Story #4: The Great Train Race

by JanePeck on February 9, 2012

The Great Train Race,   by Marcia McEachron

My grandfather, Art Schultz was a railroad engineer for the Milwaukee Railroad in Wisconsin.  It was his lifelong career.  There were many stories that my mother told about him.  She often road his train as a teenager, and said he would take curves so smooth that the coffee never sloshed in the cups in the dining car.

In 1937, he engineered a new train for the Milwaukee Road called the Chippewa. It’s first trip was from Chicago to Green Bay.  A white pigeon was released as the train left the station.  The ideas was the train and the pigeon would reach Green Bay at the same time.    He called the trip the “ Peace Train”  and people road for free as the threat of war in Europe was looming.  It was hoped the train and  the pigeon would reach Green Bay at the same time…and they did. Picture on left shows Art  J. Schultz and the racing pigeon held by  the Chicago Jubilee Queen, Lorraine Ingalls.

Another time Grandpa Art raced  his favorite coal-fired steam engine against a  new diesel Chicago Northwest engine in the late 1940’s. They were to race from Milwaukee to Chicago.  Smoke Williams was my grandfather’s fireman, (the guy who stoked the coal burner).  Everyone getting on the passenger train was informed by the conductors that a fast time was going to be set to Chicago and if it made them nervous, get on next train behind them for Chicago.  Very few got off, and everyone who stayed  was excited.  My grandfather, with so many years of experience,  knew every brakeman/switchman on the line to Chicago and they were all ready to clear track towards Chicago for him.  Well, a reporter on the train had a friend in  Racine who clocked the train at 119 miles an hour as it flew past the station. Art Schultz arrived safely with his train in Chicago Station in 52 minutes.  At that speed I often wonder when he began to slow it down so he didn’t miss the station.  He managed to beat the new diesel engine by 15 minutes.  Of course, word got back to the president of the Milwaukee Road  in a reporters’ story, and this was serious.  My grandfather got a letter from  President  Sandretti which said “ if I could believe that a steam  engine really did that time in a race with passengers on board, I would have to fire you.  Since Smoke Williams was your fireman, and from the picture it seems there is no more smoke than normal, I don’t believe with Williams firing for you it ever reached that speed.  If I ever hear of another story like this, you will be  suspended.”  At the end of the typewritten letter, in scrawled handwriting “Congratulations, if it’s all true!”

Art Schultz retired early from the Milwaukee Road in 1952 when the last steam engine was taken out of service.  He loved the steam engines, but didn’t care much for diesel.

{ 1 comment }

Bob Bovee July 17, 2015 at 8:55 am

Great story. I’m going to pass this on to some train friends!

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