• 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 brokenrail
Perhaps you misunderstood my comment about the 70 mile double to single track project. It came about because of a CTC project either late 50's or early 60's (I've heard both from people that were there.) that left an excellent single track line with generous sidings. One of the motivations might have been the 3 double track tunnels that had the new single track somewhat centered (MRL later centered them more) allowing for greater clearances. Garrison to DeSmet (Missoula) had been double tracked as part of a system where NP had two mains between Livingston and Paradise with the short exception of Bozeman tunnel. This line was about 300 miles (depending on which track was used) where NP had either double track or separate mainlines. I think the benefits of CTC more than the Milwaukee caused this section to be single tracked. Today it handles about 25 trains a day with ease. The bottlenecks are the helper districts and terminals.

As Mr. Meyer pointed out the SP did send traffic via the Milwaukee after NP became BN but I think NP had more online sources of traffic than the Milwaukee. GN had more traffic than NP before the merger and after but I don't think the NP was ever a weak railroad. In fact the western MT NP benefited from the merger with the CB&Q where former GN traffic traveled over the shorter NP between Spokane and Laurel. And I think the NP in eastern Washington benefited from the merger when more traffic was diverted to Pasco and Vancouver instead of GN.
  by vermontanan
mtuandrew wrote:
brokenrail wrote:Great argument for why the Milwaukee Pacific extension was doomed, Mark, but you forget one thing. All the things that made it difficult to operate made it attractive to railfans. Mountains, grades, partial electrification and the underdog status. You're confusing the issue with facts.

To add to your argument the fact that the NP, parallel to the MILW, Garrison to Missoula, ripped up its second main before the MILW was abandoned. Clearly there was not the traffic to justify the MILW. Also if the BN gave up on Homestake how could the MILW be needed over Pipestone? Need we mention the excess capacity of the SP&S at the time it was abandoned east of Pasco? In fact that proves your point that double tracking an existing route may be more economical than retaining two separate mains (with sidings).
Sounds like the NP fell victim to the MILW's success with traffic out of Seattle - I've read that "The Milwaukee was having our traffic for lunch," from a BN veteran. That, and the ex-GN probably got most of the through traffic with its lower grades. (And did the NP upgrade its signals during the 1970s? That could have been enough to allow for similar traffic levels with only one track.)
Not the case....at all. As "Brokenrail" is suggesting, the NP modernized its right of way through the years. Indeed, in Western Montana, it was an early user of CTC, starting right after World War II. The NP route was CTC all the way from Laurel, Montana to the Idaho border, except for between Missoula and Paradise where it had two routes. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee continued on to the end pretty much without any improvement in its infrastructure: No CTC, shorter sidings, no power switches, no trackside warning detectors, all of which are precursors of a modern railroad which the NP became, but the Milwaukee never did.

The oft-touted (by Western Extension proponents given that history is not on their side) quote by the less-than-age-30, scheduled, BN employee who in no way had access to the actual costs involved in operating the MILW vs. BN was purely anecdotal and meaningless as well as one of many. Another "BN veteran" was known to say, "We don't even consider the Milwaukee as competition; it's difficult to not feel sorry for them given all the challenges they face." In either event, perceptions do not always equate to reality.

Given the higher operating costs of the Milwaukee due to its circuitous branchline network, heavy grades, and poor and inadequate infrastructure, even with some new business as a result of the BN merger, the logical conclusion was that the physical plant was just not there to handle increased business, and this same physical plant historically did not allow enough profit to allow upgrade to handle increased traffic as was the case with the Northern Pacific (and Great Northern).
  by CPF363
If CP decided to gain full control of the Spokane International Railroad in the mid 1950s (see link below) instead of the UP, could the Soo Line, being controlled by CP, consider trying to gain at least a 50% share in the SP&S during the BN merger proceedings to create a through route to Portland from Eastport, ID? If this were true, following bankruptcy of the MILW, could the Soo see value in using more of the western end of the MILW to access the Spokane International over an all U.S. route verses going through Canada via Moose Jaw?

http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/dis ... 8/1371961/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by vermontanan
Had the CP gained control of the SI (instead of the UP), there would be no reason for CP to gain Portland access via the SP&S as a result of the BN merger because none of its connections would have been changed. And remember, even the Milwaukee didn't get Portland access on the BN via the ex-SP&S; it only got trackage rights from Longview, and still ended up with a very circuitous, steep, and costly route to/from Portland.

As for the "what if" scenario of the Soo LIne buying the Milwaukee Pacific Extension instead of using the Soo Line-CP route via Canada: Not a chance. Between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Spokane, the Milwaukee was only 3 miles shorter than the Soo Line-CP-SI routing through Canada with the Soo/CP/SI route having a far superior operating profile (only one major hill - Crowsnest Pass - as opposed to the numerous steep climbs on the Milwaukee Road at Milbank, Loweth, Pipestone Pass, and St. Paul Pass). Just another example of the Milwaukee Pacific Extension being the "high cost" route no matter what.
  by gokeefe
Mr. Norman,

I've had cause to re-read a fair amount of the MILW's history recently and as such return to the original question of this topic.

I have seen a fair number of indications that most (if not all) of the "Lines West" Right of Way that was abandoned has in fact been railbanked. There has been a fair amount of trail conversion as well (still railbanked).

That being said the conventional wisdom (mostly here) also seems to hold that the grades and line geometry in Washington State were not favorable at all when compared with the other lines serving Seattle. I have no basis for knowing if such was true or not but it would provide a sensible economic argument against acquisition at the time you were there and since then.
  by Gilbert B Norman
I trust by now, all who subscribe to TRAINS, have read the article on the MILW Lines West "Too Little, or Too Late" written by former Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Machalaba. It includes quotations by our "Ver Montanan", Mr. Mark Meyer, as well as "higher ups" with whom I was contemporary.

The one point not addressed within that I wish had been was a proposal by Japanese maritime interests made during 1980, and reported in the Chicago Tribune, to acquire Lines West. Earlier in the topic, I discussed this proposal at length.

I still hold that "it should have never been built, but since it was, it should have been kept" in service, and operated by someone (UP?). Much as this sounds disloyal, my MILW did not deserve that opportunity.