MILWAUKEE RAILROAD SHOPS
The history of the Shops began in 1880 when the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway obtained the north-south line from Clinton, Iowa, through Dubuque to La Crescent, Minnesota. This had been constructed by Dubuque shippers in 1873 who disliked the Illinois Central. The owners of the Chicago and Milwaukee decided they could not afford to close the railroad's huge shop area north of 17th Street. Instead they converted the Dubuque shops into a maintenance center responsible for 287 locomotives and 2,500 miles of track.
Through the early years of the 20th century as many as two thousand Dubuque workers unloaded coal, built coaches, and refurbished boxcars. All damaged railroad cars and locomotives belonging to the Milwaukee Railroad operating south of Dubuque between Kansas City, Missouri and Sioux Falls, South Dakota were brought to Dubuque for repair and modernization. Because the Dubuque Shops could build cars at a lower cost ($28 per car) than shops in Milwaukee, half of all the new freight cars used in the extension of the Continental Railroad from Chicago to Puget Sound were built here. A redbrick roundhouse constructed in 1871 was large enough to allow the simultaneous repair of twenty-four engines. It was said that the building was so well constructed that the heat from only two locomotives could warm the entire enclosure.
Wages, ranging from sixty to seventy cents per hour, were among the best paid in Dubuque. In 1922 a strike for higher pay lasted three months in an attempt to raise the top rate to eighty cents. By the time the unsuccessful strike ended, trucking had increased in popularity. Also cutting into the railroad business were airplanes and barges.