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Chicago & NorthWestern : The non-transcontinental

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Chicago & NorthWestern : The non-transcontinental
Posted by Murphy Siding on Saturday, January 26, 2008 12:45 PM

     CNW built a line in the late 1880's, presumeably as part of a westward expansion of it's market, into southwestern Wyoming.  And then......it stopped.  To be sure, the reason they probably stopped, was because of the Rocky Mountains looming in the distance.

     Was there ever a real plan to extend CNW to the West Coast?

     In the long run, did the lack of a transcontinental line cause the eventual demise of nearly all of the "also ran" western railroads? (As in west of Chicago/St. Louis/Memphis/New Orleans.)

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Posted by Railway Man on Saturday, January 26, 2008 2:00 PM

Plans were drafted and dropped, redrafted and reshelved, but so were similar plans at
many roads; in itself the mere existence of plans means little.  The North Western entertained notions of a line to Salt Lake City and projected myriad cursory surveys to San Francisco and Los Angeles as did the Burlington.  In the meantime it built to the cheapest of standards, occupying the route at the least possible cost.  The North Western management recognized it was building into extremely thin territory west of the dry line in eastern Nebraska with no local support (i.e., no local traffic) and in such cases a line may only come into value if completed through to some west coast port or center of articulation.  If the former it would parallel another road and necessarily share the traffic and engage in ruinous rate wars; if the latter it would have to reach a traffic sharing arrangement with some other western road willing to offer competitive through rates. 

And which western road would it work with?  By 1903 Harriman had combined the UP, SP, and through heavy stock purchases the Santa Fe into a community of interest with explicit traffic-sharing, trackage-sharing, and territory-sharing agreements, avoiding duplication and rate wars.  Along came W.A. Clark with an immense fortune and larger ego and began building the SPLA&SL, a road into yet more territory offering no local support and when complete a geographic link of meager value down to the present.  Clark nosed around at both North Western and Burlington, as well as with the Denver & Rio Grande and David Moffat, in search of a traffic arrangement that might generate some through traffic for his railroad, the Harriman roads having no interest in short-hauling themselves and only entertaining offers for feeder-line traffic from Clark's road.  Harriman, we can imagine with a heavy sigh and grinding of the teeth, thought it better to not encourage this fool's errand any further, calculating that while in the long run the truth would out but in the short run it would create confusion, disruption, and possible political attention, so went into 50-50 partnership with Clark, dashing hopes (thin as they were) at C&NW and CB&Q for a western outlet via a traffic sharing arrangement with Clark.  Moffat and George Gould went ahead on their own anyway, the former as a nuisance run at UP (a tactic Moffat had endlessly milked as a mining stock promoter) and the latter as a exercise in megalomania, to the sorrow of the few who were seduced into purchasing their equities.

In the long run all that matters is not which herald survives on a boxcar or paint scheme on a locomotive, but that the territory was built up, the economy enlarged, and the investors rewarded.  Had more western lines found more foolish Dutch or British investors to finance more transcontinentals the only result would have been more abandonment, more economic disruption, and more wealth destroyed.  The agricultural, mining, and forestry resources of the West found adequate transportation to reach market with what they had.  In the long run the West's economy could have functioned without the capacity of the Western Pacific, Milwaukee Road, Moffat Road, and LA&SL, these roads accessing almost no traffic-generating territory not already served nor providing any geographic connections the nation needed, and functioning only as spoilers of rates in an unregulated world and as leeches of investment capital and maintenance funds in a regulated world.  I almost hesitated to include the Moffat Road in this list as the Moffat 60 years after it was built suddenly came of value due to the coal reserves of the Yampa Basin, but had there been no railroad the result would have been mine-mouth power plants; the economic savings generated by the coincident existence of the railroad are not large.

It's true that the lack of a transcontinental route condemned the North Westerns, Friscos, and Katys to a secondary status, but the construction of such a route after the construction of the first set of transcons would have only hastened their demise.  I think the question presupposes a world of infinite expansive possibilities where in reality the natural resources  that support population and wealth have definite limits which railroads defy at their peril.  On the other hand some of the grangers that resisted the urge to dash themselves against the Rocky Mountains made their investors fabulously wealthy while the western transcons were almost unexcelled in their talent for destroying wealth in the 19th century.

Had there been no laws setting minimum rates and enforcing traffic sharing with weak roads, abandonment would have occurred much earlier and with much more local devastation.  It's hard to imagine how a Milwaukee Road, Western Pacific, or D&RGW could have survived as through routes a traffic war with the Harriman and Hill lines. 

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Posted by mudchicken on Saturday, January 26, 2008 3:18 PM

Adding to RWM's comments: 

The serial case files of the GLO/BLM are full of "broken dreams" filing maps for railroads never built.

If the silver panic of 1883 had not happened, the CB&Q would have been from Denver to SLC via Glenwood Canyon and D&RG would have been something else (and the Moffat Road most likely never would have happened.)

CRIP was looking at entry into the Rocky Mountains via Trinidad, CO and the San Luis Valley as late as 1919.

(UP would look different in Colorado, CB&Q would have reached Colorado Springs, Santa Fe would have had a Colmor Cutoff, Katy (got to Keyes, OK in the Panhandle) and Frisco (Atlantic & Pacific) would be in NM and CO..and so on....

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Saturday, January 26, 2008 7:33 PM
 Railway Man wrote:

  In the long run the West's economy could have functioned without the capacity of the Western Pacific, Milwaukee Road, Moffat Road, and LA&SL, these roads accessing almost no traffic-generating territory not already served nor providing any geographic connections the nation needed, and functioning only as spoilers of rates in an unregulated world and as leeches of investment capital and maintenance funds in a regulated world. 

RWM 

I realize that hindsight is always 20/20 vision.  But, what did these railroads *think* they were going to accomplish?  It would seem that any railroad that was planning on going toe to toe with the 800 pound gorilla would at least have some grand plan?

     What is/was SPLA&SL?  I read through some sources online.  From the name, it sounds like it should go from Salt Lake to Los Angelos.  Then there is mention of a Montana senator, and the Oregon Short Line (?).  Then, E.H. Harriman bought 50%, and I got really lost. Can you enlighten me.

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Posted by jeaton on Saturday, January 26, 2008 7:46 PM
 Murphy Siding wrote:
 Railway Man wrote:

  In the long run the West's economy could have functioned without the capacity of the Western Pacific, Milwaukee Road, Moffat Road, and LA&SL, these roads accessing almost no traffic-generating territory not already served nor providing any geographic connections the nation needed, and functioning only as spoilers of rates in an unregulated world and as leeches of investment capital and maintenance funds in a regulated world. 

RWM 

I realize that hindsight is always 20/20 vision.  But, what did these railroads *think* they were going to accomplish?  It would seem that any railroad that was planning on going toe to toe with the 800 pound gorilla would at least have some grand plan?

     What is/was SPLA&SL?  I read through some sources online.  From the name, it sounds like it should go from Salt Lake to Los Angelos.  Then there is mention of a Montana senator, and the Oregon Short Line (?).  Then, E.H. Harriman bought 50%, and I got really lost. Can you enlighten me.

I have it on very good authority the SPLA&SL was the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad.  Completed in 1905, it still runs through desert lands where there are "not enough people...to fill a good sized house".

"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 Railway Man on Saturday, January 26, 2008 7:50 PM

SPLA&SL = San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake.  San Pedro is the harbor of Los Angeles (which is divided politically into the harbors of L.A. and Long Beach).  William A. Clark was one of the three copper barons of Butte, the others being Marcus Daly and F. Augustus Heinze.  The name was soon shortened to just LA&SL.  Clark sold his half of the 50-50 Clark-Harriman joint venture to  UP in 1923 and until 1988 the LA&SL, OSL, and O-WR&N were leased to and wholly owned by the UP.  The Oregon Short Line was the quasi-independent Union Pacific creation that built westward from Granger, Wyoming, to a meeting with the Oregon-Washington Railway & Navigation Company building east from Portland, Oregon, at Huntington, Oregon.  The OSL was pulled firmly back into the UP camp by Harriman after he purchased UP at bankruptcy.

So you ask, what were they thinking?  They were thinking there was potentially a bonanza just over the horizon if the cards played right.  Railroad builders were not mostly stupid.  They appreciated the economics of railway location, knew where they stood in the competitive milieu, and had a better handle on the development potential of the territory than anyone.  They did not know, nor could they, what technological innovations might occur, or whether those innovations might be in service to the railroad (hybrid winter wheat) or not (the motor vehicle).  Various unscrupulous schemers as well as principled but unrealistic dreamers also launched plans, but for the most part those schemes came to nothing as investors were by and large sophisticated or soon made that way. 

If you look closely at the example that piqued your interest, the North Western's tentative and tenous trail across northern Nebraska and into central Wyoming, you see a line on which the North Western favored only the least possible money, extended at an almost desultory pace with the rudest possible construction.  It was a flyer on one of many possible futures for the railway, not an all-in go-for-broke struggle like the construction of the original transcons.  The North Western clearly understood this to be a "development railway" and as soon as it limned a future in which there would be no viable parallel route to the UP-CP, nor any bounty of nature along the line to extract and haul away, it ceased investment at once.

If you look now at how little railway main line mileage actually has been pulled out of the West, it's clear that most of the time the railway managers of the 19th century made pretty good bets. 

Ironically this line's natural territory encompassed railroading's greatest prize of the 20th century, the Powder River Basin.  But for a century after discovery this prize had no value, just as the "burning bush" of the Old Testament -- oil and natural gas seeps in central Persia -- lay dormant of economic exploitation for more than two millenia.

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Posted by MichaelSol on Saturday, January 26, 2008 8:15 PM
 Murphy Siding wrote:

I realize that hindsight is always 20/20 vision.  But, what did these railroads *think* they were going to accomplish?  It would seem that any railroad that was planning on going toe to toe with the 800 pound gorilla would at least have some grand plan?

Even hindsight requires a perspective. Exactly who was the 800 lb Gorilla?

By 1925, which was relatively late in the game, the Gorillas respectively weighed something different than you seem to believe:

Operating Revenues, 1925:

MILW   $162,000,000

CBQ     $159,000,000

CNW    $148,000,000

GN      $115,000,000

UP      $110,000,000

Tons of Freight, 1925:

CNW     56,000,000

MILW    50,000,000

CBQ      43,000,000

GN        34,000,000

UP        18,000,000

During the era that various expansion plans were being made, 1890-1905, of the named railroads above, Union Pacific had been the only one that had gone broke.

Where on earth do people get this "800 lb Gorilla" idea?

 

 

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Saturday, January 26, 2008 10:47 PM
     In about 1973, we went to visit my cousins in Shoshoni, Wyoming, which had to be just about the end of the line for CNW in Wyoming.  Even then, I thought "Why in the world is there a railroad here, when there is miles and miles of nothing?"

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Posted by MichaelSol on Saturday, January 26, 2008 10:52 PM

 Murphy Siding wrote:
     In about 1973, we went to visit my cousins in Shoshoni, Wyoming, which had to be just about the end of the line for CNW in Wyoming.  Even then, I thought "Why in the world is there a railroad here, when there is miles and miles of nothing?"

Have you ever ridden the Union Pacific through southern Wyoming?

Or the CBQ through Wyoming?

For that matter, any Western transcon? The NP was about the only one that could follow a route that appeared consistently "productive" from the standpoint of looking out the window.

And as a railroad, it was the least profitable of them all.

From the standpoint of what you "see" in Wyoming, it's almost always "not much." Mostly underground somewhere. Or, in between somewhere and somewhere else.

 

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Posted by Railway Man on Saturday, January 26, 2008 11:20 PM

 Murphy Siding wrote:
     In about 1973, we went to visit my cousins in Shoshoni, Wyoming, which had to be just about the end of the line for CNW in Wyoming.  Even then, I thought "Why in the world is there a railroad here, when there is miles and miles of nothing?"

As Darius Ogden Mills was said to have remarked upon arriving at the end-of-track of the Carson & Colorado Railroad, in the dusty Owens Valley of Eastern California on July 12, 1883, "Either we built this railroad 300 miles too long or 300 years too soon."

The UP main line in contrast was literally at the portal of lucrative coal mines in Rock Springs, a stone's throw from mines in Hanna and Carbon, and could use ties hacked from the forests of the Snowy Range, Wasatch Range, and Elk Mountain, floated downstream to trackside in the spring freshet.

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Posted by spokyone on Sunday, January 27, 2008 12:10 AM

Could the "Cowboy Line" been profitable in moving PRB coal? Just looking out the car window, the terrain looks the same on that line as it does the BNSF line between Alliance and Grand Island.

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Posted by Railway Man on Sunday, January 27, 2008 12:34 AM
 spokyone wrote:

Could the "Cowboy Line" been profitable in moving PRB coal? Just looking out the car window, the terrain looks the same on that line as it does the BNSF line between Alliance and Grand Island.

Yes, but not nearly as profitable as the route chosen.  I am speaking from memory because the track charts are at the office and it's been several years since I glanced at the Cowboy track chart, but as I recall the Cowboy had an up-and-down profile much inferior to CB&Q's Lincoln-Ravenna-Alliance line (even with its inclusion of Crawford Hill).  The track structure would have been a 100% throwaway from the subgrade up with softened curves all the way to Fremont, a much more expensive proposition than dropping down the North Platte Branch to the UP main at O'Fallons.

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Posted by clash on Sunday, January 27, 2008 1:16 AM

Mudchicken, Your reply on the CB&Q reaching SLC via Glenwood Canyon interests me greatly.    I have a model RR I try to base on the CB&Q and am trying to figgure a logical extension west of Denver to SLC by looking at Maps. So far I've only come up with a route going west of Casper WY over South Pass and into eastern Idaho or Utah and I'm not even sure this would be feasable. If the Burlington actually did surveys and the route could be made without killer grades and curvature, I would love to do some reading on the subject.

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Sunday, January 27, 2008 8:28 AM
 clash wrote:

Mudchicken, Your reply on the CB&Q reaching SLC via Glenwood Canyon interests me greatly.    I have a model RR I try to base on the CB&Q and am trying to figgure a logical extension west of Denver to SLC by looking at Maps. So far I've only come up with a route going west of Casper WY over South Pass and into eastern Idaho or Utah and I'm not even sure this would be feasable. If the Burlington actually did surveys and the route could be made without killer grades and curvature, I would love to do some reading on the subject.

I wonder if that may have been the deal killer?

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Posted by cnwfan51 on Sunday, January 27, 2008 9:21 AM
If then president of the CNW larry Provo had his way the cowboy line would have been rebuilt and the connection with the Union Pacific would have never taken place It would be a different world to say the least. There were plans in place to rebuld the line from the BN  connection to fremont but Mr Provo passed away and the board decided against it and went with the U.P. instead  Read the bopok My 12,000 days on the Northwestern It really tells the tale  Larry
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Posted by mudchicken on Sunday, January 27, 2008 9:40 AM

CB&Q actually did the surveys under the aegis of the Colorado Railway from 1881 to 1885. One of CB&Q's Location Engineers was a certain Horace Sumner, later of EP&NE and DNW&P(D&SL/Moffat) fame.

The Moffat DNW&P actually used the CB&Q / Colorado Ry. alignment from Kremmling to Bond to thwart UP during the Gore Canyon War of 1904-05 after buying the survey and rights from CB&Q (quite a story behind that adventure, even involves Teddy Roosevelt)...Ironically, UP was saved by that fact in 2005 in a lawsuit at State Bridge, CO  after the facts got blurred by time and a real estate lawyer tried to pull a fast one for an equally greedy landowner/developer. (UP almost lost at least 2 x 50 ft x 12 miles of its railroad R/W = 143.5 Ac and a portage site for rafts & canoes on the Eagle/Colorado river would have been lost)

D&RG bought Colorado Railway's filing through Glenwood Canyon to keep their Blue River Extension from being crowded out of a canyon that could barely accomodate one rail line in their race to Aspen and Grand Junction in 1886-87.

These facts just barely appear on Overton's book on CB&Q and Griswold's DNWP/D&SL books along with "Rails That Climb". You have to read carefully.

CB&Q got horribly over-extended in the 1880's and the Silver Panics pretty well killed off their extension plans west of the front range in Colorado. They needed the monie$ they had to complete more lucarative projects that had a faster return on other parts of their system. They recovered well enough to control DU&P,DW&P and the Colorado & Southern.

 

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Posted by mudchicken on Sunday, January 27, 2008 10:02 AM
 clash wrote:

Mudchicken, Your reply on the CB&Q reaching SLC via Glenwood Canyon interests me greatly.    I have a model RR I try to base on the CB&Q and am trying to figgure a logical extension west of Denver to SLC by looking at Maps. So far I've only come up with a route going west of Casper WY over South Pass and into eastern Idaho or Utah and I'm not even sure this would be feasable. If the Burlington actually did surveys and the route could be made without killer grades and curvature, I would love to do some reading on the subject.

If you ever get to Golden, CO and the Colorado Railroad Museum, ask the archivist to pull the complete set of Colorado Railway Filing Maps from the "Green File" (Flat file storage case #20 or #21 in the basement of the Richardson library) As stated earlier, not much is written on the subject. Their plan had them going over Rollins Pass slightly north of where the Moffat Tunnel Line is now. (I don't model - I have enough fun just piecing together the original intent of my mudchicken predecessors for present day railroads and surveyors)

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Posted by Railway Man on Sunday, January 27, 2008 10:40 AM

Mud:

It shows how nothing changes:  Yesterday's Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 is today's Ethanol Subsidy Act (more loftily, the Energy Independence & Security Act) of 2007.  Repeal of the Sherman Act killed the western mining industry and for almost a decade stopped railway expansion dead in its tracks.  Today there's some good business for us as long as this subsidy  remains in force but it's anyone's guess how long it will be.

The "what if" question that always intrigued me is "What if Moffat had drilled the 2.6-mile tunnel instead of going over the top at Corona."  That would have kept the line below timberline and the howling wind-drifted snow that killed the operating ratio, and eliminated the 4% helper grades, too.  It's a question I've been meaning to put to lowwater if a tunnel at that lesser depth of cover would have run into all the crush zone and water problems that were so horrendous in the Moffat Tunnel.  Had Moffat's miners encountered such problems 20 years earlier I think it would have ended the venture, stopped his line on the spot, and there never would have been any Moffat Tunnel in the 20's either.

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Posted by Railway Man on Sunday, January 27, 2008 10:59 AM
 Murphy Siding wrote:
 clash wrote:

Mudchicken, Your reply on the CB&Q reaching SLC via Glenwood Canyon interests me greatly.    I have a model RR I try to base on the CB&Q and am trying to figgure a logical extension west of Denver to SLC by looking at Maps. So far I've only come up with a route going west of Casper WY over South Pass and into eastern Idaho or Utah and I'm not even sure this would be feasable. If the Burlington actually did surveys and the route could be made without killer grades and curvature, I would love to do some reading on the subject.

I wonder if that may have been the deal killer?

The Burlington did perform surveys, and to answer the specific question, the grades and curvature were no better than achieved later by the Moffat Route.  The problem is that the edge of the plains is at an elevation of 5,300 feet, the ridge line of the Front Range 40 miles distant is at an elevation of 11,000 feet, and the base of the final ridge is at an elevation of around 9,300 feet.  Absent magic those numbers are irreducible.  The average grade between the top of the plains and the base of the last ridge is 4000 feet rise in 211,200 feet run or 1.9%.  There's no secret pass everyone overlooked.  To improve on the curvature-restricted speed of 25 MPH the construction cost would at least quadruple (it would require extensive tunneling and bridging).  To improve on the 2.0% ruling grade that Moffat accepted you'd have to either start tunneling at Golden and emerge 60 miles later at Granby, or find a way to increase the length of the run, e.g., some sort of Spiral Tunnel arrangement except this time about 20-30 miles of it in tunnel instead of 10,000 feet in tunnel. 

Or you could just do the obvious, the inexpensive, and the easy, and build around the Front Range via Wyoming, which of course is what the UP chose to do.

The only rational reason a CB&Q or anyone else had to build a line through the Colorado Rockies was to obtain local traffic.  If the point was solely to reach Salt Lake City or the West Coast the rational choice was to parallel the UP through Wyoming.  Moffat's gambit was a bet on the come, either that the U.S. Government would re-subsidize the mining industry or that Harriman would view his line as a threat to the rate structure and buy him out at a profit.  As it turned out Moffat's Plan B came true, but it took 80 more years, the regulators to step out of the picture, and the amalgamation of a lot of secondary railroad making a threat to the Western rate structure.

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Posted by CG9602 on Sunday, January 27, 2008 3:01 PM
One other thing that may have killed this effort at reconstruction of the "Cowboy Line" of the CNW, would have been the sheer cost of having to upgrade 519 miles of sharp curves, "steep" grades, lightly built trestles and ties, and jointed rail, to standards that would have permitted heavy coal trains operating on headway. On quote that stands out from Roger Grant's history of the North Western, on page 226, is " I think we'll get one across. But I guarantee we'll never get two." That was the reply to Larry Provo from a subordinate when Mr. Provo inquired if the railroad could operate a unit coal train between Douglas, WY and Fremont, NE.

A second issue that forced things away from reconstruction of the "Cowboy Line" was the difficulty that the CNW encountered in getting loans for line rehabilitation. At the start of the 1970s the CNW's finances were not looking good. Recall that other Granger railroads such as the CRIP and MILW were in dire financial straits. The CNW was not that far behind either of them financially (at least, that's the impression that I receive when reading Grant). The CNW looked at getting loans from the Federal Government under the auspices of the 4R Act, but even then, CNW officials suspected that the Feds were going to refuse to loan the CNW enough to get the 519+ miles of track out of the weeds. At one point, the price tag of track rehabilitation for the "Cowboy Line" reached in excess of $ 530 million. So, between the BN giving the CNW a hard time over the coal, and the CNW's own financial picture, the CNW had to reach an agreement with the UP.

I wonder if they ever considered building a connection between the coal fields and an extension of the South Dakota line. I wonder what sort of considerations would have to be taken ion order to use that route instead of either the "Cowboy" or the UP.
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Posted by Railway Man on Sunday, January 27, 2008 3:29 PM

 CG9602 wrote:
One other thing that may have killed this effort at reconstruction of the "Cowboy Line" of the CNW, would have been the sheer cost of having to upgrade 519 miles of sharp curves, "steep" grades, lightly built trestles and ties, and jointed rail, to standards that would have permitted heavy coal trains operating on headway. On quote that stands out from Roger Grant's history of the North Western, on page 226, is " I think we'll get one across. But I guarantee we'll never get two." That was the reply to Larry Provo from a subordinate when Mr. Provo inquired if the railroad could operate a unit coal train between Douglas, WY and Fremont, NE.

A second issue that forced things away from reconstruction of the "Cowboy Line" was the difficulty that the CNW encountered in getting loans for line rehabilitation. At the start of the 1970s the CNW's finances were not looking good. Recall that other Granger railroads such as the CRIP and MILW were in dire financial straits. The CNW was not that far behind either of them financially (at least, that's the impression that I receive when reading Grant). The CNW looked at getting loans from the Federal Government under the auspices of the 4R Act, but even then, CNW officials suspected that the Feds were going to refuse to loan the CNW enough to get the 519+ miles of track out of the weeds. At one point, the price tag of track rehabilitation for the "Cowboy Line" reached in excess of $ 530 million. So, between the BN giving the CNW a hard time over the coal, and the CNW's own financial picture, the CNW had to reach an agreement with the UP.

I wonder if they ever considered building a connection between the coal fields and an extension of the South Dakota line. I wonder what sort of considerations would have to be taken ion order to use that route instead of either the "Cowboy" or the UP.

In order of magnitude, if you take as 1X the construction cost of the coal line as actually built from Orin to a connection with UP at South Morrill including improvement to the UP North Platte Branch to O'Fallons, then the Cowboy from Orin to Fremont would be 4x, and the Cowboy from Orin to Chadron, Chadron-Rapid City, and Rapid City-St. Paul would be 10x.  That does not include any revisions to the unsuitable alignment between Chadron and Rapid City, for which all-new construction with reduced grades would have been almost essential to keep drawbar limits within reason without using cut-in helpers. 

In order of operating cost from mine to market on these three routes, order of magnitude would be 1X for the line as actually constructed, 1.3X for the Cowboy, and 1.6X for the St. Paul route. 

The other problem with St. Paul is that it lies at the edge of the market basin, whereas the C&NW main through Iowa bisects the middle of the market basin.

The track structure of the Rapid City line would have been complete scrape-off, just like the Cowboy, just like the portion that was "reused" between Lusk and Orin, Wyoming.  In that section an all-new subgrade was constructed parallel to the existing subgrade, which was unsuitable for the load.

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Posted by clash on Monday, January 28, 2008 12:08 AM

Thanks mudchicken and Railway man. Thats is some really interesting information!                    It looks like I'll still base my road on getting to SLC via South Pass. It seems logical. I can handle cars off the N.P. Burlington and subsidiaries, The C&NW and the Milwaukee Road and takesome business away from the U.P.

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Posted by Kevin C. Smith on Monday, January 28, 2008 12:42 AM

 Railway Man wrote:

To improve on the 2.0% ruling grade that Moffat accepted you'd have to either start tunneling at Golden and emerge 60 miles later at Granby,

A quick question...since my dialup connection prevents getting very detailed maps easily and my eyesight prevents my reading them well if I did (and my vanity-so far-keeps me from getting glasses), what would be the length/grade of a tunnel from Golden to the present east portal of Moffatt tunnel?

I realize that it falls into the realm of "ain't gonna happen" but, when Trains ran the article some months back on the long (20+ miles IIRC) tunnel project in Switzerland, I thought of what that might do to the most grade and curve challenged mainline I could think of-and the D&RGW's ascent from Denver came to my mind.

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Posted by Kevin C. Smith on Monday, January 28, 2008 12:55 AM
 Railway Man wrote:

Harriman, we can imagine with a heavy sigh and grinding of the teeth, thought it better to not encourage this fool's errand any further, calculating that while in the long run the truth would out but in the short run it would create confusion, disruption, and possible political attention, so went into 50-50 partnership with Clark, dashing hopes (thin as they were) at C&NW and CB&Q for a western outlet via a traffic sharing arrangement with Clark. 

Considering the name "San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake" and recalling that neither the C&NW nor CB&Q breached the Rockies, how was the gap to be filled in to connect the two?

  • Was the plan that the C&NW and/or CB&Q would lay their own line to Salt Lake City to make the connection?
  • Was the SPLA&SL going to build east once they had settled on just who to build to?
  • Was the D&RGW going to be the middle part of whatever combine came about?

Or was that one of the details that never got settled?

"Look at those high cars roll-finest sight in the world."
  • Member since
    November 2007
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Posted by Railway Man on Monday, January 28, 2008 6:56 AM

Kevin:

Measuring off Google Earth:

  1. Tunnel from Golden (5674') to East Portal (9200)' would be 24.5 miles, 2.72% ascending westward
  2. Tunnel from Golden (5674') to Tabernash (8806') would be 36.5 miles, 1.6% ascending westward
  3. Tunnel from Golden (5674') to Winter Park (9100') would be 30.0 miles, 2.2% ascending westward

If you were going to build a high-speed passenger railroad and wanted to serve the Middle Park Valley, the logical west portal would be Winter Park. 

A freight railroad would be more practical to have its west portal at Tabernash and eliminate the existing eastward 2.0% grade.  It seems more than ridiculous to build a freight tunnel of such length and still be confronted with the capacity constraints of Fraser, Byers, Gore, Little Gore, Red Canyons, Rock Creek, and Egeria Canyons, and Toponas Summit respectively, so presumably such a railroad would bypass all of them with tunnels of 7.2 (Tabernash-Granby), 4.7 (Sulphur-Flat), and 17.4 miles (Kremmling-Sidney), emerging in the vicinity of Steamboat Springs. 

I can't conceive of a world where hauling coal could ever pay for this. 

RWM 

  • Member since
    November 2007
  • 2,989 posts
Posted by Railway Man on Monday, January 28, 2008 7:04 AM
 Kevin C. Smith wrote:
 Railway Man wrote:

Harriman, we can imagine with a heavy sigh and grinding of the teeth, thought it better to not encourage this fool's errand any further, calculating that while in the long run the truth would out but in the short run it would create confusion, disruption, and possible political attention, so went into 50-50 partnership with Clark, dashing hopes (thin as they were) at C&NW and CB&Q for a western outlet via a traffic sharing arrangement with Clark. 

Considering the name "San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake" and recalling that neither the C&NW nor CB&Q breached the Rockies, how was the gap to be filled in to connect the two?

  • Was the plan that the C&NW and/or CB&Q would lay their own line to Salt Lake City to make the connection?
  • Was the SPLA&SL going to build east once they had settled on just who to build to?
  • Was the D&RGW going to be the middle part of whatever combine came about?

Or was that one of the details that never got settled?

Clark looked to see who wanted to build west to meet him:  C&NW, CB&Q, or Moffat -- the D&RGW not being a viable through route at that time.  Moffat didn't have the financial backing.  C&NW and CB&Q demurred.  It's lost to history whether the Q and the North Western turned down Clark because they did not see sufficient traffic volume to justify the expense, because they didn't wish to engage in a rate war with Harriman for the business, or because they did not wish to disrupt traffic-sharing arrangements in the Midwest.  Or, whether Harriman pre-empted all three motives by agreeing to a joint-venture with Clark.  At the time Railway Age suggested it was a combination of all four.

RWM

  • Member since
    September 2002
  • From: US
  • 383 posts
Posted by CG9602 on Monday, January 28, 2008 12:02 PM
 Murphy Siding wrote:

     CNW built a line in the late 1880's, presumeably as part of a westward expansion of it's market, into southwestern Wyoming.  And then......it stopped.  To be sure, the reason they probably stopped, was because of the Rocky Mountains looming in the distance.

     Was there ever a real plan to extend CNW to the West Coast?

     In the long run, did the lack of a transcontinental line cause the eventual demise of nearly all of the "also ran" western railroads? (As in west of Chicago/St. Louis/Memphis/New Orleans.)



In Roger Grant's history of the Chicago North Western, he details the discussions that the CNW looked at. The CNW looked at reaching Coos Bay, Oregon, via Idaho. There was also discussion of a second route from Wyoming to Eureka, California. I suspect that the mountain grades, going over the South Pass of WY, and that the nation was just coming out of the economic downturn known as the Panic of 1893 - an economic downturn that placed several railroads including the Union Pacific in receivership, may have made the North Western management quite skeptical of the benefits of a Pacific Extension, and leery of the costs and expenses involved. Marvin Hughitt, to his credit, elected to have the North Western stick to its proverbial knitting. The Milwaukee chose to extend to the Pacific, to its eventual chagrin.
  • Member since
    October 2004
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Posted by MichaelSol on Monday, January 28, 2008 1:18 PM

 CG9602 wrote:
The Milwaukee chose to extend to the Pacific, to its eventual chagrin.

Actually, it's a good example of why railroads that chose to build to the Pacific Coast generally did better than the railroads that didn't. Milwaukee had once been the largest of the Grangers. By 1912, it had become the smallest in terms of revenues, by a small margin; smaller than GN and NP, for sure. After the merger of its Puget Sound Company, revenues changed dramatically.

By 1925, rather than being smaller than its peer group, it showed, for instance, $162 million in revenues, compared to $114 million for the GN, and $98 million for NP. It had far outstripped UP's $110 million.

By 1926, MILW was generating roughly the same income per mile of line as the two Northern Lines transcontinentals; the Milwaukee at $14,342 per mile, while the NP was generating $14,335, and the GN, $14,568.

After 1912, Milwaukee Road's PCE carried approximately 25% of the system tonnage, but typically generated 45% of the Company's net income. As a rule of thumb, and this has shown to be true through 1977, MILW's transcontinental traffic nearly always was carried at a profit substantially in excess of what its Midwestern lines were carrying and in many years, supplied entirely the net income of the Company. 

That was the power of the long haul, and through 1975, was the reason why MILW nearly always generated a superior operating ratio to CNW and CRIP.

The story of transcontinental railroad success due to the long haul advantages of their routes, notwithstanding the Rocky Mountains and Coast ranges, is confirmed, not rebutted, by the history of the Milwaukee Road. It had other problems, but its transcontinental railroad strategy was not one of them.

 

  • Member since
    December 2005
  • From: MP 32.8
  • 769 posts
Posted by Kevin C. Smith on Monday, January 28, 2008 2:57 PM
 Railway Man wrote:

Kevin:

Measuring off Google Earth:

  1. Tunnel from Golden (5674') to East Portal (9200)' would be 24.5 miles, 2.72% ascending westward
  2. Tunnel from Golden (5674') to Tabernash (8806') would be 36.5 miles, 1.6% ascending westward
  3. Tunnel from Golden (5674') to Winter Park (9100') would be 30.0 miles, 2.2% ascending westward

If you were going to build a high-speed passenger railroad and wanted to serve the Middle Park Valley, the logical west portal would be Winter Park. 

A freight railroad would be more practical to have its west portal at Tabernash and eliminate the existing eastward 2.0% grade.  It seems more than ridiculous to build a freight tunnel of such length and still be confronted with the capacity constraints of Fraser, Byers, Gore, Little Gore, Red Canyons, Rock Creek, and Egeria Canyons, and Toponas Summit respectively, so presumably such a railroad would bypass all of them with tunnels of 7.2 (Tabernash-Granby), 4.7 (Sulphur-Flat), and 17.4 miles (Kremmling-Sidney), emerging in the vicinity of Steamboat Springs. 

I can't conceive of a world where hauling coal could ever pay for this. 

RWM 

Thank you-especially for all the additional tunnel info. I realize there is probably no economic justification for such a series of projects but they are facinating "what if" ideas. Thanks for taking the time to satify my curiosity.

"Look at those high cars roll-finest sight in the world."
  • Member since
    November 2007
  • 2,989 posts
Posted by Railway Man on Monday, January 28, 2008 3:28 PM

It was fun to look it up!  That's about the best I can ask for from a forum like this -- people with different perspectives ask questions that take creative thought to answer.  While experience told me that the Moffat Road's alignment wasn't going to be improved upon easily, your question led to a quantification of "not easily".  Now we both know something we didn't before.  (And, I kid you not, I'll actually be able to use that tunnel info in the day job sometime in the next month or so.)

Hugs all around, kumbaya. Tongue [:P]

RWM

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