The Milwaukee Public Library was designated as the official archives of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St.
Paul & Pacific Railroad, a.k.a. the Milwaukee Road, in 1981.
The Milwaukee Road Archives collection is very large, with valuable materials for the historian as well as the railroad hobbyist. For more information, please browse the details below or contact the Frank P. Zeidler Humanities Room .
Attention: Under Milwaukee Public Library's limited service model, in-person research with this collection is currently unavailable. We hope to be available, by appointment only, soon. Please check back for updates.
Milwaukee Road History
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, St. Paul & 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 — its legacy continues today through the interests of hobbyists and historians alike.
Because the Milwaukee Road built most of its own equipment, the collection contains more than 50,000 engineering drawings of cars, structures and locomotives. No index currently available for public use.
Images range from glass plates done in the late 1800s to modern color slides. Print indexes available for use in the Frank P. Zeidler Humanities Room (Locomotive Negative Guide, Photos & Negatives Guide)
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. Index available at Humanities reference desk.
Historical documents reveal the development of the Milwaukee Road from the Midwest in the 1850s to the Pacific Northwest by World War II.
- Annual Reports -
Annual reports for the Milwaukee Road are listed in MPL's CountyCat catalog. Except as noted below, they may be requested and used in the Frank P. Zeidler Humanities Room at Central Library. Available years are:
1863-1889 (See Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room page for access info)
- Corporate Records -
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. Finding aids available online and at Humanities reference desk.
- Employee Magazine -
There is a complete set (1913-1974) of the employee magazine, Milwaukee Road Magazine, indexed by the railroad with historical information about the Milwaukee Road and biographical information on employees. Index available online and at Humanities reference desk.
- Officials and employees -
The Milwaukee Road Archives also has records on many officials of the railroad and some employee files. Indexes to these employee records are available online and at the Humanities reference desk.
Using the Collection
Finding aids and indexes may be consulted online or used in print format in the Humanities Room, as indicated above. On-site use of the archival materials described above requires an advance appointment. Contact staff in the Frank P. Zeidler Humanities Room of the Central Library at (414) 286-3061.
All research questions should be addressed via e-mail to email@example.com and will be answered in the order received.
19th Century Locomotives & Cars
This collection is comprised of early Milwaukee Road drawings of locomotives, flat cars, baggage cars and passenger cars, as well as a water crane from 1883. The purpose of this small collection of drawings is to demonstrate the age of the MRA collections, which spans from the very beginnings of the iconic railroad to its final days in the 1980s.
Everett Street Station/Union Depot
This collection represents all known drawings of the Everett Street Station, a.k.a. Union Depot of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway in the Milwaukee Road Archives. We have attempted to order the drawings in a way that makes most sense for the viewer, i.e. the first drawing represents the track layout for the depot, with all buildings, structures and streets clearly marked. Next we have placed all of the major elevations for the Station, starting with those that have title boxes or at least some descriptive markings. Next are the sectional elevations followed by floor plans from the foundation up, including alterations and drawings associated with various remodeling projects and architectural details. Also featured are details of the Canopy for the station, followed by elevations and details for the Power House, Engine House, and the Telegraph & Parcel Offices.
Paint Schemes & Stencils
This collection is comprised of various paint schemes for Locomotives, cars, signs, logos and clock faces that were either made by or used by the Milwaukee Road. There are some duplicates in this collection that have small differences in markings, these were included to show that changes were made to paint schemes over time and to provide the viewer with a more complete picture of those changes and dates. Paint schemes for locomotives and rolling stock are a regular request at the Archives, especially from model railroaders. Hopefully by making them available, it will provide our patrons with a helpful resource for their work. As we identify and find more paint schemes in the collection, we will add them to this collection.
Small Depot Drawings
This collection is comprised of an album of reduced depot plans held in the Milwaukee Road Archives. After the title page, there is an index, the first two pages of which are organized numerically by sheet number, and the next three pages are organized alphabetically by the cities where the Road intended to build them. There is an “M” listed next to three locations in the numeric portion of the index that indicates that the plans for those locations are missing; all other locations are contained in the collection. The index only provides the basic elevations and their locations as they were organized by the Engineering Department of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, and show that they were intended for those locations, but it is not a guarantee that the depots were actually built at those locations and does not indicate that the depots are still standing as of the creation of this collection. This is a historic artifact provided for easy access to patrons interested in the architecture of the C.M. &St.P.Ry.
The Milwaukee Road Historical Association, a not-for-profit corporation to study and preserve the history of The Milwaukee Road, offers support to the Milwaukee Public Library’s Milwaukee Road Archives.
The image in the upper right header of this page is:
2-6-6-2 Compound steam engine #5023
Built by Alco in 1911
Photographed by Milwaukee Road on September 14, 1911 in Avery, Idaho
Digitized from a black & white negative on August 13, 2008