Lunchtime Tourist

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April 5, 2004 // UPDATED 1:11 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

Railroad exhibits

The Depot Complex, Marriott's Residence Inn and Courtyard, 225 3rd Ave. S. and 425 S. 2nd St.

The glory days of rail travel ended half a century ago, but that doesn't mean it doesn't still have its fans. A lunchtime trip to Marriott Courtyard is a good fix for those who miss luxurious rail cars and the clickety-clack of steel wheels.

Marriott had the design foresight to take possession of Downtown's historic Milwaukee Road Depot and mix new and former uses. A skating rink occupies the old train shed, a premier event space fills the Depot's beautiful waiting room, kids splash and holler in a locomotive-themed water park, and hotel rooms and luxury suites fill out the block.

The entrance and common areas are filled with historic photos and a great collection of vintage travel posters from around the world. Old leather suitcases and white, life-size plaster figures are sprinkled throughout the complex to further the aura of historic travel.

Around the corner from the registration desk are several exhibit cases filled with artifacts from Milwaukee Railroad's past. Six model trains show the evolution of passenger cars, engines and boxcars. Old No. 1 was built in 1848 and was the first train to roll in Wisconsin. Pioneer Limited was a famous overnight train that ran between Chicago and Minneapolis. By the 1940s, Milwaukee Railroad stretched clear to Seattle with the high-speed Olympian Hiawatha train complete with a sky-top observation car that was the epitome of streamline moderne design.

Other cases contain a conductor's navy jacket with monogrammed brass buttons and a starched white dining car uniform. Silver serving pieces and the railroad's own china pattern show that rail dining was an elegant event.

Lobster Newberg and Salisbury steak with Spanish sauce were on the menu for well under a buck. And a pot of coffee was only 20 cents. Did you ever wonder how someone drank coffee on a moving train before covered travel mugs were prevalent? You'll find out here with an invention exclusive to Milwaukee Road.

Next week: Milwaukee Road Depot's history

LUNCH TIP: Settle into a club chair in the Stone Arch Bar (in the Depot complex) for an escapist lunch.

Send your tips to thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.