Competing with the Chicago & North Western and the Burlington Route in the Chicago-Twin Cities market, the Milwaukee Road (Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific) needed a fast locomotive to power its new Hiawatha service. Unable to afford expensive diesels, the railroad turned to American Locomotive Company for four Atlantic type (4-4-2) engines, Nos. 1-4, that were among the fastest steam locomotives ever constructed. These oil-burners, with streamlined styling by famed designer Otto Kuhler, were delivered between 1935 and 1937. It was reported that, while under construction, they had so little friction on their roller-bearing axles that they could be pushed manually over the erecting floor. In service they regularly sustained speeds of 100 miles per hour or more. They were unusual among modern locomotives, also, in having their main rods connected to the first pair of driving wheels (as were those of the Canadian Pacific's class F2 "Jubilee" 4-4-4s built at the same time).

These class A Atlantics, among the last 4-4-2s built, rolled on high 84-inch drivers and sustained 300 p.s.i. of boiler pressure. They had 19x28-inch cylinders, weighed 286,000 pounds, and developed 30,685 pounds of tractive effort. They had 69 square feet of grate area, 3245 square feet of evaporative heating surface, and 1030 square feet of superheating surface. When the Chicago-Twin Cities trains grew too heavy for them they were reassigned to other Hiawatha duties. This publicity shot of No. 4 whisking the Midwest Hiawatha through Kirkland, Illinois in July 1943 appeared in a Milwaukee Road magazine; while I was living in Kirkland a long-time resident loaned me the picture for scanning. All the "Hiawatha" 4-4-2s were scrapped by 1951.

In 1943, when this photo was taken, Kirkland was a servicing and junction point on the Milwaukee's double-tracked Chicago-Omaha main line. The trackage through Kirkland eventually passed to the Soo Line, then I&M Rail Link, then Iowa, Chicago & Eastern which was merged into owner Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern and is now part of the Canadian Pacific system. The impact of the Milwaukee's Hiawatha streamliners was so enduring, however, that to this day Kirkland's teenagers attend Hiawatha High School.