In 1958, Great Northern employed nearly 5,500 people in the Twin Cities area, with more than 1,500 of them working in the downtown headquarters building that it shared with Northern Pacific and First National Bank of St. Paul (both part of Hill’s empire). On the evenings of May 5 through 9 of that year, GN President John Budd invited all these employees and their families to tour the headquarters building as a sort of family gathering.
Visitors could tour a make-shift museum and watch movies, including GN’s own Empire on Parade and the Association of American Railroad’s Main Line U.S.A.. But GN was particularly proud of showing off its Univac computer, as it was one of the first if not the first railroad to buy a computer to help it manage its operations. My copy of the above brochure is only a photocopy, so the PDF may not be up to my usual standards.
Eleven years later, Budd and GN repeated the open house. This time people could watch a safety movie, view a model railroad, visit a museum of rail memorabilia, and enjoy refreshments in the employee cafeteria. Once again, the data processing center was a star of the show. Budd observed that the 1958 Univac computer was “now rusting on
a junk heap, so rapid is obsolescence in the ‘hardware’ of electronic data processing.” The booklet doesn’t mention brand names, but I suspect the Univac was replaced by one or more IBMs.