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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Gilbert B Norman
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by Gilbert B Norman »

Mr. Stephens, what we must consider here is would BN make interline rates with MILW at any of those points, and for that matter would they even consider any such point open for reciprocal switching. Reciprocal switching is where one road handles the other's car as a reciprocal accommodation to that, say, the MILW could have a line haul even though the industry was on BN trackage.

At one time, nothing on the NP was 'open' to the MILW; that simply meant that traffic at intermediate points served by both roads went on the NP. Now as a condition of the BN merger the BN was required to make rates with the MILW, but in fact it turned out to be a case of BN called the shots. Billings MT became an interchange even though the MILW did not have lines within 199 miles of there. BN of course was not too interested' in providing quality service to the MILW - and from their point of view, why should have they.

The open gateways may have stemed the tide; but hardly enough to reverse the flood. Dec 19, 1977 was simply inevitable..

gokeefe
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by gokeefe »

Gilbert B Norman wrote:The open gateways may have stemed the tide; but hardly enough to reverse the flood. Dec 19, 1977 was simply inevitable..
Mr. Norman,

The prevailing narrative is MILW and in particular "Lines West" collapsed under its own weight of debt and poor physical plant conditions. Is an alternative narrative, that BN, NP and GN successfully strangled the MILW conceivable?
gokeefe

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by Gilbert B Norman »

Mr. O'Keefe, the very short answer to your immediate is 'all of the above'.

In order to have 'the other guy' open his on-line industries to 'me', 'I' must have something to offer 'him' in exchange. But what if 'my' road runs East-West, and 'his' does same, what have 'I' to offer 'him'? Further, 'what if 'he' has industries that could generate 300 cars in a given period, but all 'I' can generate from 'my' industries during same period is 50.

This narrative is quite analogous to where the MILW found itself. The opening of BN industries and interchange gateways, such as Portland, Louisville, Billings, imposed as merger preconditions, simply were, again, 'too late in the game'.

Lines West was simply a testament to management hubris; it was built without any Land Grants which meant it had one hand tied behind its back the moment the bell rang for Round 1. But that it was built, its best chance of survival would have been as a line owned by maritime interests, as back to the parameter I set forth, 'this traffic is my traffic, and I don't feel like letting you have any of it I don't have to'.

vermontanan
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by vermontanan »

While it's true the Milwaukee western extension was built without land grants, it benefited hugely from them because unlike railroads like NP, GN, and UP which had to haul all their own building materials as they built the railroad, the Milwaukee simply shipped what was necessary for their construction on existing railroads, mostly the NP which was a land grant railroad. This was a tremendous savings in cost in that materials could arrive faster and more dependably. Also, when the Milwaukee arrived at places like Miles City, Great Falls, Butte, and Missoula, they found established cities with restaurants, hotels, schools, law enforcement, hospitals and other infrastructure in place, largely as a courtesy of the presence of other railroads being there first. While these other railroads didn't necessarily establish these communities initially, they helped them grow to the point that the Milwaukee benefited immeasurably from their being there. The Milwaukee western extension had a tremendous cost overrun as it was. One can only imagine how much more so it would have been had they had to haul their own materials and help establish their own online support communities like all the other railroads did.

gokeefe
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by gokeefe »

Dicussion in the Wisconsin Talgo thread, which I haven't followed much until now followed a brief tangent regarding possible additional services by the Washington (State) Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for the Amtrak Cascades. In the course of this conversation Snoqualmie Tunnel was brought up as one of three possible routes for a daylight service between Seattle and Spokane. I repost the relevant discussion here for further consideration:
electricron wrote:
AgentSkelly wrote:
electricron wrote:
AgentSkelly wrote:Actually WSDOT in the past said if they expand Cascades service to other NW cities, they would like to have uniform equipment across the brand.
IF! Has WDOT even studied regional trains towards Spokane?
Once the improvements have been made on the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver service, WSDOT wants to look at trains to Spokane; there is speculation they want to restore the NP route.
The NP route runs north to the east of Lake Washington, then west along its north shore. some might think the better rail corridor is the ex-Milwaukee Road that leads into Tacoma slightly south - but the State owns this corridor today with the Iron Horse Trail running in it.

Great Northern's 7.9 mile long Cascade Tunnel has an elevation of 2,881 feet. Its eastbound grade is 1.7%, its westbound grade is 2.2%. The peak is at the east portal. BNSF and Amtrak use it today

Northern Pacific's 2 mile long Stampede Pass Tunnel had an elevation of approximately 1,634 feet, Both its eastbound and westbound grade are 2.2%, with the peak inside the tunnel. It's the first one built, it still has low clearances and can't run double stack containers or auto racks.

Milwaukee Road's 2 mile long Snoqualmie Tunnel had an elevation of 2,520 feet. Its eastbound grade 1.74%, its westbound grade 0.7%. The tunnel is level, and its floor has already been lowered so it can accommodate auto racks cars, and also double stack containers.

Woe, BNSF kept the wrong spare tunnel, or did it? Should lower elevation or lower grades rank higher?
Vincent wrote:Starting a daylight service between Seattle and Spokane isn't going to happen in the near future. WSDOT is still managing the ARRA projects and getting ready for the SEA<>PDX service expansion set for 2017. But another train between Seattle and Spokane--one that operates reliably and during daylight hours--could be popular. The fastest route between Seattle and Spokane would be via the current route that the Empire Builder follows (the ex-GN). But the tunnel over Stevens Pass is at capacity and BNSF would likely require some costly upgrades to allow 2 more daily passenger trains through the tunnel. The ex-NP route over Stampede Pass would be slower for SEA<>SPK passengers and require about $200 million in infrastructure improvements to be viable for passenger rail (according to the North Coast Hiawatha study). But the ex-NP route would offer service to the Tri-Cities, Yakima and Ellensburg which have a far greater population base than Wenatchee and Ephrata. Because another train would have to be taxpayer supported, any expansion plan would be very political and it's hard to guess which way the trains would run.
Although it would seem unlikely in the extreme that the ex-MILW "Lines West" option via Snoqualmie would be chosen the above discussed proposal is probably the single most serious possibility that rail would ever be relaid on that section. Furthermore as the passage notes the Snoqualmie Tunnel is already a high clearance tunnel. A crucial distiction which may make the segment attractive to state funded reactivation.
gokeefe

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by Gilbert B Norman »

Now that the Great Northern has become 'saturated' with oil traffic, and I'm sure that with additional traffic BNSF now diverts over the Northern Pacific straining that line, one has to wonder to what extent maritime companies are diverting even more traffic away from the Pacific Northwest ports.

What if that 1980 proposal for Japanese maritime interests to acquire MILW Lines West that I have previously outlined at this topic had ever moved forth. What if European maritime interests likewise acquired the then-intact ERIE; could have there been a 'land-bridge' in place offering 96hr docking to sailing transit time over such?

Railroad discussion forums are 'the place of dreams'.

Finally, allow me to reiterate positions I have held through this entire discussion. Lines West should never have been built; it was simply a product of 'hubris'. Should have the MILW continued as a business entity operating Lines West? No way; the outfit was so poorly managed (and as The End drew nigh, assorted self-serving 'high jinxes' by top management were coming to light), it did not deserve to survive. But the fact remains that Lines West represented a once redundant transportation resource that Today would hardly be considered such.

mtuandrew
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by mtuandrew »

Mr. O'Keefe: am I correct in assuming that this discussion suggests reactivating the MILW from approximately Seattle to Cle Elum (over Snoqualmie Pass) and from Ellensburg to Lind, to use as both a reliever for the GN and as a potential passenger route? I think that is a good idea for a public-private partnership, if unlikely, but I just want to make sure I'm not placing words in your mouth.

gokeefe
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by gokeefe »

mtuandrew wrote:Mr. O'Keefe: am I correct in assuming that this discussion suggests reactivating the MILW from approximately Seattle to Cle Elum (over Snoqualmie Pass) and from Ellensburg to Lind, to use as both a reliever for the GN and as a potential passenger route? I think that is a good idea for a public-private partnership, if unlikely, but I just want to make sure I'm not placing words in your mouth.
Correct. I don't know the segments very well by any means so I appreciate your clarification very much.

As you mention, unlikely but nonetheless interesting. It is also a sensible reactivation of an immensely valuable high clearance tunnel whose replacement value is easily in the billions of dollars.
gokeefe

mtuandrew
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by mtuandrew »

gokeefe wrote:
mtuandrew wrote:Mr. O'Keefe: am I correct in assuming that this discussion suggests reactivating the MILW from approximately Seattle to Cle Elum (over Snoqualmie Pass) and from Ellensburg to Lind, to use as both a reliever for the GN and as a potential passenger route? I think that is a good idea for a public-private partnership, if unlikely, but I just want to make sure I'm not placing words in your mouth.
Correct. I don't know the segments very well by any means so I appreciate your clarification very much.

As you mention, unlikely but nonetheless interesting. It is also a sensible reactivation of an immensely valuable high clearance tunnel whose replacement value is easily in the billions of dollars.
The cutoff from Ellensburg to Lind makes sense because while it is a duplicate route, it doesn't directly duplicate a route currently in daily service, and it has few landowners who would be adversely affected. All of that adds up to a much lower cost. Bookended by ex-NP lines and cutting off a significant amount of distance between Seattle and Spokane, the ex-MILW from Ellensburg to Lind would be a good public-private partnership for passenger or freight even without the Snoqualmie Pass route.

As for Snoqualmie Pass, it seems like a very expensive project to tear up and reroute a popular path, rebuild 30-odd miles of track through both mountains and urban/suburban areas, and create the necessary junctions on either end. Once it was all over, you'd still be left with excess capacity over Stampede Pass, unless this project anticipated trading the Stampede Pass route to the state for trail purposes. I don't know how much it would cost to undercut the Stampede Tunnel (or perish the thought, bore a new tunnel), but it seems like undercutting would be an order of magnitude cheaper than reactivating the MILW. Even boring a new tunnel may only be equivalent in cost to rebuilding Snoqualmie, with the added benefit of eliminating even more elevation from the route.

EDIT: I think that electricron's numbers for Stampede Pass are wrong - it looks to be a little over 2,800 feet above sea level, not 1,634.

gokeefe
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by gokeefe »

mtuandrew wrote:As for Snoqualmie Pass, it seems like a very expensive project to tear up and reroute a popular path, rebuild 30-odd miles of track through both mountains and urban/suburban areas, and create the necessary junctions on either end. Once it was all over, you'd still be left with excess capacity over Stampede Pass, unless this project anticipated trading the Stampede Pass route to the state for trail purposes. I don't know how much it would cost to undercut the Stampede Tunnel (or perish the thought, bore a new tunnel), but it seems like undercutting would be an order of magnitude cheaper than reactivating the MILW. Even boring a new tunnel may only be equivalent in cost to rebuilding Snoqualmie, with the added benefit of eliminating even more elevation from the route.
I'm not entirely convinced that Snoqualmie Pass would be that hard. All of the photos that I've seen of the tunnel show only a packed earth surface. This trail has not been paved as far as I can tell (at least not near the tunnel). This appears to me to be the subsoil on which the now removed previous track structure and subgrade existed. It might even be the subgrade on which the ballast rested in which case reinstallation of track becomes a remarkably simple exercise. Because of the height limits I wouldn't describe Stampede Pass as excess capacity and would support conversion of that route to a trail. Given the previously mentioned potential simplicity for reactivating the MILW line I think the alternative of undercutting Stampede would probably cost more. If you really wanted to be creative about it you might be able to reuse some of the track materials over Stampede Pass. Although it might only be jointed rail I wouldn't be surprised if there was some CWR that could be used as relay rail.
gokeefe

gokeefe
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by gokeefe »

Although Snoqualmie is the "elephant in the room" this Yakima Herald Republic editorial published in October 2013 addresses some of the long term expected trends which could require the reactivation of Stampede Pass (or an alternative.....).
The prospect of increased rail traffic through the Yakima Valley brings delight to train buffs and dread to motorists who sometimes endure a seemingly interminable wait at a rail crossing. Realistically, not a lot will change in the near future on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks, which connect the Valley with Seattle via Stampede Pass.

Well, it could change some. About eight freight trains a day now travel through Yakima, the same number as six years ago, when the prospect of more trains prompted the city to start planning twin underpasses on Lincoln Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The Lincoln project opened last year, with the MLK underpass expected to follow suit next year.
gokeefe

CPF363
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by CPF363 »

Did the creation of the Northern Securities Company, which controlled the GN, NP and the Burlington, in addition to influence by William Rockefeller, convince the MILW to build the line to Puget Sound? Should the MILW have tried to take over or be taken over by either the GN or the NP verses taking on the endeavor of constructing the Puget Sound line?

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by Gilbert B Norman »

From this related topic:
fredmcain wrote:Let's bring this thread a little more up to date to the summer of 2014

Just look at what's been happening all over North America. Rail freight traffic is booming while our Interstate Highways are deteriorating, saturated in places with heavy truck traffic. Our great leaders in Washington D.C. don't seem to be able to agree on a highway funding plan so they just kick the can down the road. Could some of our interstates lie at the threshold of a death spiral like the Milwaukee Road's track did in the 1970's? Well, O.K., maybe that's a bit of a stretch but we are in real trouble. And just when rail traffic congestion couldn't get any worse, the crude-by-rail boom occurs! The ex-GN line is so saturated that Amtrak is unable to get over the road. Grain farmers are screaming that they can't get their product moved.

So, by taking all these facts into consideration, I have arrived at the conclusion that the time has come to take a second and very hard look at the abandonment of the Milwaukee Road.

Regards,
Fred M. Cain
I believe that Mr. Cain's thoughts reflect more upon whether MILW Lines West should have been kept in service (not necessarily by the MILW) or at least 'railbanked' so that should the need arise, they again could provide railroad transportation.

Somehow, if railroad managers, and for that matter 'The Street' , could have thought beyond the current Quarter's 'whisper number', some of the line abandonments that were made mostly during the '80's and 90's would not have occurred. Other abandonments coming to mind about which management should have thought twice include truncating the Seaboard so that it was no longer a through route, the ERIE through Ohio and Indiana, and removal of second main tracks over routes such as the ACL, GM&O, and IC (those last two primarily benefiting passenger trains).

I have to wonder to what extent managers foresaw the positive impact that Staggers would have on the industry's traffic, could have they foreseen the impact of a globalized economy on East-West movement of container traffic? So far as crude oil traffic, geologists have known that shale oil was there for likely one hundred years (I've known about since taking Geo 101 during '63) and, especially when the price of crude on any market reached parity with the higher costs to extract the oil from shale, that rail transportation was going to be needed for East-West movement (most pipelines are N-S) of such.

20/20 hindsight is great for the pundits, but 20/20 foresight is much better for society - the Economy included.

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

Post by mtuandrew »

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.

gokeefe
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Re: MILW Lines West: WHY, WHY, WHY!!!

Post by gokeefe »

mtuandrew wrote: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.
I strongly agree with the above. The possibilty of improving signal systems or laying additional track will get explored long before any other options. On the other hand I'm not entirely sure that's cost effective on some of the transcontinental routes which have never been double tracked.
gokeefe

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