In the mid-1950s, the trend was to turn boxcars into rolling billboards advertising the railroads that owned them. In 1956, Great Northern experimented with ten different paint schemes that were so bright they became known to employees as circus boxcars. The lettering on the cover of this report was used, with slight variations, on three of the circus cars, and in 1957 GN apparently chose this version for many of its new boxcars.
Appropriately, the centerfold features the railway’s freight car construction shops in St. Cloud, which built 1,191 box cars in 1957. There is some evidence that James J. Hill developed the first moving assembly line for boxcar construction in these shops several years before Henry Ford’s much-more celebrated use of such a line to make Model Ts in 1913.