On the trail of the Milwaukee Road

(Scroll down for images)

The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, also known as the Milwaukee Road, was the last transcontinental railroad to be completed across the Western United States in 1909.

In 1914 it also became the only transcontinental railroad to be electrified. By 1927 approximately a third of the route between St. Paul & Seattle, a total of 660 route-miles, was under the wires – making it the world’s longest mainline railroad electrification at the time.

For nearly six decades, smooth, silent hydroelectric power was used to power both passenger & freight trains through the Rocky & Cascade mountains of Montana, Idaho and Washington – with a fleet of 116 electric locomotives of five different types ultimately placed into service. There were two electrified divisions – the 440 mile Rocky Mountain Division and the 207 mile Coast Division – separated by a 216 mile un-electrified section known as “The Gap”.

Though there were many studies illustrating the economic superiority of electric operation over that of both steam – and later diesel, in the 1970’s the Milwaukee Road, facing bankruptcy, became interested in selling off instead of renewing the electrification assets and, in the midst of an oil embargo, made the controversial decision to phase out electric operations in June of 1974.

However the Milwaukee’s pulling of the plug on its electric operations was to no avail. The railroad entered bankruptcy, and in March 1980 the Milwaukee Road abandoned its Pacific extension. A few years later, the remaining operations were acquired by the Soo Line – making the Milwaukee Road the largest railroad abandonment ever in the United States.

The pictures below show what remains of the Milwaukee’s Pacific extension today – the bridges, tunnels, and rights-of-way; the engines and rolling stock preserved in various museums; the stations that served passengers and the substations that supplied power – frozen in time waiting for a train that will never come.

1 Milwaukee Road boxcab electric locomotive #E57B on display in Harlowton, MT
2 Milwaukee Road Deer Lodge Shop Switcher on display in Harlowton, MT
3 Milwaukee Road wedge plow on display in Harlowton, MT
4 Milwaukee Road Water Tower & Yards at Harlowton, MT
5 Milwaukee Road Harlowton Roundhouse
6 Milwaukee Road depot at Ringling, MT
7 Milwaukee Road bridge at Lombard, MT
8 Milwaukee Road class EF4 Little Joe electric locomotive #E70 on display in Deer Lodge, MT
9 Milwaukee Road Pipestone Pass Tunnel
10 Milwaukee Road boxcar at Vendome, MT
11 Milwaukee Road depot Missoula, MT
12 Milwaukee Road bay window caboose on display Alberton, MT
13 Wylie Controller from a Little Joe electric locomotive on display in Alberton Museum
14 Milwaukee Road depot Alberton, MT
15 Milwaukee Road trestle at Saltese, MT
16 Milwaukee Road Dominion Creek trestle at Bryson, MT
17 Milwaukee Road St Paul Pass tunnel East Portal, MT
18 Milwaukee Road St Paul Pass Tunnel Roland, ID
19 Milwaukee Road trestles in the Bitterroot mountains
20 Milwaukee Road Tunnel #34 in St Paul Pass
21 Milwaukee Road depot Avery, ID
22 Milwaukee Road right of way Avery, ID
23 Milwaukee Road trestle over Lake Chatcolet
24 Former Milwaukee Road yard St Maries, ID, now in use by St Maries River RR
25 Milwaukee Road bridge over Columbia River Beverly, WA
26 Milwaukee Road substation at Cle Elum, WA
27 Milwaukee Road Snoqualmie tunnel
28 Milwaukee Road trestle in Snoqualmie Pass
29 Seattle Union Station

Comments are closed.