EARLY AMERICAN STREAMLINED TRAINS – During the Golden Age of Rail Travel…

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THIS booklet was designed to provide a brief, running commentary on the country along the trail of The Milwaukee Road between Lake Michigan and the Pacific Coast for the great streamliner – OLYMPIAN HIAWATHA. This is a view of the dome car.

EARLY AMERICAN STREAMLINED TRAINS…


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Preserved Chesapeake & Ohio No. 490 “Class L 4-6-4″ steam locomotive showing the streamlining that was applied to passenger train locomotives in the 1920s and 1930s. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, Maryland.

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The Comet was a diesel electric streamliner built in 1935 for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad by the Goodyear-Zeppelin Company. Smaller than the other streamliners, it was a three-car, double-ended train that could operate in both directions and thus did not need to be turned at destinations.

It was initially placed into service between Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island on a 44 mile, 44 minute schedule as advertised. This service lasted until the beginning of World War II, when increased traffic volume overwhelmed the capacity of the Comet, after which it was placed on local commuter services around the Boston area. The trainset was withdrawn from service in 1951 and scrapped.

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Between 1947–1948, Baldwin built three unique coal-fired steam turbine-electric locomotives, designed for passenger service on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O). The 6,000 horsepower units which were equipped with Westinghouse electrical systems were 106 feet long, making them the longest locomotives ever built for passenger service. The cab was mounted in the center, with a coal bunker ahead of it and a backwards mounted boiler behind it.

These locomotives were intended for a route from Washington, D.C. to Cincinnati, Ohio but could never travel the whole route without some sort of failure. Coal dust and water frequently got into the traction motors. While these problems could have been fixed given enough time, it was obvious that these locomotives would always be to expensive to maintain and were complete failures. All three were scrapped in 1950.

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New York Central Observation Car at Rensselaer, New York, September 17, 2003. Observation car “Hickory Creek” formerly served on the 20th Century Limited.

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The Milwaukee Road has long been noted for its awesome scenery; particularly on the Pacific Extension, which traverses several mountain ranges. When the road’s premiere western train, the “Olympian” was re-equipped and renamed the Olympian Hiawatha, they naturally wanted a distinctive observation car for scenic viewing.

The Pullman Company, with noted Industrial Designer Brooks Stevens, came up with a stunning variation of their standard boat tail observation car. The lower part of the rear end, up to just below the window line, is standard in all respects. Above that, an open framework wraps around to create a bubble. The areas between the frame members are fitted with glass, resulting in a lounge that is nearly 90% transparent. There were six identical cars ordered in 1946 and delivered in late 1948 and early 1949 for the Olympian Hiawatha Route between Chicago and Tacoma, Washington.

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