Still Classy, as well as "Swift of Foot"

Posted by George Hamlin
on Tuesday, November 16, 2021

As I’ve indicated previously, a good bit of what remained of the intercity passenger rail service in the U.S. as of 1970 was in bad shape; see, for example, see my April 15, 2021 post, “Remember the Twilight Limited?” for an example (

However, not everything had become rotten in the passenger train universe by then; what remained of the Santa Fe’s fleet of Chiefs was still considered to be first-rate (and the railroad would eventually withdraw its permission for Amtrak to use the “Chief” terminology due to a perceived lack of quality); SCL’s prime Florida trains still drew good crowds, and didn’t stint on amenities; Burlington Northern’s long-haul western trains were held in generally good esteem, as well.

The Milwaukee Road’s sole remaining example from its once-numerous fleet of trains named after the title character in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha”, the MILW’s Morning Hiawatha, exemplified these positive qualifies, as well.  As seen in the picture above, taken during the eastbound train’s stop at Glenview, Illinois, on September 12, 1970, this train still provided what had been long-expected of quality rail passenger service in regional “corridor” markets.

At the rear of the train is a first-class Parlor car, which included a private Drawing Room accommodation as well as individual seating in its main seating area. Ahead of this was the diner, which the Milwaukee referred to as a “Buffeteria” Dining Car serving “economy meals”. While lacking the fine-dining connotations associated traditionally with railroad food service, the primary meal service on this train was lunch, and by the 1970s, what came to be known as “casual dining” was coming to the fore both on and off the rails.

Ahead of the diner was the train’s featured equipment, a “Super Dome Car with Café Lounge” which the railroad noted was “open to all passengers”. In the event that some of these people were thirsty, the timetable indicated that “beverage service” was available here, as well; I suspect that some of what was available for purchase was carried upstairs to enhance viewing from the dome.  Finally, ahead of the dome are four coaches; my recollection is that this was a weekend arrival, and capacity was provided for a fair-sized crowd.

Clearly this was not a perfunctory effort by an entity desperate to get out of the intercity passenger business as quickly as possible, by whatever means necessary. Admittedly, by this relatively late date (in less than eight months, Amtrak will be on the scene), the Milwaukee had shed most of its once-extensive passenger service in the Midwest, including the Afternoon Hiawatha.

By the fall of 1970, the only other passenger train of any consequence on its system was its handling of the Union Pacific’s remaining fleet of City streamliners in a single consist between Omaha and Chicago, which railfans had dubbed the “City of Everywhere”. The road’s October 25, 1970 passenger timetable indicated that beyond the two flagship trains, and snack/beverage/continental breakfast on Chicago-Milwaukee trains 23 and 24, “All other Milwaukee Road trains” were “coaches only”.  Would that a train including a first-class option, meal service provided at tables (to all passengers) and a dome-lounge were available now.

To leave a comment you must be a member of our community.
Login to your account now, or register for an account to start participating.
No one has commented yet.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy