Mon Jun 26th, 2006 at 01:35:43 AM EST
The Milwaukee Road linking Chicago-Milwaukee-New Lisbon is the site of the world's fastest running with steam locomotives on tests and in regular service as well as the traditional routing for excursion trains that would bring passengers to the Wisconsin Dells from the big cities, turn at New Lisbon, and bring them home.
Although the high-stepping Baltics went for scrap fairly early in the diesel era, two of the Milwaukee's mixed-traffic 4-8-4 war babies made it into preservation, with No. 265 under roof at the Illinois Railway Museum and No. 261 returned to active service out of Minnesota.
On the weekend, the 261 reprised the steam era Wisconsin Dells excursion, with tickets also available for an all-day ride Milwaukee-New Lisbon and return and a Wisconsin Dells - New Lisbon turn for Central Wisconsin residents who might like an afternoon away from the tourists.
On the Milwaukee Road, "mixed traffic" means "powerful enough to move a troop train as a second section of a Hiawatha," which was the schedule under which some of the Dells turns operated as well. So we're not off to a leisurely day at the preservation railway.
At Milwaukee, the tray tables are all stowed and the seatbacks in the upright position for departure.
The train made a proper smooth start. Those coffees that had been drawn remained in the cups.
Some traditional railroading rituals persist.
At Cut-Off (no longer a tower) this Illinois Central and Wisconsin Central power cover the CNR service into Milwaukee that used to be a turn out of Fond du Lac on the Soo Line.
Some things are changed, changed utterly.
These two smokestacks are the last physical evidence of the Milwaukee Road's backshop and roundhouse complex that used to fill the valley from 35th Street west to the Menominee River.
The arrival yard for Miller Park is on the site of the old west arrival yard.
The train climbs out of the Lake Michigan basin through those towns whose names enable the locals to identify confused flatlanders and other visitors: Wauwatosa, Pewaukee, Nashotah, Oconomowoc, Ixonia.
The local news got the word out that a steam train was running. There were lots of spectators at trackside: the expected train enthusiasts, some choosing their photo spots with care, some attempting to pace along Highway 16, and lots of inquisitive locals, and kids everywhere. Here's the turnout at Pewaukee. I have not discovered a new form of pixel rot. I'll show you the source of the obstructed view at the Dells.
Look closely at the middle ground of this photo.
The level ground and the electric power lines mark the grade of the Milwaukee Electric Lines, whose tracks were close to the Milwaukee Road for a few miles west of Oconomowoc. Cars quit running here in 1939.
The weather was changeable, with clear skies in Milwaukee and some pesky storms parked over the Rock River. Wisconsin is a green and pleasant land.
Many essays about British steam trains note, sometimes critically, more often rhapsodically, the smoke and steam blowing past the coach window, all gone with the diesels. I suspect that's a statement about British humidity. During the rainy periods, the smoke and steam hung low to the ground, even at track speed (not 110, sorry) as the picture shows. When the skies cleared, the exhaust was well above the train.
The lead coaches call to mind the Boston and Maine and Maine Central named streamlined coaches of the late 1940s.
When Soo Line singled the Milwaukee through the Dells, they built a new passenger platform on the grade of the old westbound main line, but several coach lengths shorter than the old one, which extended almost to the overpass.
The schedule allotted 30 minutes to exchange passengers at the Dells. Some of that might have been a recovery margin in case the eastbound Amtrak Empire Builder was close to time. If it had been on time, we would have met it at the first siding east of the Dells.
The tour boat captains were aware of the train's presence and brought their passengers in for a closer look.
Captains have to be careful near the bridge, as there is a power company dam underneath the road bridge.
The Dells Duck operator had a flock of Ducks waiting at the station to meet the train. The Duck cruise is short enough to manage on a three hour layover, and the cross-platform connection is convenient.
I'll leave it to naval historians to decide whether Panay was to the late 1930s what Stark may have been to the late 1980s.
Passengers exchanged, servicing done, time to go.
Stand well back from a big steam locomotive when it starts. That's condensate and spent steam being blown from the cylinders.
I promised to explain that obstructed view photograph at Pewaukee.
Patrick Henry is a Pennsylvania Railroad car built for the Congressional and reequipped as a souvenir and bar car with tables at one end. "Join the Taste Revolution" is Miller's attempt to be topical. Preservation railroading is a business in which every revenue source matters, and Miller's advertising revenue might well be worth the obstructed view.
Bringing up the rear, a Milwaukee Road Super Dome and Skytop Lounge Cedar Rapids.
The Morning Hiawatha would have a dining car cut in between the dome and the Skytop.
Regular readers will recall that there is a roller coaster across the river from the station.
Avalanche Run has one of the steepest drops on a conventional roller coaster.
I have to use "conventional roller coaster" as there are numerous linear induction motor roller coasters and a few towed roller coasters with vertical drops.
Yes, I did take a ride.
I passed on the log flume.
There was time for a leisurely lunch as well before train time.
This Wisconsin Dells station is a near replica of the original Kilbourn station. Between the original and the replica there was a more modern station that was wiped out by a derailment in 1982. The idiosyncratic placement of the Milwaukee Airport and Sturtevant for Racine stations on the Hiawatha corridor reduces the structure's exposure to that risk.
The station building was locked, although the eastbound Empire Builder had not yet arrived (it was running about 4 hours late.)
The return move of the excursion arrived just before 3 pm. I took the "coming" shot on Kodachrome.
The diesel is to provide head-end power for the coaches. Thus far it has not been required as protection for the 261.
I had my goggles and cap along in order to safely use the vestibule (staying alert for approaching traffic.) The engineer is blowing the boiler down in anticipation of an extended stop at Columbus.
The train did not take up or set down passengers at Columbus, although it had a scheduled maintenance pause to oil around and grease the pins in each direction. In steam days the railroads maintained regular crews at major stations to do this work with the haste of a pit crew at the Milwaukee Mile. Today the crew and the tools must come along with the train.
Our train was authorized 60 mph (100 km/h) on this line. That late-running Empire Builder was closing us from behind at 79 mph (130 km/h.) We took siding west of Oconomowoc to be overtaken by the Builder (it came on us at a speed that startled some of the passengers) and we met the westbound Builder and a coal train at Nashotah.
Through Pewaukee, the train was doing every bit of the authorized 60.
This figure, indifferent to our passage, is either Captain Hook or the mascot of the local high school (the Pewaukee Pirates, unless that name has gone the way of the Milwaukee Hamilton spirit song.)
The jet-skiers were at play on the lake, and some sort of festival was in progress, but we still had plenty of people waving at the train.
Under the Milwaukee trainshed, approximately at the arrival time of the Afternoon Hiawatha.
Is there a Grant Wood composition in here? There is a bit of a surprise powering the passing freight train. Canadian Pacific named the Delaware and Hudson properties it acquired the St. Lawrence and Hudson. That's fitting, given the Delaware and Hudson boiler design the War Production Board required Alco to use on the War Babies. (The tender is Union Pacific, and the frame, Rock Island. No draftsmen were diverted from the war effort to design new locomotives.)
The dispatcher had a bit of a challenge keeping his station fluid. The late-running Builder got out of town ahead of us on station track 1, which is a short track closest to the station building. He wanted our train in on 1 behind the Builder, and far enough east to clear the west switch on 1 to allow the freight through on 2 and get a Hiawatha in from Chicago behind it. The engineer wanted to get the stack into the open east of the post office that straddles the tracks.
It worked out. Everyone disembarked, a media pizza party boarded.
And the train headed to Sturtevant, where it could turn and head for Milwaukee for Sunday's trip.
Which I hope went well, although the weather looked less promising.
(Cross-posted at Cold Spring Shops.)