CNW Flambeau 400 arriving at Eland, WI in September 1964. Note, the order boards are down and the agent is handing up orders. Click to enlarge.

(Photo by Roger, courtesy Marty Bernard, railfan 44,


Flambeau drumhead.


The Flambeau 400 was a streamlined passenger train operated by the Chicago and North Western Railway between Chicago, Illinois, and Ashland, Wisconsin on Lake Superior, via Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was originally a special service in the summer time.


An ink blotter ad for C&NW's Flambeau, precursor to the Flambeau 400.

(Click image to download a 553 kb PDF file, courtesy



Beginning in 1935, the Flambeau transported the new American middle class to its new leisure time in the North Woods of Wisconsin. The Flambeau operated over basically the same route as later trains did except for bypassing Green Bay to run via Hortonville and Eland. By 1937 the route changed to operate via Green Bay. In July 1949 the Flambeau was integrated with the Shoreland 400 and the Valley 400, running as one train between Chicago and Green Bay and as separate trains beyond Green Bay. Northbound trains ran via Fond du Lac and southbound trains via Manitowoc.

In 1950 the train received a new name, Flambeau 400, in reference to the C&NW's popular Twin Cities 400, named for making the approximately 400 mile run from Chicago to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 400 minutes, and Flambeau, the French word for a torch. In 1958 the Flambeau 400 and Peninsula 400 received bilevel equipment.  Serving the north woods of Wisconsin, it saw heavy tourist traffic, but by May 1968, it was losing thousands of dollars for the Northwestern. In 1969 the Flambeau became an unnamed Chicago-Green Bay train with seasonal service to Ashland.

The last Flambeau 400 rolled out of the North Woods on January 5, 1971. Amtrak did not include Green Bay and Ashland in its initial route structure.


Chicago and North Western (C&NW) Railway No. 5015-B, an EMD E-7A with the Flambeau 400 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1959.

This photo is for sale. Click image for more information.

(Dan Pope Collection / RMP Archive)



The consist varied over the years and by seasonal demand. The number of cars varied between ten and two. Trains may have had a coach-lounge instead of a diner, and some trains had neither. The train used heavyweight 56-seat single level coaches until the arrival of new gallery cars in 1958. The otherwise bi-level train featured a single-level dining car (which operated Chicago-Green Bay) with a false roof to match the gallery cars. The motive power in the early years was by class R-1 Ten-wheelers on the Watersmeet branch, and class E-2-a Pacifics everywhere else. By the later 40s or early 50s E8s and F7s took over. Two units usually ran as far as Green Bay, where one would lay over with the dining car for the return trip.



Miles - City

428 Ashland
406.4 Saxon
395 Hurley
394 Ironwood
374.7 Mercer
359.1 Lac du Flambeau
349 Wooddruff
341.3 Lake Tomahawk
326.4 Rhinelander
363.2 Watersmeet (Service ended 1965)
355.6 Land O' Lakes (Service ended 1965)
348 Conover (Service ended 1965)
338.5 Eagle River (Service ended 1965)
333.3 Clearwater Lake (Service ended 1965)
329.2 Three Lakes (Service ended 1965)
313 Monico
308 Pelican Lake
305 Elcho
301.2 Summit Lake
284.6 Antigo
266 Eland
236.9 Shawano
218.4 Pulaski
203 Green Bay
180.2 Denmark (Service ended 1968)
160.4 Manitowoc (Service ended 1968)
147.5 Cleveland (Service ended 1968)
136 Sheboygan (Service ended 1968)
126.4 Oostburg (Service ended 1968)
122.5 Cedar Grove (Service ended 1968)

109.5 Port Washington (Service ended 1968)
84.4 Milwaukee (C&NW Lakefront), Milwaukee Union Station (1966–1971)

61.9 Racine
51.6 Kenosha
35.9 Waukegan
12 Evanston
0 Chicago (C&NW Terminal)



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan
First service
Flambeau: June 21, 1935
Flambeau 400: May 26, 1950
Last service: May 1, 1971
Former operator: Chicago and North Western Railway
Route Termini: North Western Terminal, Chicago, Illinois / Union Depot, Ashland, Wisconsin,
CNW Depot, Ironwood, Michigan, and Watersmeet, Michigan
Distance traveled: 452 miles (727 km)
Train numbers: 153, 216
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Operating speed: Max 90 mph, between Chicago and Green Bay, average speed 50 mph