Friday, August 5, 2011

Today's Train of Thought- Bandits of Wall Street; August 5, 2011

Following a lengthy downward spiral, the Chicago, Milwaukee St Paul & Pacific- the nation's last transcontinental railroad- ceased to exist in 1986 as the beleaguered railroad's assets were purchased and absorbed into the Soo Line's. By that point the CMStP&P- better known as the Milwaukee Road- was a rump of its former self, having abandoned the entire railroad west of Miles City, MT in 1980.

Remnants of the Milwaukee Road west of Miles City still exist in some places such as the Chehalis-Cenralia railroad in southwestern Washington state, the rather self-explanatory Tacoma Rail in Tacoma, WA, the Pend Oreille Valley Railroad north of Spokanne, the St. Marie's River in Idaho's panhandle and the Central Montana Railroad (home of the Charlie Russell Chew Choo).

Between 1980 and 1985, the Milwaukee Road struggled to make ends meet as a much smaller regional railroad, continuing to abandon or sell off underutilized trackage in the Midwest before purchase from the Soo Line. Besides the right-of-way, Soo inherited a number of the Milwaukee Road's locomotives painted in the road's distinctive orange and black. While some of these were sold off or returned to lessor, a number of them stayed in service with the Soo Line. However, the Soo shop forces weren't able to re-paint the entire former Milwaukee Road fleet and a number of the locomotives retained their distinctive orange and black paint scheme with 'SOO LINE' lettering hastily applied- locomotives with the impromptu markings were referred to as 'bandits'.

The Milwaukee's former Twin Cities to Kansas City line (by way of the Quad Cities) remained something of a backwater on the Soo system, even after Canadian Pacific gained full control of the Soo. The line- along with the Sabula, IA to Chicago line- was sold off to the Washington group in 1997 (owners of the Montana Rail Link) and operated as the I&M Rail Link until Cedar American Holdings purchased the line from the I&M in 2002. Cedar American holdings was the parent company of regional railroad Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern- the former I&M/Milwaukee Road segment was operated as the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern up until Canadian Pacific purchased both the DM&E and IC&E from Cedar American in September 2008.

This rather convoluted chain of events coming full circle is summed up rather nicely in this image snapped by contributor JoshD. Here, former Milwaukee Road GP40 #2066 in all its faded orange and black glory is seen with a Soo line GP38-2 trailing as it makes its way down an branchline in the middle of Wall Street in Winona, MN with local freight G77. Besides the middle-of-the-street-running trackage, G77 is something of a throwback as it also regularly features spartan cab four-axle diesels and a caboose to facilitate backing down the street- a Brach's candy factory and brewery are among the customers on this particular branch. Once finished, the train will tie down at the yard leading to the former Milwaukee Twin Cities/Kansas City line.

The date? Try July 2011- there's a reason that paint looks so faded. Hard to imagine, but some 25 years after the Milwaukee Road ceased to exist, Soo Line #2066 is still representing the fallen flag in its orange and black.

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