Because the Milwaukee Road built most of its own equipment, the collection
contains engineering drawings of cars, structures and locomotives.
Over 50,000 of these have been indexed in a computer database. Printouts
are available for viewing in the library, or an individual computer
search can be done for a fee.
Images range from glass plates done in the late 1800s
to modern color slides.
The archives include a complete collection
of passenger train timetables from 1886 to Amtrak 1971, and a large
number of "employee" or divisional operation timetables from
the Milwaukee Road and smaller railroads that became part of it.
Historical documents reveal the development
of the Milwaukee Road from the Midwest in the 1850s to the Pacific Northwest
by World War II. Included are reports of the Board of Directors from
the Milwaukee Road, contracts that were made between the railroad and
various suppliers as it moved westward, and documents concerning its
bankruptcies. There is a complete set of the employee magazine, 1913
to 1974, indexed by the railroad with historical information about the
Milwaukee Road and biographical information on employees. The library
also has biographical files on many officials of the railroad and some
In 1847, the Milwaukee and Waukesha Railroad was incorporated, and three
years later its first train operated between Milwaukee and Wauwatosa.
By 1857, track reached Prairie du Chien. The name changed to Chicago,
Milwaukee & St. Paul in February 1874. The railroad grew strong throughout
the Midwest, by 1887 reaching through Iowa and South Dakota, as far west
as Kansas City and north into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
In 1905, the Milwaukee decided to expand west again, this time to Puget
Sound. The "Lines West" were built between 1906 and 1909, from
the middle of South Dakota to Seattle/Tacoma. Technological marvels,
the lines were never successful, and were a major contributor to the
bankruptcy in 1925. In 1928 the Road reorganized as the Chicago, Milwaukee,
& Pacific. It was bankrupt again in 1935 and 1945. In 1977, once
more in financial trouble, it reorganized and shed two-thirds of its
trackage. It was acquired by the Soo Line Corp. on February 21, 1985,
which operated it as the Milwaukee Road, Inc., until merging it into
the Soo Line on January 1, 1986.
Despite its financial difficulties, the Milwaukee was innovative. It
pioneered long-distance electrification (656 route miles), construction
of all-welded freight and passenger cars, and operation of high-speed
intercity passenger trains. (The steam powered Hiawatha commonly ran
over 100 mph.) The road employed thousands and touched millions during
its operation - it's legacy continues today through the interests of
hobbyists and historians alike.
Without the hard work of volunteers, this collection would not be an
effective source for the history of the Milwaukee Road. Members of the
Milwaukee Road Historical Association (MRHA) repair, sort and shelve
the materials as volunteers. They add the information to a computer database
in which the items can be searched, and assist in processing inquiries
about the Milwaukee Road.
For more information, please visit the MRHA