The Streamlined Winnipeg Limited

The Great Northern’s Twin Cities-Winnipeg Winnipeg Limited dates back to at least the 1930s. Unlike the daytime Red River and Internationals, the overnight Winnipeg Limited was not converted to a streamliner overnight. Instead, streamlined cars incrementally replaced heavyweight cars until, on March 1, 1956, the train was fully streamlined.

Click image to download a 2.8-MB PDF of this two-page, six-panel brochure.

Much of the equipment for the Winnipeg Limited was drawn from the fleet of streamlined cars built by Pullman for the 1947 Empire Builder. The train was led by two E-7 passenger locomotives that were used to pull the 1947 Empire Builder but that had later been replaced by F-series locomotives in transcontinental train service.

The train’s signature car was a lounge-sleeper rebuilt from a 16-duplex-roomette, 4-bedroom sleeping cars built for the 1947 Empire Builder. Half the roomettes and bedrooms were removed from one end of the car and replaced with twelve lounge seats, twelve seats at dining tables, and a small kitchen. The brochure called this an “observation lounge,” but there were no rear-facing windows and the car was probably used in mid-train service so that the lounge would be accessible to coach passengers.

The Manitoba Club in big-sky blue showing the staggered windows of duplex-roomettes on the right and the straight windows on the left where duplex-roomettes had been replaced by a lounge. Photo by Cordell Newby.

Since the overnight train required two trainsets, two cars were rebuilt into lounge-sleepers. Car 1175, originally named Oberlin Glacier, was renumbered 1198 and named Manitoba Club. Car 1177, originally named Harrison Glacier, was renumbered 1199 and named Winnipeg Club. Rebuilding the cars not only required replacing the interiors but lowering four windows (two on each side) that had been elevated for duplex roomettes to normal height. The new windows appear to be several inches wider than those used for the roomettes.

In addition to the locomotives and lounge-sleeping car, each Winnipeg Limited typically carried six other cars. These included a baggage-railway post office car that had been built for the 1947 Empire Builder; three 48-seat coaches originally from the 1947 Empire Builder; a 16-duplex-roomette, 4-bedroom sleeping car similar to the ones that had been rebuilt into the lounge cars; and a 6-roomette, 5-bedroom, 2-compartment sleeping car that had been built for the Mid-Century Empire Builder. The train sometimes also carried a Canadian National sleeper that would be transferred to or from that railroad’s Super Continental at Winnipeg to or from Vancouver. The train also offered connections, though no through cars, to the Canadian Pacific Canadian.

The 1956 streamlined train was only about an hour faster than the steam-powered heavyweight Winnipeg Limited of the 1930s. The railroad probably figured that travelers didn’t want to arrive faster on an overnight train, which would have forced them to rise at an uncomfortably early hour.

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