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Milwaukee Road

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The Milwaukee Road

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Milwaukee Road Links

Milwaukee Road Historical Association 

Milwaukee Road Online 

Friends of 261

Milwaukee Road Photo Archive 

Milwaukee Road Coast Division: 1977-1980 

Milwaukee Road Archive 

Railroad History: The Milwaukee Road 

Milwaukee Road Personnel Records

The Milwaukee Road Electrification

MilWest (Milwaukee Road Lines West) 

Helmut's Milwaukee Road "Lines West" Homepage

Milwaukee Road Page 

Train Yard, Milwaukee Road Virtual Car Shop 

Milwaukee Road Pictures 

More Milwaukee Road Pictures

Even MORE Milwaukee Road Pictures

Images from the Milwaukee Road

Milwaukee Road Gallery 

John Brock's Milwaukee Road Photo Collection

Duplainville Homepage

Rob Bowe's Milwaukee Road Page

RailroadPix.com

Milwaukee Road Electrification 

Milwaukee Road Information 

Milwaukee Road Freight Car Photo Roster 

1927 Milwaukee Road Divisions 

Milwaukee Road Steam Locomotives (text file) 

Milwaukee Road F7 Hiawatha Hudsons

Milwaukee Road F6 Hudsons

Milwaukee Road's SW1 Fleet

Milwaukee Road Baldwin Diesels

Milwaukee Road FP7:  97A, 97C

Milwaukee Road "Little Joes"

Railroad History

Like most of America's great railways, the Milwaukee Road was assembled through the acquisition and combination of smaller lines.  Its earliest predecessor was the Milwaukee & Waukesha which was chartered in 1847, though construction did not begin until 1850.  By then, the name was changed to the Milwaukee & Mississippi to reflect a more ambitious destination.  It built from the heart of the Menomonee River Valley west to Waukesha, Milton, Madison, and out to Prairie du Chien. 

Another competing road, the Milwaukee & LaCrosse built a line from the west bank of the Milwaukee River at Chestnut Street (now Juneau Avenue) by the Milwaukee River to Horicon, on to LaCrosse, and then St. Paul.  This terminal on Chestnut Street would, years later, play an important role in the economic development of Milwaukee and the Dredgby Division.

The economic boom/bust cycles of America's emerging economy forced many roads into bankruptcy and small, independent systems were combined.  Over the years a number of roads were absorbed by the Milwaukee & Mississippi and the Milwaukee & LaCrosse lines and these two lines were merged to form the Milwaukee & St. Paul. 

By the 1870's, it became obvious that the railroad needed its own link to Chicago; which was rapidly becoming the railroad center of America. A direct line was built to connect these two cities.  Prior to this, Milwaukee/Chicago freight went an indirect route via Milton Junction and then to Chicago on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway.

With this new direct line, the name of the railroad became the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul and the road aggressively expanded to become one of America's premier railroad systems.  In the late 1800's, control of the railroad shifted from local interests and Scottish banks to Rockefeller (Standard Oil) and Armour (meat packing) interests.

Because the Milwaukee Road connected Omaha and St. Paul with America's railroad capital, Chicago, it was a prime candidate for take-over by unfriendly roads.  To stay independent and compete with the Great Northern, Northern Pacific, and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (which were all under the control of James Hill), the Milwaukee made ambitious plans to expand to the Pacific Northwest and Puget Sound.

In 1905, the Milwaukee announced it was building across 5 mountain ranges to the Pacific Coast.  The actual construction costs were many times more than expected and operating costs on the mountain grades were out of control.  The railroad decided to electrify about 600 miles of the toughest mountain routes.  Government takeover of the railroads during World War I did not help matters and completion of the Panama Canal siphoned anticipated traffic from the line.  By 1925, the Milwaukee was in bankruptcy, the largest such case in US History up to that time.

The road was reorganized as the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific, but filed for bankruptcy again in 1935 and did not emerge from receivership until the postwar optimism of 1945.  By then, technology and public transportation policy had changed and the railroad industry, though given a brief reprise with the booming economy of the postwar years, was facing increased competition from trucks, passenger cars, and airlines.  The railroad tried to solve its economic problems by attempting a merger with the Chicago & Northwestern.  These plans fell through and the Milwaukee was in bankruptcy again in 1977.   

To salvage the system; trackage was abandoned, including the transcontinental line to the coast, and the remaining system (called Milwaukee Road II) was offered for sale to the highest bidder.  Grand Trunk Western, Chicago & Northwestern, and Soo Line Railroad were all interested.  The bidding got too high for Grand Trunk and the property was awarded to Soo which merged the remains of a once proud railroad in 1986.

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2003-2005, BreitLinks.  All Rights Reserved.  The Dredgby Division of the Milwaukee Road is the creation of the imagination and modeling skills of Bill and Tom Breitsprecher.   Please drop us an email at webmaster@clubtnt.org with any questions, concerns, ideas or additional information.