In 1970, The Milwaukee Road gained entry to Portland, Ore. as a concession to agree not to oppose the Northern Lines Merger which created the competing Burlington Northern Railroad from the combination of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; Great Northern; Northern Pacific; and Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railroads. Prior to that, Longview, Wash. was the most southern point reached by the Coast Division (via trackage rights over the B.N. Pacific Div.,Third Sub, from Chehalis Jct). The Milwaukee's entry to Portland provided a natural fit to the Southern Pacific Railroad's road map, with its northern terminus at its Portland Brooklyn Yard, on the east bank of the Willamette River. Thus the S.P. - Milwaukee route would provide a natural competitive alternative for Pacif! ic Northwest - California traffic as opposed to the Burlington Northern - Western Pacific - Santa Fe "inside route" via Bieber and Stockton, Calif.

pix: Portlandmerge3 caption: View South, Fixed Approach to Blakeslee Jct on the Slow South Line R. View South, The Speedy Modern Alternative: Detour via the B.N. 3rd Sub, Reservation (Tacoma) to Chehalis Jct

Leaving Town: Tacoma

Leaving Tacoma for Portland was not a simple matter. First, as with all trains bound for the South Lines, Portland trains backed out of Tacoma Yard two miles to Tacoma Jct. Second was the matter of the "T & E Hill" (aka "T & E Gulch"). On the Milwaukee, this hill was said to be a 4% grade. On its website, Tacoma Rail, which operates this railroad today, rates the Hill at 3.3%. Either way it was a hefty grade from the sharp 15 mph curve at Brown & Haley Chocolate at the bottom, to Hillsdale at the top. Because the Hill was in Tacoma Yard Limits, a yard job was assigned at least one shift per day to assist Portland trains up the Hill and to haul Portland cuts up the hill. Thus to get a typical Portland train up the Hill, a yard job employing usually the Engine 82 set tied on the rear of, or cut its! elf somewhere into, the train; usually doing so at Tacoma Jct. When the train arrived at Hillsdale, the yard job cut itself out of the train. Then the Portland train picked up its other half from the "hill cuts" previously hauled to Hillsdale by the yard job. All of this took time, probably in excess of an hour or more. Of course yard crews did not mind, the Hill generated extra jobs for the yard. And road crews were not annoyed either. Initial terminal delay was in effect until the train exited yard limits. So the Hill made everyone money. Except of course for the Milwaukee Road.

pix: 4thSubThirdWashTT caption: Montana and Washington Division Joint Time Table No. 3 - Wednesday, March 15, 1978

pix: PortlandTTmerge caption: Burlington Northern Inc. Portland-Seattle Region Time Table 18 - Sunday, October 28, 1979

Rule 251 Territory

"251. On portions of the railroad, and on designated tracks so specified in the timetable, trains will run with reference to other trains in the same direction by block signals whose indications will supersede the superiority of trains. 252. The movement of trains will be supervised by the train dispatcher. Oral and message instructions issued by him must be complied with. . . ." p. 133, The Consolidated Code of Operating Rules, Edition of 1967 . . .

Milwaukee Road Train #901, Engine 5800, on duty Tacoma at 9:30 am, 26 March 1977, crossed the Columbia River at 8:01 pm and is now approaching Willbridge Tower, 4 miles time table east of Portland Depot.

Crosby, head brakeman: "Amtrak 797 is due at Willbridge at 8:07. Aren't we supposed to clear their time by five minutes?" Bangs, engineman: "Don't worry about it kid, see where it says Rule 251 territory in the time table? Means we don't have to worry about it." Shrader, conductor: "Caboose to 901, just got a call from Willbridge, 'patcher wants us to clear Number 797." Bangs (to Crosby): "Dang it, why do they put the B.N. frequency on his little walkie-talkie and not on the engine." Bangs: "Jerry, then why did he let us out of CTC? Four miles and we're through the depot. If we screw around now, we may not make it to Brooklyn, we've only got just over an hour now. If we get delayed at the Depot, or at the Steel Bridge, or if that Depot Yard switch tender is drunk again . . . don't know if Crosby knows the way through there . . ." Shrader: "Dispatcher says get out of the way, so we get out of the way." Bangs (to Crosby): "This is what you get from extra board conductors. This whole trip's been a cluster---. That meet at Greendale killed us and Shrader should have told the Milwaukee dispatcher so." Bangs: "We've got a yellow on Willbridge." Shrader: "Ok, the operator says you should get a clear at Willbridge, he's lining you up. Then he wants us to stop on the other side of the plant, then we are going to back through the plant and up the A Line to clear 797."" Bangs: "A LINE? You mean towards Astoria? That's not our track, we've never been in there." Crosby: "Clear block at Willbridge." . . .

Shrader: "10 cars . . . 5 cars . . . 3 cars . . . that'ill do 901. Ok 901, restricting signal at Willbridge, bring her back until you clear the plant on the other side. C'mon back my way 901." Bangs: "Coming your way." Shrader: "Ok 901, ease 'er up a little. Operator says that the first two switch targets should be green but the third one should be red for us to be lined up right on the A Line. Holding on back here on the platform and talking on the walkie-talkie and only a fusee in the knuckle for light, well . . . that's better, keep her coming."" Bangs: "See that red target yet." Shrader: "No, NEGATIVE, switch stands are flying by like fence posts!" Bangs: "Ok we're clear the plant." Crosby, looking back from the fireman's side: "Number 797, no signals."

Leaving Town: Portland

Milwaukee Road Portland trains originated and terminated at Southern Pacific Brooklyn and Burlington Northern Hoyt Street Yards (aka Portland Yard).

Originating trains in both Portland yards were prepared by Southern Pacific and Burlington Northern crews. Trains 900 and 901 operated from and to Brooklyn Yard; Trains 902 and 903 operated from and to Hoyt Street Yard. Train 900 originating at Brooklyn Yard was usually ready to go, all on one track with the power tied on. Train 902 was usually on two or more of Hoyt Street's shorter tracks. Usually the power had to be fetched and the tracks doubled out for final air test and departure. A flag man was often on duty to flag the street crossing north of Hoyt Street yard while this work was in progress. Entry to the mainline from both yards required waiting five minutes per ABS rule 513, although a switch tender in Brooklyn Yard usually performed this task.

pix: Portland1merge2 caption: Question: What happens when you move mainline freight over an old logging railroad? Answer: Wreck just south of the Skookumchuck River Bridge

Slow and Undependable vs Fast and Dependable

On a map, Southern Pacific plus Milwaukee Road could equal Los Angeles to Seattle. Management at Chicago Milwaukee Corporation in Chicago thought that this made sense. A line on the map was a line on the map. But railroads are not lines on a map, they are tracks on the ground. This misconception was one of many conclusions, the totality of which would prove fatal to the Milwaukee Road. For how could a railroad with a top speed of 40 mph, and an average speed of 25 mph, with numerous 10 mph hour slow orders; with a 3.3% grade requiring extra crews and time; cobbled together from indirect logging branch lines with nineteenth century engineering and wooden trestles; with no signals of any kind; running strictly on train orders; with frequent meets on single track; and a mix of mainline and logging trains; compete with double track CTC built to modern specifications; with steel bridges; no unusual grad! es; and 55 mph track?

Bridge out at McKenna

According to my 1977 time book, on 18 August I worked the Raymond Turn: Train #952; engine 284; on duty Raymond at 4:00 pm; off duty Tacoma 3:30 am; 88 cars at the local rate (mostly logs out of Chehalis); 229 miles including detention; Conductor Blackwell and Engineer Shubach. On 19 August I worked Train #903; engine 172; on duty Tacoma at 1:00 pm; off duty Portland 9:50 pm; 209 miles; Conductor Glatt and Engineer Click; and this note: "detour over B.N. from Reservation." This is how the railroad should have always been run: less than nine hours from Tacoma to Portland, including work at Chehalis and Rocky Point.

But it was an aberration, caused by how the railroad was actually run. Running mainline freight over wooden trestles was an iffy idea, and it did not pay off this day. That the penchant for party and delinquency of local Pierce County teenagers could have affected Milwaukee Road operations revealed the thin thread upon which the railroad depended (unlike the Burlington Northern where teenagers were no more than "cannon folder;" objects to be occasionally mowed down on steel trestles in Auburn or at the fenceless Golden Gardens in Seattle). What the teens did to the Milwaukee was to set the long, high Nisqually River trestle at McKenna ablaze. Seems they became bored with their usual river beach bonfires. The Milwaukee's response to this was standard operating procedure: place a 10 mph slow order on the burnt out bridge deck. It was the B. & B. Department's equivalent of the Company Safety Offic! er's injunction that "adverse conditions can be overcome by 'professionalism.'" On the map, the Southern Pacific-Milwaukee Road connection at Portland was an attractive route for shipments from the Port of Los Angeles to Anaconda, Montana. Thus at Brooklyn Yard we began to pick up cuts of Southern Pacific hoppers loaded with heavy Chilean copper ore imported at the Port of Los Angeles for processing in Montana. Late night on 18 August my Tacoma bound Raymond train, laden with export logs, made it through the McKenna 10 mph slow order with no problem. But we were the last. A Tacoma bound Portland train a couple of hours behind us, collapsed the McKenna trestle, under a cut of 15 or so of these S.P. ore hoppers. The result was a massive spill of copper ore into the river and the subsequent kill off of thousands of steelhead trout. The Milwaukee, always parsimonious with maintenance funds, was forced to pay thousands for environment remediation. That line on the map was a very thin thread ind! eed.




© 1976-2007 John Crosby. Photos may not be used without permission. All rights reserved.