One thing this in-fighting showed the Milwaukee’s management was that its railroad needed to do some more growing, if it were to stay competitive with railroads that reached the Pacific Coast, either in California or Washington and Oregon. The Milwaukee couldn’t prosper by turning over the more profitable long-haul business to other lines.
More and more, it seemed that the Milwaukee should be extended to the Pacific, although the company was divided for a time on whether it should go straight west or northwest.
Director William Rockefeller, as late as 1905, still thought the line should be built to California. For a while he was seriously thinking that it should be built in cooperation with the North Western, which — like the Milwaukee — ended in Omaha.
One thing that did seem clear was that the company had ample resources for extending itself, since it was soundly financed and highly respected by financial men, who considered it one of the best-run railroads in the country.
By 1901, the Milwaukee had 6,596 miles of track, its farthest northwest point being Evarts, N. D., on the Missouri River.
In that year, A. J. Earling, the Milwaukee’s president, sent an engineer to estimate how much it would cost to duplicate the Northern Pacific’s line to the Pacific Northwest. The engineer thought $45 million would do it.
On November 28, 1905, the board of directors voted to build the line to Seattle and Tacoma.
To the Pacific !