In the 1860s, Milwaukee banker Alexander Mitchell pieced together several different railroad companies into a unified system that would eventually become the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific – The Milwaukee Road.
A north-south connector track was built in 1869 to link the former M&M line in the Menomonee Valley with the La Crosse & Milwaukee at North Milwaukee Junction near 32nd and Hampton. When it was completed, the former La Crosse & Milwaukee track became a 6.2-mile branch line that was officially called the Chestnut Street Line. (Chestnut Street is the former name of Juneau Avenue, the location of the line’s original downtown yard.) But the railroad through Riverwest was destined to play a significant role in the New Milwaukee Road, Generating more freight cars & revenue per mile than any other part of the vast Milwaukee Road system.
With four major breweries, Miller, Schlitz, Pabst, and Blatz, 3 of them near the southern end, it’s not surprising the railroad soon acquired its “Beer Line” nickname. Beer was big business for the line.
On some days, more than 350 railroad cars were loaded with beer and dispatched over the line.
Train after train rolled through Riverwest. As many as 100 cars in some trains – a moving steel wall of Beer cars nearly a mile long.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the railroad maintained a tiny “crossing shanty” at the corner of Locust and Humboldt.
As the trains approached, an elderly man would emerge from the little shack and wave a sign to stop traffic.
A heavy train climbing the river bluff from North Avenue would take 10 minutes to struggle through the intersection,
But there were many more customers for the railroad, The Beer Line was lined with heavy industry, including American Motors Body Plant, which required 40 to 50 freight cars a day. Other major shippers included Continental Can.
The Beer Line grew up with the brewing industry and it faded when brewing faded from the Milwaukee scene.
Blatz closed in 1959. Schlitz, which once accounted for hundreds of carloads a day, began to unravel, finally closing in 1982. Pabst, also gave up on rail service. In the mid-1970s, American Motors sharply scaled back production at its Capitol Drive facility. By the 1980s, the plant was shut down.
The Railroad in financial trouble- reorganized & shed two-thirds of its trackage.
The Milwaukee Road itself was in a death spiral, soon broken up and sold off in pieces,
It was acquired by the Soo Line Corp. on February 21, 1985, which operated it as the Milwaukee Road, Inc., until merging it into the Soo Line on January 1, 1986.
Despite its financial difficulties, the Milwaukee was innovative. It pioneered long-distance electrification (656 route miles), construction of all-welded freight and passenger cars, and operation of high-speed intercity passenger trains. (The steam powered Hiawatha commonly ran over 125 mph.) The road employed thousands and touched millions of lives during its operation - It's legacy continues today through the interests of hobbyists and historians alike.
<h5> Long live The Milwaukee Road!!</h5>