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A Siemens SC-44 Charger on Amtrak's Hiawatha during a Sturtevant Depot stop

Amtrak’s Hiawatha: What You Need To Know

Amtrak’s Hiawatha Logo courtesy of Amtrak

Are you looking for an alternative to the I-94 drive between Chicago and Milwaukee; try Amtrak’s Hiawatha. The Hiawatha offers a convenient and comfortable way to travel between the Windy City and the Brew City, with stops in-between. Plus, it can save you money on parking!

The Hiawatha was my first experience with Amtrak, and to date, I have been on this train more than any other Amtrak train.

Due to the pandemic, I added the red boxes, such as this one, to show any temporary changes.

A brief overview the Hiawatha

The Hiawatha runs fourteen daily trains or seven round trips between Milwaukee, WI, and Chicago, IL.

From end to end, the journey takes around an hour and a half covering 86 miles. The train averages 58 mph with a maximum speed of 79 mph.

The train operates on Canadian Pacific, Metra, and Amtrak tracks, and the Wisconsin and Illinois Department of Transportations sponsor this train.

Amtrak’s Hiawatha The Stops & Schedule

The Hiawatha route consists of five stations.

Amtrak staffs the Milwaukee and Chicago stations, but the intermediate stations are unstaffed.

Below is the list of stations served by the Hiawatha.

  • MKEMilwaukee Intermodal Station (WI)
  • MKAMilwaukee General Mitchel Airport (WI)
  • SVTSturtevant (WI)
  • GLNGlenview (IL)
  • CHIChicago Union Station (IL)

Interesting Tidbits About Amtak’s The Hiawatha

The Hiawatha is a part of Amtrak’s Midwest Regional Corridor. This route receives funding from both the Wisconsin and Illinois Departments of Transportation with locomotives and equipment owned by both DOT’s.

The now-defunct Milwaukee Road owned the tracks used by this route, and Amtrak named the train after Milwaukee Road’s passenger trains. This route had a few names throughout the years but has maintained the current title since 1989.

These days Canadian Pacific (CP) owns the tracks of this route from Milwaukee to Roundout, where Metra takes ownership of the rails, but CP still dispatches the trains. Amtrak takes ownership of the rails near Chicago Union Station.

From end to end, the journey takes around an hour and a half covering 86 miles. The train averages 58 mph with a maximum speed of 79 mph.

Hiawatha’s Consist – Cars & Locomotives

Before 2020, the standard Hiawatha fleet consists of one locomotive, typically a Seiman’s SC-Charger SC-44, GE Genius, or GE Dash 8. Passenger ride in six coaches, either Horizon or Amfleet I cars. At the south end of the train often is an EMD-F40PH converted into a cab and baggage car.

Currently, (2021), the fleet is reduced to four coaches and a cafe car for wifi; this can change at any time. 

Siemens Passenger Cars
New cars are coming to Amtrak’s Midwest Corridor. Photo courtesy of Illinois DOT

New coach cars are coming to the Hiawatha! Siemens built these cars in California, and they are in Chicago waiting to get put into service. These cars will replace the Horizon and Amfleet cars.

Amenities Of Current Amtrak’s Hiawatha Coach Cars

  • Each coach car has 68 seats with room to accommodate wheelchairs or mobility scooters
  • Each coach has two bathrooms
  • Luggage storage shelves at one end of the coach car and overhead storage
  • Free cellular-based wifi
  • Decent legroom
  • Fold up tray and mesh pocket for small items
  • Two outlets at every seat.
  • Reading Lights

The Hiawatha Quiet Car

The Quiet Car is the last car for the Northbound train and the first can in the Southbound. Signs hang from the ceiling, indicating that the car is indeed the official Quiet Car.

There is no additional charge for Quiet Car, but passengers should occupy only one seat and not make a home office using two seats. You only paid for one seat. Passengers who board the train and find that seats are only available in the Quiet Car must follow the Quiet Car guidelines. Amtrak guidelines are:

Guests are asked to limit conversation and speak in subdued tones. Phone calls are not allowed, and all portable electronic devices must be muted or used with headphones (passengers using headphones must keep the volume low enough so that the audio cannot be heard by other passengers). Low overhead lighting creates a restful atmosphere for all passengers, but reading lights are available.

Amtrak’s Website 9/2020

How To Purchase Tickets

Amtrak sells oneway, round trip, ten-ride, monthly, or connecting train to another destination tickets. Amtrak tickets can are available from any of the sources below.

  • In-person from agents at the Milwaukee or Chicago Stations
  • Amtrak.com
  • The Amtrak App
  • Calling 1-800-USA-RAIL
  • Onboard with cash, and there is a fee. (I would use this as a last option only)
  • Quik-Tik machines at all Station
  • Or using your Amtrak Guest Rewards points

Conductors can scan a paper ticket or go paperless and use your electronic device either from the app or the emailed pdf.

Peak Train Fares On The Hiawatha

The Hiawatha has peak fare trains that run Monday through Friday; those trains include 329. 331. 337. and 339 and cost a few dollars extra. If you have a peak ticket, you can ride any Hiawatha train, even if it is not the one on your eticket.

Trains 329 and 331 are the morning southbound trains, and 337 and 339 are northbound during the late afternoon.

Unreserved Train And What That Means

Amtrak is still running the Hiawatha as a reserved train.

The Hiawatha has unreserved reserved coach seating. Amtrak makes an effort to provide seats for every passenger on these trains, but seating is not guaranteed. Usually, there are enough seats for everyone, but there may not be enough seats on rare occasions, like huge events like when the Cubs play in Milwaukee.

Hiawatha tickets can be used for other Hiawatha trains even if that is not what it says, but the ride must be the same, fair or less. Peak fare tickets will work on any Hiawatha trains, while non-peak fairs only work on other non-peak fare trains. You can upgrade an un-peak ticket to a peak one if needed.

For example, you were going to Chicago from Milwaukee and booked a ticket for train number 330 the 6:15 am Hiawatha, but it took too long at Stone Creek to get coffee, and you missed, fear not, hop on the 332 Hiawatha that leaves at 8:05. You could ride any other southbound train that day.

Thanksgiving And The Hiawatha

The Hiawatha runs as a reserved train, except for the Thanksgiving season, meaning your ticket needs to match the train you want to ride.

The Hiawatha’s Ten-Ride & Monthly Pass

The Hiawatha offers ten-ride or monthly passes for convenience and to save money. The monthly tickets allow for one round trip per day, and the ten-ride allows five round trips within 60 days. During the week, you can use the Hiawatha Lounge, the former Metropolitan Lounge, to wait for trains 337 or 339.

The Pandemic And The Hiawatha

AMTRAK IS RUNNING THE HIAWATHA AS A RESERVED TRAIN. You need the proper ticket for your ride. Ten-ride and monthly pass holders need to check in for the train they want to ride using the app. For more information on Amtrak its pandemic response, click here. Amtrak requires a face mask while at the station, boarding, and moving around the train. Ask Amtrak staff for more details. 

Luggage On The Hiawatha

Checked luggage service is only available to passengers ticketed to or from Milwaukee and Chicago. Passengers who get on or off at any intermediate stop can take advantage of Amtrak’s generous carry-on policy but cannot check bags.

Here is an Amtrak travel trip. You can check bags during layovers providing you do so 45 minutes before the next train’s departure, and the next station has baggage service.

Here is an example of that tip. I travel from Sturtevant, WI, to Omaha, NE, to visit my sister and family. I might have an extra box of goodies for my niece, and I don’t want to carry the whole trip. Because SVT does not have check bags, I could take the box onto the Hiwatha, and when I get to Chicago, I could check it and then pick my package up in Omaha. Providing I do it 45 minutes before departure.

What You Need To Know About Amtrak’s Hiawatha

Riding the Hiwatha is easy, buy a ticket, get to the station early, hop on, sit back and relax, and have your eticket ready for the conductor. But there are a few other things you should know.

Any open seat can be your seat, but be nice and friendly if you need to share. Half of the seats in each car face the direction of travel, and the others face “backward,” splitting in the middle, so the seats face the doors. You are free to go to other coaches to find that perfect seat for you to sit back and enjoy the ride.

If the train is busy, such as the peek trains, often you will not get both seats to yourself. If you find yourself on a busy train, place your things either above your head or out of the way so someone else can sit in the open seat.

As much as you want both seats, the reality is, you only paid for one. Making a home office buy using both tray tables or taking aisle seats to make it inconvenient to sit by you is rude to others.

Alcohol consumption on the train is not permitted. Also, there is no food or drink service on the train, so pack accordingly.

Amtrak’s Hiawatha Connecting Buses & Transfering To Other Trains

Connecting To Other Trains

You can take the Hiawatha to Chicago Union Station to transfer to Amtrak’s long-distance and regional trains. If you plan to take the Empire Builder, you can catch that train in Chicago, Glenview, IL, or downtown Milwaukee, WI. If you leave Sturtevant or the Milwaukee Airport, take the Hiawatha to Milwaukee (or Chicago if you want the extra fun).

Amtrak Thruway Bus Service

Amtrak is now offering Thruway Service to cities along I-41. Now Amtrak can take you from Chicago or any intermediate stops to Oshkosh’s Wittman Airport and UW Oshkosh, Appleton, De Pere, and Downton Green Bay. This service is available without a connection train.

Safe Travels!

Kev

Here is where you can sign-up for the Travels with Kev email list.

Kev

Kev has traveled over 125,000 miles on over 660 trains all around the United States aboard Amtrak. When he is not on the move, Kev enjoys making music as an organist.

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