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CMStP&P Transcon

  • All:

    I am a retired NP-BN-BNSF clerk from Minneapolis and a railfan.

    The Milwaukee Road people were very proud of their railroad. Having said that, the cold hard facts about the Pacific Extension is that is should not have been built. It cost five times the original estimate to build as they had to take what was left over. Secondly, the traffic base was already taken by the GN, NP, and UP. A fellow BN clerk (X-GN and Milw) told that the only time the PCE made money was during WWII when the other roads were running at capacity.

    Presently, the BNSF owns the line from Ortonville, MN to Terry, Montana. The BN operated that line for the State of South Dakota, who purchased the line so that South Dakota shippers would have access to rail traffic. I don't know if the BN or BNSF ultimately purchased the line. The line west or Terry, Montana is largely trails or was sold to adjacent land owners.

    The Milwaukee Road had line from Ortonville, MN to Fargo, ND. This line was prone to flooring and was finally abandoned about 1980. I remember keypunching waybills from the CNW on cars of cement that were re-routed to the BN due to the above flooding. Fargo was a smaller town and already had the GN and NP, so it was a  mistake to the MILW to build a line to that city. The MILW also built a twenty or so mile branch line from Glencoe, MN to Hutchinson, MN. Hutchinson was already served by the GN and a CNW controlled company. The MILW abandoned that line in 1956.

    I believe that the MILW would have been a better company if they had not built west of Mobridge, SD.

    Ed Burns

    783-234-9306

    enburns@Comcast.net

  • Regarding ms-management: I was poking around on Flickr, looking at a photo collection for the CP's lines in Iowa, previously MILW, when I came across a caption to a photo I wish I had bookmarked. It was a photo of a MILW unit on the former Rock Island main line, which MILW operated after the RI shut down. The caption said something I had never heard before: on the MILW Omaha line, most of the business was centered around Cedar Rapids, several big businesses. However, the RI line was in better shape than the MILW line, the MILW believed they would win control of the RI main, which connected to Cedar Rapids by way of a branch from Iowa City on the RI. So they abandoned their own main line across Iowa, and only realized that they had miscalculated when they lost the bid for the RI main line to IAIS in 1985. All of their Cedar Rapids business went to CR&IC, who bought a fragment of the former MILW main and the Iowa City branch

  • ccltrains

    GearedmSteam:

    I fleetingly thought that if UP would restore the Milw line they could compete with BNSF.  Unfortunately the cost would be a killer in addition to missing the big towns (not cities) and having a poorer profile even though about 100 miles shorter.  Also UP has their own line fron Salt Lake City to Portland/Seattle via the Oregon Short Line so why split their traffic between two lines when one handles it effectively.  Even back 40 years ago UP was smart enough to realize that the Milw line would be a looser.

    Agreed, the UP used MILW as a way to get their passenger trains to Chicago. MILW even went so far as to paint engines and cars UP Yellow in hopes to cement a partnership with the UP. MILW and Rock Island had hoped to be absorbed by the UP. In efforts to make the books look good they deferred maintenance (and other things) , which attributed to slow orders and derailments, which accelerated the final bankruptcy.

    If one searches this forum, you will find several long discussions on the MILW PCE. On of those contributors was MIcheal Sol, who was a lawyer for the MILW and also created the wonderful website that has been linked on this thread. He was there, he lived it through the end, I would take his opinions as someone that was "in the know".

     Geared Steam's Blog

    Railroads West, Always the Best

    "MRH Elitist"?? Laugh


  • ccltrains
    Can someone give a link to the link that shows the profiles of the lines in this area?

    Thanks

    Not a link, but the April 2004 Trains special issue on Mountain Railroads has profiles of the GN, MILW, NP, and UP-OSL-OWR&N in the article titled "The Mountain Way" in the section on the Northwestern Transcontinentals, pages 44 - 45.  The commentary by Matt Van Hattem on page 45 (col. 3) states that "In 1904, Milwaukee Road was chewed up and spit out of the Hill (GN/NP)-Harriman (UP)-J.P. Morgan triumvirate that controlled it.  It decided to secure its future with a Pacific Extension. . . . But almost everywhere it went, NP already was there.  It opened in 1909, one too many routes for the market."  That issue is still available as a back issue for $5.99 - see: http://www.kalmbachstore.com/trn040401.html 

    - Paul North. 

    "This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
  • cp8905

    Regarding ms-management: I was poking around on Flickr, looking at a photo collection for the CP's lines in Iowa, previously MILW, when I came across a caption to a photo I wish I had bookmarked. It was a photo of a MILW unit on the former Rock Island main line, which MILW operated after the RI shut down. The caption said something I had never heard before: on the MILW Omaha line, most of the business was centered around Cedar Rapids, several big businesses. However, the RI line was in better shape than the MILW line, the MILW believed they would win control of the RI main, which connected to Cedar Rapids by way of a branch from Iowa City on the RI. So they abandoned their own main line across Iowa, and only realized that they had miscalculated when they lost the bid for the RI main line to IAIS in 1985. All of their Cedar Rapids business went to CR&IC, who bought a fragment of the former MILW main and the Iowa City branch

    The line from Cedar Rapids to Iowa city was the CR&IC, never had been the RI.  The exRI you mention was originally operated by the DRI&NW, a Quad Cities area switching company.  Originally they only operated Davenport to Wilton, IA, the site of a mini-steel mill.  Within a few months, maybe a year, they extended the operation to Iowa City to make connection with the Crandic.  After about a year, the BN, half owner of the DRI line, wanted out of this operation as most traffic was going via MILW,  The MILW took over the operation.  In 1982, the Iowa Railroad extended their operation of the exRI eastward across Iowa.  This caused an arrangement with the MILW to share the track between Davenport and Iowa City.  The MILW operated during the day, the IRRC was allowed over the tracks at night.  The MILW served the industries on this section, the IRRC only had trackage rights.

    The MILW looked at expanding on to Des Moines and maybe Council Bluffs.  This idea ended when someone higher up decreed that if they had wanted to stay in the Council Bluffs lane, they would've kept their own line.

    After the MILW pulled out of Cedar Rapids, the Crandic picked up some of their business on the CR to Ottumwa branch.  Other business in Marion and CR went to the ICG.  The Crandic had been hurt by the RI's demise.  While the RI was operating the CIC went down to IC 18 times a week to interchange cars there.  After the RI shut down and before the DRI/MILW came to IC, that dropped to 3 times a week to serve their on-line customers.  The CIC did interchange with other railroads at CR, but they made less money per car by switching it there instead of hauling it to IC.

    Jeff

    PS, My avatar is a picture I took while riding one of those MILW trains on the exRI.  It was taken just west of Durant, IA.  

  • jeffhergert

    cp8905

    Regarding ms-management: I was poking around on Flickr, looking at a photo collection for the CP's lines in Iowa, previously MILW, when I came across a caption to a photo I wish I had bookmarked. It was a photo of a MILW unit on the former Rock Island main line, which MILW operated after the RI shut down. The caption said something I had never heard before: on the MILW Omaha line, most of the business was centered around Cedar Rapids, several big businesses. However, the RI line was in better shape than the MILW line, the MILW believed they would win control of the RI main, which connected to Cedar Rapids by way of a branch from Iowa City on the RI. So they abandoned their own main line across Iowa, and only realized that they had miscalculated when they lost the bid for the RI main line to IAIS in 1985. All of their Cedar Rapids business went to CR&IC, who bought a fragment of the former MILW main and the Iowa City branch

    The line from Cedar Rapids to Iowa city was the CR&IC, never had been the RI.  The exRI you mention was originally operated by the DRI&NW, a Quad Cities area switching company.  Originally they only operated Davenport to Wilton, IA, the site of a mini-steel mill.  Within a few months, maybe a year, they extended the operation to Iowa City to make connection with the Crandic.  After about a year, the BN, half owner of the DRI line, wanted out of this operation as most traffic was going via MILW,  The MILW took over the operation.  In 1982, the Iowa Railroad extended their operation of the exRI eastward across Iowa.  This caused an arrangement with the MILW to share the track between Davenport and Iowa City.  The MILW operated during the day, the IRRC was allowed over the tracks at night.  The MILW served the industries on this section, the IRRC only had trackage rights.

    The MILW looked at expanding on to Des Moines and maybe Council Bluffs.  This idea ended when someone higher up decreed that if they had wanted to stay in the Council Bluffs lane, they would've kept their own line.

    After the MILW pulled out of Cedar Rapids, the Crandic picked up some of their business on the CR to Ottumwa branch.  Other business in Marion and CR went to the ICG.  The Crandic had been hurt by the RI's demise.  While the RI was operating the CIC went down to IC 18 times a week to interchange cars there.  After the RI shut down and before the DRI/MILW came to IC, that dropped to 3 times a week to serve their on-line customers.  The CIC did interchange with other railroads at CR, but they made less money per car by switching it there instead of hauling it to IC.

    Jeff

    PS, My avatar is a picture I took while riding one of those MILW trains on the exRI.  It was taken just west of Durant, IA.  

    If you look at this map, I believe the easternmost of the two lines is the one CR&IC bought from MILW: "In 1980, with the demise of the Milwaukee Road, Crandic purchased the Cedar Rapids to Homestead, Iowa, portion of the Milwaukee."  But it doesn't make sense that MILW would sell that branch if they were gong to use it to connect to industries in Cedar Rapids from the old RI, does it? I might remember the details wrong, I looked at about 1,000 photos from that same guy in one night.

  • Just a comment and maybe a question.
    How did Milwaukee Road compare to the Western Pacific?
    And why wasn't Milwaukee Roads traffic base in the Midwest able to feed traffic onto the Pacific Coast Extension?
    Also wasn't Milwaukee Road's electrification obsolete by the 70's? The cost of conversion from 3000V DC to 25kv AC 60hz involves replacing all the substations and the replacement of the electric locomotives.
    The age of the box cabs, 50 years old at that time, made their replacement needed. The problem that management probably faced is they could not finance a purpose built electric railway but could finance mass produced diesels.
    Thx IGN
  • NARIG01:

    The questions you asked are a bit complicated, but here goes:

    The Western Pacific was a road from Salt Lake City  to the Bay Area, thus they were in straight line from the Midwest to that part of California. I keypunched many waybills from the two General Mills plants in Minneapolis and Fridley to Lodi, CA. via BN-Denver-DRGW-SLC-WP. Another point is that traffic from the MILW Midwest would need to go across Iowa to Manilla and northwest on about five branch lines to Aberdeen, SD to be added to a west coast train. The traffic bureaus and tariffs may not have given those shipments a favorable rate over that routing.

    Regarding the electrification, I have been pictures of power poles being lashed to newly installed poles just to hold them up. In short, the entire electric infrastructure would have had to be modernized. I cannot speak about the older locomotives, but things wear out. Look at the GG1's and how they were retired. In order to make electric operations profitable, you need trains and lots of them, which the MILW did not have. Also, keep in mind that there was about a 250 mile gap of said wire between Avery, Idaho and Othello, Washington.

    About 1971 (when BN's coal traffic started to grow) a high level study was done possibly electrify the line between Lincoln, Neb. and Laurel, Montana. It was decided that the traffic was there, but the initial cost would be prohibitive. Remember that infrastructure (poles, wire, power substations, etc.) is expensive and must be amortized over a long period of time to make the investment worth while.

    Ed Burns

    Retired NP-BN-BNSF from Minneapolis

  • jeffhergert

    Jeff

    PS, My avatar is a picture I took while riding one of those MILW trains on the exRI.  It was taken just west of Durant, IA.  

    Jeff, were you working for the MILW then?

  • [quote user="GN_Fan"]

    Once the extension got into S. Dakota, it went thru robust business places like Aberdean, Mobridge, and Marmarth.

    [quote user=GN Fan"]

    Aberdeen is a going place today, and still distinguished by the Milw. depot, which had the advantage of having been built out of brick -- more work to tear down -- and is used by the BNSF today.

    Marmarth rewards a visit. I've heard it characterized as a "reservation town for white folks." In the '20s it had about 2400 people and was a crew-change point with a big railroad shop. Today it has a population of about 125 and its  sidewalks are full of broken glass from the big abandoned buildings downtown.

    There was a strike in the shop, in those '20s, the railroad said 'nuts' and closed the shop, and it's been downhill for the last 90 years. Still, it's a colorful place, on the Little Missouri River, and the local historical society has preserved and operates a former Milw. crew-change bunkhouse as a hotel today.

     

    It's called "The Bunkhouse," but call ahead, because in the warm months it's full of archaeologists. I've stayed there a couple of times. Coal trains over the jointed rail, like machine-gun fire,  will cause you sit up straight in bed at 4 and 5 in the morning. All good fun, if you're a rail fan.

      

    [/quote]

  • A small post on the cost of electrification:  Having "retired" from the board of directors of a metropolitan transit system that has an extensive electrified component I have some insight on costs.  The cost of electrification including signaling but excluding rolling stock is equal to the cost of building the roadbed and rail.   We bought the power from the local utility so did not have to build generating stations or large substations.

  • cp8905

    If you look at this map, I believe the easternmost of the two lines is the one CR&IC bought from MILW: "In 1980, with the demise of the Milwaukee Road, Crandic purchased the Cedar Rapids to Homestead, Iowa, portion of the Milwaukee."  But it doesn't make sense that MILW would sell that branch if they were gong to use it to connect to industries in Cedar Rapids from the old RI, does it? I might remember the details wrong, I looked at about 1,000 photos from that same guy in one night.

    The eastern line, from Cedar Rapids to Iowa City is the original CR&IC interurban line.  The trackage from IC to Hills is the line the Crandic bought from the RI.  The western line, from Cedar Rapids to the IAIS connection is the exMILW line the Crandic bought.

    Originally, the MILW and RI didn't connect.  The RI went over the MILW.  A physical connection, a simple junction switch was installed and later another leg added to make a full wye.  In the last few years, the IAIS has built a new yard and shop facility just west of the connection.  Although the Crandic still owns the line, the IAIS has been running and dispatching the line south/west of a point near Fairfax.

    I knew the agent at Durant, IA.  He worked that position for the RI, DRI&NW, and then the MILW.  When the IAIS began, they didn't keep the position and he went to work for the CR&IC.  He told me once that the Crandic could've bought the exMILW line (at one time, the original MILW Kansas City main line) all the way to Rutledge/Ottumwa.  Because some egos were bruised, the deal didn't happen.

    Jeff  

  • "And why wasn't Milwaukee Roads traffic base in the Midwest able to feed traffic onto the Pacific Coast Extension?"

    It did.  There was also long-haul traffic coming eastward. 

    What other outfit would get rid of the long haul to focus on short-haul and terminal operations? 

    "Also wasn't Milwaukee Road's electrification obsolete by the 70's? The cost of conversion from 3000V DC to 25kv AC 60hz involves replacing all the substations and the replacement of the electric locomotives.
    The age of the box cabs, 50 years old at that time, made their replacement needed. The problem that management probably faced is they could not finance a purpose built electric railway but could finance mass produced diesels.
    "

    GE offered to pretty much replace (and finance) everything, and electrify the gap. 

    MILW management at the time felt getting out of the railroad business was the course of action they should take.  The electrification was too efficient, so they got rid of it, just as the price of copper dropped and diesel fuel went up.  Then cook the books a bit, double state the expenses for Lines West, and it almost seems justified to get rid of it.  Total traffic was lower then, so the other existing lines had the capacity to handle it. 

    Mike WSOR engineer | HO scale since 1988 | Visit our club www.WCGandyDancers.com

  • The Milwaukee Road's pacific coast extension shared much in common with their line to Omaha. It arrived at its destination long after everybody else got there. It missed population centers and intermediate business as well.

  • I have been browsing thru the Milwaukee Road archive website and in the bankruptcy section the traffic levels are provided.  By 1978 it appears the transcontinental line was down to 2 trains each way daily.  The revenues were not there to support the infrastructure and the investment needed to ramp the line up.

    The proper event occurred.  The line was removed, except in places where it was economically viable.

     

    Ed