MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

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: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby vermontanan » Fri Jul 04, 2014 8:00 pm

mtuandrew wrote:Regarding capacity issues, there is certainly a dearth of available capacity on the main trunks. The Northern and Southern Transcons, the Sunset, Golden State, and Overland, the Water Level, the Crescent - these routes are bursting at the seams. The alternate routes aren't maxed out yet though. The NP, the NKP, the SAL and other reliever lines can still have signal and track work done to expand their capacity. For that matter, an economist may wonder why it would be worth investing in a subpar route (like the NP or a reconstructed MILW) when a superior one can simply have more tracks added or a better signal system overlaid. The use of alternate routes seems like a Band-Aid for the severe capacity crunch we have now.


Thank you for this. This is a perfect summary of why even speculating on reviving a route like the MILW Pacific Extension is ridiculous. Sure, when there alternate, inferior routes, it may be desirable to detour traffic in the short term via the inferior route, given a long enough period of time, it will always pay for itself to invest in sufficient capacity to run the trains on the most cost-effective route. That's why rebuilding the MILW, the High-Cost Route, or even some other entity acquiring it when it was still around wasn't even considered.
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Sat Jul 05, 2014 10:16 am

Mr. Montanan, I will agree with you to the extent that with a little 20/20 foresight (as distinct from hindsight) rather than management hubris, Lines West would have never been built. Lest we forget, the Chicago and North Western decided enough was enough at Lander WY and the other Grangers, Rock, Q, and SOO all had strong interchange partners for handling traffic to the West.

But do allow me to point out that the possible acquisition of Lines West by Japanese maritime interests was, for real, 'on the table. The Chicago Tribune reported the story. During 1980, when this proposal moved forth, the ERIE was intact as a through route - and what if maritime interests acquired such from Conrail? There could have been the transcontinental Land Bridge owned by and dispatched for the convenience of coordinated dockings and sailings (96 hours Seattle Port Elizabeth could have been doable; just keep moving). Ports of Seattle and Tacoma would not be the comparative backwaters with LA and the Panama Canal would have simply become the domain of cruise ships.
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby vermontanan » Sat Jul 05, 2014 1:27 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:But do allow me to point out that the possible acquisition of Lines West by Japanese maritime interests was, for real, 'on the table. The Chicago Tribune reported the story. During 1980, when this proposal moved forth, the ERIE was intact as a through route - and what if maritime interests acquired such from Conrail? There could have been the transcontinental Land Bridge owned by and dispatched for the convenience of coordinated dockings and sailings (96 hours Seattle Port Elizabeth could have been doable; just keep moving). Ports of Seattle and Tacoma would not be the comparative backwaters with LA and the Panama Canal would have simply become the domain of cruise ships.


Gilbert: Yes, I have heard this story, but it didn't happen, and the reason is that there was no economic justification. Just as the Milwaukee Pacific Extension had no use as a transcontinental route, neither did the Erie, and between Chicago and the East Coast, the Erie truncated in favor on the superior NYC and PRR routes.

When the MIlwaukee was largely abandoned west of Miles City in 1980, it was hardly a railroad that could have been part of a 96 hour schedule from the Northwest to Northeast. Not only was it in disrepair, but it was almost completely without CTC or double track (or many sidings long enough for such trains, especially in Washington State). The Milwaukee never even got around to putting ABS between Sorrento and Othello, or trackside detectors for enhanced safety like the competitors had by then. So, not only would such a proposal require fixing the railroad from years of neglect, but it would require additional investment just to bring it up to the standards or the competition, which, in the end, could move the traffic cheaper than the Milwaukee route anyway. Yes, anything is possible, but reason it didn't is obvious to all except those diehard Milwaukee fans.

And that the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach "would have become the domain of cruise ships" is outrageously ridiculous. Much of the reason that this area is the primary port for inbound container traffic has little to do with the transportation infrastructure available once the boat docks; Rather, it is the proximity to market. Not every container is going to New York. California is the most-populous state and Texas is second. It makes sense for these ships to arrive at Los Angeles so they can not only have access to a railroad that will take the lading to places like Chicago and New York, but also to the huge market that is California, and the growing areas of Nevada and Arizona. And, it's much closer (and faster) to ship the containers to major population centers like Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston from Los Angeles than it would be from Seattle, not to mention to locations in the American Southeast. As I like to say, proponents of the Milwaukee Western Extension like to explain why things turned out the way they didn't. But reality explains why the Milwaukee "transcon" is not in the picture today.
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Sat Jul 05, 2014 4:51 pm

vermontanan wrote:
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Ports of Seattle and Tacoma would not be the comparative backwaters with LA and the Panama Canal would have simply become the domain of cruise ships.


And that the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach "would have become the domain of cruise ships" is outrageously ridiculous.


It appears that I could have done a better job with phrasing that thought. The Panama Canal would have become the domain of cruise ships.

At this topic, I linked to a chart of the comparative volume at each West Coast port; even though less sailing time is required to reach Seattle, it is evident those PacNW ports are backwaters when compared with LA/LB (I really wasn't aware any Love Tubs called at LA/LB; following that industry's affairs is not all that a bright spot on my radar screen).
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby mtuandrew » Sun Sep 21, 2014 2:56 pm

Regarding your assertion about LA/LB, Mr. Norman, I doubt the Santa Fe or the EsPee would have allowed a challenge by a maritime-owned Jersey City & Seattle Railroad to go unanswered. Not to mention, there were (and are) other shippers on the great blue sea that wouldn't have been allowed the same rates as the potential purchasers of these lines. They would have gone where it was most economical - more than likely (with the huge investment costs noted by vermontanan) the BN, the UP, the SP, the AT&SF, or the Panama Canal.

If such a purchase had gone through, I suspect it would have put a damper on BN growth through the 1980s, but I also doubt that it would have been a long-lasting marriage between shipping companies and railroad. When that holding firm eventually sold their assets in frustration that shipping costs hadn't gone down at all, things would have been similar enough to today (with or without extant Lines West, of the EL or MILW varieties.)
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:44 am

From Hyatt Regency Greenwich CT

An auto trip to visit friends and family. Driving up The Corridor especially sitting in a jam (learned a Chinese bus overturned with fatalities near New Castle). Wished I were on 94 FBG STM. Late for a Dinner here.

To topic, a lot of investment would have been needed to make the Seattle & JC if 96 hrs were to be realized. I respect Mr. Montanan view that more favorable grades are on the GN. But tonnage isn't the issue withcontainers.

I know it will never happen considering the Canal expansion. I somehow think though that to have rebuilt the S&JC (I like that terr Stephens) would have involved less cost than PANAMAX.
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby vermontanan » Tue Sep 23, 2014 8:46 pm

Tonnage not the issue with containers??? Why not? In other words, what weighs more: 7,000 tons of grain, 7,000 tons of containers, or 7,000 tons of grain in containers?
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby gokeefe » Wed Sep 24, 2014 2:23 pm

vermontanan wrote:Tonnage not the issue with containers??? Why not? In other words, what weighs more: 7,000 tons of grain, 7,000 tons of containers, or 7,000 tons of grain in containers?


The point is in regards to maximum weights. In this case the containers "cube out" i.e. they are filled to the brim before they "weigh out" i.e. their gross weight (container + cargo) exceeds track weight limits (286K or 263K).
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby vermontanan » Thu Sep 25, 2014 8:17 pm

Gokeefe: "The point is in regards to maximum weights. In this case the containers "cube out" i.e. they are filled to the brim before they "weigh out" i.e. their gross weight (container + cargo) exceeds track weight limits (286K or 263K)."

True, but these aren't considered single cars, so they're good to go over 286,000 pounds.

Mr. Norman's statement remains perplexing.
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Fri Sep 26, 2014 1:32 pm

Thank you, Mr. O'Keefe, for clarifying my immediate point.

A ton of feathers weighs the same as a ton of lead, but suffice to say, there is a whale of difference between the cube of the two. Mr. Montanan was correct to call me to task on that point.

Likely I was simply looking for a place to rant after my drive from Fredericksburg to Greenwich took some one hour longer to complete than planned. As noted, it appears the delay can be laid at Fung Wah or their colleagues. That I used auto transportation to the Northeast, with $91 in tolls, was prompted by wanting to collect about a case of Grape Juice while visiting my friends in Virginia as the state (Commonwealth) is not only for Lovers but also for us "winos".

Mr. Montanan, while Warren and Matt may be prepared to operate trains only governed by tonnage, as distinct from length, more power to them (and by extension, you). However, if such a train is controlled by its tonnage, it still likely requires mid train RCU's, but being in the industry during 1980's, albeit on my moribund road, that practice had not been perfected at that time.
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby vermontanan » Sat Sep 27, 2014 8:44 pm

Gilbert:

Tonnage is the primary concern powering a train. But of course train length is also a concern as well as the amount of curvature on the route in question. Trains operating with distributed power require less horsepower-per-ton than those operating "conventional."

Still, regardless of the type of train, the weight of the train, the length of the train, the route, or the power configuration of the train, any train requires less locomotive power on routes with the easiest grade. Which is why if one was to invest in increasing capacity between the Midwest and Pacific Northwest today, adding capacity to existing routes, not rebuilding the high-cost Milwaukee Road routes, would be most cost effective and add the most capacity.

But you still haven't clarified your "But tonnage isn't the issue with containers" statement. Why is it not an issue (well, it is, of course, but why do you think it's not)?

--Mark Meyer
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Sun Sep 28, 2014 10:29 am

Mr. Meyer; first I wish to thank you for 'coming out' with your given name so that I may address you by such. Since I had left the railroad industry at the end of 1981 and did not start to participate here until 1999, I had no real reason to "hide" behind a handle. Had I still been in the industry and participating at rail discussion forums, likely I would have seen reason to do same.

I only hope that I never have advocated that the MILW-LW be rebuilt; that it was intact as of 1980 and this proposal by Japanese maritime interests to buy such surfaced, did not mean that much, MUCH work would be needed to address the obvious deficiencies as well as those less obvious you have noted could well be a factor in why the proposal went nowhere. There was never any proposal in place for any party (beyond a few Short Lines that have long since flopped) to acquire the ERIE from Conrail so any thoughts of a "Seattle and Jersey City" are simply fantasy.

But what I have held is that if somehow the concept of "railbanking' that would allow an owner to be completely and unconditionally released from any liability, i.e. the rails and ties left behind would be the "Natural State", I believe that Lines West would be providing railroad transportation today. Of course, I wholly concur that the Trustees, absent any kind of overwhelming "public interest" concerns such as prevailed in the Bankruptcies of the New Haven and of course Penn Central, the Creditor interests come first. But at "the end", with a 30 car "one a day', with half or more likely COMTL or MTY, no way could a case of 'Public Interest" be made.

The Trustees did "the Right Thing".
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby gokeefe » Sun Sep 28, 2014 9:39 pm

Mr. Norman,

I want to make sure I just understood what you indicated. "At the end" MILW was running once a day each way between Iowa and Washington State trains of 30 cars or less as "through" freight?!? Or perhaps the segment you meant was smaller. Perhaps MT to WA?
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby gokeefe » Sun Sep 28, 2014 9:44 pm

Also another note in regards to route feasibility. At this point some of the northern routes are so constrained that I think one could plausibly state that demand has outstripped supply to the point were business is being forced to look elsewhere. In this situation new capacity not only relieves current demand but also potentially brings in additional business not otherwise known about since this is "phantom" demand that never could get on BNSF in the first place. Good material for discussion there.

Further to the same point BNSF has so much local business in North Dakota right now that double tracking the entire northern Transcon wouldn't necessarily help anyways. the problem as I understand it stretches all the way from Chicago to Williston. In this case reopening an alternative Right of Way is the only true solution. Who are the potential candidates? If Norfolk Southern ever wanted to make a disruptive move in the West this would be the way to go. Remember Snoqualmie Tunnel is already double stack cleared.
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Mon Sep 29, 2014 8:09 am

Mr. O'Keefe, LW or Lines West was a company term for anything West of the Missouri River - namely Mobridge or Chamberlain SD.

Of course on the eve of Bankruptcy just before X-mas 1977 (how the office parties resembled funeral wakes I well remember), traffic was at "one a day" levels on the two E-W lines through Iowa. With the strong agricultural traffic at Cedar Rapids, and the MILW's direct route there, there were "two a day" most days to Kansas City.
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