Great Northern 1958 Annual Report

Unique among Great Northern’s annual reports, this one has a fold-out flap on the front cover. One side has a table of contents for the report while the other lists officers and directors.

Click image to download a 16.6-MB PDF of this 28-page report.

The report’s centerfold deals with Great Northern’s grain operations, which throughout its history was the railway’s the greatest source of income. In 1958, a third of the company’s income came from moving agricultural products.

The discussion of passenger service on page 6 notes that Interstate Commerce Commission staff had written a “gloomy” report on the future of passenger service. Known as the Hosmer report (13.0-MB PDF), it detailed all of the problems confronting rail passenger service–including subsidies to airports, regulation, and costly union rules–and basically concluded that there was no hope. Hosmer correctly predicted that no one would make a serious effort to fix any of the problems (at least until 1979, when it was too late for private passenger trains), leading Hosmer to project that intercity passenger trains would disappear by about 1970. David P. Morgan’s famous article, Who Shot the Passenger Train, was largely based on this report.

Despite this, the Great Northern’s passenger trains were doing well. The railroad had cut expenses without cutting service (partly by merging the Western Star with the Fast Mail) and ridership was declining but very slowly. The railway vowed to maintain service so long as passenger revenues covered “out-of-pocket costs,” meaning variable costs. “It will be Great Northern’s policy to maintain fast, comfortable, streamlined trains wherever the public indicates by its patronage that it will support passenger operations.”

Click image to download a 12.1-MB PDF of this 20-page report.

The 1958 statistical supplement includes some data going back as far as 1945. Of the 20 pages in the supplement, all but the front and back covers, a map on the inside front cover, and a title page are filled with lots of tiny numbers.

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