By Jim Scribbins
"Enjoy America's finest travel treat-North Western's "400" Stream liner Fleet. These finely appointed trains with their fast daily schedules between Chicago and the important cities of Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Upper Michigan and South Dakota have been made a favorite of the well seasoned traveler. And justly so, for here is smooth diesel power coupled with modern car construction. "400" coaches offer deep-down comfort with their foam-cushioned reclining seats and spacious lounge rooms. Luxurious Parlor cars provide the ultimate in comfortable daytime travel with their adjustable oversize chairs beside huge picture windows. Dining and Tap-Cafe Lounge cars on the" 400" Fleet are always popular places, for here tasty food and drink are served in a pleasant atmosphere of conviviality. When your plans call for overnight travel to cities in the nine states we serve, choose the safety and solid comfort of North Western's fine "overnighters". Many of these deluxe trains like the stream lined North Western Ltd. and the Duluth-Superior Ltd. offer a full range of Pullman accommodations to assure truly restful travel comfort. 1. Spacious Parlor Cars 2. Cozy Private Bedrooms 3. Solid Comfort Coach Seats 4. Sparkling Dining Cars 5. Cheerful Tap-Cafe cars 6. Handy Lunch-Counter Cars 7. Luxurious Observation Cars"
In the United States, fast, modern, regularly scheduled, high-speed, long-distance passenger train operation was introduced not by articulated diesel driven stream liners but by a conventional train powered by 1920s steam locomotives: Chicago & North Western's attention-grabbing 400. The train was so named because it made its slightly longer than 400 route miles in about as many minutes, resulting in a start-stop average speed just a hairline above 60 mph. Of course, the big Pacific 4-6-2s handling trains 400 and 401 had to run much faster to maintain that schedule. In fact, duting the earlier stages of the 400's career, no maximum speeds were set; the train could operate without restraint on tangent track, though there were numerous speed restrictions when passing through metropolitan areas, on curves, and over bridges. Initially, with a seven-hour running time between Chicago and St. Paul, cruising speeds were in the 80-plus mph range. Five months latel when the schedules of 400 and 401 were shortened 30 minutes to meet streamlined competition introduced by Burlington's Zephyr in April and Milwaukee's Hiawatha in May, 90 mph speeds were necessary and maximums would reach 100 mph-or even higher when making up time.
Trains 401, west or northbound, and 400, east or southbound, began service Jan. 2, 1935, as C&NW's quick response to Chicago, Burlington & Quincy's and Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific's plans to introduce fast diesel and steam streamlined services between Chicago and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. North Western reacted with conventional equipment to get a head start on its competition.
Four heavy Pacific 4-6-2 type passenger locomotives built by American Locomotive Company in 1923 were upgraded to pull the 400. Class E2 numbers 2902, 2903, 2907, and 2908 were modified from coal operation to oil fuel; their tenders were enlarged; boiler pressure was boosted from 210 to 225 psi; and drive wheel diameter was increased to 79 inches (from 75). The quartet was designated E-2A, and the remainder of the group became class E-2B. The 400 locomotives were changed to oil fuel to avoid intermediate coaling stops, ashpan cleaning, and unit changes at Adams and Altoona, Wis. On the 400 and 401, locomotives changed regularly at Milwaukee because its depot had no platform water tank. The Es were also re-Iubricated there because the nine pounds of grease in the drive wheels that was sufficient between Milwaukee and Minneapolis would not last for the full run.
In 1937, the 2908 received both a distinction and further improvement: installation of the first Mars figure eight gyrating waming light. These moving beams became standard on diesel cab units and some streamlined steam. During much of its 400 service, the 2908 sported a large triangular sign illuminated from within in "drumhead" style. Hanging below the headlight the sign displayed the C&NW emblem and 400 numerals.
Standard heavyweight conventional cars were air conditioned for the new train, and received brightly colored interiors. The initial consists of the 400 were a baggage-coach (used as a "smoker"); coach; reclining seat coach for through passengers; dining car; C&NW parlor car, and Pullman parlor-solarium. At least one of the "combines" and the first pair of reclining seat coaches were cars of C&NW's subsidiary Omaha Rail way which made up the route between Wyeville, Wis., and St. Paul. Approximately six months into service, a parlor-lounge was added-undoubtedly to counter the tavern-diner on CMStP&P's Hiawatha.
The Zephyr and Hiawatha entered service with a six and one-half hour running time between Chicago and St. Paul, and C&NW quickly matched that 30 minute faster schedule.
During all but the first four months of its existence, the 400 was pitted against formidable streamlined competition. At first, C&NW emphasized the speed, food service, and air conditioning of its conventional f1yer; but eventually conceded that streamlining would be necessary to uphold the good name of the 400.
The new streamlined 400 entered service Sept. 24, 1939, and was described as the finest train to have been built by Pullman-Standard. A P-S executive stated, "We shot the works on this train, and we are mighty, mighty proud of it." A pair of two-unit 4,000 h.p. model E3 diesels had arrived earlier from Electro Motive and began making daily round trips of over 800 miles in June, pulling the conventional 400 and returning with the overnight North Western Limited.
The streamlined version of trains 400 and 401 revived the yellow-and-green livery used on the North Western Limited for several years, beginning in 1912. The design was so successful that only minor revisions-for example, venetian blinds instead of window shades-were made when additional streamlined equipment was acquired by C&NW to enlarge the 400 services. The streamlined 400 led off with a baggage-tavern-lunch counter-lounge, followed by coaches; a 56-seat dining car (possibly the largest seating capacity of any single diner); three drawing room parlor cars; and the observation car with parlor seats, bar service area, lounge, and solarium seats. Below the center rear window of the rear car was a small illuminated "400" sign. The new streamliner had more parlor seats and more tavern-lounge accommodations than any of its rivals.
In January 1940, Chicago-St. Paul running time was shortened another quarter hour to six hours and 15 minutes. Milwaukee Road did likewise on its three fastest Hiawathas, to equal the reductions made by the Zephyrs on their new route at LaCrosse, Wis., that avoided travel on that city's streets. For all three roads' streamliners, an additional 30 minutes was always used for the trip between St. Paul and Minneapolis.
In mid-June 1936, 400 service was expanded by adding trains 418 and 419 between Mankato, Minn., and Wyeville, Wis., where they connected to and from the regular 400s. Like its big brother, the Minnesota 400 was composed of conventional equipment: initially a baggage-coach, two coaches, and a cafe-lounge. Motive power for the trains' first 15 months was class D 4-4-2 Atlantic types that were at least 28 years old. They were adequate, however, since 418 and 419 were often two-car (combine and cafe lounge) trains. The Minnesota 400 was such a success that in a short-lived burst of optimism 418 and 419 were extended from Wyeville to Chicago via Madison, Wis., from August 1937 to June 1938.
In January 1942, the Minnesota 400 became a streamliner. Instead of investing in an expensive new diesel unit for the relatively short Mankato-Wyeville run, North Western chose to shroud two class Es Pacific 4-6-2s. The "shells" were patterned after the contours of the class 4 4-6-4 Hudsons used between Chicago and Omaha (and originally considered for use on the 400), but were painted in yellow and green rather than the 4000's Pullman olive. Locomotives were routinely changed at Winona, Minn. The new version of 418/419 consisted of a baggage-tavern lunch counter-lounge identical to those on the Twin Cities 400, a coach with stateroom for the nurse-stewardess, one or two "regular" coaches, and a drawing room parlor car. While it lacked a solarium end for first-class passengers, the Minnesota-unlike other members of the 400 fleet-was graced with an illuminated rear end sign.
January 1942 was a strong month for North Western passenger service, with a "fleet" of streamlined 400s beginning operation. Four sets of equipment were acquired, all echoing the design of the 1939 streamliner, henceforth designated as the Twin Cities 400. With the United States' entry into World War II a month earlier, the new trains boosted the morale of the upper Midwest. More importantly, the new streamlined cars released conventional equipment for passenger travel generated by the rationing of tires and gasoline.
The first set was used on the existing Minnesota 400. The second made a round trip between Ishpeming, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and Chicago as the Peninsula 400, trains 214-209. Soon the Peninsula became the champion of patronage and consist length, drawing more riders than even trains 400-401, and 14 cars south of Green Bay, Wis. Two trainsets operated a variety of trips each day between Chicago and Milwaukee as the Commuter and City of Milwaukee 400s; from Chicago and Green Bay as the Shoreland and Valley 400s; and between Chicago Milwaukee-Madison-Janesville, Wis.-Chicago as the Capitol 400. Their make-up varied somewhat on individual trips between Chicago and Milwaukee, some having tavern-lunch counter car but no diner, and vice versa. With the exception of the Minnesota 400, which did not have a diner, the consists of all the new long-distance 400s had a tavern-lunch counter; dining car; parlor car; and, usually, four coaches. One set of equipment overnighted in Milwaukee, the other in Chicago; and both spent their mornings shuttling between the two cities before venturing farther.
Quick "turn-arounds" were the norm, taking as little as 10 minutes in Milwaukee, where coach cleaners would begin turning coach seats before all passengers had detrained; the moment the arriving train halted, car inspectors would cut off the locomotive, which made a very quick trip to th Erie Street roundhouse to be turned on the table there. It was a frantic activity, similar to the change of engines on the steam-powered original 400. Since the trains themselves were not turned, the tavern-lunch counter was always on the geographic "north" end of the train and carried the markers when Chicago-bound. Each route, except that of the Capitol 400, received a streamlined round trip daily. Green Bay was served by two 400s in each direction, thanks to C&NW's multiple routes. Sunday schedules differed somewhat.
Five diesel units were acquired for the three diesel powered sets of equipment. The Peninsula 400, because of its larger consist, was assigned two units. Using three units, operating singly, for the other two allowed quick turn-arounds in Chicago. Four of the units were EMD E6s; the fifth was the lone Alco DL709 which, most of the time, was paired with an EMD on trains 209-214. Actually, the new E6s went to the Twin Cities 400 North Western Limited, service and the E3s of 1939 pulled the shorter-distance 400s. Occasionally when consists were longer with conventional coaches making their way into consists on holidays, a Pacific 4-6-2 steam locomotive would lead the single diesel unit. On very rare instances, a 4-6-2 would pull one of the normally diesel members of the fleet.
North Western could not have anticipated the United States' entry into the war and the resultant surge in passenger train travel, so the railroad did not acquire spare cars for overflow patronage. Early on, a pair of the 1937-built streamlined coaches, part of C&NW's contribution to the Challenger "economy" trains to the West Coast, in cooperation with Union Pacific and Southern Pacific, were pulled and as signed to the Peninsula 400 to expand its consist. Most of the time during the war years, two Challenger coaches would appear in the other diesel consists. Their exteriors were Pullman green (or olive, take your pick) with gold pinstripes, identical to the class E4 streamlined 4-6-4s, and the Challenger name appeared below the windows in red. Interiors of these 6132 series coaches were quite different from those specifically built for the 400s. At very busy times, conventional (but air-conditioned-on-reclining) seat coaches would show up on almost any of the lesser 400s; but the Twin Cities 400 was always kept streamlined in yellow and green.
Optimism ran high after the conclusion of World War II with all major passenger rails, and some minor ones, announcing substantial improvements in ser vice-through adding more streamlined trains. North Western was no exception-400 service would be expanded. New routes would extend to Asland on Lake Superior, into South Dakota, and, for the first time, there would be 400 service on the "western" portion of the system, i.e., to Omaha and Sioux City, Iowa. Just as with the original 400, the new trains to the Missouri River would run in heated competition with Burlington and Milwaukee Road streamliners. Green Bay would see more 400s.
North Western, in fact, became the first western railroad to receive postwar passenger cars when twenty 400-type coaches arrived from Pullman-Standard during early 1946. New York Central had acquired the first postwar passenger cars just two weeks earlier. The new coaches replaced the Challenger coaches and holiday conventional coaches, making the 400s entirely yellow and green, and, as a harbinger, were included in the normally heavy-weight seasonal Flambeau to Wisconsin's North Woods.
New 400s, and new routes, did not come until 1950. On April 30, the Madison-Chicago portion of the Capitol 400, and the entire Minnesota 400 were replaced by 518 and 519: the Dakota 400 which operated as a through train from Chicago, via Beloit and Madison, Wis., to Rochester, Minn., with its western terminal at Huron, S.D. The next expansion was the introduction of the Flambeau 400 to Ashland on Lake Superior's Wisconsin shore in late May. On June 11, new Shoreland 400/train 215 made its early evening departure from Chicago for Green Bay; and the next morning, existing train 206 blossomed out as the Valley 400 from Green Bay to Chicago via Fond du Lac.
The Dakota had the longest mileage of any 400 route. At Mankato, Minn., its parlor car was exchanged for a conventional Pullman that was handled west of Huron to and from Rapid City, at the edge of South Dakota's Black Hills, by trains 515 and 514, the Minnesota and Black Hills Express. Trains 519 and 518 were the only 400 to include a sleeping car. Later, the eight-section, two-compartment, one-drawing room car was replaced by streamlined stock: initially, an American series four bedroom, six-roomette, six-section; and ultimately a Northern series one-com partment, three-bedroom, 16-duplex roomette. The Dakota 400 carried a baggage-tavern-lunch counter car and coaches on its entire run; a parlor car from Chicago to Mankato where it was exchanged for the Rapid City sleeper; and a diner and additional coaches and parlor car between Chicago and Elroy, Wis.
For the first few months, 518 and 519 were powered by two-unit 4,000 h.p. E7s, but in summer 1950, they were replaced by single 2,250 h.p. brand-new E8s that were adequate to propel the eight and nine car consists south of Elroy, and more than sufficient for the five and six cars making up the trains beyond that "railroad town."
Between Chicago and Green Bay, the new Flambeau 400 trains 153 and 216 followed the routes and times of the Shoreland and Valley 400s. North of Wisconsin's oldest city, they were year-round replacements for the summer season Flambeau as far as Ironwood, at the extreme west end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, plus an extension to Ashland. The conventional Flambeau had operated one trip per week to Ashland in 1937-1938, and for most of the 1949 season Flambeau cars had been attached to the Shoreland Valley 400s between Chicago and Green Bay. Between Chicago and Ashland, the Flambeau 400 carried a 762 5-series baggage-lunch counter-diner, new on the property from Pullman-Standard and among the final coaches and parlor cars built specifically for 400 service. South of Green Bay, additional coaches, a diner, and another parlor car made a round trip on 153-216. During the summer vacation season, connecting trains 15 and 16 extended the Flambeau 400 between Monico, Wis., and Watersmeet, Minn., serving a prominent resort area and carrying through Chicago coaches. One-of-a-kind stream lined cafe coach 7000 provided food service from Antigo, Wis., through Monico to Watersmeet. At first, 15 and 16 were pulled by 4-6-0 Ten-wheelers; in the final years of branch operation, they were pulled by an Alco RSD-4 roadswitcher.
Effective in April 1952, the Dakota carried a through streamlined coach between Chicago and Rapid City, handled in trains 515 and 514 west of Huron. 400 coaches were used until September 1957 when three coaches acquired from Chesapeake & Ohio replaced them. The former C&O cars contained two separate seating areas, and their exteriors retained C&O P-S stainless steel fluting beneath their windows-unique on C&NW. The trio wound up on SP after becoming surplus on North Western. In October 1955, the trains west of Huron were renumbered 518 and 519, and the Dakota 400 designation extended through to Rapid City.
Train 215, the 1950 version of the Shoreland 400, replaced the Ashland Limited through Sheboygan. The latter was combined with Iron and Copper Country Express 161 operating via Fond du Lac to Green Bay. The "new" Valley 400 206 stream lined an existing train. This set's mark of distinction was its baggage lunch counter-diner outshopped that spring by P-S in a contemporary design, with tables seating four angled so that two persons had their backs toward the windows while their companions sat in moveable chairs with their backs to the aisle. Across the aisle, triangular tables for two pointed toward angled banquettes against the wall. Two identical cars ran on the Flambeau 400, and the fourth shuttled between Milwaukee and Chicago. The quartet was among the most distinctive in 400 service.
(To detail all of the changes in consist, schedules, and routings of the 400 fleet is beyond the scope of this article. For example, after the City streamliners were re-routed over Milwaukee Road, instead of North Western between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Chicago at the end of October 1955, C&NW used American Car & Foundry-[ACF] built diners, cafe lounges, and even leg-rest coaches From the Cities on some 400s.)
A major event was the introduction of two sets of bilevel equipment in late October 1958, partially as a condition under which the state of Wisconsin permitted discontinuance of several secondary passenger trains. The cars were of the same design as the Chicago suburban cars introduced by Burlington and used by C&NW. The "main floor" had two seats on each side of the aisle, while single seats were in each upper "gallery." One set-coaches, coach-bar, parlor-was assigned to the Peninsula 400. The other-coaches and coach-parlor-was assigned to the Green Bay 400, a round trip originating as train 206 in Green Bay in the morning, running to Chicago, and returning shortly as the initial portion of train 153. Both bilevel trainsets included single-level bag gage-tavern lounges and diners remanufactured from existing 400 equipment. The inter-city bilevel equipment introduced a "first" in North American railroading: head-end powered electric heating and air conditioning in a locomotive-auled train. This system was adopted by Amtrak and heats and cools its system today.
Passengers to northern Flambeau 400 destinations had to change to conventional streamlined cars at Green Bay. Train 216 operated intact Ashland Chicago. Its equipment returned to Green Bay on 215 North Woods Fisherman, a successor to both the second Shoreland 400 and the Ashland Limited. This wasteful and impractical arrangement ended in spring 1959 when the second bilevel set began operating round trip Chicago-Green Bay in both directions on the Flambeau 400, with one coach running to and from Ashland.
Late in 1948, C&NW ads referred to a forthcoming Corn King 400 between Chicago and Missouri Valley, Iowa, where it would have divided, with most of the train continuing to Omaha and at least one coach and a parlor going to Sioux City, Iowa. On the last lap, they would have been accompanied by coach cafe 7000 (which did work on the Watersmeet section of the Flambeau 400). The short Sioux City portion would have been pulled by a 1000 h.p. locomotive baggage unit-the only one built by Baldwin. Lone DR-6-2-1O 5000A, delivered in 1948, did pull trains out of Sioux City, and later ran between Chicago and Freeport, 111. However, for whatever reason, the Corn King 400 never materialized.
In October 1955, when the City streamliners moved to Milwaukee Road, day and overnight passenger service was inaugurated on North Western between Chicago and Omaha . The K ate Shelley 400 e ntered service between C h i c ago a n d Boone, I owa , on a schedule essentially duplicating that of the City of Portland: early morning departure to the Windy City and arrival back in Boone in late evening. A combination of 400 and City train equipment was used. The train was named for the woman, who, in 1881 at age 15, saved the lives of two train service employess when a bridge near her home west of Boone collapsed in a rain storm. Shelley was later employed by the railway as an agent, and C&NW's Des Moines River bridge was named for her in 1926. In mid-August 1956, the Kate was removed west of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and in October 1957 it was cut back to a Chicago-Clinton Iowa, round trip. After July 23, 1963, the trains were simply known as Numbers 1 and 2.
In late October 1960, 519 and 518 were discontinued west of Mankato, and were renamed Rochester 400. Their usual consist was a single E8, two coaches, an ACF-built diner lounge, and parlor. Trains 518 and 519 made their final trips on July 23, 1963, as did Twin Cities 400s 400 and 401. In fall 1968, the Flambeau 400 became a seasonal operation north of Green Bay. When the Peninsula 400 was discontinued north of Green Bay in mid-July 1969, C&NW quietly dropped the 400 name, referring to its trains only as streamliners. What had started on Jan. 2, 1935, in a brilliant burst of optimism and had grown into a fine example of modern passenger train operation was no more.