• Milwaukee Road question (from Australia)

  • 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 Southern Aurora
Hello everyone, just joined this board because, although I live in Australia, I have an abiding interest in US railroads.

I have a question about the C,M,StP&P that has bothered me for years. I know the Union Pacific switched its west coast streamliners from C&NW to the Milwaukee Road in 1955, and I understand why Milwaukee Road carriages (coaches, baggage cars, sleepers, etc.) were painted in UP's armour yellow for operation on those trains.

My question is this: why were carriages used on other C,M,StP&P trains also repainted to armour yellow? For example, why was the 'Olympian Hiawatha' given this treatment?

Any insight would be appreciated.
  by vermontanan
A couple of sources are on record stating that the reason that other passenger equipment NOT used on the "Cities" trains was painted in UP colors was because the UP yellow "was easier to keep clean" than the Milwaukee's maroon and orange, especially during the winter when cars could not be washed. The repainting of the equipment took about three years to complete.

This seems like an unlikely reason because dirty maroon and orange cars must have been a problem before 1955, too, and one would also think that the lighter the color, the more-difficult it would be to keep the cars clean. UP''s color scheme is clearly one of the lightest in American railroading. I think a better explanation was it was hoped that painting the cars to be the same as those used by the UP would somehow more align the Milwaukee with the UP in the critical Chicago-Omaha lane as back in the 1950s, many thought that good passenger service also promoted good freight service and the same color scheme would suggest that the railroads worked as a single entity in moving not only passenger trains, but freight west from Chicago to destinations west of Omaha. After all, this was the reason that the Milwaukee spent millions of dollars to upgrade its Chicago-Council Bluffs main line: The thought was freight interchange with the UP would follow the Milwaukee handling the passenger trains.

As we all know, this didn't happen. UP continued to work with the C&NW and other carriers to handle Chicago-Omaha freight traffic, so in the end, the Milwaukee spent a great deal of money for no benefit. It was one of the great gaffes in railroad history; clearly the money could have been better spent elsewhere. Much like the Pacific Extension, those at the Milwaukee Road just couldn't seem to understand that most of their routes were vastly inferior to the others. That's why of all the railroads that crossed the width of Iowa to get from Chicago to Omaha, it's no surprise the routes of the Milwaukee Road and Chicago Great Western are the only ones largely abandoned to this day.
  by Southern Aurora
Thanks for your response, vermontanan. I agree with your observation that repainting because armour yellow was supposedly easier to keep clean seems a fairly flimsy reason for ditching a livery as attractive as Milwaukee's maroon and orange. Your point about the links between passenger train colours and hoped for freight traffic does make more sense. I might be wrong, but completing the repainting of the Milwaukee's passenger fleet in only three years seems to be a remarkably short period time for such a vast task.
  by eolesen
I'd read elsewhere it was for operational simplicity and consistency.

UP has always been a very brand conscious company, and the contracts they had with the CNW and MILW required pool equipment to uphold that branding and for pool equipment provided to be in Armour Yellow.

As anyone who has done equipment routing would know, non-pool equipment was going to eventually wind up being placed into pool service due to bad orders, added demand, or other operational needs. Likewise, pool equipment would wind up being placed into service on a non-pooled train eventually.

I'm sure there was also some passive brand hijacking on the part of the MILW. UP was top shelf, and by association, looking like the UP probably did raise up the image of the MILW in the eyes of passenger consumers. Having trains that looked uniform and consistent was also important to the marketing types.

You see the same happening in the airline space today. Nothing says "cheap" like having customers see a terminal full of mismatched airplane tails. The illogical argument is that if they're not painting the airplanes, it becomes questionable to customers if they're maintaining them...
  by Engineer Spike
The freight went to Burlington in this era. I have heard that Milwaukee was hoping to get it, but didn't. This is strange in a way, since Burlington's owners, Great Northern, and Northern Pacific competed with UP, of transcontinental traffic.
  by wjstix
My understanding is that for the first few years of the agreement, only cars intended to be used on joint Milw-UP trains were repainted into UP yellow. Later (c.1959?) the Milwaukee Road decided it was better to repaint all their passenger equipment. I agree that a big factor was maintaining one passenger scheme was easier than two different ones. (Of course, that being said, the Milwaukee Road continued to paint their freight diesels orange and black.) However, using one scheme also meant that in effect all Milwaukee Road passenger cars were 'reserves' that could be used on UP/Milw trains.

It's similar (in a way) to how the Great Northern Ry. had extra passenger cars lettered "EMPIRE BUILDER" instead of "GREAT NORTHERN" that were often used on other trains. Great Northern wanted all the cars on the Builder to have "EMPIRE BUILDER" on the letterboard, so these extra cars could be used on the Builder as fill-ins when needed. Does make for some interesting photos, a branchline local passenger train with 3-4 cars sitting at a tiny, remote GN depot and having an EMPIRE BUILDER car in it's consist.