Peabody Coal Co. 1025 is just beginning to accelerate a loaded train away from the scales at it crosses the gravel road that follows the Kaskaskia River Port District's line toward the old No. 6 tipple a couple miles to the north. The Peabody run from the Randolph loader to the Baldwin Power Plant is about three miles.
Peabody Coal Co.'s Lenzburg, Illinois, operation has six-motor Baldwins hauling coal to the Baldwin Power Plant.
By Jim Boyd/Photos by the author
The huge concrete silos and precisely angled conveyors of the Randolph Preparation Plant tower over the surrounding farmland like alien creatures in the humid summer heat. This is an important part of Peabody Coal Co.'s River King mine complex on the Illinois prairie southeast of St. Louis, but save a pair of humming conveyor lines striking off over the rolling fields, there is very little evidence of coal mining. The Randolph Preparation Plant near Lenzburg, Illinois, taps two separate mining operations with those conveyors, the Baldwin No. 1 Underground Mine and the River King No. 6 Strip Mine near Marissa. The Randolph Plant-named for the county in which it resides-cleans and sizes the raw coal brought in by the conveyors and stores it in the huge silos for loading into railroad cars and shipment to customers. Therein lies the story for the readers of RAILFAN.
A few years ago the operations in the Lenzburg area were concentrated around the No. 6 truck-supplied tipple that fed its finished coal onto the Illinois Central at Lenzburg, but with the construction in recent years of the Randolph Preparation Plant, the Illinois Power Co.'s Baldwin Power Plant and the Kaskaskia River Port District's Dock Facility No. 1, the entire Peabody rail operation has taken on a new complexion. What appears to be well over half of Randolph's output is loaded into yellow Peabody hoppers and hauled about three miles to the Baldwin Power Plant. The remainder of the finished coal goes into the bright red hoppers of the Kaskaskia River Port District's (KRPD) unit trains destined for the Dock Facility No. 1, about ten miles away on the Kaskaskia River.
What makes these operations of particular interest to railfans is the motive power which is used on these trains. While the KRPD trains use a pair of neat red and white ex-Frisco Geeps, the yellow Peabody cars are hauled to the power plant by a pair of six-motor Baldwins. Peabody has coal operations spread all over Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri that have long been famous for their constantly recirculating pool of exotic second-hand motive power. Lenzburg (the name generally applied to the rail operations centered at the Randolph Preparation Plant) has the honor in 1977 of being the home of the crown jewels of the fleet-both in service and out of service. The DRS6-6-1500's that are currently in use, Peabody 1025 and 1026, were originally built in 1949 for Kaiser Steel in Fontana, California, and are rather distinctive as Baldwins go. Their short hoods are laced with grilles for dynamic brakes, and both ends are bedecked with Mars lights uniquely cowled into the hoods-and the cowling is subtly different on each unit. The pair were delivered to Kaiser as 1010A and 1010B, but were renumbered 1025 and 1026 long before being sold through an equipment dealer to Peabody.
Probably the most remarkable units in the Peabody stable arrived at Lenzburg in late 1973: ex-Trona Railroad Baldwin centercab DT6-6-2000's, 50 and 51. Serving off and on for a couple of years, both have been inactive since early 1976, although No. 50 is reportedly in serviceable condition. No. 51 has a main generator removed, and both are sitting in the open away from the engine shop at the Randolph facility. The prime factor in keeping the big centercabs idle is the continuing good health of the ex-Kaiser DRS6-6-1500's and their "spare" unit, ex-Norfolk Southern AS416, 1616. One of only 25 built (and probably the only survivor save Columbus & Greenville 606 and possibly four export units in Africa), this pale yellow unit is unadorned by lettering but is fully serviceable when needed. 1616's Norfolk Southern heritage is very evident in its distinctive headlight visor on the long hood, a detail clearly remembered by anyone who saw the AS416's in service there.
Every day except Sunday, the two DRS6-6-1500's work the day and evening shifts shuttling their unit trains of special Peabody hoppers between the loading silos at the Randolph plant and the dumper at the Baldwin Power Plant. Although the big Baldwins are set up in the traditional long-end-forward manner, the units
are coupled to the train with short hoods out. Since the power plant run does not involve a loop or run-around at either end, the last hopper in the train has a sheltered control cab, headlight and horn for use in piloting the train on the return run from power plant to the mine. Although the brakeman on the hopper has an emergency brake, he uses a radio to communicate to the engineer who runs the train from the locomotive.
There are generally two trains on the power plant run at any given time. While one is slowly pulling his train under the loading silo, the other is pulling his train through the power plant dumping shed at an equally slow pace. When the one finishes loading at the silo, he will pull about a half mile up the line and ease his train over the weight-in-motion scale and then wait for the other train to appear over the hill from the power plant. The train from the power plant will clear the main by running his train onto one leg of the wye that leads off toward the KRPD facility and wait for the loaded train to make his run for the hill. Once the loaded train is clear, the empty train will pull out onto the main and resume his backward shove to the loading silo.
One would expect that the constant feeding by two twelve-car unit trains from a mine five miles away would be enough to keep your average power plant humming along indefinitely, but the Baldwin Power Plant also keeps on hand a Precision-National Corporation EMD switcher (NW2 1016) to handle units trains of green IPLX hoppers brought over by the ICG (GM&O) from the Southwestern Illinois Coal Corporation's Streamline Mine in Percy, Ill. The switcher dumps the IPLX hoppers while the Peabody trains are on the road, and quickly scurries out of the way when one of the Baldwins rounds the curve and begins bleating impatiently with its onenote horn.
An interesting aspect of the Lenzburg operation is the difference between the Peabody shuttle to the power plant and the KRPD shuttle to the river port facility. Since there is a balloon loop at the facility on the river-and since the run is substantially longer-the KRPD train will always run with the locomotive on the front in both directions. While the yellow Peabody cars have four doors on the underside that dump longitudinally, the red KRPD cars have five double-door bays that dump in a more traditional lateral arrangement. When we observed the operation in May 1977, one of the KRPD's ex-Frisco GPI's (616) was in the shop and the other (607) was on the road. Like the Peabody operation, there were two KRPD trains. While the Geep was making a run to the river, the empty train had been positioned under a loading silo (adjacent to the one the Peabody train was using) and was being pulled through for loading by a winch and cable. By the time the Geep had returned from the port facility with the empties, the train at the silo had been loaded. The Geep dropped off its empty cars on the lead to the silo, coupled onto the loaded train and was headed back for the port after a brief pause to change crew.
Trona Railroad centercab DT6-6-2000's 50 and 51 were acquired in mid-1973, but after a couple years of off-and-on service they were set aside in favor of the ex-Kaiser Steel DRS6-6-1500's. Both are considered serviceabl, although the 51 has a main generator removed and both would require a bit of "tinkering." Their future is uncertain as they rest on a spur at the Randolph Preparation Plans, whose loader and silo are visible behind.
With the loop at only one end of the railroad, the Geep will make one round trip short end forward and the next long end forward, constantly alternating—that way both'the New York Central fans and the Illinois Central fans can be happy. Interestingly, the 607 must have had at least one exciting encounter in its past, because the frame under the cab is bent and the short hood has a noticeable droop.
Like the Peabody trains, the KRPD train pulls slowly across the scales before making its road haul. The KRPD swings to the right leaving the Peabody line just beyond the scale and strikes out across the fields in a beeline for Lenzburg. It passes the abandoned No. 6 tipple and makes a right angle turn to the left just beyond there. Where the KRPD line makes its turn, rusty rails lead to the old IC interchange at Lenzburg. The new KRPD line runs straight through the farm country, makes a jog to the right and drops down toward the river. The open fields give way to a grove of trees as the tracks near the river. Incidentally, the entire KRPD line is easily accessible by public roads, as is the Randolph facility and the power plant end of the Peabody line. The power plant itself is off limits.
The Kaskaskia River doesn't look nearly big enough to hold all those barges, but a modern little towboat keeps lining them up under the conveyor dumping facility. The track loops parallel to the river bank, and the hoppers dump their loads into a bin which feeds into the neat network of conveyors that winds up in a vertical spout over the barges. The spout, directed by an operator perched in the complex above the water, moves vertically and its head can swivel in a full circle, but the barges are moved beneath it by cables to distribute the load. Over on the railroad, the hopper doors are opened and closed by an air cylinder on each car which is controlled by an electrical valve actuated by touching a contact plate on the car with an electrical probe that looks like a heavyduty fishing pole. The entire operation is quick and clean. The coal that we observed being loaded into the barges was bound for a power plant at New Madrid, Missouri.
Unfortunately for railfans, the KRPD operation has set the pattern for the future. The men at the Peabody shop said that although the Baldwins have been working just fine—"We just keep pouring fuel and lube oil in 'em and they just keep goin' and goin..." —word has come down that they will be getting another pair of Geeps within a year or so. The workers have a healthy respect for the KRPD Geeps and don't seem to consider the passing of the Baldwins to be a problem one way or another.
In the past few years Peabody has used a variety of power at Lenzburg ranging from the Trona centercabs to ex-B&O AS16's and an ex-LS&I RS2. If the DRS66-1500's are in good condition, they may find a home at a Peabody facility elsewhere when the Geeps arrive, but in the meantime it is appropriate to be able to watch them snort against a trainload of coal from the Baldwin Mine and rumble uphill toward the Baldwin Power Plant.
Postscript 2012: What became of the Baldwins at Baldwin? Not long after this story went to press, big changes came to this mining operation. The former Trona Railway center-cabs 50 and 51 were both scrapped in late 1977. Peabody Coal 1025 was sold for scrap to Hyman-Michaels in Alton, Illinois in August 1978. The 1026 had a little bit more life left in her, and was sold in August 1978 to Koppel Bulk Terminal in Long Beach, California. Chrome Cranshaft purchased the unit in early 1980, and scrapped it later that year. —O.M.V.
This article originally appeared in the October 1977 issue of Railfan.