Alaska Cruises–1938 Season

This little brochure advertises, without too many details, cruises to “strange Alaska.” After a steamship ride from Seattle, tours were apparently offered on at least seven routes. “Golden Belt Line Tours” went from Seward to Fairbanks to Cordova. “Yukon River Circle Tours” went from Seward to Fairbanks, then up the Yukon River to Whitehorse, followed by the White Pass train to Skagway.

Click image to download a 4.4-MB PDF of this brochure.

The tours all relied on “all-American steamers” operated by the Alaska Steamship Company. As Wikipedia notes, thanks to the 1920 Jones Act, this company had a near-monopoly on steamship service to Alaska.

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Great Northern 1937 Timetable

When the Empire Builder replaced the Oriental Limited as Great Northern’s premiere train in 1929, the latter name replaced the Glacier Park Limited for the secondary train. But with the Depression, business dropped off so much that GN was forced to drop its secondary train, leaving the Empire Builder as its only full-service train between the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Trains 3 & 4, formerly named the Oriental Limited, continued to operate as a local from St. Paul to Williston, ND.

Click image to download a 27.9-MB PDF of this 36-page timetable.

But the GN did have a secondary transcontinental train: the Fast Mail, trains 27 & 28. However, this train was coach-only from St. Paul to Spokane. Perhaps because the Empire Builder departed Wenatchee at 2:30 am while the Fast Mail left at a more respectable 11 pm, GN felt it was important to add a Pullman sleeper at Wenatchee, and similarly provided one from Seattle to Wenatchee eastbound. The schedule seems to indicate there were no passenger cars at all on the Fast Mail between Wenatchee and Spokane.

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Great Northern 1928 Timetable

One of the last timetables before Great Northern inaugurated the Empire Builder, this is one of the curious timetables (of which we’ll see more) in which the cover page, shown below, is actually the last page, while the first page has an ad for tours in Glacier Park. The changes in the fifteen years since the 1913 timetable are surprisingly minor.

Click image to download a 31.3-MB PDF of this 44-page timetable.

The Oriental Limited still operates about twelve hours apart from the secondary train, whose name has changed from the Oregonian to the Glacier Park Limited. Although the timetable shows a lot more stops for the secondary train, it actually only takes 25 minutes longer to get from Chicago to Seattle than the Oriental Limited. The Oriental Limited itself has been speeded up a bit from 1913, but by less than three hours.

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The Scenic Northwest, 1927

This 52-page brochure is more than twice the length of a 1929 brochure with the same name. Most of the contents of the 1929 brochure can be found in this earlier edition, with some major additions of course.

Click image to download a 36.5-MB PDF of this brochure.

This brochure starts with five pages of photos of “the new Oriental Limited” (which was actually new in 1924), none of which are found in the 1929 edition. Other pages found only in the 1927 edition describe Minnesota lakes, North Dakota beef, the Verendrye monument, Fort Union, Great Falls, Helena, Butte, four additional pages on Glacier Park, the Lewis monument, the Stevens statue, Flathead Lake, Lake Chelan, Mt. Rainier, Everett, Bellingham, Seward Alaska, the Astor and Wishram monuments, and California. Of the 22 pages found in both brochures, perhaps a half a dozen photos were updated; the biggest change dealt with the Cascade Tunnel, as the railway’s new 7.9-mile tunnel opened in 1929.

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Janet Nolan’s Name Tag

Janet Nolan was born on November 9, 1907 to Thomas and Barbara Ziegler Nolan. Though born in Washington, she went to high school in St. Paul where she won an oratorical contest that earned her a trip on the 1926 Columbia River Historical Expedition. She passed away at the age of 94 in Santa Rosa, California, leaving behind this name badge from the expedition.

Click image to download a PDF showing the front and back of this name badge.

The ribbon on the badge says “American Good Will Association Franco American Branch,” the organization that sponsored the oratory contests that selected 38 American and five French high school students to go on the trip. Unfortunately, I can’t find any other information about Janet Nolan (and precious little information about the other students on the trip), but I’ll post more when I find more.

Astor Medal

In 1832, the American Fur Company struck a number of medals bearing the image of John Jacob Astor, the company founder, to give to friendly Native Americans at Fort Union. Today, only seven silver and five copper medals are still known to exist. Most of them have a small hole in the top edge so they can be strung on a necklace.

A copper Astor medal without the hole for stringing on a necklace. Click image to download a PDF of the front and back of this medal.

As presented on the medal, “Astor’s profile was ample, virile, and severe in the manner of Roman emperors,” writes an Astor biography. “The strong, square face is softened by a double chin.”

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The Verendrye Plate

In 1743, the Verendrye Expedition reached a point in what is now South Dakota and buried a lead plate marking their visit in the name of the king of France. In 1908, some children playing in a field near Pierre found the plate, which is now in the museum of the South Dakota State Historical Society. In 1925, the Great Northern Railway gave replicas of this plate to members of the Upper Missouri Historical Expedition.

Click image to download a PDF of the front and back of the replica Verendrye plate.

Someone sold a Great Northern replica plate on ebay recently, and from the pictures we can see that the plate is actually quite a bit different from the original. The original was about 6″x8″, while the replica was only about 4″x5″. The front of the original plate has letters that had been struck in France; these letters are larger, relative to the size of the plate, on the replica than the original.

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Over the Trails

This 1913 booklet was previously posted here as a download from This scan, however, is of somewhat higher quality (and requires four times as much memory).

Click image to download a 20.1-MB PDF of this 52-page booklet.

As noted in that earlier post, the Great Northern invited several newspaper travel writers to tour Glacier and encouraged them to write about their experiences. This booklet was written by Tom Dillon of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and illustrated with Fred Kiser photos and cartoons by Billy Ireland, a cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch who also toured Glacier in 1912.

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Great Northern 1913 Timetable

The cover says “local time tables,” but this is more like what in later years would be called a “condensed timetable.” While the complete Great Northern timetables of the era had a colorful cover (shown below) and were 48 pages long, this one is simply printed on green paper and has but 20 pages. While a complete timetable had things like a station index, train equipment, connecting trains, and a list of agents, after the cover page this one is nothing but timetables, presumably for every passenger train Great Northern offered.

Click image to download a 15.3-MB PDF of this 20-page timetable.

Eight trains a day went west from St. Paul, including trains 1 & 2, the Oriental Limited and 3 & 4, the Oregonian to Seattle and Portland; trains 5 & 6, a local to Minot; trains 7 & 8, the Winnipeg Limited; trains 9 & 10 and 29 & 30, locals to Grand Forks; and 11 & 12, a local to Fargo. GN had more than one route between Minneapolis and Fargo and between Fargo and Minot, so it needed multiple locals to serve all these routes.

For comparison, this is the cover to a 96-page full timetable issued by the GN in the early teens. Click image for a larger view.

West of Fargo/Grand Forks, the trains thin out, but in addition to trains 1 & 2 and 3 & 4, there was at least one local train all the way from St. Paul to Seattle. Most went only a hundred miles or so between major cities and were timed to operate in daylight, so anyone trying to travel cross-country on local trains would spend a lot of nights in towns such as Williston, Glascow, Havre, and Whitefish.

In Shelby, Montana, the GN picked up another transcontinental train, the unnamed 43 and 44 from Kansas City on the Burlington. GN treated this train as a local, making, for example, as many as 10 flag stops in addition to three scheduled stops in the 58 miles between East Glacier and West Glacier. Despite all these stops, train 43 took only an hour and fifteen minutes longer to get from Shelby to Seattle than the Oregonian, while the latter train–which was scheduled about 12 hours apart from trains 1 & 2–took only an hour longer than the Oriental Limited to get from St. Paul to Seattle.

In addition to these mainline trains, the GN offered three trains a day between Seattle and Portland; four a day between Seattle and Vancouver, BC; and about 60 more timetables for local services all along the route. Timetable 7 reveals the Burlington had, in addition to trains 43 and 44, trains 41 and 42 from St. Louis to Billings, but the latter didn’t have through cars to the Pacific Northwest, at least on the GN. Timetables 17 and 18 show trains to Watertown and Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Not all of these timetables show Great Northern trains. In addition to SP&S and Burlington trains, various timetables show trains on the Farmers Grain and Shipping Company (from Devils Lake to Hansboro, ND), Northern Dakota Railway (from Grand Forks to Concrete), Butte, Anaconda and Pacific, the Waterville Railway (from Wenatchee to Mansfield), and Victoria and Sydney Railway. GN had at least an interest in some of these railways.

Glacier Park Hotel Postcards

Two more postcards from GN-owned Glacier Park Company show two of the company’s hotels in the park. Bob and Ira Spring are credited with taking the photo of Lake McDonald Hotel with Mt. Brown in the background. Unlike Many Glacier and other Glacier Park hotels, Lake McDonald Hotel wasn’t built by the Great Northern, but was acquired by the railway in 1930.

Click image to download a PDF of this postcard.

When the hotel was built in 1913, passengers would get off the train in West Glacier (Belton) and take an 8-mile boat trip up Lake McDonald. The front of the hotel therefore faces the lake. After road access opened in 1921, the back of the hotel effectively became the front. The hotel’s name was changed to Lake McDonald Lodge in 1957, which dates this postcard to before that year.

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