The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

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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The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

Postby mtuandrew » Sun Oct 26, 2008 10:17 pm

Just noticed this forum, and I'm itching to try it out :-D

Anyway, I was rattling around St. Paul today and drove past the Minnesota Commercial roundhouse on Cleveland, then crossed the ex-Milwaukee main. It's single-tracked from downtown St. Paul all the way to the junction with the MNNR, but there's still double track beyond there to the wye leading to Dinkytown and across the Short Line, currently used mostly for storing hopper cars. Anyway, I was wondering which way freight traffic would have been routed from St. Paul through Minneapolis - up today's Ayd Mill Road and across to the 29th Street trench, down to Fort Snelling then up to 29th St., or on the Hastings and Dakota? Or, was most through traffic carried on trackage rights?

Here's a map of the Twin Cities railroads in 1947, courtesy of the Soo Line and the Minnesota Railroad Research Project:
http://www.skypoint.com/members/hudsonl ... o11947.gif
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Re: The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

Postby Minneapolitan » Wed Oct 26, 2011 9:00 pm

The Ayd Mill route is most logical. In fact, I'm almost certain.

The Fort Snelling route is incredibly old, and that hill out of the valley must've been incredibly steep! It's no wonder it was abandoned so long ago. It would never be able to take the growing weight of rolling stock and locomotives. When I look at Google Maps, I can't even see any remnants of it between 46th Street and Mendota. That section of track was useless after they built the much straighter Ayd Mill route and across to 29th Street, which itself was built a looooooooong time ago. I grew up on Lake Street, and that part of the city was being build around the 29th Street corridor, around 1890.
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Re: The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Oct 26, 2011 11:36 pm

Minneapolitan wrote:The Ayd Mill route is most logical. In fact, I'm almost certain.

The Fort Snelling route is incredibly old, and that hill out of the valley must've been incredibly steep! It's no wonder it was abandoned so long ago. It would never be able to take the growing weight of rolling stock and locomotives. When I look at Google Maps, I can't even see any remnants of it between 46th Street and Mendota. That section of track was useless after they built the much straighter Ayd Mill route and across to 29th Street, which itself was built a looooooooong time ago. I grew up on Lake Street, and that part of the city was being build around the 29th Street corridor, around 1890.

Wow, old post you dug up! :wink:

I came to the same conclusion once I started reading up on the Milwaukee a few years back - despite the big hill on the Short Line and the rather considerable detour north for westbound traffic, it seemed to be the way that hosted most traffic. It seems as though more traffic should have gone on the H&D to bypass freight yards and congestion, and seemingly take advantage of what seem to be reduced grades, but for whatever reason it didn't. If the C&NW-MILW merger had ever come to fruition, I can imagine most traffic bypassing Minneapolis altogether, and instead taking Omaha rails all the way from St. Paul to Chaska and back up the H&D to the Pacific Extension main.

As for the Pioneer Line down past Fort Snelling, though it was abandoned in the early 1960s, it took until the 1990s to really obliterate the grade. Past the Princess Depot in Minnehaha Park, the grade was destroyed during the recent reconstruction of MN 55. At 54th Street, it reemerges as the Fort Snelling State Trail and goes all the way down the cliff face to nearly the foot of the Mendota Bridge. In fact, if you look off in the bushes as you mosey down the cliff face, you can still see a short spur that used to run to the post. Once at the bottom of the cliff, it's pretty well obliterated by flooding and Corps of Engineers dredging. Nice trail though, if you ever get the time to walk it!
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Re: The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

Postby JayBee » Mon Oct 31, 2011 10:03 pm

mtuandrew wrote:
Minneapolitan wrote:The Ayd Mill route is most logical. In fact, I'm almost certain.

The Fort Snelling route is incredibly old, and that hill out of the valley must've been incredibly steep! It's no wonder it was abandoned so long ago. It would never be able to take the growing weight of rolling stock and locomotives. When I look at Google Maps, I can't even see any remnants of it between 46th Street and Mendota. That section of track was useless after they built the much straighter Ayd Mill route and across to 29th Street, which itself was built a looooooooong time ago. I grew up on Lake Street, and that part of the city was being build around the 29th Street corridor, around 1890.

Wow, old post you dug up! :wink:

I came to the same conclusion once I started reading up on the Milwaukee a few years back - despite the big hill on the Short Line and the rather considerable detour north for westbound traffic, it seemed to be the way that hosted most traffic. It seems as though more traffic should have gone on the H&D to bypass freight yards and congestion, and seemingly take advantage of what seem to be reduced grades, but for whatever reason it didn't. If the C&NW-MILW merger had ever come to fruition, I can imagine most traffic bypassing Minneapolis altogether, and instead taking Omaha rails all the way from St. Paul to Chaska and back up the H&D to the Pacific Extension main.

As for the Pioneer Line down past Fort Snelling, though it was abandoned in the early 1960s, it took until the 1990s to really obliterate the grade. Past the Princess Depot in Minnehaha Park, the grade was destroyed during the recent reconstruction of MN 55. At 54th Street, it reemerges as the Fort Snelling State Trail and goes all the way down the cliff face to nearly the foot of the Mendota Bridge. In fact, if you look off in the bushes as you mosey down the cliff face, you can still see a short spur that used to run to the post. Once at the bottom of the cliff, it's pretty well obliterated by flooding and Corps of Engineers dredging. Nice trail though, if you ever get the time to walk it!


If you used the H&D to bypass the Twin Cities how would you handle traffic from the Twin Cities to the West Coast? And assuming the C&NW - MILW merger why would you use the C&NW between Mendota and Chaska? Once the Short Line was built (direct route between St. Paul and Minneapolis) and the Benton Cutoff (the line through the trench and west through Hopkins), both completed in 1880, the mainline was through the Twin Cities rather than avoiding them, as they were very large traffic sources. The H&D as built was more of a grain gathering line, rather than something intended to be a major mainline.
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Re: The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

Postby JayBee » Mon Oct 31, 2011 10:12 pm

I don't know if you are familiar with his books or not but John Luecke has published books covering every Minnesota railroad except the DM&IR, DW&P, and Soo Line. His books are available here

http://www.comoshops.com/

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Re: The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:40 pm

JayBee wrote:If you used the H&D to bypass the Twin Cities how would you handle traffic from the Twin Cities to the West Coast? And assuming the C&NW - MILW merger why would you use the C&NW between Mendota and Chaska? Once the Short Line was built (direct route between St. Paul and Minneapolis) and the Benton Cutoff (the line through the trench and west through Hopkins), both completed in 1880, the mainline was through the Twin Cities rather than avoiding them, as they were very large traffic sources. The H&D as built was more of a grain gathering line, rather than something intended to be a major mainline.

Regarding the H&D, I meant that traffic that didn't need to stop in the Twin Cities would be able to bypass Short Line Hill and the yards at Pig's Eye and Southtown. It does make sense that everything would stop in Minneapolis or St. Paul though, especially since the H&D wasn't built to a high standard. I'd have been interested to see what a belt line like the MN&S could have done with the Cologne - Hastings line though, along with the MILW's Stillwater line.

As for the proposed Milwaukee/North Western merger I talked about, the combined railroad would have had a huge amount of Twin Cities terminal trackage between the Milwaukee, the Omaha, the M&StL and its subsidiaries, the CGW, and GN trackage rights through St. Paul and Minneapolis. A main feature of the proposed merger was the ability to downgrade or abandon a lot of that track. Since there was too much spare east-west capacity in the Twin Cities in 1970, the Short Line would have faced serious scrutiny for its 2.2% grade out of downtown St. Paul and relative lack of online customers. I can't imagine it being abandoned entirely with traffic being originated along Hiawatha and in Merriam Park, but I also can't imagine it being kept as a major through route when there were two other options with lower grades: GN trackage rights and the Omaha route bypassing Minneapolis. For traffic originating in the Twin Cities (or during flood season), the combined railroad could get out by using GN/BN trackage rights from Dayton's Bluff through East Minneapolis and then to downtown, then M&StL from there to Hopkins. If trains were passing through, the easiest grade seems to be on the Omaha/Milwaukee joint line from Dayton's Bluff to Mendota, the Omaha line to Shakopee, and the Milwaukee H&D line out of the valley to Cologne.

I've never gotten the chance to talk with John Luecke, but I've been meaning to speak with him about rail and other Minnesota history, and I make a point to get a Minnesota Rail Calendar every year :grin:
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Re: The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

Postby Minneapolitan » Mon Apr 23, 2012 3:20 am

mtuandrew wrote:Regarding the H&D, I meant that traffic that didn't need to stop in the Twin Cities would be able to bypass Short Line Hill and the yards at Pig's Eye and Southtown. It does make sense that everything would stop in Minneapolis or St. Paul though, especially since the H&D wasn't built to a high standard.


From either direction, freight is coming into the Cities from huge swaths of territory and therefore never blocked and classified. That all happens in the big city yards. Remember, switching and classifying railroad cars takes time (time = money). So why switch out freight cars for a trip around the Twin Cities if they're just going to end up on the other side of the Metro with other cars coming out of the Metro?

Take it from a conductor: It's best to just focus on running a good railroad and having yard capacity inside the cities - which they most certainly did at the time. Good routes are important in railroading (I love studying them, as you clearly do as well), but they're not necessarily the be-all and end-all. The logistics of railroading have their own part in these things.
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Re: The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

Postby MILW261 » Sat Sep 08, 2012 6:00 pm

I see the Milwaukee Road route that went through Minnehaha Park and down past Fort Snelling and across the Minnesota River is mentioned in this thread. I would like to add that the portion of this route that began on the south side of the Minnesota remained in service after the line was severed in the 1950s. The Milwaukee Road accessed it via trackage rights on the Chicago and North Western's Omaha Road line out of downtown Saint Paul to a place in Mendota Heights named Cliff Junction. From there the Milwaukee's I & M division trains gained home rails. Alas, this part of the route was cut back to an industrial park in Eagan about 1994, leaving behind in its wake an amazing sight I wrote about in the following blog post of mine:

http://www.tonyheld.hoboandbowser.net/t ... aph-poles/

Whoever did the salvage work was either really sloppy to leave all those telegraph poles behind along the right-of-way, or the Canadian Pacific did not know what to do with them and so just left them standing! I'd heartilly reccomend a visit to this "field of telegraph poles" to one and all.
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Re: The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

Postby wjstix » Fri Sep 28, 2012 5:04 pm

If I get a chance I'll check Luecke's "Milwaukee Road in Minnesota" to be sure, but I'd assume through freights (i.e. Chicago to Seattle) would come up the mainline from Chicago along the Mississippi to Short Line Hill and across the bridge, then go on the below-grade line ("the trench" as someone called it) paralleling Lake St. One advantage of that route was it was several miles south of downtown Minneapolis, so bypassed a lot of congestion.
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Re: The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

Postby mtuandrew » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:09 am

MILW261 wrote:I see the Milwaukee Road route that went through Minnehaha Park and down past Fort Snelling and across the Minnesota River is mentioned in this thread. I would like to add that the portion of this route that began on the south side of the Minnesota remained in service after the line was severed in the 1950s. The Milwaukee Road accessed it via trackage rights on the Chicago and North Western's Omaha Road line out of downtown Saint Paul to a place in Mendota Heights named Cliff Junction. From there the Milwaukee's I & M division trains gained home rails. Alas, this part of the route was cut back to an industrial park in Eagan about 1994, leaving behind in its wake an amazing sight I wrote about in the following blog post of mine:

http://www.tonyheld.hoboandbowser.net/t ... aph-poles/

Whoever did the salvage work was either really sloppy to leave all those telegraph poles behind along the right-of-way, or the Canadian Pacific did not know what to do with them and so just left them standing! I'd heartilly reccomend a visit to this "field of telegraph poles" to one and all.

From what I understand, the track from Chestnut Street to Cliff Junction was always joint track, partially owned by both the CStPM&O and the CMStP&P. In fact, it may have been solely owned by the Milwaukee at one point. A plaque on the bridge across the river still indicates the joint ownership, though Soo ceased using their interest in the track many years ago. As for the telegraph poles, I'll need to go look! With the trail construction along the line around Pilot Knob, has that impacted their existence?

wjstix wrote:If I get a chance I'll check Luecke's "Milwaukee Road in Minnesota" to be sure, but I'd assume through freights (i.e. Chicago to Seattle) would come up the mainline from Chicago along the Mississippi to Short Line Hill and across the bridge, then go on the below-grade line ("the trench" as someone called it) paralleling Lake St. One advantage of that route was it was several miles south of downtown Minneapolis, so bypassed a lot of congestion.


I'm sure you're right, thinking about it. Short Line Hill isn't the easiest to climb, but it is relatively flat after that, and the MILW spent a small fortune on the 29th Street Trench for a reason. Then again, the GN or the NP wouldn't have had much use for the Milwaukee on their tracks anyway, in the era before widespread, reciprocal trackage rights.

A side question, speaking of trackage rights: The CP Rail Short Line heads up the hill at Chestnut Street, and then splits at Fordson Junction to serve the industries along the hill. Why, then, does the Union Pacific maintain a parallel branch from the middle of Western Avenue Yard to an ADM grain transhipment elevator, which passes within 20 feet of the CP Ford Branch? It seems that both companies could save money with joint trackage, either by abandoning the UP spur and using the (probably) easier-graded CP route, or abandoning the funky trestles at the head of the CP Ford Branch and connecting it into the UP line.
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Re: The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

Postby wjstix » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:00 am

I might be wrong, but it seems to me at that point the old CNW and Milwaukee tracks are pretty far apart horizontally - the Milwaukee tracks are quite a bit higher up??

Luecke's "The Milwaukee Road in Minnesota" book has several late steam-era pics of Milwaukee freights on the short line.
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Re: The Milwaukee Road in the Twin Cities

Postby mtuandrew » Sat Jan 11, 2014 12:24 pm

wjstix wrote:I might be wrong, but it seems to me at that point the old CNW and Milwaukee tracks are pretty far apart horizontally - the Milwaukee tracks are quite a bit higher up??

Luecke's "The Milwaukee Road in Minnesota" book has several late steam-era pics of Milwaukee freights on the short line.

Depending on where, the Milwaukee is a little higher up, but not enough to make a connection unworkable. Probably the biggest objection would be that access to that plant would require backing out of the yard across Eagle Street and tying up a fairly major road (and a major mainline.)
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