Hiawatha Trains 100 and 101 – Milwaukee WI


In 1934, the New Deal’s Public Works Administration (PWA) loaned the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad Company—popularly known as the “Milwaukee Road”—$8.6 million (about $194 million in 2022 dollars) for infrastructure improvements and new equipment.  The latter included two streamliner passenger trains, the coaches to be built by the Milwaukee Road’s own shops and the locomotives to be built by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) in Schenectady, New York for $90,000 each (about $2 million each in 2022 dollars).

Each train set consisted of an engine and seven cars.  The locomotives were numbered 1 and 2 (see photos) and the trains as a whole were numbered 100 and 101.  The trains ran from Chicago’s Union Station to points west, often terminating at Milwaukee’s Union Station (also called the Everett Street Depot or Station) – a station that was considered “home to the Milwaukee Road’s Hiawatha passenger trains” (Wikipedia).

The beautiful black, orange, and silvery-gray locomotives were innovative in a number of ways: “The Milwaukee types (as the road described them) were the first streamlined steam locomotives designed as such from origin, the first locomotives in U.S. modern times for which speed alone was the governing design factor, and the first Atlantics [4-4-2 wheel configuration] built since 1914… Oil was chosen for fuel because it eliminated intermediate coaling stops, was cleaner, and afforded better fire control” (Jim Scribbins, 1970, emphasis added).

Locomotive No. 1 came out of the ALCO factory on April 30, 1935, and No. 2 a few days later.  The two engines spent the month of May performing trials runs, demonstration trips, and exhibitions, and thousands of Americans came to see the trains.  In La Crosse, Wisconsin, for example, “Thousands of people lined the Milwaukee [Road] tracks from the city limits to the station where several hundred gathered to see the oil-burning locomotive…” (The La Crosse Tribune and Leader-Press, May 16, 1935).  Indeed, even after the trains entered regular service, “The Hiawathas attracted enormous crowds… U.S. Highway 12-16… was the daily location for hundreds of persons who turned out to witness the passage of both trains in rapid succession” (Jim Scribbins, 1970).

The Hiawatha locomotives were the fastest of their day, engineered to cruise at 100 mph and surge to 120 if needed.  Inside, the trains offered the many amenities being enjoyed by rail passengers during this exciting streamliner era: air conditioning; a dining room and bars; food and coffee served directly to passenger seating; some seating that could recline and rotate; radio; recessed lighting; lounges; and more.

The Hiawathas increased ridership and revenue for the Milwaukee Road, a phenomenon seen by many other railroads receiving PWA financing.  In 1951, the original Hiawatha locomotives—numbers 1 and 2—were retired and scrapped.

Source notes

48th Annual Report of the Interstate Commerce Commission, December 1, 1934, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934, p. 138.

“Milwaukee Road Gets Federal Loan,” The Times (Munster, Indiana), February 22, 1934, p. 40.

“Two Streamlined Locomotives for Milwaukee Road,” Associated Press, in The Missoulian (Missoula Montana), October 17, 1934, p. 1.

“New Milwaukee Train Visits City,” The La Crosse Tribune and Leader-Press (La Crosse, Wisconsin), May 16, 1935, pp. 1 and 6.

“Hiawatha, New Milwaukee Road Train,” The La Crosse Tribune and Leader-Press (La Crosse, Wisconsin), May 19, 1935, p. 14.

“Iron Horses Worship Speed,” Associated Press, in The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), May 26, 1935, p. 10.

“Milwaukee Buys Stream Locomotives for Fast Schedules,” Railway Age, Vol. 98, No. 19 (May 11, 1935), pp. 719-725.

“Hiawatha Cars As Spectacular As the Locomotives,” Railway Age, Vol. 98, No. 19 (May 11, 1935), pp. 726-732.

Jim Scribbins, The Hiawatha Story, Milwaukee, WI: Kalmbach Publishing Co., 1970.

John Gurda, “When Milwaukee Railroad Depots Were Palaces,” Milwaukee Magazine, May 9, 2023 (accessed May 16, 2023).

Everett Street Depot,” Wikipedia (accessed May 16, 2023). For the quote, “home to the Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha passenger trains,” the article cites “Holland, Kevin J. (2001). Classic American Railroad Terminals. Osceola, WI: MBI. p. 58.”

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

West Everett Street
Milwaukee, WI 53203

Location notes: Milwaukee Union Station (Former). “We Energies” building currently occupies the site.

Coordinates: 43.036950, -87.913847

Leave a Reply

Before leaving a comment, please note:

  • Comments allow viewers to share information with others or alert us to errors or changes in a New Deal site.
  • We are not involved in the management of New Deal sites and have no information about visits, hours or rentals.
  • This page shows all the information we have for this site; if you have new information or photos to share, click below.


We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.

Your email address will not be published.