We’ve previously seen Great Northern dude ranch booklets from 1935 and 1940. This one from 1950 includes a brief description of 45 different dude ranches. Most of them are in Montana, but there are five in Washington, two in British Columbia, and one each in Idaho and Oregon.
Click image to download a 10.0-MB PDF of this 12-page booklet.
Many of these dude ranches still exist, and when I read about them I wonder why I am wasting my life not going there. Then I remember I live on a former dude ranch near a premiere fly fishing river and millions of acres of national forests. So why am I writing this when I could be outdoors? Probably because the weather is too cold for hiking and too warm for skiing.
And the winner of the most boring cover photo on a Great Northern annual report in the 1940s is . . . 1949! Seriously, the bridge under construction in the photo could be anywhere; it could be a highway bridge. All it really illustrates is that the railway was spending its profits on line improvements instead of returning them to stockholders as dividends.
Click image to download a 23.3-MB PDF of this 28-page report.
This report is missing all of the tables of statistics that made up the second half of previous reports in the 1940s. Instead, these were published as separate statistical supplements. I don’t have the statistical supplement for 1949, but I have a few others that I’ll post in the future.
The 1948 cover uses orange and green to depict the streamlined Empire Builder. It’s not four colors like the 1946 cover, but its better than just green and black, which is what the title page (page 3) uses to portray the Empire Builder. The green on the train is printed as black while the orange is strangely printed as green.
Click image to download a 23.3-MB PDF of this 40-page report.
The 1948 centerfold is a testament to how the Great Northern responded to the post-war decline in business by increasing the efficiency of its operations. A hand-written “memo to all Dept. Heads” from GN President Frank Gavin reads, “Present railroad problems are not completely solved by increasing charges to the Public. More important if Great Northern is to maintain its strong competitive position is establishing the most economical operation through a continuation of the mechanization program and increasing efficiency.” The memo may actually have been in Gavin’s handwriting; otherwise, there would be no excuse for making it so hard to read. The “efficiencies” shown in the centerfold include Dieselization, use of key punch and tabulating machines, and Great Northern motor trucks in place of local freight trains.
After the glorious, full-color cover on the 1946 annual report, GN returned to process colors for the 1947 cover. At least there are two colors (in addition to black): orange and red, instead of the green used in the 1940-1945 reports.
Click image to download a 25.0-MB PDF of this 44-page report.
Inside, the report expresses pride in the streamlined Empire Builder with several photos and a full page showing excerpts of letters written by passengers praising the train. Thanks to the new train, says the report, passenger revenues from non-military business grew, while overall passenger revenues, including military, declined 18 percent compared with a 32 percent decline for other western railroads.
Departing from the black-and-white cover photos of the previous five years, the 1946 annual report introduces the streamlined Empire Builder with this gorgeous color cover, which wraps around to the back (see the full cover below). This is the same image used on a postcard that we’ve seen before, but the colors on the annual report’s cover are more highly saturated.
Click image to download a 28.9-MB PDF of this annual report.
Curiously, the illustrator who added color to what was probably two black-and-white photos–one of the Columbia River and a superimposed image of the train–neglected to include the yellow pinstripe between the top orange stripe and the green above it. The locomotives had been delivered with those pinstripes in 1945, so its not like the railroad didn’t know that particular pinstripe was there.
“It is highly probable that your successful farming future lies in one of the new farming areas of Oregon,” says this booklet published by the Great Northern Railway’s Department of Agricultural and Mineral Development. Designed to encourage men returning from World War II to move to Oregon, this booklet focuses on four areas that are on the Great Northern, Spokane, Portland & Seattle, Oregon Trunk, or Oregon Electric lines while ignoring farmable lands elsewhere in the state.
Click image to download a 31.7-MB PDF of this 28-page booklet.
The booklet notes that, based on the 1940 census, 51 percent of the state’s 1.1 million people lived in rural areas. Today it is just 19 percent, but the state’s population has grown to 4.0 million people, so the rural population has grown from about 555,000 to 760,000. That’s still less than 8 people per square mile.
The cover of this annual report shows a P2 4-8-2 locomotive pulling the Empire Builder out of St. Paul. The cylinder cocks are open to drain water built up while the train was in the station, and the safety valve has popped off, pouring steam in all directions. In 1971, a painter named James Bennett Deneen would use this photo as the basis for a painting in his series, “Saga of the Iron Horse.” But he relocated the train to the Flathead River, which is unrealistic as the engineer would have closed the cylinder cocks shortly after leaving the station.
Click image to download a 30.8-MB PDF of this report.
The centerfold this year honors the Northwest timber industry and the fact that the Great Northern gets to haul wood products from the Pacific Northwest to Midwestern markets. As in the case of the 1942 annual report, this one has some pages stapled in, apparently to update data on page 25. As before, I’ve shown each page separately as a right-hand page, which means page 24 gets repeated several times. I hope this isn’t too confusing.
The centerfold for the 1944 annual report is not as elaborate as in the previous two reports. Instead of a photo feature, it is simply a map of the GN system with little graphics showing the types of commodities carried by GN freight trains. More detailed tables indicate the railroad earned nearly a third of its 1944 freight revenues from agriculture, 18 percent from mining, 11 percent from lumber, 36 percent from “manufacturing and miscellaneous,” and a couple of percent from express and less-than-carload shipments.
Click image to download a 24.7-MB PDF of this 42-page report.
Regarding passenger, the report says, “Great Northern’s passenger revenue in 1944 of $20,816,206 was the largest in the Company’s history.” However, fares had dropped so that the company carried 80 percent more passenger miles than in 1920 “for practically the same revenue.” It adds that the company had ordered five new light-weight, 12-car passenger trains that, “while not uncomfortably fast,” would “save one night between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest.”
Perhaps due to wartime shortages, this report is eight pages shorter than the previous three reports. But it follows the tradition started in 1942 in having a centerfold photo display, this time celebrating a half century since the completion of GN’s line to Seattle. The company would continue to include centerfolds in its annual reports through 1958.
Click image to download a 25.8-MB PDF of this 46-page report.
Since completing the Pacific Coast line, the report notes, the company more than doubled the number of miles of rail operations; increased revenues by 1,100 percent; increased ton-miles of freight by 1,600 percent; and increased passenger miles by 1,000 percent. It did so by increasing the number of locomotives by only 120 percent, showing the increased power of the average locomotive.
The cover of this annual report shows GN’s iron ore docks on Lake Superior. This is a lead-in to a new feature in this report: a centerfold display focusing on one aspect of the company. This year, the centerfold celebrates fifty years of iron ore shipments on the Great Northern, during which nearly 450 million long tons of ore had been carried by the railway.
Click image to download a 31.0-MB PDF of this 56-page report.
GN’s involvement in Minnesota’s mining industry began when James J. Hill’s son, Louis, talked the old man into investing in mineral properties. Hill eventually bought 67,000 acres for something like $4 million. He didn’t believe in inside dealing, but he couldn’t sell the lands to the railroad because of a 1906 law preventing railroads from owning their own customers. So he created the Great Northern Iron Ore Trust, giving shares in the trust to all Great Northern shareholders. Eventually, more than 700 million tons of ore were mined from these lands returning more than $500 million to the shareholders. The trust was dissolved in 2015.