Like the 1966 dinner menu previously shown here, this menu features a black-and-white photo by Ron Nixon on the cover. Nixon earned his living as a telegrapher for the Northern Pacific, but also took thousands of photos, many of which were published in various magazines and journals starting in 1930.
Click image to download a 1.9-MB PDF of this menu. Click here for a 13.9-MB non-OCR version.
Nixon shot mainly in black-and-white, partly because B&W film was less expensive than color and partly because most of the publishers who purchased photos from him printed in B&W. In those pre-digital days, attempting to print a color negative or slide in black-and-white produced a muddy mess. While Nixon shot a few color photos in the 1960s, he didn’t start shooting mostly color until after Amtrak took over passenger service in 1971.
A look through Nixon’s photos also reveals that most of them were shot in landscape mode (i.e., wider than tall). For its menus, NP wanted photos in portrait mode (taller than wide), which limited its selection among Nixon’s negatives. For this cover, it used a Nixon photo thought to have been taken in 1960 near Three Forks, Montana.
Even though the vista-dome North Coast Limited was one of the most beautiful trains in the world, NP didn’t include many color photos of the train in its advertising, relying on color paintings and black-and-white photos instead. This was a contrast with the Great Northern, which hired a professional photographer from Chicago, Ken Hedrich, to take most of its publicity photos. Hedrich would stage photos with two cameras, one with color and one with black-and-white film, so GN could use either one as it needed. On one hand, this means we have a few excellent color photos of GN trains. On the other hand, Hedrich took only a few photos, so we probably have far more photos, albeit mostly black-and-white, of NP trains in the Ron Nixon, Warren McGee, and other collections.
The menu itself is more spartan than the 1966 edition. It actually has two more entrées on the table d’hôte/full meal side than in 1966, but the a la carte side has no entrées at all, compared with nine in 1966. The 1969 menu has four sandwiches compared with ten in 1966, one soup compared with five in 1966, three vegetables compared with six in 1966, and three salads compared with nine in 1966.