University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Goc, Michael J. / From past to present : the history of Adams County
(1999)

Railroads in Adams County,   pp. 82-109 PDF (20.7 MB)


Page 109

-,he 400-Setting The Pace For The World 
On the frosty afternoon of January 2, 1935, 
nearly everyone in the city of Adams hurried down to 
the railroad tracks to watch the arrival of the North 
Western's entry in the race to provide high-speed rail 
transportation between the Twin Cities and Chicago. 
The race had began a year earlier when the 
Burlington Railroad introduced its revolution- 
ary diesel-electric Zephyr and ran it non-stop 
for 1,105 miles from Denver to Chicago. In 
short time, a Zephyr was setting records for 
speed on the Chicago-Twin Cities run. Not to 
be outdone, the Milwaukee Road designed and 
built a new oil-fired steam locomotive, 
packaged it in a modem streamlined design, 
added new luxurious passenger and lounge cars 
and inaugurated the Hiawatha high-speed 
passenger service on its Chicago-Twin Cities 
run. 
The North Western could not let the 
challenge go unanswered--even though it was 
financially-strapped to the point of bankruptcy. 
Instead of building a new train, the North 
Western enlisted its 296 ton, 100-foot long, six 
wheel Pacific steam locomotives, coupled on its 
best passenger cars and launched the 400. It 
was the train that would soon be "setting the pace for 
the world," so named because it promised to travel 
between Chicago and St. Paul--400 miles--in 400 
minutes. At that rate it would cut rail travel time 
between the two cities from ten to six-and-one-half 
hours. 
In order to meet that mile-a-minute schedule and 
make up time lost to stops and slow-downs, the 400 
had to high ball over the flat terrain of Adams, Juneau 
and Jackson counties at 100 MPH or more--so did the 
Hiawatha, which roared through, but did not stop at, 
Wisconsin Dells. 
Adding drama to the runs of the 400 was the brief 
but scheduled meeting of the Chicago-bound train 
with the St. Paul 400 in the Adams yard, whose multi- 
track yard could accommodate both trains. A restless, 
westbound 400 sat on an Adams siding until the 
precise moment the eastbound 400 rolled in on the 
adjacent track, then kicked off on its own journey. 
The seconds-only meeting of the the 400s was one of 
the most memorable events of Wisconsin railroading. 
It was symbolic of the engineering and coordination 
high-speed rail required and of the caliber of the 
railroad personnel who could bring together two 
trains, each carrying up to 275 people, at the same 
moment day after day without mishap. 
The Adams stop also gave the North Western a 
chance to tweak the nose of its rival, the Milwaukee 
Road. Its Hiawathas did not stop at Wisconsin Dells, 
so Dells' resorts ran buses to the Adams yard to pick 
up passengers on the 400. A regular bus service also 
carried passengers from Wisconsin Rapids to Adams. 
All the high-speed trains were successful. They 
prompted the first increases in passengers the 
railroads had seen since the 1920s. It did not last, of 
course, and all passenger service ended at Adams in 
1963. In the meantime, all the North Western's 
passenger trains in Wisconsin had been renamed 
400s. A few years ago, the bike trail on the old rail 
line in Sauk and Juneau counties was named the 
"400" Trail because the Minnesota 400 ran there. But 
it was not The 400, the mile-a-minute train that 
depended on railroaders in Adams to make sure it was 
"setting the pace for the world." 
Two 400s 
meeting in 
Adams in the 
streamlined 
diesel locomo- 
tive days. The 
conductors are 
unidentified but 
the crew consists 
of (l-r) Brake- 
man Clarence 
Jepson, Engi- 
neer Pete 
Weirick, Road 
Foreman Dave 
Jennings, 
Fireman 
Clarence 
Thomas. 
109 


Go up to Top of Page