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Gibson City, Ill., located in the heart of Central Illinois’ grain-growing region, is the headquarters for the Bloomer Shippers Connecting Railroad, otherwise known as the Bloomer Line. Gibson City also serves as a junction and interchange point for two Class I railroads, Canadian National and Norfolk Southern. CN runs up to two locals a day over its Illinois Central line here, as well as coal and grain extras, while NS runs a local, as well as two to three daily run-through trains exercising trackage rights on CN. NS operates both ex-Wabash and Nickel Plate Road lines. The Bloomer is almost all former Wabash in Gibson City, but uses IC trackage farther north toward Kankakee.
Bloomer’s shops, yards, and trackage are all highly accessible, and friendly crews will provide schedules if safely and courteously approached. Gibson City interlocking (minus its tower) is a wide-open spot to see all three railroads, and Illinois State routes 9, 47, and 54 parallel the NS, Bloomer, and CN, respectively, into and out of town. The IC and NKP stations in town still stand and are used by maintenance-of-way personnel. The NKP depot lacks track, as the line east from the interlocking was pulled up in the 1980s. Archer Daniels Midland Co. Solae Soy Co., and Alliance Grain all have large facilities and employ their own switchers, from GP9s to Whitcomb and
Bloomer operates two major yards, one at its shop on the northwest end of town, and another on the west side devoted to Alliance Grain, its owner and largest on-line elevator and ethanol customer. CN maintains an interchange yard with the Bloomer on the southwest side and a centrally located yard to serve Solae Soy Co.’s plant. NS shares a small interchange with Bloomer alongside Illinois Route 9 on the west end of town.
CN, 161.190. NS, 160.440, 161.250. Bloomer, 160.365, 161.355, as well as on NS and CN channels to reach their dispatchers.
FOR YOUR FAMILY
Gibson City’s downtown is a Mayberry-esque retreat to the past. Small mom-and-pop shops, cafes, and local boutiques provide a window to a time when American small towns offered everything you needed within two blocks. The Bayern Stube, an authentic German restaurant (next to the IC station) whose owners are chefs from Berlin, is famous in Central Illinois and offers some of the best German cuisine south of Milwaukee. Farm implement fans will not want to miss the restored traction engine in the park along Illinois 9 on the town’s south end.
Monticello Railway Museum, about 40 miles south, boasts operating steam, and IC and Wabash equipment.