Four Generations on the Line

Highlights Along The Milwaukee Road’s First Hundred Years

 

Permission to reprint all or any part of this book is herewith granted

 

Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company

 

Printed in U.S.A.

Ringley-O' Brien Press

Chicago

Printed January 1950

Foreword

MANY people and many events have shaped the destiny of The Milwaukee Road and its first hundred years of service. This version of the life and times of a family might well have been chosen from among anyone of many families which have been closely associated with our Railroad through the century.

The history of our Railroad is the history of brave, forward looking pioneers, their children and the new country they settled. The Milwaukee Road was born and grew of these elements, through a golden century of development.

In 1850, when our first train was operated over the new Company's first five miles of track, there were but 23,000,000 people in the entire United States. Now, one hundred years later, there are more than 36,000,000 people in the twelve Midwestern and Northwestern states which The Milwaukee Road serves. Since its beginning, our Railroad has been expanded to nearly 11,000 route miles to provide for the increasing transportation needs of this growing population.

"Four Generations On the Line" is a brief story of the beginning and development of The Milwaukee Road during its first 100 years of service. This short story presents its author's conception of many of the human incidents surrounding the growth of a railroad during its formative years up to the threshold of its second century of service. It is a living drama of a typical American enterprise through a century.

During the next century, we will continue to move forward with the people with whom our lot has been cast. Our part of the country is young and vigorous and great days lie ahead. We will strive to contribute to this future by maintaining the finest rail service available anywhere, and it shall be the aim and purpose of our family of more than 35,000 employees always to merit the friendship and patronage of the people served by our railroad.

Birth of a Railroad

1850-1875

Excerpts from a Farmer's Diary

NOVEMBER 20, 1850 – I fear I must leave my bed long before the sun arises tomorrow to catch up with my work for I have wasted this day in idleness. I do not regret my lack of industry because I have witnessed the most remarkable event I have seen since forsaking school-teaching two years ago in Vermont – the initial operation of Wisconsin's first Rail Road train.

I left the farm at 5 A.M. today to walk to Milwaukee for provisions, unaware that this was to be any different from other days. I found the city teeming with excitement. The new Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road Company was getting ready to test its first tracks and train.

In the general air of festivity I joined the crowd gathered at the tracks the better to view the locomotive and two open freight cars. The locomotive was a most impressive sight. It is about 43 feet long and the driving wheels looked all of 5 feet in diameter. It is called No.1, indicating it is the first such equipment owned by the fledgling company. I was told it was built by the Norris Works of Philadelphia.

The locomotive boiled and hissed like a giant tea kettle before the signal was given by the engineer (the name applied to the operator of the locomotive) that all was in readiness to begin the trip.

Then several of our leading citizens climbed into the two open cars, wearing silk hats and other finery that we see only infrequently in Wisconsin. I knew most of the men who made the trip. The first to get into the cars was Mr. Solomon Juneau. Mr. Juneau is a French Canadian who has lived in this area since 1818 thereby attaining recognition as Milwaukee's first citizen. He is quite swarthy, tall and has exceedingly large shoulders. He is one of the most important figures in Wisconsin.

Another of those who boarded the train was Mr. Byron Kilbourn, the former Mayor of Milwaukee and President of the new Rail Road Company. The former Mayor is noted for his boundless energy and his business acumen.

The rails upon which the train rested seemed quite fragile to sustain such a load, as many of us noted, but we were proven wrong. After a shrill sounding of the whistle, the engineer applied the power. The giant wheels which drive the train slipped somewhat at first but soon caught hold. As the train started slowly down the track a sudden shouting arose. I at first was startled by the commotion until discovering that I was cheering as loudly as the next. Most of us remained at the tracks until word was received that the train had reached the end of the line at Wauwatosa, five miles away, without incident, in a matter of 12 minutes.

There are many men in Milwaukee, wise in the ways of business and commerce, who say that the Milwaukee & Mississippi will make the city the metropolis of the West. True, the line has been chartered only to run to Waukesha, a distance of 20 miles, but I believe that will only be the beginning. Farmers in all parts of the state have complained for some time that they had no way to dispose of more of their produce than they can sell or barter at home. I have been informed also that there are no satisfactory outlets from the lead mines in the southwestern part of Wisconsin.

It is entirely possible that the Milwaukee & Mississippi will be the answer to these problems.

* * *

DECEMBER 29, 1850 – As the year draws to a close I must take time to note that it has been one of progress in our new State. The recent census indicates some 305,000 people now reside in Wisconsin, about a third of them foreign born.

In Milwaukee alone the population has grown to 21,000 and the city has indeed become a metropolis. There now are six flouring mills in operation, five being propelled by water and one by steam, consuming 7,000 bushels of grain every day. And it is doubtful whether even Chicago could boast finer hostelries than the six in Milwaukee.

* * *

FEBRUARY 26, 1851 – Today there is more memorable news about the Rail Road. Yesterday, a Tuesday, I was honored to be among those who made the first trip by rail between Milwaukee and Waukesha. People lined the rails along the entire distance of 20 miles, cheering in enthusiasm as we sped by at 25 miles an hour.

Mud abounded in the streets and roads as we gathered at the Rail Road Depot but nevertheless there was a great throng in attendance.

About 250 of us, including many ladies, were accommodated in neat and comfortable cars.

Those with whom I had occasion to converse on the train are of the unanimous opinion that The Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road ushers in a new era for Wisconsin. By the eventual completion of this project new markets will be opened in the interior, the editor of the Waukesha Democrat assured me.

Despite yesterday's festivities and the attendant excitement I find myself depressed tonight with loneliness. Would that I could meet a good woman, comely if possible, who would apply herself diligently to fulfilling the duties of a farmer's wife.

* * *

JUNE 4, 1852 – This shall be a very brief but important entry in my diary. Today I recited my marriage vows at a church in Milwaukee. My bride, who is newly arrived in this country having come here with her kin from Norway only six months ago, seems to be of a very industrious nature. She also is a handsome woman.

* * *

SEPTEMBER 6, 1852 – A most unusual organization has been formed in Milwaukee, a group of prominent business and professional men who call themselves the Jenny Lind Club.

It seems that when Miss Lind came to this country, several Milwaukee gentlemen, enthralled at the thought of hearing her melodious songs, formed a party and went to New York for that purpose.

Each member of the party so enjoyed the company of the others, it is said, that upon their return to Milwaukee they organized the club. It is not only exclusive, but now has become positively a secret institution.

* * *

MARCH 15, 1854 – There has been much exciting news of late, most of it having to do with a runaway slave, Joshua Glover, who for some time has been employed in the vicinity of Racine. Five nights ago the cabin he occupied was visited by a half dozen men who overpowered Glover and put him in irons. Later it developed that the intruders included a slave catcher from St. Louis named Garland and a U. S. Deputy Marshall's posse from Milwaukee. Glover, manacled and bleeding, was conveyed in an open wagon to Milwaukee where he was lodged in the county jail.

As news of the affair spread there were popular uprisings, both in Milwaukee and at Racine. The Racine citizens passed several resolutions, terming the seizure a "kidnapping," and demanding that Glover be given a trial by jury. They concluded their meeting by resolving that the slave catching law enacted by Congress in 1850 was "disgraceful" and thereupon repealed it.

Upon the adjournment of the Racine meeting, about 100 citizens from that city came to Milwaukee where a similar protest was underway. Mr. Sherman M. Booth, editor of the Milwaukee Free Democrat, rode throughout the town on a horse crying "Freedom to the rescue. Slave catchers are in our midst!" The local militia was summoned to keep order but the members declined to assemble.

Racine and Milwaukee citizens banded together for strenuous action and soon battered down the jail door to release Glover. I understand he was spirited to the underground and now is well on his way to Canada. Many prominent persons were among those wielding the battering ram, I was told by those witnessing the event, including Mr. Edward P. Allis, the young Milwaukee industrialist.

Another interesting development has occurred in Ripon, where a new political group called the Republican Party was organized on the first day of this month under the leadership of Mr. Alvan E. Bovay, a lawyer who came to Ripon from New York in 1850.

I understand that Mr. Bovay, reported to be an intimate friend of Mr. Horace Greeley, the eastern newspaper man, has urged the formation of such a party since 1852 so all anti-slavery men could unite under one banner. Men of many parties – the Whigs, Free Soilers and Democrats – went into the meeting but they all came out of it Republicans.

MAY 25, 1854 – We have just returned from Madison, the State capital, my first rail journey since the trip from Milwaukee to Waukesha more than three years ago. Although many of our neighbors considered this venture a great extravagance, we felt quite justified inasmuch as we have received unusually good returns from the sale of our grain and produce this past year.

I am fearful that my wife found the journey somewhat trying because of our son, now 10 months of age, but we both took pride in the knowledge that he undoubtedly was the most youthful of the passengers aboard the Milwaukee & Mississippi train which was making its initial trip from the nearby metropolis to the capital. It was most refreshing to escape momentarily the sometimes arduous tasks of farming.

Before recording events of the trip I will note here that the Rail Road Company has undergone changes since last I wrote of it. In the preceding two years there has been much divergence of opinion among the officials of the company pertaining to certain financial matters. As a result, Mr. Byron Kilbourn no longer is President but has been supplanted by Mr. John Catlin, a Vermonter approximately 50 years of age. Mr. Catlin, I understand is a persevering man of exceptionally varied talents and capabilities.

Our entry into Madison two days ago was a most gala occasion. The train, arriving at 2 P.M., was welcomed at the depot by Col. A. A. Bird, one of the oldest and most venerable citizens of the capital. Also there were many brass bands (our son was somewhat distressed at the noise of so many horns), fire companies, members of the clergy, the editors and employees of the press and representatives of many civic organizations. As we disembarked, a procession began to Capitol Park with both the visitors and residents of Madison participating. My wife and son wisely proceeded directly to the Capital Hotel, she feeling that a rest would avail both of them strength for the balance of the journey, but I, of course, went with the marchers. At the park a free collation was served up under the direction of Mr. Stevens, the proprietor of the Capital Hotel. I should record at this point that our train consisted of 32 cars, drawn by two locomotives, so whereupon the good citizens of Madison had prepared to receive 650 people, there actually were more than 2,000 of us including visitors from the nearby countryside.

The Madison Argus and Democrat in its edition of yesterday chronicled the results of this unforeseen circumstance and from that publication I herewith quote:

"Those who were so fortunate as to arrive at the table first [the banquet prepared for us at the Capital Hotel] succeeded in satisfying their appetites [but] there was a great deal of grumbling about the scantiness of the supplies of provisions ... It was a profitable day for the Rail Road, if for nobody else. Their receipts from passengers alone could not have been less than $2,500 …The expectation of the morning made way for the excitement of the afternoon and that for the weariness and discontent of the evening. But few went to bed drunk, and none satisfied."

Needless to say, I was not among the last to reach the festive board. I considered the situation handled admirably and disagree heartily with the editor of the Argus and Democrat.

Our son tonight gave an indication that the journey has left its impression upon him. He emitted a noise which sounded like "choo," an effect that to us greatly resembles the sound of the great railroad locomotives as they expel steam to begin progress upon the rails.

I met several exceedingly interesting persons in Madison, including a young man of about my own age from Chicago. He was championing the political views of a gentleman whose name I never before had heard, the Hon. Abraham Lincoln of Springfield which, I am informed, is the capital of Illinois. The Hon. Mr. Lincoln ardently expounds the theory incorporated in our Constitution, that all of us are born "free and equal."

* * *

APRIL 10, 1855 – I was in Milwaukee today to buy supplies and was introduced to a "drummer" from Chicago. He informed me that Chicago's inhabitants now number more than 80,000, a phenomenal fact when you consider that there was less than one-fourth that number when I stopped there en route to Milwaukee seven years ago. There is much talk in the Illinois metropolis, he said, about beginning work on a street railway system but as yet the project has not taken concrete form. Even more interesting to me was his report that the citizens of Chicago have just voted on whether to prohibit the sale of spirits. A newspaper in the gentleman's possession said that 2,784 persons were for the proposition and 4,093 against.

I must not forget to chronicle an amusing story which has gained wide circulation in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee and Watertown Rail Road, which I believe will ultimately consolidate with the Milwaukee & Mississippi, recently completed a section from Brookfield Junction to Watertown. Soon thereafter, a Mr. Michael O'Hara, a machinist and engineer, was called upon to operate his locomotive over the two-mile bridge just east of Richard's cut approaching Watertown. Mr. O'Hara, not convinced that· the bridge would support the weight of the locomotive, started it, then jumped off at the head of the bridge. The locomotive went over the bridge, alone and unattended. On the other side of the river the fireman was waiting to board it and bring it under control.

* * *

DECEMBER 17, 1856 – My good wife, accompanied by two neighbor ladies, has just returned after a day's shopping in Milwaukee, fired with enthusiasm for a new educational project which only recently has been started in Watertown, Wisconsin, a short distance from Milwaukee. According to the story related by several women of Milwaukee, Mrs. Margaretha Meyer Schurz, wife of Carl Schurz, the noted German reformer, has founded a school in Watertown for children too young for admittance to regular schools. It is called a "kindergarten," the first such institution of its kind in America, my wife was told. The first pupils consisted of six children, five girls and one boy. My wife observed that our son, a year or so hence, would be eligible to receive learning at such a "kindergarten" were there one in this vicinity. I assured her that even if such were the case I would prefer that my son delay any formal school and devote this formative year to a further appreciation of the great outdoors. I pity the father whose son finds himself the only boy among five little girls at the Watertown kindergarten.

* * *

APRIL 20, 1857 – These are indeed trying days. The hard-won savings of many of our citizens have disappeared with the "panic." We have suffered to some extent, but, with God's help, I feel confident that we will weather this crisis.

Be that as it may, there still are signs of progress. Just five days ago The Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road operated its first train, with many hurrahs, to Prairie du Chien on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Much as I would have enjoyed taking part in the excursion, my duties on the farm were too manifold to permit of such an indulgence but I have gathered from friends that this, generally, is what took place.

The train consisted of a locomotive, three passenger cars and a baggage car. The cars were completed in the company's own shop in Milwaukee and are said to be handsome, sturdy and well ventilated.

At 5 P.M. the train reached the great river and the shriek of the locomotive whistle was answered by a blast from a Mississippi steamer just reaching port. Several hundred persons gathered on the banks of the river to witness the arrival. As the train came puffing into view, great shouts of welcome arose from the crowd. The train itself was gaily decorated in flags and bunting. To climax this historic event an eight gallon keg of Lake Michigan water was emptied into the Mississippi with much pomp and ceremony.

The road to Prairie du Chien was completed under the direction of Mr. E. H. Brodhead, the President of the company who succeeded Mr. Catlin in 1856. Mr. Brodhead, formerly the chief engineer, has been a familiar figure in Wisconsin since 1851 when he came here from New England. He is not a man to hand down a hasty opinion, I have been told, but those who work for the Rail Road say his decisions, when eventually given, ring with authority.

* * *

JUNE 25, 1858 – Rail Roads are in the news again, particularly The Milwaukee & Mississippi which is having its share of financial difficulties because of a decrease in its freight revenues and a general lack of confidence in railroad securities in the wake of last year's panic.

There also is much unrest throughout Wisconsin over difficulties which seem to be brewing between northern and southern states. Many of our citizens feel that we of the North are deliberately goading the South into drastic action by our attitude on the slave question. Others insist that we must take a firm stand on this issue regardless of the consequences, political or otherwise.

* * *

MAY 24, 1860 – This has been a month of gloom for those of us who invested in The Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road. Fifteen days ago, the company having defaulted on all mortgages, Mr. Isaac Seymour was appointed receiver for the Rail Road, on foreclosure proceedings started by him.

Can it be that I have seen the rise and collapse of what might have been a great Rail Road system in the span of ten short years?

* * *

MAY 30, 1860 – There is much rejoicing in this area over the recent nomination of the Hon. Abraham Lincoln for the presidency of the United States. The Hon. Mr. Lincoln, nominated at the Wigwam in Chicago, has an aura of greatness about him, from all reports, which leads many of us to believe that he may succeed in bringing order out of the chaos now rampant among the states.

* * *

JANUARY 25, 1861 – There still is hope for a major Rail Road in Wisconsin. This week a group of financiers, including several Easterners, bought The Milwaukee & Mississippi for $7,500,000 and changed the name of the company to the Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien Railway Company. A Mr. L. H. Meyer emerged as President. The move was received none too enthusiastically in this part of the country inasmuch as the organization articles specified that a majority of the directors "shall be citizens or residents of New York."

* * *

MAY 14, 1861 – The Nation has been in a state of Civil War for a month now, ever since the capture of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, by the Confederates. Wisconsin has responded nobly to Governor Randall's plea for men to join our Northern Army. Newspapers report that so widespread was the answer to his call that he actually found himself embarrassed by his inability to accept all those who offered themselves.

* * *

SEPTEMBER 5, 1862 – I indeed feel a foolish man today but there is solace in the knowledge that there is hardly a citizen of this area who feels otherwise.

Soon after daybreak yesterday our household was startled by a great commotion on the road. Scores of wagons, loaded with men, women and children, thundered by the house at the wildest speed. It seemed as all those in the wagons were shouting "The Eenjuns are coming!" One man drew his team to a halt in front of our house and told us breathlessly that yelling savages were setting fire to grain sacks in Lisbon and that Hartland already had been burned to the ground.

Making all haste, I loaded my wife and two sons into our wagon and joined the procession to Milwaukee. We arrived to find the city in the wildest confusion. Trains were jammed with others seeking refuge from the redskins. I understand many of the passengers boarded trains without funds but their pleas were so insistent that conductors permitted them to come to Milwaukee free. By nightfall more than 5,000 persons had fled to the city. The militia, ordered out by Governor Edward Solomon, was unable to find any Indians and most of us were quite ashamed of our panic. No one knows the origin of this human stampede which seems to have been quite without reason.

One of the most entertaining stories to result from the fiasco is that of a Lisbon man, noted for his bravery, who came on foot to Milwaukee, filched a rowboat, and spent the night far out in Lake Michigan, alone and shivering, to escape the redskins.

* * *

APRIL 20, 1865 – Wisconsin and the rest of the nation has had cause for both great rejoicing and great sorrow within less than a fortnight. On last April 9th, General Lee of the Confederate forces surrendered at Appomattox to end the bloody Civil War. Just six days later President Lincoln died from a bullet fired by Assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Already a few of the 80,000 Wisconsin men who enlisted in the Union cause have returned home. Those who retained their health are settling quietly in their home communities.

* * *

JUNE 14, 1866 – A significant change recently has occurred in Wisconsin Rail Roading. Mr. Alexander Mitchell, Wisconsin's foremost business man, has been elected President of the Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien, the road which succeeded the Milwaukee and Mississippi. This move brings the Rail Road under the same management as the Milwaukee and St. Paul. The news of the merger was not particularly surprising since the two roads a year ago agreed to divide earnings.

Since Mr. Mitchell long has been a person of extreme prominence in the affairs of the State, I would like to record here some personal notes about him. He came to Milwaukee in 1839, a stocky, ruddy-faced young man, fresh from Scotland, to enter the insurance and banking business. Since then, any venture in which he has participated has been almost an immediate success. Mr. Mitchell is a most reticent man in many respects but nevertheless apparently has many warm, personal associations with people on every social level. All of those to whom I have talked are confident that the Milwaukee and St. Paul will make satisfactory progress under Mr. Mitchell's leadership.

* * *

OCTOBER 15, 1867 – My predictions concerning the ascendancy of The Milwaukee and St. Paul under the leadership of Mr. Mitchell have been proved by events of this year. By acquiring a number of short lines and connecting the intervening gaps, the Rail Road has established the first through route from Milwaukee to St. Paul and Minneapolis, via Prairie du Chien, and it also has extended service to Chicago by way of connecting routes.

* * *

OCTOBER 19, 1871 – Two great disasters, striking simultaneously, have brought a tragic loss of life and destruction of property to the people of Wisconsin and Illinois.

For three months our lands have been parched with drought which brought on a great forest conflagration October 8th. The fire soon enveloped the town of Pestigo, Wisconsin. More than six counties were burned over before the flames were quelled. It is said that more than 1,152 lives were lost, thousands crippled and 3,000 beggared.

On the same day the City of Chicago too was attacked by flames, started in the barn of a Mrs. O'Leary, according to newspaper accounts. Although the loss of life was not comparable with that at Pestigo, most of the city was destroyed and damage totaled millions of dollars.

* * *

MAY 20, 1873 – The Milwaukee and St. Paul has scored another success with the opening of service over its own line between Milwaukee and Chicago. Although the route was opened only this spring, work toward that end has been in progress since the beginning of the decade.

* * *

JULY 30, 1874 – The newspapers of late have devoted much space to chronicling a strange story from Philadelphia. It seems that a 4 year old boy, Charley Ross, disappeared from his home there on July 1st, in the company of two men who offered to give the child a ride in their carriage. Since then the Ross boy's father has received letters, purportedly from the two men, demanding money for the child's return. The newspapers refer to the case as "kidnapping" and state that it is the first act of its kind ever reported in this country.

But getting back to things at home. I have discovered that my enthusiasm for railroading through the years – even though my first love is farming – has been absorbed by my elder son, now in his 22nd year. For several years he has devoted much of his spare time to assisting the Rail Road telegrapher at nearby Elm Grove. Now he has informed his mother and me he would like to forsake the land as a source of livelihood and try his hand at railroading. After due consideration we granted him our permission. I believe he first intends to seek employment with the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway, the recently acquired name of the old Milwaukee and St. Paul.

An Era of Expansion

1875-1900

Excerpts from the Diary of a Telegraph Operator

JUNE 29, 1875 – It has been nearly five months since I left my father's farm near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to make my own way and I must say that I do not regret my choice. The hours I spent in the past few years learning telegraphy from the operator at the railway station in Elm Grove have stood me in good stead. My skill was sufficient to get me a job as a telegraph operator with the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway in St. Paul.

I have had an opportunity to meet many young people of about my own age. Only yesterday several of us enjoyed an outing at Red Wing where we saw a very unusual boat race that proved expensive for all those in our party.

Oarsmen from Stillwater, Red Wing and St. Paul vied for honors. For many weeks conversation in the three towns had centered on the event and there has been much bragging about the abilities of the contestants. Wagering was quite substantial and I chose to risk $5.00 on the St. Paul team, captained by Norman Wright, the recognized champion single oarsman in all Minnesota.

In the first race, Mr. Wright was pitted against a John D. Fox, reputedly a Red Wing grocery clerk. It was apparent from the outset that the famed Mr. Wright was no match for the Red Wing oarsman. At one point, Mr. Fox actually stopped his shell and rested until Mr. Wright came into sight. Red Wing, led by Mr. Fox, also easily won the four-oared race.

The citizens of Red Wing collected a reported $50,000 from disgruntled residents of the other towns before it was revealed that Mr. Fox was not a grocery clerk. A minstrel show performer from Tennessee recognized him as Ellis Ward, most famous oarsman in all the world.

JUNE 28, 1876 – Word has reached here of the terrible tragedy which befell General George A. Custer and his cavalry regiment in an encounter with Sioux Indians, led by Chief Sitting Bull, at Little Big Horn, Montana.

Three days ago, General Custer, with 600 men, was sent in advance of the main body of troops pursuing Sitting Bull. Apparently believing he was attacking only a part of the Indian forces, General Custer divided his regiment and with 260 men attacked the Indian center. Instead of encountering 1,000 Indians as he had anticipated, he found himself surrounded by 5,000. The general and everyone of his 260 men were slain! This is indeed another dark blot on the record of the misguided redskins who insist upon combating civilization.

* * *

DECEMBER 15, 1876 – A custom instituted by our Railway many years ago and which I found delightful in the days of my boyhood, has been discontinued. The company has decided it no longer will name locomotives. Henceforth, each engine will bear only a number.

The Stephen Clement, our first six-wheeled locomotive, now becomes plain 199. And the Minnehaha, the D. A. Olin, the Nebraska, the Minneapolis and the L. B. Rock and all the others also lose their personal identity.

But I assume this move is but an indication of progress – that the Railway has outgrown an era of personalization to become a great industry. Recent newspaper reports from Milwaukee substantiate the above statement. The company now owns five elevators in the Wisconsin city, which are said to be capable of storing 3,000,000 bushels of wheat. I understand that our wharfs and grounds in Milwaukee, exclusive of buildings, are valued at $2,000,000.

But it is difficult for me to concentrate tonight on affairs of the Railway when there are personal feelings which seem to crowd other thoughts from my mind. They concern a most attractive young lady who waits upon the trade at "Mother's" restaurant. She is fair skinned, brown haired, and of excellent proportions. Twice now I have accompanied her to her rooming house when she was through working. And she has given me reason to believe that she found our walks together as pleasant as I did.

* * *

APRIL 28, 1877 – A strange scourge which caused wide-spread loss of crops has been eliminated from Minnesota by an Act of Providence. Several days ago, billions of grasshoppers, making a sound like a roaring wind, swept into every section of the State. They were so dense that some trains were delayed until the 'hoppers could be shoveled from the tracks. After their descent on a field it would seem to have been cut by a reaper of mammoth proportions.

As a result of this destruction, Governor John Pillsbury designated April 26th a statewide day of prayer for Divine aid in ridding the state of the scourge. My betrothed and I attended services in St. Paul. The governor himself closed his flour mills so that his workers would not be interrupted in their prayers.

In the wake of our prayers, the temperature last night fell to an unseasonably low degree. The grasshoppers all were frozen.

* * *

JUNE 19, 1877 – Father and I have had our first serious disagreement. If it was not for the fact that the issue involved means so much to me, I would give ground for the sake of harmony in the family.

In all of his letters of late, father has written strongly against my intended marriage. He argues that the life of a telegraph operator is hardly a stable one, inasmuch as I may be transferred to new frontiers at any moment. I have pointed out, of course, that he himself took a bride when Wisconsin was but a fledgling State. And that even though I should be moved on west after my marriage, my wife, who has successfully made her own way in St. Paul, would be quite capable of coping with any hardships we might encounter.

So for the first time in my life, I am going to act in opposition to my father's wishes. I am to be married tomorrow.

* * *

DECEMBER 23, 1877 – The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul has fared well during the past year, even as have my wife and I since taking up residence in our newly built cottage.

President Mitchell recently made a public statement which sums up the position of the Railroad. He said: "It gives us pleasure to state that during the serious labor disturbances of last summer, the employees of this company, without exception, stood faithfully at their posts and discharged their duties without faltering."

There has been an unusually good wheat crop, reflected in our freight revenues, and the company also is attracting much new business from the lumber camps.

As for our personal life, all has been serene since my father and mother visited us a month ago. Both were quite enchanted with my wife, especially when they learned they will become grandparents sometime early next spring.

* * *

MARCH 18, 1880 – I have just learned that I soon will get a first hand look at the "Wild West." I have been assigned to accompany our Surveying Engineers into Dakota Territory. The purpose of the expedition is to plot a route for western extensions of our lines. Apparently it was decided a company telegrapher would be handy on the trip to send messages which could not be entrusted to outsiders.

* * *

MAY 22, 1880 – Because of business which some members of our party had to transact in Deadwood before beginning our survey, I have had an opportunity to see the famous mining camp which already is legend among tellers of tall tales.

Streets of this picturesque community are so narrow that when two bull trains are in town at the same time, they can hardly get around to unload their goods.

One of the younger members of our party had promised to stand ''treat'' for all of us as soon as we reached Deadwood and he was as good as his word. Six of us entered a saloon and when my friend said he was treating, every man in the saloon and all the girls in the adjacent dance hall lined up at the bar. When he went to pay the bill, he gave the weigher his gold sack, placer gold being the only acceptable money in the camp, and the weigher weighed out 20 dollars, claiming there were 40 men and women at four bits (fifty cents) a drink.

After that we started down the street and came to a dance hall. Some of the men wanted to dance so I accompanied them. They soon had partners, I preferring to be a spectator because of my marital status. Hardly had they started to dance when the caller cried, "All belly up." The girls took their partners to the bar where the men took whiskey and the girls took cigars. I am told that at the end of the evening, the girls turn in the cigars and get money for them.

When it came time to pay, the boys discovered they were being charged one dollar each for one dance. That convinced them they had enjoyed themselves enough for one night and we went back to camp.

* * *

JUNE 25, 1880 – Our mission has been completed but not successfully. Before our arrival in the Dakota Territory, the Indian inspector in charge of the Brule Sioux had obtained permission from his charges for our rails to pass through the reservation of their tribe. But beyond that reservation is an area dominated by a Sioux chieftain, Spotted Tail, who has been hostile to any further expansion through Indian territories by the Railway Companies.

At first it was planned that a soldier escort would accompany us but Mr. Carl Schurz, Secretary of the Interior, notified us that he would prefer Indian Police go with us. We agreed and said that about ten would be the right number – two or three to remain about the camp, two or three to accompany us on our explorations ahead of the survey, and some to send back to Fort Hale for our mail. Their principal duties were to tell any bands of redskins we encountered that we had been sent out by authority of the government.

Upon our arrival at the Lower Agency the agent appointed ten Indians to accompany us but it immediately developed that there would have to be a pow wow. After much Indian oratory, we bought our prospective escorts a beef and they killed it and feasted far into the night. The next day they made terms, agreeing to accept $1.50 per day and rations for each brave.

As we were ready to begin our journey a few days later, in came ten more Indians with a note from the agent at Rosebud, saying the government had instructed him to send them to us. A short time later another band of ten Indians arrived with a similar note from the agent at Pine Ridge. Our protests were to no avail so we eventually set out with thirty Indians instead of ten.

Several days later on the single line trail from Rosebud camp to Standing Rock, we encountered scores of Indians returning from Standing Rock and other camps after a Sun Dance. They told our Indians they should not be with us and that Spotted Tail was angry.

This caused so much excitement among our Indians that we had to stop for a council. We told them we would seek out Spotted Tail and get permission for us to continue our work. The Indians agreed and assured us it was only "a little way" to the chief's camp.

The following day we started at sunrise on horseback and after covering fifty miles arrived at the Agency about 9 P.M., all of us exceedingly tired. In the morning we told our troubles to the agent, a Past Brigadier General of the Civil War, who was inclined to be somewhat irascible. He said we had better abandon the survey because Spotted Tail had not been consulted and his dignity had been stepped on. Finally, we succeeded in "borrowing" the Agent's interpreter and went on to see Spotted Tail. The chief was surrounded by many warriors and listened with deaf ears to our arguments.

It has now been decided that we will abandon the survey until matters can be straightened out with the Indians. I will return to St. Paul immediately, anxious to see my wife and son, but nonetheless reluctant to leave the virile life of the west for the staid ways of civilization.

* * *

SEPTEMBER 14, 1880 – St. Paul is all agog over the creation of Mr. Herman Saroni. Mr. Saroni has built a "steam wagon", using a light wagon, a steam engine, and an array of chains and gears to propel it. Every time Mr. Saroni appears in the streets with his new-fangled contraption, it creates scenes of wild confusion. Horses, resenting this intrusion on their domain, are inclined to rear and bolt when the snorting monster appears.

* * *

JUNE 28, 1881 – In view of my expedition last year into the Black Hills of the Western Dakota Territory and our subsequent failure to win Spotted Tail to the cause of the Railway, I should record here that the difficulty finally has been settled.

A missionary friend of the Railway prevailed upon Spotted Tail and his aides to go to Washington and sell us the land needed for westward expansion of our lines.

Spotted Tail and his aides were taken to the Capital in high style, by private car. Dressed in full Indian regalia, they were royally treated throughout their journey and made no difficulty about concluding the deal for the right-of-way.

* * *

JULY I, 1882 – Once more I'm away from home, this time in the frontier town of Sioux City, Iowa, where I've been temporarily assigned as an operator.

We already have a network of rails throughout most of this prosperous state, many of which have been laid only this year.

I arrived here in time for the most excitement they've had since the people used to get alarmed about possible Indian raids. The womenfolk in Iowa for some time have been agitating to have the State constitution amended to ban the sale of liquor. Four days ago they held the election and it proved an exciting affair.

The women made their men feel quite foolish, praying in the streets when their husbands went into the voting booths. It must have done some good, because the women won their point and carried the election by 30,000 votes.

I understand, though, that the liquor people intend to appeal the election to the State Supreme Court on some technical grounds.

NOVEMBER 3, 1882 – I’ve just returned home to St. Paul and my family to discover that our Railway now has a girl switchman! A conductor on The Milwaukee run told me the story only this morning. It seems that a switch-tender in The Milwaukee yards named Gsandtner recently was killed at work. His only survivor is a daughter, Annie, who long has been his helper. Four years ago, when she was only 12, Annie gained some fame when her father forgot about the switches. She remembered to open them and saved a train from being wrecked.

Annie has been officially appointed to her father's position and is doing an exceedingly good job, from all reports. The conductor told me that between tasks she sits knitting in her little red switch shanty which already is becoming a mecca for the curious who have heard the story of her position.

* * *

DECEMBER 14, 1883 – Events on the Railway have moved so fast this year that now is an opportune time for a summing up: President Mitchell recently pointed out that "the rapidity of the settlement of Dakota is a marvel of the times." During the past year more than twelve million acres of land have been taken up for cultivation by settlers. Our lines in Dakota, built mostly in advance of settlements, will at an early day be supplied with an abundance of traffic, from all indications. In fact, our Railway has been expanding in all directions with little or no aid in the form of Government land grants.

Rails have been pushed on the Chippewa Valley & Superior Division from Eau Claire, Wis. to Chippewa Falls, Wis.; from Cedar Rapids, Ia. to Ottumwa, Ia.; and in Dakota they have been extended 81 miles to make a continuous line in the James River Valley from Yankton, northward by way of Mitchell, through Aberdeen to Ellendale, a distance of 250 miles.

* * *

JANUARY 3, 1884 – My wife and I have decided to take advantage of one of the newest conveniences, the telephone, of which there already are more than 100 in the city. Although this device undoubtedly has its merits, I am inclined to be somewhat skeptical from a purely personal standpoint. Should these instruments be placed in use generally throughout the country, what will be the future of the telegraph? Nevertheless, we have made application to have one installed.

* * *

MARCH 19, 1884 – The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway has scored another first! Just yesterday we inaugurated a new fast mail train between Minneapolis – St. Paul and Chicago.

No less a personage than the Postmaster General proposed that we operate a fast mail train. Our officials acted with such dispatch that at 10:05 the next night the train began its first run from Chicago. Carrying no passengers and consisting of four coaches – three mail and one storage car – it arrived here promptly at 7:00 A.M.

* * *

APRIL 19, 1887 – This is indeed a sad day for the Railway – in fact, for all of us who inhabit the Northwest. Alexander Mitchell, railroader, financier, philanthropist, is dead. For more than two decades his genius has directed the destinies of the Railroad, building it from an almost localized agency of transportation into a vast network of rails and other facilities extending into Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Upper Michigan, and the Dakota Territory with more than 800 passenger and freight stations.

Mr. Mitchell and the late Mr. S. S. Merrill, for many years our General Manager, long dreamed of the day when The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway would be a transcontinental line. Could they have lived but a few more years, I am sure they would have seen that dream materialize. It is rumored that Mr. Roswell Miller, who is but 42, will ascend to the presidency.

* * *

SEPTEMBER 4, 1887 – You move around a lot in this job as a relief telegrapher which keeps a man away from his family quite a bit but at least you get to see the country. Right now I'm doing a "trick" in Kansas City, Missouri, the bustling city on the Missouri River which our Railroad has begun serving with a line from Ottumwa, Iowa. Chances are, I'll be sent back to St. Paul as soon as new operators are trained for the work here.

Kansas City might have been just another town if it hadn't been for the Railroads. It owes its rapid growth over the rival cities of St. Joe, Independence and Leavenworth to the fact that the Railroads found out that the water level grades converge at the mouth of the Kaw (Kansas) River and that's right here. That means you could take a freight car 200 miles northwest, west or southwest of here, give it a shove, and it would coast down to Kansas City over a very gentle grade.

I saw William Rockhill Nelson on the street the other day. He's the biggest man in town anyway you want to look at it. Since he came here a few years ago to start The Star, Mr. Nelson has dominated just about everything and everyone in town. The man is a great improver – always wants to make things better.

They used to say this was a "houn' dawg town" but with Mr. Nelson in the saddle, Kansas City has become a community of go-getters.

* * *

JUNE 14, 1893 – My wife, children and I have returned from Chicago after a most memorable vacation which I am sure has left an unforgettable impression upon us all.

We made the trip to the great Illinois city on a most luxurious train of our Railroad, which is even equipped with electric lights, a source of constant amazement to the youngest of the three children.

Of course the principal object of our visit was to see The Columbian Exposition, a thrilling panorama portraying the great strides our civilization has made in recent years.

This phase of the trip was most educational, of course, but for memories that linger, I am sure that both my oldest son and myself prefer another "exhibit" at the fair, a young dancer whose performances are the talk of Chicago. The young lady so lithe of limb and fair of face is called "Little Egypt."

Chicago itself is a bustling city with more than one million inhabitants. Electrically operated streetcars, installed there three years ago, have proved a boon to those sore of feet.

* * *

FEBRUARY 16, 1898 – The newspaper today is filled with accounts of an event which seems likely to plunge this country into war. The U. S. battleship Maine yesterday was blown up in the harbor at Havana, Cuba, by the Spaniards with an appalling loss of life.

* * *

JULY 6,1898 – There was good news for the family tonight! I had the pleasure of informing them that the master of the house no longer is an ordinary telegrapher. He has just been promoted to train dispatcher. We celebrated by attending the moving pictures operated by Mr. Hayes next to Sawyer's Saloon on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. One of the pictures showed a train arriving at Calais from Paris, a most educational scene for all of us.

* * *

AUGUST 13, 1898 – The nation again is at peace, delegates of this country and Spain only yesterday having signed a protocol through which we gain possession of a great body of islands in the Pacific, the Philippines, reputedly rich in natural resources.

Now that the war is ended, I feel confident that our Railroad will again concentrate on western expansion. Who knows but what I may live to see the day when ours will be "a route to the sea."

* * *

NOVEMBER 5, 1899 – We are a quiet and subdued family tonight after saying goodbye to our eldest son. He has decided it is time that home ties be broken so that he can find his own niche in the world.

We accompanied him to the railroad station where he boarded a train for Aberdeen, South Dakota. He intends to go to work there for a merchant whom he met in Minneapolis.

His mother and I attempted to dissuade him in the hope he would remain at home another year or two but I had no answer when he smiled and reminded me that he now is the same age I was when I quit the farm at Milwaukee nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Over the Mountains

1900 – 1925

Excerpts from the Diary of a Western Merchant

JUNE 29, 1900 – Aberdeen, I believe, is destined to be one of the important cities of the West. If the citizens here have one trait in common, it is a desire to make the community as progressive as possible.

Trade at the store where I am employed has been unusually brisk of late, due no doubt to recent increases in the price of grain. Wheat is selling for 58 cents a bushel, eight cents more than a year ago and corn is up to 29 cents.

Possibly the most popular social events in Aberdeen are political rallies, not so much because of the quality of the speeches as the abundance and flavor of the barbecue. "The boy orator of the Plat-tee," as folks here refer to William Jennings Bryan, is still a very popular figure in this part of the country. There is some hope that he will speak here again, as he did in 1896 when the Grain Palace was filled to overflowing for his address.

* * *

AUGUST 14, 1901 – We could use some of those famous rain makers from Kansas right now. We're noted for our sunshine out here, but as a doctor friend of mine says, "We've got too durned much sunshine."

There's been a lot of gossip around Aberdeen lately about the possibility of The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul pushing on west. The northwest terminal now is west of here at Evarts, just short of the Missouri River. There have been all sorts of tales in circulation to the effect that the Railroad will not be bottled up either by the Hill or Harriman lines but will control its own right of way to the Pacific Coast.

According to the latest versions, Mr. Roswell Miller, Chairman, and Mr. Albert J. Earling, President of the Company, intend to have their engineers look for an easy gradient route through to the Pacific North Coast and not to northern California as first reported.

* * *

SEPTEMBER 7, 1901 – Aberdeen and the rest of the nation is in mourning over yesterday's assassination of President McKinley. After that tragedy I think those easterners had better examine themselves before referring to us out here as "wild westerners."

Father, who used to fret about his future as a telegrapher when telephones first came into general use, has got something else to worry about now. I just read of a man named Marconi who has succeeded in signaling the letter "S" by radio – without wires, that is – from England to Newfoundland.

* * *

JANUARY 4, 1903 – This has been a red letter day for the St. Paul Road, according to the newspapers. The company has inaugurated through service from Chicago to San Francisco as well as Denver, using rails of the Union Pacific from Omaha to Denver and Ogden, Utah and the Southern Pacific on to San Francisco. The Overland Limited is making one of the California runs. Father undoubtedly is proud as a peacock.

* * *

DECEMBER 15, 1903 – Father writes me that the Railway is now running a fine new train over the line between Chicago and Kansas City. He was delighted by an item written by Editor C. H. Smith of the Chula, Missouri, News that I feel is worth recording here:

"The new train on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway passed through Chula for the first time Sunday night, about three hours after dark. There was no hesitation at Chula town, at least none perceptible. There are no high places in Chula town, hence we question whether she ever touched the track. She just ripped a great fiery hole in the darkness and left the atmosphere heated steam hot for a second, then whistled for Niantic or Chicago, we are not certain which. If 'Central' had not been closed, we would have telephoned to Chicago to see if she hadn't run clean through the Union Station. She is sure 'nuf a 'hurry-up train.' Chicago is only about three miles up the track now. She is a gleam of summer sunlight, vestibuled and electric lighted from the cow-catcher clear back a hundred yards behind the last coach. She is knee deep with velvet carpets, and her cushions are as soft as a girl's cheek. She is lighted to a dazzle and heated to a frazzle. She was built to beat the world and her gorgeous splendor makes us chuckle to think we have a pass on her. She goes so fast that the six porters look like one big fat porter. She is called 'The Southwest Limited.' She stops, going both ways, at Chillicothe, and you can get on her there, but you'll have to hurry."

* * *

SEPTEMBER 23, 1906 – There is a lot of action along the St. Paul Road these days, known in these parts as Chicago, Milwaukee and Puget Sound Railway. They're pushing on west to Seattle and I'm helping them. Growing tired of an indoor job I used my savings to buy a team of horses and a grading outfit.

The section of line I'm working on is in Eastern Montana, between Forsyth to the first crossing of the Musselshell River, unsettled country through which all supplies have to be hauled from Forsyth.

We've had a lot of trouble getting sufficient oats and hay for our teams and water is unusually scarce. All the grading has to be done in gumbo soil which at best is a tiresome day's work.

We've been told that crews working east of us in South Dakota already have spanned the Missouri River west of Aberdeen with a huge steel truss bridge. A division terminal has been set up on the east bank of the river and named Mobridge.

When this section of line is completed, I plan to sell my team and equipment to the highest bidder and move on west. With my earnings from this job I think I'll be able to go in business for myself in Seattle. I first had thought of San Francisco as a permanent location but everything still is in turmoil there as the result of the earthquake and fire last April. I am sure my wife and two sons would find Seattle more to their liking for the present at least.

The Puget Sound Line still has a rugged job ahead. Before reaching Seattle no less than five mountain ranges must be spanned – the Belt Mountains, the main range of the Rockies, the Bitter Roots, the Saddle Mountains and the Cascades.

* * *

MARCH 15, 1907 – My wife is delighted with Seattle and thank heaven has stopped talking about the comforts of Aberdeen. I, too, am quite content, for the small business I started only a few months ago is prospering. The city, built on seven hills, has many steep descents and ascents and the streets fall away always to the waterfront.

Seattle is unusual in many ways but the method used to extend the business district is quite unique. Sluicing operations used in Alaskan mining to remove hills are being employed and workman already have washed away the Jackson Street and Dearborn Street hills. The earth has been used to fill in more than 1,000 acres of tideflats which now are available for factory sites.

Letters from my father at St. Paul indicate that it shouldn't be too long now, before the Puget Sound extension of the St. Paul will reach here.

* * *

SEPTEMBER 3, 1908 – The newspapers of the past few days reported that the St. Paul Road has opened up its line from Mobridge on to Butte, Montana, a distance of 800 miles, and in so doing swallowed up the famous old Jawbone Railroad.

I heard a lot of yarns about the Jawbone when I was helping build the St. Paul line in Montana. It was laid out in 1898 by Richard A. Harlow and the men who worked on the line got a lot of "jawbone" instead of pay, so the story goes. "As long as they fed us and the horses," one of the Jawbone crew told me, "they said we didn't need any money; we couldn't spend it anyway."

* * *

AUGUST 15, 1909 – Today we have another link with the East. The Puget Sound extension has established service over the entire length of the new line from Mobridge to Seattle and Tacoma.

All things considered, this achievement is an engineering and construction miracle. It was all accomplished in less than three years, for work on the project was not started until September, 1906.

* * *

OCTOBER 7, 1909 – I was at the waterfront a few days ago when the St. Paul Road operated its first sea-train on Puget Sound, barges loaded with freight cars which are towed by tug to the Ballard district to serve the lumber and shingle mills.

Once the barges reach Ballard, the cars are coupled to a yard engine and pulled across a landing apron and soon they're ready to roll into the interior for loading.

This is another indication of ingenuity on the part of the St. Paul management, for without the sea trains the company would have been cut off from important lumber areas.

* * *

AUGUST 30, 1910 – Father has just written me about the great forest fire which has been raging in the Bitter Roots around Avery, Idaho and in northwestern Montana.

Father rushed west from St. Paul to help maintain telegraphic communications because the St. Paul Road operates through three of the counties involved – Benewah and Shoshone in Idaho and Mineral in the state of Montana.

As the flame spread toward Avery, two trainloads of Avery residents were moved to Tekoa, Washington, a journey which was extremely hazardous for it was necessary to cross a number of blazing bridges in the mountainous section.

One engineer with only one assistant in his engine, stopped at Falcon, already in flames, to find many people gathered on the platform. They immediately began climbing aboard the engine, clinging to it wherever they could take hold.

The engineer couldn't carry them all on the engine, so he cut an empty car from others that were in flames and left Falcon with the car and engine jammed with survivors. Twenty-seven fire fighters were cut off and burned to death.

The roundhouse foreman in Avery, Ralph W. Anderson, saved the town by summoning all his personnel to build a backfire on both sides of the St. Joe River which forced the fire around Avery. It was reported that in order to carry out this plan he had to physically overcome the sheriff, who was opposed to back-firing, and his deputies.

* * *

MAY 29, 1911 – Yesterday was another gala day on The St. Paul – the inauguration of through passenger service to Chicago via the Olympian and Columbian trains, both of which offer the utmost in luxurious traveling accommodations.

Having some business to transact in Spokane, I rode that far on the Olympian. Coming in on the train I read with great interest a pamphlet issued by the Railway entitled "New Towns and Business Opportunities." It described openings in all lines of endeavor in the towns that have sprung up along the transcontinental line. It is evident that the St. Paul is very active in bringing new business and professional men as well as farmers to Montana, Idaho and Washington.

I found Spokane's amazing growth typical of northwestern enterprise. Downtown streets were crowded with the wagons of farmers, beer trucks, heavy drays, carriages and even automobiles, indicating the city certainly is prospering.

* * *

OCTOBER 18, 1914 – President Wilson's proclamation of neutrality seems to assure our staying out of the war in Europe ...

… The St. Paul and other transcontinental railroads have had quite a surprise that undoubtedly will be reflected unfavorably in their earnings. The Panama Canal has been opened to traffic of all nations at a nominal toll and is not restricted to military movements as many of us thought it would be. It looks as though the government intends to foster inter-coastal shipping at the expense of the Railroads.

* * *

DECEMBER 7, 1915 – The St. Paul Road has become the first to haul both passenger and freight trains over the western mountains with electricity!

Newspapers report the eastbound Olympian has been pulled by an electric locomotive from Butte to Three Forks, Montana, 70 miles over the Continental Divide ... and the company has completed and is using the Snoqualmie Pass tunnel, just east of Seattle in the Cascades, a 2-1/2 mile engineering triumph which saves an exceptionally sharp grade and a lot of winding track.

Engineers from all over the country are studying the Milwaukee's electrification. As the plan was explained to me, mountain streams have been harnessed to provide the electric power through the construction of conversion stations at 30-mile intervals.

* * *

JANUARY 28, 1917 – Electrification of the St. Paul's line from Harlowton, Montana to Avery, Idaho, a distance of 438 miles, has been so successful from an efficiency standpoint that the company has decided to electrify the 217 miles between Othello and Tacoma, Washington.

The Company then will be using electricity to pull its trains across the Belt, Rocky, Bitter Root, Saddle and Cascade mountain ranges.

* * *

DECEMBER 14, 1917 – We are deep in the war that only a year or so ago seemed so far away ... already reports are coming back to this country of the first American casualties in France. Twenty shipyards in Seattle are employing more than 40,000 men and hotels and lodging houses are swamped.

The seizure of the Railroads by the government a few days ago may prove to be a significant test of whether huge industries can best be operated by private enterprise or the government.

* * *

NOVEMBER 11, 1918 – This was the day all of us have been waiting for. The war is over and the Armistice has been signed in Marshall Foch's Railway coach in France. Here, as throughout the world, it was a time of celebration and thanksgiving.

* * *

MAY 13, 1920 – The St. Paul Road, like all other railroads, is operating under its own steam once more and from what railroad men tell me, the government didn't leave things in very good shape. The St. Paul alone had a deficit of $51,000,000 under federal operation, I understand, and its rolling stock is pretty much depleted and depreciated.

AUGUST 26, 1920 – Well, it's finally happened. As of today, women can vote. My wife considers this a personal triumph. If this trend keeps up, she may take over the store and I'll be expected to do the housework.

* * *

SEPTEMBER 13, 1920 – Father writes that the St. Paul still is expanding, but this time south and east. President Harry Byram has negotiated a 999 year lease for The Chicago, Terre Haute & Southeastern Railway Company which gives the St. Paul Road direct access to coal fields in southern Indiana and takes it as far East as Westport, Indiana. During the war President Byram found his Railroad handicapped because it was dependent upon distant mines for fuel and decided that some day the St. Paul would tap a major coal mining area on its own.

* * *

MARCH 14,1923 – … the political situation in Germany again is uneasy. A former German Army corporal named Hitler started a riot in Munich in which several persons were killed and wounded ...

* * *

SEPTEMBER 1, 1924 – A note from father says the St. Paul Road has moved into a new home, leaving the Railway Exchange Building on Michigan Boulevard in Chicago where the general offices have been for many years. Company headquarters now are in Chicago's Union Station.

* * *

JULY 2, 1925 – Robbers almost succeeded in getting away with $3,000,000 from a St. Paul Road train enroute from Chicago to Milwaukee. Developments in the case indicate the holdup was planned by a postal inspector who has sent dozens of criminals to prison for similar crimes.

Two members of the gang "rode the rods" until the train neared Rondout, a short distance from Chicago, where they shoved guns into the faces of the train crew. The bandits forced the engineer to stop the train and other members of the gang, who had driven to Rondout, converged on the mail car.

Then one bandit accidentally shot another. The wounded man was taken to a Chicago doctor by his companions and that led to a roundup of all the men, including the postal inspector.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to our oldest son who leaves on the Olympian. Railroading is in his blood for he has succeeded in getting a job with the St. Paul Road. He is assigned to the General Offices in Chicago.

End of a Century

1925 – 1950

Excerpts from the Letters of a Railroad-Minded Family

June 30, 1925, Chicago

Dear Dad,

I guess by now you know all about the earthquake we had in Montana. It really caused a furor here at the General Offices.

In case your Seattle newspapers missed any of the details, here's what happened: Train Number 15 was just out of Barron, Montana shortly after 3 P.M., June 27th, when the earthquake struck. The train crew thought it was a "sun kink" under the train and ran ten car lengths before halting. They looked back, and couldn't see anything but dust, black clouds and rocks, apparently falling from the sky on the Railroad tracks and then bounding into the Missouri River.

An inspection showed a pedestal and a journal box entirely gone from a sleeping car. Other cars were damaged by huge dents. The accident occurred on the electrified part of the western line and the power was cut off by the quake, leaving the train stranded.

At first no one knew what had happened. Then two members of the crew walked toward the head end of the train just as the second earth tremor took place. Both were knocked to the ground and there was a tremendous roar as rocks fell down the side of the mountain. Passengers were badly scared – who wouldn't have been for that matter – but it was necessary to keep them in the cars because rattlesnakes were known to be in the region.

That was only the beginning. The tremors continued at intervals until the morning of June 29th, totaling 31 in all. Eventually additional supplies were obtained at Three Forks and after repairs to the track, No. 15 finally got under way again, reaching Seattle only this morning. Reports from the Seattle office indicate that most of the passengers thought the crew handled the situation admirably.

April 30, 1927, Chicago

Dear Dad,

Perhaps you have noticed that the Railroad's current newspaper and magazine advertising features "The Milwaukee Road." I understand this new name is to be used on locomotives, rolling stock and stations in the future instead of the longer Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway. While you people on the "west end" may have been calling it "The Milwaukee" I say it will be a long, long time before people in these parts give up the habit of calling it "The St. Paul"

* * *

May 23, 1927, Chicago

Dear Dad,

... It's hard to get much work done around here because all anyone talks about is Charles Lindbergh's flight from New York to Paris. I see that even President Coolidge sent him a message of congratulations.

But aviation isn't the only industry that's making progress. Our Pioneer Limited, between Chicago and the Twin Cities, has just been equipped with roller-bearing cars, the first long distance train in the country to use them. One of the engineers who worked on the project said roller bearings practically eliminate the hotbox problem. And they really make for a smooth ride too – no more jerking when you pull out of the station. It won't be long, I believe, before all our passenger trains will consist of roller-bearing cars ...

* * *

January 14, 1928, Chicago

Dear Dad,

We have finally wound up with a name that is quite a mouthful.

Following the recent reorganization the official name of the Railroad became The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad Company, descriptive but certainly one of the longer, if not the longest in the book. For advertising purposes I understand we will remain "The Milwaukee Road."

Things are certainly booming and if car loadings keep up we may touch a new high in revenue. Passenger traffic, however, is falling off due to the fact that everybody and his brother is buying an automobile most of them on the installment plan. Nowadays people buy anything and everything with a down payment and a promise.

* * *

August 8, I928, Chicago

Dear Dad,

... Our Freight Traffic Department set some kind of a record over the weekend by moving a complete industry from Minneapolis into the firm's new plant on Oak Park Avenue in Chicago without the loss of a single working day. The company's equipment and records all were loaded into a single train. They say some of the stenos still were typing when they loaded the desks ...

* * *

October 30, 1929, Chicago

Dear Dad,

Thanks for the fresh salmon. They really had that Puget Sound flavor. And that reminds me. After what's happened to the stock market you may have to keep me in food. As a matter of fact I only had about $1,000 tied up in stocks. About all they'll be good for now will be to plug the holes in my shoes if things get as bad as a lot of people think they will.

I haven't written much about the Railroad lately but just the same we've accomplished quite a lot this year in the way of improvements. Much of the work has had to do with the elevation of tracks, particularly here and in Milwaukee. We also bought 1,700 more automobile cars and built a new station at Prairie du Chien, one of the oldest points on the entire Milwaukee system ...

* * *

July 14, 1930, Chicago

Dear Dad,

I've got an aching back today. A friend of mine last night introduced me to "Tom Thumb Golf," played with only a putter on miniature courses. Try it some time if it gets to Seattle.

... saw a wonderful movie the other night – "All Quiet on The Western Front," a story about the World War. And for radio entertainment, I think the Amos and Andy show is undoubtedly the funniest program on the air ...

* * *

September 2, 1931, Chicago

Dear Dad,

... As if the depression wasn't enough, The Milwaukee Road has new troubles. The drought of the past couple of months in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Montana took a big bite out of our anticipated revenue. Things look so dismal around here, it's said that even some of our officers are humming that new tune, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

July 2, 1932, Chicago

Dear Dad,

We've had quite an exciting time around Chicago the past few days. The city has been so crowded that a person could hardly turn around without trampling a Democrat underfoot.

A newspaper friend of mine got me into the Stadium yesterday so I was on hand when Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for the Presidency. The man certainly has a winning way about him when he speaks before an audience.

I don't think I mentioned it in my last letter but you, as an old-time Railroad fan, would be interested to know that we've finally abandoned the only narrow-gauge line we ever operated, a 35-mile stretch from Bellevue, Iowa to Cascade, Iowa. It had only a 3-foot gauge and some really rugged grades.

* * *

July 30, 1933, Chicago

Dear Dad,

I'm a trifle on the foot-sore side today after tramping around the Century of Progress grounds all day yesterday. It was the first chance I'd had to see the Fair and believe me, it's everything the newspapers say it is, a dream world where there are no bread lines, no worrying about the depression.

By the way, ours was the only Railroad to exhibit a modern passenger coach, built in our own Milwaukee shops. The coach, sort of a forecast of things to come, has caused more comment than anything since our shops turned out the sleeping cars with wider, higher and longer berths some years ago. Of equal interest was our Bi-Polar gearless electric locomotive used in passenger service in the Cascade Mountains.

This man Hitler is certainly making a lot of noise on his side of the Atlantic. Sounds like a complete screwball to me, though. I don't see how anyone can take him or his ideas very seriously ...

* * *

July 21, 1934, Chicago

Dear Dad,

I had a train ride yesterday to end all train rides. The Milwaukee Road has just set a sustained speed record for steam locomotives. The test was made with a four year old locomotive and five steel cars. We pulled out of Chicago at 9 A.M. and by the time we reached Morton Grove we were doing 87 miles an hour; at Northbrook the engineer had stepped it up to 92 and when we reached Gurnee, the speedometer was hanging on an even 100. Near Oakwood, Wisconsin we were running smooth as silk at 103. All told, we averaged 92 miles an hour between Deerfield, Illinois and Lake, Wisconsin, a distance of 5331 miles.

You and mother better begin thinking now about visiting us sometime next November. By that time we'll have a grandchild to show you. We were taking the event pretty much in stride until we read about the arrival of the Dionne quintuplets. We can manage to feed one extra mouth – five, I don't know ...

* * *

May 16, 1935, Chicago

Dear Dad,

We've just previewed the new Hiawatha, designed by Milwaukee Road engineers and built by Milwaukee Road craftsmen, which will go into regular service May 29th. The performance was enough to excite everyone on board. The run was made from Milwaukee to New Lisbon with a top speed of 112.5 miles an hour.

President Scandrett wasn't on board but here's a copy of the telegram sent to him by Mr. J. T. Gillick, Chief Operating Officer, whom you probably remember from his days in Aberdeen with our company, around the turn of the century. "Left Milwaukee 9:40 A.M. Stopped at Watertown to look at engine, which was running cool. With this stop passed Portage 11:03 A.M., one minute less than schedule. Maximum speed 97.3 miles per hour. Arrived New Lisbon 11:33 A.M. Schedule calls for 34 minutes. Maximum speed 112.5 m.p.h. Train rode beautifully ... cup and glass of water on table have not spilled yet."

May 29, 1935, Chicago

Dear Dad,

The Hiawatha was away on its first official run today. There were great goings on at Union Station and a big crowd was on hand to see the christening, admire the sparkling orange, maroon and silver Speedliner, enjoy the music and hear the speeches. Edward J. Kelly, Mayor of Chicago, said some complimentary things about the Railroad and wished the Hiawatha Godspeed. President Scandrett acknowledged the Mayor's compliments and gave a short talk. He certainly speaks with clarity and conviction. The whole celebration was broadcast over Station W L S. Undoubtedly the happiest man in the crowd was George Haynes, our Passenger Traffic Manager, who long has been a strong advocate of lower fares, faster schedules and air conditioning as the means of recovering business lost to the highways. This was his dream train come true.

P.S. The Dungeness crabs arrived and you will be very popular when we gather around the festive board tonight.

* * *

February 27, 1936, Chicago

Dear Dad,

Our Railroad has been practically snowbound now for two months.

Old timers here say it's been the toughest winter in the history of The Milwaukee Road.

Most of the trouble has been on The Milwaukee division. Here's an example: A couple of weeks ago No. 56 was stopped by a red block near Sturtevant. No.2, following a plow, had to halt while the plow unit took on water. Both No. 56 and No.2 became snowbound in the short stop made by the plow unit. The Olympian already had left Chicago and was forced to stop. The Pioneer Limited was sent out behind another rotary to take on passengers from No. 56. Passengers were transferred in a wall of snow as high as the locomotives.

Snowdrifts nine to eighteen feet high have been common. On one occasion we had seventeen freight trains stalled. The Iowa and Dakota division has not only had its hands full with snow removal but also has been doing a Herculean job of delivering coal to hard-pressed communities along the line. Near Mason City, Iowa the other day, train No. 3 encountered a stalled bus and picked up the driver and his passengers.

There have been several times when we were the only route open, a fact which didn't go unnoticed among shippers ...

* * *

March 14, 1938, Chicago

Dear Dad,

It looks like Hitler is really making his bid in Europe. A lot of us around the office here are convinced that his move into Austria is only the beginning. I wonder if we'll be able to keep out of the thick of things if real trouble begins?

Remember my talking to you about our oldest employee, "Soda Ash Johnny" Horan? He died last month, just ten days after his loath birthday when we threw a party for him at Milwaukee. .

Soda Ash Johnny began with The Milwaukee Road back in 1855 as a loader of wood. During the 83 years he worked for us, he was a machinist, an engineer and a general shop foreman at Yankton, South Dakota where he originated the use of soda ash in the treatment of water in locomotive boilers. Even Ripley had a piece about him in his "Believe It Or Not" cartoon a few years ago. We'll miss Johnny ...

* * *

June 21, 1938, Chicago

Dear Dad,

I've just returned from the scene of the wreck at Saugus, Montana, which, as you know from the papers, is the worst we ever had. The disaster was caused by a cloud burst in the Custer Creek Valley several miles north of our bridge which was undermined and swept out of line by a flash flood just as a west bound passenger train arrived. Well, the less said about this tragedy the better. There is small consolation for us of The Milwaukee Road in the fact that the coroner's jury pronounced the accident "an Act of God."

* * *

January 22, 1939, Chicago

Dear Dad,

Our Hiawatha fleet is really expanding. Just yesterday, with appropriate ceremonies along the line, two new trains comprising the Morning Twin Cities Hiawatha went into service. Governor Stassen of Minnesota, a former employee, helped us celebrate by donning a conductor's cap and collecting tickets. Governor Heil of Wisconsin also took part by selling the first ticket in Milwaukee.

Our Hiawathas are establishing many records in the number of passengers carried, and rank at the top among the nation's trains in earnings per mile. They also attract large crowds who line up along the right-of-way just north of Chicago to see them flash by. It seems our Speedliners have a fascination for young and old alike.

Our Agricultural and Mineral Development Department, always engaged in attracting new settlers to our line, has been particularly active lately, promoting and aiding in water conservation and irrigation development in all the northwestern states. These projects, considered from a long range standpoint, one day should do much to increase our agricultural tonnage.

* * *

November 6, 1941, Chicago

Dear Dad,

… Although we've been using diesel engines for switching for some time our first road diesel went into service today on the run between Avery, Idaho and Othello, Washington. It's a 5,400 horsepower beauty.

* * *

February 18, 1942, Chicago

Dear Dad,

Uncle Sam has seen fit to come through with the commission I applied for last month so I don't know where I'll be when I send my next letter your way ... My wife and children are taking my departure as philosophically as they can, under the circumstances. Thanks for the invitation but she thinks she will be better off here. The children and her work in The Milwaukee Road Women's. Club will keep her occupied.

... the office has been a hubbub of activity because of wartime traffic. We're already feeling the pinch of the equipment shortage. I'll still be in Railroad work, even in the Army, as a member of The Milwaukee Road's engineering battalion ... Keep me posted about things on the home front. Incidentally, I've asked our Public Relations Office to send you copies of The Milwaukee Magazine. That will keep you up to date on what's going on here and you can pass the word along to me. I may be moving around quite a lot and my copy might be slow in catching up with me.

* * *

(The following are letters from the father to the son during the latter's service in World War II.)

May 10, 1943, Seattle

Dear Son,

... and we're so hungry for steak I'd be willing to risk my new uppers on the toughest piece of beef in Montana.

Your Railroad has been real active out this way. There's some kind of secret project underway at Hanford, Washington. I understand The Milwaukee Road was called on to move the town's whole population almost overnight, to make way for the war work.

The folks at home who work on The Milwaukee Road are doing all right too. President Scandrett had a message in the magazine the other day telling about it: "Four thousand pounds of scrap and fittings were removed from under buildings. There have been 98,650 pounds of shop-made tools taken from the blacksmith shop and converted into scrap ... also from the shops, 1,849 pounds of brass recovered ... also 36,559 pounds of miscellaneous scrap recovered from the roundhouse and shops."

Here at home your mother has given me a new job. I have to peel the labels off tincans every night and stamp them out flat for the scrap drive. At least it gives me exercise ...

* * *

May 9, 1945, Seattle

Dear Son,

My blood pressure is running pretty high. We've done so much celebrating in Seattle since Germany surrendered day before yesterday that I feel like I personally fought through the whole European campaign.

Your mother and I were wondering where you were in Europe when the end came. And how about those European Railroads? Was The Milwaukee Road's 744th Railway Operating Battalion able to get them in running shape? Here at home all the Railroads have done a great job. As General Somervell said the other day: "That the Railroads have been able to handle this enormous military traffic on time and with a high degree of comfort is a record of which every American Railroad must be proud."

The feeling seems to prevail that the Japs won't last long. Apropos of this, your Railroad is getting all set for peace, according to the magazine, and has quite an improvement program underway. About the biggest project, I guess, is the opening of a new double tracked line into Kansas City, jointly with the Rock Island, over the new President Harry S. Truman Bridge.

* * *

December 18, 1945, Seattle

Dear Son,

... The Milwaukee Road is out of receivership, in case you hadn't heard the news. Mr. Scandrett is President of the reorganized Company and Mr. Leo T. Crowley, a man of wide experience in financial affairs, is Chairman of the Board. Actually, there seems to be no change in management and its policies.

I see by The Magazine that 6,916 of you Milwaukee Roaders were in service. That's a record any Company can be proud of ... you can imagine how anxious we are to see you when you get home next month.

* * *

(The son resumes letters to his father about The Milwaukee Road.)

March 12, 1946, Chicago

Dear Dad,

It's strange to be sitting at a desk again but I seem to be getting in the swing of things once more. Getting out of uniform into the loudest checked suit I could find helped a lot in that direction.

We're about to get underway with a really huge car building program at our Milwaukee shops which will put us far out ahead of other Railroads in the United States as far as building our own cars is concerned ...

K. F. Nystrom, our Chief Mechanical Officer and his staff, have shown the way in freight as well as passenger car construction. For example, the all-welded steel, plywood-lined freight cars that carry heavier pay loads with less dead weight were pioneered in our shops.

* * *

May 13, 1947, Chicago

Dear Dad,

Charles H. Buford was elected President of the Railroad succeeding Mr. Scandrett who resigned at his own request. I believe you knew Mr. Buford while he was our General Manager of Lines West with headquarters in Seattle. He left our company in 1939 to become Vice President of the Association of American Railroads and returned to The Milwaukee in 1946 as Executive Vice President after a great record in coordinating the war operations of the Railroads.

There's a satisfaction in knowing that the new "big boss" is one of The Milwaukee Road family.

I've been helping in some surveys for our Industrial Development Department. You've probably never heard of this important department but last year alone they helped in locating 424 new industries along our right-of-way of more than 10,000 miles.

* * *

June 30, 1947, Chicago

Dear Dad,

I suppose you people in Seattle feel better now that the new diesel powered Olympian Hiawatha is on a 45-hour schedule between Seattle and Chicago. Your newspapers and business organizations have pounded away for faster Railroad schedules and now you have them. So let up and give us a hand in making this train as profitable as the Twin Cities Hiawatha.

Unfortunately the Olympian Hiawatha as it left Chicago and Seattle is not the dreamliner it will be in a few months. The coaches, Touralux sleepers, Tip Top Grill and dining car were all beautiful new streamlined cars fresh from The Milwaukee shops. But, alas, the Pullman Car Manufacturing Company could not make delivery of the private-room sleepers and Skytop Lounge. Regardless – the present demand for space indicates it will be a most popular service. And so the Hiawatha fleet goes transcontinental in a big way.

Glad to hear that your business is going good. The new house in Laurelhurst sounds fine.

* * *

June 30, 1948, Chicago

Dear Dad,

This is a Hiawatha year! Four more new Twin Cities Hiawathas went into service today – just 13 years after the original – and they are beauties. There was a luncheon for the Press on one of the new diners followed by music and speeches broadcast over W M A Q.

Governor Green complimented the Railroad on its improved service for Illinois and Mr. Buford thanked him in reply and went on to say that after all, it was the public who had built the Hiawathas through their patronage, good will and helpful suggestions.

We now have an improved Midwest Hiawatha coming next month and the Chippewa to Upper Michigan becomes the Chippewa Hiawatha in the near future

* * *

July 28, 1948, Chicago

Dear Dad,

The Railroad Fair has opened with a bang. Yesterday was Milwaukee Road day and the Hiawatha band was down from Milwaukee. We are well represented having an exhibit of one of the Twin Cities Hiawathas which is getting a terrific play and lots of compliments. The "Wheels A 'Rollin'" Pageant is a great show and promises to be a smash hit. It portrays the simultaneous growth of the nation and the Railroads through a cast of more than 200 and a fine collection of antique and modern Railroad equipment.

* * *

December 31, 1949, Chicago

Dear Dad,

... We're all set for our Centennial year – 1950. The other night I was rereading my great grandfather's diary – the one you gave me so many years ago. Remember his statement in 1860 when he wondered "if I have seen the rise and fall of a great Railroad in ten short years?"

Our slogan for 1950 – "Opening Our Second Century," would answer his question…

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Last Updated: March 03, 2009