The Streamlined Internationals

In addition to its transcontinental Empire Builder, the Great Northern Railway operated local passenger trains in Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, and Washington. In June, 1950, the railway replaced its heavyweight International, which connected Seattle with Vancouver, BC, with two five-car trains built by American Car & Foundry. The two trains were enough to provide three daily round trips over the 155 miles between the Northwest cities, each taking under 4 hours, or about a half-hour less than the heavyweight trains that preceded them.

Click image to download a 3.9-MB PDF of this 12-panel brochure describing the “completely modern” Great Northern Streamlined Internationals.

The trains included a mail/baggage car, two sixty-seat coaches, a combination coach-cafe that included 28 revenue seats and 24 non-revenue seats, and a parlor-observation car with seats for 29 first-class passengers. The observation cars were named “Port of Seattle” and “Port of Vancouver.” The parlor cars also had a one-person bedroom for passengers seeking (and willing to pay for) privacy plus an office for customs inspectors.

Click image to download a 0.6-MB PDF of a five-page article from ACF’s company magazine, Wheels, describing the first trip of Great Northern’s Streamlined Internationals.

Every passenger car was decorated with a variety of artworks. The coaches each had four etched stainless steel panels based on drawings of Northwest scenes by muralist Vincent Maragliotti. The cafe and observation lounge were decorated with bas relief wildlife carved out of Oregon myrtle wood (also known as California laurel) by sculptor George Katrina. An edge-lit lucite panel etched with the image of a Douglas-fir bough by an artist named Henry F. Pearson divided the parlor car into two sections.

The Internationals were pulled by General Motors E7s–the very same E7s that the Great Northern had purchased to haul the streamlined Empire Builder. The supposed passenger locomotives proved unsuitable in the mountains, and so the GN replaced them with F units. Although the F stood for “fourteen hundred horsepower,” not “freight,” GM had designed Fs for freight and Es for passenger. But the GN, along with the Santa Fe and a few other railroads, soon found that E unit traction motors tended to burn out in the mountains, so by 1950 the Empire Builder was led by Fs, making the Es available for local trains in flatter territory such as between Seattle and Vancouver.

The Great Northern was so proud of its new streamliners that it pictured the two Internationals passing one another somewhere along the Puget Sound in Washington on the cover of its 1950 annual report. I borrowed the scan of the cover of this annual report from Lindsay Korst’s GN Goat web site.


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