CNW 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.

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Re: CNW and abandonments

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Jun 24, 2013 9:58 am

Minneapolitan wrote:
SlowFreight wrote:Now, in other discussions, the same guy that worked hard to divert all KC traffic from the CGW line to the Spine Line (Ed Burkhardt) claimed that at the time abandoning the CGW line across Illinois was a mistake...but that was only because at that time in the early 70s, the CGW was in good shape while the C&NW main was a wreck.


This indicates the tragedy of the Chicago Great Western, so it must be emphasized: The CGW wasn't a redundant railroad. Rather, it was redundant to the C&NW. In fact, I can't think of a worse railroad to have taken it over. It should have been clear to everyone at Oelwein that the C&NW would leave little of it intact.

Although a granger road, no doubt, Chicago Great Western functioned much like an eastern railroad in that it didn't have a sprawled-out network of low-volume, low-value branch lines. CGW's only real network of track was in southeastern Minnesota. The system was primarily just main lines connecting large cities, which meant higher density routes with minimal maintenance costs and better track condition. And these routes were as competitive as any other railroad's. For example, the Burlington Route's main line from Chicago to St. Paul was approximately 434.8 miles. By comparison, Chicago Great Western's main was approximately 425.1 miles. But this route went through some pretty hilly terrain down around Dubuque, so CGW's competitive routes didn't mean dick without good motive power to climb those grades - and CGW certainly kept good motive power. Again, we see a general characteristic of an eastern railroad.

C&NW butchered CGW. It was an incredible waste. C&NW only really had two objectives: reaching Kansas City and eliminating competition. And by the time C&NW's only remaining CGW track was the line to Kansas City, that track had gone to hell as well.

Chicago Great Western wasn't redundant. It just got taken over by the wrong railroad.

So for the sake of discussion, which company do you think CGW have merged with or into? I have my own opinion, but I'm curious to hear yours. EDIT: and for the sake of this thread's discussion, who should C&NW have targeted instead, considering they wanted KC access badly?
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Re: CNW and abandonments

Postby Minneapolitan » Sat Jun 29, 2013 10:27 pm

mtuandrew wrote:And for the sake of this thread's discussion, who should C&NW have targeted instead, considering they wanted KC access badly?


Interesting question. It's a matter of perspective. From another interesting discussion...

SlowFreight wrote:
Desertdweller wrote:Ben Heinemann was the Darth Vader of Granger Railroads (can I say that here?). His concept of competition was to buy your competitor and shut him down, employees and public be damned.


Nothing wrong with calling Heinemann as he was.


I would also agree completely! Perhaps circumstances would have been different with someone else running C&NW at the time. But under Heineman, C&NW taking over the Chicago Great Western wasn't unreasonable given Heineman's two objectives of reaching Kansas City and eliminating competition.

But Chicago Great Western never had to agree to the merger. I mean, Turkey desperately wants to be part of the EU, but that doesn't mean the EU has to say yes. Hell, I'd like to nail Holly Madison, but that doesn't mean she has to say yes. For CGW, I'm sure it came down to bankers and stockholders, and not good railroading and good business, which gives us one more example of how Wall Street got in the way of better railroad mergers for our nation's network. If anyone has any details on the influences and conditions of the CGW-C&NW merger, please share! Because I can't imagine anyone at Oelwein thought C&NW would do them any good.

The question of how C&NW could get into Kansas City brings up another question: To Kansas City FROM where? Even without the Minneapolis & St. Louis (shown in pink), CGW's Kansas City line could have remained a viable route to the Twin Cities when combined with the C&NW, and probably as competitive as Rock Island's Spine Line with proper and routine upgrades. Pieces of the M&StL probably would have made that connection even better.

C&NW-CGW-M&StL Map.JPG
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But if C&NW only wanted CGW to connect Chicago with Kansas City, then it was really only interested in CGW between Kansas City and Marshalltown, Iowa, a distance of approximately 276.8 miles, where it crossed C&NW's east-west main line to Omaha. Well, if that freight was going all the way to Marshalltown to get from Chicago to Kansas City and vice versa, then I think there were other options.

How about C&NW trackage rights over the CB&Q? I never thought I'd say this, but some parts of the Tootin' Louie were actually useful. From Marshalltown, the M&StL, now part of C&NW, went south to Albia, west of Ottumwa, where it connected with the Burlington Route for a quick route to Kansas City. Name your price, Q. Access to Milwaukee? How about taking hot-shot fast freights from points west to the Twin Cities that would otherwise go over the slower GN from Sioux City and shifting them to the much more direct Omaha Line through southern Minnesota? Any deal could be arranged. Given the delicate balances during the 60s and 70s between the Granger Roads and Union Pacific, this could have been very interesting!

C&NW-M&StL-CB&Q Map.JPG
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Or trackage rights on Rock Island. Given that delicate balance between the Granger Roads and Union Pacific, why not focus on merging with the Rock Island? Chicago Great Western was certainly smaller peanuts compared to the Rock, and it's not as if merging systems this large wasn't being done in the 60s. It seems to me that Union Pacific always held the upper hand with the Grangers fighting for Omaha/Council Bluffs traffic. Not only would Ben Heineman reach his two goals of connecting to Kansas City and eliminating competition in saturated Iowa and southern Minnesota, but both roads would benefit greatly as a whole new region of traffic was funneled through the Rock to the Southern Pacific at Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

C&NW-M&StL-CRI&P.JPG
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So to be clear, I think merging with CGW was good and reasonable for Chicago & Northwestern. But to reach Kansas City, I think there were other options that wouldn't have made for such a raw deal for the Chicago Great Western, an efficient system with sound financial standings. It seemed more like a takeover than a merger.

mtuandrew wrote:So for the sake of discussion, which company do you think CGW have merged with or into? I have my own opinion, but I'm curious to hear yours.


Yes, another good question remains. I'll have to start a discussion on that soon!
Nickel Plate Road should have merged with ERIE.

Duh.
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Re: CNW and abandonments

Postby Minneapolitan » Sat Jun 29, 2013 11:03 pm

Here's another interesting option for Chicago & Northwestern to reach Kansas City in the 60's: Wabash.

Once again, the interesting position of the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway under C&NW comes to light. At Albia, Iowa, M&StL made an important connection to the Wabash. In fact, these two railroads had a close working relationship for quite some time, including joint passenger trains. I think C&NW trackage rights (of some kind) over the Wabash could have been very interesting. While not the most direct route to Kansas City from either Chicago or the Twin Cities, an agreement with the Wabash could potentially open up St. Louis as well.

As I've said in another discussion, there is no longer anything close to a direct route between St. Louis and the Twin Cities. Yet, there has always been a large amount of freight business between these two large cities. For example, today the UP sends a lot of malt from the mills of the Twin Cities to the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis. It's good business. But the UP must send it down Rock Island's Spine Line to Kansas City, and then east to St. Louis.

To my knowledge, Wabash and C&NW had little conflicting interests. It seems this would've been mutually beneficial to both railroads without much disturbance. I suspect of all the options for trackage rights, the Wabash would have been the cheapest for C&NW.

C&NW-M&StL-WAB.JPG
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Nickel Plate Road should have merged with ERIE.

Duh.
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Re: CNW and abandonments

Postby JayBee » Tue Jul 02, 2013 1:30 pm

There is an interesting article in the current issue of magazine "The Soo", the magazine of the Soo Line Historical and Technical Society, about the joint Soo Line - Chicago Great Western merger study that began in October 1962. It has many details of the planned service patterns, yard consolidations, and trackage rights planned in Chicago and the Twin Cities, etc. In the end the Soo Line walked away not finding enough benefits compared to costs.
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Re: CNW and abandonments

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Jul 03, 2013 11:26 pm

For keeping its system intact, the CGW could have done much worse than the Soo. In a 1960s sense it wouldn't have rationalized much track aside from Boom Island Yard and possibly a bit around Chicago, nor would MSP-Chicago via Oelwein, IA be much better than via Owen, WI. Those are probably some of the reasons to which JayBee alluded about the Soo declining a trackage rights or merger agreement. Other merger partners could have included the other Deramus properties, the GM&O pre-IC, and maybe even the MoPac.

As for the subject of this thread, I think the Midwest was worse for the C&NW - MILW merger not being allowed. Abandonments? Oh, yes, by the thousands of miles, starting with the used-up hulk of the MILW Council Bluffs line and continuing through their service area from Illinois to the Dakotas. The former M&StL and CGW would have been at risk of being nearly wiped off the map. That said, it might just have worked out better than the current map.

1) Easing the Pressure on the Rock
The Milwaukee and the North Western both got concessions out of BN in exchange for their support of the merger. In exchange for allowing their merger, those two companies would have had to ease their opposition to the UP-CRIP merger. Even if the UP still chose to walk away from the merger, they would have had good reason to divert more traffic from Council Bluffs and Kansas City to the Rock Island. After all, the combined CM&NW would have been a competitor for traffic in Montana, Washington, and Oregon, while the Rock (and the N&W Wabash line, the IC, the GM&O) mostly didn't compete in UP territory. All of that could have meant the difference between Chapter 13 and Chapter 11 for the Rock.

2) To the Losers Go the Spoils
The Soo Line, the MN&S, the Rock, the MKT, the KCS, the N&W, the MP, the UP and the BN would have all had claims on the combined CM&NW. In particular, the Soo would have tried to get independent Omaha and Kansas City access, and the ICC might well have mandated a forced sale of some or all of the CGW to allow the C&NW to merge with the Milwaukee. After all, that combined system would have a pair of MSP to KC lines - the Great Western through Des Moines, and the M&StL to Albia and the Milwaukee from there south (with a small slice of Wabash track.) And, from Chicago to Milwaukee, one of the three lines could have gone to Amtrak for a suitable fee. Imagine what that could be for American passenger railroading today.

3) Eliminating Duplication
Frankly, throughout Wisconsin, southern Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa, the North Western, Great Western, M&StL and Milwaukee operated the lion's share of track. Cut that amount of track by nearly half, and it gives the other companies a little more breathing room in the shrinking rail economy. This would have been especially good news for the CHW and M&StL properties in Iowa, primarily north-south trunk lines that the C&NW and MILW were missing.

4) 100% Fewer Major Midwestern Railroad Liquidations
This takes a reasonably big assumption, that a CM&NW would remain as abandonment-happy as the C&NW in real life, that employee ownership would eventually have been proposed and accepted to keep the company afloat, and that the company would choose the most efficient lines and best traffic generators to keep. It also assumes that the Rock Island would have eked out enough of an existence through overhead traffic from the UP, the SP, and a bit from the Soo and others to remain more valuable as a single property than as a liquidate series of properties. Finally, it assumes that Rep. Staggers would still propose, champion, and succeed in passing his eponymous legislation as a result of Penn Central. With that, the simultaneous failure of both the CRIP and the MILW would have been avoided and replaced with a more organized culling of branches and parallel lines by the Rock, the ICG, the BN, and the CM&NW. Fewer towns would have had to be off the railroad map whether served by Class 1s or short line spinoffs, fewer potentially useful lines would have been dismantled, and less economic disaster would have wracked the American railroad system.
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Re: CNW and abandonments

Postby Desertdweller » Mon Jul 15, 2013 10:00 am

In my opinion, the best merger would have been CGW-KCS.

This would have been an ideal end-to-end merger. A minimum of disruption, duplicated routes, facility and job loss.

Both railroads would have gained access to major markets. KCS would no longer have to depend on CBQ or UP for Chicago-area traffic into or out of KC.
CGW would have gained access to Gulf ports. Both railroads would have doubled their size without redundant parallel routes.

CNW would have been shut out of the KC market. CGW-KCS would have provided a one-carrier, straight shot from the Twin Cities to the Texas and LA coast.
One the way, it would have transversed the grain-growing belt of Minnesota and Iowa.

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Re: CNW and abandonments

Postby GulfRail » Tue Oct 01, 2013 1:44 am

If the CGW-Soo merger had occurred, you probably would've seen the C&NW-MILW merger and the UP-SP split of the Rock Island take place. In the long run, this probably would've been better - since it's likely that the Milwaukee's Pacific Extension would still be intact and the liquidation of the Rock Island would've been avoided. You might also see the proposed MoPac-Santa Fe merger come to fruition, which would result in the west having a total of five big systems: BN, UP-RI North, SP-RI South, MP-AT&SF and C&NW-MILW. The remaining players (D&RGW, WP, SLSF, KCS, MKT) could have then been paired off with the five systems. More than likely, you'd see the D&RGW and WP go to the MP-AT&SF, while the SLSF, KCS and MKT would go to BN. This is basically what ICC Commissioner Nathan Kiltenic proposed in 1970.
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Re: CNW and abandonments

Postby Engineer Spike » Sun Oct 06, 2013 10:16 pm

Who would have wanted CGW? KCS, SP ( ICC wouldn't have approved that). UP is another possible contender. This may not have worked either. I don't think it had the capacity that other UP connections had in Council Bluffs/Omaha. Look how hard the other lines cried when UP tried to get RI. CGW also had trackage rights on the Q and IC near Dubuque. This would have been bad for those companies, so they would have screwed the UP/CGW trains.

I'm surprised SOO did so well compared to MILW and CNW, but then again, they had big daddy CP.

CNW and the others had to prune their own systems as it was. When I worked for BN in IL, there were abandoned branches everywhere. Most went through towns with nothing but a grain elevator. That is so seasonal traffic. The big elevators on the main lines were far more economical.
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Re: CNW and abandonments

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Oct 07, 2013 8:10 pm

Engineer Spike wrote:Who would have wanted CGW? KCS, SP ( ICC wouldn't have approved that). UP is another possible contender. This may not have worked either. I don't think it had the capacity that other UP connections had in Council Bluffs/Omaha. Look how hard the other lines cried when UP tried to get RI. CGW also had trackage rights on the Q and IC near Dubuque. This would have been bad for those companies, so they would have screwed the UP/CGW trains.

I'm surprised SOO did so well compared to MILW and CNW, but then again, they had big daddy CP.

CNW and the others had to prune their own systems as it was. When I worked for BN in IL, there were abandoned branches everywhere. Most went through towns with nothing but a grain elevator. That is so seasonal traffic. The big elevators on the main lines were far more economical.

Supposing the UP really did purchase the CGW, they probably would have trotted out the old plans for a high-level river crossing at Dubuque and eliminated the trackage rights (as well as the tunnel in Illinois.) That said, the CGW main went the furthest out of the way of any of the other main lines between Chicago and Omaha (IC, CNW, MILW, ROCK, CBQ.) The UP could definitely have pursued the Great Western for cheap insurance against the other Grangers, but they'd still have had to secure rights or purchase the Rock, the Milwaukee, or the North Western.

GulfRail wrote:If the CGW-Soo merger had occurred, you probably would've seen the C&NW-MILW merger and the UP-SP split of the Rock Island take place. In the long run, this probably would've been better - since it's likely that the Milwaukee's Pacific Extension would still be intact and the liquidation of the Rock Island would've been avoided. You might also see the proposed MoPac-Santa Fe merger come to fruition, which would result in the west having a total of five big systems: BN, UP-RI North, SP-RI South, MP-AT&SF and C&NW-MILW. The remaining players (D&RGW, WP, SLSF, KCS, MKT) could have then been paired off with the five systems. More than likely, you'd see the D&RGW and WP go to the MP-AT&SF, while the SLSF, KCS and MKT would go to BN. This is basically what ICC Commissioner Nathan Kiltenic proposed in 1970.

Slight modification to your idea: the KCS had built up a major investment portfolio even then, so I could see them having purchasing a major share in the Soo and CP Rail.
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Re: CNW and abandonments

Postby MR77100 » Mon Feb 24, 2014 1:27 am

It was the tragedy of the CGW that C&NW was denied the Milwaukee Road, since they would have ripped up all of it anyway.
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