11.3.06

SWIFT OF FOOT IS HIAWATHA. It's Spring Break. I want a mental health day. Solution: drive to Elburn to pick up the 8.25 all-stopper to Chicago. The train fills up with families, many wearing green. Chicago is going to make St. Patrick's Day into a week, apparently, with both the downtown parade and the South Side parade stepping off. A number of the kids wanted to see the city put the orange compound into the river to turn it green (next you'll tell me that Green River starts with Fanta Orange as a feedstock.)

I had different plans. A somewhat late-running local (and some people may have been left behind even at that ... not everybody has twigged to the fact that the old C&NW lines run left-handed, and there were a few freight trains in the way) and a bit of dilatory service at a coffee shop make for an exciting connection to the 10.20 Hiawatha, train 333. Consist: Genesis diesel 76, Horizon leg-rest coach 51001, Horizon high-density coaches 54527, 54000, 54510, cabbage car 90200. On time start. 85 minutes later, I'm stepping down onto the platform in Milwaukee, and I wasn't the first person off the train. The sound of bagpipes fills the air. Although Milwaukee is about as Irish as Fred Usinger, the locals are getting ready for a St. Patrick's Day parade, doubling as the warm-up for the selection show parties that will occupy Sunday and Monday? I stick around and watch. Lots of locals are wearing green, often with PACKERS on it. A kid who was a three year old playmate and sparring partner has grown up to become "Irishman of the Year." Good on ya, John. The media sponsors include The Shepherd Express, the latest upholder of the left-indie newspaper tradition in Milwaukee, and The Onion, which, despite moving the editorial offices to New York City, still sells enough local advertising to warrant free distribution in the Milwaukee area, including at Real Chili. The local issue of The Onion included the parade announcement, and news that Milwaukee also attempted to turn the Milwaukee River green. Couldn't tell. Let the flatlanders do that. I bet neither of the Chicago parades had an advance guard of Harleys. (I took the real camera along. There may be illustrations later. Film has to go to the lab first.) The showpiece of these parades is the local Irish dance academies. It's Wisconsin, so some of them sport warmup suits in cardinal and white, and others are wearing what resembles Prussian blue. But what's with the ultra-frizzy hair, girls?

I did get some writing done, as well, in the Frank P. Zeidler Reading Room at the Milwaukee Public Library. The biography of Mr Zeidler, who served as mayor from 1948 to 1960 on the Socialist platform, does not mention that he was instrumental in organizing the Model Railroad Club of Milwaukee, a pioneer O Gauge organization.

The equipment from 333 made a round trip to Chicago and return and was waiting for me to board the 5.45 Hiawatha, Train 340. I took advantage of the opportunity to nap, thus no detailed time log. Despite occasional rain, the rail was dry at departure time, with the Allen-Bradley thermometer reading 50 degrees (F). Light load with little traffic on or off at the airport or Sturtevant. On-time departure at 17:45:00 by my watch, Glenview 18:45, stop Chicago 19:08:46. Time to check out the Elephant and Castle on Adams and grab a quick supper at North Western Station, then head home. Union Pacific still having trouble keeping freight trains out of the way of commuter trains. (Might the rest of the railroad run more precisely if the dispatchers and freight crews had more respect for "must clear the scheduled time of first class trains?")

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