Gilbert B Norman wrote: ↑Fri Nov 13, 2020 9:43 pm
The BN also was required to afford trackage on the NP Longview-Portland enabling MILW to make rates with both SP and UP at Portland. But again "too little too late".
That and that not all traffic is worthwhile. The traffic needs to cover all the costs, not only the current cost of moving the cars, but investment in the future to keep the routes viable. This was always suspect with the Pacific Extension due to its not being upgraded like the competition: Longer sidings, CTC, power switches, welded rail, hot box detectors, etc.
Portland interchange traffic is an example. Prior to the 1970 BN merger, the NP and SP were major interchange partners at Portland. BN still interchanged a significant amount after the merger, but much of the California traffic (where able to do so) changed to a BN/WP/ATSF routing via the “Inside Gateway” through Bend and Bieber. Needless to say, this didn’t please the SP, so when the Milwaukee finally started running into Portland in 1971, some of the SP-BN traffic began being delivered to the Milwaukee in Portland. The problem (for the Milwaukee) was that any of its routings were all more costly than the BN.
Case in point: Copper concentrate shipments from Southeast Arizona to the smelter in Anaconda, Montana. The shortest, quickest, most cost-effective routing would have been SP to Colton, CA and then UP to Silver Bow, MT to interchange to the Butte, Anaconda, and Pacific. But the SP wanted the long haul, so the cars moved via Portland. On a routing from Portland to Silver Bow via BN or SP&S/NP, the maximum ruling grade one percent (and these cars were heavy, about 100 tons). When SP interchanged the cars to the Milwaukee instead at Portland, the Milwaukee still got the same cut of the tariff as the BN, but they had to haul the car 47 miles further and over three 1.7 percent grades. More crews, more power, longer equipment cycle time. More cost. And whatever they made on the move to plow back into their infrastructure, it was less than the BN would have received. And this just one example.
After gaining trackage rights into Portland, the Milwaukee actually advertised service between Portland and Sumas in the Official Guide of the Railways. The route was over BN from Portland to Chehalis, then the Milwaukee’s rickety ex-logging railroad branch to Tacoma, its main line to Black River, and then “new” trackage rights on BN’s ex-NP line on the east side of Lake Washington through Bellevue and the 1.7 percent grade of Maltby Hill to Snohomish, and then ex-GN track to Everett to Bellingham, where Milwaukee rails would again be accessed. The route to Sumas from Bellingham featured a 2 percent grade. At Sumas/Huntingdon, the Milwaukee interchanged with CP directly, and the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority which could take cars to Vancouver, BC or CN interchange at Chilliwack. Southbound, there was no significant grade from Sumas to Bellingham, but Maltby Hill was just as steep, and leaving Tacoma for Chehalis was the infamous 3.6 percent grade up Tacoma Hill. Contrast this with BN’s route from Portland directly to Vancouver, BC which was double track most of the way from Portland to Everett with a ruling grade of only 1 percent each way. Suffice it to say, much less costly on the BN routing, and likely not necessary to share a cut of the rate for cars for Vancouver, or PGE or CN interchange. And this was really nothing new for the Milwaukee when one considers moving cars out of major (by Northwest standards) traffic centers such as Bozeman, Great Falls and Spokane: all located on branch lines with significant grades compared to the competition.
It could be said – with some degree of validity – that the Milwaukee got the short end of the stick with some of its trackage rights obtained after the BN merger, such as operating via Maltby instead of Seattle, and getting on BN right at Tacoma instead of Chehalis for Portland. But when one considers the handicaps already in place for Milwaukee accessing places like Great Falls, Bozeman, and Spokane, as well as the headache of St. Paul Pass and the Saddle Mountains, about the only way the Milwaukee could have truly been competitive after the BN merger would have been to give it trackage rights on ALL BN track west of Miles City!