The Milwaukee Road

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Posted by MichaelSol on Wednesday, August 15, 2007 12:10 PM
 cpprfld wrote:

Michael,

How much did labor costs play in the demise of the Milwaukee Road? Many railroads have been successful in making money using ex-Milwaukee Road track.

As arbfe points out, prior to the filing of the bankruptcy petition, Milwaukee was subject to industry standard contracts. Certainly, the inability of the industry to negotiate productivity increases based on employees, particularly train crew, was a big part of the industry's financial crisis, was unrelated to government regulatory policy, and was a big part of productivity increases often attributed to the Staggers Act, but which was in fact a result of labor contract changes.

The Milwaukee bankruptcy was the major pivot point in union perspectives, and Worth Smith negotiated the pioneering two man crew agreement for Sprint trains.

However, prior to the bankruptcy, Milwaukee had perhaps more employees per whatever unit of productivity you might want to use, and certainly burdensome collective bargaining conditions would be more burdensome on the Milwaukee Road than on other roads if that were true. And, Milwaukee's Lines West employees were approximately 130% more productive per revenue dollar than its Lines East employees, at least during the 1970s which is the period of time I have specifically looked at employee productivity comparisons.

As the result of automation and other improvements, the rail industry was able to reduce its numbers of employees on an ongoing basis during the 1950s and 1960s.

During that period, Milwaukee Road was able to reduce its employee numbers at rates marginally ahead of the industry. This was no doubt one reason Milwaukee's Operating Ratio was able to improve over that period of time. even as the Operating Ratio of key competitors deteriorated. During the 1970s, Milwaukee reduced its overall employee numbers at a rate marginally slower than the industry as a whole, and its Operating Ratio began its fatal turn for the worse.

To that extent, that data is suggestive that labor costs played a role during the 1970s on the Milwaukee in its deteriorating position, and that those costs were greater than those incurred by the industry as a whole. A management change occured in 1972 and it may well be that those changes interrupted what had been a well-managed process of employee reduction that had been in place for quite some time prior to those personnel changes.

After 1972, the rate of employee productivity improvements not only deteriorated from previous rates of improvement, but the company embarked on costly purchases (leases) of new motive power during a time of high interest charges, and substituted more expensive fuel costs for what had previously been relatively cheap operating costs on its transcontinental line.

 

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Posted by MichaelSol on Wednesday, August 15, 2007 2:14 PM

 MichaelSol wrote:
During the 1970s, Milwaukee reduced its overall employee numbers at a rate marginally slower than the industry as a whole, and its Operating Ratio began its fatal turn for the worse.

Well, this comment leaves an inaccurate impression. It is also true that, as Forbes Magazine and other business magazines noted in 1973, that the Milwaukee was the "fastest growing Class I railroad in the country" in terms of revenue. No doubt, employees added to handle the Louisville, Portland, and Gateways traffic obscured productivity gains in employee numbers elsewhere on the system and made the Milwaukee only "appear" to be reducing employees more slowly than the industry average, but because it was increasing its traffic that much and one needs to look elsewhere for an explanation of the deterioration in Operating Ratio.

 

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Posted by bennerc on Wednesday, October 31, 2007 4:03 PM

Haven't been on the forums lately (working up some new content for my Milwaukee Road History site at www.oldmilwaukeeroad.com) but the thread here reminds me of the passion some of us feel for this lost jewel... that is what originally inspired me to start a web site to share some of the glorious history of the St. Paul, er the Milwaukee Smile [:)]

Now reading Stan Johnson's latest on the Western Extension, I was inspired to (finally) upload the beautiful photos from 1912's The Trail of the Olympian (link above).  Check it out and let me know what you think !

 

Craig "Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him." - Dwight D. Eisenhower
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Posted by cpprfld on Wednesday, October 31, 2007 4:25 PM

Good site, and I am happy that I am one of the first to see it.

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Posted by bennerc on Wednesday, October 31, 2007 5:26 PM

Thanks for your kind words...

Actually, I started the site back in 2003 hosted at TrainWeb.org with the Milwaukee Road Electrification publication, and it reached #2 on the Google search for the string "Milwaukee Road History" --shameless self-promotion Whistling [:-^] -- but I wanted to get serious with my own ad banner-free domain as I start some of my own research for my O-gauge layout theme "Vignettes of the Milwaukee Road." 

I am working on posting some of the wonderful, colorful vintage advertisements from the Milwaukee Road (because the remaining "historical" documents are getting too expen$ive for my small collection).  I will probably look for forum members' help in dating some of the ads...

Craig "Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him." - Dwight D. Eisenhower
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Posted by pete1427 on Sunday, July 17, 2011 6:18 AM

After a long fight between Harriman (UP), and James J Hill for control of Northern Pacific

that saw NP stocks exceed $1000 a share, Mr. Hill ended up controlling the UP, plus the

SP&S,and GN RRs.   Those three RRs controlled three of the four trans-Washington

routes.

Great Northern crossed the Cascade Mountains through a tunnel located

at Stevens Pass.  Northern Pacific RR crossed the Cascade Mountains through

a tunnel at Stampede Pass.  The Spokane, Portland, and Seattle RR opted for

 a flatter route that followed the Columbia River as it had cut a natural passthrough the

Cascades between Washington and Oregon as it did not require any long tunnels

or steep grades.

Snoqualmie Pass ended up being the logical choice when the Milwaukee

RR was seeking a route across the Cascade Range to western Washington.

The Milwaukee tunnel, and the earliest of the two Great Northern tunnel are now

part of the hiking/biking trails in the Washington Cascades. The Milwaukee RR

Cascade route was lucrative because of the freight traffic, but it was not enough

to make up for the loses incurred in the mid-west operations.

 

Northern Pacific had considered The Columbia River route, Snoqualmie Pass,

and lastly Stampede Pass.  Stampede Pass won out at that time because of

the cost analysis perform by the engineering staff at NP to get to the Puget

Sound region.

The Spokane, Portland and Seattle RR included Seattle in its name to

confuse the competition as their true goal was actually the port city of Portland,

Oregon.  From what I have found in my research there were never

any plans to proceed north from Portland to Seattle for the SP&S RR.

 

 

 

 

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Posted by pete1427 on Sunday, July 17, 2011 4:26 PM

After a long fight between Harriman (UP), and James J Hill for control of Northern Pacific

that saw NP stocks exceed $1000 a share, Mr. Hill ended up controlling the UP, plus the

SP&S,and GN RRs.   Those three RRs controlled three of the four trans-Washington

routes.

Great Northern crossed the Cascade Mountains through a tunnel located

at Stevens Pass.  Northern Pacific RR crossed the Cascade Mountains through

a tunnel at Stampede Pass.  The Spokane, Portland, and Seattle RR opted for

 a flatter route that followed the Columbia River as it had cut a natural passthrough the

Cascades between Washington and Oregon as it did not require any long tunnels

or steep grades.

Snoqualmie Pass ended up being the logical choice when the Milwaukee

RR was seeking a route across the Cascade Range to western Washington.

The Milwaukee tunnel, and the earliest of the two Great Northern tunnel are now

part of the hiking/biking trails in the Washington Cascades. The Milwaukee RR

Cascade route was lucrative because of the freight traffic, but it was not enough

to make up for the loses incurred in the mid-west operations.

 

Northern Pacific had considered The Columbia River route, Snoqualmie Pass,

and lastly Stampede Pass.  Stampede Pass won out at that time because of

the cost analysis perform by the engineering staff at NP to get to the Puget

Sound region.

The Spokane, Portland and Seattle RR included Seattle in its name to

confuse the competition as their true goal was actually the port city of Portland,

Oregon.  From what I have found in my research there were never

any plans to proceed north from Portland to Seattle for the SP&S RR.

 

 

 

 

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Posted by pete1427 on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 4:30 AM

OOPS!

I made a serious typo error made in me post James J Hill ended up controlling the NP(not UP).

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Friday, May 17, 2019 11:30 AM

Anonymous
SPandS-fan,

Here's the 64 million dollar question: What would it take today to ressurect the ex-Milwaukee line over Snoqualmie? The ex-MIlwaukee line is now a recreational trail, parts of some trestles were washed out a while back, and the city of Seattle watershed folks have restricted any access along the upper reaches of the Cedar River along the old right of way.

That being said, with the State of Washington now actively engaged in supporting rail reinvestment, why not? <SNIP>

This is admittedly an old thread that nonetheless might warrant resurrection in light of the recent article on the Pacific Coast Extension (PCE) in TRAINS Magazine.
 
It was a great article and at its conclusion the statement was made that the PCE was probably not needed when it was built but it IS needed now (emphasis mine).
 
So, in order to return to the question, “what would it take to rebuild the PCE?” the first answer is, an awful lot of money.  I find it almost impossible to conceive that the original line only cost $200 + million back in the day.  That is mind boggling since nowadays they don’t even seem to be able to build a three-mile long streetcar line for much under $2 BILLION!
 
The question begs to be asked, is rebuilding the Milwaukee worth it?  Well, that obviously depends on who you ask.  I believe it is but that’s only an opinion.  I know that there are people living in Montana and Idaho and possibly even eastern Washington who would welcome the railroad back but then there are other NIMBYs that would only wish it back over their dead bodies!
 
In a nutshell, rebuilding the PCE, if done by a carrier other that BNSF, would greatly increase competition in the Northwest, relieve congestion on the BNSF mainlines (and, hopefully, also relieve truck congestion on parallel highways) and be a big economic booster to the area especially some small towns and rural areas. 
 
Although the tracks are gone most of the right-of-way (ROW) is still there sans rails and many (but not all) of the viaducts are still there.
Here is one bridge that is evidently still standing
 
 
and one that didn’t make it. 
 
 
Many tunnels would need work but most would probably be O.K.  
But how could it possibly be done?  One idea would be for the states involved to buy up the ROW (which in some cases they already own anyways) and lease it to a new carrier for one dollar per mile.  But in order for THAT to happen, the voters in those states would need to reach a consensus on such a plan.  Could that happen?  Maybe.  But we Americans nowadays seem to find it more and more difficult to reach a consensus on anything.  The NIMBYs and environmentalists would have to be dealt with. 
 
I truly believe that it should be done and would be good for the country.  However, at the end of the day, the sad conclusion is that this line is probably too far gone now to be saved. It’s just plain “too late”. 
 
The abandonment of the PCE in my most honest, humble opinion is a real tragedy that should have NEVER happened in the first place.  It was a comedy of errors made by bad managers, the ICC and other branches of our government.  Can this ever be fixed?  Should it be fixed?  I would just LOVE to see it happen but I just really don’t see how it can be.  But you never know.  Miracles can and do happen and occasionally facts can be freakier than fiction. 
 
I guess at the end of the day, the bottom line would be, if there were only enough concerned people interested then maybe it just might happen after all.  And, if not, then maybe in the next life.  One can always dream.

Regards,

Fred M.Cain

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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, May 17, 2019 6:15 PM

Fred M Cain
Many tunnels would need work but most would probably be O.K.  

Actually, I think they would all need significant work to carry double stack container trains.    The Milwaukee only enlarged the tunnels for tri-level auto-rack cars.   Further, I would also tend to suspect the roadbed would need work or shoring up in areas as the previous roadbed was taken out of service before the dramatic increase in car weights.    As mentioned in the TRAINS article the track had issues with 100 ton covered hoppers.   Definitely some of the rail bridges would need work also to handle the heavier weights.

Economies of scale and labor being what they are.   In my view it would be less expensive to double or triple track an existing line than it would be to reactivate an abandoned line that had not seen service in a while.    Because with a new seperate line in a different geographic area your going to need to split your operations and maintence labor between the two geographically seperate lines.   I would also tend to think signaling costs would be higher as well.    Not an expert on this though..... just guessing.

Milwaukee made a LOT of bad decisions PCE wasn't the only one it was just the biggest.   The Milwaukee thought the St. Lawerence Seaway would be a boon to Great Lakes ports and upgraded the Southwestern with heavier rail and steel bridges and nothing happened.........most of that money was wasted as well.

Turning GE down on their all expenses paid (or subsidized) offer to upgrade their electrical system and close the gap on the PCE, another stupid decision.    Imagine how that would have changed history.    Sitting on their hands and not actively developing more of a business relationship with CB&Q and or CNW to consolidate or share lines, probably hurt them as well.

As for light traffic on the PCE.   I believe that was the reason GN, NP and SP&S merged.   Independently they all had light traffic, it wasn't just a Milwaukee problem.   Though you would never know that from the TRAINS article.    BN had better traffic because it merged three railroads together and only incidently because they got to the market first..........in my view.    BN apparently did not have enough traffic to keep the NP open all the way from the Pacific and that is why we have Montana Rail link.

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Posted by NorthWest on Friday, May 17, 2019 6:23 PM

The death of the PCE seems to be brought up at least once a year.

The point remains that the PCE was an inferior route. If it wasn't, it would've been picked up by someone else (see BN's purchase of the Snoqualamie Pass alignment it ultimately didn't use) or the Milwaukee wouldn't have gone bankrupt.

The other routes require less capital to operate. Investment should be concentrated there.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, May 17, 2019 6:27 PM

NorthWest
it would've been picked up by someone else

I still do not think BNSF has enough traffic to pay for two seperate rail routes across the former GN.   Wasn't aware they bought the former Milwaukee Right of Way but they also could have done that to block future competitors.

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Posted by Convicted One on Friday, May 17, 2019 6:38 PM

Fred M Cain
This is admittedly an old thread that nonetheless might warrant resurrection in light of the recent article on the Pacific Coast Extension (PCE) in TRAINS Magazine.

Ya beat me to it!!!Thumbs Up   I just last night finally got around to reading that article in the June issue, and planned to come here this evening and look up this old thread.

I was particularly tickled to see them quoting Michael Sol in the article. I always enjoyed his contributions. I know there were some here who made it their gameplan to not get along with him, but I never had that problem.

As far as resurrecting the Milwaukee Roads pacific extension.....I know there is a lot of emotional tie-in to this issue.....but personally I seriously doubt it would ever happen.  The railroads are too preoccupied cutting everything to the bone to maximize stockholder return..... to even consider being far sighted again.

On a side note  having now read all of the pAst several issues, I have enjoyed the brief histories of all the western US transcons .....but don't recall reading the UP history in any of the issues. Did Trains not provide a brief history of UP in the May issue?

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Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, May 17, 2019 9:59 PM

CMStPnP

 

 
NorthWest
it would've been picked up by someone else

 

I still do not think BNSF has enough traffic to pay for two seperate rail routes across the former GN.   Wasn't aware they bought the former Milwaukee Right of Way but they also could have done that to block future competitors.

 

They picked up the MILW Snoqualmie Pass route because it was 500' lower than their NP Stampede Pass route.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, May 18, 2019 5:33 PM

MidlandMike

 

 
CMStPnP

 

 
NorthWest
it would've been picked up by someone else

 

I still do not think BNSF has enough traffic to pay for two seperate rail routes across the former GN.   Wasn't aware they bought the former Milwaukee Right of Way but they also could have done that to block future competitors.

 

 

 

They picked up the MILW Snoqualmie Pass route because it was 500' lower than their NP Stampede Pass route.

 

For export coal that didn't develop.  One of the large trestles lost a pier and the line was abandoned.  It's now a trail, the damaged trestle repaired for trail use.

Jeff

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Posted by kgbw49 on Saturday, May 18, 2019 10:13 PM

BNSF is essentially largely double-track or paired-main lines from Galesburg, IL to Williston, ND on the east end of the Northern Transcon and is basically paired-main lines from Spokane, WA to Seattle, WA on the west end of the Northern Transcon. Granted the former GN, former NP, and former SP&S are widely separated in Washington, but they provide three separate routes in to and out of the Seattle-Tacoma metroplex for various types of traffic. couple that infrastructure with Montana Rail Link as an overflow option through Montana to the former GN, the BNSF seems to have significant capacity for the Northern Transcon for quite some time, it would appear.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Monday, May 20, 2019 6:33 AM
I think that most of the people who feel strongly about the Milwaukee Road PCE tend to agree that a rebuilding of the line is not financially or economically within reach.  Sad to say, I guess I have to eat crow and agree with that assessment.  Yet if a way could be found, then I still think it might be desirable but, as I say, “if a way could be found”.  How?  I don’t know.
 
However, the disagreement tends to stem from whether or not the PCE should’ve been allowed to be abandoned in the first place.  I sense from some of the responses that some think it was logical and “O.K.”.  I strongly disagree with that assessment but what I think doesn’t matter anyhow ‘cause it is what it is.
 
However, here is an interesting point to consider:  The UP has a good line from Chicago to Minneapolis.  Like the Milwaukee before it, this line lacks a loyal interchange partner to its west.  I could see where the UP might expand westward over the former Milwaukee to Seattle.  But the problem with that is such an extension would be only marginally better and faster than their current line via Ogden, UT and eastern Oregon.  If, that is, it would be an improvement at all.
 
Either the CPR or the CNR could conceivably expand westward over the PCE to Seattle.  That would obviate the need for crossing an international border for domestic freight.
 
In any case, whoever might consider this would either have to have extremely deep pockets OR get help from the states.  Like I stated in my earlier post, the states could lease the ROW to a new operator for $1 a mile.  The construction costs would then fall on the new operator.  There might be some property tax savings ‘cause the new operator would only own the tracks, not the real estate underneath the tracks.
 
Although I don’t realistically think this will happen it does seem to me like someone, or some entity, should at least do a study on it.  Each and everyone of us on this group has our own opinions about it but what we really need are facts.  A study could produce those facts in black and white.  As for doing a study, I also think the government owes us that much especially since they dropped the ball when the PCE was abandoned.
 
You don’t agree that they “dropped the ball”?  Read Thomas Ploss.

There again, there are those few who don’t like Ploss, either.  So, I guess at the end of the day all we can do is agree to disagree.  This harkens back to another thing I said in my first post that Americans have trouble reaching a consensus on things anymore.  Without any kind of consensus on rebuilding the PCE, it’s dead.  That’s for sure

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Monday, May 20, 2019 3:23 PM

Fred, What traffic exists (or is possible) that would use such a new route to generate the revenue to justify the investment? The "BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME" does not play for todays venture capitalist market.

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Posted by Convicted One on Monday, May 20, 2019 7:14 PM

Fred M Cain
However, the disagreement tends to stem from whether or not the PCE should’ve been allowed to be abandoned in the first place.  I sense from some of the responses that some think it was logical and “O.K.”.  I strongly disagree with that assessment

Well, I think that it's important to maintain context with what else was going on in the RR world at the time. The Penn-Central failure was still s fresh memory back then, and holding economic responsibility for rail lines that were  underproductive was widely seen as kryptonite.

Rationalization appeared to many to be salvation, while sacred cows (frequently) were feared to eat one out of house and home.

So I'm gueesing their mindset at the time was one of "cutting our losses" more likely than any shame over abandoning "what might have been"* .

I really regret the failure of the Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal RR as well.....feel that it should have been given another chance....but the PRR made certain that woukld never happen

I also have this musty fantasy that a merger between Milwaukee Rd and the Erie could have had some potential to save both.   

* that "oh want might have been"  philosophy is much easier to brew from the comfort of our armchairs 40 years later, than it would be for anyone having to deal with the survival of the railroad in real time. 

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 6:41 AM

Electroliner 1935

Fred, What traffic exists (or is possible) that would use such a new route to generate the revenue to justify the investment? 

Well, I firmly believe that the biggest benefit would be in increased competition.  A few years ago the BNSF mainline was so congested that it very nearly coagulated.  That issue has now been addressed through the adding of some double track and lower traffic levels as well.  However, we would be naïve to believe that this won’t happen again.
 
The second biggest benefit would be the return of local rail freight service to local communities once served by the Milwaukee Road.  A complete double tracking of the BNSF mainline with some triple track would not accomplish that.
 
Here is a challenge to our group:  Try and see how many reasons you can come up with for rebuilding the PCE and how many benefits such a rebuilding would produce.  Please don’t mention the problems with it.  There is no need to mention the obstacles or reasons not to rebuild it ‘cause we already know what they are.
So how ‘bout it, group? What can you come up with?  If we could get a comprehensive list and plan put together, I might just consider doing a website on this similar to my site about bringing back U.S. Route 66.  “REBUILD THE MILWAUKEE”!
 
That could make for a most interesting website even if an actual rebuilding is extremely unlikely to ever happen.
 
Regards,
Fred M. Cain
 
P.S.
 
After 15 years, I feel like my Route 66 website actually got results even though it has taken a long time.  Will they ever bring back the official “66” U.S. Route designation?  Uh, well, probably not BUT it looks more and more likely that they will do something.  Did my efforts have an effect or an impact?  I will almost certainly never know but I like to think so.
 
15 years ago this all seemed so utterly impossible.  It just goes to show that if you assume something is impossible and don’t try, then the inaction does, in fact, make it impossible.  Sometimes we can err simply by doing nothing.
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Posted by Fred M Cain on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 6:50 AM

Convicted One

Well, I think that it's important to maintain context with what else was going on in the RR world at the time. <SNIP>

Dear "Convicted One".

I believe that what you are saying there is almost certainly true.  The fact is that the future of the railroad industry in 1980 looked rather bleak.  I even recall once reading an article in the old print edition of Railway Age where it was stated that they didn’t know what was going to happen.  Some postulated that the future of railroading may only include a few remaining lines that would handle very specialized products such as grain or coal.
 
When the PCE was abandoned, few if any transportation experts foresaw the freight rail revival that would hit the industry by the end of the 20th century.  As a life-long rail advocate I certainly didn’t see it coming.
 
If only they’d had a crystal ball and seen the future perhaps someone or some entity would’ve stepped forward and saved the line.
 
To reiterate just a bit what happened and go back over this according to Ploss, the ICC firmly insisted and mandated that the Milwaukee had to have a future and remain in business in order to provide fair and adequate competition to the Northwest.  That was included in the terms of the Burlington Northern merger.  But then the ICC later changed course and reversed their decision allowing for the abandonment of the PCE and partial takeover of some the MILW trackage by the BN. 
 
 
So, it wasn’t just incompetent management on the part of the railroad but the government was partly to blame, too.  Then later, if I remember right, there had been a proposal in Congress to bring Conrail west and take over the PCE along with the bankrupt Rock Island.  Jimmy Carter made it very clear that he wanted no part of that.  Possibly the BN folks had been talking to him but, of course, I’m speculating about that.  I doubt we will ever know.
 
Regards,

Fred M. Cain

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 9:15 AM

Fred M Cain
Here is a challenge to our group:  Try and see how many reasons you can come up with for rebuilding the PCE and how many benefits such a rebuilding would produce.  Please don’t mention the problems with it.  There is no need to mention the obstacles or reasons not to rebuild it ‘cause we already know what they are. So how ‘bout it, group? What can you come up with?  If we could get a comprehensive list and plan put together, I might just consider doing a website on this similar to my site about bringing back U.S. Route 66.  “REBUILD THE MILWAUKEE”!

It's not possible to take this up without considering the elephant in the room: the PCE as built was massively incompetent as a modern railroad, and a 'rebuilt' PCE would have vast problems by comparison even with existing competing lines.

Paradoxically one of its historical 'disadvantages' -- bypassing cities and significant-in-1915 traffic sources -- would work to its advantage now as a bridge line.  But the number of curves and relatively rickety construction make it worthless for the 'alternative' use as a high-speed rail route (with freight operation conducted within high-speed planning as in Europe).

Restoring the line to operation would be expensive, but even with the somewhat limited number of functional TLMs available in the United States could probably be done in a reasonable time, with much of the necessary regrading, curve elimination, etc. done as part of the 'new track construction' continuously.  Perhaps at the required scale, many of the fixed costs typically associated with mechanized tracklaying could be minimized -- although probably not to the point the states would want to assist 'for HrSR or whatever'.  Problem with going the route of state/Federal financing is that you have to overcome the sense of 'interfering with private business' and I don't see anything generating profitable traffic streams that would not do that.  As a long shot you could offer a rebuilt double-track PCE as a 'high speed corridor' for premier trains of other roads, or for the kind of Z train that UPS tested using Genesis locomotives a couple of decades ago.  In essence this recreates the 'classical' ATSF operation, 90+ operation basically one-speed with slower traffic only accommodated via holding sidings and only if necessary.  You'd design the 'east end' to interconnect with carriers compatible with such a model; it's a pity neither the Erie nor the high-speed parts of the Lackawanna still exist as a potential freight alternative.

Some parts of the grade might be compatible with, and reduce the cost of, a true HSR line at some meaningful average speed capability between, say, the Chicago area and the Pacific Northwest.  When you determine what that speed needs to be to be competitive 'enough' to justify all the expenses, and then use that information to determine what your ROW standards and hence physical routing would be, you'll at least have a numbers-populated plan for what "restoring the alternative line" would involve.  This would include the choice of power, and how quickly 'rollout' of electrified sections into first regions and then, presumably, the whole schmear would be possible.

Doubt you would rebuild any electrified section at 3000V.  Either 25kV or, with the larger available clearances even for potential stack trains, 50kV.  Likely constant-tension even if that requires additional copper/aluminum in construction.

Much more distance between 'multiple tracks' than pre-WWI standards.  Although it would be possible to operate the line for freight as a single-track main with long sidings, wouldn't it make "better" sense (these things being kept relative, you understand) to implement the second main with multiple cutoffs, each compensated-grade-optimized for a particular direction, then operate with crossovers/flyovers as necessary to give progressive directional running?  (Serves more areas, too, if you have precision scheduling control of initial 'wrong way' moves).

 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 9:17 AM

Fred M Cain
Here is a challenge to our group:  Try and see how many reasons you can come up with for rebuilding the PCE and how many benefits such a rebuilding would produce.  Please don’t mention the problems with it.  There is no need to mention the obstacles or reasons not to rebuild it ‘cause we already know what they are. So how ‘bout it, group? What can you come up with?  If we could get a comprehensive list and plan put together, I might just consider doing a website on this similar to my site about bringing back U.S. Route 66.  “REBUILD THE MILWAUKEE”!

It's not possible to take this up without considering the elephant in the room: the PCE as built was massively incompetent as a modern railroad, and a 'rebuilt' PCE would have vast problems by comparison even with existing competing lines.

Paradoxically one of its historical 'disadvantages' -- bypassing cities and significant-in-1915 traffic sources -- would work to its advantage now as a bridge line.  But the number of curves and relatively rickety construction make it worthless for the 'alternative' use as a high-speed rail route (with freight operation conducted within high-speed planning as in Europe).

Restoring the line to operation would be expensive, but even with the somewhat limited number of functional TLMs available in the United States could probably be done in a reasonable time, with much of the necessary regrading, curve elimination, etc. done as part of the 'new track construction' continuously.  Perhaps at the required scale, many of the fixed costs typically associated with mechanized tracklaying could be minimized -- although probably not to the point the states would want to assist 'for HrSR or whatever'.  Problem with going the route of state/Federal financing is that you have to overcome the sense of 'interfering with private business' and I don't see anything generating profitable traffic streams that would not do that.  As a long shot you could offer a rebuilt double-track PCE as a 'high speed corridor' for premier trains of other roads, or for the kind of Z train that UPS tested using Genesis locomotives a couple of decades ago.  In essence this recreates the 'classical' ATSF operation, 90+ operation basically one-speed with slower traffic only accommodated via holding sidings and only if necessary.  You'd design the 'east end' to interconnect with carriers compatible with such a model; it's a pity neither the Erie nor the high-speed parts of the Lackawanna still exist as a potential freight alternative.

Some parts of the grade might be compatible with, and reduce the cost of, a true HSR line at some meaningful average speed capability between, say, the Chicago area and the Pacific Northwest.  When you determine what that speed needs to be to be competitive 'enough' to justify all the expenses, and then use that information to determine what your ROW standards and hence physical routing would be, you'll at least have a numbers-populated plan for what "restoring the alternative line" would involve.  This would include the choice of power, and how quickly 'rollout' of electrified sections into first regions and then, presumably, the whole schmear would be possible.

Doubt you would rebuild any electrified section at 3000V.  Either 25kV or, with the larger available clearances even for potential stack trains, 50kV.  Likely constant-tension even if that requires additional copper/aluminum in construction.  Even existing 'wayside' technology gets rid of the train-balancing problem with regeneration, and modern AC power has inherent regeneration at road-variable power-factor sensing and correction.

Much more distance between 'multiple tracks' than pre-WWI standards.  Although it would be possible to operate the line for freight as a single-track main with long sidings, wouldn't it make "better" sense (these things being kept relative, you understand) to implement the second main with multiple cutoffs, each compensated-grade-optimized for a particular direction, then operate with crossovers/flyovers as necessary to give progressive directional running?  (Serves more areas, too, if you have precision scheduling control of initial 'wrong way' moves).

 

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 8,482 posts
Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 9:18 AM

Fred M Cain
Here is a challenge to our group:  Try and see how many reasons you can come up with for rebuilding the PCE and how many benefits such a rebuilding would produce.  Please don’t mention the problems with it.  There is no need to mention the obstacles or reasons not to rebuild it ‘cause we already know what they are. So how ‘bout it, group? What can you come up with?  If we could get a comprehensive list and plan put together, I might just consider doing a website on this similar to my site about bringing back U.S. Route 66.  “REBUILD THE MILWAUKEE”!

It's not possible to take this up without considering the elephant in the room: the PCE as built was massively incompetent as a modern railroad, and a 'rebuilt' PCE would have vast problems by comparison even with existing competing lines.

Paradoxically one of its historical 'disadvantages' -- bypassing cities and significant-in-1915 traffic sources -- would work to its advantage now as a bridge line.  But the number of curves and relatively rickety construction make it worthless for the 'alternative' use as a high-speed rail route (with freight operation conducted within high-speed planning as in Europe).

Restoring the line to operation would be expensive, but even with the somewhat limited number of functional TLMs available in the United States could probably be done in a reasonable time, with much of the necessary regrading, curve elimination, etc. done as part of the 'new track construction' continuously.  Perhaps at the required scale, many of the fixed costs typically associated with mechanized tracklaying could be minimized -- although probably not to the point the states would want to assist 'for HrSR or whatever'.  Problem with going the route of state/Federal financing is that you have to overcome the sense of 'interfering with private business' and I don't see anything generating profitable traffic streams that would not do that.  As a long shot you could offer a rebuilt double-track PCE as a 'high speed corridor' for premier trains of other roads, or for the kind of Z train that UPS tested using Genesis locomotives a couple of decades ago.  In essence this recreates the 'classical' ATSF operation, 90+ operation basically one-speed with slower traffic only accommodated via holding sidings and only if necessary.  You'd design the 'east end' to interconnect with carriers compatible with such a model; it's a pity neither the Erie nor the high-speed parts of the Lackawanna still exist as a potential freight alternative.

Some parts of the grade might be compatible with, and reduce the cost of, a true HSR line at some meaningful average speed capability between, say, the Chicago area and the Pacific Northwest.  When you determine what that speed needs to be to be competitive 'enough' to justify all the expenses, and then use that information to determine what your ROW standards and hence physical routing would be, you'll at least have a numbers-populated plan for what "restoring the alternative line" would involve.  This would include the choice of power, and how quickly 'rollout' of electrified sections into first regions and then, presumably, the whole schmear would be possible.

Doubt you would rebuild any electrified section at 3000V.  Either 25kV or, with the larger available clearances even for potential stack trains, 50kV.  Likely constant-tension even if that requires additional copper/aluminum in construction.  Even existing 'wayside' technology gets rid of the train-balancing problem with regeneration, and modern AC power can be built to have inherent regeneration at road-variable power-factor sensing and correction, with adequate control in poor weather or to prevent excess pan or railhead damage.

Much more distance between 'multiple tracks' than pre-WWI standards.  Although it would be possible to operate the line for freight as a single-track main with long sidings, wouldn't it make "better" sense (these things being kept relative, you understand) to implement the second main with multiple cutoffs, each compensated-grade-optimized for a particular direction, then operate with crossovers/flyovers as necessary to give progressive directional running?  (Serves more areas, too, if you have precision scheduling control of initial 'wrong way' moves).

 

  • Member since
    July, 2014
  • 257 posts
Posted by Fred M Cain on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 10:44 AM

Overmod,

 

I think this was a rather good and thought-provoking response.  One thing that I really appreciate and respect you for, you didn’t just point out a bunch of negatives and “this can never be done” etc,, etc., etc.
 
You mentioned that theProblem with going the route of state/Federal financing is that you have to overcome the sense of 'interfering with private business…”  There are also other issues with government assistance.  Since that would be done within the public sector, it would make it somewhat easier for “NIMBYs” to organize and petition their government reps to try and stop it.  Some communities obviously want the railroad back but others do not.  So, there comes that consensus thing again.
 
There were numerous lawsuits that attempted to stop Brightline in Florida.  But since it was/is getting built through the private sector, at least you don’t have people lobbying their reps trying to stop it.  It looks more and more like Brightline might just make it to Orlando.  This project is so different from what California has been trying to do.  The California project in contrast is a total mess.  No one has any idea how that is going to turn out.
 
A rebuilt PCE would also be very different.
 
I would love to see the line electrified again.  That could be a selling point if it could be shown that it would have no carbon footprint.  The old electrification used “white coal” (hydroelectric) and produced no CO2 emissions.  However, electrification would also greatly increase the cost.  So maybe that could be done later.

Regards,

Fred M. Cain

  • Member since
    May, 2004
  • From: Valparaiso, In
  • 5,503 posts
Posted by MP173 on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 2:02 PM

This thread brings back great memories of the forum 10-12 years ago when there was very intense discussions of all things rail.  Michael Sol's mention in the article was warrented.  He was passionate about the PCE and seemed to be a wealth of information about not only that route but the industry in general.  Sadly, he and others were pushed off the forum.

Now, for those who wish to take a trip on the line, go to the following link:http://newwww.weedroute.com/?p=8.

 

Somehow, a couple of young men purchased a speeder and rolled west from Miles City, Mt to Cedar Falls, Wa....on the railroad after it had been abandoned but prior to liquidation.  How in the world did they do that?!?

Photos are not the highest quality - they had mechanical issues with their camera, but the documentation is stunning.  

I attempted to find the photo location on page 35 of Clear Creek Trestle on St. Paul Pass using Google Maps and the above mentioned web site but couldnt locate it. The photos on pages 38-39 (near Adair, Id) were located.  Tracing the route thru the pass was fascinating.

The railroad was a mess at the end.  No doubt about it.  Was it the right decision to abandon it?  I think so.  The revenue was not there to support the high cost of service.  

Re-open today?  Wow...what an investment that would require.  

If I could take the time machine back to the mid to late 70s I would stop in St. Paul Pass and probably Huntington, In to watch the EL in its last year.  Cant do it.  Should have gone there while I had the chance.

 

Ed

 

  • Member since
    July, 2014
  • 257 posts
Posted by Fred M Cain on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 2:24 PM

 

Ed,

 

 

Thanks ever so much for the link to that photo gallery.  I hadn’t found that before.  If you scroll down through the comments section to #23 written by a Frenchman, he pretty well sums up my own feelings.  I can only add that I have always felt this was a national tragedy that could’ve and should’ve been avoided.

 

 Regards

 

Fred M. Cain

 

  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 4,936 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 4:02 PM

MP173

The railroad was a mess at the end.  No doubt about it.  Was it the right decision to abandon it?  I think so.  The revenue was not there to support the high cost of service.  

 

Ed

 

 

The MILW captured business from opening gateways as a condition of the BN merger.  But couldn't hold onto it as the already deferred maintenance track further disintegrated under it.  No matter what promise it may have had, there was no money to rebuild it.  (Would anyone loan money to a company that had let it's physical plant deteriorate so much?)  No one else needed it so abandonment is the only option.

Forget the cost of relaying track, etc.  Just think of the uproar from the NIMBY and BANANA element, not to mention the trail advocates out in Washington state.  Much of the line may have been in remote locations, but there would be someone who would object to that idea.  The cost of environmental impact reports alone would probably be astronomical.  Many lawyers would get rich before a single tie was placed.

Jeff   

  • Member since
    September, 2011
  • 4,290 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 9:17 PM

Fred M Cain
To reiterate just a bit what happened and go back over this according to Ploss, the ICC firmly insisted and mandated that the Milwaukee had to have a future and remain in business in order to provide fair and adequate competition to the Northwest.  That was included in the terms of the Burlington Northern merger.  But then the ICC later changed course and reversed their decision allowing for the abandonment of the PCE and partial takeover of some the MILW trackage by the BN. 

I think that the way to have saved competition in the corridor, would have been for the ICC to have kept the NP out of the BN.  NP then may have looked at a merger with MILW to provide a Chicago outlet.  Most of the PCE probably would have been rationalized, with the exception of Snoqualime Pass, and maybe the line over the Belt Mountains as an alternative to Bozeman Pass.

  • Member since
    May, 2005
  • From: S.E. South Dakota
  • 12,222 posts
Posted by Murphy Siding on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 9:57 PM

Convicted One

I was particularly tickled to see them quoting Michael Sol in the article. I always enjoyed his contributions. I know there were some here who made it their gameplan to not get along with him, but I never had that problem.

 

Also note another forum member was quoted- Mark Meyer / VerMontnan(?)

      When reading the article I realized that I had just been at a lumber mill in Idaho where the old PCE rail line runs past the property. I believe they told us the mill is now served by a short line that uses those tracks for a connection.

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar.

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