Matt finds the trains in TRAINS’ backyard: Canadian Pacific’s dual main lines

Posted by Matt Van Hattem
on Monday, August 22, 2011

Canadian Pacific’s Chicago-Twin Cities main line

Throughout the month of August, I want to try a photography project that focuses on the trains in TRAINS Magazine's backyard. How many different pictures can be taken in a circle extending 10.27 miles from downtown Waukesha, Wis.?

Today, we're on the eastern fringe of my 10.27-mile circle, in Elm Grove, Wis., along Canadian Pacific's Chicago-Twin Cities main line. You're watching eastbound coke train 852 wheel around a sweeping curve on its way from Roseport, Minn., to interchange with CSX at Chicago.

If you follow the other main track, you'll notice it does not parallel the first. This 4-mile stretch of CP's main line, from Elm Grove west to Brookfield, uses the alignments of two different Milwaukee Road predecessors to scale the subcontinental divide. (Water east of the divide flows into Lake Michigan, and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean; west of the divide, it flows into the Mississippi River and on to the Gulf of Mexico.)

The right-hand track came first, in 1851, as part of the Milwaukee & Mississippi's route from Milwaukee to Waukesha (the first railroad in Wisconsin) and on to Madison and Prairie du Chien. This railroad later took the name Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien.

The coke train is on the Milwaukee & St. Paul, which built its line through Elm Grove in 1864. The Milwaukee & St. Paul had initially relied on M&PDC trackage rights out of Milwaukee to reach its line linking Brookfield and La Crosse, Wis. In 1864, the Milwaukee & St. Paul built its 14-mile extension east to Milwaukee, then in 1867, iit bought the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien, bringing both lines under a common owner.

Canadian Pacific's modern-day route uses the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien from Milwaukee to Elm Grove, then both railroad alignments from Elm Grove to Brookfield (the tracks come together by the historic depot, which I wrote about in this blog, then the Milwaukee & St. Paul on to the Twin Cities.

What I like:

You can clearly see the differences between the main lines, and how they scaled the subcontinental divide.

What I don't like:

Nothing, really. However, some of CP's coke trains out of Roseport run with Indiana Rail Road power, which Drew Halverson featured in his blog last month. I still need to photograph those units coming through Wisconsin. It's yet another goal to aim for.

Flickr: Matt finds the trains in TRAINS' backyard album
Facebook: Trains Magazine Facebook Page

To leave a comment you must be a member of our community.
Login to your account now, or register for an account to start participating.
No one has commented yet.