Tag Archives: st paul

The Milwaukee Road

Chicago – Milwaukee – Saint Paul

1847 – 1986

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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.

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Hiawatha’s “Beavertail”

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.

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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.


Saint Paul’s Union Depot


Saint Paul’s Union Depot in 1881

Union Depot first opened along the Mississippi River in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1881. Nine railroads joined forces to form the Saint Paul Union Depot Company, they included the Great Northern; Northern Pacific; Chicago, St Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha; Chicago, Milwaukee & St Paul, Chicago Great Western; Chicago Burlington & Quincy; Minneapolis, St Paul, Sault St. Marie; Minneapolis & St Louis; Chicago Rock Island & Pacific.


Union Depot in 1889

The original depot was damaged by a fire in 1884 and was rebuilt. By 1888, 8 million passengers went through Saint Paul’s Union Depot, and 150 trains departed daily.
In 1913, the original Union Depot was completely destroyed by fire.


Union Depot today

New construction of the Saint Paul depot was driven by railroad tycoon James J. Hill. Architect Charles Sumner Frost was chosen to design the new Union Depot. Construction began in 1917, but World War I slowed the project considerably. It didn’t help that James J. Hill had died the previous year. The new Union Depot was completed in 1923 at a cost of $15 million. By contrast, the original depot cost $125,000 in 1881.


Inside Union Depot’s Great Hall

As luck and plans would have it, I’ve traveled through Saint Paul’s Union Depot several times over the past year. As a stop on Amtrak’s Empire Builder Line, there is daily service to/from Chicago and Seattle.

In 2010, Union Depot underwent a massive renovation by the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority. 10,000 square feet of Tennessee pink marble floors, walls and columns were cleaned of close to a century of use. The electrical, HVAC, and communications received extensive upgrades. One acre (38,000 square feet) of decorative ceiling plaster was restored. All 63 arched windows were removed & restored. The original oak cabinets, like the one in the photo above, were restored in St Paul, and put back in their original locations, complete with modern screens for train information.

After the $243 million restoration, Union Depot reopened to the public in December of 2012.

There is a small display of Union Depot’s history located near Gate B. Many of the items displayed here were found during the restoration in 2012.

Currently, Amtrak, the METRO light rail, Metro Transit bus service, Greyhound Lines, Jefferson Lines and Megabus all service Union Depot.


The Twin Cities Zephyr in Saint Paul, circa 1935


Cathedral of St. Paul


Frozen Four 2018

XCel Energy Center
Saint Paul, Minnesota


The X

The Frozen Four, college hockey’s national championship, returned to Saint Paul for the first time since 2011. The tournament featured the University of Minnesota-Duluth against The Big Ten, as three B1G teams made the finals this year. Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan joined Duluth at The X.


UMD and OSU in warmups

Game one on Thursday saw The Duluth Bulldogs face the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Dawgs came out fast, scoring two goals in the first 3:04. Defenseman Louie Roehl opened the scoring. Roehl never scored a goal in high school.

Ohio State was never really in the game, which had to frustrate the Buckeyes, as they defeated the reigning national champs, Denver, in their regional. After putting two in the net, Duluth went to a defensive game plan, and really shut OSU down.


Opening puck drop, UMD v OSU

OSU eventually scored a PPG at the 9:37 mark of the third period, but that was the only goal the Buckeyes put behind Duluth goaltender Hunter Shepard. Duluth would move on to the title game with a 2-1 win.


Warm ups between Michigan and Notre Dame

In game two we saw Michigan take on the Irish of Notre Dame. Michigan was trying for its 10th National Championship in hockey, and The Irish were trying for their first.

Michigan drew first blood, with a goal by Tony Calderone in the first period. The Wolverines added to their lead early in period two, on a freak bounce of a goal, as the puck ricocheted off a Notre Dame defenseman, and into the Irish net. Notre Dame would tie the game at 2 later in the period.

1:35 into period three, the Irish went ahead 3-2 on a nice goal by Cal Burke. Michigan, once again tied things up at 3, late in regulation. It looked like the late game was going into overtime. On what looked to be a harmless drive towards the Michigan net, Cam Morrison made a great effort to center the puck to Jake Evans. Evans was able to get enough on the shot, to slide the puck under Wolverine goaltender Hayden Lavigne with 5.7 seconds left in the game. It was Evans’ second goal of the game, and it sent Notre Dame into the final against Duluth.


Post game handshake Michigan and Notre Dame


“The Brew that Grew with the Great Northwest”

Schmidt Brewery
The old Schmidt Brewery in St Paul