• MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

  • Discussion relating to The Chicago & North Western, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road), including mergers, acquisitions, and abandonments.
Discussion relating to The Chicago & North Western, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road), including mergers, acquisitions, and abandonments.

Moderator: Komachi

  by Alco83
 
I read somewhere in more detail about the GE project but cannot remember where. In any event, I believe GE was willing to fund the entire gap of electrification, which I believe was a few hundred miles in western Idaho and eastern Washington, I think between Avery, ID and Othello, WA. In any event, it would have given Milwaukee an unprecedented electrified operation from Harlowton, MT to the Puget Sound.

It just doesn't make any sense from a management standpoint, why they turned it down. GE was willing to fund (and upgrade!) the entire project at no cost to the Milwaukee. Why would you not, especially since the railroad was in a tight financial condition and slow orders were running rampant on the main line by the 1970s? :(

  by ljeppson
 
There was a book titled I think "The Nation Pays Again" about the Milwaukee debacle. Maybe there are some answers there.

  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Mr. Jeppson, here is the book you have in mind:

http://www.biblio.com/isbn/0961378816.html

I "sort of" knew the author Tom Ploss, a MILW Staff Attorney. One just has to appreciate that post-Bankruptcy III, Lines West was "the root of all evils'. The prevalent culture is that if you are "on the team", you said nothing about Lines West other what can be done to get rid of it.

For an offhand comment I once got "branded" and had to listen to comments to the effect of "hey you ought to go join SORE' (Save Our Railroad Employment) - a group trying to keep Lines West going.

Unfortunately, the MILW I joined during 1970 as an enthusiastic newly minted grad with an Accounting degree and Viet Nam veteran, simply was not the MILW from which I resigned during Dec 1981 to start my own accounting practice..

  by Engineer Spike
 
I think that many of Mr. Norman's points were right on. A friend of mine sent me a link to a MILW historical site. Based on the info in the site, MILW was set on merging w/ Northwestern. After that failed, they were adrift. The new rights to connect to SP, and access customers of BN helped. They were doing well, even better than BN. According to the site, due to MILW's management problems, BN installed some of their people to kill it.http://www.trainweb.org/milwaukee/article.html
  by Friskens
 
For those that didn't read the article above here's a condensed highlight:

MILW rebuilt its own cars then sold em to car leasers just to then lease them back and with a ever increasing intrest rate this eventually exceeded the money available to buy new cars, making things worse the cars beeing rebuilt was cars the MILW had themself built in the first place and those where paid for a long time ago and thus netted more the a rebuilt + leased car ever could ...

Abandoning electrification even after GE offred to almost for free (i've read somewhere they expected the locomotives to be bought from them and also minor renewals of the "old" system, a minor price compared to what diselisation costed them (the road)) connect the two electrified segments of the MILW, but as we know just as the Oilcrisis hit, MILW abandoned electrification, electrification suggested by GE would have cut costs in half, and just keeping the electrics "as-was" would have been in a similar savings range 20-40%

Also once MILW was put into reciever ship the old president was awarded the recievership and continued his practice of ignoring rail maintanence on lines west (this was part of the problem aswell) and also refused to send cars (probably partly becuase of the first leased cars problem) to online customers on lines west. Also according to book keeping double entries of the maintanence cost had been entred into the books! Also one of the MILW:s "other" major interchangers the Southern was completly ignored when they wanted to route traffic onto the MILW with destinations on Lines West ... anyone else seeing a pattern here?

When the BN merger was completed that basically set the stage MILW would have eaten the twice as much track to maintain BN giant alive. MILW had the shortest and fastest route to chicago from Seattle period. Those two combined should have given enormous amounts of traffic from new BN traffic and SP routing and also from container + piggyback which was just about to boom in the northwest at that time.

If BN had something to do with the MILW:s undoing the article seems only to imply that BN staff somehow knew something about it long before the MILW:s own employees did. It doesn't say anywhere that BN installed ppl and killed the road, it seems to me they had a inexperienced Railroader at the helm much like a major Eastern railroad has today, school teachers, laywers and marketing ppl in all respect but a railroad need someone that actually knows the industry and can run it in his sleep.

Short term thinking has nothing to do with the railroad industry and these examples above shows it painfully more then others.

Greetings Hans from Sweden

Re:

  by neroden
 
Hambone wrote:Bad management drove the Milw into the ground.
I have read that among other things their accounting was completely screwy, and that they were double-booking expenses on Lines West, making them look like money-losers instead of money-makers. :-/ Now there's bad management.
  by vermontanan
 
Friskens wrote:MILW had the shortest and fastest route to chicago from Seattle period.
Was the Milwaukee the shortest and fastest route between Chicago and Seattle? Well it sometimes had the fastest scheduled freight service, but sometimes not. TRAINS magazine is on record stating the CB&Q-GN Empire Builder was the fastest passenger train between Chicago and Seattle, so we know the Milwaukee Road wasn’t the fastest passenger carrier. As for freight, the BN “Pacific Zip” was the fastest freight train on the run. As for a regular freight train, my April 1973 Official Railway Guide shows BN train 97 running from Chicago to Seattle in 55 hours, 30 minutes, while MILW 261 (its fastest train) took 63 hours. So, the “fastest train” is largely a myth. As for “shortest,” the MILW tended to be as such, but pretty much only between Chicago and Seattle, and only a mile or two using the preferred routings (BN actually had a route one mile shorter). The weakness of the Milwaukee is the other routes, where they were almost always longer. For instance, from Montana’s Golden Triangle, the source of most of Montana’s grain, to the Portland/Vancouver/Kalama area, where the vast majority of it was destined (and still is today), the MILW could be a couple hundred miles longer, and the MILW didn’t even serve these points until after they gained trackage rights on BN after the 1970 BN merger. Even after the trackage rights were granted, MILW service to Portland was on an awkward, circuitous route, and service to Canada’s major western city Vancouver was via barge (BN and predecessor GN always enjoyed direct rail access). Major intermediate cities such as Spokane and Great Falls were accessed on one-way branch lines, adding time and mileage to shipments.

So, even though the MILW wasn’t the fastest, and wasn’t usually the shortest, one could usually count on the MILW to have the worst profile. For instance, a car of wheat from Great Falls to Portland not only would traverse over 200 more miles on the MILW than on GN or BN, but would encounter a grade between Great Falls and Lewistown greater than the GN/BN route would over the entire trip. On the main line, hill at Loweth west of Harlowton (1.4 percent) was greater than GN’s route over Marias Pass at a short 1.3 percent. But the MILW also had a 2 percent climb at Pipestone Pass, 1.7 percent at St. Paul Pass, 2.2 percent at the Saddle Mountains, and 3 percent leaving Tacoma. With regard to traffic to Seattle, it’s true that the MILW crossing of the Cascades was the best at .8 percent westbound, compared to 2.2 percent for GN and NP. But the MILW climb over the Saddle Mountains west from Beverly was also 2.2 percent, and GN and NP, and later BN had the option to route their heaviest trains via the SP&S route along the water level Columbia River. Today’s shuttle grain trains on MILW would require 100 or more power than is used on BNSF, or multiple helper districts (no helpers are used for such huge trains westward on BNSF today).

At the time of the 1970 merger, much of the route that would become the BN main line between St. Paul and Seattle was either double track or CTC; many of the sidings could accommodate even today’s longer trains (as, of course, could the double track). The MILW had no CTC or double track west of the Dakotas, and was even dark territory between Plummer, ID and Marengo, WA; Most of the MILW sidings could not accommodate today’s longer trains. In other words, the MILW didn’t position itself to handle the trains of future.

For the same reason that UP doesn’t route any through business between the Midwest and West Coast via its ex-D&RGW route across Colorado today is the same reason the MILW isn’t around now. The Rio Grande route survives with some online business, but it was remarkable how so much of the MILW Western Extension could be abandoned and with minimal effect. Like the Rio Grande route, the MILW was longer and steeper, and simply inferior in a corridor that had a small population base and even competition from routes in Canada. And, if the MILW had really been shorter and faster, why didn’t some private or public entity step in to save it? The UP still operates the ex-Rio Grande, and the government saw fit to create Amtrak and Conrail, even though they were losing money. The obvious reason is that the right people were not convinced of the value of saving it. And if there was sufficient public need or a buck to be made, the west end of the MILW would be around today. But it isn’t, and that’s far from a mystery.
.
Actual mileages are:

Chicago to Seattle:
BN, via Oregon, Anoka, Casselton, Havre, Wenatchee 2181
BN, via Oregon, Anoka, Prosper, Havre, Wenatchee 2177
MILW, via Malden 2178
C&NW/UP via Boone, Blair, Kuna 2421

Chicago to Tacoma:
BN, via Oregon, Anoka, Casselton, Havre, Wenatchee, Seattle 2221
BN, via Oregon, Anoka, Prosper, Havre, Wenatchee 2217
BN, via Oregon, Anoka, Casselton, Havre, Ritzville, Vancouver, WA 2361
MILW via Malden 2207
C&NW/UP via Boone, Blair, Kuna 2381

Chicago to Portland:
BN, via Oregon, Anoka, Casselton, Havre, Ritzville, Wishram 2234
BN, via Oregon, Anoka, Prosper, Havre, Ritzville, Wishram 2230
MILW, via Malden, Tacoma, Maytown 2361
C&NW/UP, via Boone, Blair, Kuna 2237

Chicago to Longview, WA:
BN via Oregon, Anoka, Casselton, Havre, Ritzville, Vancouver, WA: 2260
BN via Oregon, Anoka, Prosper, Havre, Ritzville, Vancouver, WA: 2256
MILW, via Malden, Tacoma, Maytown 2312
C&NW/UP via Boone, Blair, Kuna 2283

St. Paul to Seattle:
BN, via Anoka, Casselton, Havre, Wenatchee 1751
BN, via Anoka, Prosper, Havre, Wenatchee 1747
MILW, via Malden 1768

Chicago to St. Paul:
CB&Q via Oregon, Winona Jct. 427
C&NW, via Madison 410
C&NW, via Milwaukee 408
CR&IP, via West Liberty, Manly 514
MILW, via Portage, Winona 410
Soo, via Waukesha, Owen, Chippewa Falls 449


Chicago to Billings:
CB&Q via Ottuwma, Council Bluffs, Omaha, Alliance 1392
CB&Q via Ottumwa, Louisville, Alliance 1374
CB&Q/NP via Oregon, St. Paul, Staples, Bismarck 1310

St. Paul to Seattle:
GN, via Willmar, Fargo, Havre 1783
GN, via Osseo, Alexandria, Grand Forks 1818
GN, via Willmar, Kindred, Havre 1776
GN, via Osseo, Alexandria, Prosper, Havre 1765
NP, via Butte, Dixon 1892
NP, via Helena, Dixon 1894
NP, via Helena, St. Regis 1922
MILW, via Spokane 1782
MILW, via Malden 1768

St. Paul to Longview, WA:
GN, via Willmar, Fargo, Havre, Wenatchee, Seattle 1926
GN, via Osseo, Alexandria, Grand Forks, Havre, Wenatchee, Seattle 1961
GN, via Willmar, Kindred, Havre, Wenatchee, Seattle 1919
GN, via Osseo, Alexandria, Prosper, Havre, Wenatchee, Seattle 1908
GN, via Willmar, Fargo, Havre, Pasco/SP&S, Vancouver, WA 1857
GN, via Osseo, Alexandria, Grand Forks, Havre, Pasco, Vancouver, WA 1892
GN, via Willmar, Kindred, Havre, Pasco/SP&S, Vancouver, WA 1840
GN, via Osseo, Alexandria, Prosper, Havre, Pasco/SP&S, Vancouver, WA 1839
MILW, via Spokane, Tacoma, Maytown 1916
MILW, via Malden, Tacoma, Maytown 1902
NP, via Butte, Dixon, Auburn 1991
NP, via Helena, Dixon, Auburn 1993
NP, via Helena, St. Regis, Auburn 2021
NP, via Butte, Dixon, Pasco, Wishram/SP&S, Vancouver, WA 1899
NP, via Helena, Dixon, Pasco, Wishram/SP&S, Vancouver, WA 1901
NP, via Helena, St. Regis, Pasco, Wishram/SP&S, Vancouver, WA 1929

St. Paul to Spokane:
GN, via Willmar, Fargo, Havre 1453
GN, via Osseo, Alexandria, Grand Forks 1488
GN, via Willmar, Kindred, Havre 1446
GN, via Osseo, Alexandria, Prosper, Havre 1435
NP, via Butte, Dixon 1496
NP, via Helena, Dixon 1498
NP, via Helena, St. Regis 1526
MILW via Harlowton 1473
Soo/CP/SI via Harvey, Moose Jaw, Dunmore, Yahk, Eastport 1476

St. Paul to Great Falls:
GN via Willmar, Fargo, Minot, Havre 1047
GN via Willmar, Kindred, Minot 1029
GN via Osseo, Alexandria, Prosper, Minot 1028
MILW via Harlowton 1129

St. Paul to Butte:
GN via Willmar, Fargo, Minot, Great Falls 1218
GN via Willmar, Kindred, Havre, Great Falls 1200
GN via Osseo, Alexandria, Prosper, Havre, Great Falls 1199
MILW via Harlowton 1115
NP via Bismarck 1118

Duluth to Seattle:
GN via Cass Lake, Devils Lake, Wenatchee 1790
GN via Brook Park, St. Cloud, Prosper 1828
NP via West Duluth, Staples, Butte, Dixon 1887
NP via West Duluth, Staples, Helena, Dixon 1889
NP via West Duluth, Staples, Helena, St. Regis 1917
NP via Superior, Staples, Butte, Dixon 1899
NP via Superior, Staples, Helena, Dixon 1901
NP via Superior, Staples, Helena, St. Regis 1929
MILW via West Duluth, Harlowton, Malden 1920


Lewistown to Seattle:
BN via Great Falls, Whitefish, Rock Creek, Rathdrum, Wenatchee 936
GN, via Great Falls, Whitefish, Eureka, Newport, Wenatchee 962
MILW, via Harlowton, Malden 901

Lewistown to Portland:
BN via Great Falls, Rathdrum, Ritzville, Wishram 978
MILW via Malden, Black River, Tacoma, Frederickson, Maytown 1083

Great Falls to Seattle:
BN, via Whitefish, Rock Creek, Rathdrum, Wenatchee 827
BN, via Whitefish, Rock Creek, Rathdrum, Ritzville, Vancouver, WA 1031
GN, via Whitefish, Eureka, Newport, Wenatchee 853
MILW, via Harlowton, Malden 1037

Great Falls to Spokane:
BN, via Whitefish, Rathdrum 501
GN, via Whitefish 523
MILW via Harlowton, Manito 742

Great Falls to Longview, WA:
BN via Whitefish, Rathdrum, Ritzville, Vancouver, WA 905
GN via Wenatchee, Seattle 996
GN via SP&S/Pasco, Vancouver, WA 929
MILW via Malden, Black River, Tacoma, Frederickson, Maytown 1176

Great Falls to Portland:
BN via Whitefish, Rathdrum, Ritzville, Wishram 869
MILW via Malden, Black River, Tacoma, Frederickson, Maytown 1219
MILW/UP via Malden, Marengo, Hinkle 1098

Re:

  by gokeefe
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote:I "sort of" knew the author Tom Ploss, a MILW Staff Attorney. One just has to appreciate that post-Bankruptcy III, Lines West was "the root of all evils'. The prevalent culture is that if you are "on the team", you said nothing about Lines West other what can be done to get rid of it.
Mr. Norman,

I assume that you are aware of the ICC's discovery that expenses were getting double booked on "Lines West" and that their conclusion was that ultimately these operations were quite profitable.

In regards to the Why? of this thread I only propose this. What difference would it truly make or have made? For the moment the most cost-efficient proposition seems to be double tracking and additional sidings for BNSF on their northern Transcon. Is there and would there truly be sufficient traffic today to justify the expense of two separate rights of way? As always I remain fascinated by the mid-20th century capacity reductions made by the railroads and in particular on their major main line corridors. MILW is probably the single most extreme example of this anywhere.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Mr. O'Keefe, I should rightly defer to our CPA members in active practice the extent to which post-Enron legislation, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, has required audits to include further evaluation of internal accounting systems such as Responsibility Accounting. The maxim from my day of 'evaluate internal control' was focused towards the safeguarding of assets, i.e. what do you do to keep the petty cash drawer from taking a walk out the door with Millicent on her last day?

Yes, I've heard the stories in the past of how if, say, a particular locomotive found its way on to Lines West, any costs of maintaining that locomotive would 'somehow' be charged against a Lines West Responsibility Area. To what extent any such practices, be they oversight or intentional, had a material effect on management's, or more likely the Trustee, decision to abandon LW, I know not, for my pay grade was too low to be privy.

Likely, there was no where to go beyond a long nature trail for Lines West; the proposal I've noted that Japanese maritime interests were contemplating making a bid for those properties was actually reported in the Chicago Tribune. How sincere was the proposal? evidently not very as it went nowhere. But there are still intriguing 'what ifs'; what if there were a Coast to Coast rail line comprised of the MILW and the ERIE (still intact during 1980) owned by Japanese and European maritime interests, that could reliably offer, say, 96 hour 'docking to sailing' transit time? Would there be a post PANAMAX Canal? Would have the Port of Seattle become the dominant Pacific Coast port? To what extent would have this 'Land Bridge' concept of handling Asia-Europe container traffic taken root?

Finally, one asks the question of how would have the burgeoning oil traffic impacted Lines West? I'm inclined to think not much; simply ask Mr. Google to ring you up a map of the Bakken oil fields, and you'll see such lands right under lines of the BNSF and SOO(CP). The MILW only 'cut the corner' of North Dakota - the principal station on such was Marmarth.

Thank you, Mr. O'Keefe, for your contribution to this long dormant topic.
  by gokeefe
 
Here is an online copy of Docket AB-7(Sub-No. 86F) - "STANLEY E. G. HILLMAN, TRUSTEE OF THE PROPERTY OF CHICAGO, MILWAUKEE, ST. PAUL AND PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY -- ABANDONMENT -- PACIFIC COAST EXTENSION IN MONTANA, IDAHO, WASHINGTON AND OREGON"
  by mtuandrew
 
gokeefe wrote:In regards to the Why? of this thread I only propose this. What difference would it truly make or have made? For the moment the most cost-efficient proposition seems to be double tracking and additional sidings for BNSF on their northern Transcon. Is there and would there truly be sufficient traffic today to justify the expense of two separate rights of way? As always I remain fascinated by the mid-20th century capacity reductions made by the railroads and in particular on their major main line corridors. MILW is probably the single most extreme example of this anywhere.
Not just two separate rights-of-way, but three, counting the Northern Pacific. If for whatever reason BNSF maxed out its capacity on the Northern Transcon (as the reports of oil booming may indicate), they have rights over Montana RailLink.
  by gokeefe
 
mtuandrew wrote:
gokeefe wrote:In regards to the Why? of this thread I only propose this. What difference would it truly make or have made? For the moment the most cost-efficient proposition seems to be double tracking and additional sidings for BNSF on their northern Transcon. Is there and would there truly be sufficient traffic today to justify the expense of two separate rights of way? As always I remain fascinated by the mid-20th century capacity reductions made by the railroads and in particular on their major main line corridors. MILW is probably the single most extreme example of this anywhere.
Not just two separate rights-of-way, but three, counting the Northern Pacific. If for whatever reason BNSF maxed out its capacity on the Northern Transcon (as the reports of oil booming may indicate), they have rights over Montana RailLink.
Indeed and according to the wiki for Montana Rail Link they already do exactly that. So at least from this point of view we can see that the relief valve is already partially open. Although I find it difficult to believe that BNSF would want to restore the MILW in Montana themselves I feel as though it could be possible that Montana Rail Link might do it on their own if they felt the traffic justified it. Did Lines West have any natural junction points or interchange with Northern Pacific in Montana?
  by mtuandrew
 
I'll defer to the ones who were on the ground (or alive!) at the time, but off the top of my head, there were interchanges or potential interchanges at:

St. Paul (Hoffman)
Minnesota Transfer
Minneapolis (east and west banks)
Appleton (BN westbound to MILW, MILW eastbound to BN)
Wahpeton and Fargo (unlikely)
Aberdeen (BN -> MILW westbound, opposite eastbound)
Linton (MILW -> BN westbound, opposite eastbound)
Terry (added post-bankruptcy)
Miles City
Judith Gap
Three Forks
Butte
Deer Lodge
Garrison
Missoula
St. Regis (BN had rights over MILW from at/near Missoula to St. Regis, possibly further)
Coeur d'Alene (in theory)
Spokane
Palouse (in theory)
Lind (in theory)
Easton
Renton
Everett
Seattle
Tacoma
Chehalis

Am I missing or overstating any, board? Not all of these were commonly used, and many may not have had physical interchanges, but this is as best as I can tell 30 years later.