I had not heard the term Milwaukee Road in years. I came across a plaque honoring the rail line when I was looking around Union Station in Chicago.
The railroad started in 1847 as the Milwaukee & Waukesha. At the time, rail was needed between Milwaukee and the Mississippi River. Changes came and went, the railroad went into receivership in 1859 and was purchased by another railroad and then combined with still another. Out of the chaos emerged the Milwaukee and St Paul. In 1874, the line absorbed the Chicago and Pacific Railroad Company. The name changed once again to the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul: The Milwaukee Road.
The passenger train was the Hiawatha. My grandmother told me stories of riding the Hiawatha from St. Paul to Chicago. It must have been quite the ride for the details flowed smoothly.
By the mid 1930’s the Hiawatha added the famed “Beaver Tail” cars. The streamlined observation cars were a hit, and earned their nickname from the rail car’s shape.
Milwaukee Road plaque: Union Station, Chicago
Expansion would begin with the Olympian Hiawatha, which ran out to Puget Sound; the Midwest Hiawatha, which ran between Chicago & Omaha; and the Southwest Limited: Chicago-Milwaukee-Kansas City.
There was a burst of ridership after WWII, and the railroad came out of the bankruptcy caused by the Great Depression. Unfortunately, like much of the railroad industry, hard times returned again. Between 1971-1974, Milwaukee Road lost $100 million. After downsizing, selling of track and assets, Milwaukee Road was finally bought by two competitors: Soo Line and C&NW. By 1986, the Milwaukee Road was on the route to memories.
Today, much of the abandoned Milwaukee Road is now Rails to Trails.
The U.S. Census starts its official count today, January 21, in Toksook Bay, Alaska. Since 1960, the first census year after Alaska became a state, the census has started in Alaska.
With 80% of Alaska communities not on the road system, and with many villages without extensive internet service, the census starts early in Alaska. Getting around remote Alaska is much easier when the ground is frozen. Also, it is much more difficult to count people, after many residents of Bush Alaska head out to their fish camps.
Thus the mid-winter start to the counting in Alaska.
I have a friend who was assigned to Toksook Bay as she works for the Census Bureau this season. I hope she has a wonderful experience. The first person interviewed by the Census is always a village elder. That first village varies, with the Alaska Federation of Natives deciding which village will be initially enumerated.
Toksook Bay is a coastal village on the Bering Sea.
This will be the 24th Census taken in the United States, with the first taking place in 1790. The majority of the country will see census forms start to show up in March.
It had been several years since I ventured into the Air Museum at Pioneer Park. Since they were experimenting with winter hours, I decided it was time to head back over there and see what was new.
Under The Dome: Inside the Air Museum
The Pioneer Air Museum houses a fairly extensive collection of aircraft and other artifacts mainly pertaining to Interior Alaska and Arctic aviation.
Ben Eielson Display
The first major display is on Ben Eielson, the famed aviator and Alaskan bush pilot. Eielson learned to fly in WWI, with the U.S Army Signal Corps. After the war, a chance run-in with Alaska’s territorial delegate to Congress, led to Eielson heading to Alaska to teach. By 1923, Eielson had started the Farthest North Aviation Company. Eielson was the first to fly air mail in Alaska, and the first to fly from North America over the North Pole to Europe.
In 1929, Eielson and his mechanic died in a plane crash in Siberia. The cargo ship Nanuk was frozen in sea ice off North Cape, and Eielson was contracted by expedition leader Olaf Swenson to fly out personnel and furs. The plane crashed in a storm, cruising at full throttle into the terrain. A faulty altimeter is the suspected cause of the crash. Parts of Eielson’s recovered aircraft is on display at the museum.
1935 Stinson SR-JR
This bright red Stinson SR-JR, the Spirit of Barter Island, came to Alaska in 1940, and was flying the Interior out of Fairbanks in 1953 for Interior Airways.
The Stinson in artwork
This SR-JR carries four passengers, has a cruising speed of 110mph, and a range of 450 miles. It was an Interior workhorse, and well known in the Fairbanks area. The image, “I Follow Rivers”, can be found on t-shirts around Fairbanks to this day.
Stinson V77: Peter Pan
The Stinson V77 is the Navy version of the SR-10 Reliant. “Peter Pan” flew the Kuskokwim and Yukon River mail runs. The Stinson Reliant was a favorite of bush pilots, as the aircraft was equally at ease landing on wheels, skis or floats. In 1949, “Peter Pan” made the flight from Bethel, Alaska to Boston, Mass. It is back in Alaska, on loan to the museum, from the bush pilot’s family.
1943 P-39 Wreckage
The P-39 Airacobra was a common sight in Alaska’s Interior during WWII, as it was a mainstay of lend-lease aircraft to the Soviets. This P-39 only made it to Fairbanks in pieces, as it was involved in a mid-air collision with another aircraft 60 miles east of Fairbanks. Both pilots survived the crash.
1942 ST Type Ryan PT-22
The PT-22 was used for flight training all over the globe. Over 14,000 Air Corps pilots trained in the PT-22. This particular PT-22 came to Fairbanks in 1956 after it was retired out of the military.
Manufactured by Bell Helicopter in 1966, this UH-1H “Huey”, saw combat in South Vietnam. During a mission in 1969, this UH-1H was hit by a rocket propelled grenade while landing. After the war, it came to Alaska, and was transferred around the Alaska Army bases, finally landing at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks. It was retired in 1993, and is on loan to the museum from the U.S. Army. The “Huey” is still maintained by Army personnel.
Thomas Ackerman photo
A visitor to the museum several years ago, recognized the Huey’s ID number as the one he flew during the Vietnam War. Sgt Thomas Ackerman was a crew-chief and gunman on this UH-1H. He supplied several photos of the Huey, during its time in Vietnam, to the museum, including the one above. Thomas Ackerman died of Agent Orange related cancer in 2004.
Forty Below brings calls about frozen pipes when you work construction. I’m not a plumber by trade, but when Fairbanks hits a cold snap, there are not enough plumbers or heating guys in the north for all of the calls. I don’t go out of my way to do these jobs, but if one of my regulars tracks me down, I’m not going to give them the cold shoulder.
The pictured cat belongs to one of my regular customers, and she does not like to be ignored. This was not the first time I’ve ignored this cat, only to have it leap upon my back, or shoulder, or use my leg as a scratching post. A thick work shirt is required here.
The cat is a curious creature: always fascinated with the work I’m doing, the tools of the job, and the materials needed. A newly opened wall is an invitation to a new adventure, and a ladder, of any kind, causes a race to the top.
The house also comes with a dog. The dog is not curious. In fact, the dog is a bit of a coward. Any work I do, sends it off shivering to the farthest corner of the house from where I’m working. The shivering often comes with a lot of whining. In the summer, I can let the dog outside, but at Forty Below, I’m stuck with the high pitched soundtrack coming from the corner.
First time in my life I find myself less of a dog-person.
The fine folks out at Poker Flat Research Range have announced future launch windows. The first one opens on 26 January. Poker Flat does stream the launches of their sounding rockets online. One can receive launch updates by following the instructions above.
The aurora in Venetie, Alaska; Photo credit: PFRR
PFRR also has their nightly All-Sky Camera, which is very sensitive to the aurora. You can find their camera here:
The Shishaldin Volcano on Unimak Island; Photo credit: USGS
Mount Shishaldin, which is one of the most beautiful and perfectly cone-shaped volcanos on the Aleutian Chain, has been restless since July 2019, with several short burst eruptions. At the end of December, temperature elevations were measured at its summit, and seismic activity had increased substantially.
This past Friday morning, Shishaldin erupted, sending ash five miles into the air. Volcanic lightning, and the glow of lava near the summit, could be seen from Cold Bay.
Shishaldin from high; Photo credit: AVO
At an elevation of 9373′, Mount Shishaldin is the highest peak in the Aleutians. Shishaldin is relatively young, with its cone less than 10,000 years old, although remnants of an ancestral volcano can be found on Unimak.
Mount Shishaldin, postcard image, circa 1910; Photo credit: J.E. Thwaites
The first known ascent of Shishaldin happened in 1932, when G. Peterson and two others, made the climb to the summit. It is widely understood, that native Aleuts and visiting Russians certainly made the climb previously, but their ascents were not documented.
Local climbers are known to still make the climb to Shishaldin’s summit, then ski back down its flank.
Claimed by South Saint Paul; adopted by the entire State of Hockey.
Credit: Golden Gopher Hockey
Doug Woog, the former coach of the University of Minnesota Gopher hockey team, passed away this past Saturday. Woog was 75.
Wooger was the Gopher coach for 14 years, leading the team to 12 consecutive national tournament appearances. He led the Gophers to the Frozen Four finals in his first four seasons behind the bench, and to six Frozen Fours in all.
At the time of Wooger’s retirement, he led the team in victories as a coach. Don Lucia has since passed him in wins. Woog still out paces Lucia in win percentage. His win percentage at Minnesota is also higher than two legends of the game: John Mariucci and Herb Brooks.
When Woog was coaching the Gophers, it was common knowledge in Minnesota, that if you wanted to complain about the Gopher power play, you didn’t have to go through the University switchboard. All you had to do was open the Saint Paul phone book: The Woogs were always listed.
After his coaching career, Woog made an incredibly easy transition into broadcasting Gopher hockey games. He was a natural, and another generation of fans came to know the Wooger.
Doug Woog receives a kiss from his goaltender after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Minneapolis Patrick Henry in the 1959 state tournament. Photo: Minnesota Hockey Hub
Doug Woog made the South Saint Paul high school hockey team as a 5’6″, 140 pound freshman. Woog and the Packers went to four state tournaments in hockey. Woog was All-State for three years, was named to the State’s All-Tournament team for three years, and led the tournament in scoring in 1962.
For good measure, Woog was also All-State in football as a tailback.
Doug Woog as a Gopher; Photo credit: Golden Gopher Hockey
Woog would go on to play for the University of Minnesota, under the God Father of Minnesota hockey, John Mariucci. He won three letters, since freshman were not allowed to play in this era. In 80 career games, Woog tallied 101 points. As a junior, he led the team in scoring, and was named First Team All-America. As a senior, Woog was named Gopher captain, and the team’s MVP.
Wooger showing concern over Referee Shepherd’s eyesight
With all of the high accolades that Woog received as both a hockey player and coach, I think he was really a teacher at heart.
When I was a student at the University of Minnesota, Doug Woog was the hockey coach. I spent many Friday & Saturday winter nights at the Old Mariucci Arena. Campus was a lot different back then. There was no “athlete village”, and running into players and coaches was a common occurrence. Since I played some rec sports during my time at the “U”, I was often around the sports facilities and I only remember two coaches that gave the time of day to the average student. One was the still current baseball coach, John Anderson, and the other was Woog. A quick comment to Woog of “Nice win on Saturday, Coach”, would more often than not get a response about how the transition game wasn’t quite what he was looking for, or the power play left some goals on the ice.
Once, while at Williams Arena, I literally ran into Coach Woog. I was probably picking up student tickets to the weekend series, and was bundled up to race across campus for a class I shouldn’t be late for. I bumped into Woog on my way to the door, and he joked about my being in a hurry, then he asked if I was going to the game on Friday. I said I was, then I said that the Gophers would have a tough time with So-And-So in goal for the opposing team. Woog then spent the next ten minutes telling me exactly how and why So-And-So would be that tough. Then he spent ten minutes telling me about their defensive corps. If I hadn’t stopped him, I think Coach Woog would have given me the run down on their entire line up, as well. I was young and foolish back then, and I thought that the class was a priority, so I raced off, no doubt leaving Woog chuckling. I was quite late to class anyway, and the professor made sure everyone in the hall knew I was late. It’s only years later that I realize that the class was the least important thing I did that entire day.
My favorite Woog story comes, of course, from North Dakota, Minnesota’s main rival at the time. As a student, nothing was better than a bus ride to Grand Forks to see Minnesota play NoDak. There is just something about youth that longs to be surrounded by people who utterly hate your very existence. A trip to Madison was second best; hat tip towards Peewaukee. Back in the day, when NoDak played the Gophers, their fans would throw dead prairie dogs onto the ice when North Dakota scored their first goal. Woog’s Gophers had one mission: To keep those dead prairie dogs in the NoDak fans’ pockets for as long as possible. A shutout was an epic victory. Woog relished the idea of the stinky, dead rodents thawing out inside the NoDak jackets.
I became excited about college hockey as a very young kid, sitting in the stands at Old Mariucci with my Dad, watching Herb Brooks coach the Gophers to national prominence. That culminated with the 1980 Miracle on Ice. But there is no doubt that I learned the game of hockey watching the Doug Woog coached Gophers.
Woog was a class act through and through, and he will be missed at rinks all around Minnesota. His passion and dedication to the sport was infectious, and he passed that on to so many people, that he didn’t even know were watching.