Trip to Capital of Wisconsin, Published 9 June 1942Here we are in the Chicago Union Depot restaurant, about to take our matutinal calories. No longer is there the free and easy sugar bowl. The sweet stuff is carefully measured out by a conscientious waitress. You cannot get another cup of tea or coffee for love nor money. (I couldn't afford the latter, and am too old to try the former.) This and that are rationed. Could this be the old Chicago I used to know? Turns out it was.
If the signs were up that the war was on, they did not stop just at the breakfast table. As our Milwaukee Road train rolled out behind re-numbered 174 (formerly a 6300 type) the rear end brakeman pointed to the rows and rows of CM. St. P. & P. coaches. See those coaches, he said. All for moving troops.
"And don't think they don't move 'em," he asserted. 'Today they'll put a streamliner into the siding, and let a troop train go by. They say the high class passengers can wait, but these boys are going some place!"
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Then when I heard him say that a super-streamliner would "take the hole" for a troop train, I thought of our own stupid and outmoded system. If you wait in Bonaventure Station, Montreal, for troop trains, you will see agonized mothers, and fretting children, kept up long past their bedtime, because the authorities will not tell when the trains are due which may be fair enough and because they let them drag and dawdle endlessly from the Maritimes.
Sure, get the poky old Maritime Express through on time. But the troops, who cares about them? Get the manifest freight through. What do we care about mothers and children waiting till four in the morning to see their husbands and daddies? Never mind about that, put the boys in the siding. Do people good to know there's a war on. So between the laissez faire of the Maritimers railroading there never was a Maritime crew that could railroad with any speed anyhow and the indifference of the Quebec province despatchers, the troop train comes last. After all. they are only soldiers.
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So in the States, the troops come first, and I'll be glad to hear of any change for the better here.
The train rolled pleasantly through suburban Illinois. Around me were new factories, and new air fields. But so far nothing compared with what I was to see later. So perhaps we can skip that for the moment, and think a bit about the scenery.
More and more the cow population increased, as we approached what is flagrantly advertised on the state license plates as "Wisconsin America's Dairyland." Here indeed was the home of the contented cow. I learned later that there are more milch cows in Wisconsin than there are people. There was a brief minute away from the cows as we threaded through Janesville, head of the Parker pen firm, and then the cow scenery resumed again.
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I was approaching Madison at last, my 48th capital. It seemed a long way back to January 3, 1917. when I picked off St. Paul, Minnesota, which was No. 1 capital, or even Des Moines. Iowa, which was No. 3. and which came only in 1925. You recall that we got close to the ultimate in these columns when we collected Indianapolis. Indiana, in these columns in 1940. Then came No. 47 in Helena. Montana, last fall, in a swift motor detour from Calgary. Now I was about to see the 48th capital in the 48th state. I have met few people who can equal that record.
Finally, a dome appeared in the distance, then a lake, and the train started to slow down. We swung round a beautiful sheet of water, and stopped. When I stepped off the train, a man was paging: "Mr. Cross."
In my next we shall do Madison. No. 43.