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Transportation Company - Milwaukee Road - Railroad

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Transportation Company - Milwaukee Road - Railroad
Company Name Milwaukee Road
Category Railroad
Year Founded 1847
Final Year of Operation 1980
Termination Acquired
Successor/Parent SOO Line (Details)
Country United States (Details)
Source of Text Bluford Shops
Text Credit URL Link
Transportation Company - Milwaukee Road - Railroad



Company History: First of all, Milwaukee Road has only ever been a popular nickname. The real name from 1874 was Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul. For the next 36 years, the CM&StP linked Chicago with Milwaukee, Green Bay, Madison, Wausau, the Twin Cities, Duluth, Kansas City and Omaha with a dense network of branches in Wisconsin, Iowa, southern Minnesota and eastern South Dakota. Essentially, the lines ended at the Missouri River.

With a dearth of friendly western connections, CM&StP decided to build their own line to the Pacific. The original target was the bustling megalopolis of Eureka, California. However, they built toward Seattle instead. In 1909 the line opened. Along the way, they served Miles City, Lewiston, Great Falls, Harlowton and Butte, Montana; Avery, Idaho; and Spokane, Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. In 1912, they began to electrify two long segments, Harlowton, Montana to Avery, Idaho and Othello, Washington to Tacoma.

In 1921, they leased the Chicago Terre Haute & Southeastern and a bit later the Chicago Milwaukee & Gary to reach the coal fields of southern Indiana. Both roads were in trouble and dragged the CM&StP into receivership. In 1928, they emerged with a small name change. It was now the Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific. Right after that, the nickname “Milwaukee Road” began to catch on.

The three Class One’s that already served the Pacific Northwest, Northern Pacific, Great Northern (along with their jointly owned minion Spokane Portland & Seattle) and Union Pacific were not pleased with their new neighbor and avoided building interchanges with them unless absolutely necessary. This left Milwaukee to haul whatever traffic they could originate or terminate on their own line or via a hand full of shortlines with which they interchanged. This is why when you see photos of Milwaukee Road trains west of the Dakotas, an exceptionally large majority of cars are lettered for Milwaukee Road.

Milwaukee’s steam fleet is generally quite handsome beginning with the period after WWI. Many locomotives were built in their own shops. The steam era came to an end on the Milwaukee in 1957.

The electrified lines were ruled by boxcabs and Bi-Polars for decades. In the 1950’s, Little Joe’s diverted from the Soviet Union arrived on the Milwaukee (and the South Shore.) By the late 60’s diesels began to regularly invade the electrified lines. Little Joes and diesels were MU’ed. The aging catenary could only handle so many electrics at a time so diesels filled the horsepower gap. By 1972, falling traffic, a declining fleet of serviceable electrics and the deteriorating catenary caused Milwaukee Road to de-energize the western lines lines with Avery to Harlowton lines following two years later.

Meanwhile on the east end, as a condition of the 1971 merger of Monon into L&N, Milwaukee Road received trackage rights from Chicago to Louisville. This gave Southern a friendly connection to Chicago it was losing with Monon.

In 1977, Milwaukee Road entered receivership again. This time, radical restructuring was needed. In 1980, everything west of Miles City, Montana was abandoned. Some lines were picked up by connections or spawned new shortlines but nearly 1,000 miles of track was pulled up. In 1982, Miles City to Ortonville, Minnesota was abandoned. Milwaukee was concentrating on their pre-1909 routes plus the new line to Louisville.

In an attempt to win back middle distance TOFC traffic, Milwaukee began running fast and short piggyback trains, usually behind a single SD40-2 and with a dozen or so 89’ flats. Unit coal trains added to the bottom line. By the mid-80s, the streamlined Milwaukee Road was up for sale and Grand Trunk Western, Chicago & North Western and Soo Line got into a bidding war. GTW had diverted 40,000 cars onto Milwaukee Road between Chicago and Duluth to help them turn a profit in 1983. Ironically, the ICC (which controlled mergers at the time) pushed GTW out of the contest leaving just C&NW and Soo. Furious, GTW diverted their 40,000 carloads off the Milwaukee. C&NW outbid Soo, but the ICC chose Soo Line anyway. Milwaukee Road merged into Soo Line in 1985. Almost immediately, Soo shops began painting big black rectangles over MILWAUKEE ROAD on the diesels, giving birth to the “bandit” paint scheme.

Successor/Parent History:
The Soo Line Railroad (reporting mark SOO) is the primary United States railroad subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), controlled through the Soo Line Corporation, and one of seven U.S. Class I railroads. Although it is named for the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad (MStP&SSM), which was commonly known as the Soo Line after the phonetic spelling of Sault, it was formed in 1961 by the consolidation of that company with two other CP subsidiaries, the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railroad and Wisconsin Central Railroad. It is also the successor to other Class I railroads, including the Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway (acquired 1982) and Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road, acquired at bankruptcy in 1985). On the other hand, a large amount of mileage was spun off in 1987 to Wisconsin Central Ltd., now part of the Canadian National Railway.

The Soo Line and the Delaware and Hudson Railway, the CP's other major subsidiary (before the 2008 DM&E acquisition), presently do business as the Canadian Pacific Railway, and most equipment has been repainted into the CP's scheme, but the U.S. Surface Transportation Board groups all CP's U.S. subsidiaries under the Soo Line name for reporting purposes.

Brief History:
The U.S. is a country of 50 states covering a vast swath of North America, with Alaska in the northwest and Hawaii extending the nation’s presence into the Pacific Ocean. Major Atlantic Coast cities are New York, a global finance and culture center, and capital Washington, DC. Midwestern metropolis Chicago is known for influential architecture and on the west coast, Los Angeles' Hollywood is famed for filmmaking.


Item Links: We found: 4 different collections associated with Milwaukee Road - Railroad
Item created by: gdm on 2017-10-11 14:52:00. Last edited by gdm on 2020-11-24 11:50:42

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