Continuing our railroad theme (see entry on the Beer Line in Riverwest, the lake front depot, and Milwaukee’s first high-speed trains), today we take a look at the downtown Milwaukee Everett Street Station, also called Union Station, built by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific RR, better known as The Milwaukee Road.
This was home to the railroad’s Hiawatha passenger trains, among the faster passenger trains in the world in their time. On a test run in 1935, one steam-powered Hiawatha made headlines when it was officially timed at a steady 112.5 mph for 14 straight miles. Even in diesel days, riders would routinely experience the thrill of their train topping 80 mph and still accelerating as it entered a stretch of 100 mph running.
The railroad’s own employee timetable had an open-ended invitation for speed-minded engineers, it mandated a 90 mph maximum speed for the its fastest trains then added “except where the schedule permits a higher speed.”
The gothic revival station was designed by well-known architect Edward Townsend Mix, it had the largest clock tower in America (at 140 feet) at the time of its construction in 1886. The station was replaced by a more modern facility on West St. Paul Avenue (today served by Amtrak) in 1965. A week after the old station closed it was severely damaged in fire of suspicious origins and was soon afterward razed.
One of its clock faces survives as part of the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in downtown Milwaukee.