When it first began the Chippewa served Chicago and Iron Mountain, Michigan (via Green Bay, Wisconsin) but was soon extended to Channing by October. Finally, the following March (1938) service was pushed to Ontonagon along the shores of Lake Superior, the Milwaukee's furthest reach into the Wolverine State. When rail travel was still the way to get around summer vacationers often used trains to relax in the U.P. and the Milwaukee competed against the Chicago & North Western for this passenger traffic. The Chippewa was powered by Class F-3-a 4-6-2s. These locomotives wore streamlined shrouding that closely resembled their 4-4-2 and 4-6-4 brethren with a similar livery of grey, maroon, and orange. The work was done, of course, at the fabled shops in Milwaukee and improved upon over the years. At first the locomotives showcased only streamlined touches but by 1941 they were completely sheathed in steel including "Chippewa" nameplates on the running boards and the sprinting Indian logo on the tender.
Only two Pacifics in all received these elegant touches, #151 and #152. Just like the Atlantics and Hudsons, both 4-6-2s were quite capable at zipping their train up to 100 mph. One must keep in mind that unlike other railroads the Milwaukee was as much concerned with the incredibly fast speeds of their trains as they were with provided first-class service. According to Jim Scribbins' book, "The Hiawatha Story," the company had initially chosen steam power on its streamliners for a number of reasons; it was best suited to pull the full-size streamlined cars, had flexibility as a non-articulated trainset (remember that when the concept was introduced such single-unit, streamlined diesels were not yet in wide-scale production), existing facilities were already available, proper proportions (as the railroad saw it) amongst the locomotives and cars, steam offered full-horsepower at top speed, was 25% cheaper than diesels, and the steam locomotive design was meant to provide improved grade-crossing protection for crews and passengers.
The Chippewa was listed as trains #14 (southbound) and #21 (northbound). During its first ten years of service a parlor and buffet-diner were offered between Channing and Chicago while three, through reclining-seat coaches ran the entire route. In 1948 the train officially joined the Hiawatha fleet becoming the Chippewa-Hiawatha. According to Tom Murray's, "The Milwaukee Road," upgrades included an RPO-express, three former Olympian Hiawatha reclining-seat coaches, a 1948 diner, and a 1938 "Beaver Tail" parlor car. Interestingly, the Pacifics remained primary power for only two more years and the Chippewa witnessed a brief career between receiving this new equipment and the first changes/cutbacks. In 1950 diesels arrived in the form of Electro-Motive E7As and FP7s while in December of that year through service was truncated no further south than Milwaukee.
As the public began abandoning trains for the open highway vacation trains like the Chippewa-Hiawatha were the first to feel the affects (the C&NW's trains fared no better). During January of 1954 service was further reduced between only Milwaukee and Channing. Finally, the train made its final run on February 6, 1960 as the last secondary Hiawatha still in service when it was discontinued (the former North Woods Hiawatha lost its name in 1956 but carried on via its train numbers until 1970). Perhaps more than most other roads, as Mr. Solomon and Mr. Gruber note, the Milwaukee invested incredible amounts of time, money, and energy into operating its Hiawathas in an effort to provide top-level, high-speed service. As a result, when traffic began its incessant decline the company pulled the plug on all but its most important corridors to reduce costs.
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