Search billions of records on

The Milwaukee Road (Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific)

The Milwaukee Road is now little more than a memory in the collective American consciousness, but once it was a mighty engineering feat stretching from Illinois to the Pacific Northwest. The last major western transcontinental railroad constructed, the Milwaukee tackled tougher gradients and wilder terrain than any of its competitors, resulting in the added benefit to its passengers of fantastic mountain scenery. Operationally, however, scenery has its costs. The Milwaukee always looked at ways to improve operations, including electrifying portions of its Rocky Mountain and Cascade mountain range routes. It could be argued that the Pacific Extension should never have been built, that it doomed the railroad from the start with more route miles than it could ever maintain. However, the fact that the core system lasted until the 1985 takeover by the Soo Line is testament to the tenacity of the men and women who struggled day to day to get the trains over the road.

Personnel Records

As is the case with many industries, personnel records generally have not been retained as historical documents by the railroads. The Milwaukee Road is no exception, and records that exist are in fragmented form. Some archival materials exist in libraries (such as the Milwaukee Public Library's Central Library), in archives (such as the Wisconsin State Historical Society in Madison), and in the collections of railfans throughout the country.

An example of the latter type of record is contained in the link below. Several years ago I came upon original copies of personnel change records for 8 employees of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. Records are for such things as test results for engineer exams, establishing starting dates of service, results of eye exams. Mostly these are pretty routine, unless they happen to be ancestors of yours! I have posted JPG format graphic files of some of these documents. Some of the originals are slightly singed-I have the feeling someone pulled these out of a company bonfire! I haven't figured out anywhere else on the Internet to post these, so here they are.

Accident Reports

A different type of record can be found online from the Department of Transportation. These records are accident reports involving injury or death to passengers, crew or trespassers due to derailment or collision. The reports start in 1911 and continue through the 1960s, however the reports after 1940 do not contain any names and are of rather limited use to genealogical researchers trying to find a specific person. The records that do contain names usually only contain the LAST name (such as "Conductor Smith"), but in some cases much more info is given. (I have also tried to fill in additional information from other sources, such as articles in The Milwaukee Road Magazine employee publication and The Milwaukee Railroader railfan magazine). The location of the accidents can give clues as to the geographic locale of the individuals, as train and engine personnel rarely strayed from their divisions, and often resided in either of the endpoint towns of the divisions. With those hints/warnings, I present the next two files, my indexes to the ICC data for the Milwaukee Road from 1911-1940. These indexes are based on my review of 102 separate accident reports. These actual ICC summary reports can be viewed online in HTML and PDF format. Once at the DOT site, click on the I.C.C. Historical Railroad Investigation Reports (1911-1966) link for a searchable index page. Searching on the ICC report number will probably work best.

ICC Reports Part 1, Adams through Jenkins
ICC Reports Part 2, Jentges through Zimmerman

1889-1892 City Directory Listings

Federal Census records do not exist for much of the country for 1890. The city directories published by Curtis, Wright and other companies provide a partial substitute to the missing census, and in some cases railroad workers are identified by railroad company. Click on the link below to go to the Directory page.

1890 Wisconsin City Directories, Railroad Employee Listings

Miscellaneous Files

Here is a listing of Milwaukee Road operating divisions as they existed in 1944.

Toward the end of it's corporate life, the road had truncated back to a core Midwest system. Here is a list of company officials and sales department contacts from May, 1984, as contained in The Official Railway Guide, North American Freight Service Edition.

Milwaukee Road Archives Information

The Milwaukee Road Archives were deposited in the 1980s with the Milwaukee County Federated Library System at the Milwaukee Central Library (814 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53233-2385, (414) 286-3000). The holdings are large and are in the process of being organized by volunteers from the Milwaukee Road Historical Association. Much of the work to date has gone into stabilizing and cataloging blueprints, track diagrams, and photos. Among the photos that have been indexed are photos of individuals (such as group photos around locomotives, etc.).

There are some employee records and those that have been examined are indexed. They also have a complete set of the Milwaukee Railroad employee magazines, and have a last name index on-line. The collection is fantastic and library staff and volunteers have worked hard to make it all accessible.

There are boxes of materials that have not been explored yet, and more coming in from former railroaders and railfans, so it's hard to know what may turn up in the future. For more info and to browse the materials on-line, check the MPL site

Join the Milwaukee Road Historical Association

Back to Railroads