Friday, October 24, 2014

The M-10001 Arrives in Chicago -- October 24, 1934

Running on a strict schedule, Union Pacific’s streamlined train, the M-10001, came to Chicago on this day, October 24, in 1934, midway through its record-breaking dash across the continent.  It entered the city limits by skirting railroad yards at Kedzie Avenue at 2:30 p.m., following the St. Charles Air Line to the Sixteenth Street control tower, then backing into La Salle Street Station at 3:00 p.m.  There was no time to waste, and 30 minutes later the powerful train was gone.

Known as the “Canary Bolt,” the M-10001 arrived in New York City at 9:55 a.m. on October 25, just 55 hours after it left Los Angeles, a record that has stood until this day.  Speed was not the only impressive thing about the train.  The six-car train featured a 900-horsepower V-12 diesel engine that supplied power to traction motors driving the first two trucks of the train. 

With its sleek configuration done up in Art Deco detailing and with its economy of operation , it was just a matter of time before the great driving rods of steam locomotives turned no more.

One of the fastest passenger trains of the time, the Los Angeles Limited, used a 120-ton steam locomotive to haul 13 cars of 80 tons each, making a train weight of about 1,160 tons to haul about 100 passengers, or about 160 tons of dead weight per customer.  The M-10001, carrying 52 passengers for the cross-country trip, weighed a total of 200 tons, less than four tons of dead weight per passenger.  The train was designed to carry 124 passengers.  [Chicago Tribune, October 24, 1934]

Built by the Pullman-Standard Company of Chicago, the train consisted of the engine and six coaches coupled together, with cars sharing trucks so that the train was made of a single flexible unit with “unbroken aerodynamic lines for the 376 feet from its bullet nose to its tapered tail.”  [Chicago Tribune, October 22, 1934]

The cross-country dash was designed to work out any kinks in a plan that would install regular thirty-nine and a half hour service between Chicago and Los Angeles.  It was hoped that the cross-country record would be broken, a record that had stood since 1906 when E. H. Harriman, the president of the Union Pacific at the time, had boarded a train after surveying the earthquake damage in San Francisco and sped across the country to New York in seventy-two hours and twenty-seven minutes.  His son, W. A. Harriman, chairman of the Union Pacific board, would be aboard the 1934 train when it left Los Angeles at 10 p.m. on October 22.

“We’ll slice from twelve to fourteen hours from the time made by my father’s special,” said Harriman, “depending upon how well the M-10001 maintains our tentative schedule.”

A crowd of several hundred people watched as the train left Los Angeles and started its charge across the country as the engineer “in a comfortable upholstered chair facing a semicircle of windows atop the rounded nose of the carrier, gentled the charger through the suburbs of Los Angeles.”  [Chicago Tribune, October 23, 1934]    The “diesel-powered tub of aluminum” covered the 144 miles through the Sierra Madre mountains from East Los Angeles to Barstow, California in 3 hours and 6 minutes, cutting through the mountains 90 minutes faster than scheduled passenger runs over the same distance.

It took 23 hours and 46 minutes to cross the “deserts sunbaked by day and moon drenched by night and winding over passes between snow-capped mountains” between Los Angeles and Cheyenne, Wyoming.  That was 11 hours and 12 minutes faster than the express passenger service of the time. 

After leaving Cheyenne engineer Ollie Mitchell was ordered to “’give the gun’ to the 900 horsepower Diesel propelling this shaft of aluminum alloy.”  [Chicago Tribune, October 24, 1934]  On its way to Omaha, Nebraska the train reached a speed of 120 miles-per-hour, a record that still stands.  

To get to New York the streamliner covered 3,034 miles at an average speed of 58.5 miles-per-hour, stopping in Chicago for a half-hour as well as Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, and Omaha.  New York offered it a single indignity before it reached Grand Central Station and the laurels that awaited it.  “The space eater was halted on the outskirts of New York and, to meet a legal requirement, was pulled into the Grand Central station through the long underground rail approaches by an electric locomotive.” [Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1934]

Asked if the new trains would take business away from airplanes and buses, Mr. Harriman responded, “Of course these new trains will compete with the airplanes on long trips.  They will be more comfortable and safer and I don’t know any way to fly between Los Angeles and Chicago without the loss of a business day.”

Things were looking pretty good for the railroads back there in 1934. 

After its record-breaking run and a good will tour throughout the east, Union Pacific replaced the 900 horsepower engine of the m-10001 with a V-16, 1,200 horsepower diesel engine, then put the train into revenue service as the City of Portland, running from Chicago to Portland over Chicago and Northwestern and Union Pacific right-of-way.  The train made the trip in 39 hours and 45 minutes.  “A Chicagoan going to Seattle would have to change trains in Portland and would still arrive nearly 20 hours sooner than if they took the Empire Builder, North Coast Limited, or Olympian.”  []

No comments: