The Northern Pacific Mainstreeter

If the Western Star was downgraded after 1967, its rival the Mainstreeter was never really upgraded. While the Star began in 1951 as a completely streamlined train, the Mainstreeter was inaugurated on November 16, 1952 with Diesels and streamlined coaches, but all other cars–diner, lounge-observation, and sleepers–were heavyweights.

Click to download a PDF of this postcard.

Even the streamlined coaches were a step down from the Star as the Mainstreeter coaches had 56 seats, meaning either less legroom or smaller dressing rooms than the Star‘s 48-seat coaches. The Star also had coffee shop and streamlined lounge-observation cars in addition to its diners, while the Mainstreeter only had a diner and heavyweight lounge car.

An NP stewardess-nurse points out items of interest on the mural in the Traveller’s Rest car. Click image to download a PDF of this postcard.

Over the years, the Northern Pacific replaced some of the heavyweight cars with streamlined cars. By 1956, it had purchased six “Holiday Lounge” cars to serve as coffee shop cars, providing lounge service and light meals for coach passengers. The above postcards compare these cars with the North Coast Limited‘s Traveller’s Rest cars, which had been rebuilt from coffee shop-coaches made for the NCL in 1947.

While the Traveller’s Rest cars were decorated with huge murals depicting Lewis & Clark’s journey to the West, the Holiday Lounge cars were (like the NCL‘s 1947 feature cars) almost devoid of decoration. There’s a small painting or photo and an elaborate clock on one bulkhead, but otherwise the walls are bare. This feeling is compounded by the photographer’s unfortunate angle that makes the car feel especially narrow, a mistake not made in the Traveller’s Rest photograph.

This postcard shows the Mainstreeter with numerous heavyweight baggage cars for carrying mail. Click image for a larger view.

In 1958, the Mainstreeter received its first streamlined diners which had originally been built for the 1947 North Coast Limited. The NP had replaced these diners on the NCL with new stainless steel (but painted) diners built by Budd. Still, the Mainstreeter continued to carry heavyweight baggage cars and sometimes heavyweight coaches and sleepers.

The Holiday Lounge cars only lasted until 1962, when the NP rebuilt most of them into coaches. After the end of the Seattle World’s Fair, the only food service on the Mainstreeter would be provided by a diner-lounge car. In 1967, the NP replaced even these cars with self-service buffet cars: still a cut above the Southern Pacific’s automat cars, but nowhere near as elegant as a dining car or even a coffee shop car.

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