Great Northern Placemat

While the dining cars of premiere trains such as the Empire Builder and–in its early years, at least–the Western Star used heavy linen tablecloths, secondary trains such as the Red River and Internationals used paper placemats instead. Paper placemats were also used in the Ranch Car and other coffee shop cars on the premiere trains.

Click to download a 1.4-MB PDF of this placemat.

The Great Northern’s placemat is the most colorful I have seen. Most others, like the Northern Pacific Traveller’s Rest placemat, were printed in just two colors.

Continue reading

The Story of the Monad

Though nominally competitors, after 1900 the Great Northern and Northern Pacific had several major stockholders in common, notably the Great Northern’s founder, James J. Hill. As a result, the railroads had many things in common, including sharing a headquarters building in St. Paul, Minnesota and, eventually, similar logos: both circular and dominated by the color red, hinting at an Asian influence.

Click image to download a 2.0-MB PDF of this 12-page brochure.

While the Great Northern simple red circle eventually evolved into its famous goat, the Northern Pacific used the more subtle yin yang, emphasizing the railway’s part as a route to the Orient. This brochure, distributed by the railway in the 1960s, tells how the Northern Pacific came to adopt this logo.

Continue reading

Taking Photos from the Great Domes

Like its cross-border rival, the Canadian Pacific, the Great Northern published a brochure advising photographers how to take photos through the tinted glass windows of the dome cars. But where the Canadian Pacific brochure merely advised photographers to account for the tinting by overexposing the photos, the Great Northern (on advice from Eastman Kodak) suggested that photographers could use a CC30R filter to counteract the effects of the tinting.

Click image to download a 2.0-MB PDF of this brochure.

Continue reading

Streamlined Empire Builder Ticket Envelope

Here’s a used ticket envelope from the 1947 streamlined Empire Builder. The inner flap of the envelope has a photo of a spectacular mountain in Glacier National Park. The ticket agent wrote on the outer flap that the passenger spent $5.18 on a ticket for a train that left “GN Station” at 11:55 pm on January 30.

Click image to download a PDF of this envelope.

I have a summer, 1947 Great Northern timetable that someday I will post here. It doesn’t show an 11:55 pm departure for any train on the GN system, so this ticket must have been issued some other time. I did learn from the timetable that $5.18 was enough to get a passenger from Fargo to Minneapolis or Fargo to Minot, and more than enough to get from Seattle to Portland or Seattle to Vancouver, BC.

Mid-Century Empire Builder Brochures

Here are two different versions of the same brochure. The first, published when the train was inaugurated in 1951, advertises the Mid-Century Empire Builder. Perhaps because it was no longer mid-century by 1954, when the second brochure was printed, the title was changed to “Streamlined Empire Builder.”

Click image to download a 2.5-MB PDF of this 24-page brochure.

The 1951 brochure is from Lindsay Korst’s collection, and I assembled it from scans he has posted on line. The 1954 brochure is from my own collection, and since I scan at a higher resolution the PDF file is bigger.

Continue reading

Great Northern’s Greatest Train

The 1947 Empire Builder was Great Northern’s greatest train (at least, up until 1951, when the railroad replaced the train with an entirely new train). Many illustrations advertising the 1947 train showed five locomotives representing the five complete train sets that the railroad needed to protect the 45-hour Chicago-Seattle schedule.

Click image to download a 12.3-MB PDF of this 24-page brochure.

Unfortunately, I don’t have this colorful brochure in my collection; instead, I took the liberty of assembling it from scans of the pages posted by Great Northern rail fan Lindsay Korst. Lindsay’s scans are not as high resolution as mine but are still quite readable.

Continue reading

San Francisco Chief Brochure

Here’s an 8″x9″ brochure that unfolds into a 16″x18″ sheet advertising Santa Fe’s San Francisco Chief. One side of the brochure describes the train, focusing on the Big Dome, while the other side describes San Francisco and Yosemite Park, suggesting that the brochure’s target audience was Midwesterners.

Click image to download a 5.8-MB PDF of this brochure.

I’ve had the brochure displayed in a frame for several years, and unfortunately light has caused the yellow to fade, leaving the cover to look redder than it should. The Life magazine ad below (which I previously featured here) shows colors that are closer to the original.

Continue reading

Here You Are Westbound in 1950

The 1950 version of the westbound here-you-are brochure is superficially the same as the 1949 brochure, but in fact the text and graphics have been almost completely redone.


Click image to download a PDF of this four-page brochure.

The GN must have added some time to the train’s schedule in Montana. Both brochures have the train stopping in Glascow, Montana at 9:10 am. The 1949 brochure says the train will arrive in Shelby shortly after noon. But in 1950, the train only makes it to Havre, 100 miles east of Shelby, shortly after noon. Yet both trains reach East Glacier at about 4 pm. Perhaps the schedule change is what prompted the rewrite of the text.

Continue reading

Here You Are Eastbound

Here is the 1950 eastbound counterpart to yesterday’s “Here You Are” brochure for Empire Builder passengers. Eastbound passengers had to get up early to see Glacier Park, as the train arrived at West Glacier (Belton) at about 7:30 am.

Click image to download a PDF of this four-page brochure.

The illustrator of these brochures included maps that showed daytime as white graying into nighttime black. But, curiously, the illustrator forgot to show the second night in this brochure.

Continue reading

Here You Are Westbound

Passengers traveling westbound on the streamlined Empire Builder in 1949 woke up their first morning to this little brochure–which possibly was given only to sleeping car passengers. Page 1 explains what passengers can expect to see that morning, while page 2 focuses on the afternoon when the train passes by glorious Glacier National Park, whose mountains, glaciers, and lakes are “exquisite beauties of nature from which the cars on the Empire Builder take their names.”

Click image to download a 2.1-MB PDF of this four-page brochure.

Page 4 describes the next night and morning, when the train is scheduled to arrive in Seattle at 8 am. At least two cars of the train, of course, will be diverted at Spokane to Portland.

Continue reading