What If Scenarios

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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What If Scenarios

Postby ThePointyHairedBoss » Wed Mar 26, 2008 11:18 pm

Well, heres mine. The CNW-UP Merger was called off, and for a year CNW just went about its business until UP announced its aquisition of SP. One of CNW's goals (as stated by one of its CEO's), was "To reach the gulf or the pacific." The fact that The MoPac and SSW overlap so much is no secret, so CNW, in an attempt to expand, tries to pull away parts of UP. The UP agrees to let the CNW purchase the Cotton Belt routes and SP/T&NO properties in Texas, along with SPCSL(Ex.Alton). At the last minute, the Texas and Pacific from Fort Worth to El Paso is added onto the deal. The SP-UP merger is approved far quicker than in this "alternate universe" than in ours due to the SSW/SP-CNW agreement. How would this system have held up? Would CNW have gained control of powerful chemical markets? Would UP's Texas traffic jam have been avoided? What would CNW be like today? Would it be like the IC-CN(Ie. Chemicals, Coal and Grain), or would it have been a failure?

Here's my "dream" CNW map.
http://img206.imageshack.us/my.php?image=cnwmapcv4.jpg
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Postby SlowFreight » Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:57 pm

Obviously, this is an exercise in futility, but it's still worth discussing for the light it sheds on the realities of rail competition. Let me throw out two considerations first:

1) Conrail made a bid in '96 for what was termed the "Cotton Rock" lines before SP formally went into play. When that fell through, CR began making preparations to liquidate the firm for at least a year before it tried to sell the property. One of the strongest reactions from the industry (besides "it's not for sale" was that it would upset the balance of traffic by creating an actual transcontinental carrier.

2) NS' line west to Kansas City is viewed as an outlaw in the industry. E/W roads are NOT supposed to break the interchange points of Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. As a result, it's underutilized because BNSF won't short-haul itself. Class I's still worry about short-hauling more than they do about maximizing revenue.

Anyhoo, C&NW's busiest route was a bridge for UP to reach Chicago from the Overland Route. I'm not sure this would change. But you can bet the El Paso gateway--if it didn't specifically include access to the border crossing--would remain devoid of overhead traffic because UP wouldn't short-haul itself. If it had enough foresight, you might see the North Western make a move to acquire the old ATSF route through San Angelo to Presidio to give itself a friendly gateway to Mexico.

In other news, BNSF wouldn't have gained anywhere near the trackage rights it otherwise gained. And clearly, directional running wouldn't have occurred. If NS didn't become a friendly partner between Kansas City and St. Louis via haulage rights/trackage rights/line sale, you would see the Spine Line downgraded south of the Clinton main because a lot of the traffic handed off in Kansas City would likely keep moving south on the new North Western to get to the gulf coast. I pick NS because unless KCS becomes cooperative, the NS route is the most underutilized and NS has the least to lose by handling the traffic. KCS is also fighting for gulf coast traffic and has the biggest interest in Mexican interchange traffic. Don't think it would be friendly toward the North Western, except to explore a merger.

But St. Louis would become a bottleneck in a different way because it would now have an influx of north/south traffic pushing through an east/west gateway. What lines might get upgraded?

Other thoughts...the new North Western might also be pushing for a Canadian gateway, which it has never really had. The only likely partner would be CP, since BNSF won't help and CN spent lots of money building an iron lariat around the Great Lakes and down to New Orleans. If it didn't get a gateway from the STB merger settlement, expect that you won't see much overhead traffic coming down from Canada.

I see the same problem with your proposed map that the North Western always had. It had a few high-density lines and a real cash cow in the Powder River basin, but the road didn't have enough southern and northern gateways to take full advantage of its eastern gateways.
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Postby mtuandrew » Wed Apr 02, 2008 1:59 am

A few additions to your assessment, SlowFreight:

The C&NW would have looked long and hard at purchasing the KCS by the mid-2000s. If they could get them, the KCS would have meant a bulletproof Mexican connection and a use for the Kansas City hub, plus some additional business east of the Mississippi. This most likely would have meant giving the UP back its Texas and Pacific line, and giving the UP permanent trackage from Omaha to Chicago if they hadn't already.

NS would probably have been a very friendly partner with C&NW. A trackage rights agreement from Kansas City to St. Louis would have been advantageous for both, even if the KCS brought its own route to the table.

The C&NW/SSW/KCS would very likely go to the CP Rail System as a partner, but I'd go a step further. Canadian Pacific would file to merge with the Chicago & North Western in the early 2010s, not having bought the Cedar American holdings in 2007 and having avoided a hostile takeover the next year. The UP's rights would already be guaranteed to Chicago, and they would probably demand expanded access to the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. Likewise, the BNSF would probably demand access to Milwaukee, and from Memphis, Kansas City and Dallas to Shreveport and New Orleans.
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Re: What If Scenarios

Postby Engineer Spike » Sun Sep 25, 2011 6:05 pm

The UP helped the Northwestern finance the Powder River entrance, since they (C&NW) did not have the cash to buy in from BN. They also had a hostel takeover attempt. I believe that UP helped bail out of. This makes them captive already to UP.

The west line may have dried up if C&NW tried to ally with anyone but UP. Look what happened before. UP started sending its eastbound freight via CB&Q, and passenger trains via MILW. UP could have bought out the Iowa Interstate or the Chicago Central and Pacific, or both. After the min 1990s mergeropoly, UP was so messed up that the above routes were used as overflow.
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Re:

Postby Minneapolitan » Wed Oct 26, 2011 7:32 pm

SlowFreight wrote:But St. Louis would become a bottleneck in a different way because it would now have an influx of north/south traffic pushing through an east/west gateway. What lines might get upgraded?


I think this point sheds light on one of the more underrated losses in our American rail infrastructure. The former Wabash line from St. Louis to Des Moines was abandoned north of Moberly, MO some time after N&W took over Wabash (not sure what year). Today, there is no longer anything close to a direct route between St. Louis and St. Paul. Yet, there has always been a large amount of freight business between these to large cities. For example, 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. If the Wabash line to Des Moines was still intact, this would be a valuable cutoff! Likewise, the BNSF must send all STL-MSP traffic through Galesburg, IL.

(Coincidentally, there is also a great lacking in our interstate highway system between these two metropolitan areas, one that could be easily constructed from what's already in place.)

And on this note, we could explore even further on a "What If." I've always believed that the Wabash, in its heyday, should have merged with the Minneapolis & St. Louis. After all, the M&StL never actually connected its namesake cities. But it did have a working relationship with the Wabash to provide a fairly good route for both freight and passenger service between the two, by way of a connection at Albia, IA, just south of Oskaloosa, on the Wabash's route to Des Moines. The "Peoria Gateway" was probably the only useful thing about the M&StL, as it did provide a good connection to the eastern roads (NKP, NYC, PRR). But if you throw in the scrappy Toledo Peoria & Western (along with considerable abandonment of other lines, particularly that of the ol' "Tootin' Louie"), a Wabash-M&StL merger would have really changed the current landscape!
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Re: What If Scenarios

Postby Desertdweller » Thu Oct 27, 2011 12:37 am

You are quite right about poor connections between Minneapolis and St. Louis. Once we had passenger rail connection via the joint Burlington/Rock Island Zephyr Rocket. Now we don't even have a good highway route.

The C&NW described in previous posts certainly bears no resemblance to the C&NW I remember. The C&NW as I remember it was not interested in empire building, only in securing a monopoly in its existing geographical area.

I've always had an interest in finding railroads in areas where they are not widely known to exist. CB&Q in Montana; M&StL in South Dakota; AT&SF and GN in Nebraska, etc. But a big surprise to me was to find C&NW in central Wyoming. The C&NW Cowboy Line (now fragmented and mostly abandoned) not only ran from Norfolk to Chadron, NE, but was an effort to build a transcontinental line. It extended to a division point at Casper, WY, then crossed the mountains west of Casper to come to a dead end at Lander. Apparently, a buildable route across the Continental Divide out of Lander could not be located. If they could have gotten only a few more miles west, they could have taken the US Steel railroad route down into South Pass.

An alternate route would have been what became the DM&E line across South Dakota. This line, built west of Pierre in competition with the Milwaukee Road, went to Rapid City through what had been the Great Sioux Reservation. The line from Rapid City extended south to the Cowboy Line at Chadron, and north to Belle Fourche, then straight west to Colony, WY.

Colony could be considered part of the Powder River Country, but to get to the actual Powder River Valley (where the coal mines are) from Colony would have required building across a series of large canyons running on a north-south axis. Cost-prohibitive then, and cost-prohibitive later when the Coal Line was constructed north into the river valley from Morrell.

So C&NW built west with the best of intentions of becoming a transcon, only to end up literally in the middle of nowhere with no place to go.

At one time, C&NW had pretty good relations with the NP. This must have been before NP had come under strict control of James Hill. In 1890, when South Dakota was becoming a state, there was a fierce competition between three cities to be named state capital. Two of the cities were on the C&NW (Huron and Pierre). The third was on the Milwaukee (Mitchell). Huron went so far as constructing a capital building (if you build it, they will come). But they were not championed like the C&NW championed Pierre, and the Milwaukee championed Mitchell.

Additional rail connections could decide the issue. A rumor was started that the NP was building a connection to Pierre. To make the story credible, several miles of roadbed were graded northeast from Pierre in the direction of Onida. This roadbed is still there, you can see it.

Now, if that "phantom railroad" had been built, it would have connected with the C&NW at Pierre. But it did not have to be built to secure Pierre as the capital. If built, C&NW traffic could have been routed over the NP from Pierre to their own transcon main in North Dakota.

As it was, Pierre was a C&NW operation. The railroad owned the townsite, the C&NW agent was the mayor, and the town itself was built of milled lumber and brick from the C&NW division point town of Winona, MN.

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Re: What If Scenarios

Postby 57A26 » Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:39 pm

Engineer Spike wrote:The UP helped the Northwestern finance the Powder River entrance, since they (C&NW) did not have the cash to buy in from BN. They also had a hostel takeover attempt. I believe that UP helped bail out of. This makes them captive already to UP.

The west line may have dried up if C&NW tried to ally with anyone but UP. Look what happened before. UP started sending its eastbound freight via CB&Q, and passenger trains via MILW. UP could have bought out the Iowa Interstate or the Chicago Central and Pacific, or both. After the min 1990s mergeropoly, UP was so messed up that the above routes were used as overflow.

During the hostile take-over attempt of CNW back in the late 1980s, the UP acquired an option to buy the Iowa Interstate just in case. Since CNW was able to fend that off, the UP never acted on that option and let it expire.
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Re: What If Scenarios

Postby GWoodle » Mon Jan 16, 2012 7:12 pm

Engineer Spike wrote:The UP helped the Northwestern finance the Powder River entrance, since they (C&NW) did not have the cash to buy in from BN. They also had a hostel takeover attempt. I believe that UP helped bail out of. This makes them captive already to UP.

The west line may have dried up if C&NW tried to ally with anyone but UP. Look what happened before. UP started sending its eastbound freight via CB&Q, and passenger trains via MILW. UP could have bought out the Iowa Interstate or the Chicago Central and Pacific, or both. After the min 1990s mergeropoly, UP was so messed up that the above routes were used as overflow.


The problem here is for UP to rebuild the RI/II or IC/CC&P to heavier standards to handle the traffic. C&NW line to Fremont wins here.

In earlier times, perhaps it would have been better for UP & the Harriman Lines to buy & merge the Alton. Give the UP a much better route Kansas City/ St Louis to Chicago. Get a nice heavy Chicago-St Louis line. The KC line becomes the connection west to KC & beyond. It appears several lines suffered when ATSF finished it's line from KC into Chicago. For a time UP gets some access to IL based coal for locomotives.
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Re: What If Scenarios

Postby CPF363 » Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:48 pm

What would have happened if the Missouri Pacific, following their failed attempts to merge with the Southern Railway had decided to purchase C&NW around the time when the C&NW was offered to and turned down by the MILW? When MILW went bankrupt, MP-C&NW could have gone after the MILW's Pacific Extension, essentially creating a system from the Gulf Coast to Seattle with the Powder River Basin in the middle. The eastern end of MILW could have gone to the Soo Line as it did in the end. Could this system have been successful?
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Re: What If Scenarios

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Jan 25, 2012 10:53 pm

CPF363 wrote:What would have happened if the Missouri Pacific, following their failed attempts to merge with the Southern Railway had decided to purchase C&NW around the time when the C&NW was offered to and turned down by the MILW? When MILW went bankrupt, MP-C&NW could have gone after the MILW's Pacific Extension, essentially creating a system from the Gulf Coast to Seattle with the Powder River Basin in the middle. The eastern end of MILW could have gone to the Soo Line as it did in the end. Could this system have been successful?

Define successful.

Would the combined company have made money? Probably.

Would there be traffic today on the MILW Pacific Extension west of Terry, MT? Probably.

Would the company have escaped merger with the Union Pacific? Probably not.

Could the MP have afforded the C&NW at the time? Probably not.



The most appealing western merger what-if for me is this.

From 1970 to 1980: the T&P or the full MP to the ATSF; the entire Rock Island south of Kansas City to the SP; the WP to the D&RGW; and the MILW mains west of St. Paul and Sioux City to the C&NW.

Fast forward to 1995: the UP merges with the SP and expanded C&NW, and the BN with the ATSF and the D&RGW.

Today: The stub MILW still goes to the CP. The northern Rock would still be carved up, mostly going to the UP. The UP would get a Northern Tier route in the BNSF's backyard, and the BNSF would get a lot of Gulf Coast trackage in the UP's backyard.
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