1934 Milwaukee Road ‘F6’ 4-6-4 No. 6402
THE CLAIM On July 20 1934, hauling a normal service train, No. 6402 was on a special timing to Milwaukee to prove the feasibility of a new high-speed service. The run was an outstanding success and was directly responsible for the introduction, less than a year later, of what were to become the fastest scheduled steam-hauled train services the world has ever seen: the ‘Hiawathas’. The ‘Hudson’, with a load of 375 imperial tons behind the tender, ran the 85 miles from Chicago to Milwaukee in 67 minutes 35 seconds, from start to stop. This was well inside the eventual ‘Hiawatha’ schedule of 75 minutes, that regularly featured running at over 100mph.
No. 6402’s run on July 20 1934 had a slow start and finish. In between, it ran the 68.74 miles between Mayfair and Lake in 45 minutes and 53 seconds, an average pass-to-pass speed of 89.89mph. Times were made at each station to the nearest second, and the recording speedometer chart showed a maximum of 103.5mph. But did the detailed station times support that maximum? The most important of those was the 3 minutes and 12 seconds for the 5.1 miles between Oakwood and Lake: an average of 95.6mph. This time was reported by the late Brian Reed in his booklet, Loco Profile 26, The Hiawathas. Within the publication, there is a short section of a speed recorder speedroll from a later run by an ‘A’ class ‘Atlantic’. On that reproduced speedroll, someone has recorded the gradient. It starts at 1-in-386 downhill through Oakwood, which becomes 1-in-185 to 1-in-154 uphill through Lake. For a significant part of the time that No. 6402 was averaging 95.6mph, it was climbing steeply on a grade where speed must have fallen off quickly. In all probability, the maximum would have been at the bottom of the grade through Oakwood, which was at a point just over halfway between Oakwood and Lake. I have experimented with a computer spreadsheet model for this distance in an attempt to estimate what could have happened. The ‘best fit’ is that No. 6402 passed Oakwood in the low 90s and, on the steep climb through Lake, it was running in the high 80s. That model suggests a maximum speed of at least 101mph at the bottom of the dip, just as the 1-in-185 uphill grade started. But my estimates are just that. No other data is available. And what did renowned steam expert Brian Reed, who mentioned some of the timing data in his book, say about this run? “This was the first North American high-speed steam run to have timing and running data sufficient to support most of the speeds claimed… This must be taken as the first time a US steam locomotive topped ‘the hundred’.”
DID IT REACH 100MPH?
In all probability, Milwaukee 4-6-4 No. 6402 slightly exceeded 100mph. But neither the full timing log or any other details remain available to support this conclusion with 100% documentary evidence. However, such a run as that of July 20 1934
“THE ‘HUDSON’ RAN THE 85 MILES FROM CHICAGO TO MILWAUKEE IN 67 MINUTES STOP” 35 SECONDS, FROM START TO
Three years after its purported ‘ton’ run, Milwaukee ‘Hudson’ No. 6402 idles on shed in Chicago on August 6 1937.