Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad
The Milwaukee Road, officially the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (CMSP&P RR), was a railroad that operated in the midwest and northwest of the United States from 1847 until its acquisition by and merger with the Soo Line railway in 1985–1986. The company went through several official names and faced bankruptcy several times in that period. While the railroad does not exist as a separate entity anymore, it is still commemorated in buildings like the historic Milwaukee Road Depot in Minneapolis, Minnesota and in railroad hardware still maintained by railfans, such as the Milwaukee Road 261 steam locomotive.
The Milwaukee Road appeared as the Milwaukee and Waukesha Railroad when it was first incorporated in 1847, but soon changed its name to Milwaukee and Mississippi. After three years, the first train ran from Milwaukee to Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and the first passenger train ran on February 25, 1851. In 1874 the name was changed to Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul. By 1887, the railroad had lines running through Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and the upper peninsula of Michigan.
A major expansion of the railroad occurred in the 1900s. Between 1906 and 1909, new railroad lines were built from South Dakota to Puget Sound and the Seattle/Tacoma region of Washington. The railroad also pioneered long-distance electrification, completing over 400 miles of track, beginning in central Montana by 1916. In electrifying the track, company managers hoped the savings from using hydroelectric power would offset the cost of the electrification, and provide lower costs hauling trains over the 2.2% grades of the line. While the electrification was an engineering marvel of the day, in the end they did not contribute to the success of the company and are believed to have led to the company's bankruptcy in 1925.
After a reorganization in 1928 as the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific, the Road continued to face financial difficulties for the next few decades. The company again found itself in bankruptcy in 1935 and 1945, then went through major changes in 1977 with a reorganization that saw the company let go of two thirds of its track mileage.
- Schmidt, W. H., Jr. (1977) The singular Milwaukee - A profile, Railroad History (136) 5-129.
- Milwaukee Road Historical Association
- Milwaukee Road History at Milwaukee Public Library
- Milwaukee Road history (Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers)
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