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The 400 Story

Chicago & North Western’s Premier Passenger Trains

2008
Author:

Jim Scribbins

The 400 Story

“400 miles in 400 minutes . . . the fastest train on the American continent.” —advertisement, December 1934

Chicago and North Western’s modern, sleek, and fast rail line began with a conventional steam-powered train dubbed the “400” and named after its ambitious schedule: “400 miles in 400 minutes.” In 1939, it evolved into an even faster diesel-powered streamlined train. The 400 Story captures the excitement of this era, tracing the rise and fall of the premier passenger system that made “Twin Cities 400” a household term in the upper Midwest.

The trains are extinct, but many details of the landscape they traversed still exist. In this book’s maps, descriptions, and photographs of the 400s at various points along their routes, it is easy to imagine the yellow and green streamliners still rolling across the Wisconsin countryside or easing into a crowded station. Scribbins is at his best analyzing historical data and word-painting interior decor and exterior color schemes. Scribbins’s command of his subject is substantial. Scribbins nicely demonstrates how the 400 fleet’s past has influenced our present. The excellence, historically and photographically, of the 342 illustrations deserves mention. Beautiful full-page views depict the 400 at the Milwaukee lakefront. The 400 Story will serve equally well as a detailed historical reference or as a colorful coffee-table decoration, able to be perused with studious intensity or with a relaxed glance.

Wisconsin Magazine of History

Three midwestern railroads introduced luxury passenger service in 1935, competing for Chicago–Twin Cities business and leisure travelers. Chicago and North Western’s modern, sleek, and fast rail line began with a conventional steam-powered train dubbed the “400” and named after its ambitious schedule: “400 miles in 400 minutes.” In 1939, it evolved into an even faster diesel-powered streamlined train, eventually expanding into a fleet of streamliners that served Wisconsin, Minnesota, and upper Michigan.

The 400 Story captures the excitement of this era, tracing the rise and fall of the premier passenger system that made “Twin Cities 400” a household term in the upper Midwest.

The 400 Story

Jim Scribbins had a lifetime career at Milwaukee Road and is the author of The Hiawatha Story (Minnesota, 2006) and four other books about upper midwestern railroads. He lives in West Bend, Wisconsin.

The 400 Story

The trains are extinct, but many details of the landscape they traversed still exist. In this book’s maps, descriptions, and photographs of the 400s at various points along their routes, it is easy to imagine the yellow and green streamliners still rolling across the Wisconsin countryside or easing into a crowded station. Scribbins is at his best analyzing historical data and word-painting interior decor and exterior color schemes. Scribbins’s command of his subject is substantial. Scribbins nicely demonstrates how the 400 fleet’s past has influenced our present. The excellence, historically and photographically, of the 342 illustrations deserves mention. Beautiful full-page views depict the 400 at the Milwaukee lakefront. The 400 Story will serve equally well as a detailed historical reference or as a colorful coffee-table decoration, able to be perused with studious intensity or with a relaxed glance.

Wisconsin Magazine of History

Scribbins’s fondness for trains shines through and is sure to fire up a feeling of nostalgia.

Twin Cities Daily Planet