North Coast Hiawatha
|North Coast Hiawatha|
An EMD F3 leads the North Coast Hiawatha into Yakima, Washington in August, 1971.
|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|Locale||Western United States|
|Predecessor||North Coast Limited/Mainstreeter|
|First service||June 5, 1971|
|Last service||October 6, 1979|
|No. of intermediate stops||37|
|Distance travelled||2,228 miles (3,586 km)|
|Average journey time||46 hours, 40 minutes|
|Sleeping arrangements||Sleeping cars|
|Catering facilities||Full dining car
|Observation facilities||Dome lounge|
|Baggage facilities||Baggage car|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
The North Coast Hiawatha was a United States passenger train service operated by Amtrak between Chicago, Illinois and Seattle, Washington. Before the coming of Amtrak the Northern Pacific's North Coast Limited (Chicago—Seattle) and Mainstreeter (St. Paul—Seattle) served the route. The name combined the North Coast Limited and the Hiawathas of the Milwaukee Road, which paralleled the Northern Pacific along much of its mainline.:97 Introduced in 1971, the North Coast Hiawatha went through numerous schedule changes before being discontinued in 1979. Since then there have been numerous attempts to restore the service, without success.
Amtrak's initial network did not include the Northern Pacific main line; the Empire Builder carried all Chicago—Pacific Northwest over the tracks of the former Great Northern Railway. On June 5, 1971, Amtrak started running a section of the Empire Builder over the NP's tracks between Minneapolis and Spokane, Washington, returning service to southern North Dakota and Montana. Amtrak reacted in part to pressure from Mike Mansfield (D-Montana), then Senate Majority Leader, who noted that the Empire Builder bypassed Montana's major population centers. This intervention earned the train the nickname “Mike Mansfield Limited”. In addition, the Northern Pacific route, which included the Yellowstone River, Homestake Pass and Bitterroot Mountains was praised for its scenery. Amtrak considered it one of its six most beautiful routes. The North Coast Hiawatha also provided a convenient connection to Yellowstone National Park at Livingston, Montana.:111
On November 11, 1971, Amtrak formally named this service the North Coast Hiawatha, with a tri-weekly schedule between Chicago and Spokane independent of the Empire Builder. In Spokane it combined with the Empire Builder for the trip to Seattle. On the other four days of the week the train terminated in Minneapolis.
This joint operation ended on April 29, 1973, when Amtrak extended the North Coast Hiawatha to Seattle over the Great Northern's route, which included the Stevens Pass and Cascade Tunnel. This new routing served the northern Washington communities of Wenatchee and Everett, which had previously been without service. The North Coast Hiawatha remained on a tri-weekly schedule west of Minneapolis.
The North Coast Hiawatha's schedule fluctuated over the next three years, operating on a daily schedule between Chicago and Seattle in the summers and reverting to tri-weekly west of Minneapolis the rest of the year. Amtrak would also run a daily service during the holiday season (as in 1975, when the North Coast Hiawatha operated daily December 12—January 12), but the North Coast Hiawatha never operated a daily schedule for a full calendar year. In early 1976 the North Coast Hiawatha was threatened with discontinuance, along with the Pacific International and the three daily Portland, Oregon—Seattle trains, after the Ford Administration proposed budget cuts. Several members of Congress protested the proposed cuts, including Representative Max Baucus (D-Montana), and Senators Warren Magnuson (D-Washington) and Bob Packwood (R-Oregon). In the end Congress approved a budget for Amtrak $62 million above the administration's request, saving all three services.
Amtrak announced in October 1976 that the North Coast Hiawatha would be the second train, after the Empire Builder, to receive the new bi-level Superliner coaches, then on order from Pullman Standard. In the end the North Coast Hiawatha was cancelled before the Superliners entered long-distance service. In the spring of 1977 Amtrak added seven hours to the North Coast Hiawatha's schedule, making it 52 hours 30 minutes. The change was prompted by new speed restrictions on Amtrak trains after a rash of derailments involving the new EMD SDP40F diesel locomotives. In September Amtrak eliminated the off-day Chicago—St. Paul service, leaving the North Coast Hiawatha with three trips a week. Amtrak reduced the Empire Builder to quad-weekly service as well.
In November Amtrak reduced the North Coast Hiawatha's running time to 46 hours 40 minutes, after the replacement of the SDP40Fs permitted an easing of speed restrictions. Even as this improved service began, the North Coast Hiawatha was threatened with cancellation. Facing a budget deficit of $60 million, Amtrak identified a half dozen routes which it considered "financially troubled." Amtrak proposed merging the North Coast Hiawatha and the Empire Builder, or even cancelling both. Throughout 1978 no decision was taken, and the North Coast Hiawatha and Empire Builder continued to provide between them daily service between Chicago and Seattle.
In January 1979 Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams announced plans to cut 12,000 miles (19,000 km) from Amtrak's network. The North Coast Hiawatha was one of many routes scheduled for elimination. The North Coast Hiawatha had faced cancellation before, but after eight years of federal subsidies members of Congress favored retrenchment. Once-vocal supporters such as Senator Magnuson expressed regret but made no public commitment. Adams noted that the North Coast Hiawatha recovered only $6 million against expenses of $24 million, and that the per-passenger cost was $178.
In July an attempt by Representative (and future Vice President) Al Gore (D-Tennessee) to impose a one-year moratorium on the proposed cuts failed 214-197. In the end the Senate approved a smaller cutback, citing a 24% spike in Amtrak ridership after an oil shock during the summer, but the North Coast Hiawatha remained on the chopping block. In late September the Railway Labor Executives' Association, along with Senator John Melcher (D-Montana) and Representative Pat Williams (D-Montana), sued the U.S. Department of Transportation to prevent the discontinuance of the North Coast Hiawatha, then scheduled for October 1. A federal judge temporarily restrained Amtrak from ending the route, but the last North Coast Hiawatha ran on October 6, 1979. The last paying passenger on that run was Niel G. "Peter" Peterson, who boarded around 6 am in Ellensburg, Washington, arriving a few hours later at the King Street Station (now Amtrak) in downtown Seattle.
Proposed return 
In 2008 a bill was passed that would require Amtrak to study the area and consider returning service to the area, prompting some to believe that there is a great chance of service restoration. Amtrak published a feasibility study in October 2009, which proposed restoring the North Coast Hiawatha to its 1979 route where possible with a daily schedule. Amtrak projected a yearly ridership of 359,800, some of whom would be drawn from the Empire Builder. Amtrak estimated that $1 billion in funds would be necessary to relaunch the North Coast Hiawatha, including over $300 million for new locomotives and rolling stock. It would take four to five years to reintroduce the service if a decision is made to move forward.
The North Coast Hiawatha saw a variety of motive power and rolling stock during its eight years, as Amtrak disposed of its inherited equipment as best it could and gradually replaced it with its own stock. In the early 1970s a North Coast Hiawatha might feature as many as four dome cars pulled by ex-Milwaukee Road EMD E9s. The 1970 Burlington/Great Northern merger notwithstanding, cars carried both the "Big Sky Blue" livery characteristic of late Great Northern passenger trains and the "Cascade Green" of the Burlington Northern Railroad.
The North Coast Hiawatha was one of many routes to receive the new EMD SDP40F, which worked the route between 1974–1977, although older EMD E8 and EMD E9s continued to be used. A series of derailments involving the SDP40F prompted their replacement, and by late 1977 Amtrak had introduced the EMD F40PH on the North Coast Hiawatha. These sometimes ran with an E9 "B" unit as well.:2 Early 1977 Chicago-Minneapolis consists included new Amfleet coaches while the Seattle through trains continued to run with domes.
See also 
- Solomon, Brian (2004). Amtrak. MBI. ISBN 0-7603-1765-8.
- Amtrak (October 16, 2009). "North Coast Hiawatha: Passenger Rail Study". Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- Blackwell, Edward H. (March 18, 1973). "All Aboard! A 2 Day Trip on Amtrak". Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Train travel growing". Boca Raton News. May 13, 1973. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- Freeland, Jay (April 14, 1974). "According to Amtrak: America's Six Most Beautiful Train Trips". Daily News. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- Shuldiner, Herbert (June 1974). "Take the train to your next campsite?". Popular Science 204 (6): 110–111; 154.
- "New Trains to Carry Names of Yesteryear". The Day. November 11, 1971. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Passenger service to return". Tri City Herald. April 27, 1973. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Extension Scheduled on Passenger Trains". Spokane Daily Chronicle. April 27, 1973. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Holiday Trains Added". Milwaukee Journal. December 5, 1975. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- Blumenthal, Les (January 25, 1976). "Amtrak may be cut in Spokane". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Amtrak fight". Daily Record. January 24, 1976. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "State Amtrak service kept". The Spokesman-Review. May 28, 1976. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Amtrak Area Schedule, Fares Are Improved". Spokane Daily Chronicle. October 14, 1976. Retrieved 2009-12-18.[dead link]
- "Speed limits slow passenger trains". Tri City Herald. February 10, 1977. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Amtrak Cuts Dues". The Spokesman-Review. July 27, 1977. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Day Train Runs Begin". Spokane Daily Chronicle. November 2, 1977. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Amtrak threatens service cuts". The Spokesman-Review. November 11, 1977. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- Klossen, Bill (October 28, 1978). "Amtrak schedule, cars change". Daily Record. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- Burkhardt, Susan (May 17, 1979). "Adams: Fuel crunch is here to stay". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Deep cuts asked for Amtrak". Register-Guard. January 31, 1979. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Business: Ax for Amtrak". Time Magazine. March 19, 1979. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Amtrak Cutback Plan Is Popular". Argus-Press. February 1, 1979. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- Dullenty, Jim (March 6, 1979). "Magnuson adopts 'show-me' stance on rail service need". Tri City Herald. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Vote on Amtrak route disappointing". The Spokesman-Review. July 26, 1979. Retrieved 2009-12-18.[dead link]
- "Nation: Summertime Slowdown". Time Magazine. August 13, 1979. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "New suit seeks to save Montana Amtrak". The Spokesman-Review. September 27, 1979. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "Judge lifts restraining order, budget ax to fell Hiawatha route". The Spokesman-Review. October 5, 1979. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- Straub, Noelle (24 February 2008). "Tester gets OK for Amtrak route study". Independent Record. Retrieved 2009-02-03.
- Ward, Leah Beth (December 18, 2009). "Study shows interest in reviving Amtrak route through Yakima". Tri-City Herald. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- Greg Smith (December 31, 1973). "Early Amtrak North Coast Hiawatha". Retrieved 2009-12-19.
- Greg Smith (September 1, 1972). "Station stop". Retrieved 2009-12-19.
- Greg Smith (December 31, 1975). "Amtrak North Coast Hiawatha". Retrieved 2009-12-19.
- Dorin, Patrick (1979). Amtrak Trains and Travel. Seattle, Washington: Superior Publishing Co. ISBN 0-87564-533-X.
- Amtrak (February 15, 1977). "Timetable". Retrieved 2009-12-19.
- Tom Farence (1977). "AMTK 463 Amtrak EMD E9 (A) at Portage, Wisconsin". Retrieved 2009-12-19.