This annual report is huge, with 52 9″x12″ pages illustrated by numerous photos and charts. This was a major break from the traditional annual reports of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that tended to be 6″x9″ with no photos or charts. Instead, they contained standardized tables and dry recitations of facts, with many paragraphs using the same wording from year to year with changes only in the numbers.
Great Northern was a little ahead of the curve with this illustrated report. While Pullman also began issuing illustrated annual reports in 1940, most railroads did not do so for several more years: of the railroads I know, SP started in 1943; NP & B&O in 1944; Seaboard in 1946; Burlington in 1947; Western Pacific in 1949; Union Pacific in 1951; and Atlantic Coast Line in 1957.
In addition to numerous photos and charts, this report is loaded with data, not just for 1940 but in some cases for many years before then. Pages 24 and 25, for example, have freight and passenger data going back to 1921.
Although all of the photos are black-and-white, the report has a 12″x18″ color map of the Great Northern system and connections glued into the inside back cover. This PDF doesn’t include the blank pages before and after the map.
If you are interested in earlier annual reports, Google has copied them up to 1922. Although annual reports aren’t copyrighted, I suspect Google hasn’t posted any reports after 1922 due to copyright concerns. To save you from going through Google’s tedious download process, you can download the 1890 through 1899 annual reports here (11.8 MB).
For later reports, go to Hathitrust and search for individual years. Unless you are affiliated with a member institution, Hathitrust only lets you download one page at a time. However, a program called Hathi Download Helper will download entire publications and turn them into PDFs for you.
I haven’t actually seen Great Northern’s 1939 annual report. However, I suspect it was in the smaller, 6″x9″ format of the earlier ones, and that this 1940 report is the first one in the large format.