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Prairie du Chien, Wi. and the Milw. Road

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Prairie du Chien, Wi. and the Milw. Road
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, July 8, 2006 9:41 AM
What part did Prairie Du Chein play in the history of the Milwakee Rd. Was it the end of a line? Resently visited there and saw several old coaches and cabooses I believe were once pat of the milwaukee along with other eguipment including whar appears to be a dismantled turntable. I know it was once a busy passenger stop and frieght area but just curious on how it played out for the Milw and why this eguip. ended up here.
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Posted by nanaimo73 on Saturday, July 8, 2006 9:56 AM
The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific reached Prairie du Chien early and then crossed the Mississippi on a floating pontoon bridge linking North McGregor (now Marquette), Iowa and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. This bridge opened in 1874 and was abandoned on October 31,1961. This was featured in the January 1952 Trains magazine, which I don't have-yet ! I think it needs to be covered in Trains again. The line reached Rapid City, SD. This pontoon bridge was covered on the http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/ website, but the article is gone now.
"The Pontoon Bridge
at Prairie du Chien was designed and constructed by Mr. John Lawler, to meet the particular wants of that community. It was built at a point where the river is divided by an island and is about 1 1/4 miles in width from shore to shore. Formerly passenger and freight cars were transfered by ferry boats which had to go around the head or foot of the island, making the distance from landing to landing nearly four miles; and when floating ice accumulated the river was frequently impassable. The construction of a bridge of either of the standard descriptions would have been parculiarly difficult or expensive. These circumstances led to the adoption of a system under which the bridge approaches on either shore, and the fixed portions of the bridge in low water and on the island, consist of piles, while in the channels of the river pontoons are placed, which are so combined and arranged as to form a railway bridge when the passage of trains is desirable; while when the use of the channels by steamboats or rafts is necessary the pontoons are temporarily removed. The pontoon in the east channel is made by uniting three ordinary transfer scows which have an aggregate length of 393 feet, and the pontoon in the west channel is a single-deck scow especially constructed for the purpose, 408 feet long, 28 foot beam and 6 feet in depth. Applications for the right to construct bridges of a similar plan at various other points on the Mississippi and elsewhere have been made and granted."
The Milwaukee Road became the first railroad to link Chicago with St. Paul in the fall of 1867 by using this bridge and heading west across Iowa before heading north. The CMSP&P line running along the west bank and the line across Iowa are now part of the Iowa, Chicago and Eastern.
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Dale
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Posted by Randy Stahl on Saturday, July 8, 2006 9:59 AM
The Milwaukee and Mississippi built into Prarie du chein as part of the route into Iowa . This railroad was the first predessor of the modern Milwaukee road . Sadly the route soon became secondary and became less important as time went on . The pontoon bridge across the river was a seasonal operating problem and train schedules were frequently interuppted.
The answer to your question is yes , Prarie du chien was a VERY important place in the history of Wisconsin and the Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul railway.
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Posted by MichaelSol on Saturday, July 8, 2006 10:38 AM
My notes:

The Prairie Dog Corner

On January 21, 1861, the Milwaukee & Mississippi was reorganized as the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien, owning over 736 miles of track. There was some logic in a consolidation of the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien with the Milwaukee & St. Paul, and even a three-way consolidation with the Chicago & Northwestern had been proposed, but no financial impetus to such consolidation was in the offing. In 1863, the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien turned down an offer to be purchased by the Milwaukee & St. Paul, and in 1865, the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien rejected an offer to purchase the Milwaukee & St. Paul. Mitchell continued acquiring stock in the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien, and by 1866, cooperation between the two railroads seemed to suggest consolidation, however, this was interrupted by events transpiring far away, and completely unrelated to the railroading concerns of Wisconsin.

In New York, the brokerage firm of Henry Stimson & Company began overt speculation in Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien stock. The brokerage had quietly purchased all available common stock of the railroad, and had loaned these shares to various persons and businesses, subject to a short call. In early November. 1865, the brokers suddenly called in all of the stock. The New York Stock Exchange was besieged by traders attempting to purchase shares to satisfy the short call. Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien stock skyrocketed, and the Stimson traders were able to sell their remaining shares at these high prices. The New York Times remarked that the corner was "the sharpest and beyond all precedent the most sudden corner known to the forty years' history of the New York Stock Exchange." Prairie du Chien being French for prairie dog, the corner was memorialized as the "Prairie Dog Corner." Tremendous profits flowed to the speculators. It would happen often with the Milwaukee Road.

The New York speculators retained a majority of the common shares of the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien stock, but they were surprised to learn that this was non-voting stock according to an unusual provision of the railroad's charter. An agent of the brokerage managed to slip a provision into a last minute legislative measure -- ostensibly designed to regulate petroleum companies in Wisconsin -- but which converted the non-voting common stock of the railroad to voting stock: the speculators now had control of the company, which they offered to the Milwaukee & St. Paul, which accepted, trading share for share.

In 1866, Alexander Mitchell, who had been a director of the Company at its inception and until 1855, and for a period in 1858, became president by virtue of the shares voted on behalf of the Milwaukee & St. Paul ownership.

Since Mitchell was also president of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, and Russell Sage owned large chunks of both, it was only natural that in 1867, the two lines formally merged, creating the largest rail system in the Midwest. In that same year, the Company acquired the McGregor Western Railroad, which had previously acquired the Minnesota Central (whose mortgages, naturally, were owned by Russell Sage). Milwaukee and St. Paul, Minnesota were linked by rail.

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Posted by fuzzybroken on Saturday, July 8, 2006 10:54 AM
Interesting that there was talk of consolidating with the C&NW way back then, and it never even happened more than a century later. Or, for that matter, at the end of the MILW.

Today, the line to PdC is operated by the Wisconsin & Southern.
-Fuzzy Fuzzy World 3
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Posted by MichaelSol on Saturday, July 8, 2006 11:00 AM
Alexander Mitchell's commitment to rationalizing the Midwest railroad situation was a success, and, having created the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway system, he attempted elimination of excessive competition and overbuilding by becoming, in 1869, president of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, with the help of Financier Russell Sage.

Although it would have been consistent with Mitchell's strategy to consolidate the Milwaukee Road and the Chicago & Northwestern, he and Sage lost control the following year to a group of New York investors, and the probable merger never came about.

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