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Demise of the Olympian Hiawatha Locked

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Posted by Steven Otte on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 10:37 AM

This thread has too many personal attacks, allegations, and insults to be feasibly cleaned up. Therefore, it's being locked. Next time, try to discuss trains without insulting those you're discussing them with.

--
Steven Otte, Model Railroader associate editor
sotte@kalmbach.com

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Monday, June 21, 2021 12:02 AM
SD60MAC9500
The same could be said about you as well... CP for example had a thing called the Rogers Pass Project back in the 80's for a reason... A key role in moving freight is using the least amount of assets to move as much as possible from point A to B. Which requires a low grade efficient routing... Facts say the Milwaukee did not have that..
Very true.  The Milwaukee Road was indeed the high-cost route to the Pacific Northwest.  The NP might have been a close second, but its access to the water-level SP&S route through the Cascades would make it preferable, as is the case today.  The UP’s route between Glenns Ferry, Idaho and Pendleton, Oregon is very challenging (multiple grades between 1.5 and 2.2%), but at least it’s confined to a 350-mile segment (if one uses No. 3 track over Sherman Hill.)
The Milwaukee Road Pacific Extension was basically an 800+mile helper district between Harlowton, Montana and Seattle/Tacoma.  With 5 major grades (six, for anything destined to Grays Harbor, Longview, Kalama, Vancouver or Portland), they are spaced far enough apart as to require separate helper locations or require using large quantities of power for the entire 800+-mile trek.  Even the much-touted crossing of Snoqualmie Pass (westward grade only .7%) is of little practical benefit because the eastward grade of 1.74% would require reciprocal locomotive repositioning to balance the supply of power. 
The ex-GN and current BNSF (with some ex-NP and SP&S) route through Montana, Idaho, Washington, and to Portland has not only fewer grades, but the infrastructure allows the most-efficient power rotation.  All heavy unit trains avoid the heavy grades of the Cascades operating along the Columbia River and then go either north or south at Vancouver, WA to destination.  For those operating over the Cascades between Wenatchee and Seattle or Tacoma (mostly intermodal), supplemental power for the hill is confined to a 200-mile area.  Some power on eastward trains is cut at Wenatchee (where the grade moderates to Essex, Montana), and is added to westward trains (which in general need little additional power to reach Wenatchee from origin) and more or less stays in the loop; the major hill in Montana is Marias Pass which is a very short westward 1.2% grade (grade was actually slightly increased due to a line change in the mid-1960s) and requires no helpers.  Eastward trains face 14 miles of 1.8% grade from east of Essex at Java to Summit, but unlike all the other steep grades on the ex-NP and really ex-MILW (and Cascade Tunnel), this segment has two main tracks, as is the case west of Java.  Helpers are added at Essex and cut at Summit where there is no tunnel at the summit.  Two main tracks to the summit and no helper on the east slope almost guarantee that helpers are not delayed returning to Essex for subsequent helps – an extremely fast and efficient rotation.  Contrast this to the Milwaukee grades at Pipestone Pass (2% west and 1.66% east), St. Paul Pass (1.7% each side), the Saddle Mountains (2.2% west and 1.6% east) and Snoqualmie Pass (.7% west and 1.74% east) which are ALL single track (no power switches) and all have a tunnel at summit.  While the actual amount of power on all railroad operations depends on demand at destination or intermediate modification points, it’s easy to see that helper operations on the Milwaukee Road at all these locations would be a nightmare, and likely would entail (as they did when used) continuing all the way down the grade on the opposing side for fluidity and the next help.  It’s easy to see why the Milwaukee often chose to use a full complement of power for long distances rather than helpers simply to avoid the delay and occupation of track space when cutting and adding helper power at multiple locations.  But with extra power for long distances comes additional cost.  But probably less cost that multiple multiple manned helper districts and the associated cost of delay modifying locomotive consists.
Addressing SD60MAC9500’s comment: With the growth in grain and coal shipments, the construction of the Mount MacDonald tunnel (Rogers Pass) in the mid-to-late 1980s by Canadian Pacific was a necessity.  It reduced the ruling grade from 2.2% to 1% for westward and eastward trains.  The cost was $600 million. (Kicking Horse Pass, on the Alberta-BC border is 1% west but still 2.4% east.)
Of course, huge differences between the CP venture and the “what if” MILW exist:
*The CP could afford to make the investment; the MILW struggled to keep the railroad running, much less invest in the future, making few infrastructure improvements to its main line, nor even rudimentary safety expenditures.
*The CP had/has a high degree of exclusivity.  Southwestern Saskatchewan, Southern Alberta, and the coal-producing area around Sparwood in British Columbia, exclusively the domain of CP.  A guaranteed traffic source.
*The Rogers Pass improvement (albeit $600 million worth) was a one-and-done.  Which severe grades would the Milwaukee fix?  Pipestone? St. Paul? Saddles?  There ain’t no fixing Tacoma Hill and its 3.6% climb. 
*The CP main line allowed access to Vancouver ports.  The MILW served basically only Seattle and Tacoma; history shows that Vancouver is the much larger port.  But while there are many other American ports in the area, access by the Milwaukee was limited.  Anything south of Tacoma to Longview or after 1970 to Portland required traversing ex-logging railroads and Tacoma Hill.  Anything north of Seattle either pre- or post-BN merger was an awkward routing with steep grades.  All definitely not the domain of heavy unit trains.  (While Mr. Sol constantly harps about Kent autos and Seattle container traffic, the reality is that had the Milwaukee a few more years – BN was already running 100-car grain trains by the time the Milwaukee succumbed, however – it would have effectively been shut out of shuttle grain traffic to Aberdeen, Longview, Kalama, Vancouver, WA, Portland and occasionally North Vancouver (BC), as well as other ports developed for Ethanol or crude oil such as Clatskanie, Fidalgo, Arco, and Cherry Point, and the biggie: Roberts Bank, the region’s only coal export facility.  All not Milwaukee-served or served so awkwardly that any traffic the Milwaukee could scrounge would be interchanged with another railroad (BN or UP). 
Indeed, the Mount MacDonald project on CP and the demise of the Milwaukee highlight where investment was acknowledged and executed and where it was deemed unnecessary. 
 
--Mark Meyer
 
 
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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Monday, June 21, 2021 12:01 AM
TRR
These were Train #261's running times, with its fast, high value, freight.
"District Mileage Avg. MPH (incl. work) (excl. work)
Bensenville - Aberdeen 700 42.2 52.2 mph
Aberdeen - Harlowton 629 44.7 46.3 mph
Harlowton - Avery 438 39.8 43.0 mph
Avery - Tide Flats 419 28.2 31.8 mph
 
"You will note, this is a train in mountain territory that is averaging 43 mph in the Rocky Mountains between Harlowton and Avery, over three mountain ranges. A truck would be pushing it to achieve that average.
 
"The 10 mph difference between "includes work" and "excludes work" on the Bensenville-Aberdeen portion -- the largest such difference -- is due to four pickups and the St. Paul fill set-off -- the most "work" of the entire trip, and the blocking done on # 261 flat switching at Aberdeen which took about an hour. This got the train out of Bensenville quickly, and gave it to a yard for which nothing else got in the way."
 
The "longest hauls in the country," with the premium freight. So popular that, in addition to #263 and #264, the pre-existing Hotshots, that beat GN's offerings by 17 hours, the new hotshots, #261 and #262, beat GN's "Best" by over a day. At 3,000 tons, the traffic was so popular that Milwaukee had to add an additional section, each, of #261 AND #261. After that, Milwaukee had to start adding tonnage. From a strict limit of 3,000 tons, to handle the demand, tonnage increased to 4,000 and 5,000 tons AND two additional trains, AND additional sections of #263 and #264.
What’s this, the fourth time in this thread Mr. Sol has repeated this?  Doesn’t matter, just like the other times.  The “fast” 261 (XL Special) train debuted in late 1963.  By early 1964, GN’s running time was within 6 hours (with a much heavier train), and matched (with a much heavier train) the Milwaukee’s schedule by 1968.  And, unlike the Milwaukee, the GN didn’t need to discontinue its passenger trains to do it.  By 1971, BN started a Chicago-Seattle train (3) which was 5 hours faster than the XL Special and an even faster sister train (23) by 1973.  In Mr. Sol’s world, evidently, if you field the fastest train once, you’re the speed champion for all time.  Whatever he wants to think.  But as we all know, the Milwaukee’s biggest failure was its inability to sustain its traffic.
TRR
"These were the 8-10 trains per day that the PCE averaged for the remainder of the time before bankruptcy. These were trains that were up to 60% heavier than the trains run during the 1960s, and had MILW stayed with those tonnage limits, the PCE would have been running 14-16 trains per day."
Mr. Sol seems to not comprehend that this is not a big deal, and is, in reality, a reflection of the inferiority of the Milwaukee Road.  First of all, 60% of 3,000 tons is only 1,800, so a 4,800-ton train is not a big train, and it’s even smaller than GN and BN were routinely operating on its train 97 (the train that matched the Milwaukee’s running time in 1968).  Secondly, when confronted with this additional traffic, the Milwaukee couldn’t keep the running time of train 261, and that’s when its “hot” train became significantly slower than what GN and BN offered.  The difference was that BN maintained the faster service compared to the competition – aka proven sustainability - which means something even today, unlike the “hot 261” “one-off.”  The difference here is obvious:  When GN and later BN offered the faster service, they did it without compromising their other service; on the Milwaukee, something had to give:  Discontinue the passenger train to accommodate a fast freight train; slowing the fast train to accommodate more traffic due to inadequate infrastructure.  Claiming something to be a success when it’s really an indication of weakness, might work for awhile, but the failure is obvious when your physical plant succumbs to ongoing deferred maintenance, your schedules are fattened, and, finally, no one steps in to fix it, and the railroad is abandoned.
TRR
After Milwaukee opened its Kent Auto Facility, GN's auto traffic was so depleted, it finally shut down its Seattle auto facility. After Milwaukee opened its Stacy Street Container facility, Milwaukee had over 50% of the Container traffic, as against BN's three mainlines, and the UP.
Which would be really impressive if the Milwaukee kept the traffic, but it couldn’t.  And the auto traffic and container traffic was only a fraction of the traffic out of the Pacific Northwest.  BN was still dispatching 4 or 5 times the daily trains that the Milwaukee was (at the peak).  Vancouver, BC, Portland, the Willamette Valley, Yakima, the Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, Lewiston, Anacortes, Wenatchee, Colville, Waneta/Trail and Bremerton are all significant sources of traffic in the Pacific Northwest (and Canadian Southwest) which the Milwaukee served poorly, expensively, or – and mostly – not at all.  But that tonnage-restricted train 261 was sure fast for a couple of years, wasn’t it? 
TRR
Mr. Miller has, in past, simply fabricated a claim, his one of many, that Milwaukee Road's Lines West "lost money."
Yeah, that Mr. Miller guy always says that.
TRR
That was false, and the extant documentation proves it conclusively. In the years 1975, 1976, and 1977, it was the only part of the railroad that made a profit, as compared with the Lines East that was, along with ALL if its Midwestern counterparts, losing money hand-over-fist, hence the desperation in the 3R and 4R Acts.
 
Milwaukee Road

System Net Operating Income
1976: -$8,834,000
1977: -$29,3920,000
1978: -$49,331,000

Lines West
1976: +$10,581,000
1977: +$8,051,000
1978: +3,556,000

Documentation: Milwaukee Petition to Abandon, Exhibit K. https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Bankruptcy/ApplicationtoAbandonLinesWestFullDocument.pdf

Lines East alone:
1976: -$19,451,000
1977: -$37,444,000
1978: -$52,887,000

Lines West, Cumulative Net Operating Income, 1976-1978
+$22,187,000
Milwaukee Road, Net Operating Income, 1976-1978, WITHOUT Lines West:
-$109,746,000
Mr. Sol is going to break the “cut-and-paste” feature of his keyboard if he rolls out these figures one more time.  Seen it all before, over and over.
But even if you believe the three-year $22 million “profit”, it’s a pittance compared to what the authors of the NewMil plan said they would need to revive the railroad:  Over $906 million (new year at Fife, physical plant rehabilitation, and equipment rehabilitation).  And, this doesn’t include anything for upgrades, such as safety equipment (block signals or CTC, power switches, lineside failed equipment detectors), or additions to capacity (siding lengthening, second main tracks, etc.) to make railroad not only sustainable, but to attempt to capture new business.  So no, when you don’t keep up your assets to continue in business, you don’t get to claim a “profit”, especially when the whole thing crashes and burns two years later.
This reminds me of a friend whose 20-something kid was doing the UberEats and Doordash delivery thing during the height of the pandemic.  He was “making so much money on it.”  But when asked (by the parent) how much he was putting aside for a new car in the future (as he was racking up the miles on the current vehicle), the response expression was akin to a deer in the headlights.  And, of course with things opening up, not as much business as people are again going out to eat.  But, he, too “was making a profit” at the time. 
Meanwhile on the Milwaukee’s Lines East (or at least east of Terry, Montana) some 41 years after the abandonment of Lines West, things on the “money losing” part of the Milwaukee Road appear to be stable with most routes remaining intact.  BNSF ended up buying lines rescued by the state of South Dakota, and numerous suitors were in place for the railroad east of there in 1985.  Wanting to merge and or buy a large chunk of the Milwaukee Road never happened before.  What could have changed?  The jettisoning of the Pacific Extension, of course.
TRR
Mr. Meyer: "But I believe the ICC didn’t go far enough.  For instance, it should have also asked, ...".

Initially, you denied any such proposal to save Lines West had ever been profitable, or that ANY efforts to save it had happened, at all. What happened to THAT?
I stand by that.  Can’t be profitable if the physical plant and rolling stock is in decay.  Granted, it was a Catch-22 with the Milwaukee in a way.  It didn’t have the money to keep its railroad maintained like the competition, but even if it had – somehow – its vastly inferior profile would have led to its eventual doom when deregulation allowed other railroads to lower rates and severely undercut the Milwaukee in price, diminishing even more their already thin slice-of-the-pie in the region as a whole.
And when I stated that no plan saved the Pacific Extension or that there was no plan with the financial wherewithal to save the Pacific Extension….. Well, those are indisputable.  The railroad didn’t survive.
And why anyone is so hellbent concerned with the semantics of the acknowledgement of the plan is obviously secondary to that the plan Mr. Sol seems to support was summarily rejected by the ICC (as was the unlikelihood of saving the railroad in general in congressional and other testimony earlier).  And, it is additionally interesting that when the plan was announced, no one presented another, or even hinted that the plan could be tweaked or changed to make it successful.  Again, just because there was a plan, it wasn’t a GOOD plan, and it wasn’t a plan that the vast majority of stakeholders thought could work.
TRR
Mark Meyer: "Examples: Grain train Great Falls to Longview, 100% more expensive via NewMil; Chicago to Portland, five major grades on NewMil versus zero on BN); Seattle to Chicago, four major grades on NewMil versus two on BN).:
We don't actually know that. You made it up.
And I challenge Mr. Sol (or anyone) to prove otherwise (including the braintrust of the NewMil proposal, if any are still with us), and state their standing in the industry when doing so.  Especially as it’s so easily verified.  Since this is a Kalmbach forum, and that the material is undoubtedly copyrighted, I won’t copy-and-paste, but know that the profiles of the GN, MILW, NP and UP between the Midwest and Pacific Northwest are documented on pages 44 and 45 of the April 2004 issue of TRAINS magazine.  The only thing that is missing for the Milwaukee is showing the horrendous 3.6 percent grade westward over Tacoma Hill on the route to Portland.  Pretty much all anyone would need to is count the number of apexes of severe grades (over 1%) on the profiles as shown.  Another resource to verify the inferiority of the Milwaukee’s route is on page 145 of Earl J. Currie’s book “James J. Hill’s Legacy to Railway Operations.”  The book lists the grades in text form for all these railroads (plus CP and CN in Western Canada) on page 175.  The book is a great reference as to operating characteristics and why they matter.  Still available on Amazon.
As for the grain train from Great Falls to Longview, that data is available here:
The document includes ACTUAL fuel use data from BNSF.  (And it’s actually a grain train to Tacoma, since the Milwaukee delivering a 16,000-ton grain train to Longview – or any port south of Tacoma – never could happen due to the Tacoma Hill grade.)  The comparison for a Milwaukee Road train could not be done in present day, since the Pacific Extension is long gone.  But the simulation was done using programming actually used and was actually performed by BNSF in Fort Worth.  Not hard to do, as one simply would input components of a railroad (mileage, grade, curvature).  While performing the task for a now non-existent railroad, it’s no different than speculating on costs the competition must endure by inputting their operating characteristics – it’s nothing really unusual.  In other words, a real world system, used in by real railroad in current (when the website was created) time. 
The locomotive use of course was current for BNSF, and speculative for the Milwaukee.  That’s not only because it largely isn’t around, but the simulation involved current train sizes, much larger than the Milwaukee ever operated.  Also noted is that due to the horrible profile of “Lines West,” multiple options exist as to how to move the traffic, i.e. whether to full-power the train (enough power to handle from origin to destination) or cut and add power (helper situation).  In both cases, this reflected actual previous Milwaukee Road operations in that there were helpers at places like Beverly, Butte, and Avery, but often the trains were simply powered to avoid the necessity (and delay) to cut and add power en route.  This was the case with XL Special, which was powered to 9,000 HP from Chicago through to destination without any modifications.  Both full-powering and using helpers bring into mix different costs.  The only thing that is a constant is that the Milwaukee Road was by far the higher-cost option.
TRR
What we DO know is that no shipper would make a decision the way that Mark Meyer proposes. Why would they?
Mark Meyer has never "shipped" an ounce of freight in his entire life.
Wrong on both accounts, and again, I challenge you to prove otherwise.  But I have loaded cars, billed cars, coopered cars, distributed cars, directed assembly of cars into trains, managed locomotives and crews to handle such cars, and worked with scores of shippers during my railroad career.  I await Mr. Sol’s resume of similar involvement.
--Mark Meyer
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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Saturday, June 19, 2021 8:42 PM
 

TRR

After Milwaukee opened its Stacy Street Container facility, Milwaukee had over 50% of the Container traffic, as against BN's three mainlines, and the UP.

 
Has Seattle ever been a competitive port for containers in the PNW? For the West Coast period? You also fail to realize UP has access to the Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Port of Oakland which has always produced substantial TEU loading for UP vs. The Port of Seattle... Considering Seattle has small dislocated terminals in its Port district. Which dock(s) was this +50% loading coming from? T5? T18? It seems you're not familiar with the inefficient operations at the port of Seattle.. 
 

TRR

Mark Meyer: "Examples: Grain train Great Falls to Longview, 100% more expensive via NewMil; Chicago to Portland, five major grades on NewMil versus zero on BN); Seattle to Chicago, four major grades on NewMil versus two on BN).:

We don't actually know that. You made it up.

What we DO know is that no shipper would make a decision the way that Mark Meyer proposes. Why would they?

Mark Meyer has never "shipped" an ounce of freight in his entire life.

 

 

The same could be said about you as well... CP for example had a thing called the Rogers Pass Project back in the 80's for a reason... A key role in moving freight is using the least amount of assets to move as much as possible from point A to B. Which requires a low grade efficient routing... Facts say the Milwaukee did not have that..

 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
TRR
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Posted by TRR on Saturday, June 19, 2021 8:05 PM

Mark Meyer: "Examples: Grain train Great Falls to Longview, 100% more expensive via NewMil; Chicago to Portland, five major grades on NewMil versus zero on BN); Seattle to Chicago, four major grades on NewMil versus two on BN).:

We don't actually know that. You made it up.

What we DO know is that no shipper would make a decision the way that Mark Meyer proposes. Why would they?

Mark Meyer has never "shipped" an ounce of freight in his entire life.

 

TRR
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Posted by TRR on Saturday, June 19, 2021 7:25 PM
 
Mr. Meyer: "But I believe the ICC didn’t go far enough.  For instance, it should have also asked, ...".
 
Initially, you denied any such proposal to save Lines West had ever been  profitable, or that ANY efforts to save it had happened, at all. What happened to THAT?
 
TRR
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Posted by TRR on Saturday, June 19, 2021 6:35 PM

Mark Meyer continues to spin fantasies about 1) a railroad he knew nothing about, 2) regading matters that he, personally, had no experience with.

 He brings to mind Groucho Marx's comment to an annoying writer who wrote a book and sent it to Groucho to read. Groucho's response: "I received your book. Thank you for sending it. I couldn't stop laughing. Some day I intend on reading it."

It isn't what Mark Meyer writes that is necessarily so objectionable, but "what he leaves out," i.e. the "other half of the story."

These were Train #261's running times, with its fast, high value, freight.

Per Rob Leachman, who actually does have the experience that Mr. Meyer lacks altogether.

"District Mileage Avg. MPH (incl. work) (excl. work)
Bensenville - Aberdeen 700 42.2 52.2 mph
Aberdeen - Harlowton 629 44.7 46.3 mph
Harlowton - Avery 438 39.8 43.0 mph
Avery - Tide Flats 419 28.2 31.8 mph
 
"You will note, this is a train in mountain territory that is averaging 43 mph in the Rocky Mountains between Harlowton and Avery, over three mountain ranges. A truck would be pushing it to achieve that average.
 
"The 10 mph difference between "includes work" and "excludes work" on the Bensenville-Aberdeen portion -- the largest such difference -- is due to four pickups and the St. Paul fill set-off -- the most "work" of the entire trip, and the blocking done on # 261 flat switching at Aberdeen which took about an hour. This got the train out of Bensenville quickly, and gave it to a yard for which nothing else got in the way."
 
The "longest hauls in the country," with the premium freight. So popular that, in addition to #263 and #264, the pre-existing Hotshots, that beat GN's offerings by 17 hours, the new hotshots, #261 and #262, beat GN's "Best" by over a day. At 3,000 tons, the traffic was so popular that Milwaukee had to add an additional section, each, of #261 AND #261. After that, Milwaukee had to start adding tonnage. From a strict limit of 3,000 tons, to handle the demand, tonnage increased to 4,000 and 5,000 tons AND two additional trains, AND additional sections of #263 and #264.
 
"These were the 8-10 trains per day that the PCE averaged for the remainder of the time before bankruptcy. These were trains that were up to 60% heavier than the trains run during the 1960s, and had MILW stayed with those tonnage limits, the PCE would have been running 14-16 trains per day."
 
After Milwaukee opened its Kent Auto Facility, GN's auto traffic was so depleted, it finally shut down its Seattle auto facility. After Milwaukee opened its Stacy Street Container facility, Milwaukee had over 50% of the Container traffic, as against BN's three mainlines, and the UP.
 
Mr. Miller has, in past, simply fabricated a claim, his one of many, that Milwaukee Road's Lines West "lost money." That was false, and the extant documentation proves it conclusively. In the years 1975, 1976, and 1977, it was the only part of the railroad that made a profit, as compared with the Lines East that was, along with ALL if its Midwestern counterparts, losing money hand-over-fist, hence the desperation in the 3R and 4R Acts.
 
Milwaukee Road

System Net Operating Income
1976: -$8,834,000
1977: -$29,3920,000
1978: -$49,331,000

Lines West
1976: +$10,581,000
1977: +$8,051,000
1978: +3,556,000

Documentation: Milwaukee Petition to Abandon, Exhibit K. https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Bankruptcy/ApplicationtoAbandonLinesWestFullDocument.pdf

Lines East alone:
1976: -$19,451,000
1977: -$37,444,000
1978: -$52,887,000

Lines West, Cumulative Net Operating Income, 1976-1978
+$22,187,000
Milwaukee Road, Net Operating Income, 1976-1978, WITHOUT Lines West:
-$109,746,000

Mr. Meyer’s obsession with Milwaukee Road, and its Lines West is bizarre for the several reasons that 1) he had nothing to do with any of that kind of analysis on his own railroad, ever, 2) he has a history of attacking perceived “threats” to the memory of his Father’s beloved Great Northern (his early attack on the perceived "inferiority that NP railfans felt to GN railfans" was a doozy!), and 3) betraying an astonishing ignorance of the actual documented record.

Ok. What is he, then?

Readers have to make up their own minds.
 
So, what to make of Mr. Meyer's claims?
 
"Nothing at all" would be a useful start.
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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Saturday, June 19, 2021 2:05 AM

TRR

"B. Passenger Train Operation. The so-called "City" trains are presently being operated jointly with the Union Pncific and the Southern Pacific by the Milwaukee betweon Chicago and Omaha. These operations are covered by a oontract which provides for a one-year termination notice from either party. As shown in the following Table IX, during the year 1962 the Milwaukee realized a net gain of $1,604,086 based on out-of-pocket expenses in the operation of the City trains between Chicago and Omaha. Revenues on these trains were $5,590,478, and out-of-pocket operating expenses were $3,986,392. If the Union Pacific were to acquire its own line into Chicago, it ispresumed that the City trains would be transferren to that line. The result will be an annual loss of $1,604,086 to the Milwaukee based on 1962 operations."  P. 21.

This is the second time Mr. Sol has mentioned the anecdotal 1962 “net gain” in this thread (and numerous times on others).  But again, Mr, Sol offers nothing on the other 14 ½ years because all he has is this one “Merger Committee Report.”  Moreover, this report does not (and by its nature cannot) address the $10 million or so spent by the Milwaukee to ready the Chicago-Council Bluffs route to handle the (initially) five extra UP streamliners (each way).  But the mere fact that consolidations in the service happened immediately after the 1955 takeover and continued (along with some discontinuances of service) until 1971 is a pretty good indication that the services were not profitable.  For about a year starting in late 1969 through most of 1970, the state of Illinois wouldn’t allow the Milwaukee to discontinue the Illinois portion of the City of Denver/City of Portland train when it was consolidated into the City of San Francisco/City of Los Angeles/Challenger.  That year of running a stub Chicago-Savanna train with one car likely sucked up much of the 1962 “net gain” right there.

As always, anecdotal observations (like the short-lived “fast” schedule of the XL Special) are meaningless, but in the case of the 1962 “net gain” theory it’s especially ridiculous because the whole fiasco didn’t have to be.  Since UP could not show preference to interchange partners at Council Bluffs (as it could at Fremont or Grand Island), there is every indication that even without the infrastructure enhancements (for passenger trains) on the Milwaukee’s Council Bluffs route the Milwaukee would have received the same amount of freight traffic (one to three trains daily). 

Prior to 1955, the Milwaukee already had the Midwest Hiawatha as a day train as well as the overnight Arrow.  It’s interesting to note that the Midwest Hiawatha was carded (in 1953 as an example) for 8 hours, 45 minutes between Chicago and Omaha with 12 intermediate stops (one of which was Madrid, with a dedicated connecting bus to Des Moines) including setting out cars for its Sioux Falls section in Manilla, IA.  (Pretty impressive, considering on the parallel C&NW, the Cities trains made the Chicago-Omaha trek in 7 hours, 45 minutes to 8 hours, but had as few as 5 and as many as 9 stops.)  After the 1955 reroute, the Midwest Hiawatha was consolidated with the Challenger from Chicago to Omaha (it really was reduced to just Sioux Falls cars adding and setting out at Manilla) and the number of stops cut in half.  But, as stated earlier, this “bonanza” of passenger traffic was short-lived, and with the Challenger being consolidated into the City of Los Angeles in April of 1956 (just 6 months into the reroute, though the trains could be separate seasonally for a few more years), the Midwest Hiawatha was discontinued on April 28,1956, and with it went the convenient, fast daytime service on the route.

So, recapping, this is what the Milwaukee Road got for the millions spent on CTC, additional trackage in the Chicago commuter zone, new locomotives, adding reservations and station personnel, and repainting rolling stock to UP colors:

*No more freight business than they would have received regardless;

*Loss of daytime passenger service earlier than would have been the case without the reroute;

*Capacity for money-losing passenger service which quickly eroded from 6 daily trains to one over 15 ½ years;

*A passenger route considered not worthy of Amtrak service starting in May, 1971.

*The distinction of being the only trans-Iowa freight route to be mostly abandoned in the late 1970s and into 1980.

The epitomization of “Failure”, indeed.

TRR

In fact, between 1968 and 1977 the Milwaukee Road's Lines East, in concert with all other Midwest railroads, lost 35% of its traffic, mostly high revenue. During that same time period, despite the completion of the Interstate Highway System, Milwaukee Road Lines West gained 41% in traffic, virtually all high revenue, long haul.

Percentages are irrelevant.  With regard to “Lines West”, when you have a railroad which runs only one or two trains a day, pretty much ANY increase in traffic would be noticeable.  That’s the way math works.  As for “Lines East” and the repetitive claim of the burden it was on the Milwaukee Road, it’s amazing how much of it endures 41 years after the demise of “Lines West.” 

TRR

And why should he know anything about the Milwaukee Road? Railroad history and economics was never his railroad job, nor part of his education.

And Mr. Sol knows this how?

TRR

And Appendix K was controversial. When first submitted, it showed heavy losses for Lines West. Well, that made sense if they were trying to abandon it. But, the ICC's Office of Rail Public Counsel -- which had been set up to safeguard the "public's interest" in railroad matters -- through their auditor, David Smith, found out, "oops," the Milwaukee had been able to show losses ONLY by double-entering expenses. In that fashion, and after that correction, Appendix K showed ... profitability, right through 1977.

Except that the “profitability” didn’t include the hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of deferred maintenance over the two previous decades which ensured the railroad’s demise, nor did it included similar amounts that would be necessary to achieve long-term sustainability, such as infrastructure improvements to be competitive with all the other railroads providing service in the Upper Midwest-to-Pacific Northwest corridor.  Since the Milwaukee Road never made these expenditures, they logically could not be considered a liability until it all came crashing down after the 1977 bankruptcy.  Profitable?  Not a chance.

TRR

At the ICC Hearings for the Northern Lines merger, the Northern Lines testified as follows:

"Anticipated improvements in freight schedules are based mainly on the consolidation of terminal facilities at common points and the use of the shortest of most efficient internal routes available to the unified company. Applicants indicate that the New Company would establish through transcontinental freight routes over the shortest available lines and the most favorable grades. Appli­cants gave numerous examples of improved freight schedules that could be established following consummation of the mergers. For example, applicants indicated that the fastest schedule of the Great Northern from Seattle to Chicago would be reduced by the New Company from 94 hours and 15 minutes to 82 hours and 30 minutes or 11 hours-~d45 minutes faster than the present schedule. The fastest transcontinental eastbound train of the Northern Pacific leaves Seattle at 9:00 p. m. and arrives Chicago 12:15 p. m. on the 5th day, a total elapsed time of 97 hours and 15 minutes. After unification, the departure time would beE':30 p.m. and arrival time at Chicago would be 10:30 a.m. on the morning of the 8th day, a total elapsed time of 84 hours, or 13 hours less than present schedule" 328 ICC 474 (1966)

https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/ICC/NothernLinesDecision1966.pdf

At that time, on that date, the Milwaukee was running #261 on a 55 hour schedule, and #262 on a 59 hour schedule. The ICC denied the merger. The Northern Lines panicked. Absolutely panicked. And, just a glance at what was happening to, for instance, the Northern Pacific shows why. It was in full "failure" mode, and all of its land grants had been tied up, ultimately for the duration of J.P. Morgan's "NP Bonds" -- 100 years. They HAD TO HAVE THAT MERGER! In desperation, the Northern Lines Merger Committee quickly agreed to the Milwaukee Road's proposed conditions. Warren Ploeger had put together those conditions in his Seattle Office, as Western General Counsel. They were designed to transform the West, and they did.

As a point of reality, CB&Q and GN were operating train 97 from Chicago to Seattle in 61.5 hours starting in early 1964, not the 94.25 hours stated in the testimony.  By 1968, CB&Q/GN matched the running time of the XL Special, and in 1971 offered a schedule 5.5 hours shorter, while the Milwaukee gave up and lengthened its schedule.  Again, service sustainability was something that was hardly a Milwaukee Road trademark in later years.  So, the document is questionable in its accuracy or whether it was contemporary.  It is interesting that the document that does note “expedited schedules require the use of shorter and lighter trains,” a fact that made the XL Special much more costly to operate than the competition on GN and later, BN.

The “Northern Lines” were hardly panicking.  After all, in the end, the CB&Q, GN, NP, and SP&S were permanently liked with joint-ownership of most of the assets, and few doubted it would be consummated eventually – unlike the Milwaukee Road, which was such an unpalatable piece of real estate (until the albatross of Lines West was jettisoned) that no one wanted to merge with it or purchase it.  And we all know that this, too, had been an ongoing project. 

And, transform the West?  Hardly.  Even at its apex in 1973, the Milwaukee was dispatching a faction of the trains that BN routinely did and still an insignificant percentage of overall traffic from the Pacific Northwest and Canadian Southwest considering all the carriers.  But given the lengthening of the Milwaukee’s schedules and continued non-investment in infrastructure, the modicum of additional business did have a negative affect on the Milwaukee Road.

TRR

Actually you did say there was no plan, that no one stepped forward with one, and no one had any proposal. That claim was another complete fabrication. At the insistence of the general public, shippers, employees and the States, the Milwaukee Railroad Restructuring Act provided explicity for the creation of an umbrella organization to represent those interests. http://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Bankruptcy/MilwaukeeRoadRestructuringAct.pdf


Actually, I didn’t say that.  Specifically, my post on May 10 said, “I never said there wasn’t a plan, I said there wasn’t one with the wherewithal to save the Pacific Extension, and since this plan was rejected, and the Pacific Extension was largely abandoned, this is irrefutable.”
 
Mr. Sol is like someone who gets pulled over at a traffic stop with an expired license.  In his world, telling the officer that “I had a really good plan to get my license renewed” is the same thing as getting a new license.  In the real world, you can no longer legally drive.  Not only does productivity rely on a plan being carried to fruition, but reputation can matter as to whether the plan is regarded as having value from the outset.  In both cases, the NewMil plan was lacking.

TRR

The Plan was detailed. The Chair was Paul Schmechel, a friend of mine, who was President of the Montana Power Company, and of the Western Energy Company. The President was Bill Brodsky, who had been on the plannng staff at the Milwaukee, knew it well, and later was the founding President of Montana Rail Link. His able assistant was Fred Simpson, who was also on the Milwaukee's planning staff and who confronted Trustee Stanley Hill who had asserted, early on, that the "Pacific Extension must go."

Simpson pushed back. That was NOT what the "numbers said." Hillman just sat there. Few people dared to challenge Stanley E.G. Hillman. At one point the Company joke was the the "E.G." stood for "Everything Goes!" But, confronted, Hillman just sat there. Finally, he mumbled "Better minds than yours have looked at this!" By whom he meant Worthington Smith and Paul Cruikshank. Simpson got up, walked out the door, and returned to Bainbridge Island to practice law.

To his credit, and his own dismay, when Hillman got his "outside studies" back, he saw that Simpson had been correct. Hillman ruefully, but publicly, conceded, "It turns out that the Milwaukee Road is a relatively wealthy company!" And, for the most part, stopped speaking to WLS and PFC. The way PFC phrased it to me was "Mr. Hillman became difficult to work with." I'll bet he did! But it was too late to turn back the Pacific Extension abandonment. Hillman got an ulcer and promptly quit.

Well, if the Milwaukee was “relatively” wealthy, then there are numerous disconnects between the company losing hundreds of millions of dollars at the end, its wealth, and the need for handouts from the government.

What’s really unimpressive about the NewMil proposal is how few people were actually involved in creating it.  Simpson is on record as claiming a conspiracy, which is fine, but the reality is that when one looks at the scores and scores of Milwaukee Road, Burlington Northern, and Union Pacific company officers (as well as hundreds of other railroaders throughout the years) that intimately knew the Milwaukee Road, the only logical conclusion is that IF the Milwaukee’s Lines West was this lurking railroad powerhouse touted ad nauseum by Mr. Sol and suggested in the NewMil document, there would certainly be many, many more who signed up and signed on.  The list of members of the Board of Directors and Officers is quite unimpressive considering the breadth of the project and the number of states it would impact.  An example:  Arthur Kane, the president of the Knife River Coal Mining Company:  With the Milwaukee serving the mine at Gascoyne, ND, his interest is obvious.  But from a coal standpoint (touted in the document), the president of a LIGNITE coal company does not inspire confidence.  The Gascoyne-Big Stone coal train was an anomaly of sorts since lignite is rarely hauled any distance (and coal source was replaced with sub-bituminous coal from Montana and Wyoming later and to this day).  For a railroad that would stretch from Louisville to Pacific Coast, one would expect much more prestigious people on the list, as well as others from the Milwaukee Road.  Seriously, why should we believe that people like Messrs. Simpson and Brodsky were right and all the many, many, many others not?  (I mean, other than the conspiracy, but even then there needs to be a reason for one.)  And by the way, who were the others in the “consortium of experienced railroad executives” (as stated by Mr. Sol) who authored the NewMil plan but who were not mentioned?

TRR

The ICC had observed, in its ultimate 1968 approval of the Burlington Northern Merger, that "the elimination of intercarrier routing barriers and the strengthening of Milwaukee were sin qua non elements in our approval of the merger." 348 ICC 132. "Spokane, Portland and Seattle -- Control" July 28, 1975.

Maybe.  Indeed, the Burlington Northern merger hurt the Milwaukee, but there’s no reason to believe that the Milwaukee would have survived without the BN merger.  Without the BN merger, the Milwaukee would not have seen an uptick in business and would have likely continued at its 1 or 2 trains-per-day traffic level.  New traffic to and from Portland, as an example, was a Catch-22 for the Milwaukee.  Had the BN merger not happened, the Milwaukee would have been shutout of this critical gateway location.  As it was, it likely didn’t make any money on what it did receive due to the circuity and poor operating profile of its route.  The question is not whether the NP “Had to have that merger;” rather, it’s whether the Milwaukee did and if it mattered.

Regardless of a BN merger or not, trains would have continued to get longer and heavier, and this would have had a negative affect the Milwaukee which made almost no improvements on its infrastructure to accommodate, and had the high-cost operating profile.  The Roberts Bank coal port would still be accessed by GN trackage (and not the Milwaukee) and more and more grain would gravitate to Columbia River ports, as is the case today.  The NP and GN would have water-level access to these ports as well as Seattle and Tacoma via their SP&S subsidiary.  The GN route would certainly capture much of the grain business in Montana (as is the case today) due to its superior profile, and likely would even make more inroads in Milwaukee territory in South Dakota.  Other than Seattle and Tacoma, the Milwaukee didn’t serve many important traffic origination stations or served them badly.  Great Northern, specifically, would be least affected by no BN merger as it had by far the superior transcontinental profile in the Western U.S., and through its subsidiaries had single-carrier service from Vancouver, BC to California for the interchange to the WP/ATSF. 

TRR

There is a documented, well-developed record available.

The Final Proposed Reorganization Plan, that Meyer denied existed, can be found here. http://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Bankruptcy/NewMilwaukeeLines.pdf

They had four weeks to put the thing together, and, frankly, did a yeoman job of it. But, it was not enough. As Tom Ploss pointed out, "for the first time, the ICC established a required prediction of profitability exceeding 10%." Only one railroad in the country met that brand-new criteria. The Chair if the ICC, Darius Gaskins, conceded to Bill Brodsky, that "It was the most difficult decision we had to make while I was at the ICC."

Again, thanks to Mr. Sol for making these documents available at his website to prove that the demise of the Milwaukee’s Lines West was a logical end to its existence. 

Hand-in-glove with the NewMil proposal is this one from the ICC that documents its many flaws:

https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Bankruptcy/NewMilICC%20Opinion.pdf

If the 10% profitability seemed excessive, that is nothing compared to the unreasonably high expectations of the creators of the NewMil document.  Most notable were overzealous traffic growth during the 1980s which never happened and was predicted not to happen (by the ICC)  and an expected operating ratio on par with the lowest in the country at the time: Union Pacific.  The ICC found that NewMil could satisfy only one of the five necessary criteria to assume operation of the railroad.  Summarizing other flaws in the plan (only a summary not to repeat my earlier post): unrealistic traffic growth, expecting to steal business from the competition with superior infrastructure, and no money to upgrade the Milwaukee’s inferior infrastructure.  The document touts grain movements to Columbia River ports, which the Milwaukee served so poorly, as well as “bright” future for coal movements even though Lines West had only one on-line (lignite) coal mine and didn’t have access to the lone coal port in the region.  The Milwaukee didn’t serve the Powder River Basin mines and likely wouldn’t have had the financial wherewithal to build to it (that, and fix its own infrastructure).  The Tongue River railroad was never built and never would be, and when a railroad was built to tap coal near Roundup, it is shipped largely overseas (via a port not accessed by the Milwaukee) as it’s generally undesirable for (thermal generation) consumption in the U.S. (bituminous).  Even the “Louisville Transcon” aspect ignored that already Southern (the only railroad that mattered in Louisville as L&N already had its own route to Chicago) and L&N were already doing run-through trains to BN at Centralia and Woodlawn in Illinois which sent traffic right to BN’s hump yard in Galesburg, avoiding Chicago.
 
But to sum up the ICC’s dismissal of the NewMil proposal in one word:  Sustainability.  The NewMil report did not describe an operation capable of sustaining itself, and it was obvious.
 
But I believe the ICC didn’t go far enough.  For instance, it should have also asked:
 
*Where will additional funding be received to lengthen sidings to accommodate the longer trains (which the competition is already running, but that NewMil couldn’t without lengthening)?
*Where will additional funding be received to improve meet/pass capacity to allow for increased traffic and to prepare for cabooseless operation?  (power switches, or less expensive but less effective spring switches)
*Where will additional funding be received to place block signals between Plummer and Marengo?  (safety priority)
*Where will additional funding be received to install lineside failed equipment detectors?  (already in place on the competition, safety priority)
*Were any of the revenue/traffic projections for the NewMil in the 1980s predicated on the likelihood that deregulation might be likely (to be known as the Staggers Act) and that the competition (mostly BN) would be able to drastically undercut rates compared to the Milwaukee due to an almost-uniformly superior (and less expensive) operating profile?  Examples: Grain train Great Falls to Longview, 100% more expensive via NewMil; Chicago to Portland, five major grades on NewMil versus zero on BN); Seattle to Chicago, four major grades on NewMil versus two on BN).
 
Then there’s the 41 years of hindsight we have going for us today that verify that the NewMil would have defaulted and was unnecessary: 
*Again, the lack of coal business it could have accessed
*Again, the dominance of Columbia River ports (poorly served by a Milwaukee Road) for grain exports
*Little positive traffic gain in the Bakken boom (Milwaukee trackage served only one crude export port – Tacoma, and had no loading locations).
*Could not participate in the huge amount of Canada-to California traffic which materialized
*Seeing the huge increase in container and other traffic through the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert in British Columbia, largely at the expense of Seattle and Tacoma.
 
In summary: Little chance to reclaim even the minimal amount of business handled by the Milwaukee that other railroads gained, and little chance for growing the business.
 
I agree with Gaskins that the decision to deny the NewMil proposal was difficult simply because a “transcontinental” railroad had never been up for abandonment before.  But the 7-0 decision suggests that there was no doubt about the inadequacy of the proposal.  Nor did subsequent parties step up to build upon the proposal to retain Lines West, despite all the supposed employee, shipper, and local government support.  Locally, such as in South Dakota, the state did step in to save many of the Milwaukee’s major routes as the carrier was by far the dominant railroad in the state.  It is logical that in South Dakota, primary Milwaukee Road routes survive because the Milwaukee Road enjoyed so much exclusivity; in Montana and Washington, it was abandoned because it had almost none.
 
So, indeed:  No proposal was submitted with the wherewithal to save the Milwaukee Pacific Extension.
 
--Mark Meyer
 

 

 
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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Saturday, June 19, 2021 1:59 AM

TRR

From some time "back," Mark Meyer

“Michael Sol When there are 31 derailments in 28 days, ANY railroad would have business "backed up." That usually happens when the railroad is closed.”

Etc....

For those having a "WTF" moment here, you're not alone.  It's from another thread altogether, somewhere else, and completely irrelevant.  But then the point is character assassination rather than any attempt to convey information.

But to clarify:  The AAR's explanation is correct.

My input that was that 31 derailments in 28 days was not desirable thing, and it was self-inflicted:  The tunnels were lowered to increase clearance, but instead of lowering them sufficiently to accommodate the new ballast, the Milwaukee didn't do that, they just didn't put ballast in the tunnel.....so there was a dip in the track at each end of the tunnel causing the problem.  While other railroads did experience some problems with the cars, the criticality was nowhere near the better-than-one-per-day on the Milwaukee Road.  In other words, you get what you pay for.

Also, for clarification: BN didn't have a "Clinton facility" claimed by Mr. Sol.  On Burlington Northern (and Northern Pacific), the ballast pit was always known as McQuarrie (3.7 miles west of Clinton).  Clinton was best-known for its annual (since discontinued) Testicle Festival.  (As long as we're focusing on nothing to do with this thread.)

It also shows that when the Milwaukee needed first class ballast, it looked to the competition that had it and used it: Burlington Northern.  Or, as Fred Hyde described the Milwaukee Road in Montana: "the finest dirt track mainline in the west."

Thanks again to Mr. Sol for, as always, pointing out another Milwaukee Road Lines West deficiency. 

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 11:57 PM

TRR
Reviewing anything Mr. Meyer writes is always worth the effort, or, at least, the entertainment!

From some time "back," Mark Meyer

“Michael Sol When there are 31 derailments in 28 days, ANY railroad would have business "backed up." That usually happens when the railroad is closed.”

In his usual fashion, complete ignorance of the Milwaukee Road, a railroad he knew nothing about, and proves it daily, shows there.

I am very familiar with the portion that had “31 derailments in 28 days.”

For the record – something Mark Meyer desperately needs – the Avery Hill was virtually completely rebuilt 1971, 1972 and 1973, and then, in October, 1973, the derailments “hit.”

The record of that rebuild can be found here: Milepost 1750 to 1773. Track Profile, Montana Division, 1976. https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Construction/Milwaukee%20Profiles/TrackChartMontanaDivision1976.pdf

The Avery Hill had substantial additional 132 lb steel added, new ties, and 4" of new “Clinton Crushed Quartzite” which was the very high grade quartzite purchased from BN’s excellent source at Clinton, Montana – crushed quartzite ballast. It was, in fact, the “best part of the entire system.”

After two years of rebuilding the entire section, why, in October, 1973, did “the trains start falling off the track,” as Bill Brodsky pointed out, “31 derailments in 28 days?”

The Joes had been taken off as motive power for a “trial” for the month of October, 1973. The timing looked ... like that HAD to have something to do with it. Dynamometer car 5000 went up and down the Avery Hill, trying to find out ... why? It couldn’t be the “track,” that was virtually brand-new, and the heaviest rail on the system. Locotrol? Well, it had been in use; but not with those results. The Milwaukee put their best people on it. That didn’t include Mark Meyer for reasons known only to Groucho Marx.

It was a mystery. Excellent track. New rebuild. But why “October, 1973?”

Milwaukee had taken delivery of the new 4,750 cu ft PS-2 covered hopper grain cars over the summer. A newer, higher capacity design, those were the “America’s Resourceful Railroad” cars. Still a “100 ton car,” the new cars were distinctive by the extra 250 cu yds of grain they could carry. They began arriving in August, 1973.

They began moving “West” – previously most railroad wheat moved East – after the Russian grain deal in the Fall of 1973. October was harvest season.

The ominous, unknown flaw? The extra capacity had been added “up top.” As did several railroads that experienced the same problem, those particular cars were particularly susceptible to “harmonic rock,” AND, the exacerbated transition differential between the 4" inches of brand new crushed quartzite ballast from BN’s Clinton facility. To maintain the clearances for the tri-level Autoracks, new ballast had not been added to the tunnel floors.

The new PS-2 4750 Covered Hopper cars, just arriving at the Milwaukee, then, had three distinct features; 1) the cars measured 57ft. 4in. over strikers and 45ft. 9in. between truck centers, 2) the added capacity had been added on the new PS-2 design “up top” making those cars more “top heavy” than their predecessors, and 3) they were encountering the results of a virtually complete rebuilding that exacerbated the transition between 4" of brand new quartzite ballast, and the lowered tunnel floors resulting from the 1961 auto-rack capacity project. Now, those new PS-2 Hopper Cars were giving the same problems to all the railroads that had them: harmonic rock, wherever they operated over standard length jointed rail. On the Milwaukee, that problem was significantly exacerbated by the artificial transitions between the new ballast and the tunnel floors. The “problem” was so widespread and severe, that AAR commissioned a formal study of it.  

  “Track-train dynamics Harmonic Roll Series Torsional and Flexural Car Stiffness Characteristics”

https://railroads.dot.gov/sites/fra.dot.gov/files/fra_net/18364/Harmonic_Roll_Vol4.pdf

And, on the Avery Hill, there were three key factors: the lowered tunnel floors from the 1961 increase in tunnel capacity had installed transitional rail entering and leaving the tunnels. A train entering a modified tunnel would pass through a grade transition, and then another one when leaving the tunnel.

That series of prolems, on virtually brand-new track, exacerbated a problem occuring eveywhere with those specific cars, only on jointed, 39 foot rail sections, that created the harmonic with the specific 45'9" centers of those cars. And, as the Milwaukee finally discovered after extensive dynamometer tests, that harmonic existed only at certain track speeds, which happened to be the standard speed of the diesel-electric powered trains on the Avery Hill. Change the speed? Problem solved. But, related to that "change in speed" was a specific motive power problem. The heavy trains carrying the new grain cars were ... Locotrol. As the X-5000 Dynamometer Car observed, with the tunnels and curvature on the Avery Hill, the Locotrol units were losing contact with the head end units. They were attempting to work at different speeds. Wham! Derailment on curve!

But, then reread Mark Meyer’s explanation. Yet another key point that he not only “got wrong,” but out of sheer ignorance, got entirely backwards.

As usual. Reading the American Association of Railroads' research report on precisely that issue will add additional illumination.

Brand new railcars, new design, virtually brand new heavy rail, change in motive power, what could possibly go wrong? Mark Meyer will try and tell you! AAR's evaluation is far more useful.

Best regards, Michael Sol

B&O/Chessie System had restrictions on train's handling Hi Cube covered hoppers on 6 degree or greater curves.

Trains containing them had to EITHER maintain a speed of 25 MPH or greater or 10 MPH or less in the particular territory.  Speeds between 10 & 25 MPH permitted the harmonic rock off.

TRR
  • Member since
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Posted by TRR on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 6:01 PM

Reviewing anything Mr. Meyer writes is always worth the effort, or, at least, the entertainment!

From some time "back," Mark Meyer

“Michael Sol When there are 31 derailments in 28 days, ANY railroad would have business "backed up." That usually happens when the railroad is closed.”

In his usual fashion, complete ignorance of the Milwaukee Road, a railroad he knew nothing about, and proves it daily, shows there.

I am very familiar with the portion that had “31 derailments in 28 days.”

For the record – something Mark Meyer desperately needs – the Avery Hill was virtually completely rebuilt 1971, 1972 and 1973, and then, in October, 1973, the derailments “hit.”

The record of that rebuild can be found here: Milepost 1750 to 1773. Track Profile, Montana Division, 1976. https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Construction/Milwaukee%20Profiles/TrackChartMontanaDivision1976.pdf

The Avery Hill had substantial additional 132 lb steel added, new ties, and 4" of new “Clinton Crushed Quartzite” which was the very high grade quartzite purchased from BN’s excellent source at Clinton, Montana – crushed quartzite ballast. It was, in fact, the “best part of the entire system.”

After two years of rebuilding the entire section, why, in October, 1973, did “the trains start falling off the track,” as Bill Brodsky pointed out, “31 derailments in 28 days?”

The Joes had been taken off as motive power for a “trial” for the month of October, 1973. The timing looked ... like that HAD to have something to do with it. Dynamometer car 5000 went up and down the Avery Hill, trying to find out ... why? It couldn’t be the “track,” that was virtually brand-new, and the heaviest rail on the system. Locotrol? Well, it had been in use; but not with those results. The Milwaukee put their best people on it. That didn’t include Mark Meyer for reasons known only to Groucho Marx.

It was a mystery. Excellent track. New rebuild. But why “October, 1973?”

Milwaukee had taken delivery of the new 4,750 cu ft PS-2 covered hopper grain cars over the summer. A newer, higher capacity design, those were the “America’s Resourceful Railroad” cars. Still a “100 ton car,” the new cars were distinctive by the extra 250 cu yds of grain they could carry. They began arriving in August, 1973.

They began moving “West” – previously most railroad wheat moved East – after the Russian grain deal in the Fall of 1973. October was harvest season.

The ominous, unknown flaw? The extra capacity had been added “up top.” As did several railroads that experienced the same problem, those particular cars were particularly susceptible to “harmonic rock,” AND, the exacerbated transition differential between the 4" inches of brand new crushed quartzite ballast from BN’s Clinton facility. To maintain the clearances for the tri-level Autoracks, new ballast had not been added to the tunnel floors.

The new PS-2 4750 Covered Hopper cars, just arriving at the Milwaukee, then, had three distinct features; 1) the cars measured 57ft. 4in. over strikers and 45ft. 9in. between truck centers, 2) the added capacity had been added on the new PS-2 design “up top” making those cars more “top heavy” than their predecessors, and 3) they were encountering the results of a virtually complete rebuilding that exacerbated the transition between 4" of brand new quartzite ballast, and the lowered tunnel floors resulting from the 1961 auto-rack capacity project. Now, those new PS-2 Hopper Cars were giving the same problems to all the railroads that had them: harmonic rock, wherever they operated over standard length jointed rail. On the Milwaukee, that problem was significantly exacerbated by the artificial transitions between the new ballast and the tunnel floors. The “problem” was so widespread and severe, that AAR commissioned a formal study of it.  

  “Track-train dynamics Harmonic Roll Series Torsional and Flexural Car Stiffness Characteristics”

https://railroads.dot.gov/sites/fra.dot.gov/files/fra_net/18364/Harmonic_Roll_Vol4.pdf

And, on the Avery Hill, there were three key factors: the lowered tunnel floors from the 1961 increase in tunnel capacity had installed transitional rail entering and leaving the tunnels. A train entering a modified tunnel would pass through a grade transition, and then another one when leaving the tunnel.

That series of prolems, on virtually brand-new track, exacerbated a problem occuring eveywhere with those specific cars, only on jointed, 39 foot rail sections, that created the harmonic with the specific 45'9" centers of those cars. And, as the Milwaukee finally discovered after extensive dynamometer tests, that harmonic existed only at certain track speeds, which happened to be the standard speed of the diesel-electric powered trains on the Avery Hill. Change the speed? Problem solved. But, related to that "change in speed" was a specific motive power problem. The heavy trains carrying the new grain cars were ... Locotrol. As the X-5000 Dynamometer Car observed, with the tunnels and curvature on the Avery Hill, the Locotrol units were losing contact with the head end units. They were attempting to work at different speeds. Wham! Derailment on curve!

But, then reread Mark Meyer’s explanation. Yet another key point that he not only “got wrong,” but out of sheer ignorance, got entirely backwards.

As usual. Reading the American Association of Railroads' research report on precisely that issue will add additional illumination.

Brand new railcars, new design, virtually brand new heavy rail, change in motive power, what could possibly go wrong? Mark Meyer will try and tell you! AAR's evaluation is far more useful.

Best regards, Michael Sol

TRR
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Posted by TRR on Tuesday, June 15, 2021 10:04 PM

Mark Meyer: "Mr. Sol's "expertise" is debatable.   On the website indicated and elsewhere, one will find his treatises on the Milwaukee Road.  Specific to the Olympian Hiawatha, one of his claims is especially entertaining from the "American Rails" website: "From these numbers it is clear to see that despite what you may have previously read or understood about Milwaukee's Northwest flagship, the railroad was far more efficient than its competitors with transcontinental rail service."

A representative example. I never wrote that about the Olympian Hiawatha. Someone else did. A complete fabrication.

However, from "that source," any remarks about "expertise" have their own, comic, value! Big Smile

TRR
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Posted by TRR on Tuesday, June 15, 2021 9:19 PM

Mark Meyer: "There is no evidence that taking over the UP “Cities” streamliners was profitable over the life of the contract (15.5 years), especially when one considers the millions of dollars of required upgrades, and the lack of freight business garnered."

Since Mark Meyer actually knows nothing about any of this, his endless speculation is both interesting and entertaining.

However, we DO know, from internal studies, that the Union Pacific contract with the Milwaukee was profitable, and I can point directly to an internal study that says so, and by how much, courtesy of Milt Clark, a neighbor and good friend who actually had long experience at the Milwaukee Road.

"Report of Committee on Possible Mergers of Union Pacific -- Rock Island -- Southen Pacific Railroads, May 3, 1963."

"B. Passenger Train Operation. The so-called "City" trains are presently being operated jointly with the Union Pncific and the Southern Pacific by the Milwaukee betweon Chicago and Omaha. These operations are covered by a oontract which provides for a one-year termination notice from either party. As shown in the following Table IX, during the year 1962 the Milwaukee realized a net gain of $1,604,086 based on out-of-pocket expenses in the operation of the City trains between Chicago and Omaha. Revenues on these trains were $5,590,478, and out-of-pocket operating expenses were $3,986,392. If the Union Pacific were to acquire its own line into Chicago, it ispresumed that the City trains would be transferren to that line. The result will be an annual loss of $1,604,086 to the Milwaukee based on 1962 operations."  P. 21.

https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/PostWar/1963MergerCommitteeReport.pdf

To the next pretext: Mark Meyer: "Thank you, by the way, for having these public documents available at your website.  Most helpful in showing why the Lines West is no more, and this is one of the best examples.  I never said there wasn’t a plan."

Actually, you did. It was characteristic, a mistake, blatant, no acknowledgement of that.

In fact, between 1968 and 1977 the Milwaukee Road's Lines East, in concert with all other Midwest railroads, lost 35% of its traffic, mostly high revenue. During that same time period, despite the completion of the Interstate Highway System, Milwaukee Road Lines West gained 41% in traffic, virtually all high revenue, long haul.

Mark Meyer: “Unfortunately, observation of car counts and number of trains is only anecdotal unless the profit margin is known.... i doubt that actual data on this is available, and really, I suspect it never was.”

That was a false statement. There was  abundant data available, but Mark Meyer was simply unaware of it. Lends great strength to credibility, right? Sad

And, here it is, in the "Application to Abandon," filed by Milwaukee Road, specifically, Appendix K. Now, that Mark Meyer was unaware of that is not exceptional. Why should he be? And why should he know anything about the Milwaukee Road? Railroad history and economics was never his railroad job, nor part of his education, as far as the his own statements concede, he knows nothing about it.

And Appendix K was controversial. When first submitted, it showed heavy losses for Lines West. Well, that made sense if they were trying to abandon it. But, the ICC's Office of Rail Public Counsel -- which had been set up to safeguard the "public's interest" in railroad matters -- through their auditor, David Smith, found out, "oops," the Milwaukee had been able to show losses ONLY by double-entering expenses. In that fashion, and after that correction, Appendix K showed ... profitability, right through 1977.

In fact, that data was known, and was testified to, again under oath, by genuine experts (i.e. people that actually knew something about it. None of them were named “Mark Meyer.”) As I have noted, their testimony was contained in the Application to Abandon, which I have freely made avaible to everyone, including Mark Meyer. He denies the “information is available.’ In fact, it was not only available, it had a name: “Appendix K” the “Application to Abandon.

 https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Bankruptcy/ApplicationtoAbandonLinesWestFullDocument.pdf

"We" knew for a fact that Lines East, Milwaukee Road was losing its shirt, along with all Midwestern Railroads (that's why it was called, the "Midwest Rail Crisis," leading to the 3R and 4R Acts) while Lines West was one of the few success stories of 1970s railroading. "Rock Island Line Files for Reorganization," New York Times, March 18, 1975.

https://www.nytimes.com/1975/03/18/archives/rock-island-line-files-for-reorganization-plans-to-terminate-its.html

At the ICC Hearings for the Northern Lines merger, the Northern Lines testified as follows:

"Anticipated improvements in freight schedules are based mainly on the consolidation of terminal facilities at common points and the use of the shortest of most efficient internal routes available to the unified company. Applicants indicate that the New Company would establish through transcontinental freight routes over the shortest available lines and the most favorable grades. Appli­cants gave numerous examples of improved freight schedules that could be established following consummation of the mergers. For example, applicants indicated that the fastest schedule of the Great Northern from Seattle to Chicago would be reduced by the New Company from 94 hours and 15 minutes to 82 hours and 30 minutes or 11 hours-~d45 minutes faster than the present schedule. The fastest transcontinental eastbound train of the Northern Pacific leaves Seattle at 9:00 p. m. and arrives Chicago 12:15 p. m. on the 5th day, a total elapsed time of 97 hours and 15 minutes. After unification, the departure time would beE':30 p.m. and arrival time at Chicago would be 10:30 a.m. on the morning of the 8th day, a total elapsed time of 84 hours, or 13 hours less than present schedule" 328 ICC 474 (1966)

https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/ICC/NothernLinesDecision1966.pdf

At that time, on that date, the Milwaukee was running #261 on a 55 hour schedule, and #262 on a 59 hour schedule. The ICC denied the merger. The Northern Lines panicked. Absolutely panicked. And, just a glance at what was happening to, for instance, the Northern Pacific shows why. It was in full "failure" mode, and all of its land grants had been tied up, ultimately for the duration of J.P. Morgan's "NP Bonds" -- 100 years. They HAD TO HAVE THAT MERGER! In desperation, the Northern Lines Merger Committee quickly agreed to the Milwaukee Road's proposed conditions. Warren Ploeger had put together those conditions in his Seattle Office, as Western General Counsel. They were designed to transform the West, and they did.

Operating Ratio Comparison, Milwaukee Road, Northern Pacific

Actually you did say there was no plan, that no one stepped forward with one, and no one had any proposal. That claim was another complete fabrication. At the insistence of the general public, shippers, employees and the States, the Milwaukee Railroad Restructuring Act provided explicity for the creation of an umbrella organization to represent those interests. http://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Bankruptcy/MilwaukeeRoadRestructuringAct.pdf

Another Mark Meyer allegation "bites the dust."

The Plan was detailed. The Chair was Paul Schmechel, a friend of mine, who was President of the Montana Power Company, and of the Western Energy Company. The President was Bill Brodsky, who had been on the plannng staff at the Milwaukee, knew it well, and later was the founding President of Montana Rail Link. His able assistant was Fred Simpson, who was also on the Milwaukee's planning staff and who confronted Trustee Stanley Hill who had asserted, early on, that the "Pacific Extension must go."

Simpson pushed back. That was NOT what the "numbers said." Hillman just sat there. Few people dared to challenge Stanley E.G. Hillman. At one point the Company joke was the the "E.G." stood for "Everything Goes!" But, confronted, Hillman just sat there. Finally, he mumbled "Better minds than yours have looked at this!" By whom he meant Worthington Smith and Paul Cruikshank. Simpson got up, walked out the door, and returned to Bainbridge Island to practice law.

To his credit, and his own dismay, when Hillman got his "outside studies" back, he saw that Simpson had been correct. Hillman ruefully, but publicly, conceded, "It turns out that the Milwaukee Road is a relatively wealthy company!" And, for the most part, stopped speaking to WLS and PFC. The way PFC phrased it to me was "Mr. Hillman became difficult to work with." I'll bet he did! But it was too late to turn back the Pacific Extension abandonment. Hillman got an ulcer and promptly quit.

The ICC had observed, in its ultimate 1968 approval of the Burlington Northern Merger, that "the elimination of intercarrier routing barriers and the strengthening of Milwaukee were sin qua non elements in our approval of the merger." 348 ICC 132. "Spokane, Portland and Seattle -- Control" July 28, 1975.

The traffic shifts were dramatic.

 There is a documented, well-developed record available. That's not Mark Meyer's "thing." He has other motivations, and they corrode and corrupt whatever "it is" he thinks he "needs" to stir in to avoid that detailed documentation.

The Final Proposed Reorganization Plan, that Meyer denied existed, can be found here. http://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Bankruptcy/NewMilwaukeeLines.pdf

They had four weeks to put the thing together, and, frankly, did a yeoman job of it. But, it was not enough. As Tom Ploss pointed out, "for the first time, the ICC established a required prediction of profitability exceeding 10%." Only one railroad in the country met that brand-new criteria. The Chair if the ICC, Darius Gaskins, conceded to Bill Brodsky, that "It was the most difficult decision we had to make while I was at the ICC."

Gaskins later became CEO of the Burlington Northern.

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Friday, June 4, 2021 10:11 AM
 

TRR
All of the passenger services on the Northern Tier lost money. That was, recall, the argument behind creating Amtrak in the first place. The Northern Pacific, running the route comparable to the Milwaukee Olympian Hiawatha, was losing $2 million a year. The ICC, rejecting an NP plea to abandon half of its transcontinental passenger services said "Nope! You're not losing ENOUGH!" "NP, Discontinuance of Trains," Finance Docket 25718, Interstate Commerce Commission.
 

The argument behind creating Amtrak was keeping passenger service. If not for some behind the scenes palyers. Amtrak would not be in existence today.. Most of Nixons staff didn't care about passenger service. They were banking on subsidized air transport and buses..

 
 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Friday, June 4, 2021 1:09 AM

wjstix

In the summer of 1973 (when I was 14) I went with my folks on a car trip from the Twin Cities to Seattle. As I recall, at the Montana border it noted that Montana didn't have speed limits - and soon thereafter, the interstate became a gravel road!  

Oh, come on, it wasn't that bad.  The Montana portion was paved - all two lanes of it!  And Montana DID have a speed limit: "Reasonable and prudent."

https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a14511978/montana-was-once-the-last-bastion-of-hot-nasty-bad-ass-speed-feature/

"Reasonable and prudent" was a Catch-22 law, and actually could work both ways.  After it was reinstated in 1995, I recall meeting a Highway Patrolman on a two-lane road north of Great Falls doing 92 MPH on a clear day with dry pavement.  Didn't get stopped.  But that next winter, a friend who was driving a crew van for the railroad on a Forest Service road in Northwest Montana had the vehicle slide into the ditch after she was stopped - it was THAT icy.  She was subsequently ticketed for going "faster than the conditions allowed."

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, June 3, 2021 10:39 AM

Vermontanan2
Obviously, Interstate Highways were more developed in the East earlier than in places like Montana, but they were coming. By 1969, I-94/I-90 was just about complete across North Dakota and much of Minnesota, about a third of Montana and nearly all of Washington; by 1979 it was complete just about the entire way from Chicago to Seattle, except for a few short stretches in Montana, and the well-known holdouts at Wallace, Idaho and east of Coeur d’Alene.

In the summer of 1973 (when I was 14) I went with my folks on a car trip from the Twin Cities to Seattle. As I recall, at the Montana border it noted that Montana didn't have speed limits - and soon thereafter, the interstate became a gravel road!  

Stix
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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Wednesday, June 2, 2021 6:25 PM
wjstix
OK, I'm missing something here....
The Milwaukee Road's western extension was making money hand over fist right up until it was abandoned?
GN-NP-CB&Q-SP&S, with all their traffic, natural resources (timber, iron ore, etc.), were on the edge of total collapse c. 1968 if they hadn't merged? They tried merging for more than half a century before that, from what I've seen/heard/read they were doing OK in the 1960's I thought?
You’re not missing a thing.  You’re in touch with historical reality.
You can learn a lot from just observing employee timetables from the 1970s.
Here’s a Milwaukee timetable from 1974 at the supposed height of the traffic boom when the railroad was running 3 or 4 trains per day:
Even by 1974, the main line from St. Maries, Idaho to Marengo, Washington was speed restricted to 40 MPH.  Granted, this was not a huge deal since most of the route included the Plummer-to-Marengo segment which was dark, but it indicates a deteriorated physical plant.
As a point of reference, here’s a similar Milwaukee timetable from 1977.  More speed-restricted main line track, of course, but you can get a better idea of the operational characteristics of the railroad because the siding lengths are given in feet rather than just “cars.”
Here are some 1970 employee timetables for Burlington Northern right after the merger:
 
 
All the timetables cover the territory from Montana, Idaho and Washington.
Here are some corresponding special instructions:
Note that track speed for the BN trains is generally 60 to 65 MPH, whereas the for the Milwaukee 40 to 55 MPH, dropping to no more than 50 MPH by 1977.
On the BN’s Northern Transcontinental from the North Dakota border to Seattle, all track is CTC with power switches or double track, with the exception of Sandpoint to Spokane via Newport and Spokane to Lamona.  The Sandpoint-Spokane section was not CTC’d in anticipation of using the preferred Northern Pacific line between the two cities after the connections were built in the early 1970s.  The ex-NP main line from Billings to Sandpoint is similarly signaled, except between DeSmet (Missoula) and Paradise where there are two routes.
The Milwaukee Road main line, on the other hand, is nearly all single track ABS with the aforementioned dark territory from Plummer to Marengo.  No power switches or spring switches. 
Nearly all the sidings on the BN transcontinental main line are 7,000 feet or longer, and many much longer.  (And by this time, a 7,000-foot train was commonplace.)  On the Milwaukee main, they’re few and far-between, and there were NONE between Othello and Black River.  Short sidings, and the lack of power switches are just two indications of how the Milwaukee was ill-equipped going forward into the era of ever-longer trains and no cabooses.
TRR

Milwaukee's high value traffic surge began in 1968 with the Kent Auto Facility, which virtually cornered that market, and then with the Stacy Street Intermodel Facility, which captured the bulk of THAT business. THEN, the merger conditions began their benefits 1-2 years LATER. Because of the explosion of high priority business, two things happened, the XL Special had increased from one train per day to two, and the tonnage limits on each of those trains had increased from 3,000 tons to 5,000 tons, AND they were inserted into a matrix that also included an ADDITIONAL section of the eastbound #262, which had also had their tonnage limits increased from 3,000 tons to 5,000 tons.  Had the tonnage limits NOT increased, Milwaukee would have required THREE sections of #261 and three sections of #262 each day. Not to mention that the former "Hotshots," #263 and #264, ALSO began running multiple sections on their former "Hotshot" schedules.

It’s interesting that Mr. Sol thinks this is a big deal, when it actually shows the inherent weakness of the Milwaukee Road.  The 3,000-ton XL Special (operated at 3.0 horsepower per ton) was an exceptionally small train with an exceptionally large amount of locomotive power, but necessary for a train operating on a demanding profile with a slow track speed.  But even a 5,000-ton train was not considered large (at least by Burlington Northern standards), though such a train was in some cases at or over the trailing tonnage limit for some of the Milwaukee’s steep grades. 

At the peak of these multiple-section “Hotshot” schedules on the Milwaukee (even though they were slowed significantly in 1972, while BN maintained their faster trains), frequency was three to four trains daily each way.  Starting in 1974, Burlington Northern began publishing “for information only” (as in they had no timetable authority) freight train schedules in its timetables.  Here are some links:

 

It’s interesting to note that while 3-4 trains smallish trains on the Milwaukee is considered something significant by some, Burlington Northern scheduled five trains westbound (3, 81, 83, 97, 197) and 7 eastbound (4, 80, 82, 88, 90, 172, and 182) on its Northern Transcontinental line.  Not all these trains operated daily, but most did (train 90 was actually very rare, but extra sections of other trains as well as extra symbols were commonplace).  Also, many of the intradivisional trains are not shown (such as the train from Laurel to Whitefish, which could continue all the way to Spokane or beyond).  All things considered, 7 to 8 trains each direction was not uncommon, and BN was also operating 3 to 4 trains daily each way on the ex-NP line east of Sandpoint.  Additionally, BN was generating 1 to 4 trains daily along the coast line from Vancouver, BC to Portland moving tonnage to and from the SP interchange at Portland or the WP interchange at Bieber, California.  Given the day of the week, BN was dispatching 12 to 15 trains daily from the Seattle and Portland divisions. 

Meanwhile at Union Pacific, they were operating on average four trains daily east from Portland:
 
I wasn’t able to find schedules on what the SP was operating south from Portland, but it’s logical to conclude that if BN could gather two trains’ worth of tonnage daily, the SP – with its substantial local traffic in the Willamette Valley, as well as interchange from BN and even some from the MILW – would operate three or more (especially considering they also handled long-haul east traffic at the time on their Modoc line).
 
Given what the BN, UP, and SP were operating out of the Pacific Northwest, it’s obvious that the Milwaukee’s 3 or 4 trains (at its apex) were inconsequential.  While historically speaking, the Milwaukee handled only 14-15% of the total “transcontinental” traffic moved by the GN, MILW, and NP, train count by itself does not specifically determine the amount of traffic handled on each route, but considering that the Milwaukee’s route across the Northern Tier was vastly inferior to grade and profile (and therefore trailing tonnage limit at each major hill), the likelihood that each Milwaukee train would be smaller than the corresponding BN train is high.
 
Putting all things in perspective, it’s truly ironic – and perhaps even sad – that the Milwaukee saw the discontinuance of the Olympian Hiawatha as an “opportunity” to run its XL Special on its 55.5-hour schedule in that it was something only achievable by ridding itself of passenger trains (at least over most of the route).  Given that only 1 or 2 trains per day were being operated to begin with, this is a ringing endorsement of the inferiority of the route in general, and more so when the traffic increased in 1972 and, instead of meeting the challenged, succumbed to an increase in traffic and lengthened its schedules.
 
Meanwhile at the competition, Great Northern was still operating two passenger trains daily each way when it matched the XL Special’s running time in early 1968, as well as a local Spokane-Seattle mail/express train.  Near the beginning of Amtrak in 1971, Burlington Northern morphed the longstanding mail and express business on its Western Star passenger train (the Fast Mail business it had held for most of the century) into the Pacific Zip on yet a faster schedule, while still handling all its other traffic and a daily Amtrak passenger train over most of its route.  By 1976, BN even added a true “Hotshot” train from Chicago to Portland (train 23) which made the trip in 53 hours,
 
 
Rather than some kind of operating coup, the saga of the XL Special was the perfect representation of the vast inferiority of the Milwaukee Road in that its infrastructure was not only not properly maintained, but rarely improved.  And when other traffic developed, the “Hotshot” cooled off to the point of total disappearance.  Meanwhile at GN-NP/BN, UP, UP-SI-CP, SP – and even CP and CN to a certain extent - their physical plant grew and matured with the times, and enabled them to get AND KEEP the traffic – maybe not forever, but indeed, so far.
 
So, no, the BN was not “on the edge of total collapse” nor anywhere close as operating profiles and timetables prove.  But there was one railroad that was, and is no more because of it. 
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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Wednesday, June 2, 2021 12:11 AM
TRR
And, of course, belying all of Mr. Meyer's huffing and puffing, he still fails to explain why Milwaukee Road stock ultimately returned a substantially higher value to its owners than BN stock ever did. Or why Lou Menk "got the boot" there. Or why BN ended up with a 95% Operating Ratio.
Questions, questions!
 
Actually, no one is asking these questions because either no one cares, or they understand context, which is lost on some.  Stock value of course depends on many aspects of a corporation including how it is diversified.
From a railroad perspective, a 95% operating ratio trumps abandonment every time.  From a legacy perspective, BN (and Menk who after BN led International Harvester) will be remembered as a success, building thousands of miles of track to increase capacity to accommodate a huge coal demand becoming (by far) the country’s number one bulk commodity carrier as a prelude to buying ATSF and creating today’s BNSF.  Contrast this to the legacy of the Milwaukee Road Pacific Extension, fading into greater irrelevancy with each passing day…..

--Mark Meyer

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Wednesday, June 2, 2021 12:10 AM
TRR

The Union Pacific "did not" see that passenger traffic had become hugely unprofitable? It was the entire point of railroad lobbying for Amtrak, or something like it, during the 1960s. The Milwaukee saw it clearly by 1955 and exploited the "situation" to ... "get out," and not only continue to provide the same passenger service to key locations out West, but add locations, AND turn a profit.

There is no evidence that taking over the UP “Cities” streamliners was profitable over the life of the contract (15.5 years), especially when one considers the millions of dollars of required upgrades, and the lack of freight business garnered.  That the number of UP passenger trains were “so profitable” that the number was slashed by 50% in the first 5 years of operation due to declining ridership notwithstanding, the real question is whether the Milwaukee would have still received the same amount of interchange at Council Bluffs (1 to 3 trains per day) if they HADN’T spent all those millions on passenger trains.  Odds are, they would have, and their route (prior to the upgrade) could have handled it.  Even if there was evidence of passenger train profitability over the entire 15.5 years (unlikely, since this wasn’t most other places in the country), the Milwaukee likely would have been better off without spending those millions.  And if the Milwaukee “saw it clearly” by 1955 (the year that it added nearly 6,000 passenger train miles a day between Chicago and Omaha), why did service to Podunk places like Champion, MI (1968), Aberdeen SD (1969), and Wausau, WI (1970) continue for so long?
TRR

Milwaukee's high value traffic surge began in 1968 with the Kent Auto Facility, which virtually cornered that market, and then with the Stacy Street Intermodel Facility, which captured the bulk of THAT business. THEN, the merger conditions began their benefits 1-2 years LATER. Because of the explosion of high priority business, two things happened, the XL Special had increased from one train per day to two, and the tonnage limits on each of those trains had increased from 3,000 tons to 5,000 tons, AND they were inserted into a matrix that also included an ADDITIONAL section of the eastbound #262, which had also had their tonnage limits increased from 3,000 tons to 5,000 tons.

Yes, Michael, we all know this if for no other reason than this is probably the third time you have stated this in this thread.  1968 was also the year that CB&Q/GN matched the XL Special schedule and was limited to 5500 tons east of Wenatchee, including Portland traffic, which – like most places in the Pacific Northwest and Canadian Southwest – the Milwaukee had little of because they didn’t go there or their route was even worse than their main line. 

TRR

Had the tonnage limits NOT increased, Milwaukee would have required THREE sections of #261 and three sections of #262 each day. Not to mention that the former "Hotshots," #263 and #264, ALSO began running multiple sections on their former "Hotshot" schedules.

It is totally impressive that Mr. Sol seems to be so impressed by Railroading 101.  Uh…yeah – you increase the size of the train and you run fewer trains.  Of course there is a down side, and that was lengthening of the schedule in 1972 when these Milwaukee “hotshots” were all slower than multiple BN trains on the same route.  The salient point is:  That when the Milwaukee gained some business, it didn’t have the resources and infrastructure to maintain the business – it lost it all.  Sustainability is what matters, and the Milwaukee never could do it.

The constant repeating by Mr. Sol of the short-lived “fastest schedule” of the XL Special and equally-limited duration of “all the traffic out of the port of Seattle” (or whatever the percentage claim…doesn’t matter) reminds me of driving around in a lot of rural America.  One often sees signs entering a decaying town declaring “Class C State Basketball Champions 1971” even though that was 50 years ago, they hadn’t won another state title since, and the school closed and students bused to the former arch rival’s school.  But you don’t get to keep on claiming you’re the state champion unless you win in subsequent other years.  And when your community became so weak that your school ceased to exist, you’re an entity most no longer even acknowledge. 

By the way, “hotshot” 263 was a day slower than “hotshot” 261 by 1972.

TRR
An inexplicable deceit. Milwaukee Road specifically retained passenger service to Butte, Spokae, Seattle, and Tacoma AND added transcontinental passenger service to Portland, San Francisco, Denver and Los Angeles. That is not speculation. That has been documented on this thread,
True, but it’s only been documented by Michael Sol, and is only speculation on his part.  I challenge anyone to produce actual Milwaukee Road documentation of any link between the 1955 “Cities” fiasco and the 1961 discontinuance of the Olympian Hiawatha.  There is none.
But, if you insist on thinking that boarding the Union Pacific “Butte Special” at the Northern Pacific station in Butte and riding to Pocatello where one would board (no through cars, of course) the UP “City of Portland” in the middle of the night only to arrive in Chicago on a trip 8 hours longer than the Olympian Hiawatha between these cities (Butte and Chicago), then so be it.  But if that’s comparable to the Olympian Hiawatha, your opinion of the latter is obviously not favorable.
Same for Spokane, Seattle, and Tacoma.  Through service on the Olympian Hiawatha, but not on the UP: Longer, no through cars, and inferior onboard amenities.  But have it your way….  Just as good!
TRR
Mark Meyer: "And the Milwaukee did it that way because six sets of equipment was a necessity for their limited operation.  The other railroads were not as restricted, and therefore didn’t have to do it."
If anyone has any idea what that is supposed to mean, good for you! Limited operation? The Milwaukee Road was a far larger provider of rail passenger services than GN and, especially, NP.
But not west of the Twin Cities, where the Olympian Hiawatha was the ONLY passenger train on the Milwaukee Road starting in 1957.  That the Milwaukee in 1961 was running seven trains daily between Chicago and Milwaukee, three trains to Omaha, two to Madison, locals throughout Wisconsin and Michigan and Chicago commuter service didn’t help the equipment utilization situation at Tacoma.  One train in, and one train out, and with shorter turnaround time than the competition and zero equipment substitution options, the hapless Milwaukee Road was forced to keep an extra set of equipment in rotation, and the expense associated with it.
TRR
If you were aware, and you obviously are not, you would have been aware of the terms and conditions of the Milwaukee Railroad Restructuring Act. On November 4, 1979, President Carter signed into law the Milwaukee Railroad Restructuring Act, which provided that an association composed of representatives of labor, employee coalitions, and shippers could submit to the Interstate Commerce Commission a proposal to convert the Milwaukee Road into an employee or an employee-shipper owned company. And that was the designated entity that "had the wherewithal to save the Lines West." Ignorance of that does not lend credibility to the false claim.  In response, shippers, employees, state agencies, and the Federal Government (through USDA) did, in fact, step forward with such a plan.
Thank you, by the way, for having these public documents available at your website.  Most helpful in showing why the Lines West is no more, and this is one of the best examples.  I never said there wasn’t a plan, I said there wasn’t one with the wherewithal to save the Pacific Extension, and since this plan was rejected, and the Pacific Extension was largely abandoned, this is irrefutable. 
 
The ICC didn’t think it was a good plan, as did many others.  Nor did anyone with the money to keep the railroad afloat.  As Fred Simpson said, “If any group comes in with money, they can get approval” [to buy the railroad].  They didn’t.
 
The many flaws in the plan are pretty obvious, notably the unrealistic traffic growth, expecting to steal business from the competition with superior infrastructure, and no money to upgrade the Milwaukee’s inferior infrastructure.  The document touts grain movements to Columbia River ports, which the Milwaukee served so poorly, as well as “bright” future for coal movements even though Lines West had only one on-line coal mine and didn’t have access to the lone coal port in the region.  Additionally, the only coal mine along the route produced lignite (it closed in 1995), which is has the lowest heat value of any coal, and is not sufficiently valuable to ship long distances (the Gascoyne-to-Big Stone City train run by the Milwaukee and later BN was probably the longest run in the country; lignite is mostly used where the power plant is nearby).  It should also be noted that the coal near Roundup didn’t get tapped by rail for 30 years, and has since mostly been shipped for export (and again, the Milwaukee had no access to the port) because it is bituminous coal – not sub-bituminous, preferred for power generation in the United States.  Just a couple additional examples that likely rolled eyes at places like the DOT and ICC.
 
Having a plan does not equate to execution, especially without buy-in from the necessary parties.
TRR

At the end of the day, as the Milwaukee was forced (by the ICC Office of Rail Public Counsel) to admit that the Milwaukee Road's Pacific Extension (without including the Overhead traffic) was profitable.

We know that as an actual fact, offered under oath.

1975 System Net Operating Income $(8,834,000)

1975 Lines West Net Operating Income $10,580,767

1975 System Net Operating Income without Lines West $(19,415.000)

At the end of the day, 1975 is one year.  This versus decades of deteriorating infrastructure and failure to upgrade infrastructure.  Of course, in the end, these failures did the Milwaukee in, but in the interim, they could produce positive operating income numbers.  It wasn’t the right thing to do from an efficiency or sustainability standpoint, but it did temporarily bolster the bottom line because it was money that should have been – but wasn’t – spent.  Estimates of cost of decayed infrastructure are all over the map but end at several hundred million dollars (noted in the DOT and ICC statements and elsewhere).  Distribute these costs over time, and it’s easy to see a meager $10.6 million “profit” vanish into maintenance, not to mention upgrading the infrastructure to ensure sustainability which EVERY ONE of the railroads competing with the Milwaukee on the Midwest-to-Pacific Northwest route did, but the Milwaukee did not – rather could not - do.

--Mark Meyer

TRR
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Posted by TRR on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 4:07 PM

And, of course, belying all of Mr. Meyer's huffing and puffing, he still fails to explain why Milwaukee Road stock ultimately returned a substantially higher value to its owners than BN stock ever did. Or why Lou Menk "got the boot" there. Or why BN ended up with a 95% Operating Ratio.

Questions, questions!

TRR
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Posted by TRR on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 1:54 PM
Ver Montana: "NONE of this is true, nor is any of it anything but speculation without any documentation to support.  Again, reiterating: It’s interesting that “transcontinental passenger rail service was doomed to be unprofitable,” but evidently only on the Milwaukee Road – but not on the Union Pacific?  Unlikely indeed."

This is simply false. The facts are well-documented, and those facts may simply not be understood by someone with zero economic expertise, and even less actual knowledge of the Milwaukee Road.

The comment above doesn't even make sense. The Union Pacific "did not" see that passenger traffic had  become hugely unprofitable? It was the entire point of railroad lobbying for Amtrak, or something like it, during the 1960s. The Milwaukee saw it clearly by 1955 and exploited the "situation" to ... "get out," and not only continue to provide the same passenger service to key locations out West, but add locations, AND turn a profit.

Just "stupid people," right? Not nearly as smart about railroad economics as somebdy who has no background or experience in such issues. Sad

Mark Meyer: "By 1972 – when the Milwaukee was in its temporary traffic increase as a result of the BN merger – the schedule of the XL Special from Chicago to Tacoma had been lengthened from 56.5 hours to 66 hours and was averaging 72 hours."

As usual, Mr. Meyer leaves out the part that he does not know. Milwaukee's high value traffic surge began in 1968 with the Kent Auto Facility, which virtually cornered that market, and then with the Stacy Street Intermodel Facility, which captured the bulk of THAT business. THEN, the merger conditions began their benefits 1-2 years LATER. Because of the explosion of high priority business, two things happened, the XL Special had increased from one train per day to two, and the tonnage limits on each of those trains had increased from 3,000 tons to 5,000 tons, AND they were inserted into a matrix that also included an ADDITIONAL section of the eastbound #262, which had also had their tonnage limits increased from 3,000 tons to 5,000 tons.

Had the tonnage limits NOT increased, Milwaukee would have required THREE sections of #261 and three sections of #262 each day. Not to mention that the former "Hotshots," #263 and #264, ALSO began running multiple sections on their former "Hotshot" schedules. Does Mr. Meyer know ANY of that?

There is no evidence that he does.

TRR

Why did Milwaukee "want out?" Probably for the same reasons that everybody else did, except that Milwaukee managed to find a way to preserve "most" of its service and turn that into a profitable operation. It's UP Contract was, in fact, profitable.
 

 Mark Meyer: "Again, not true.  The service was simply discontinued.  Gone was any through service over ANY Milwaukee Road trackage from Chicago to Seattle or Tacoma or Spokane, not to mention from Minneapolis/St. Paul."

An inexplicable deceit. Milwaukee Road specifically retained passenger service to Butte, Spokae, Seattle, and Tacoma AND added transcontinental passenger service to Portland, San Francisco, Denver and Los Angeles. That is not speculation. That has been documented on this thread, but Mr. Meyer prefers the unreality of his critique, for which he is obsessed, without any particular reason to even have an interest, except a personal one that predates even his obsession with the Milwaukee Road. Cf, his obsession with the supposed inferiority complex of NP railfans.
Mark Meyer: "The Milwaukee’s timing was 55.5 hours for the XL Special.  Great Northern/Burlington matched it with train 97 in 1968, and bested it with a 50-hour schedule in 1971.  And they did it with larger trains due to a superior profile, and while still operating more freight trains and existing passenger trains.  They did it easily, as they did with passenger and mail service."
 Well, I have already cited the specific testimony given to the ICC about what the Northern Lines "thought" they could accomplish by the merger -- the conditions that the ICC rejected in 1966. Relying on THEIR testimony may or may not a useful metric, but it would be laughable if they could not, under oath, be believed! Smile It is an interesting response to their sworn testimony when they run into Mark Meyer, claiming "LIES! ALL LIES!"
TRR
And, six full sets of equipment compared to GN's and NP's sets of five (delaying departure turnarounds in Seattle). Nobody did that better.
Mark Meyer: "And the Milwaukee did it that way because six sets of equipment was a necessity for their limited operation.  The other railroads were not as restricted, and therefore didn’t have to do it."
If anyone has any idea what that is supposed to mean, good for you! Limited operation? The Milwaukee Road was a far larger provider of rail passenger services than GN and, especially, NP.
Mark Meyer: "Actually, the question is:  If these Milwaukee lines were such powerhouse money-making entities, why did no one with the wherewithal to save them, do so?"
If you were aware, and you obviously are not, you would have been aware of the terms and conditions of the Milwaukee Railroad Restructuring Act. On November 4, 1979, President Carter signed into law the Milwaukee Railroad Restructuring Act, which provided that an association composed of representatives of labor, employee coalitions, and shippers could submit to the Interstate Commerce Commission a proposal to convert the Milwaukee Road into an employee or an employee-shipper owned company. And that was the designated entity that "had the wherewithal to save the Lines West." Ignorance of that does not lend credibility to the false claim.
https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Bankruptcy/MilwaukeeRoadRestructuringAct.pdf
In response, shippers, employees, state agencies, and the Federal Government (through USDA) did, in fact, step forward with such a plan. Another of Mr. Meyer's completely false claims "bites the dust." https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Bankruptcy/NewMilwaukeeLines.pdf

Mark Meyer: "Another “authentic rail executive” (and many other titles, such as Secretary of Defense) was W. Graham Claytor Jr., who, while Acting Secretary of Transportation, endorsed a DOT report “that nearly two-thirds of the Milwaukee’s losses in 1977 were accounted for by its Montana, Idaho, and Washington operations.”

Claytor had been Secretary of Transportation for about six weeks when he made that statement. And the DOT report had been based on information provided by the Milwaukee Road, as contained in its initial Application to Abandon, which had to be revised after the ICC found double-entered expenses. It was false when he made it, and the subsequent accounting, provided to the ICC in the Milwaukee Road's Application to Abandon, Exhibit K, showed that to be entirely false. https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Bankruptcy/ApplicationtoAbandonLinesWestFullDocument.pdf

The continued, and somewhat frantic, postings by an individual who had nothing to do with the Milwaukee Road, with no experitse in the key areas of railroad economics, ESPECIALLY of the Milwaukee Road, lends no value to the actual historical record, and that claim illuminates "why" -- Mr. Meyer does not, in fact, know the timing, and the errors, as they were made and corrected.

At the end of the day, as the Milwaukee was forced (by the ICC Office of Rail Public Counsel) to admit that the Milwaukee Road's Pacific Extension (without including the Overhead traffic) was profitable.

We know that as an actual fact, offered under oath.

1975 System Net Operating Income $(8,834,000)

1975 Lines West Net Operating Income $10,580,767

1975 System Net Operating Income without Lines West $(19,415.000)

I have reproduced the remainder of that record previously. Exhibit K, Application to Abandon.

THAT was the source of Stanley Hillman's frustrated comment, after he got his outside studies back, before he resigned: "It turns out that the Milwaukee Road is a relatively wealthy company."

He hadn't consulted the real expert: Mark Meyer!

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, May 21, 2021 2:50 PM

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Friday, May 21, 2021 12:46 AM
TRR
Recall, in the period 1967 through 1977, the carloads on Milwaukee Road Lines East plummeted from 1,008,000 carloads to 651,866 carloads. A decline of 35%, as railroads lost their high revenue traffic to the Interstate Highway System. By contrast, traffic on Lines West grew 41%, virtually all high revenue, premium long haul traffic that Milwaukee could move faster than trucks could over the highways. And that was because Milwaukee could "outrun" the highways. Train #261 average speed through Montana was 43 mph. Trucks could not come close.
This is a curious post; Obviously, Interstate Highways were more developed in the East earlier than in places like Montana, but they were coming.  By 1969, I-94/I-90 was just about complete across North Dakota and much of Minnesota, about a third of Montana and nearly all of Washington; by 1979 it was complete just about the entire way from Chicago to Seattle, except for a few short stretches in Montana, and the well-known holdouts at Wallace, Idaho and east of Coeur d’Alene.  Using the stated logic, one could expect a similar decline in freight traffic lost to trucks as the Interstate Highway was completed across the Northern Tier.
By 1968 CB&Q and GN matched the Milwaukee schedule, and in 1971, BN introduced even a faster version and afterward enhanced its Portland trains.  And what did the Milwaukee do to compensate?  Well, in 1972, they added a significant amount of time to the XL Special’s schedule, and in the mid-1970s lowered the maximum speed over most of the route, doing nothing to enhance infrastructure (other than installing derailed equipment detectors!), whereas GN/BN continued with line changes and adding CTC.
In short, the Milwaukee’s focus on speed was short-lived and not sustained, as was business it was handling.  The Milwaukee traffic might have been high revenue, but it was also high cost – at least compared to GN/BN which operated its competing train at nearly double the tonnage with a similar amount of locomotive power as far as Spokane.  The lack of investment by the Milwaukee in this “high speed route” suggests an inadequate return.  In contrast, the GN/BN Northern Transcontinental continued to see upgrades throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
A rundown of speed on MILW/CB&Q/GN/BN after WWII across the U.S. Northern Tier to the West Coast’s primary destinations (Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, BC):  Shortest running times in bold.
1952 Passenger:
 
Chicago-Seattle:
MILW 15, 2189 miles, 45 hours, 48.64 MPH
CB&Q 49/GN 1, 2211 miles, 45 hours, 49.13 MPH
Chicago-Portland:
MILW: No service
CB&Q 49/GN 1/SP&S 1, 2261 miles, 44.5 hours, 50.8 MPH
Chicago-Vancouver, BC:
MILW: No service
CB&Q 49/GN 1/GN 356, 2351 miles, 48.33 hours, 48.64 MPH
 
1957 Passenger:
 
Chicago-Seattle:
MILW 15, 2189 miles, 44.833 hours, 48.83 MPH
CB&Q 31/GN 31, 2211 miles, 43.833 hours, 50.44 MPH
Chicago-Portland:
MILW: No service.
CB&Q 31/GN 31/SP&S 1, 2261 miles, 43.25 hours, 52.28 MPH
Chicago-Vancouver, BC:
MILW: No service
CB&Q 31/GN 31/GN 358, 2351 miles, 48 hours, 48.98 hours
 
1961 Passenger:
 
Chicago-Seattle:
MILW 15, 2189 miles, 44.916 hours, 48.73 MPH
CB&Q 25/NP 25, 2319 miles, 45.33 hours, 51.15 MPH
CB&Q 31/GN 31, 2211 miles, 42.83 hours, 51.62 MPH
Chicago-Portland:
MILW: No service
CB&Q 31/GN 31/SP&S 1, 2261 miles, 43.25 hours, 52.28 MPH
Chicago-Vancouver, BC:
MILW: No service
CB&Q 31/GN 31/GN 358, 2351 miles, 47.166 hours, 49.84 MPH
 
1964 Freight:
 
Chicago-Seattle:
MILW 261, 2174 miles, 55.5 hours, 39.17 MPH
CB&Q/GN 97, 2203 miles, 61.5 hours, 35.82 MPH
Chicago-Portland:
MILW: No service.
CB&Q 97/GN 97/SP&S 275, 2254 miles, 61.5 hours, 36.65 MPH
Chicago-Vancouver, BC:
MILW: No service.
CB&Q 97/GN 97/GN EXP, 2359 miles, 70.5 hours, 32.52 MPH
 
1968 Freight:
 
Chicago-Seattle:
MILW 261, 2174 miles, 55.5 hours, 39.17 MPH
CB&Q/GN 97, 2203 miles, 55.5 hours, 39.69 MPH.
Chicago-Portland:
MILW: No service.
CB&Q 97/GN 97/SP&S 275, 2254 miles, 57.5 hours, 39.2 MPH
Chicago-Vancouver, BC
MILW: No service.
CB&Q 97/GN 97/GN EXP, 2359 miles, 66.5 hours, 34,48 MPH
 
1971 Freight:
 
Chicago-Seattle:
MILW 261, 2174 miles, 55.5 hours, 39.17 MPH
BN 3, 2182 miles, 50 hours, 43.64 MPH
BN 97, 2182 miles, 55.5 hours, 39.32 MPH
Chicago-Portland:
MILW 261, 2326 miles, 79.5 hours, 29.25 MPH
BN 97/197, 2233 miles, 57.5 hours, 38.83 MPH
Chicago-Vancouver, BC:
MILW: No service
BN 97/BN 138, 2338 miles, 66 hours, 34.42 MPH
 
1973 Freight:
 
Chicago-Seattle:
MILW 261, 2174 miles, 66 hours, 32,94 MPH
BN 3, 2182 miles, 50 hours, 43.64 MPH
BN 97, 2182 miles, 55.5 hours, 39.32 MPH
Chicago-Portland:
MILW 261, 2326 miles, 79.5 hours, 29.25 MPH
BN 197, 2233 miles, 60.5 hours, 39.9 MPH
Chicago-Vancouver, BC:
MILW: No service
BN 97/BN 138, 2338 miles, 66 hours, 34.42 MPH
 
January 1980 Freight:  (Milwaukee no longer posting schedules)
 
Chicago-Seattle:
BN 3, 2182 miles, 55.75 hours, 39.14 MPH
BN 97, 2182 miles, 59.83 hours, 36.47 MPH
Chicago-Portland:
BN 23, 2233 miles, 55.25 hours, 40.42 MPH
BN 197, 2233 miles, 70.67 hours, 31.6 MPH
Chicago-Vancouver, BC:
BN 97/BN 184, 2272 miles, 70 hours, 32.46 MPH
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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Friday, May 21, 2021 12:27 AM
TRR
“Milwaukee Road had in excess of 76% of the Port of Seattle’s business. It had mail, it had Toyotas, it had almost all the domestic auto business westbound. It had the long ticket items we needed to build on that today are what railroads are all about." William Brodsky, Interview by Jim Scribbins, “S.O.R.E.” Milwaukee Railroader, First Quarter, 1994, p. 11.
It logically could have in excess of 76% of the Port of Seattle’s business ONLY IF the Milwaukee Road served in excess of 76% of the destinations of ALL the Port of Seattle’s business – a tall order that given truck competition and that it was basically a one-direction route out of the area, in contrast to highway and other rail competition.   Meanwhile, through the 1970s and beyond, BN continued to crank out about three times the daily traffic than the Milwaukee did at its peak, and that’s because other than Seattle and Tacoma, the amount of traffic the Milwaukee handled elsewhere compared to UP and BN was inconsequential.  And what “today railroads are all about” are heavy unit trains (in this case coal and grain) for which the Milwaukee would likely have been nearly shut out due to its multiple severe grades and not accessing the actual port facilities via a viable route (or at all).
TRR
Of course, as the successful founding president of Montana Rail Link, and later head of the entire Washington Corps empire, an experienced "actual" executive, Bill Brodsky deserves both the attention and respect for his credibility that others have not earned.
As the only such regional railroad in the country with an iron-clad guaranteed traffic quota, the “success” of Montana Rail Link was “guaranteed.”  With regard to respect, reciprocity is also in order for the scores and scores of railroad company officers not only at the Milwaukee Road, but at other railroads who understood that the Pacific Extension was not worth saving.  Those at the BN and UP, for example, were well-versed in the operating characteristics of the Milwaukee, and if it was the cash cow some claimed, it would have been saved as there would be no reason not to do so as profit (if there was potential for it) trumps even conspiracy theories.
TRR
As with Paul Reistrup, another authentic rail executive, "If you save anything, save that Washington Division."
Reistrup also said that the “Milwaukee should look to boot-strap, minimal-cost upgrading of its western main and/or trackage rights over more than 300 miles of parallel ex-NP Burlington Northern main line, notably in Montana; or creation of a ‘conglomeration of short lines’ which would service 10 ‘traffic clusters’ on its line in the west, feeding traffic to BN and UP.”  That hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement for anticipating the need for a competitive railroad, and suggests acknowledgement of the BN and UP as being the primary conduits for traffic in and out any specific area.
 
Another “authentic rail executive” (and many other titles, such as Secretary of Defense) was W. Graham Claytor Jr., who, while Acting Secretary of Transportation, endorsed a DOT report “that nearly two-thirds of the Milwaukee’s losses in 1977 were accounted for by its Montana, Idaho, and Washington operations.”
 
The DOT said that the New Milwaukee (as proposed) could likely pass only one its five Congressional validity tests (that it could probably start up by April 1, 1980); (The other four were: *Can its plan be funded? *Is it fair to creditors? *Will it be self-sustaining? and *Does it include management-labor agreements to boost productivity?)  As such, the proposed railroad faced a 1981-1986 deficit in excess of 600 million dollars, and Trustee Ogilvie said the proposed railroad would fail in its first year, lose money in 1986 - even if it infused with a half billion dollars of tax monies, fail to repay the estate, and not serve as many shippers as the Milwaukee II plan.
 
And there were a lot of people with significant experience in transportation operations at the Interstate Commerce Commission, when, on December 31, 1979, in a 7-0 (as in unanimous) decision, it turned down the New Milwaukee proposal saying it couldn’t finance or sustain itself and wouldn’t fairly compensate Milwaukee Road’s creditors.
 
Indeed, there was much “attention and respect” paid to all the players here, and that’s why we have no Milwaukee Pacific Extension today.
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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Friday, May 21, 2021 12:24 AM
TRR
and after its arrival in Portland, Southern Pacific reported that its Brooklyn Yard in Portland did more work for the Milwaukee than it did for itself.
Not believable.  SP’s Brooklyn Yard was the primary SP yard in the Portland area, and SP had more interchange traffic than any other railroad since it was the primary railroad to and from California.  The Milwaukee operated but one train in and out of Brooklyn.  Meanwhile, BN and UP were still interchanging trains with the SP and there were numerous transfer runs to and from other yards in the city.  Moreover, Brooklyn was the main marshaling point for the north end of the SP – not only for longer distance trains, but for the numerous locals operating out the terminal.  In the 1970s still, Brooklyn was still the location accommodating the many locals on both sides of the Willamette River from Silverton to Salem to McMinnville to Hillsboro.  The Milwaukee Road trains obviously were a small contribution to overall traffic.
 
But the Milwaukee Road’s Portland traffic is a good example of how flawed the Milwaukee Road route structure was on the Pacific Extension.  A great explanation of this “turkey trail” between Tacoma and Chehalis and operation over BN to Portland is available at John Crosby’s website:
 
 
Where BN could easily move a train from the Seattle and Tacoma terminals to Vancouver and Portland with one crew, it’s obvious that most Milwaukee Road trains from Tacoma to Portland took two or three.  The southward trip was especially grueling with Tacoma Hill’s ridiculous 3.6 percent grade.  Not only did it require a helper (and that helper locomotive stayed pretty much in place all the time just for this purpose), but crews rarely made the trip within their hours of service. 
 
“On a map, Southern Pacific plus Milwaukee Road equal Los Angeles to Seattle.  Management at Chicago Milwaukee Corporation in Chicago thought that this made sense.  A line on the map was a line on the map.  But railroads are not lines on a map, they are tracks on the ground.  This misconception was one of many conclusions, the totality of which would prove fatal to the Milwaukee Road.  For how could a railroad with a top speed of 40 mph and an average speed of 25 mph, with numerous 10 mph slow orders with a 3.3% grade requiring extra crews and time cobbled together from indirect logging branch lines with nineteenth century engineering and wooden trestles with no signals of any kind, running strictly on train order with frequent meets on single track and a mix of mainline and logging trains compete with a double track CTC built to modern specifications with steel bridges no unusual grades and 55 MPH track?”
 
Specifically, Mr. Crosby mentions copper ore moving from Los Angeles to Portland on SP and interchanging to the Milwaukee Road for movement to Silver Bow, Montana for the smelter at Anaconda.  That a train with 15 of these heavy cars collapsed the bridge at McKenna tells the story of the condition of the railroad, but only part of the story.  The routing via the Milwaukee rather than the BN was largely retribution by the SP stemming from their losing interchange business at Portland after the BN merger.  Northern Pacific-to-Southern Pacific was the primary interchange at Portland, but after BN was created, some of that NP traffic was routed via the ex-SP&S/OT/GN route via Wishram, Bend, and Klamath Falls to California (then via WP and ATSF).  So, instead, the Milwaukee got the traffic.  Good for them, right?
 
Probably not.  In addition to the inefficient and awkward operating conditions described by Mr. Crosby, it should be noted that the Milwaukee Road between Chehalis Jct. and Tacoma Jct. had but one siding longer than 4,000 feet in 69 miles which obviously would negatively affect the meet/pass of even moderately-sized trains.  Overall from Portland to Silver Bow, the Milwaukee route was 53 miles further than BN, and required 2 to 3 more crews.  The maximum grade on Burlington Northern was 1 percent, whereas the Milwaukee Road had to lug these heavy cars up three grades of 1.6 percent or greater.  Undoubtedly, the Milwaukee received the same “cut” of the tariff as BN would have, but the cost to move the traffic was much greater, likely to the point that no profit was obtained from the movement.  The collapse of the bridge fully indicates that traffic for the sake of traffic is not beneficial when your infrastructure is not up to it.

But the Portland line was not unusual.  Just about all the branch lines – and all the important branch lines – on the Pacific Extension had exceptionally steep grades and high operating costs.  The branch from Cedar Falls to Everett was abandoned it after the BN merger and receiving trackage rights on BN’s ex-NP line from Black River to Snohomish.  The BN line had grades up to 1.7% as did the branch eastward from Everett to Cedar Falls (compared to BN’s water-level route from Black River to Everett via downtown Seattle).  The Milwaukee also got trackage rights (instead of GN handling Milwaukee locomotives and cars) from Everett to Bellingham to create a through route from Black River to Sumas and the interchange to CP and BCE.  The 1.7% grade on BN was probably not a big deal to the Milwaukee in that its own railroad from Bellingham to Sumas was blessed with a 2% grade.  By 1975, however, the Milwaukee more than understood that their routes west of the Cascades sucked horribly, and asked for BN trackage rights from Tacoma to Chehalis and South Bellingham to Vancouver, BC and to be able to serve industries from Renton to Snohomish.  In fact, the only route out of the Seattle/Tacoma area without steep climbs were the barge runs to Port Townsend and North Vancouver, BC (for PGE interchange).  CP was the only direct interchange railroad in the Vancouver area (at Sumas); CN required cars first be interchanged with the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority railroad (BCE).  Meanwhile, BN (ex-GN) had a route with minimal grades from Seattle to Vancouver, and direct interchanges with all the railroads including access to North Vancouver (CN’s route over the Second Narrows bridge was accessed by ex-GN trackage) and the Roberts Bank Superport.  The additional trackage rights were never granted, but the Milwaukee Road had the right idea:  To become competitive, it basically needed trackage rights on everything BN west of Miles City, Montana.
 
Things weren’t any better east of the Cascades.  Spokane – the largest city between Minneapolis and Seattle/Portland – was on a branch line – and a UP branch line to boot – with another 1.7% grade for eastward trains (not a big deal considering grades on the main line from Plummer were that steep or steeper).  The Gallatin Valley line to Bozeman had grades of about 1.5% each way, and the route from Great Falls to Harlowton had a 1.5% grade against all the loads (the Milwaukee was steeper from Great Falls to Lewistown than BN from Great Falls to West Coast ports).  Even on the branches of lesser importance, the Milwaukee could work miracles.  On a route from Lewistown across Montana’s “Big Open” toward Richey, Great Northern surveyed (and even graded somewhat) the line from Lewistown to Grassrange with a 1.6% grade.  The Milwaukee actually built such a line, but with a 2% climb each way!
 
It all adds up.  A circuitous branchline “network” is one thing, but with nearly all of them being a severe operating challenge, it’s reasonable to assume that they obviously didn’t contribute to the wellbeing of the railroad or their infrastructure would reflect something much different than was actually the case.  Which of course was also applicable to the “main line.”  
 
Not all traffic was worth the effort, and would have been even more of an issue had the Pacific Extension survived into the era of deregulation where BN – with nearly always the superior route – could undercut in pricing.
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Posted by NP Eddie on Thursday, May 20, 2021 3:18 PM

I am choosing my words carefully as I write this reply.

This topic have been off topic for a long while and has become personal attack on myself and others. Karlmbach had a special edition of "Classic Trains" a number of years ago about blunders of railroading. The PC debacle and the Pacific Extension were at the top of the list.

The original question about the Olympian was simply this: The passenger traffic would not support four passenger trains between Chicago and Seattle/Portland. The weakest one went first.

End of argument.

 Ed Burns

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, May 19, 2021 4:27 PM

OK, I'm missing something here....

The Milwaukee Road's western extension was making money hand over fist right up until it was abandoned?

GN-NP-CB&Q-SP&S, with all their traffic, natural resources (timber, iron ore, etc.), were on the edge of total collapse c. 1968 if they hadn't merged? They tried merging for more than half a century before that, from what I've seen/heard/read they were doing OK in the 1960's I thought?

Stix
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Posted by Erik_Mag on Wednesday, May 19, 2021 12:12 AM

TRR

Stan Johnson was a meticulous researcher, and a very good writer. I worked with him on most of his later works, proofing and commenting. I provided open access to my own manuscripts (8,000 footnotes!), and much enjoyed his explorations, made, always, as an homage to his beloved step-father, Frank Fiebelkorn, Milwaukee Road passenger conductor.

I remember you writing about the book when it was being published and ordered a copy from the local B&N when it became avialable.

TRR
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Posted by TRR on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 7:53 PM

Ed Burns wrote: "The MILW Board of Directors in 1910 or so had delusions of grandeur when they decided to built west of Aberdeen, SD to the Pacific Northwest.   It cost three times the budgeted cost. GN, NP, and UP had the traffic patterns already."

It did not cost three times its budgeted cost. In 1904, in preparation for the construction effort, Milwaukee executives, as part of their budgeting process, started out by asking for an estimate of what it would cost to duplicate the Northern Pacific. They did not WANT to duplicate the Northern Pacific, but it was a start for planning purposes.

The estimate came back to build a railroad that wandered all over the place to avoid heavy construction, and I believe was about $45 million. Milwaukee's final actual estimate was closer to $70 million, and the final cost was $99 million as the rail industry was just then settling on higher construction standards for bridges and tunnels, and using "compensated curves" for example. The Milwaukee Road out West was built with compensated curves, whereas the initial construction of NP and GN were not.

The "cost" that contaminated the historical record, $257 million, was a wholly fictitious number that Max Lowenthal had found in an engineering study done by Coverdale & Colepitts that had estimated the total capital investment through the year 1925. "Total capital" is not the same as "cost of construction."

I had asked Max Lowenthal if I could look through his research papers, and he had consented, but then he keeled over and died, so I did not get actual access to them until his family finally hauled them out of his barn in Conneticut and donated them to Lowenthal's alma mater, the University of Minnesota, where I did finally review the records, still in their boxes covered with barn dust, hay seeds and pigeon poop.

Lowenthal knew he had mistated that historical record. He had done it on purpose.

https://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Bankruptcy/Coverdale&Colpitts.pdf

 

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