Individual railroad run intercity passenger service in Milwaukee was a thing of the past by early 1971. Amtrak had been formed to remove the burden of passenger service from the railroads and insure that core passenger routes remained active. By May 1st, when Amtrak rolled into Milwaukee, things had changed. Milwaukee Road’s Hiawatha and C&NW’s bi-level Streamliners were out, but Amtrak’s Empire Builder was in. Direct rail service was now available all the way to Seattle, but not to Green Bay! All passenger service on C&NW rails was gone, but Amtrak did pick up some Chicago-Milwaukee trains over Milwaukee Road rails. These new trains looked different, too. Amtrak paint was months away and its first units were made up of mismatched heritage cars and engines that earned them the nickname “Rainbow” trains (BN green, GN orange and blue, Milwaukee yellow, Burlington silver, NP greens, and others). Their classic motive power included E-9s, F-3s, F-7s, and F-9s.
Empire Builders to Milwaukee takes you back to the six months preceding and following the start of Amtrak service in Milwaukee. You’ll view the Morning Hiawatha and the C&NW bi-level Streamliners during their last winter and spring of operations as well as Amtrak’s new Empire Builder and Chicago-Milwaukee corridor service. Also making appearances are freights (many pulled by venerable GP35s and GP9s) on the Milwaukee Road and Soo Line, the commuter Cannonball, and specials including Amtrak’s Turbo Train on its national tour and the Great Circus Train of 1971. These exciting scenes were filmed at Oconomowoc, Pewaukee, Duplainville, Brookfield, Elm Grove, Wauwatosa, Oak Creek, West Bend, and other Milwaukee metro areas. There’s plenty to enjoy in this fascinating tribute to Amtrak’s early Empire Builders!