Second Strings of the Milwaukee Road

On any given day, Milwaukee’s Everett Street depot was a beehive of activity. While most attention was showered upon the infamous Hiawatha’s, other less noteworthy trains were also vital to the Milwaukee Road’s overall success.

Ready to depart as soon as the last few pieces of mail are stowed onboard, “The Berlin Bullet”, pulled by the shop built 1000 h.p. gas electric streamlined motor car #5900, will tow an extra combine car that will be cut at Horicon for the Portage train. Often referred to as “Bulldogs” for their prominent flat nose, the 5900 routinely served the smaller branch line communities off of the main line trackage until her discontinuance in March of 1958.

Resting impatiently in the center of the train shed is Pacific #885 ready with the all stops “Cannonball” and 2 heavy weight coaches for Watertown and Madison Wisconsin.

The change over to diesel powered equipment was well underway as evidenced by the presence of the Fairbanks-Morse #21A alongside the shed. Known by the road as “Erie-Builts”, these streamlined units were constructed in Erie Pennsylvania before the FM plant in Beloit was operational. The 21A will cut out 3 cars and take a shorter “Varsity” to Madison arriving well ahead of the Cannonball.

Forever playing “second-fiddle” to the Hiawatha’s, these trains did not receive the notoriety the more famous of the Indian fleet received, but were no less important to the countless riders and communities who depended upon them every day.

The 3 modes of power represented, steam, gas-electric and diesel, each had its own unique note that most certainly struck a chord with those who were fortunate enough to be a part of their history.

24 x 30 original acrylic painting was completed in 2009.

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