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High Wires: 1936

High Wires: 1936

April 1936. "Chicago & Milwaukee tracks. Housing alongside electric railroad. Milwaukee freight yards and industrial plants overshadowed by residential district." Photo by Carl Mydans, Resettlement Administration. View full size.


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The Cutoff

The scene is of the Milwaukee Road "cutoff," on the west end of the railroad terminal in Milwaukee Wisconsin. The switches visible were all hand thrown by a switch tender housed in the small shanty seen between the tracks. In about 1949 the entire plant was electrified with dual control switches, remotely controlled by an operator on duty 24/7. Second and third trick cutoff duty was my pleasure in the early 1980s.

The electric railroad mentioned was The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company, generally referred to as "the rapid transit" by locals. After a name change or two the company went out of business after a terrible head on wreck in 1950.

The "housing alongside electric railroad" is to this day known as the Merrill Park neighborhood of Milwaukee, and in 1936 it was just about all Irish. (None of the buildings at the bottom of the hill are there now.) Many of the men living in Merrill Park worked in the Milwaukee Road Shops, just out of view on the left side of the picture.

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