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Hiawatha Service


Hiawatha Service

Hiawatha Service, or Hiawatha, is the name of an 86-mile (138 km) train route operated by Amtrak on the western shore of Lake Michigan, although the name was historically applied to several different routes that extended across the Midwest and out to the Pacific Ocean. As of 2007, fourteen trains (seven round-trips, six on Sunday) run daily between Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin,[2] making intermediate stops in Glenview, Illinois, Sturtevant, Wisconsin, and General Mitchell International Airport. The line is partially supported by funds from the state governments of Wisconsin and Illinois.[3]

The service carried over 800,000 passengers in fiscal year 2011, a 4.7% increase over FY2010. Revenue during FY2011 totaled $14,953,873, a 6.1% increase over FY2010.[1] It is Amtrak's ninth-busiest route, and the railroad's busiest line in the Midwest.[1] Ridership has been steadily increasing, with 8 of the last 9 years showing ridership increases as of 2013.[4] Ridership per mile is also very high, exceeded only by the Northeast Regional and the Capitol Corridor. A one-way trip between Milwaukee and Chicago takes about 90 minutes. In the 1930s the same trip took 75 minutes on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad's Hiawatha.[5] In 2014, free WiFi service was added to the Hiawatha line.[6]


  • History 1
    • Milwaukee Road 1.1
    • Amtrak 1.2
    • Future expansion 1.3
    • Corridor names 1.4
  • Ridership 2
  • Equipment 3
  • Station stops 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Milwaukee Road

An Afternoon Hiawatha depicted on a postcard between 1956-1963.

Historically, the Hiawathas were operated by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (also known as the "Milwaukee Road") and initially traveled from Chicago to the Twin Cities. The first Hiawatha trains ran in 1935. By 1946, there were actually four routes carrying the Hiawatha name, Chicago–Minneapolis; Chicago–Omaha; Chicago–Wausau–Minocqua; and Chicago-Minneapolis-Seattle.

The Hiawathas were among the world's fastest trains in the 1930s and 1940s, and these trains reached some of their peak speeds on this stretch, directly competing with trains from the Chicago and North Western Railway which ran on roughly parallel tracks. A 90-minute non-stop service between Chicago and Milwaukee was first introduced in the mid-1930s, and this later fell to 75 minutes for several years. A self-imposed 100 miles per hour (161 km/h) speed limit was routinely exceeded by locomotive engineers, until the Interstate Commerce Commission rules imposed a stricter limit of 90 mph (145 km/h) in the early 1950s, and the train slowed to a schedule of 80 minutes, though with the addition of the Glenview stop. Ultimately, the speed limit fell to 79 mph (127 km/h) in 1968 because of signaling changes, and the scheduled duration went back to 90 minutes end-to-end.[7]


Hiawatha logo from the Milwaukee Road days.

Under Amtrak, which assumed control of most intercity passenger rail service in the United States on May 1, 1971, the Hiawatha name survived in two forms. The first was a Chicago–Milwaukee–Minneapolis service, known simply as the Hiawatha. This would be renamed the Twin Cities Hiawatha, then extended to Seattle and renamed the North Coast Hiawatha. This service ended in 1979.[8]:30–31; 73

The second was a Chicago–Milwaukee corridor known as the Hiawatha Service (as opposed to Hiawatha). Although Amtrak had retained Chicago–Milwaukee service during the transition, it did not name these trains until October 29, 1972. At this time both Hiawatha and Hiawatha Service could be found on the same timetable. On June 15, 1976, Amtrak introduced Turboliners to the route and the name Hiawatha Service left the timetable, not to return until 1989. The Chicago–Milwaukee trains were known simply as "Turboliners" (as were comparable trains on the Chicago–Detroit and Chicago – St. Louis corridors) until October 26, 1980, when Amtrak introduced individual names for each of the trains. This practice ended on October 29, 1989, when the name Hiawatha Service returned as an umbrella term for all Chicago–Milwaukee service.[9]

A resurfacing project on Interstate 94 led to a three-month trial of service west of Milwaukee to Watertown, Wisconsin beginning on April 13, 1998. Intermediate stops included Wauwatosa, Elm Grove, Pewaukee, and Oconomowoc. Amtrak extended four of the six daily Hiawathas over the route. The Canadian Pacific Railway, which owned the tracks, estimated that the route would require between $15–33 million in capital investment before it could host the extended service permanently. Money was not forthcoming and service ended July 11. The three-month trial cost $1.4 million and carried 32,000 passengers.[10]:184[11][12]

In 2000–01 Amtrak considered extending one Hiawatha Service round-trip 70 miles (113 km) north from Milwaukee to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Potential stops included Brookfield, Elm Grove, Slinger, and Lomira. Travel time would be nearly two hours. Amtrak hoped to attract mail and express business along the route as part of its Network Growth Strategy, similar to the short-lived Lake Country Limited. Amtrak abandoned the idea in September 2001.[13]

In 2005, another station opened on the line, the Milwaukee Airport Railroad Station at General Mitchell International Airport. The expansion was intended to facilitate transfer to and from the airport, as well (shuttles run between the station and the main terminal), giving residents on the south side of Milwaukee easier access to the service, along with an alternative to the central station in downtown, which is now fully accessible owing to the completion of the Marquette Interchange. The station was primarily funded and is maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

It is proposed that the Hiawatha Service, along with the Empire Builder would shift one stop north to North Glenview in Glenview, Illinois. This move would eliminate lengthy stops which block traffic on Glenview Road. This move would involve reconstruction of the North Glenview station to handle the additional traffic, and depends on commitments from Glenview, the Illinois General Assembly and Metra.[14]

Future expansion

In 2009, Wisconsin applied for funding from an $8 billion pool allocated for rail projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the Chicago–Milwaukee–MadisonMinneapolis/St. Paul corridor was allocated $823 million.[15] $810 million of that was to support extending Amtrak services to Madison, while $12 million would have been used to upgrade the line between Chicago and Milwaukee, and an additional $600,000 was granted to study future alignments to the Twin Cities.[16][17]

The Madison extension was initially planned to include stops in Brookfield, Oconomowoc, and Watertown,[15] but Oconomowoc and Brookfield were reluctant to move forward with station planning due to cost concerns. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) dropped Oconomowoc from the planned route in August 2010,[18] and Brookfield was waiting to see the outcome of elections in November before making a decision on whether to build a station.[19] The nearby cities of Hartland and Wauwatosa had expressed interest in hosting stations. The extension was expected to begin service by 2013.

The project became a political issue in the 2010 Wisconsin gubernatorial election. Republican candidate Scott Walker promised he would stop the project and return the money the state received if elected.[20] When asked whether it would be realistic to stop work, Governor Doyle expressed pessimism and said in part:

At the end of October 2010, Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle and the federal government signed an agreement that bound the state to spend the federal funds granted to construct the route, regardless of the results of the 2010 gubernatorial election.[22] On November 4, two days after Scott Walker won the gubernatorial election, however, Doyle ordered work on the line to be temporarily halted,[23] and on November 9 said that he planned to leave the choice of whether or not to operate the train to Walker.[24]

On December 9, 2010, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that much of the $810 million that Wisconsin was supposed to get would be redistributed to other states, including California, Florida and Washington. According to Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker, LaHood said Wisconsin would not have to pay the federal government back for money already spent. In addition, Wisconsin would get to retain $2 million to fund upgrades on Amtrak's existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line.[25]

Corridor names

This table shows the names given to trains which operated over the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor under Amtrak. It excludes long-distance trains such as the Empire Builder and North Coast Hiawatha whose local stopping patterns were restricted. The Abraham Lincoln and Prairie State were Chicago-St. Louis services which Amtrak extended through Chicago to the north in the early 1970s.

1971-11-14 1972-10-29 1973-10-28 1975-11-30 1976-06-15 1980-10-26 1984-10-28 1985-04-28 1989-10-29 Present
Abraham Lincoln  
Prairie State  
  Hiawatha Service  
  Hiawatha Service


Traffic by Fiscal Year
Passenger volume Change over previous year Ticket Revenue Change over previous year
2007[26] 595,336 $10,230,272
2008[26] 749,659 025.92% $13,138,765 028.43%
2009[26] 738,231 01.52% $13,300,511 01.23%
2010[27] 783,060 06.07% $14,092,803 05.96%
2011[27] 819,493 04.66% $14,953,873 06.11%
2012[28] 838,355 02.30% $15,963,261 06.75%
2013[29][note 1] 778,469 02.10% $16,287,184 02.03%
2014[29] 799,638 02.70% $16,794,044 03.10%


  1. ^ The 2013 and subsequent numbers have been adjusted to account for multi-ride tickets.


Sample consist
October 1, 2005
Train Southbound #332

As of 2009, the usual Hiawatha train set consists of one GE Genesis locomotive on the northward end, an EMD F40PH "cabbage car" on the southward end, and six coaches, consisting of four Horizon Fleet coaches and an Amfleet coach on each end that serve as "quiet" cars. Since 2008, cabbage car 90230, wearing colors of the Cascades service in the Pacific Northwest, has often seen use on the Hiawatha.[31][32]

On July 17, 2009, the State of Wisconsin announced it would purchase two new train sets from Spanish manufacturer Talgo in preparation for the enhanced-speed service that received funding in early 2010. Governor Scott Walker rejected the federal funding and cancelled the project. Talgo opened a manufacturing plant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to construct the trainsets for the Hiawatha Service, and the company hoped the plant would also build trains for future high-speed lines in the region.[33] The two sets built were stored in the former Talgo plant until May 2014, when Amtrak moved them to its maintenance facility near Indianapolis, Indiana. They will remain stored there pending their possible use on other Amtrak routes.

The unpowered tilting trainsets are 14 cars long including a cab car, eleven coaches (five of which have restrooms), one bistro car, and one end car including a bicycle rack. The cars wear a red-and-white livery in homage to the University of Wisconsin. It would have been likely that the trains would initially be pulled by the same GE Genesis locomotives used today, which have a top speed of 110 mph.[34]

Station stops

State Town/City Station Connections
Illinois Chicago Chicago Union Station Amtrak: Blue Water, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, Carl Sandburg, California Zephyr, City of New Orleans, Empire Builder, Hoosier State, Illini, Illinois Zephyr, Lake Shore Limited, Lincoln Service, Pere Marquette, Saluki, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Wolverine, Thruway Motorcoach
CTA Buses: 1, 7, J14, 19, 20, 56, 60, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 128, 129, 130, 151, 156, 157, 192
Megabus: M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M6, M7
Metra: North Central Service, Milwaukee District/North Line, Milwaukee District/West Line, BNSF Railway Line, Heritage Corridor, SouthWest Service
Glenview Glenview Amtrak station Amtrak: Empire Builder
Metra: Milwaukee District/North Line
Pace: 210, 422, 423
Wisconsin Sturtevant Sturtevant Amtrak Station BUS: 7, 27
Milwaukee Milwaukee Airport Railroad Station Airport shuttle to General Mitchell International Airport
Milwaukee Intermodal Station Amtrak: Empire Builder
Coach USA: Wisconsin Coach Lines
Greyhound Lines
Jefferson Lines
Lamers Bus Lines
Indian Trails
MCTS: 57

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Amtrak Ridership Rolls Up Best-Ever Records" (PDF).  
  2. ^ Wisconsin Department of Transportation (May 1, 2007). "Rail Transportation in Wisconsin". Retrieved December 11, 2007. 
  3. ^ "Amtrak Hiawatha Service breaks ridership record" (Press release). Wisconsin Department of Transportation. January 11, 2007. Retrieved December 11, 2007. 
  4. ^ Mulvany, Lydia (August 15, 2013). "Amtrak's Hiawatha route tops monthly ridership record". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 
  5. ^ "Official Guide". September 1938. 
  6. ^ Docter, Cary (February 10, 2014). "Free Wi-Fi now available on Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service". Fox6 News Milwaukee. 
  7. ^ Scribbins, Jim (2007) [1970].  
  8. ^ Goldberg, Bruce (1981). Amtrak--the first decade. Silver Spring, MD: Alan Books.  
  9. ^ James Sponholz. "Timeline of Hiawatha Corridor Timetables". Retrieved January 8, 2010. 
  10. ^ Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, IN:  
  11. ^ "Amtrak temporary service extension approved".  
  12. ^ Sandler, Larry (July 14, 1998). "Madison-Chicago rail link discussed".  
  14. ^ "Amtrak eyes moving Ill. station". Railway Track and Structures. November 11, 2009. Retrieved January 8, 2010. 
  15. ^ a b "Fact Sheet: High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program: Minneapolis/St. Paul - Madison - Milwaukee - Chicago". Retrieved January 28, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Wis to get $822 million for rail". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. January 28, 2010. Retrieved February 2, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Minnesota receives federal stimulus funds to study high-speed rail". Minnesota Department of Transportation. January 29, 2009. Retrieved February 2, 2010. 
  18. ^ Sean Ryan (August 19, 2010). "WisDOT nixes Oconomowoc high-speed rail stop". The Business Journal of Milwaukee. Retrieved September 26, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Brookfield station decision delayed until after election". The Business Journal of Milwaukee. September 24, 2010. Retrieved September 26, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Walker would give back $810M for high-speed rail". Associated Press/WLUK-TV. August 16, 2010. Retrieved September 26, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Madison high speed rail station Q+A". Learfield News. YouTube. July 1, 2010. Retrieved September 26, 2010. 
  22. ^ """Wisconsin high-speed rail project "locked in. Trains Magazine. November 2, 2010. Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  23. ^ "State halts work on high speed rail line". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. November 4, 2010. Retrieved November 5, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Anti-rail Wisconsin Governor-elect will decide on fast-train plan". Trains Magazine. November 9, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Feds will pull, redistribute state's high-speed rail money". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. December 9, 2010. Retrieved December 9, 2010. 
  26. ^ a b c "Amtrak Fiscal Year 2009, October 2008–September 2009 (compared with Fiscal Years 2008 and 2007)" (PDF). 
  27. ^ a b Amtrak (October 13, 2011). "Amtrak Ridership Rolls Up Best-Ever Records" (PDF) (Press release). 
  28. ^ "Amtrak Fiscal Year 2009, October 2008–September 2009 (compared with Fiscal Years 2008 and 2007)" (PDF). 
  29. ^ a b Amtrak (October 27, 2014). "Amtrak Ridership and Revenues Continue Strong Growth in FY 2014" (PDF) (Press release). Retrieved March 28, 2015. 
  30. ^ "Amtrak - Hiawatha". Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Amtrak Hiawatha train 338 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Flickr. September 27, 2008. Retrieved January 26, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Unsatisfied | Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Flickr. November 14, 2009. Retrieved January 26, 2014. 
  33. ^ "Doyle enters Midwest pact to pursue high-speed rail funds". The Business Journal of Milwaukee. July 27, 2009. Retrieved February 2, 2010. 
  34. ^ Kay Nolan (September 9, 2010). "Talgo trains to sport Badger colors, traditional locomotives". Retrieved September 26, 2010. 

External links

  • page at the official Amtrak websiteHiawatha
  • Official WebsiteHiawatha
  • Timeline of Hiawatha Corridor Timetables
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