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Showing posts from September, 2011

Famous Goodbyes from the Energy Crises

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There was a time, now many years ago, when there was a different economic malaise, a different energy crisis, and a different set of hard choices.  For the Milwaukee Road, this energy crisis of the mid-seventies produced an interesting result:  the decision to maintain electrified operations across the Rocky Mountains through June of 1974.  The original plan had the juice turned off in 1973 so this represented a stay of execution, but not a lasting reprise.  For reasons that are not always clear, the electrification was turned off and the Milwaukee Road turned to newer diesel power for its trains across the Rockies.

Ironically, the final costs of new diesel locomotives to replace the scrapped electrics, combined with  ever increasing fuel costs of the energy crisis, cost the Milwaukee dearly.  Detailed studies of this decision, as well as original GE economic analysis can be found here.    Particularly troubling is evidence that the Milwaukee actively misrepresented operating data to…

Historical Scars

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At the peak of railroading in the United States, over 250,000 miles of track crossed the continent (source: ICC).  More than 180 Class 1 Railroads were operating by 1930 (AAR).  The next 80 years would see a dramatic reduction in these numbers, brought about through rationalization of duplicate lines, corporate mergers, and outside pressures like affordable air travel and the Interstate system.

Often left behind are remnants of these original companies and rail lines.  They exist in large cities and small towns alike.  Dearborn Station in Chicago still stands, but the multitude of railroads that used it daily are gone as are the tracks and station platforms.  Shops and a small park now take their place.  Countless abandoned grain elevators still dot small towns where tracks used to connect them.  A few still offer storage and service via trucking, but more are just silent hulks.  Large or small, these are relics of that railroading peak 80 years ago.

Between the towns and cities lie o…