• 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.
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.

Moderator: Komachi

  by Gilbert B Norman
An article in Today's Wall Street Journal regarding CSX and Port congestion evoked memories of what a potentially valuable transportation resource was lost with the abandonment of Lines West.

Here's a pertinent 'Brief passage"

  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc., fed up with delays, says it is opening more warehouse space at Gulf and East Coast ports to lessen its dependence on the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the rail lines that serve them. Gap Inc. began shifting some shipments to other West Coast ports with less-congested railroads and through the Panama Canal.
The Journal's site is by suibscription, but for those with access to that site, here is a URL for this article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB1104 ... 37,00.html

It's also at your local newsstand for a buck.

Had an active program of rail banking been in place i.e. cecession of all property rights by the owner in consideration of absolute 'iron clad' indemnification from any source of civil liability, it is my conviction that Lines West would be providing railroad transportation today. The Port of Seattle could well be in the running as the predominant West Coast port (after all, it is closer to any Asian "Pacific Rim' port than is the current "1, Los Angeles).

Even though I was a "management' (non-Agreement) MILW employee from 1970 to 1981, I do not think the MILW deserved to stay in business simply to operate Lines West. 'Someone Else' would be the operator.

As I have noted at this Forum in the past, the 'hottest' proposal that the water cooler told me about (the story was carried by the Chicago Tribune) was a proposal by Japanese maritime interests to acquire Lines West fro expedited container trains. 60hrs was a suggested Seattle Chicago transit time. Had it been possible to include lines of, say, the ERIE (with participation by European maritime interests) and offer relaible service onward to Port of New York for, say, total coast to coast time of 84hrs, the who knows? possibly the dormant 'land bridge' trans=shipment of containers could have become more than just a dream.

Needless to say, an 'early eighties' proposal by Japanese interests to acquire transportation infrastructure during that era was simply "dead on arrival'. For those of us contemporary to that era, we can recall that anti-Japanese sentiment, at least with regards to economic interests, was quite high.

  by AmtrakFan
Mr. Norman,
Believe or not a former MILW person told me that the LINES WEST MADE MORE $ THAN THE EASTERN LINES I wish we still had the Lines West I miss the MILW.


  by Gilbert B Norman
I certainly agree, Mr. Poshepny--

During my years there, on enough different occasions the water cooler told me that just some 10 more carloads a day to/from the Coast of any commodity would "have us" breaking even if not 'in the black'.

  by AmtrakFan
If BN would of brought the MILW would of the Lines West Surrivied?


  by Gilbert B Norman
The reason for Lines West in the post BN era was that shippers wanted a competitive rail routing, just as they do in the present "Big Four' era. At one time, pre-BN, subject to an exception or two out there, none of the industries along either predecessor were open to the MILW. That is to say that reciprocal switching rates were not published for most industries through the territory served by LW. Basically, the only traffic the MILW could enjoy was from industries actually on-line; and trust me, those were few and far between.

A BN merger condition was that industries at the traffic centers along LW, such as Miles City, Butte, Missoula, Great Falls, Lewistown were to be opened so that a shipper located on the (former) NP or GN could route traffic MILW line haul, BN switch. Also, the MILW could make rates through both Billings and Butte, even though Billings was "deep into' NP territory (the physical interchange usually occurred at Miles City). Also the MILW got to make rates through Portland for interchange with either the UP or SP. Physical access was by trackage rights over the BN(NP) Longview-Portland.

But alas, all of the above was for naught, even though as I noted earlier, the water cooler always told those listening 'just ten more carloads a day to the Coast and we will be in the black'.

However, Bankruptcy has a way of changing things where continuiation of the Bankrupt's operations is only one option open to the Trustees. Trustees are charged with placing the interest of the Creditors (those guys, who were known as employees or vendors the day before, the Bankrupt has "stiffed') first and then only in the case of overwhelming public necessity, i.e. Penn Central, United Airlines, can "Pro Bono Publico' be considered. The hard facts of life were simply that many of the real estate holdings were worth more on the market than cash flow from continuation of a rather decrepit railroad (I said it) could bring to the table.

  by AmtrakFan
MILW had a ton of SP Traffic in PDX.


  by Hambone
Bad management drove the Milw into the ground.

  by Gilbert B Norman
Thanks Mr. Hambone, I was part of it, albeit quite a "lesserling".

Otherwise, I hope all will check out Sep 2005 TRAINS. Ouite a story. While I'm not certain, I believe I had occasion to meet the gentleman profiled in the article.

Most of the lineside structures shown, such as the Loweth, MT substation, I have either viewed or actually visited in the line of duty.

Yes, I have been to Ringling, MT..

  by Tadman
It's interesting to note how many great American businesses were brought down by bad management, or what I call "drinking your own kool-aid"...
Bethlehem Steel
GM (not totally brought down, but Rog Smith was awful)

  by AMFan
Please forgive me if this was covered in another thread, but, shy of the costs involved, what would be the prohibiting factors preventing the relaying of rail on this route? It is not unheard of (albeit very rare) to reclaim railroads.

  by mtuandrew
I don't know, could it be entirely relaid? I'll just assume this is a Minneapolis-Seattle line only, since that the Twin Cities have four Class 1 connections (BNSF, CP, UP, CN in order of directness) and at least one Class 2 (Iowa, Chicago & Eastern) connection to Chicago.

It would entail a great deal of cooperation and tolerance from the BNSF and the state of South Dakota, since they (jointly?) own a good chunk of the line from Appleton, MN to Terry, MT. Most of the rest of the line is either still in operation (Twin Cities & Western and a few local operators in Washington and Montana) or is used as ATV trails. The tunnels are even still open. However, I think there's a manmade lake blocking part of the right-of-way in Washington along I-90... does anyone else know about that?

Also, Montana RailLink operates from Billings to St. Regis, MT on ex-NP track, but this parallels the ex-MILW line and could be used as part of the resurrected Milwaukee Road. If the Tongue River Railroad ever reaches from Miles City to Decker (at the Powder River Basin), Montana RailLink might convince BNSF to let them have the ex-NP line as far as Miles City.

So, here's what would need to happen:
-BNSF agrees to lease the old main to Terry, MT and leases their ex-NP line from Miles City to Billings to Montana RailLink
-Montana RailLink allows trackage rights from Miles City to St. Regis, MT.
-Twin Cities & Western upgrades their main from the Twin Cities to Appleton, MN
-A new corporation (or corporations) funds construction from Seattle/Tacoma, WA to St. Regis, MT and from Miles City to Terry, MT, and rebuilds terminals in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Missoula, Billings, Aberdeen, and the Twin Cities.

Who would own it? Considering that this would be a several-billion dollar effort (it'd be most of a billion just for motive power) and the primary beneficiaries would be shipping companies, there'd probably be a great deal of Chinese, Malaysian, Korean and Japanese investment. Other investors could include the states along the way, coal interests, the federal government, and all of the major western Class 1 railroads. In particular, BNSF would only agree to a new/old competitor if it had partial control.

EDIT take 3: Montana Rail Link actually has all the NP track (or rights) from Billings, MT to Spokane, WA. For MRL to own a combined NP/Milwaukee mainline from the Twin Cities to Seattle, they would need to:
-rebuild from Seattle to Spokane - a major undertaking
-get trackage rights from Billings to Terry, MT
-lease or buy the ex-MILW line through South Dakota to Appleton, MN
-partner with, or acquire, the Twin Cities & Western for a Minneapolis gateway

This would still require a huge amount of goodwill from BNSF.
Last edited by mtuandrew on Wed Apr 25, 2007 2:27 pm, edited 3 times in total.
  by amtrakhogger
The PSE was doomed not just by bad management but the
RR industry as whole was still retrenching. At that time, no one
thought rail would have undergone an upswing like that what is happening
now. The name of the game back then in 1980 (via Staggers) was to
rationalize/abandon the way to profitability (painfully evident in the
Northeast.) It would have been hard to convince RR managers & CEO's
to keep lines in service or "railbank" them for an uncertain future.

The US business model does not focus on the long term rather it is
the short term. Shareholders and Wall Street want returns NOW, not
in 10-25 years. Railroads have to follow suit.

  by Vincent
Much of the MILW right-of-way in Washington state has become Iron Horse State Park or the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. You'll have quite a fight if you want to re-lay those tracks. You can, however, walk or ride a bike through the MILW's 2.3 mile tunnel through Snoqualmie Pass.

  by Alco83
To make one cringe even more about Lines West being abandoned please read this well-detailed document. Along with the B&O's St. Louis main line, IMHO, Lines West and the Pacific Extension was the most important rail line ever lost in the recent era... :(

EDIT: Also, for anyone interested the link below is perhaps the best documentation of Lines West as they appear today. I can't say enough how well the main line has been documented, hats off to the author for his tireless hours in doing this!

http://www.themilwaukeeroadtrail.org/Cu ... _June.html
  by ljeppson
I've always been intrigued by GE's proposal, made in the 70's to close the gap in electrification between the Rocky Mountain piece and the Pacific piece. Anybody know much about it?
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