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Showing posts from June, 2007

Remember the Milwaukee

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The year was 1917. That was the year the Milwaukee sent its first electrified trains out across the Rocky Mountain Division. It was a system designed to be state of the art, and it incorporated so many advanced features that people from around the world traveled to see it in operation.

Twenty-two substations were built across the system to convert 110kV AC to 3000V DC and feed power to the overhead catenary. The first few decades of electrification had several operators stationed at each substation for continuous 24 hour operation. Those off duty lived with their families in small houses located next to the large brick substations.

Today there are few reminders of the Milwaukee's great electrification. Most substations have been torn down and removed. Of the 22 originally constructed, only a handful survive in various states of repair. Some are used for private businesses, others are subject to vandalism and decay. Most sit in out of the way places where their names have be…

Naturally Beautiful

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The Milwaukee Road built through some rough and pristine country when it headed west to the coast. Its route was, arguably, the best and fastest from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. It was engineered to the highest standards of the day, and among the first lines to adopt block signals to protect the movement of trains. Its electrification of vast sections of mainline are storied, even today. The railroad was proud of its technology and its powerful electric motors that hauled trains across the Cascades and the Rockies. Tall and spindly trestles were built to vault the line across huge expanses. Long tunnels burrowed under the tallest peaks on the line. Yet it was a late comer, and surrounded by legendary competitors like the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific. The markets were unkind to the line, and its multiple bankruptcies stand in contrast to the magnificence of the initial vision to build the best line to the west. So delapidation set in, schedules faltered, …