Railroads of Montana
and the Pacific Northwest
Photography by Dale Jones







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The Milwaukee Road in Northern Idaho

The 50-mile trip "Up the St. Joe" to Avery from St. Maries, Idaho is not as challenging
as when the Milwaukee Road was alive and running. In the past, the trek included many miles
of single track dirt road that was incredibly dusty in summer and mostly muddy the rest of the year.
Today, St. Joe River Road [Forest Highway #50] is paved from St. Maries to Avery with an average 50mph speed. Beware - just as in the past, log trucks are a standard feature of the road and are worthy of respect.

This webpage will attempt to capture the ambiance of the Milwaukee Road in Northern Idaho.
Much of the information is supplementary to my book "
The Milwaukee Road Connection - Spokane to Butte"    

The Milwaukee Road as an operating entity formerly left Washington and Idaho in March 1980,
therefore many of the images will show "Then & Now" comparisons.

The two photos below of the Milwaukee Road Avery, Idaho "West Yard" engine servicing facility were taken 38-years years apart. A landmark establishing the yard location is the power pole with the transformer in the background across the St. Joe River. I was standing very close to the same spot on the hillside in both photos, but because of decades of vegetation growth and removal of the oil tank on "Tank Creek,"
 the scene is not exact, but reasonably close considering the time span between images.

 Avery, Idaho "West Yard" Engine Serving Facilities
April 27, 1974                                                                  September 21, 2012

It goes without saying that during the previous century, industrial development took precedence over
future environmental consequences. After the Milwaukee Road left the region; Avery was considered
a Superfund cleanup site. Beginning in the Spring of 2012, the WaterTectonics Company worked with Pacific Pile & Marine to provide a 300gpm WaveIonics electrocoagulation system to meet required
effluent treatment requirements. The project involved dredging various areas of contaminated sediment
in the river, treating the water from the work areas, and then safely discharging it back to the environment;
much of the residual sediment was trucked offsite. It appears that as of 2018,
much of the area has been reclaimed and returned to private landholders.   

 Avery, Idaho "West Yard" Looking East Toward Town
June 21, 1970                                                                  July 20, 2018

The two photographs above have 48-years of history separating them; to the left, in June of 1970, the ultimate demise of the Milwaukee could not be known; and on the right, by July 2018, the story of the Milwaukee Road would be difficult to imagine if not for these images.

In comparison, from left to right in the 1970 vintage photograph; note the hillside with the diesel oil tank,
the Milwaukee mainline and two tracks with double crossover's to facilitate switching,
various yard tracks with maintenance-of-way equipment.
To the right; the scenery remains constant, but the oil tank, yard tracks
and all vestiges of the Milwaukee Road are gone with
St. Joe River Road [Forest Highway #50] now front and center.   

Avery, Idaho Milwaukee Road Depot
September 21, 2012

The Avery depot on September 21, 2012 - by 2018 the foliage has grown but essentially looks the same.
The community has preserved the depot and houses the Avery Post Office and Avery area Museum.
[See interior photos below]

             Interior View of Avery, Idaho Museum                              Interior View of Avery, Idaho Museum              Example of Historical Photos at Avery Museum  

Avery, Idaho Depot Looking East
April 27, 1974                                                         July 20, 2018


I remember Saturday, April 27, 1974; I wanted to go down to Avery from Spokane to catch some
photographs of the last Milwaukee Road electric's. Since the Milwaukee was in entrenchment;
in other words, a scramble to stay afloat, much of the deferred maintenance was beginning to be apparent.
A Little Joe slept at the roundhouse unable to work as there was yet another derailment
"up on the hill" near Stetson...ultimately resulting in no westbound traffic for the day.
The train in the above left photograph was probably more historic than a Little Joe powered freight.
The last 1916 vintage Milwaukee boxcabs, E34A, E45C and E34B were being towed west on their
last trip from Avery to a Tacoma scrap yard. Two months later, on June 15, 1974,
the Milwaukee formerly ended its mainline electrification. I've often wondered who the boy
in the red raincoat was and did he know the significance of the moment? I tried to recreate the
scene in the in July 2018, 48-years later; but alas it's impossible to catch the wind.   

Milwaukee Passenger Car "Twin Grove" at Avery
    September 12, 2012          Milwaukee Road Parlor Car "Twin Grove" at Avery, Idaho          July 20, 2018 

Today, sitting just east of the Avery depot is cafe-parlor car #185 "Twin Grove,"
which also contains a museum with an excellently maintained interior. 
In 2017, volunteers completely reupholstered the seats.
If you have never visited this museum - it's well worth the drive up from St. Maries.
It is one of the most well preserved Milwaukee Road sites in Northern Idaho.
Nearly all efforts making this museum successful are from the local community.
Take note of this - Avery only has a reported year-around population of 25...yes, 25 people.
The comparison images from 2012 and 2018 reveal the car's paint is severely cracked and faded.
The "Twin Grove" is in desperate need of a new coat of paint to preserve the integrity of this historic passenger car.
To donate for the maintenance and upkeep of the Avery Museum and "Twin Grove."

Make funds payable to and send them to:
Avery Citizen's Committee, Inc.
PO Box 143
Avery, ID 83802-0143
You may also contact me below and I will forward your email message to the staff.
Avery, Idaho Museum

The Milwaukee Road was unique among US railroads in building most of its lightweight passenger cars
in its own shops.
(The Pullman-Standard sleeping cars and the Super Domes were
among the exceptions.) The post-war Hiawatha's and Pioneer Limited used many new cars, but soon many of these newcomers began to support the secondary trains. Over the years the "Grove" series cafe-parlors (180-185)
were assigned to different trains in the fleet, and two cars (182 "Union Grove" and 185 "Twin Grove")
were converted into
diner-lounges in 1959 for service on the Pioneer Limited

During the train's early years, the Pioneer Limited was noted for a number of "firsts": it had the first government railway mail contract in the region, the first sleeping cars on the route,
and was the region's first electrically-lighted and steam-heated train -
the Pioneer Limited was also noted for its dining car service.

Streamlined, all-room sleeping cars first appeared on the Pioneer Limited in 1948.
The Pioneer Limited was unusual in that it contained streamlined equipment home built
in the Milwaukee Road's Milwaukee Menomonee valley shops.

As railway passenger traffic dwindled nationwide in the 1950s and 1960's, and passenger-train revenues were further eroded by the ending of most federal mail contracts -this state of affairs resulted in the discontinuance of the Pioneer Limited, with the train's final runs in September 1970.

Today, this rail car sits quite proudly in Avery, Idaho next to the depot she may have very well passed by many years before. [See interior photos below taken September 21, 2012.]

     Interior View of "Twin Grove" at Avery, Idaho                      Interior View of "Twin Grove" Kitchen                    Interior View of "Twin Grove" at Avery, Idaho  

The Avery, Idaho Fishpond
    October 1973       Photo Courtesy Jerry Quinn          Avery, Idaho Fishpond          July 20, 2018 

The fishpond at Avery is a landmark apparently over 100-years old.
Research photographs show the pond on the depot grounds in circa 1915.
Even though is was rebuilt throughout the years, the fishpond was a diversion
for travelers on the Milwaukee Road. I remember back in the late 1960s
there was a bobcat in a cage near the pond - the bob cat probably would have been
happier having some of the fish for dinner! One museum staff member stated he believed
the Rainbow Trout in the pond are presently [2018] eight years old.  

 Avery, Idaho Depot Album from the Jerry Quinn Collection
   Little Joe E70 Eastbound Avery Depot 1970s         Photos Courtesy Jerry Quinn Collection        Little Joe E71 Eastbound Avery Depot  1970s

   Looking East From CCC Bridge July1965      Photos Courtesy Jerry Quinn Collection         Looking East From CCC Bridge June 1973

Avery, Idaho Engine Shops Album from the Jerry Quinn Collection

   Looking East Across Turntable June 1973    Photos Courtesy Jerry Quinn Collection         Turntable Pit   June 1973

  Little Joe E78 Being Turned  June 1973    Photos Courtesy Jerry Quinn Collection      Looking West From Roundhouse to Turntable Pit   August 1972

   Looking East - Empty Shops June 1974    Photos Courtesy Jerry Quinn Collection     Roundhouse From Tank Creek Hill Turntable Pit   May15, 1974

   The Olympian Approaching Avery 1950s      Photos Courtesy Jerry Quinn Collection         Avery Logger Leaving Avery August 1980


Below are photographs from a "Road Trip" taken in September 2012.
It begins [west to east] up the North Fork of the St. Joe from Avery to Pearson,
where the old Milwaukee Road roadbed turns into the biking/hiking only "Hiawatha Trail."
The trip can also be driven east to west from Loop Creek via St. Paul Pass or Moon Pass.`

The road from St. Maries is paved all the way to Avery. From Avery up the "North Fork," the road [Forest Service Road #456 - Moon Pass Road] is constructed on top of the old Milwaukee Road roadbed - it is widened to accommodate two lanes of traffic and in most places, room to pull over if needed. The grade is gentle as it was the former railroad grade. It's graded dirt and can be muddy when wet and "washboardy" when dry. There are no guardrails and the tunnels are narrow since they only had to be wide enough for trains - that being said, drive slow through tunnels with your lights on and honk your horn before entering [the horn echoes quite well in the tunnel] As may be seen from the accompanied photographs - tour buses with seniors from Spokane are also encountered!

Below is a series of photographs of the seven tunnel west portals from Avery up the canyon east in the afternoon - the east portals have sun on them only in the morning and even then, some are in the shadow because of the steep terrain along the grade.

                      West Portal Tunnel #36                                                West Portal Tunnel #35                             West Portal Tunnel #34 with Forest Service Truck

             West Portal Tunnel #33 with Tour Bus!                                  West Portal Tunnel #32                                                   West Portal Tunnel #31

                      West Portal Tunnel #30                             Snags From 1910 "Great Burn" in the Bogle Spur/Railroad Creek Area Near Pearson - Moon Pass Road

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"The Milwaukee Connection - Spokane to Butte"
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All material and photos that does not list specific sources are copyrighted by Dale Jones

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