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Passenger Trains of Peoria: Part 2

The Illinois Traction System (Illinois Terminal Railroad after 1927) was a longtime major passenger and freight carrier in the Peoria playing field, second only to the Rock Island. The IT had a strong, captive market between Peoria, Springfield, and St. Louis. No other rail carrier offered direct, through passenger service in the Peoria–St. Louis corridor, and with parlor, dining, and even sleeping-car services. One of IT’s pre-streamliner-era premier trains was the Illmo Limited between St. Louis and Peoria. It’s equipment is shown being backed out of IT’s Adams Street Station to the car barn following the train’s early afternoon arrival circa 1947. Jim Barrick photo, Dale Jenkins collection

Passenger Trains of Peoria: Part 2

Passenger Train JournalBy David P. Jordan

When America entered World War I in 1917, Peorians could ride passenger trains on 14 railroads. (A fifteenth, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, served nearby Pekin but not Peoria.) Passengers boarded at six locations in downtown Peoria—P&PU’s Union Depot and Fulton Street station, Rock Island’s Liberty Street Depot, Illinois Traction System stops at Adams and Hamilton streets and at Washington and Walnut streets, and finally, Peoria Railway Terminal’s Chestnut Street stop. One could travel to the likes of Alton, Bloomington, Champaign, Chicago, Danville, Decatur, Galesburg, Indianapolis, Joliet, Mason City (Iowa), Rock Island, Springfield, and St. Louis without changing trains. Both the P&PU and PRT fought for commuters between Peoria and Pekin.

But storm clouds had gathered during and after the war’s conclusion. Public agitation for improved roads led to the Federal Aid Highway Acts of 1916 and 1921, which provided funds for a national network. Year by year, the addition of thousands of paved miles enabled private automobiles and bus operators to siphon off passengers from the railroads in ever greater numbers.

Motorized transportation and interurbans increasingly competed for space as well. Due to streetcar reroutings, ITS moved its station to 211 Hamilton Street on Sept. 1, 1923. Unfortunately, this resulted in traffic congestion, so the City of Peoria demanded that ITS remove its electric trains off city streets. The solution was a new station at the northeast corner of South Adams and Walnut streets. Operations there began on Oct. 1, 1930.

Read the rest of this article in the 2015-4 issue of Passenger Train Journal!

This article was posted on: November 10, 2015