|Last Update: May 18, 2005
|This new article will compile all of my photos from exploring various parts of the Milwaukee Road in Washington, Idaho
and Montana, onto one page. Currently our Milwaukee Road photos and information is spread out over a number of
different articles that also deal with other subjects. Those articles will remain, but now you can refer to this page for
all of my Milwaukee Road photos and information. Please bear with me as my knowledge of the Milwaukee Road history
is a bit rusty. If anyone sees any needed corrections or would like to add any information, you're welcome to email me
anytime. This page will concentrate on the places of the line that I've visited in Washington as well as Idaho and a bit of
|Click HERE for a map of the entire Milwaukee Road Railroad in 1973
This takes you to this neat Milwaukee Road website.
|What began in the early 20th century for the Pacific Northwest as major transcontinental link to the eastern U.S. ended in bankruptcy by the
end of the 1970s. It was a sad day when in the late 1970s one of the nation's largest and historical railroads declared bankruptcy.
Although it was it's 3rd bankruptcy in it's history, it would prove it's final undoing. That bankruptcy would signal the end of an era. The end
of a vast 10,000 mile rail network that extended from the eastern U.S. all the way to the Pacific Ocean. A railroad that held the claim to
fame of being the only transcontinental electric railway in the country at one time, and one of the most scenic. It also signaled the
abandonment of many miles of track, especially in the Pacific Northwest, where the Milwaukee Road, as it was informally known, operated
in the states of Washington, Idaho and Montana.
This page concentrates on the western divisions in those states, otherwise know as the "Lines West". Come
along as we explore the abandoned remains of the Milwaukee Road in this region, much of which was sold off
and abandoned by 1980.
The Milwaukee Road would operate a few more years as a much smaller company near it's home base of operations, but by 1986 it all
came to an end when what was left of the railroad was absorbed into the Soo Line.
The history of the Milwaukee Road is long and complicated and far too much to be covered here in any detail. For a more detailed history,
you refer to some of the links at the bottom of this page.
|Lines in the States of Washington, Idaho & Montana "LINES WEST"
|The line that would be first known as the Pacific Coast Extension of the Milwaukee Road can be traced back to 1906. That's when the
railroad first announced plans that it would build a railroad from Chicago. Construction began from the west in the state of Washington and
worked it's way east to the famous St. Paul Pass on the Idaho/Montana border by 1908. This would mark the first segment of a line that
would operate from the Pacific Ocean Puget Sound of Washington state all the way to Chicago and beyond. In between, the line crossed
two major mountain ranges, including the Cascade Mountains in Washington and the Rocky Mountains in Idaho and Montana. The latter
being one of the most impressive railroad passes ever built. Over the years, a number of spur and branch lines were also built in all three
states, especially in Washington.
From an abandoned railroad perspective, what is most notable about the Milwaukee Road is how much of it's history is still left to explore.
Much of the operation in the Pacific Northwest was abandoned or sold off between the late 1970s and 1980. Most of the sold operations
only operated for a few more years and were abandoned themselves, although some still operate today and local shortlines. But when the
lines were abandoned, often the tracks were not immediately pulled up, if they were pulled up at all, and the bridges were not dismantled in
many cases. Why this is, is hard to answer. The lines that were abandoned, were actually profitable at the time, but mismanagement of
the company caused it's demise. Perhaps most of the lines were left intact in the hopes of another operator coming along and taking over.
But for the most part, that never happened. And after the last Milwaukee work train left the line, most of the entire mainline from the Puget
Sound to Montana was abandoned and never used again.
|The E-70 Electric Locomotive, Deer Lodge, Montana
|The E-70 is a General Electric EF-4 "Little Joe" built in 1950. This type of locomotive was designed in the late 1940s to operate in the Soviet Union's
Siberian Region, but were never sold because of the Cold War. This unit was built in 1950 and purchased by the Milwaukee Road along with 12
other units. They were operated until 1974, when the Milwaulkee Road discontinued the electrification of the railroad. They were all stored in Deer
Lodge in the even they might be returned to service. But that never happened. This one was donated to the city of Deer Lodge in 1975 and put on
display. In the mid 1990s, it was consmetically restored to the condition you see here. This is the last of the Milwaukee EF-4s. All the units, except
this one, were scrapped out. The MILW operated 400 miles of electrified railroad from Harlowtown, Montana to Avery, Idaho. Here's a link to a
photo of it when it operating in Drexel, MT in the early 1970s. These photos were taken by my Dad, Mike McCamish in March, 2005.
|The Rocky Mountains St. Paul Pass - East Portal, Montana to Avery, Idaho
|The furthest east long the old Milwaukee line that I've personally been able to explore is East Portal, Montana. This is essentially the
beginning of St. Paul Pass and one of the most spectacular railroad passes ever built. The part of the line contains nearly 20 tunnels,
including the approximately 1.5 mile long St. Paul Tunnel as well as almost a dozen impressive high steel bridges. The line was completed
by 1909 and operated via electrification (which means the trains used overhead electric wires to power it's motors) over most of Montana
and over the St. Paul Pass until it reached Avery, Idaho. Almost 400 miles. The main reason for the electrification was cost and
performance. The electric trains out performed the steam engines of the day and were cheaper to operate. They also had the added
benefit of not choking crews and passengers when running through the numerous tunnels and snow sheds of St. Paul Pass. Passenger
service over St. Paul pass would end by 1960, but freight continued to be hauled via the electric trains until 1974. In it's final years, diesels
exclusively hauled the loads over the pass and over the entire line. In the late 1970s one final passenger run was made over St. Paul Pass
when Amtrak was forced to use the Milwaukee Road mainline when the BN line it normally used temporarily washed out. By 1980, the St.
Paul Pass line closed and the Milwaukee Road left the states of Idaho and Montana. There was probably some hope that another carrier
might operate the line and for a number of years, the line was left mostly intact. But eventually the tracks were pulled up. With in a few
years the Forest Service took over the line and turned much of it from Avery, Idaho to near the West Portal of the St. Paul Tunnel, into a
Forest Service/Public access road, replacing another road over the pass that had fallen into disrepair. This new road operated directly
over number of the old MILW trestles and through several of the tunnels. In later years, part of railroad was converted to a public bike trail
and now hikers and bikers can traverse almost the entire length of St. Paul Pass. Parts of the line are closed to vehicle traffic, but much of
it is accessible to vehicle, which makes it a rare opportunity for drivers to experience the old Milwaukee and must for any railroad history
I visited the St. Paul Pass and explored as much of that I could from my truck from East Portal Montana, nearly to the western Washington
border, in late August, 2004. These are my photos of that trip.
|This is the east portal of the St. Paul Pass Tunnel, located
in the state of Montana. Also, the official start of the
Hiawatha Trail. A parking lot full of SUVs and bike racks
is testament to that. The east portal is preceeded by a
large wooden snowshed. This is where we begin our
exploration of the Milwaukee Road's Pacific Coast Division.
|At the top of this pass is
boarder. Almost 1000 feet
directly below this point is
the center of the St. Paul
Pass Railroad tunnel.
Apparently a similar sign
exists in the tunnel, but is
a bit harder to find in the
|The west portal of the St. Paul Tunnel, also known as Tunnel #
20. Vehicles are not allowed to drive through the 1.5 mile long
tunnel, although bikers and hikers are. To reach this point, you
have to climb over 1000 steep feet on a forest service road that
was built on top of an old Indian trail that passes directly over
the tunnel. Once on the other side and at the west portal,
vehicles can drive for short distance, before being diverted off
of the grade onto another windy and steep forest service road,
while hikers and bikers continue down the grade.
|Not long after leaving Tunnel 20, we came upon
number 21. Here you can drive through as well,
but within a short distance, vehicles are diverted
onto a dusty windy and somewhat scary dirt road
down into the valley, while bikers continue down
the grade through numerous tunnels and bridges
that are not accessible to vehicles.
|From near Tunnel # 21, you can look across the
valley and see at least one of the long high steel
bridges that bikers have access too as they wind
down the 2% grade and wrap around the
|We also had a view of
Tunnel # 28 off in the
distance. Also only
accessible to bikers
|Stopped along the
grade to take in the
very scenic Idaho
|Tunnel # 22 is also known as the Moss Creek
tunnel. It's about .31 miles long. Looking at the
east portal, we can see bikers. The line used to run
straight ouf of this tunnel, but a washout from Moss
Creek in the mid 1990s, took out a small section of
the grade here. From this location, we were
diverted off the Milwaulkee Grade down this steep
dirt road in the foreground of the far right photo, to
the valley below. We would pick up the grade again
after it too reached the valley via a number of
tunnels and high steel trestles.
|Although we couldn't drive the grade on this section, we were
able to take a forest service road that roughly followed well
below the grade and were able to get a few glimpses of the huge
bridges along the old route.
|At the end of the forest road we
had easy access to view the
portals of tunnel 25 (left) and
tunnel 26 (right) This is part of
the trail that does not allow
vehicles, except for this access
road here that crosses the grade,
but does allow bikers.
|As we get back on the grade, the first
tunnel we're able to pass through is
|And then we pass through number 31.
|Just north of tunnel # 32 is the Big Dick Creek Railroad bridge,
now converted to a road bridge. (No, I'm not making that name up
and it's not a typo.) Pictures on the right were taken from a forest
service road that runs below the old railroad grade and shows
the same bridge.
|One of many broken
signal telephone polls
from the railroads along
the old grade.
|Not from the above bridge, we pass through
Tunnel # 32.
|And then Tunnel number 33.
|Tunnel # 34 is located just over a mile
from the prior tunnel and is the last tunnel
before the line crosses the North St. Joe
River over a long high span bridge.
|But these pictures, taken from below the bridge show a different
view. This is the highest and longest of the old Milwaulkee
bridges that vehicles are allowed to drive on. Hikers and
Bikers can enjoy some higher and longer bridges further up the
|Driving over the North St. Joe Railroad
bridge. From this view, it's hard to see
how spectacular this bridge is.
|Tunnel # 35 is located just a 1/2 mile north
of the prior tunnel. both are fairly short.
|Tunnel # 36 is the first tunnel, located less
than 2 miles north of Avery.
|Avery, Idaho - Milwaukee Road Railroad Town
|Avery was a major Milwaukee Road hub, because electrification ended there in the later years, and it was a major yard, a crew switch point
and the place where electrics were switched to over diesel motive power or vise versa. When the Milwaukee left town, there wasn't much
reason for Avery to continue to exist. However, Avery did continued to serve trains for a few more years from Potlatch as they operated a
logging railroad from St. Maries, Idaho to Avery, Idaho. But by 1987, the Forest Service, forced Potlatch to abandoned the railroad for
reasons I don't quite understand. Because a major highway was built over the 12 miles of the railroad west of Avery by the Forest Service, I
assume they wanted the grade for this purpose. Today, that highway, completed by 1989, paved over the tracks and the giant railyard that
once encompassed Avery. But it also saved the small town somewhat, as it now has a new purpose as the gateway for tourists visiting St.
Paul Pass and nearby Idaho wilderness. I visited Avery in August, 2004.
|Looking at the depot
(pink building) from
across the Highway.
The highway, the
grass and where I'm
standing all used to a
be a large railroad
|The center of
Avery. To the left
is the old depot.
The rails used to
run here as well,
but are now paved
|The Avery depot was built in 1910 and
abandoned by the railroad by 1980. It was
later converted to the town post office and
library. Today it's been nicely maintained.
While the color is a little strange, it's a nice
|Although small, Avery does
have a gas station and store
and is a good place to fuel up.
|This passenger car was parked next to the depot and is on display. It appears that the town is working
to restore the car or perhaps turn it into another building. The small pond in the left picture actual
dates to the early days of the railroad. In 1910, passengers would watch and feed the fish in the pond,
just as you still can now.
|About 12 miles west of Avery, the highway
crosses the river, while the old grade was
left more intact and only graded for vehicle
traffic. This large ex-RR bridge crossed
the confuence of Francis and Agatha
Creeks and now allows vehicles to cross
|The last RR tunnel in the area that you can
easily drive through in Idaho when
heading west. I believe this is # 37
|The two photo on the left are of the Elk Creek railroad bridge
along with the photo on the right showing another railroad
bridge, both are converted for vehicle traffic. These located
just before you arrive at Calder, Idaho.
|One of the more interesting Milwaukee bridges on the line is strange looking double span through truss bridge, built in 1909. It was not abandoned when
Milwaulkee left the state. Instead it was used by Potlatch lumber for several more years as a logging railroad. But by the late 1980s, the rails were pulled up. It
was converted to a vehicle bridge, but because it sees little traffic and provides access only to a single lane dirt road (the old grade) all that was done to
convert the bridge was remove the rails, lay several planks down for tires and install large logs on either side to keep vehicles from sliding off the bridge.
|Note to Readers:
This page is not yet complete. There are still more photos to upload,
but I decided to go ahead and publish what I had so far. More will be added in the future as time allows.
|You can Email me anytime with questions, information or corrections.
|Return to my Railroad History Page
Return to the Historical Expeditions Page
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|Copyright © 2003-2005 Brian McCamish, All Rights Reserved
Note about the photos on this site:
Most photos were taken by me, except for those that are otherwise indicated. I usually allow people to use my photos for personal use or websites. Simply Email me.
I may not have authority to grant permission regarding some photos that were only loaned to me by others specifically for this website. Every effort has been made not
to include other's photos without the proper permission and credits, however, if you see any photos which belong to you and that I don't have permission to use, I
apologize. If you send me an Email, I will remove the photos immediately or give proper credit, which ever you wish.