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Craftsman Boomer Trail Special - July 2010

The R&IT at Brown Street

The Milwaukee Road's old downtown station was a beehive of activity in the early 1950s. Amidst a sea of maroon and orange, a the Sturtevant Local is about to depart behind a knife-prowed DL-109. To the left a yard engine shuffles express cars on the left while on the right an EMD diesel is about to enter the trainshed.

When heaven was down at the corner of Clyborn and North 2nd: A visit to Milwaukee's downtown depot

by V.S. Roseman/photos by the author

NMRA 75th Anniversary ConventionI just came across some Kodachromes from the early 1950s when my family took a vacation in the west. We made a stopover in Milwaukee for a day so my dad could spend a day with an important client. We arrived at the Schroeder Hotel after dark and I only saw the train station for a few moments but I sure wanted to see the trains in daylight. My dad had given me a very good 35mm camera for my birthday—Heaven knows how many lunches he did without in order to buy it—a Contax IIa which took great photos. I had to earn everything myself for film and processing, so every shot counted.

In the morning, my mom and sister Carole planned an all day shopping trip downtown. My mom gave me directions to the art museum so I could spend the day there. While I enjoyed the paintings in the museums back home, I wasn’t much for going in and out of department stores all day. The museum seemed like a much better choice. I was given money for breakfast at the lunch counter in the drugstore on the corner. While the smell of bacon and eggs frying was tempting, I bought an extra roll of film instead. Color film was an expensive luxury in those days.

I walked down Wisconsin Avenue, but instead of turning left to the museum, I made a right turn to the train station. I figured I could spend a few minutes watching the trains, and then visit the museum. At home I almost never got to take photos of trains except once in a great while on family outings to the country. I knew the Milwaukee Road operated an attractive fleet of orange and maroon passenger trains out of a compact station downtown, and I was hoping to see one or two trains before I left.

Everett Street Station, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

From the sidewalk on Clybourn and North 2nd Street I could look right into the trainshed where brilliant colored orange and maroon diesels peaked out. I knew enough to stay on the sidewalk to shoot photos. I took a couple of shots of yard movements in an out of the station. The gates went down and one of the diesel engines on a long train rolled to a stop right next to me. The engineer climbed down and asked what I was taking photos of. I showed him a couple of wallet size prints of trains I had brought from home and he seemed impressed. He told me there was no way I could get any really good photos from the sidewalk. I thought I was getting into trouble when he called over a passing railroad policeman. But then he said: “This is my nephew, out from New York. Would it be okay if he comes on the property to take some photos of the trains?” The policeman said it was okay and told me to be careful for trains could move at any time. I thanked them both, and then the engineer was back in his diesel, and the train rolled off towards Chicago.

Left alone in a paradise of passenger trains, I had a ball photographing all of the movements in and out of the station. There were long distance trains to the west, local trains to Chicago and an endless supply of yard engines going about their business of shoving cars around. My stomach began to growl and I realized that I hadn't eaten lunch. I was wondering what to do, since I sorta used my llunch money to buy another roll of film. I thought I was in trouble again when a cook in the open door of a dining car called out to me. I froze in my tracks, and he waved to me and asked if I would like some lunch. I was more than happy to accept his kind offer!

I ate with the dining car crew who were all dressed in spotless white uniforms. I remember he told me to eat hearty so I could play for the Packers when I grew up (they probably didn't know what to make of my Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap). Cook told me that his car, an old one that had run up thousands of miles on the Seattle run years ago, was now relegated to secondary services. He said his old dining car still had lots of good miles left in it, and he proudly showed me his gleaming kitchen and told me that he would rather have this old car than any of the new streamlined dining cars the railroad was getting.

I thanked everyone and headed back outside to photograph the afternoon parade. As excited as I was, I focused every shot, and checked the exposures. No grab shots when film was so precious. I couldn’t have asked for nicer shooting conditions with a sparkling blue sky and white clouds all day with the parade of trains put on by Milwaukee Road. All too soon I clicked off my very last shot. I noticed the sky in the east had started to darken. I was late.

I ran all the way up North 5th Street to the Schroeder Hotel entrance. I caught my breath as I went up in the elevator, hoping Mom wouldn't be mad at me for being late. My mom opened the door to our room and told me that it looked like I got a little sun today. I didn't feel it, but one look in the mirror showed that my now-sunburned skin had given me away. I am sure Mom knew where I had been, but she only asked if I had a good time. Sometimes my Mom could be cool about things like this.

I continued to take train pictures for many years afterwards, but I always treasured that day spent in Milwaukee. Returning for a visit years later, I saw the station had been replaced by parking lots and a new electric company building. The old Public Service building was still there (The tan building with the two smokestacks in the photos), but the railroad right of way west of 5th Street was now mostly parking lots. The south side of Clybourn was now a superhighway. I couldn’t find the Frankenfurth or Pritzlaff hardware buildings, and even the Gimbels warehouse was gone. It is hard to believe that the Milwaukee Road itself is gone too, but I am sure glad I had my camera when I got to visit a little bit of heaven on the corner of Clyborn and North 2nd...

I took my first photo From the sidewalk of North 2nd. Street across the street from the station. An Alco switcher shifts cars on the left, and at the center, is local train #262 from Sturdevent with an FP-7 on the front. Presiding over the action, of course was the station tower.

I took my first photo From the sidewalk of North 2nd. Street across the street from the station. An Alco switcher shifts cars on the left, and at the center, is local train #262 from Sturdevent with an FP-7 on the front. Presiding over the action, of course was the station tower.

 

The crossing gates stayed down while #1645, an EMD yard switcher moved in to shift some cars. At the center, the 9:45 is leaving for Chicago.

The crossing gates stayed down while #1645, an EMD yard switcher, moved in to shift some cars. At the center, the 9:45 is leaving for Chicago.

 

With the yard engine out of the way, an FM Erie Built pulls in from the west with a local train. At the center, a Santa Fe storage mail car up from Kansas City is being unloaded. After the Chicago train moved out, the signal was cleared for this Chicago Northwestern diesel to haul some mail and express cars from their station across town over to the Milwaukee Road.

With the yard engine out of the way, an FM Erie-Built pulls in from the west with a local train. At the center, a Santa Fe storage mail car up from Kansas City is being unloaded. After the Chicago train moved out, the signal was cleared for this Chicago & NorthWestern diesel to haul some mail and express cars from their station across town over to the Milwaukee Road.

 

#1645, an EMD yard engine is about to couple up to a dining car, while diesels on an incoming southbound train are getting attention. I was standing under the awning of the mail handling building.

Switcher #1645 is about to couple up to a dining car, while diesels on an incoming southbound train are getting attention. I was standing under the awning of the mail handling building.

 

As the noon Chicago train begins to roll on the far track, one of the road’s Alco DL-109s has just come to a stop in the station, blocking my view of the Fairbanks Morse diesels, but the two together made an even better subject. On the left, some mail sacks get shoved into place while waiting for loading into an arriving train.

As the noon Chicago train begins to roll on the far track, one of the road’s Alco DL-109s has just come to a stop in the station, blocking my view of the Fairbanks Morse diesels, but the two together made an even better subject. On the left, some mail sacks get shoved into place while waiting for loading into an arriving train.

 

About to enter the trainshed is a northbound train up from Chicago has a Railway Post Office car in a streamlined consist behind the Alco road diesel. On On the left, mail sacks are being loaded onto the wagons off a string of storage mail cars.

About to enter the trainshed is a northbound train up from Chicago has a Railway Post Office car in a streamlined consist behind the Alco road diesel. On On the left, mail sacks are being loaded onto the wagons off a string of storage mail cars.

 

It is just after 2PM and the northbound Afternoon Hiawatha, train 101 pulls in en route to Minneapolis. Yard engines are paused to begin splitting off cars for 101-29 to Madison and 101-21, the Chippewa/North Woods Hiawatha to Calumet, Iron River, Tomahawk and Woodruff.

It is just after 2:00PM and the northbound Afternoon Hiawatha, train 101 pulls in en route to Minneapolis. Yard engines are paused to begin splitting off cars for 101-29 to Madison and 101-21, the Chippewa/North Woods Hiawatha to Calumet, Iron River, Tomahawk and Woodruff.

 

This view of the west end of the trainshed shows the businesses on Clybourn Street from the Railway Express end of the station. The Hiawatha, (center) is still rolling slowly as a flagman walks ahead making sure everyone is off the track.

This view of the west end of the trainshed shows the businesses on Clybourn Street from the Railway Express end of the station. The Hiawatha, (center) is still rolling slowly as a flagman walks ahead making sure everyone is off the track.

 

The roar of an Alco engine got my attention and I got this photo of Alco switcher 1679 about to pull the express car which has just been loaded up. On the left, the engine for the North Woods Hiawatha awaits that express car being fitted into the consist before coupling up to the train.

The roar of an Alco engine got my attention and I got this photo of Alco switcher 1679 about to pull the express car which has just been loaded up. On the left, the engine for the North Woods Hiawatha awaits that express car being fitted into the consist before coupling up to the train.

 

I had just reloaded my film when the crossing gates went down on 5th Street and I just had time to focus to get #1645 running light westbound after having dropped more mail and express cars in the station. By this time of day the Fast Mail, a solid train of mail and express, was starting to be made up for its nighttime run.

I had just reloaded my film when the crossing gates went down on 5th Street and I just had time to focus to get #1645 running light westbound after having dropped more mail and express cars in the station. By this time of day the Fast Mail, a solid train of mail and express, was starting to be made up for its nighttime run.

 

The gates are down while train #15 the Olympian Hiawatha up from Chicago pulls in to load passengers for Tacoma, Seattle and points west, while at the center FP7 #91A is ready to leave with a northbound local.

The gates are down while train #15 the Olympian Hiawatha up from Chicago pulls in to load passengers for Tacoma, Seattle and points west, while at the center FP7 #91A is ready to leave with a northbound local.

 

Rochester Goodman Street Yard

The Olympian is now in place with the engine being fueled- the gates go up and street traffic on 5th and Clybourn can move, but motorists off North 5th have to negotiate around the Olympian’s diesel engine in the middle of the street. Both the railroad and the City of Milwaukee disliked the situation on these crossings, even if it was a young railfan's dream.

Look for Carstens and Railroad Model Craftsman at the NMRA 75th Anniversary Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this July 11-18, 2010! There's still time to register, sign up today!



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