Prairie Marksman

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Prairie Marksman
Prairie Marksman at East Peoria, August 1981.jpg
The Prairie Marksman at East Peoria in August 1981
Service typeInter-city rail
PredecessorPeoria Rocket
First serviceAugust 10, 1980
Last serviceOctober 4, 1981
Former operator(s)Amtrak
StartChicago, Illinois
EndEast Peoria, Illinois
Distance travelled149 miles (240 km)
Average journey time3 hours 15 minutes
Service frequencyDaily
Train number(s)311, 312, 314
On-board services
Class(es)Unreserved coach
Catering facilitiesOn-board cafe
Rolling stockAmfleet coaches
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Track owner(s)Illinois Central Gulf Railroad
Toledo, Peoria and Western Railway
Route map
Dist. Station
0 mi Chicago
37 mi
60 km
149 mi
240 km
East Peoria

The Prairie Marksman was a daily passenger train operated by Amtrak between Chicago's Union Station and East Peoria, Illinois. The route was an indirect successor to the Rock Island's Peoria Rocket.


Prior to the creation of Amtrak Peoria was served by the Rock Island's Peoria Rocket. Then in serious financial distress, the Rock Island opted out of Amtrak in 1971: the company decided it was cheaper to keep running its remaining passenger trains than to join Amtrak. The Peoria Rocket and the Quad Cities Rocket continued running until December 31, 1978, providing one round-trip each day between Chicago's LaSalle Street Station and both Peoria and Rock Island, Illinois via Joliet, Illinois.[1][2] With the demise of the Rock Island Peoria's nearest railroad connection was at Chillicothe, Illinois, 20 miles (32 km) to the north, where Amtrak's Lone Star (Chicago-Kansas City-Houston) and Southwest Chief (Chicago-Kansas City-Los Angeles) stopped daily. The Lone Star, however, fell victim to budget cuts and was discontinued in October 1979.

The Prairie Marksman began on August 10, 1980, as a joint venture between Amtrak and the state of Illinois.[3] Eschewing the Rock Island route, the Prairie Marksman used the old GM&O line between Chicago and Chenoa, Illinois, and then traveled west over the Toledo, Peoria & Western to East Peoria. The name was derived from a TP&W freight train which once operated over that route between Webster, Illinois and Keokuk, Iowa.[4]

The Prairie Marksman ended on October 4, 1981, after Illinois withdrew its support for the train. The train carried an average of 65 passengers per day, well below the 150 needed to justify a continuation.[5]

With the end of the Prairie Marksman, the Peoria area's only intercity link was the Southwest Chief in Chillicothe. However, Amtrak rerouted the Chief away from Chillicothe in 1996. Since then, the nearest Amtrak station is at Normal's Uptown Station, 40 miles to the east. Amtrak operates Thruway Motorcoach service between Peoria and Normal.

Proposed revival in September, 2011[edit]

The Illinois Department of Transportation formally requested Amtrak to conduct a study to analyze the feasibility of initiating inter-city passenger train service between Chicago and Peoria. A number of possible alternate routes were identified and reviewed at a high level, and these results are summarized and discussed in a document published by Amtrak in September, 2011.

With the successful application by the State of Illinois for federal stimulus funding to upgrade the Chicago-St. Louis Corridor to a maximum speed of 110mph, the study request was modified to one route that would provide the Peoria area with connectivity to certain Amtrak corridor trains. After an initial review of the various routes, it became apparent that instead of a complete route feasibility study between Chicago and Peoria, either a rail or bus shuttle between the Peoria area and Normal, Illinois, utilizing the recently-constructed multi-modal transportation station in the Uptown Normal neighborhood, would be the most expedient way to meet the goal of the IDOT.

A decision was made by IDOT that no through-train frequencies between Peoria and Chicago were to be considered. In lieu of Chicago-Peoria through train service, IDOT directed Amtrak to explore a shuttle feeder system that would provide guaranteed corridor train connections at Normal with the Lincoln Service and thus permit morning and evening departures from Peoria and Chicago. The shuttle would use the Norfolk Southern Railway to reach Normal. Amtrak estimated start-up costs at $106 million, mostly for a new connecting track in Normal which would permit the trains to bypass a Union Pacific Railroad yard there.[6]


  1. ^ Glischinski 2007, pp. 77–78
  2. ^ Schafer, Welsh & Holland 2001, p. 136
  3. ^ Goldberg 1981, p. 88
  4. ^ "American Railroad Freight Train Names 1948". Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  5. ^ "Amtrak cut". Southeast Missourian. September 1, 1981. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
  6. ^ Amtrak (September 26, 2011). "Feasibility Report of Proposed Amtrak Service: Chicago - Peoria" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 20, 2013.


External links[edit]

External image
Amtrak on the TP&W in the 80's