22.4.09

TONIGHT'S RAILROAD READING. We pause from our analysis of speeded-up passenger trains to consider historical experience with fast passenger trains. The following passage is from "Speed", a preface to The Hiawatha Story reprinted from the May 1961 issue of Trains, written by longtime Milwaukee passenger agent Jim Scribbins.
For me it will always be most vividly illustrated by Milwaukee Road No. 100 when the E7's on the head end were permitted free rein to 100 miles per hour.
There's a lot of meaning in the numerology. Hiawatha is a felicitous name for Milwaukee's streamliners, although there was sentiment for naming the trains after Lloyd's rating system where 100 A 1 was best. A wiser head saw infelicitous comparisons with a steak sauce. The numbers 100-101 went to the trains, the A to the motive power, two super 4-4-2s numbered 1 and 2.

The Great Western Railway did renumber 4009 Shooting Star, upgraded to a Castle, as 100 A 1 Lloyds.

The Milwaukee subsequently renumbered the (afternoon) Hiawathas as 2 and 3 to free 101 for the City of San Francisco east of Omaha, in a vain attempt to cultivate more of Union Pacific's freight traffic. The Morning Hiawathas were speeded-up versions of 5 and 6, the Day Expresses, and kept the same numbers.
The voice on the p.a. ("The Hiawatha is now arriving on the eastbound track, way down near the highway for Portage, Madison, and Watertown, alongside the shelter for . . .") is muffled by the approaching speedster. Its air horns sound a couple of off-note chords — E7's slide by, brake shoes sparking, bell ringing. Porters in the vestibules of the two head coaches beckon, for time is precious. Before a seat is reached, one hundred folks from the "Valley" have been loaded and an almost imperceptible motion starts the train.
The writer is boarding at New Lisbon. At the time, the (afternoon) Hiawathas were at the station at nearly the same time, connecting with the North Woods Hiawatha for Wausau and points north, with heavy mail and express train 58 set off for 100's passage. Connectivity is an important part of any corridor. There was a Wausau service, connecting latterly with Five and Six, until the Fall of 1970. All that remains of the New Lisbon passenger rail plant is the wye the North Woods turned on, still useful for turning steam excursions.

Rapid loading is an important feature of a train. There's more than one door to board through, tickets are inspected on board, and there are no seat belts to inspect prior to the highball. It's the antithesis of boarding process.
The roar of 4000 horses digging in echoes back. Though it is uphill most of the way, the first 7 miles is negotiated in only 6 minutes 45 seconds from the dead stop. Over the top, No. 100 seems to leave the rails and glide gently in space . . .
My readings of Railway have taught me about even time, the distance at which a passenger train first achieved a mile-a-minute average from its start. That was a matter of pride for a Streak off King's Cross or a Duchess from Euston or a King from Paddington. The fastest scheduled steam timing, however, was Six between Sparta and Portage. (With 100 making the Valley connection and 58 handling the mail, there was no reason for a Tomah or New Lisbon stop by Six.)
Keeonk keeonk onk kee — onk. "Marchowsky's" crossing, and the homes of Mauston flash by, almost blurred; a slight bounce at the double street crossing at the edge of the depot platform, and again, the sensation of being just above the rails, not on them. A moderate lurch on the curve east of town, then down the speedway with occasional bits of gravel hitting the coach floor. Moving now. The 10.6 miles to Lyndon are clocked in 6 minutes 25 seconds. Averaging 99.2. More gravel. The EMD's horn continually emits its raucous warning in advance of sandy little side roads. Suddenly — no advance indication — the brakes take hold . . . speed drops from near 100 to about 70 — there's a bit of a jolt and the left edge of the coach elevates appreciably on the first of the series of curves along the Dells.
When I last rode this route, in 1985, there still was a Marachowsky store in Mauston. There are no references to one online these days. In 1985 the Soo Line had just acquired The Milwaukee Road, and the stretch through Mauston was a work zone. This passage (yes, I've known it for a long time) nagged at me as we plodded along the onetime speedway. The curves at the Dells are still there. Bear in mind that Six's fastest scheduled steam timing included a slack for those curves, as well as a slack for the climb up to Tunnel City west of Tomah, and a climbdown into Tomah.
In seconds the brakes release, the Hi is free. But not for long. A second, more severe application accompanied by the echo of steel pressing steel reduces speed to 40 through the reverse curve and across the high bridge: Wisconsin Dells. Off the span, the impatience of two pairs of V-12s becomes known.
The Morning Hiawatha made the Dells stops, and at summers, a Second Five using idle suburban train equipment would return as a Second 100 for day-trippers. The E series of passenger diesels were a survival of early passenger locomotive design, where 900 hp was about the best one could expect of a single prime mover. The engines became more powerful, but the two-engine design remained the same. Thus, no records for most power in one engine (that would be Fairbanks-Morse with 2400 hp in an opposed-piston package here, and English Electric's 3300 hp in the triple-opposed-piston Deltic taking over for the Streaks) in a passenger locomotive, but one of those V-12s could fail and the train would be in on time or near time anyway. Perhaps the next generation of high-speed diesel trains will use genset diesels, although modern sound- and pollution-suppressors will likely mute the impatience.

Within a mile speed is back in the 80's and increasing.

Again the train is like the wind, rushing violently along, overtaking and passing every vehicle on the passing highway.

That's Highway 16. There are stretches where the Ford-era Amtrak Hiawatha at 70 would overtake the 55 mph vehicles on the Interstate, which is in sight of the tracks near Lyndon. Ah, to blow the doors off the SUVs with a A or an F7.

Eight miles to go.

"Portage will be next in about five minutes. Change for Madison."

Three miles out, speed still in the 90's. Now only 8000 feet left . . . the roar ahead subsides, the fleet Indian swoops beneath the highway overpass, brakes take hold on the long curve. Remarkably smooth brakes, no rough stuff, nothing spilled.

Thirty-five at the west end of the platform.

Twenty passing the operator's bay.

"Keep back, folks. Let 'em off, please."

The contemporary proposal, of which more anon, will not require a change to a motor train at Portage (or the shuttle bus that used to go to Columbus) for Madison. We have to talk about changing at Madison Airport for Madison.

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