"America's Roads To Victory"

When World War II erupted and the United States was dragged into the conflict most citizens and businesses became deeply engaged in helping the country win the day.  Patriotism was everywhere and was perhaps most vivid within the railroad industry, which became a vital and necessary asset.  Many systems, like the Milwaukee Road, did everything they could to assist.  To make sure that point came across loud and clear several companies advertised their intentions in prominent media outlets, such as newspapers and magazines.  "America's Roads To Victory" was the headline for an advertisement the Milwaukee released in National Geographic Magazine during the summer of 1943.

Two nearly new GP40s, acquired just earlier that year, rest in Bensenville, Illinois on August 2, 1967.

When America was forced into World War II all hands were on deck both at home and aboard to defeat the tyranny amongst the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan).  The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (better known by its nickname, the Milwaukee Road) was one of the largest railroads in the United States with a network that spanned more than 10,000 miles from the Midwest to Seattle.  To this day the CMStP&P remains the longest end-to-end system on record, stretching from Louisville (Kentucky) to the Puget Sound.   As such, it was well poised to do its part for the war effort thanks to its strategic transcontinental main line and a blanket of trackage serving the Heartland.

In the July 1943 issue of National Geographic Magazine the Milwaukee released a piece describing its dedication in helping win the war. 

"America's Roads To Victory..."

"...are boulevards of steel and stamina.  'Faster, Faster,' is wartime America's cry to the railroads.  Speed the troop trains!  Speed the supply munitions trains!  Speed the critical materials to the factories!  It's a challenge the railroads are taking in stride.  They're coming through on every assignment even though their need today is more new equipment than is available under existing priorities."

"The railroads are mastering war traffic problems because they were ready with a modern power plant that, in recent years, had been utilized to only half its capacity.  The Milwaukee Road, for example, prepare with new power as well as new freight and passenger cars, in the decade before war struck.  It improved more than 2,000 miles of track with heavier rail and new ballast.  It rebuilt over 80,000 linear feet of bridges.  It reduced curvatures to permit faster schedules...and 500 grade crossings were eliminated or provided with automatic protection.  These improvements, plus heavier tonnage on both cars and trains, account for The Milwaukee Road's present ability to double its load.

Aided by the co-operation of business and government shippers, its 35,000 loyal, determined employees are ably handling their tremendous responsibilities.  The Milwaukee Road and the other railroads constitute one of our vital war industries.  The Milwaukee Road, 11,000-mile supply line for war and home fronts."  There are a few interesting aspects to note about the wording of this ad.  The first sentence discussing unfilled capacity was a result of the Great Depression that persisted throughout the 1930s.  For better or worse World War II brought the United States out of its economic stagnation and returned rail traffic to pre-depression levels, which helped some roads stave off bankruptcy.




Milwaukee Road E9A #38-C cuts under a Chicago & North Western commuter train with its own commuter consist as it exits Chicago's Union Station on March 19, 1975.

Additionally, the opening statement stating that they were "...ready with a modern power plant..." harkens back to World War I when railroads were completely ill prepared for the surge in traffic it wrought.  This led to the only time in American history that the industry was nationalized under the United States Railroad Administration (USRA).  Many systems were left ravaged with worn out equipment and tired rights-of-way once they were returned to private ownership.  Not wishing to see this happen again railroads spent considerable resources updating infrastructure and rolling stock in the event of another traffic surge.  Despite the depression railroads were able to sufficiently handle the World War II volume.

Related Reading You May Enjoy


Share Your Thoughts

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below. Please note that while I strive to present the information as accurately as possible I am aware that there may be errors. If you have potential corrections the help is greatly appreciated.