Milwaukee Connection




In the late 1890s, the Union Pacific, Northern Pacific, and Great Northern Railways had a firm grip on all West Coast rail traffic. In 1905, Milwaukee Road officials voted to extend the line into Seattle, securing Pacific Coast markets. As the Milwaukee built into Montana, numerous obstacles emerged; frigid winter temperatures and steep mountain grades challenged steam-powered operations. In the early 1910s, electric locomotives became a viable alternative for steam engines in long-haul rail service; at the same time, waterpower for generating electricity was developing in the Northwest. The mines and smelters of Butte and Anaconda supplied the resources needed to electrify 440 miles of track in Montana and Idaho. The longevity of the Milwaukee Road electrification into the 1970s highlights the determination of faithful employees on what was known as America’s Resourceful Railroad.