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Jim Kershner’s This day in history

Mon., Dec. 6, 2010

From our archives, 50 years ago

One small news item symbolized huge changes in the way people traveled in the Inland Northwest.

The Milwaukee Road announced that it would ask permission to discontinue the famous passenger train called the Olympian Hiawatha.

“The railway said the Minneapolis-to-Seattle trains have been piling up red ink at an increasing rate,” said The Spokesman-Review.

The railroad president said that the Olympian Hiawatha lost $3.5 million in the preceding year.

Rail passenger traffic had been steadily diminishing because of the “increasing numbers of private automobiles, expansion of the highway system and commercial air liners.”

The Olympian Hiawatha traveled on the famous Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad route over the Bitterroots through the Taft Tunnel.

The railroad soon got the permission it was seeking. The train ceased operations in May 1961.

Today, the name lives on in the Route of the Hiawatha mountain bike trail, on the old railroad grade at the Idaho-Montana border.

Also on this date

(From the Associated Press)

1960: Nearly 9 million acres of Alaska was set aside as an Arctic National Wildlife Range by order of Interior Secretary Fred A. Seaton. (In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed an act doubling the size of the range and renaming it the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.)

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