any major trackage changes over the years that could affect your track plan, de pending how faithful to the prototype you want to be.

    Check the sidebar that highlights changes on the P&PU. I made this list so I could determine what year might be good to model and came up with 1970. I'm not saying 1970 is the best year in which to model P&PU-only that it was a year that had several appealing aspects:

    1. Joint BN-C&IM coal trains were running. 
    2. It was at the time of the Burlington Northern merger, which means a variety of motive power in a variety of paint schemes (Great Northern in Big Sky. Blue as well as green and orange; Northern Pacific; Chicago, Burlington and Quincy; and even some early BN green). 
    3. TP&W was just starting to use P&PU trackage rights to bypass its damaged Illinois River bridge. 
    4. Penn Central.was serving East Peoria on two different routes feeding into the P&PU (via the express Vandalia line and via the P&E). 
    5. Illinois Terminal was using both P&PU's East Peoria yard and the engine terminal (they did this for only 10 years). 
    6. C&NW was now using East.Peoria yard. 
    7. IC arid GM&O were still separate.


    Make a straight-line schematic of the route, noting the' location of principal yards, junctions, passing sidings, bridges, stations and anything else you feel of importance. Even if the real rail route 'is convoluted, draw it as a straight line.

    By "unfolding". the railroad in this manner, you can see how each segment related to other segments, how traffic flows over the line and where traffic from connecting lines feeds into the system. All this is important for the next step.


    There are five basic layout formats (fig. 1) that can be applied to good, prototypical operation:

    1. Oval 
    2. Point-to-point 
    3. Point-to-loop 
    4. Loop-to-loop 
    5. Out-and-back

    There can also be combinations of the above. Remember that it may be obvious which basic format is ideal for the railroad or route you intend to model, but probably more than one of these formats may be perfectly appropriate. Much depends on what you like in a layout.

    People who like lots of switching of ten go for the point-to-point format, which usually requires a yard at each end. But if you're the type who enjoys taking a train out on the main line for an open run, then the time-proven oval may be best.

    If you look at the P&PU schematic (fig. 2), it looks like two point-to-point systems connected in the middle. But while a point-to-point operating for mat may work for the person who wishes to concentrate on representing the local switching aspect of the P &PU, point-to-point alone doesn't apply to the P&PU we've chosen to model in our larger-layout scheme-that of a terminal railroad with through freights from other lines operating over it.

    With the first layout plan, what we end up with is an oval scheme with two branches. However, it is not operated in oval fashion (i.e., round and round) because of one important element-the staging yard.


    Many layouts oriented to prototype operation often have at least one staging yard (see sidebar). When determining which basic layout format to choose for your layout (item V), always consider yard location, actual (modeled) yards as well as staging yards, the latter usually hidden from view.

    On the P&PU, P&PU trains-most of them switch jobs and transfers-originate and terminate in East Peoria yard. But the trains of tenant railroads come from somewhere else. The BN coal trains come from the West; the N&W train comes from Frankfort, Ind.; the P&E train, from Indianapolis (Danville, Ill., in Conrail years); the IC train, from Mattoon, Ill., and so forth. A staging yard is almost a must, be cause there is not going to be enough room to model the IC to Mattoon, the P&E to Indy, the IT to St. Louis and the TP&W across the state. But a stag'ing yard can represent all those things.

    To stage or not stage

    For a model railroad system to be prototypical, its traffic has to come from somewhere. Rare is the railroad where all traffic originates on-line and travels to destinations that are also on line. Quite often, much of the traffic comes from industries in other cities on other railroads.

    Unfortunately, rare is the modeler who has unlimited space and time to model all these "somewhere elses" where traffic and trains come from. Let's face it: Modeling the P&PU is one thing, but it is unfeasible for most of us to include the IC all the way to Mattoon, III., the Rock Island to Chicago and the Burlington to Colorado! The staging yard neatly solves the problem by providing all the somewhere elses we need to create the illusion of traffic feeding into and out of the railroad or railroad segment being modeled.

    So, when developing an operating schematic for your model system, consider adding one or more staging yards. They have several virtues and only a couple, solvable disadvantages. Even a compact shelf-type switching layout can benefit from a small two-track staging yard from which a local train can emerge with cars for the switching line. Otherwise you'll end up simply shuffling freight cars hither to and back all over the layout, like one of those sliding-number keychain puzzles.

    To their credit, staging yards cut down on the amount of switching required to operate. No matter how much you may like switching, it can become an overwhelming task if you have to switch every train each time it arrives at a terminal yard on a point-to-point layout. But, locate a hidden (or disguised) staging yard at, say. the loop end of a point-to-loop operating format, and car switching can be cut by as much as half. In addition, staging yards conserve space, since there is no need to model all the elements that would be necessary in a full-fledged yard.

    As for the cons, staging yards by their nature need to be hidden in some manner. And operating a train that cannot be seen until it emerges onto the layout from the staging yard can be frustrating-not to mention accessing a train that has stalled or derailed in the staging yard. The large version P& PU track plan offers at least a partial solution: The C&IM/BN/C&NW/TP&W staging yard is located in an adjacent room and is treated as a set of display tracks. No need to keep those trains totally hidden when they're not on duty in the layout room.

    Left: In spite of the Depression, the P&PU Union Roundhouse was a busy place. Locomotives of the P&PU, C&IM, GM&O, IC, P&E, NKP and PRR were serviced here, as were C&NWs and M&StL's for a time.

    Four P&E Geeps -- all still lettered P&E on their flanks but with Penn Central emblems on their noses -- head into Big Four Junction at Pekin tower in August 1975 with the Indianapolis train. The train will diverge to the right; the track heading straight ahead of the locomotive is used by ICG and C&IM.

    Geeps on the ICG run from Mattoon, III., are about to junction with the C&IM main to enter the P&PU at Pekin on a warm spring day in 1980. The picturesque depot belongs to C&IM.

    Right: P&PU 0-6-0 No. 54 is at the Union Roundhouse in Peoria on Aug. 3, 1946. The 50-class engines were built by Lima and were duplicates of Illinois Central's 200- and 300-class 0-6-0's.

    P&PU 0-8-0 No. 74 is also at Union Roundhouse in this July 13, 1946 scene. The 70-class locomotives were built by Baldwin and were duplicates of lC's 3500's.
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    Earlier I listed a step to draw a schematic of the railroad or segment of railroad to be modeled. In this step you will need to do a schematic of how the model system could work ; include staging yards. Try several possibilities and see on which one traffic flow works best. Also, you can "fold" these particular schematics to get an idea if they might work in the space you are allotting for the layout. It took me about 15 tries to find a pattern with which I felt comfortable. When you de vise a schematic that suits the goal, your next step is to actually do some fairly detailed track plans.


    The actual process of track-planning is a subject-and sometimes a complex one--unto itself, one you could write a whole book on. In fact, someone has John Armstrong, the long-time guru of prototype-oriented track planning for model railroads. For those of you interested in the intricacies of track planning, we strongly urge readers to obtain Armstrong's TRACK PLANNING FOR REALISTIC OPERATION as well as CREATIVE LAYOUT DESIGN, available from your local hobby shop or from Kalmbach Publishing Co., 1027 North Seventh Street, Milwaukee, WI 43233.

    We don't have the space to go into the details of track-planning here. As it is, we know of modelers who do not go beyond the rough-sketch stage of a track plan, preferring instead to build, modify and develop as the layout is actually being built. This approach does work, and I like its adventurous let's get-on-with-it approach-in fact, it's the approach I am using on my own layout (I built the benchwork first, without a track plan), which incidentally models a very small portion of the P&PU as a connection to my own road.

    But if you have limited space, do at least a scaled track plan that focuses on mainline track routing. Too many modelers underestimate how much space loops, wyes, ladder tracks and turnouts actually consume, and plot ting at least the principal tracks, with a compass set for your chosen mini mum track radii, on a scale drawing of the area you have in which to work could save a lot of frustration later. See the "Pitfalls" sidebar for other tips.

    These steps will at least bring you to the track-planning stage and touch an area rarely explored in the railroad modeling press. Whether you are actually going to model the P&PU is immaterial -- this capsule discussion of development and design of a railroad model system can be applied to any thing you plan to build for prototype operation.

    Save yourself some trouble

    Avoid these common pitfalls of designing and building a model railroad:

    1. Too many yard tracks:

    On too many layouts, yards tend to dominate, with little room being reserved for other operations that make for an overall interesting rail system. You can get by with surprisingly few tracks to get the job done. Fewer yard tracks also mean less concern with the maintenance that comes with a yard, especially with turnouts. On a related note, incorporate stub-end tracks or stub-end yards as a whole where feasible-it will mean fewer turnouts to maintain.

    2. Built-in switching problems:

    Leave purposely designed switching problems to convention contests -- you don't need them on a layout. Prototype railroads don't purposely arrange trackage to be tricky, why should you? You'll encounter enough in the way of natural, no preservatives, switching problems as it is.

    3. Misplaced aisleways:

    In some ways, aisleway location on a layout is more important than track route. Locate aisleways so you can follow your trains (walkaround throttle control is highly recommended, even on compact shelf layouts) around the layout with the least amount of doubling back or having to duck under segments of trackwork. And, the more people traffic anticipated for a given aisle, the wider that aisle should be.

    4. "Straightlacing" your trackage:

    Avoid long stretches of absolutely straight track; either break it up with a slight curve or two, or make it one long, very gentle curve. This will add to the illusion of distance. For the same reason, avoid "squaring off" your trackage so it is always parallel to the room's walls or the edge of the layout.

    5. Trying to cram as much track as possible into a given space:

    We've all seen layouts where track has been shoehorned into every nook and cranny. It's an easy pitfall -- we want to get as much operation into space most of us view as being not large enough. Plus, when starting a layout, it's natural to be extra ambitious and anxious to build. But keep it simple. Allow space for buildings and scenery. which will go a long way in making your rail system seem realistic and spacious. Even when trackage is simplified, you'll probably find there is quite enough track to maintain as it is.

    6. Overly convoluted track plans and excess route options:

    Many of us American Flyer and Lionel graduates remember the fun of setting up those trains on the living room floor, devising as many route possibilities as switches, crossings and track would allow. But we're designing rail systems now, basing our plans on prototype railroads and operations-save the pinball game approach for those nostalgic Sunday afternoons when you unearth the Flyer or Lionel equipment for your kids (or yourself. or both) to, well... play with. Design a model rail system logically, as the prototype would. If you aren't patterning your operation after a specific prototype, at least observe the prototype for ideas.

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    Left: A rare photo of P&PU 200, built by Davenport in 1938 and powered with Caterpillar engines. Here on Sept. 21, 1947, the strange beast moves cars to the industries along Eaton Street in Peoria. By the late 1950's, these industries had either closed or moved and when the Baker Bridge was built, the track was taken up.

    HH600 No. 100, an Alco product of 1936, was P&PU's first diesel. It was first used on the Water Street trackage, where the many sharp curves into industries caused derailments with the steam locomotives.

    Alco 52 No. 300 is about to leave Union Roundhouse for the day's switching activities on April 2, 1949.

    Right: TP&Ws morning eastbound time freight crosses P&PU's curved bridge over Farm Creek at P&PU Junction, East Peoria, in spring 1980. At the junction, the train will re-enter TP&W trackage. Until 1965, Illinois Terminal's traction main line, located on the levee wall of Farm Creek, crossed the P&PU just to the left of the bridge.

    SW7 607 wears Brunswick Green and the road's "Peoria Gateway" logo.

    The 500 is P&PU's lone SW1200; note lack of yellow handrails and side-sill stripes appearing in later years.
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    The model P&PU

    The operating schematic I finally chose is essentially an oval with two branches, but two staging yards keep it from being operated in the traditional oval fashion. As a student of the John Armstrong school of track planning, I strongly believe in the importance of being able to walk with your train as it traverses its route, which requires two things: Aisles that lend themselves to following the train with ease (i.e., with as little doubling back and as few duck-under obstructions as possible), and walk around throttles.

    Page 18: P &PU's "Big Hook," wrecking crane X56, originally was steam powered, but was later rebuilt with diesel engines. It's a regular resident of the East Peoria engine terminal.

    As is obvious, caboose 222 has had its cupola removed and most windows blanked. It was photographed at East Peoria in 1978.

    P&PU No. 2103 is a 50-foot Virginia Central boxcar, one of 20 50-foot cars leased from VC by P&PU.

    Although it does appear to have a running board, KEEP OFF ROOF-NO RUNNING BOARD is stenciled on the ends of caboose 225, which also features wide safety stripes. It was photographed in June 1976.

    Transfer caboose/tool car 221 was built by P&PU shops in 1972. The car is silver with red lettering. Right: Reconditioned caboose No. 229 at East Peoria in 1985 also has had windows blanked.

    Page 20: Wagon-top style P&PU 506, one of five boxcars (504-508) on the P&PU roster when photographed in 1969, is stenciled LOCAL SERVICE ONLY next to the doors.

    Caboose No. 211 was a wood classic photographed in East Peoria in 1961.

    Caboose 223, caught at BJ tower in Peoria in 1976, wears silver with red lettering, apparently an experimental scheme that never caught on. Note how the "markers" are simply painted-on red circles!
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    To get as much action as possible in the space allotted, I folded the layout into "lobes." How I could best fold it into a workable plan took, as mentioned earlier, several tries. This is one place I really became stumped, but the answer lay in a P&PU track plan supplied by co-author Roger Kujawa. Roger's plan was best suited for a club because it was quite large and ambitious, containing a great deal of track work with ample opportunities for operation -- particularly switching. Since PROTOTYPE MODELER caters to individual modelers more than clubs, we chose to present the "downsized" (to borrow a term from auto manufacturers) version you see here.

    Nonetheless, Roger's plan had a workable approach to the handling of Wesley Junction, the throat of East Peoria yard and the crossing of the Illinois River. By grafting that portion of his plan into my partially developed scheme (actually, I adapted the overall scheme of that portion of Roger's plan rather than duplicating it track for track), I finally arrived at an overall track plan with which I was satisfied. From there on, I only had to work out the details of ancillary tracks (sidings, spurs, yard tracks, etc.) and the location of turnouts -- which always seem to result in more adjustments to everything because turnouts always take up more space than you think!

    While some may view the Illinois River bridge aspect as a hindrance to the easy walkaround design aspect I expounded on earlier, it's really not much of an obstruction. Here's why:

    First, one of the principal operating schemes we're duplicating is the joint BN-C&IM run-through coal trains (and even though the C&NW-C&IM trains didn't begin until 1979, we can fudge- "modeler's license," you know -- and include them as well). With those, the operator normally will not need to duck under the Illinois River bridge, since these trains do not go into East Peoria yard. They emerge from the staging yard in the adjacent room, pass through Bartonville, cross the bridge, and proceed through Wesley Junction and Pekin to Powerton.

    Second, the plan also emphasizes industrial switching by P&PU "jobs" originating in E.P. yard that cross the river to switch Peoria, principally ADM, the Hiram Walker distillery and the Rock Island interchange. Again, the operator does not need to cross under the bridge. In addition, N&W, IT and PC through freights operating between their staging yard and E.P. yard usually can be handled without the operator having to duck back and forth under the Illinois River bridge.

    O.K., there are exceptions: P&PU switch jobs heading west from BJ; C&NW freights from the staging yard to E.P. yard; C&IM freights from their staging yard to E.P. yard (if you want to have more C&IM action than just the joint coal-train run-throughs); and TP&W, IC and GM&O through freights. But because most through freights do not do any switching en route to the P&PU East Peoria yard, they could feasibly be run from afar by the operator in the East Peoria aisle way with little problem. We're most concerned with being next to your train when switching is involved.

    Those ancillary tracks and things

    A few words about modeling all that other trackage besides the mainline routes: Selective compression applies here. It's a concept that has been the subject of many articles in the various model magazines (and books), but in case you have missed it or need a refresher course...

    An unfortunate fact of life most modelers must deal with is that we simply don't have room to model everything. The answer is to select the principal elements that should be modeled to capture the operational qualities and atmosphere of the prototype. This selection principal applies to almost everything in a model railroad, from train size, to yard design, to industries modeled-and to the industries themselves (even in HO, an exact-scale duplicate of the Hiram Walker distillery would probably take up one whole side of an average-size basement, and modeling the East Peoria yard track-for track would almost require an assembly hall!).

    We've included some track schematics of the prototype. Compare them with the layout and see how we have put selective compression to use. For example, the real yard at Power ton is about a dozen tracks wide; on the lay out, four will suffice. Another example of being selective was the elimination of Grove as a junction point for the GM&O. We can still run a GM&O train, but it simply comes in the same way as the IC train. Although it never really happened that way, it was entirely feasible the GM&O could have built a short-cut connection to the IC well south of Pekin where their lines paralleled and abandoned their track to Grove (what really happened was that the GM&O line was abandoned altogether after the merger).

    In conclusion, there is no one "right" way to model the P&PU-there are many ways, each depending on things like space availability and what it is you are interested in modeling. And, whether you actually intend to model the P&PU is unimportant -- the concepts I have presented here can be applied to the development of just about any layout. And as always, reader comments are welcome. Uh-oh-gotta get going. I think a barge just accidentally rammed the Illinois River bridge and one of my 20 P&PU switchers hit the floor...

    Article Details

    • Original Author Mike Schafer and Paul Zack
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date August 1986

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