Empire Builder

This elegant brochure has no date, but I suspect it was from 1929, when the Empire Builder began operating, or 1930, before the effects of the Depression were fully felt. The interior devotes six pages to the train’s observation-lounge car, two pages to sleeping accommodations, four pages to the diner, and two pages to the train’s route by Glacier Park and through the Cascades. In short, unlike Depression-era brochures, this one stresses luxury over economy.

Click image to download a 3.9-MB PDF of this 20-page brochure.

The cream-colored pages inside the black cover are about 4-1/2″x7″. The cover overlaps the interior by about an eighth of an inch on the top, bottom, and outside. The cover page is double-thickness; that is, it is about 14-1/2″ tall, folded in half, and the interior pages are stapled into the inner part. This way, the staples don’t appear on the outer part of the cover, which gives it an extra-sumptuous feel. (To be honest, though, the paper feels about the same as what my kindergarten teacher called “construction paper,” in other words, cheap paper suitable for children.)

The highly stylized locomotive on the cover shows two pilot wheels, four drivers, and one trailing wheel–then cuts off without revealing whether there is a second trailing wheel. In other words, this could be a 4-8-2 Mountain locomotive or a 4-8-4 Northern, both of which were used to haul the pre-war Empire Builder over portions of its route. The art deco style of this image could mean that the brochure is from the later 1930s, when several railroads streamlined a few of their steam locomotives. But art deco precedes the 1930s, so the streamlined appearance (which was not replicated in any real Great Northern steam locomotive) could just be a coincidental bit of foresight on the part of GN graphics artists.

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