The Streamliner Hiawatha, Published 11 February 1944I made a few interesting sorties in. and out of Sioux City while I rested my middle-aged chassis on the banks of the Missouri. South Sioux City, Nebraska, for instance, was one pilgrimage point. It lies across the muddy river, and is a wan, drab place, badly sprawled out over the Nebraska prairie, a town with not much future, and no great past. Perhaps it had high hopes at one time, but it now serves as an unlovely suburb of the big town. I went into a South Sioux City bar to wait for a bus; So. Sioux City doing a magnificent business in watered whiskey since South City itself is nominally a non-whiskey town. While I was watching them drink their cut jiggers, I got talking to a Nebraska farmer who had so much grey hair on his chest that it came out the top of his shirt like an inverted beard. He, however, seemed to have a saner view of the war than some I met.
I walked back across the bridge, a shuddering process which also whips your eyes red-rimmed. I thought it an amazing thing that I should choke from dust in the middle of a river, for it was here that Nebraska's desiccated prairie should go scudding across the open water, throwing dust clouds over the Missouri and into your mouth.
Then frontiers, having a strange fascination for me, I went out the Riverside car line to. where South Dakota comes down to meet Iowa. Here the rolling, wooded, bluff like terrain of Iowa seems to stop dead at the Sioux River. For away to the north, on the Sioux Falls road, the prairie stretches flat and far. No. 77, like most prairie highways, heads straight for infinity. In the gay gasoline days of 1940. I had clipped along this turnpike at 70 miles an hour to Sioux Falls, but this time, instead, I had some small chat with a couple of Milwaukee Road railroaders. Then they obligingly kodachromed me against the South Dakota state line, and following these border amenities, I bounced back to town ,on the Toonerville. Marco Polo's got nothing on me now.
Of a different character was my delightful ride around Sioux City under the auspices of Mr. Daly of the chamber of commerce, but with Mr. Murphy the actual driver. That he wasted precious gasoline on me I greatly appreciate. I really saw Sioux City, thanks to them.
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Next day I caught the Hiawatha, a smart, time-annihilating streamliner that runs in two sections to Chicago. One starts at Sioux Falls, the other at Omaha. They meet at Manila. If you let Sioux Falls be Ottawa, and Omaha represent Montreal, while Manila takes the place of Brockville, you will have a local comparison with the three o'clock Toronto train. The part I was on originated in Sioux Falls.
Now let me say that you better skip this paragraph if you don't like railway talk. This Sioux Falls section is the rear end of the Hiawatha, and runs 90 miles by standard steam engine to Sioux City, where another steam engine takes it another 90 to Manila, where the oil-burning steam engine takes the two sections to Chicago. That an engine should go only a bare 90 miles, and then they would call on another to do the next 90, in these days of long range power use, is to me a puzzle. For instance, on the Soo Line, our No. 736 took us from the Michigan Soo to Minneapolis, a distance of 501 miles. Then, the Milwaukee Road has another trick. Since their coaches are red and yellow, they build up the engine, give it a sort of false front, and make it look like a streamliner. Since the red and yellow stripes synchronize with the coach stripes, this is quite a kaleidoscopic train, particularly when you note the spectacular Hiawatha stencilled on the engine tender. Incidentally, engines like the 2300 class of the C.P.R. and 5200 type C.N.R. are the same as the 800's used on our streamliner. But this day, something went wrong, and the Sioux Falls people did not get a snappy yellow and red false front, but instead they had an engine with that enticing Maniwaki local tint. But the old coal burner wheeled in the varnish ahead of time, if anything. Then we. the carriage trade from Sioux City, got a fancy 4-6-2 type, and 812 was soon taking us through the bluffs and around the curves down to Manila.
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The Hiawatha is operated by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, known colloquially and otherwise as the Milwaukee Road. By putting the Hiawatha into these parts, the railway reversed a long-standing principle, namely, that people would not patronize a long day trip to or from Chicago to the Missouri when they could enjoy the friendly oblivion and blackout of a night trip. But the Hiawatha changed all that. It made the run to Chicago so quickly, and so comfortably, that it altered the populace's habits. Today, the Hiawatha is a highly respected, friendly institution. Incidentally, the other railways have given up competing with it.
So our train rolled out east and south toward Manila Junction, where we were to meet the front end of our train coming a mile a minute from Omaha. Most interesting feature of this train is a beaver-tail parlor car. It is in effect a glassed-in observation porch, with curtains, but it is unusual in layout, and extremely popular. It was from this stance that I watched the green-gray landscape of Iowa recede. That country, as I said bejore, was never meant to be seen in winter without snow.
We squirmed and rolled through Charter Oak and Mapleton, till Manila was in sight, when we were to hit the main line, couple up the two ends of the train, and run 90 miles an hour to Chicago.
In my next, down the main iine on the Hiawatha.