Thursday, July 17, 2008

Notes on the Milwaukee Road Moses Lake Branch

Stations on this branch were Tiflis (where it had a junction with the Marcellus branch), Jardine, Sieler, Scalley, McDonald, Goodrich, and Moses Lake.

The line generated pretty good money, $2.6 million in 1972, $3.2 million in 1973 and $2.7 million in 1974 (from total revenue traffic of $4.1 million).

The big station was not Moses Lake, but Scalley.

Moses Lake was a $339,000 station in 1972 and grew to $619,000 in 1974, but Scalley was a $1.4 million station in 1972, $1.7 million in 1973 and $1.3 million in 1974. McDonald generated between $780,000 and $1 million each year. Most of the freight off the line was $1,100/carload freight probably sugar to Minneapolis since the Milwaukee was using air-slide hopper cars. (Milwaukee's average carload revenue in 1974 was $401).

Scalley was the only community Milwaukee listed on that line as being
served by another railroad, but Milwaukee did pretty well there anyway. What is interesting is that Scalley had a lot of terminating tonnage.

Compared to 735 carloads outgoing, it had 1,482 carloads of terminating tonnage. It was only $152/carload business, however, which looks like very local traffic of some sort, but a lot of it.

The rest of the line total only had 300 carloads of terminating tonnage: feed, seed, and implements, so Scalley was atypical. Milwaukee listed no population at all for that station.

Scalley was U&I Sugar (built 1954). It was never a community, just an Northern Pacific name for the industrial area south of Wheeler. There were a few houses in the area but not a community so to speak. The Milwaukee had access to the U and I plant by a 4 1/4 mile spur which originated west of Seiler.

Milwaukee got the U&I traffic because their service was superior to Northern Pacific/Burlington Northern's. The NP/BN would trundle the U&I loads down to Connell, then they would go on down to Pasco, then be sorted, then get on a train to Minot, then be sorted again, then get on a train to Minneapolis. Very slow service.

Milwaukee's Mosey Local would take the sugar loads to Othello during the night where they would be picked up by train 264 or 2-262 the next morning and go straight to St. Paul. Very good service.


When the Milwaukee Road was in its bankruptcy period, traffic on the Moses Lake branch was considered very lucrative and was highly considered as part of keeping the railroad afloat.

In 1979, a potato shipper operating both "Moses Lake-Othello" facilities was attempting to commit Milwaukee to shipping an additional 1,000 refrigerated
piggyback trailers long haul to Chicago and another 1,000 refrigerated trailer shipments were committed from the Pacific Northwest Shipper's Association long haul to points east from "Moses Lake -- Othello."

American Potato was identified separately as guaranteeing 232 carloads of long haul through Chicago. U&I sugar promised 426 carloads from Scalley to Minneapolis if equipment was available.

This was all long-haul and represented an additional $2 to 3 million in revenue available to the Milwaukee if it elected to upgrade its tracks and not abandon them.

The Burlington Northern saw a good deal when the Milwaukee abandoned its tracks west of Miles City, Montana in 1980. The BN purchased the Moses Lake branch, plus the Milwaukee mainline from Warden to Royal City Jct and Royal City.

BN tied in its NP branch with the Milwaukee mainline at Warden, where the NP had crossed over the Milwaukee, with a small piece of new track, getting rid of the overpass.

The section of the Moses Lake branch from Warden to Seiler was abandoned (along with all of the Marcellus branch), but the section of the NP connecting to the Milwaukee at Scalley was used to access the remaining Moses Lake branch.

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