Thursday, January 27, 2011

Route of the Hiawathas

Railway Viaduct-Richmond, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.

Regular readers (both of you) will have noticed that I have a thing for old signs, and you may have noticed that I like trains too. Well, here's one that combines both!

The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad operated in the Midwest and Northwest from 1847 until it's merger into the Soo Line in 1986. The Milwaukee Road was well known for it's Hiawatha passenger trains, which were renowned for the quality and speed of their service. Most of the Hiawatha passenger cars were built by the Milwaukee in it's own shops, and provided some of the most innovative and interesting cars to ride American rails.

Aside from the Hiawathas, the Milwaukee was also famous for it's extensive electrified operations, between Montana and Idaho, and a separate line through Washington. This line went all the way to Seattle, allowing the Milwaukee to easily reach the west coast with the Olympian Hiawatha.

Of course, the railroad didn't survive on luxury passenger trains alone-the Milwaukee did a lot of freight hauling as well, on both the main lines and on branch lines all over the upper Midwest. This is one of them, a single track line near Richmond, Illinois, just a few minutes south of the Illinois-Wisconsin border. I've seen a couple of these in the area, but this one's by far the best. The viaduct dates from 1900 (if the date cast into the concrete abutment is to be believed), but I don't think the signwriting is that old.

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