Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Sunday Streamline #9: Milwaukee Road Hiawatha

Gorgeous, isn't it. You're looking at a F7 Hudson Hiawatha on the right and an Atlantic Hiawatha on the left.

Yes, the Milwaukee Road rocket is steaming up for a rapid flight across Wisconsin to your destination in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Aaaa'll aboard!

The steam driven Hiawatha was the signature passenger train for the CM&SP Milwaukee Road during the 1930s. Later in their life (post diesel), they were downgraded to freight and local passenger service. No remaining Hiawathas exist.

The Hiawatha was more an image and brand name than a particular engine. A streamlining shroud stamped it as a the Milwaukee Road's high speed passenger train.

In the late 1930's there was a huge amount of regional attention paid to this engine series and the '400' series of the Chicago and Northwestern. The C&NW '400' (soon to be featured here) was a streamlined Pacific. The '400' was so called because it could do the 400 miles between Chicago and Minneapolis in 400 minutes, an average of 60 miles per hour, including stops.

The competition between these two engines for the fastest passenger service to and from Minneapolis is what constantly led to upgrades in the motive power behind the Hiawatha brand and image.

The Hiawatha name and equipment was applied to at least three different steam engine designs.

1. Hiawatha Atlantic:

Four modern atlantic type locomotives were purchased in 1935 to power a high speed train named the "Hiawatha" between Chicago and St. Paul/Minneapolis. These were the first steam locomotives to be built streamlined. They were also the first steam locomotives intended to cruise at 100 mph (they could reach 120 mph). Average speeds of these trains were 60 mph with top speeds of about 100 mph. They regularly pulled nine car trains.

The impressive capabilities of these locomotives were mainly due to the large steaming capacity (large firebox) and their large 84 inch drivers.

The four locomotives were numbered simply one through four. Pictured is number three. They were extremely successful. Number 3 was retired in 1949, the other three in 1951. Unfortunately, all were later scrapped.

Hiawatha Schedule 12. Hiawatha Hudson F7:

Six class Otto Kuhler-styled F7 Hudsons (aka Milwaukee Baltics) numbered 100-105 were delivered to the Milwaukee Road in 1938. The original A's and older consists were released for service on other sections. The F7s were assigned routes between Chicago and Minneapolis. They were scheduled to cover a portion of this route at 81 mph -- the world's fastest regularly scheduled steam-powered train.

All six of these locomotives were scrapped between 1949 and 1951.

The engine that epitomizes the size, power, and grace of the Hiawatha is the F7 Hudson Hiawatha that was the last steam powered version of the Hiawatha family.

With its 84 inch drivers, it was capable of propelling a passenger train well in excess of 100 miles per hour -- and regularly did so in rural areas of Wisconsin on its trips to and from Minneapolis.

3. Hiawatha Pacific

Originally No. 151 was Class F-3 No. 1539 built by Alco's Brooks plant in 1910. Converted to F-3as. Renumbered in 1910 to 3237 and to 6537 in 1912. In 1924, it became 6157. It was designated F1 No. 151 in 1938 and streamlined for Chippewa Hiawatha service and scrapped in 1954.

According to Jim Scribbins book, The Milwaukee Road 1928-1985, The Chippewa was numbered 21 and 14. The first Chicago to Iron Mountain trip was May 28, 1937. The train was extended to Channing in October, 1937, and then to Ontonagon in March, 1938. The operation of the train was discontinued between Chicago and Milwaukee on December 9, 1950, and then discontinued between Channing and Ontonagon on January 1, 1954.

Equipment as of December 27, 1943:

  • Between Chicago and Channing: Beaver-Tail Parlor Car, and Dining-buffet service.
  • Between Chicago thru to Ontonagon: Reclining seat coaches.

By 1940, the Chicago-St. Paul schedule was reduced to 6 hours, 15 minutes, at an average speed of 65.6 mph for the 410-mile trip. Train No.6 was allowed 58 minutes for the 78.3 miles from Sparta to Portage, Wis., at an average speed of 81 mph. There is an early authentic record of one F-7 averaging 120 mph over a five-mile stretch of a 19-mile run at which speeds exceeded 100 mph for the entire distance.

Most experts agree that the Hiawatha was the fastest Hudson, if not the fastest steam engine used in regular passenger service in the US. Much of the Hiawatha's speed advantage was due to the combination of its 84 inch drivers, 300 pounds boiler pressure, and 96.5 square feet of grate area.

Of course, the conversion to diesel power led to the demise of the steam powered Hiawathas. Later in their life they were downgraded to local passenger and freight service. The dents and scratches on No 102 in the photograph above, no doubt, are a result of encounters with various livestock and internal combustion engine propelled vehicles that appeared in its path at inappropriate times, speeds, and distances.

In the 1950s, all fell to the scrapper's torch. Today, all that remains of their legacy is photographs, promotional items like this postcard, and a legend that few people under the age of 40 have even heard.

Oh, the legacy exists in one other place -- the mind and heart of the model railroader. Hiawathas have been produced in brass. And Rivarossi markets a HO version. But for those of us with limited budgets, projects like Davy's are the only way we're likely to own a G scale version.

Text: © 2007 Iron Horse 1:29 (with some additions and corrections)

Images: Otto Perry's Memorial Collection of Denver Public Library, Library of Congress (Jack Delano, 1943), Trainweb, paul.malon, milepost185, xcopper @ Flickr

P.S. My objective is to build a complete gallery of streamline locomotives and units built between 1930 and 1950. If this column seems boring or out of place, don't be shy and tell me, I'll continue it elsewhere. Thanks.


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