Amtrak celebrates its 45th birthday. Here's the 40th birthday post. That was an eventful weekend in Milwaukee. The night before, April 30, 1971, the Milwaukee Bucks had swept the Baltimore Bullets to win their first, and thus far only, professional basketball championship. Passenger trains for and from Madison and Green Bay were making their last runs. And Amtrak was -- or perhaps not, the litigation in that era of regulated railroads was nerve-racking -- going to commence operation of most of the intercity passenger trains on May Day.
At the Milwaukee Union Station, the first signs were encouraging. Milwaukee Road had removed its relatively new semi-streamlined FP45 diesels from passenger service, but the reliable E units were fresh off the wash track.
The service offered was rudimentary: three Chicago trains each way, plus the new Seattle service running on approximately the old Morning Hiawatha timings. We would not see the first eastbound Seattle train until Monday, as the departure of April 30 stayed on Burlington Northern rails into Chicago.
That's all there was of the Midwest regional service in those days. Note that the New Orleans train was still the day City of New Orleans -- it later became the overnight Panama Limited, and then got the City of New Orleans name, perhaps in part because the Arlo Guthrie remake of a Steve Goodman song started topping the charts in 1972. Two St. Louis trains, two Detroit trains, and no free rein to 110 on either line. And passengers for or from Florida, New Orleans, Cincinnati, or Carbondale trains still had to change stations in Chicago. Milwaukee service, ninety minutes with a Glenview stop. The Sturtevant stop commenced with this July 1971 timetable.
But still some hints of the Milwaukee Road tradition remained. The first Amtrak train into Milwaukee was 27 from Chicago.
That's the same schedule that once, in the 1930s, ran as two sections in order that following train 29 could leave Chicago as scheduled and then run to Milwaukee as fast as the engineer could make it go, in order to bring out the 75 minute Hiawathas.
We still don't have 75 minute Hiawathas, but there are more trains, and the timings are better.
The Milwaukee service schedule does not list the times for Seven and Eight, which do not carry passengers locally between Milwaukee and Chicago. There's still no food service on the trains. And getting from three trains to seven (six on Sunday) has taken time. Amtrak's original slogan was, "We're making the trains worth traveling again." Slowly, haltingly, despite all sorts of malfeasance internal and external, they have.