Sunday, February 7, 2010

The King of the Rails ...

One more piece of railroad-related art before we move on to other things ... and this one is perhaps my favorite.

The construction of the Milwaukee Road across Montana was one of the state's greatest engineering efforts, and it had an even more exceptional sequel -- soon after it opened, the railroad decided to electrify the most mountainous parts of its line. Hydroelectric power from Great Falls was transmitted to the railway, and then transferred to specially-built locomotives via a system of catenary wires strung above the tracks. It was thoroughly impressive technology for its day, almost unprecedented in its setting and scale. For decades thereafter, the Milwaukee was the longest electrified railroad in America.

Justifiably, the Milwaukee's electrification project drew significant attention, both in the engineering community and beyond. The railroad heavily advertised the new technology and its benefits -- as did General Electric, which designed and supplied much of the equipment. Many of the promotional materials featured dramatic, almost futuristic art ... like this gorgeous example, which graced the cover of a small book about the electrification that the railroad published in 1917.

4 comments:

  1. Oh no Mark- where can I get a copy of that image, and how can I hvae it made into artwork for our house? We ARE naming our dog after a Milwaukee Road referance...

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  2. Isn't that the greatest image??! And it would definitely make an amazing poster, but as far as I know it's never been reprinted. (Maybe we should do it, and make a fortune! :-)

    Anyhow, there's a copy of the entire booklet available online at the link below. Lots of great stuff in there, and I bet Dusty would definitely enjoy looking at it:

    http://milwaukeeroadarchives.com/Electrification/TheKingoftheRails.pdf

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  3. Speaking of rails...some of your readers may be interested in the history of the US's FIRST entirely electrified railroad: The Butte, Anaconda and Pacific. Nice name...but the "Pacific" aspect didn't exist.

    The BAP ran ore from the Butte mines to the smelter in Anaconda; no surprise, it was owned by the ACM Co.

    Hmmmm, think I'll do a bit of research!

    Also, the economic decision of electrification on the lines through the mountain regions west of Harlowton, MT (the Eastern starting point) was based on:

    1. Cost of getting coal supplies into that region (away from river barges...)
    2. Promise of cheap hyrdo power, and
    3. Re-capture (into batteries) of electricity on the numerous "down-hauls" in mountains.

    Many, many towns in Montana owe their existence to the RR's: The Milwaukee Road, the Great Northern, and the Northern Pacific. Deer Lodge was a major repair center for the Milwaukee, complete with machine shops, a large roundhouse, etc. etc.

    The Northern Pacific, which also ran through Deer Lodge, had no major facilities in the town.

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