The Chicago Great Western Railway

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Posted by Sawtooth500 on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 2:04 AM

Ah... all this discussion make me think I was born a hundred years too late - it would have been nice to go for a ride on the CGW!

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Posted by MP173 on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 7:20 AM

Kurt:

What a great first hand look at this railroad.  Cannot wait to read "the rest of the story."

I stand corrected of the statement "one train each way.".  Thanks for the correction.  Also, the book Chicago Great Western in Color, while mainly a photographic book, has extended captions which give info of operations.

Never had the pleasure to see the CGW, nor am I a fan (but am quickly becoming one thanks to this thread).  During the past 20 years, I have travelled quite a bit from Chicago to Dubuque and there are a few remnants left of the railroad, particularly at Stockton where the depot remains as a museum.  I have not had the time to seek out the tunnel. 

My library contains two Moody's Transportation Manuals which reference CGW - 1955 and 1971.  The latter edition contains limited info, as it was already merged into CNW.  Certain info is available tho.

The CGW entered the 1950's with revenue of $33.1m and net income of $2.8 m with an operating ratio of 70.4%.  By 1955 the numbers were $34.4, $3.2, and 66.6 (which was pretty much the high water mark for the railroad).  By 1960 revenue was $32.5 with net income of $1.5m and the operating ratio had slipped to 73.5.

I do not have tonnage figures for 1960, but there was a dramatic drop from 1950 to 1954.  Tons hauled dropped from 8.6 million to 7.6 million.  The times, they were a changin.  The big drop in tonnage was with coal.  While CGW had no on line coal mines that I am aware of, considerable coal was received from other carriers.  Nearly half of the 1 million drop in tonnage was due to coal tonnage reductions.  This was due to industries converting from coal to natural gas during the period.

Fresh meats, while not a huge business for CGW was a highly rated commodity(4.8% of carloadings and 6% of revenue in 1954). Carloadings were beginning to drop during this period.  Flour production was shifting away from Minneapolis and inbound wheat tonnage was stable, but outbound flour was dropping.  That was offset by a dramatic rise in corn as tonnage rose 54% in that period.  Most of the corn was originated online. 

This brings up another issue.  Only 40% of CGW tonnage was originated online.  Thus, they were dependent on other carriers. Steiger's book mentions the heavy interchange with IHB in Chicago. 

The number of employees dropped from 3487 in 1950 to 2535 in 1954.  Whether or not this corresponds with conversion from steam to diesel...I dont know.  However, there was a 50% drop in maintenance of way employees (994 to 494). Transportation employees dropped from1377 to 1075.

Clearly CGW management saw the writing on the wall...tonnage was dropping, propped up only by increases in rates.  Employees were being shed to face the obvious trend. 

CGW did not have a desired route between any of it's termainal points (Chicago, Twin Cities, Omaha, and KC).  It seems to ahve existed on the need for transportation to and from small markets. The interstate highway system and the developement of LTL and TL trucking systems was beginning to carve into their market...in a big way. 

More later.

BTW, does anyone know where their Chicago terminal was located.  It was obviously near the B&OCT line just west of the loop.  Just wondering exactly where so I can go take a look sometime.

Ed

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 10:02 AM

I'm not absolutely sure, but I believe that the CGW Chicago terminal was located near Cicero Ave on the B&OCT.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by MP173 on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 10:15 AM

I will continue the financial analysis of Chicago Great Western during the 1960's.  Not nearly as much info is available as my 1971 Moody's has limited info, as CGW was folded into the CNW at that time.

The beginning of the decade found the CGW in reasonably good shape.  Revenue was $32.5 m with net income of $1.5 m and operating ratio of 70.4.  A steady erosion of revenue was underway.

By 1967 revenue had fallen to $28.6 m with net income of $1m and the operating ratio had spiked to 80.8%.  Ton miles were basically the same in 1967 - 2.473 billion ton miles in 1960 to 2.452 in 1967.  The railroad was handling about as much freight as in 1960, but the revenue and net profit were falling. 

Not surprisingly, revenue per ton mile (measure in cents) fell dramatically during the 60's from 1.21 to 1.12.  While that might not sound "dramatic", think about the inflationary pressures and then realize this reduction was "nominal $" without the effect of inflation. 

So, during the 1960's, CGW was handling as much freight, but for less $$$.  

CGW was able to squeeze a net income by reduction in costs.  We have discussed the long train concept.  Now, consider that during the entire 1960-1967 period CGW installed 30 miles of new 115 pound rail.  Not 30 miles per year, but 30 miles TOTAL.   That is less than 4 miles per year, with most years near the end being 2 miles. 

Rock Island averaged 20 miles per year replacement.  Granted RI had 7000 miles of track vs 1400 for the CGW, but the Rock basically shut down capex in anticipation of the Great Union Pacific rescue. 

So, could CGW have survived until today? 

It was on a financial glidepath that was not indicative of survival.  The trucks were making inroads to the small communities of Iowa.  Meat was leaving the rails as the industry was changing.  Coal was disappearing.  Unit grain trains were still a decade away....IC started the RAT unit train concept in the 1970s.  Doubtful the old light rail would have survived 10,000 ton grain trains.  In fact, as Kurt indicated, CNW couldnt run those trains to KC in the 70's.

The CGW was the last to the party in almost all route segments.  Take a look at a good map (not the Official Guide maps) and see how challenging these routes were.  None were direct.  The good routes were taken. 

Looking at the numbers, it appears that the management did about as good as they could.  Run long slow trains, concentrating revenue on a few trains and reducing costs and capital expenses as much as possible.  They maximized shareholder value by beating Rock Island and Milwaukee Road to finding a partner.  Sure, the lines were shredded not long after the merger, but what would one expect?

Kurt, I am looking forward to your next installment.  Specifically:

1.  Traffic sources

2.  Operations summary

3.  Legacy of the lines

Ed

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Posted by MP173 on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 10:19 AM

Paul:

It had to have been somewhere near Cicero.  There are a number of photos taken from Central and Austin Avenues.  These photos show are taken from the south side of the tracks and show the Eisenhower Expressway. 

It had to have been further east.

ed

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Posted by MP173 on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 10:41 AM

Paul:

Several clues to yard location:

1.  CORA map currently shows a 48th Ave yard on BOCT.  Google map shows several tracks on south side of the mainline and a couple north of the tracks adjacent to Alpha Baking.

2.  1958 Official Guide BRC map shows a yard just west of the BRC junction, correspondign to the CORA location today.

3.  B&OCT listing in 1958 OG shows interchange with CGW at two locations "South Cicero Ave, Chicago and Robey Street, Chicago".

Gotta be west of Cicero, either north or south of mainline.

ed

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Posted by nordique72 on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 11:16 AM

MP173
BTW, does anyone know where their Chicago terminal was located.  It was obviously near the B&OCT line just west of the loop.  Just wondering exactly where so I can go take a look sometime.

Ed

Ed,

The yard the CGW leased from the B&OCT was called the "Chicago Transfer Yard" and it lays just south of the Eisenhower Expressway between Cicero and Laramie Avenues in Chicago. The yard is lightly used today by the CSXT to serve a couple local industries. CGW freights normally operated directly into the B&OCT yard and the power layed over there, while the small amount of local traffic CGW handled was set out and switched at "the Transfer".

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Posted by Rails West on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 11:37 AM

A few excerpts from the contribution by Kurt (sandiego) above:

sandiego

My real education about the CGW began after I started work in 1978 at CNW's Twin Cities Division Engineering Department in St. Paul. ...

sandiego

My boss in the St. Paul engineering office had worked on the Iowa Division (which had jurisdiction on the ex-CGW Marshalltown-Kansas City line) during the early 1970s; he said the North Western was throwing every dollar it could find into fixing up the KC line, they put in a lot of secondhand CWR, plus ties and ballast, but there was a lot of bad track to fix up and I don't recall that the line was ever completely upgraded.

The real crunch came during the big Russian grain sale in 1973-74...

Kurt,

I really appreciate this perspective from the engineering department.  It was very interesting to read about the Kansas City line during the surge in Russian grain traffic.

I look forward to any other commentary you might have about the CGW lines.

 

__________

Responding to posts by Ed (MP173):

Ed,

Thanks a lot for that financial summary.  I put your numbers into charts, and used moving average lines to bridge between data points.  It would be interesting to compare these numbers with other railroads.  Probably there were a number of railroads in those years showing similar trends.

Chart 1.  Revenue (upper line), and Net Income (or profit) (lower line)

 

Chart 2.  Operating Ratio (Operating expenses as a percentage of revenue)

 

Would anybody like to comment on these financial results, and what they tell us about the company?  It is interesting to me that despite the drop in revenue during the 1960's, the company was still able to show a decent profit.

- Rails West

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Posted by MP173 on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 1:58 PM

Railswest:

Tell you what...give me a few railroads and I will give you data.  Seems you have the charting down.

If you have never seen a Moody's Transportation Manual, and you are interested in the financial data of railroads on an historical basis, you should go to a good library and spend an hour.  Our public library does not have them, but the local university does.  I have purchased 1955, 1970, 1971 (thrown in as a special value on the 1955 purchase) plus 1980 and 1988.

Great stuff if you are into railroad history, from an asset and liability basis.

Ed

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Posted by MP173 on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 9:05 PM

Just a little more info about CGW...

The 1953 OG lists their passenger trains schedules.  One could actually take a passenger train from Kansas City to Chicago - 596 miles.  Leaving KC at 3pm, one would arrive in Chicago at 11am the following morning.  No sleeper service, coach only with a change of trains at Oelwein (arr 150am, departure at 230am).

596 miles in 20 hours.

For comparison, the Santa Fe's "Chicagoan" left at 1230pm and arrived in Chicago at 8pm. 

451 miles in 7.5 hours.

Any questions as to why CGW didnt stick around?

The Chicago - Minneapolis schedule wasnt quite as bad...leave at 430pm with arrival the next morning at 830am.

The Burlington's Afternoon Zephyr left at 4pm with arrival in Minneapolis at 1045pm.

ed

 

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Posted by sandiego on Thursday, April 7, 2011 2:06 AM

Ed, Railswest, and others:

Ed, thanks for those comparisons from the Moody's manuals; I discovered those publications in the Duluth Public Library back in the late 1960s and early 1970s and found they were a wealth of information. Besides the obvious financial statistics, there was an abundance of information on mileages owned and operated, breakdown of freight car types, descriptions of equipment trusts and conditional sales agreements for acquisition of locomotives and freight cars, and detailed listings of trackage rights over other railroads.

The CGW entry mentioned that they had trackage rights into every endpoint terminal and had high fixed charges as a result. These trackage rights agreements had both a fixed "rental" component which the tenant railroad had to pay regardless of traffic, and a lesser "wheelage" component based on locomotive and car miles or ton-miles. Considering the lighter density of CGW's operations over these segments, those fixed components were spread over a small revenue base and took a correspondingly high chunk out of revenue.

We looked at the Kansas City lines trackage rights situation previously; now we'll look at CGW's operations in the Twin Cities area, which appeared to me as as their most expensive trackage rights arrangement, especially in view of the revenue generated.

As the Great Western headed north toward the Cities, it first went through South St. Paul where it it had a yard (later improved by CNW and still in operation today) which was originally owned by the St. Paul Bridge and Terminal (purchased by the CGW in the 1930s). Continuing north, the next yard was State Street Yard in St. Paul proper, smaller but the location of CGW's roundhouse and loco servicing. North of there, the main line crossed the Mississippi River on the Robert Street Lift Bridge (a mostly deck girder affair with a truss vertical lift span). At the south end of the bridge was the American Hoist & Derrick plant, but CGW got no business there as it was served by the RI.

On the north end of the bridge the main line crossed two MILW mains and entered the west end of St. Paul Union Depot property; this was the end of CGW ownership. The Great Western then used Union Depot trackage to connect with the east end of GN's St. Paul-Minneapolis line (CGW passenger trains also used the Depot proper).

On the north side of the Depot was CGW's first island of isolated trackage:  their St. Paul Freight House on the north side of Kellogg Blvd.; this was accessed by a connection which peeled off GN's lines. The freight house building still survives, converted to condos some years ago.

Continuing west on GN trackage right to the eastern edge of Minneapolis (just west of the St. Paul-Minneapolis boundary) we came next to CGW's "Big Island":  The CGW East Minneapolis Yard (renamed Southeast Minneapolis Yard by CNW to avoid confusion with their own East Minneapolis Yard). With about 25 tracks, this was probably the second largest yard on the system, after Oelwein. Bell Avenue in Des Moines could give the Southeast (using the CNW's slang term for the yard) some competition for car capacity as it had half the tracks but some of them were long.

North and east of the Southeast was a massive complex of grain elevators, along with the Spencer-Kellogg linseed oil plant, all of which was served by the CGW. As usual on the Great Western, it wasn't as lucrative as it first appeared.

First, I discovered by perusal of maps and track agreements that the some of the industry tracks were joint with the NP, whose trackage ran along south side of the yard.

Second,  Minneapolis has always been a grain handling hub, developing from its origin as a milling center. So, besides the local flour mills, there were numerous terminal elevators located on every local railroad (except for the CB&Q and RI). Grain arrived from country elevators, and was stored at terminal elevators until it was re-shipped to other customers and destinations. During the 40' boxcar era there was a brisk interchange of grain between local railroads to and from local elevators and mills. This continues today, although much reduced in volume and variety. Unfortunately, all this grain action was in the Twin Cities Switching District so the railroad handling the cars at the industry only got a switching charge for their troubles, rather than a portion of the line-haul rate.

At the west end of the Southeast the CGW entered the sea of foreign rails again, this time on NP's "A" Line, a double tracked main that ran partially on the west side of the river through the downtown Minneapolis area while NP's primary main (today's BNSF St. Paul Subdivn.) stayed well away on the opposite side. Access to the "A" Line was controlled by an NP interlocking tower at 18th Ave. SE, of course billable in part to the CGW.

Running railroad west on the NP the CGW passed by the University of Minnesota, then crossed the Mississippi River on Bridge A-9. Just past the west end of the bridge NP ownership ended at 20th Ave. South; here the two tracks continued on under CNW (ex-M&StL) ownership through CNW's Railway Transfer Yard, with the NP having rights on the CNW. The "Railway" was in the historic heart of Minneapolis's milling district; the M&StL had a fair-sized yard there to handle business from the many mills and elevators here (along with a gas-works in years past, plus the City of Minneapolis River Terminal).

Once again, the CGW managed to avoid all the action; they had two dead-end lead tracks that ran along the south side of the "Railway" yard, and several tracks curved off the lead to head south and end at Washington Avenue (a block or so away). These tracks served an oil dealer, one or two were team tracks, and the rest served a few minor industries; not an elevator or mill in the bunch!

The CGW continued on the CNW-NP tracks through the milling district and then along the west side of GN's Minneapolis passenger depot. CGW's Minneapolis Freight House was on the other side of the two CNW-NP tracks, with the south side of both the depot and freight house fronting on Hennepin Avenue (which passed over the tracks).

The freight house was a multi-level building built over the tracks serving it; for some reason the CNW-NP mains made a slight reverse curve here and the east building wall followed this curvature. This enabled the CGW to put a turnout in one of the three straight tracks under the building and add another shorter track that followed the reverse-curved wall.

The lower level was all tracks and docks, freight had to moved via elevator to the first (street level) or second floors for handling. There was no provision for loading trucks (or wagons when it was built) at street level; they had to load at track level in the rear of the building (there was another building on the freight house's west side, so no access there). With that, the freight had to be moved again via elevator from the first or second floor back down to track level for truck loading.

North of the freight house there was only enough room to bring the three tracks into one and then connect back to the CNW-NP mains.

In the area of the GN depot the Mississippi actually runs northwest-southeast; to simplify our description let's assume it's running north-south instead. As mentioned, the GN depot is on the west side of the river with tracks running north-south. North of the depot is the GN line running east from Willmar, it continues east to cross the west channel of the river, Nicollet Island, and the east channel of the river.

There are connecting tracks from the depot to this line so trains can go either railroad east or west. The CGW used these connections to enter the E-W GN line and cross the river to access their next "island," and this time it was a real island: Boom Island Yard.

Boom Island Yard was the oddest of CGW's Twin Cities "islands";  it had come from the original WC who had built it for some obscure reason, then sold it to the CGW during a period when both CGW and WC were under NP influence. The actual island is located along the east bank of the Mississippi and north of the GN main; over the years the channel between the island and the east bank was almost totally filled in so it was hard to tell that it was an actual island.

The track layout resembled the efforts of an HO scale modeler trying to put the absolute maximum amount of track (and nothing else) on a 4x8 sheet of plywood with the corners chewed away. Studying maps, it was amazing to see how much track had been shoe-horned into the area. But, to what purpose? There was only one industry (B. F. Nelson Roofing) served in the area; a track crossed what remained of the channel to their plant on the east bank. The only other use for the yard was servicing CGW passenger trains between runs (they used the GN depot); I recall there was a turntable and some rudimentary locomotive servicing facilities.

Perhaps at one time extra cars for the downtown freight house were held there; who knows? Even so, there was enough trackage to handle several freighthouses. Every photo I've seen of the yard showed it almost deserted with a passenger F-unit and a few passenger cars scattered about, and nothing else.

Access to this gem was a bit elaborate:  Right at the east bank of the east channel the GN had a small brick building ("Boom Island Tower")  which controlled a crossover between the two main lines, plus the switch for the CGW track to the yard; all billable to the CGW. The CGW track curved north while crossing the east channel on a three or four span deck plate girder bridge (tight curve, too), then ran north along the east side of Nicollet Island until it was opposite Boom Island. Here the track crossed the east channel again on a old single span pin-connected through truss bridge; right at the north end of the bridge was the first switch for the yard.

Besides all the trackage rights needed to access all the areas mentioned above the CGW also had trackage rights on GN's double track passenger mains between St. Paul and GN's Minneapolis Depot for Great Western passenger trains. Sounds expensive for what traffic the CGW got out of it, don't you think?

To be continued...

 

Kurt Hayek

 

 

 

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Posted by Los Angeles Rams Guy on Thursday, April 7, 2011 6:39 AM

Another interesting sidelight wrt the CGW was the actual location of the main shop and roundhouse complex in Oelwein.  My Dad, who grew up south of Oneida (IA) on a farm that was seemingly distanced at the halfway point between the CGW and IC's Iowa Division mainline, told me a story some years ago that, back in the day when CGW was planning to build a yard/shop complex in eastern Iowa, there was a huge debate about which town CGW would select to build the new complex and it came down between Oelwein and Oneida.  I think he got the story from two uncles he had who worked for CGW - one was a locomotive engineer and the other worked at the roundhouse in Oelwein.  Ultimately, of course, Oelwein won out. 

While CGW probably couldn't have made it in the long-run as a stand-alone entity, I do think that certain segments of CGW would still be here today had CNW not gobbled it up.   

 

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Posted by MP173 on Thursday, April 7, 2011 7:33 AM

Kurt:

Wow, what a spaghetti bowl of trackage. 

Kurt, I am trying to picture all this, and without a visual impression of Twin Cities it is hard to do.  What was the main terminal railroad in the Twin Cities, and I will see if  the old Official Guides have a detailed map of the area.  An OG from 1996 lists Minnesota Commerical Railway as the "only Industrial Switching Carrier"

The 1958 OG shows "Railway Transfer Company of The City of Minneapolis" but has no map.  If nothing else, I will try to use Google Maps.

Stagner's book has a few photos of the Twin Cities operations including the State Street engine terminal. 

This railroad is an obvious example of the last railroad built...into nearly all markets.  There was very little online business in Chicago area and it sounds as if they avoided most traffic in Twin Cities, relying on interchange for the most part. 

My "journey" on the CGW, thru Stagner's excellent book is now at Portage, Il.  This is the junction of the CGW with the CB&Q and the IC.  The three railroads parallel the Mississippi River into East Dubuque.

The photographs of the area are absolutely great.  The area from Winston Tunnel to Dubuque is almost like a model railroad with tunnels, junctions, rivers, towers, and the great tunnel/crossing at East Dubuque.

One of the absolutely best railroad photographs I have ever seen is (actually two photos) is on page 53.  Taken from a ridge overlooking the Mississippi River Valley, the panoramic view is incredible with CGW trains working past Portage Tower.  Five tracks are in use and the CGW looks as if it could be running on the PRR on the mainline somewhere near Altoona.  It is a stunning view of the railroad, when compared to the cornfields and small towns of typical CGW charactor.

What price would one pay to return to Portage Tower, circa 1950's for a day of time travel and witness the great Burlington fleet, the IC, and CGW in action from the MIssissippi River palisades?

Kurt, cant wait for the next installment.

Ed

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Posted by Rails West on Thursday, April 7, 2011 1:23 PM

Here's an old photo of the CGW depot in Dubuque.  By the size of it, I'm thinking it may have housed a division office.

- Rails West

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Posted by ChoChoMan on Thursday, April 7, 2011 2:37 PM

Ed,  The Railway Transfer in Minneapolis was bought by the M&STL, It serviced grain mills next to the Mississippi river. (Gold Medal etc. etc. ) The track where so close together that no switchman could ride the side of a car, only 40 foot cars where allowed. I worked the afternoon shift one day and tied up the engine on the engine track, the next morning a train master called asking me why I didn't report derailing the engine, during the night the engine feel off the track.

There was also a switching railroad that was next to the transfer. ( the name escapes me ) it was only 6 blocks long, it inter changed with the NP & GN. It had a engine house which is now a restaurant called 1st street station.

In the Twin Cities there where 4 CGW yards. ( So.St.Paul-State Street-Hoffman-Minneapolis South East )     A old timer told me once that during it's prime the CGW had 75 switch jobs a day in the Twin Cities. 

 

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Posted by MP173 on Thursday, April 7, 2011 5:36 PM

75 per day!  No wonder they had 4 yards.

The Dubuque station would not have been division ... or at least I dont think so.  Stockton, Il was the crew change and had a yard until 1950 or so.

 

Ed

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Posted by Rails West on Friday, April 8, 2011 10:54 PM

An excerpt from Kurt's description of the CGW in Minneapolis-St. Paul:

sandiego

...

As the Great Western headed north toward the Cities, it first went through South St. Paul where it it had a yard (later improved by CNW and still in operation today) which was originally owned by the St. Paul Bridge and Terminal (purchased by the CGW in the 1930s). Continuing north, the next yard was State Street Yard in St. Paul proper, smaller but the location of CGW's roundhouse and loco servicing. North of there, the main line crossed the Mississippi River on the Robert Street Lift Bridge (a mostly deck girder affair with a truss vertical lift span)....

...

On the north side of the Depot was CGW's first island of isolated trackage:  their St. Paul Freight House on the north side of Kellogg Blvd.; this was accessed by a connection which peeled off GN's lines. The freight house building still survives, converted to condos some years ago.

Continuing west on GN trackage right to the eastern edge of Minneapolis (just west of the St. Paul-Minneapolis boundary) we came next to CGW's "Big Island":  The CGW East Minneapolis Yard...

...

Since I've never explored the Twin Cities, I just spent a little time on-line searching out the CGW route Kurt described to us.  Here is a aerial photo of St. Paul that shows the CGW coming into town from the south:

Aerial view of St. Paul (1953)

Here are a few pictures of the locations Kurt mentioned:

State Street Yard photo (historic view)

CGW lift bridge in St. Paul (present day view)

CGW freighthouse condos (present day views from a real estate broker)

 

 

- Rails West

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Remembering the Chicago Great Western Railway
Posted by gbrewer on Saturday, April 9, 2011 1:43 PM

I may be one of the only ones to actually remember the CGW -- especially in steam days.

Here is a link to an article I wrote on my recollections:

Remembering the Chicago Great Western

Certainly operations on the Chicago division were way down in later years from my earliest remembrances.

Glen Brewer

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Posted by Rails West on Saturday, April 9, 2011 2:11 PM

Nice vignettes of a boy along the tracks, Glen.  I'm sure that lying in bed on a hot Illinois summer night with all the windows open, you would hear those 2-10-4 steam engines coming from miles away.

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Posted by jrbernier on Saturday, April 9, 2011 2:11 PM

  That 'other' switching operation in Mpls was the Minneapolis Eastern...

Jim

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Posted by W'LOOBOY on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:25 AM

Hub City, Oelwein, Iowa, still has one spoke in use, Waterloo, Iowa to Oelwein, Iowa. Iowa Northern operates most if not all, ( UP I believe still operates Hiland Yard, to John Deere) serving Fairbank, Iowa's ethanol Plant and the rail car rebuild plant in Oelwein. The Cedar River Bridge in Waterloo has been replaced after the flood of 08. The CGW track age now goes East after the river crossing on the old Rock Island Route to Cedar Rapids as the Iowa Northern. CGW track age was used to continue the Iowa Northern around Waterloo, along with old Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Northern RR (WCF&NRR) and Illinois Central track to return to Rock Island alignment . 

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Posted by W'LOOBOY on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:34 AM

Although, Oelwein, Iowa, is a little out of the way, the Rail Road Museum is is a place to stop and take your grand kids to see and ride the pump hand car. They are good folks and worth the trip. 

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Posted by MP173 on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 2:46 PM

Glen:

I enjoyed reading your recollections.

 

Your one and only CGW photo is a dandy.

Ed

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Posted by NScon1209 on Sunday, May 8, 2011 8:57 PM

UP no longer operates that line between Waterloo and Oelwein. In October 2003, Iowa Northern Railway began freight operations it is now owned by D&W Railroad between Dewar and Oelwein and over incidental UP trackage rights between Waterloo and Dewar. Traffic consists of repaired freight cars, grain and chemical products.

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Posted by F-UnitsA&B on Thursday, February 9, 2012 2:10 AM
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Posted by Falcon48 on Friday, February 10, 2012 12:26 AM

jeaton

In my view, the CGW's survival as an independent would have required a substantial infusion of capital.  It appears that would have required someone with deep pockets,an extremely high tolerance for risk and a lot of patience.  Even though the railroad was turning a profit, just "sticking is out" probably would have found it suffering the same fate as the Rock Island, only much sooner.  In terms of physical condition, it appears to have been the worst of the competing lines.  Keep in mind that over the subsequent decades, the Milwaukee Road's Omaha Line was abandoned, and both the IC's Iowa line and the Rock Island's Chicago-Omaha line were hanging by some very thin threads.  While I concede that the latter two under their respective ownerhips of CN and Iowa Interstate seem to be doing OK, I doubt that their market share is 10% of the total movement in the Chicago-Omaha corridor.

In today's world, a intact CGW may have found itself serving grain unit tran shippers, ethanol plants and possibly a coal fired power pant or two, and could be riding the current big wave of rail business.  But then, maybe not.  Even if forseen, from 1966 it would be decades before these big new markets would come to pass.  That is a long time burning up cash. 

I agree with your view.  Let me add one thing.  in 1966, there would be no rational basis for CGW's management to even dream of the rail resurgence that happened decades later.  In the 1960's, the future would have looked pretty bleak, with continued losses of traffic and ultimate doom the only reasonable prospect,  Faced with this prospect, and knowing that they were a weak player in the markets they served, a merger was the correct course. Further, had CGW not merged and survived until the 1980's, it would have been killed by the demise of the "open routing" system (one of the byproducts of deregulation) that had allowed it to participate in overhead routings.

I should add one other thing.  You mention that  CGW was "turning a profit" prior to the merger.  Maybe so - I'm not familiar with CGW's financial statements.  But "turning a profit" doesn't mean that a railroad is viable.  Railroading is one of the most capital intensive of industries.  In order for a railroad to be viable, the railroad must earn sufficient profit over time to cover the cost of capital to replace the assets that will require replacement for the company to remain in business.  It's highly unlikely that CGW was doing this.  And, if it wasn't earning this level of profit and had no foreseeable prospect for doing so in the future, it's management would know that the railroad was living on borrowed time. Time to get out while the getting's good.

That leads to another point.  One thing  to be careful of in railroad financial statements of this era is how much of the "profit" is represented by deferred maintenance.  Under the "betterment accounting" rules followed by railroads in that  period, it was possible to create a "profit" (or minimize losses) by deferring maintenance, since there was no charge against income for track structure depreciation.  Of course, if the strategy were followed for any length of time, the railroad would fall apart (like Penn Central).  But, in the short term, this could make a railroad look a lot better off financially than it really was.   I don't know this as a fact, but I suspect that CGW may have been following such a strategy in its last days, since it had lost so much of its traditional traffic.

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Posted by jeaton on Friday, February 10, 2012 9:07 AM

Falcon48

Your elaboration on my post is what was on my mind when I made the comments.   It seems even now, few know how betterment account allowed railroads to show a profit.   

"We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo Possum "We have met the anemone... and he is Russ." Bucky Katt "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." Niels Bohr, Nobel laureate in physics

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Posted by Victrola1 on Saturday, February 11, 2012 11:15 PM

Redundant, round about, and the longest distance between points of importance as end points and  gateways. The Chicago Great Western is none the less an interesting case point of past tense study and what if speculation. 

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Posted by Boyd on Sunday, February 12, 2012 12:17 PM

When was the line from Rochester, Stewartville, Racine, Spring Valley and southward built? I lived on a farm 3 miles due west from Racine but only got to see rare trains in the 70s when we drove along the line. We moved in 81 before I had a drivers liscence and the ability to hop in a car/truck and go chase trains.

Modeling the "Fargo Area Rapid Transit" in O scale 3 rail.

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Posted by Boyd on Saturday, August 1, 2015 4:05 PM

It's very hard to find detailed route maps of this RR line. I bet the Ziprail advocates are considering part of the old ROW along HWY 52. 

Modeling the "Fargo Area Rapid Transit" in O scale 3 rail.

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