On May 1, 1971, Amtrak became Wisconsin’s rail passenger carrier. Passenger service along the Burlington Northern’s Mississippi River Route ended as did all service on the Chicago & North Western. Famous train names such as the Milwaukee Road’s Hiawathas, C&NW’s Streamliners, and Burlington Northern’s North Coast Limited disappeared. When Amtrak began, only the Empire Builder and Chicago-to-Milwaukee corridor service were spared, and the Builder was rerouted from the BN onto the Milwaukee’s Twin Cities line.

By November, 1971, Amtrak was ready for some new Wisconsin trains. Added were Hiawatha trains to the Twin Cities; North Coast Hiawatha trains to Seattle via Southern Montana; and St. Louis service through Chicago to Milwaukee. Things were looking up for Wisconsin’s rail passenger service!

The first vestiges of Amtrak paint slowly appeared in 1972 and in 1973 there were brand new Amtrak engines. However, mismatched “Rainbow” consists were still the rule. GM&O heavyweight parlor cars often appeared as did Denver, Kansas City and California Zephyr Silver dome-observation cars. Soon the E and F locomotives would disappear forever, but in these vintage years they still dominated the trains.

Early Amtrak Across Wisconsin follows Amtrak from the Twin Cities to Southern Wisconsin in the years 1971-73. Locations include such railroading hot spots as St. Croix Junction south of St. Paul, La Crosse, and Duplainville Tower west of Milwaukee. There are scenic views along the Mississippi River and many photo locations in the metro Milwaukee area. The Amtrak trains you will see include:

# The Empire Builder
# The Hiawatha
# The North Coast Hiawatha
# The Abraham Lincoln