Streamlining at 100 Miles an Hour, Published 17 June 1942

Local pride dies hard, and the Northwestern Railway officials tried to persuade me to jump on their own local streamliner, which would take me into Chicago much quicker than I would get there by negotiating two sides of a triangle via Milwaukee. All in vain did I emphasize the fact that I wanted to ride the real 400. the original, which operates between St. Paul and Chicago. This one is just the same, said j the loyal conductor of the Madison 400. Sure they are. just the same as King George and King Tomislav are both kings. When I saw the elegant 15-car unit of the 400 at Milwaukee later, I realized my original hunch was right, and was glad I had taken the trouble to go 82 miles cross-country to prove it.
I took the little three-car local behind C.N.W. 1560 through rural Wisconsin, making all local stops. The train was full of soldiers whose girl friends could hardly keep their hands off their men. A uniform does wonderful things to a man and a girl. This was really the land of Contented Cows, but a few you view the first thousand Holsteins, you can take them or leave them alone, and so I snoozed gently into my vest buttons till we got to Milwaukee's suburbs.

* * *

Milwaukee is a brisk, clean city. Site of much heavy industry, it nevertheless has an elevated driveway along its waterfront, and does not neglect beauty in utility. Milwaukee, usually associated with beer and Germans, is a fine city, whose streets are swollen right now with sailors, soldiers, and airmen, but particularly sailors, from the nearby Great Lakes training station.
But this is not to be a treatise on the glories of Wisconsin's biggest city, but the 400. In she came, a yellow and green snake worming in fifteen segments through the gloom of the depot. The porter knew I was ccming, and in calling me by name, bid me welcome and ushered me into a car you could hardly believe exists, so beautiful was it. Then I went back to the observation car. Here there is a sort of little bar halfway down, but to me the delight of this car was the glass end. You sit down on a chesterfield I shared it with a Texan facing the back of the train. You watch the poles go by like a picket fence. And they look like a picket fence because the train is going 100 miles an hour. And you know it is doing a flat century because the speedometer overhead tells you so. No wonder the Texan, who used to live at one of the suburban stations along the line, could not identify his temporary town, so fast was the train whirling at dusk.

* * *

Up ahead in the diner, a longer diner than you ever saw, two stewards in tuxedo, one at each end of the car. greeted the guests and seated them. Efficient, polite, colored waiters gave you service I wish soma of our white help on Canadian diners could emulate.
Then far up ahead, was another club car. with alcoholic alcove. Here were synthetic blondes, garrulous commercial travellers, honeymooners, glum, unattended ladies, and vivacious ones flanked with males. A gay car, a garish one, but an amusing one.
Altogether it was a dream train, as it sped like an overland torpedo at almost two miles a minute through the dense suburban, Chicago. With its pastels and vivid colors, its Bird of Paradise decoration scheme, the 400 is a train that has to be seen to be believed.
Then we started to slow down, and pretty soon began picking our . way through the inverted firmament of lights that constitute the Chicago railway yards. Roaring locals only going to Milwaukee, and hissing Diesels, headed for California, slid by the window. Then with surprising speed, we whisked into the station.

Home   Circle    Cross Articles

Updated 24 July 2019