Gleaming as fine as bright tableware, the California Zephyr’s Vista Dome observation car Silver Sky, gives the curtain call to perhaps one of the finest transcontinental passenger trains ever to travel the rails between Chicago and San Francisco. Constructed totally of stainless steel, the Zephyr’s traversed some of the most beautiful countryside boasted by any railroad; splicing the deserts of Nevada and winding through the Rockies of Colorado and California. With 5 out of her 11 cars featuring domes, lucky patrons were assured that there was not a bad seat in the house.
Here, outside of Glenwood Canyon, the Denver & Rio Grande will share it 22% claim (approximately 500 rail miles) of the 2,525 mile route, before turning the Silver Lady over to the Western Pacific at Salt Lake City for the final leg into San Francisco. There the Zephyr will conclude her 49 hour 30 minute journey from Chicago with an on time arrival in the City by the Bay.
Named after the Greek word for “Fast Winds”, the Zephyr’s were in fact at times fast, and others times, slow and gentle but like the wind, were here one minute and seemingly gone the next.
18 x 24 original acrylic painting was completed in 2004.
Digging in her heals as she pounds upgrade with a mile long freight in tow, Milwaukee Road S2 # 218 receives a thorough inspection under the discerning eye of the tower operator at Duplaineville Wisconsin in Waukesha County while on the other track, racing eastbound at nearly 90 miles per hour The Morning Hiawatha’s engineer has the whistle cold pulled taught, warning all vehicle traffic at Springdale Road to heed the wig-wag’s warning as he takes the Hi toward Milwaukee and eventually Chicago.
Once the Milwaukee’s work horses clear the diamond, the block signal will turn green for the Soo Line freighter that has been forced to hold tight coming out of Waukesha.
With but mere seconds to take it all in, engineers, tower men and passengers could garner nothing but passing glances of one another as their individual journeys met at this point day after day throughout the golden age of railroading.
Train 216, The Flambeau 400 with two 1958 bi-level cars in tow, calls on Eland Wisconsin after coming down the line from Ashland enroute to Green Bay, Milwaukee and finally Chicago on this first day of 1960. To the west of the depot on the Marshfield line, a pair of GP7’s idles as the crew, taking advantage of a lull in the action, has gone inside to top off their thermos’s with hot coffee. They’ll soon retreat to the confines of cab # 1549 in hopes to sip a cup or two before hooking up to a string of pulp cars due within the hour from Wausau. Eland’s fine depot once boasted a lunch counter that existed for the pure indulgence of its patrons traveling one of the 38 passenger or 30 freight trains that converged from all four directions each day. Eight of those passenger trains alone arrived between the hours of 11:00-1:00pm daily.
Unfortunately, by the time this scene was captured, automobiles were already replacing the passenger train and semi trucks had their ligature tightening on the remaining freight traffic. Not even new bi-level equipment or a depot freshly painted in matching 400 colors could persuade people to go by train.
The line from Eland north to Rhinelander was abandoned on August 24, 1982 and the last steel wheels to scrape the rust from the rails was GP7 # 4152 on January 30, 1994. The depot still stands today as a faded reminder of the glory days of railroading in Wisconsin’s north woods.
18 x 24 original acrylic painting was completed in 2007.
Entering the causeway over under a full moon over Lake Monona in Madison Wisconsin, The Milwaukee Road passenger train, pulled by locomotive #172 is about to cross the Chicago & North Western main line in what was the only mid-lake intersection of its kind in America. Both railroads faced challenges while plotting their lines from the south toward the states capitol city and what resulted were not tracks around the lakes but across them.
The tower operator at the diamond could see water out of all four sides of his “office in the lake” but there was no time to daydream about fishing with the numerous trains coming and going every hour.
18 x 24 original acrylic painting was completed in 2006.
Skytop Lounge car Coon Rapids, with her mars light doing a dizzy dance, brakes to 70 miles per hour ahead of a sharp curve along the mighty Mississippi River on her dash to the Twin Cities from Chicago. The conductor’s message rousing dosing passengers intent on detraining at Wisconsin Dells, is briefly muffled by the passing of freighter 75A and companion, wearing their original gray, orange and yellow pinstripe.
This scene depicts the bread & butter of the once proud Milwaukee Road during an era when on-time schedules and top notch service were common in hometown rail travel.
18 x 24 original acrylic painting was completed in 2001.
Having just reached the summit of the Bitterroot Mountains at an elevation of 4,170 feet, two Milwaukee Road Little Joe’s, E-78 and E-71, heel into a curve on their long decent from Roland to Avery Idaho with a moderate freight in tow. The heavy accumulation of winter snow is unsuccessful in muffling the whining traction motor blowers but does lay in strong contrast to the emerald green forest typical throughout the 440 miles of electrified ribbons of steel. It’s the early 1970’s, and for a few remaining years, there is no better way to see the Rocky Mountain Division than from the cab of an electrified!
24 x 30 original acrylic painting was completed in 2002.