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Bring Back the Milwaukee Road Hiawatha!

February 26th, 2009 · 7 Comments

By Garland Pollard

We have added another brand to BrandlandUSA’s 100 Brands to Bring Back. It is the Milwaukee Road’s Hiawatha, and it is the suggestion of New Yorker Jon Vanhala, who understands how cool it was, and could be.

Actually he doesn’t need to tell us that. We know it because just the name Hiawatha, from Longfellow, conjures up so much. The Hiawathas (plural) were a branded set of trains operated by the Milwaukee Road, mostly between Chicago and Minneapolis, though others went to the West Coast. Not only was the design first rate, some of the Hiawathas were designed by Brooks Stevens, who designed the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. (The firm is still in business; look at their site for all manner of interesting projects and industrial design work.)

Above, we see a photo of the Hiawatha from a Flickr user named Vielles Annonces. Annonces has a brilliant collection of archival images, many from slides, of the train (go to her Flickr account to see it all. It’s quite addictive). It makes us think that Kodachrome is still a viable brand.

Hiawatha carSome of the Hiawatha cars are still around, including a rear lounge car, which was sort of the iconic part of the train set. Amtrak would do well to bring back the rear observation lounge on some of its Chicago-based trains, at least for special events or once a year.

Trainshares Inc., which leases out old rail cars for rail-cruise trips, has a Hiawatha lounge car. A bit about the car:

The Cedar Rapids was built in 1948 as the “finishing touch to a perfect train” for operation on the Hiawatha operating out of Chicago. This skytop observation lounge Car was elegantly rebuilt in 1984 and updated in 2004.

More branding stories of interest:

1970s Brands From Life on Mars
The Business of Preserving Old Radio
Thinking About Congoleum and Linoleum
The Era of Retro Ballparks Over?
Seven Totally Archaic Things That Will Survive

Tags: Transport and Shipping

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John P. Guadagni // Feb 27, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I would agree with you that the Hiawatha should be brought back. The man who designed it was Brooks Stevens, not Brooke, as you have. Got to reading some of your site and find it interesting. I’ll be back for more.

    John

  • 2 Peggy Blackwell // Apr 23, 2009 at 6:19 am

    Those trains represented some of the classiest rail travel around!! A piano in the bar car, white table cloths in the dining room, the observation car, and not to mention the beehive shaped lounge at the end of the train. Beautiful machine age details and the Hiawatha logo blasted onto heavy glass screens. Bring it back!

  • 3 il vecchio // May 25, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Second only to Xmas morning as a exhilarating childhood experience was picnicking near the tracks in a Chicago area forest preserve and watching the Hiawatha come charging by.

  • 4 80's surfwear // Jun 2, 2009 at 12:37 am

    80,s surfwear and clothing info.

  • 5 JOHN ARCHER "RAILROAD" SLOBODIN // Aug 9, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    IS IT TRUE THAT THE “OLDER” HIAWATHA ROUNDED-ENDED COACHES HAVE BEEN DISPOSED OF? SOME TIME IN THE LAST 35 YEARS OR SO, I HEARD THAT ONE FORMER MILWAUKEE ROAD HIAWATHA COACH (ONLY HALF OF IT) WAS USED AS AN OFFICE OF SOME KIND ON A LAKE MICHIGAN BARGE. PLEASE GET BACK TO ME. THANK-YOU.

  • 6 Bill Porter // Sep 8, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Check the “Friends of the 261″ website. They own a skytop lounge-observation in restored and operational c0ndition. (http://www.261.com/)

  • 7 Spencer Geerts // Dec 31, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Jack be nimble,
    Jack be quick;
    Jack jump over
    The candlestick.

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