Advertising the Great Dome Empire Builder

Although domes were first added to the Empire Builder in May 1955, the Great Northern didn’t place this two-page spread in National Geographic until October. This is probably because the ad featured the full-length dome which wasn’t included in the train until the end of the summer. The fact that the magnificent mountainous background was largely in the artist’s imagination, however, didn’t stop the railway from using the ad.

Click any image to download a larger view.

In response to the Northern Pacific’s speed-up of the North Coast Limited, the Great Northern cut an hour from the westbound Empire Builder schedule on the day the domes were added. This allowed it to say it had the “fastest train Chicago to Seattle.” The eastbound schedule remained as it was.

This one-page version of the same ad was in the May, 1956 issue of Modern Railroads, and no doubt many other publications. Note that it doesn’t mention that the EB is the “fastest train Chicago to Seattle.” Unfortunately, the artist’s signature, if there was one, was cropped out of both versions of this illustration, but it is clearly a different style from the other illustrations we have seen.

Naturally, the Budd Company commissioned another Leslie Ragan painting of its newest dome cars with what looks like St. Nicholas Mountain in the background and put it in the September, 1955 National Geographic. Ragan is such a precise painter that it is surprising that he got the shade of green used on the exterior of the train wrong.

The Great Northern spent most of its advertising budget promoting Glacier National Park, which meant the Western Star as the Empire Builder didn’t stop at the park. But in February 1965 it placed this ad for the Empire Builder in National Geographic. The ad uses a more modern style of illustration that seems very busy and contradictory to the ad’s message that passengers can “travel relaxed aboard the incomparable Empire Builder.”


Advertising the Great Dome Empire Builder — 4 Comments

  1. Hi, I’m trying to find out who the artist is who made the work in the bottom advertisement (Rediscovered! The carefree way…). If you have any info, even just the advertising firm in charge of the ad, that would be great. Thanks a lot.

    • That’s a very distinctive style and the same artist undoubtedly did the ad below that appeared in 1965 (click image for a larger view). Unfortunately, I can’t find an artist’s name on either one of them.

      You might get some answers going through the Minnesota Historical Society’s GN Publicity Department records. For that, you’ll probably have to take a trip to St. Paul.

  2. I think one reason the Pullman green often looks brighter is due to an optical illusion. It is in contrast with the Omaha orange, its opposite on the color wheel. Pullman green is nearly the same color as UPS brown. In rendering this effect, I suspect that artists like Ragan were deliberate in showing the green shift.

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