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IC Freight Operations

ICRRFreight Operations

Symbology Lesson

Illinois Central uses an alpha-code symbol system, something akin to Union Pacific's.  In fact, IC uses TCS as their operational traffic management and inventory system, developed by UP Technologies.  The symbols are generally derived using a freight category prefix, origin/destination codes, and a date suffix.  But it's not that easy.  Each freight category has a different syntax.  Add to that the ever-changing marketplace where traffic rises and falls-- old trains are eliminated, new ones created. 

Gxxxxx-dd Unit Grain
I-nn-dd Intermodal
Lxxxx-dd Locals
Pxxxx-dd Unit Potash
Rxxnn-dd Road Switchers
Uxxxxx-dd Unit Coal, Aggregate
Wxxxx-dd Work/MOW
Yxxnn-dd Yard Assignments (CC&P only)
xxxx-dd Manifests

Where xx is an origin/destination code, nn is a number, and dd is a date.

Unit Grain Trains

Unit grain trains start with a "G" prefix.  On loaded grain trains (traditionally southbound) the origin code is usually a customer fleet set, denoting a set of cars in regular captive service, such as "CG1" indicating Cargill train set #1.  Though in some cases, a normal origin code is used, like "PA" for Paxton, Ill.  The destination code is often a processing location or barge transload facility.  On empty hopper trains, the origin and destination codes follow more geographically where the train is actually going, though many trains are often split up to be spotted at multiple grain elevators.  In this case, the nearest destination may be used.  For example, GBRCP-25 might be an empty hopper set from Baton Rouge on the 25th to Champaign, with cars to be spotted at Gilman, Paxton, and Thomasboro elevators.  Refer to the section below for Common Grain Trains and their symbols.

Intermodal Trains

Intermodal trains start with an "I" prefix.  No destination codes are used, just numbers.  Odd numbers are southbound (or westbound) and even numbers are northbound (or eastbound).  I-01-04   would be the Chicago-New Orleans hotshot leaving on the 4th.  Refer to the section below for Current Intermodal Trains listed by symbol.

Local Trains

Locals start with an "L" prefix and use standard origin/destination codes.   Locals may operate as a one-way "wayfreight" or as a turn, returning to its point of origin, though there is no way to tell by the symbol alone.  For turns, the destination codes indicate the turning point.  Thus, the LMEBA-13 is a local turn out of Memphis to Batesville, Miss. returning to Memphis.

Unit Potash Trains

Unit Potash trains are treated much the same as unit grain or coal trains, except with a leading "P" prefix.  Origins and destinations vary, though most originate out of Chicago (CH) and are destined for a large facility or barge loading.  For example, PCHMC-11 might be a CN potash train interchanged at Chicago, and destined for the Consolidated Grain & Barge transload facility at Mound City, Illinois.

Road Switchers

The Illinois Central has a unique arrangement such that there are no yard assignments in and around major terminals.  All switching and transfer work is handled by Road Switchers.  (The CC&P is an exception to this.)  Road switchers are a combination local and yard switcher.  Some assignments switch the yard, while others serve nearby industries.  Road switchers start with an "R" prefix, have a two-letter yard code, two digit assignment number, and date.  For example, RMK09-17 is a Markham road switcher commonly known as "Job 9", which is responsible for switching the Moyers Intermodal Terminal.

Unit Coal Trains

Unit coal trains start with a "U" prefix.  The "U" class also encompasses any other unit aggregate train, such as rock, coke, ore, etc.  The origin/destination coding can be somewhat more cryptic.  Most mines have an origin code of their own.  Some western coal is received from BNSF or UP, but sometimes a "BN" or "UP" code is used, other times the interchange point such as "ME" for Memphis is used.  Destination codes may also be specific to a plant or dock such as "NIW" for NIPSCO's Wheatfield, Ind. plant which is interchanged to Conrail at Kankakee, Ill.  Other times only an interchange or junction point is specified such as "EV" for Evanston, Miss. where coal is interchanged to the Mississippi Export Railroad (MSE).  Refer to the section below for some Common Coal Trains and their symbols.

Work Trains/MOW

Work trains start with a "W" prefix.  The "W" class can include everything non-revenue, from a ribbon-rail train, to a tie or ballast train, or even just a simple Burro crane with a flat car.  Work train symbols usually will have the limits of the work as its origin/destination.  For example, WCPMA-12 is a work train working between Champaign, Ill. and Mattoon, Ill.

Yard Assignments

Because of labor agreements, only the CC&P has yard assignments.  The IC has only road switchers (see above).  With the absorption of CC&P operations, the yard jobs at Hawthorne (Cicero, Ill.), Wallace (Freeport, Ill.), Waterloo, and all other yards were assigned Y-series symbols.  These are just like the Road Switcher symbols, using a two-letter yard code, two-digit assignment number, and date.  For example, YHW01-29 would be the yard assignment #1 for Hawthorne Yard.


Manifest trains use the plain-old origin-destination scheme with no prefix.  This can be tricky to decipher if the origin starts with one of the other prefix characters.   For the most part, manifest trains will only have a four character symbol and date, such as JACH-31.  Another anomaly of IC manifests is that many trains do not have an exact counterpart.  For example, between Chicago and Jackson, Miss.  Refer to the section below for Current Manifest Trains listed alphabetically by symbol.

Destination Codes

ADM Archer Daniels Midland (Grain Origin) GW Gateway Western (Springfield, IL)
AES A.E. Staley (Grain Origin) GW Greenwood, MS
AM American Mine (Galatia, IL) HB Hattiesburg, MS
BA Baldwin, IL HE Herscher, IL
BA Batesville, MS HV Helvetia, LA
BC Brushy Creek Mine (Harco, IL) HW Hawthorne Yard (Cicero, IL)
BE Benton, IL JA Jackson, MS
BL Burlington, IL KA Kankakee, IL
BN BNSF (Memphis or East St. Louis) LA Lambert, MS
BR Baton Rouge, LA LIS Lis, IL (Ameren/CIPS Newton Plant)
CA Canton, MS MA Mattoon, IL
CA Cairo, IL MC Mound City, IL
CB Council Bluffs, IA ME Memphis, TN
CE Centralia, IL MH Markham Yard (Harvey, IL)
CGn Cargill (Grain Origin) MK Markham Yard (Harvey, IL)
CH Chicago (Markham Yard), IL MO Mobile, AL
CL Clinton, IL MP Mount Pulaski, IL
CN Canadian National (Harvey, IL) NA Natchez, MS
CO Cook Terminal (Metropolis, IL) NIB NIPSCO (Bailly, IN)
CP Champaign, IL NIW NIPSCO (Wheatfield, IN)
CR Conrail (Effingham, IL) NO New Orleans, LA
CR Cedar Rapids, IA NS Norfolk Southern (Fulton, KY)
CS Chiles (TVA Shawnee), KY OT Otto, IL
CSn Central Soya (Grain Origin) PA Paxton, IL
CX CSXT (Effingham, IL) PD Paducah, KY
DC Decatur, IL PE Pekin, IL
DE Decatur, IL PE Peavey (Grain Origin)
DO Peavey Dock (East St. Louis, IL) PL Paducah & Lousiville (Paducah, KY)
DU Durant, MS RA Ragin, MS
DW Dewey, IL RE Remy, LA
EF Effingham, IL RL Rend Lake Mine (Sesser, IL)
ES East St. Louis, IL RS Reserve, LA
EV Evanston, MS SP Springfield, IL
FA Farmersville, IL SP Southern Pacific (East St. Louis, IL)
FE Ferguson, MS SX Sioux City, IA
FR Freeport, IL TO Tolono, IL (Norfolk Southern interch.)
FU Fulton, KY UE Ameren/Union Electric Plant (St. Louis, MO)
GC Gibson City, IL UP Union Pacific (East St. Louis, IL)
GE Geismar, LA WL Waterloo, IA
GI Gilman, IL WR Wood River (IP Plant), IL
GL Glenn Yard (Chicago, IL) WV Water Valley Jct., MS
GR Grenada, MS YC Yazoo City, MS

Current Intermodal Trains

Train ID Dir. Origin Destination Notes
I-01 S Chicago, IL (MIT) New Orleans, LA via Bluford District
I-02 N New Orleans, LA Chicago, IL (MIT)  
I-03 S Chicago, IL (MIT) New Orleans, LA  
I-04 N New Orleans, LA Chicago, IL (MIT)  
I-05 S Chicago (MIT), IL East St. Louis, IL Handles NS overflow.  Runs timetable northbound over St. Louis Dist.
I-06 N* East St. Louis, IL Centralia, IL *Departs timetable southbound via St. Louis Dist., combined into I-04 to Chicago.
I-07 S East St. Louis, IL Memphis, TN Currently annulled.  Traffic handled on ESME.
I-08 N Memphis, TN East St. Louis, IL Currently annulled.  Traffic handled on MEES.
I-09 S Jackson, MS Mobile, AL  
I-10 N Mobile, AL Jackson, MS  
I-11 W Chicago, IL (MIT) Council Bluffs, IA  
I-12 E Council Bluffs, IA Chicago, IL (MIT)  
I-143 S Chicago, IL (MIT) Jackson, MS Currently annulled, traffic handled on weekly XCHJA (for KCS at Jackson.)

Current Manifest Trains (Alphabetical by Train ID)

Train ID Dir. Origin/Destination Notes
BRME N Baton Rouge to Memphis  
CADE N Cairo to Decatur  
CEJA S Centralia to Jackson  
CHME S Chicago (Markham Yard) to Memphis  
CHWL W Chicago (Markham Yard) to Waterloo  
CPGL N Champaign to Chicago (Glenn Yard)  
CPMK N Champaign to Chicago (Markham)  
DECA S Decatur to Cairo  
EFCE S Effingham (CSXT) to Centralia replaces CXME
ESME S East St. Louis to Memphis  
FDSX W Fort Dodge to Sioux City  
FUCP N Fulton to Champaign  
FUPD N Fulton to Paducah operates as a turn
GECX N Memphis to Effingham (CSXT)  
GENO S Geismar to New Orleans  
GETO N Geismar to Tolono (NS) replaces GECR
GLCE S Chicago (Glenn Yard) to Centralia  
GLME S Chicago (Glenn Yard) to Memphis replaces MHME
HBJA N Hattiesburg to Jackson  
JACH N Jackson to Chicago (Markham Yard)  
JAFE S Jackson to Ferguson  
JAHB S Jackson to Hattiesburg  
JAME N Jackson to Memphis  
JAMO S Jackson to Mobile  
MEBR S Memphis to Baton Rouge  
MECP N Memphis to Champaign  
MEEF N Memphis to Effingham (CSXT) replaces MECX
MEES N Memphis to East St. Louis  
MEGE S Memphis to Geismar  
MEGL N Memphis to Chicago (Glenn Yard) replaces MEMH
MEJA S Memphis to Jackson  
MOJA N Mobile to Jackson  
NOME N New Orleans to Memphis  
SXFD E Sioux City to Fort Dodge  
TOGE S Tolono (NS) to Geismar replaces CRGE
WLCH E Waterloo to Chicago (Markham Yard)  

Seen or heard a train not listed here?  Send in your observations!

Common Coal Trains

Coal Mine or Origin Destination
UAMCO UCOAM American Mine (Galatia, IL) Cook, IL
American Electric Power barge-loading facility
UAMMC UMCAM American Mine (Galatia, IL) Mound City, IL
for Consolidated Grain and Barge Co. Export Terminal
UAMMO UMOAM American Mine (Galatia, IL) Mobile, AL
export terminal for overseas shipment.
UNSAM UAMNS American Mine (Galatia, IL) Fulton, KY (Intch. w/NS)
for ???
UMEEV UEVME BNSF at Memphis Evanston, MS (Intch. w/ MSE)
for Mississippi Power Company generating station at Moss Point, MS
URLCE UCERL Rend Lake Mine (Sesser, IL) Centralia, IL (Intch. w/ BNSF)
for Ameren/UE Rush Island Plant (?)
URLCH UCHRL Rend Lake Mine (Sesser, IL) Dubuque, IL (via CC&P)
for Iowa Public Power Co.
URLMC UMCRL Rend Lake Mine (Sesser, IL) Mound City, IL
for Consolidated Grain and Barge Co. Export Terminal
URLMO UMORL Rend Lake Mine (Sesser, IL) Mobile, AL
export terminal for overseas shipment.
URLWR UWRRL Rend Lake Mine (Sesser, IL) Wood River, IL
for Illinois Power Wood River Generating Station
UBCCS UCSBC Brushy Creek Mine (Harco, IL) Chiles, KY
for TVA Shawnee Generating Station
UBCPL UPLBC Brushy Creek Mine (Harco, IL) Paducah, KY (Intch. w/ PAL)
for Grand Rivers barge-loading facility
UNIB UBNI Crown Mine #3 (Farmersville, IL)
or Captain Mine (Percy, IL)
Chicago (Kensington), IL (Intch. w/CSS)
for NIPSCO Bailly Generating Station
UBNLIS ULISBN BNSF at St. Louis Lis, IL (on Effingham District)
for Ameren/CIPS Generating Station at Newton, IL
USPCS UCSSP SP (now UP) at East St. Louis Chiles, KY
for TVA Shawnee Generating Station
USPPL UPLSP SP (now UP) at East St. Louis Paducah, KY (Intch. w/ PAL)
for Grand Rivers barge-loading facility
UUPCS UCSUP UP at East St. Louis Chiles, KY
for TVA Shawnee Generating Station
UUPLIS ULISUP UP at East St. Louis Lis, IL (on Effingham District)
for Ameren/CIPS Generating Station at Newton, IL

Seen or heard a train not listed here?  Send in your observations!

Common Grain Trains

The grain symbols are provided as samples to better understand traffic flow and symbols.  This list is in no way complete.

Symbol Train Description Destination
GADM1HV Archer Daniels Midland
Helvetia, LA
Zen-noh barge transload facility
GAES1DE A.E. Staley "Efficiency train" Decatur, IL
A.E. Staley processing facility
GCHJA Miscellaneous origins Marks, MS
Tyson Chicken processing facility
GCS1HV Central Soya Grain (Set #1) Helvetia, LA
Zen-noh barge transload facility
GCG1HW Cargill (Set #1) from western Iowa
on CC&P
Hawthorne Yard (Cicero, IL)
gets new symbol on ICRR
GCG1RS Cargill (Set #1) on IC from Reserve, LA
Cargill barge transload facility
GCPGI Grain "local" turn from Champaign, IL Gilman, IL (turns back)
GHWSX Empty hoppers (CCP only) Sioux City or points west
GNOCH Empty hoppers from export facilities (IC only) Chicago or points west
GPERE Peavey Grain from SOO origins in North Dakota Remy, LA
Barge transload facility
GPAJA Paxton, Ill. (Ludlow Grain Co-Op) Jackson, MS
Interchange to KCS

Seen or heard a train not listed here?  Send in your observations!

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Page last updated: June 07, 2000
Comments or questions?  Site maintained by Erik Coleman.

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