And the One that Remains

Only a block or so away from the old yards and station of Deer Lodge, MT rests one of the few tributes to the Milwaukee Road and its Lines West electrification. Resplendent in freshly painted orange and maroon, Little Joe E70 sits in the shadow of the old Deer Lodge prison, welcoming visitors from nearby I-90.

The Joe still reflects the power of the Milwaukee's electrification. The lead pantograph is raised and it looks ready to apply 5000 HP to the point of a transcon freight bound for the mountain crossings of Pipestone Pass or perhaps the Bitterroot Range.

This Joe is the only Milwaukee Joe to escape the torch, although examples of this design still exist in Brazil and Illinois from the other lines that acquired them. The spoked drivers are evident on the unit as are a few nods to its original Soviet Union destination. If one looks closely, the mount points for the bumpers that are so prevalent on European rolling stock are still there, nestled behind the large snow plow on the Joe's pilot. These units reflect a unique time in U.S. history: mounting tensions of the cold war, propaganda and fear at home, and a unique railroad that hung wires along its western mountain lines. It is fascinating to consider the journey that this Joe has been on and what the men and women who worked in and around it were a part of.

Compared to its original scope and ambitions, there are few reminders of the Milwaukee's Western Extension. The freshly painted Joe is certainly prominent among its remaining highlights and worthy of some thoughtful consideration.


Anonymous said…
Interesting piece of the Roads history. Eventually Milwaukee fielded 2 EP-4's and 10 EF-4's, following months of shop time to change wheel-sets from Russian 5' gauge, switch out buffers for couplers, and install boilers in the two EF-P's. With their 37 notch throttle, there was a steep learning curve to keep trains intact. In fact, that is why they never ran on the Coast Division. Engineers and Sub Station Operators were not trained to feed a locomotive that could draw so much current so rapidly! And the speed limits in the Cascades were a waste of their ability to run elsewhere at 50 to 70 mph! They did show up in South Tacoma a few times running dead - did anyone catch a photo of them there?
LinesWest said…
I've heard talk of them in Tacoma for wheel turning on occasion, but like you, no one ever witnessed them running out that way.

Good point about the effectiveness at speed - does anybody out there know what the speed was on the Royal Slope part of the Othello-west electrification? That impresses me as one of the few opportunities for higher speed operation, although it is not a very long segment.

Oil-Electric said…
No matter the track profile, the original Box Cab freight motors had a top speed of 35 mph. Going faster resulted in the armatures flying apart! Installing high strength steel bands to hold the armatures together and other motor improvements allowed the top speed of 45 mph in the 50’s! See
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the reminder of that one, I had forgotten those motor improvements they made to the boxcabs to get them up to 45. It's easy to see why bi-polars were preferred passenger power on the division. -Leland
SDP45 said…
I really need to pick up some Milw timetables. I too wonder what the speeds were between Othello and Beverly. It looks like fine high speed running area, with gentle curves, no grades, and long tangents.

Anonymous said…
To Oil-electric-

The Boxcabs were rebuilt for 45 mph speeds after the traction motors were rebuilt in the 1950s.
Oil-Electric said…
To Anon: Could have sworn that's what I said ...

To Dan: According to my public TT 25 Sep 1960, train 15 did a 10:00 minute layover in Othello MP 2000, westbound. Whistled off at 2:36PM and was by Ellensburg MP 2074, at 4:31PM. So that's 74 miles shy of 2 hours. So in round numbers 37 MPH. Now I'm not sure what was dragging the 15 (OH) because the according to my sources, the Bipolar's were all in storage by 1960. And I saw several E's at South Tacoma during that time period. See
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