Great Northern 1963 History

Unlike the Northern Pacific, Union Pacific, and many other railroads, the Great Northern never celebrated a centennial as it was formally created in 1889 and merged into the Burlington Northern in 1970, a mere youngster of 81. However, its predecessor, the St. Paul & Pacific, put its first locomotive, the William Crooks (named after the railway’s chief engineer), to work building the railway in 1862. Based on that date, this booklet commemorates “a century of service.”

Click image to download a 7.0-MB PDF of this 16-page booklet.

The booklet notes that Great Northern formally gave the William Crooks to the Minnesota Historical Society on June 28, 1962, exactly 100 years after it was delivered to St. Paul. Despite the change in ownership, GN kept it on display in St. Paul Union Depot, where it had been since 1954. In 1975, four years after Union Depot closed, the locomotive was moved to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, where it can be seen today. With its two wooden passenger cars, it is one of the finest examples of Civil War-era trains in existence.

Great Northern 1962 Annual Report

The timing isn’t exactly right, but the style of the cover painting on this annual report looks similar to the paintings used in some of Great Northern’s 1965 advertisements. Unfortunately, the report doesn’t give us any clue about who the artist might have been.

Click image to download an 14.0-MB PDF of this 28-page report.

“Our cover scene is really a prototype,” says the inside front cover, “as anyone knows who has traced the westward march of ‘prairie skyscrapers’ (country elevators) across the vast grain-producing territory served by Great Northern.” Do they know what the word prototype means? Perhaps they meant an icon.

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Great Northern 1961 Annual Report

Great Northern saw a decline in freight revenues but an increase in passenger revenues in 1961. Grain was and always had been Great Northern’s most important commodity, and a poor harvest in 1961 was responsible for most of the drop in revenues. Passenger traffic grew in both summer and winter, the latter partly due to improvements in the Big Mountain ski resort near Whitefish. Passenger trains were doing so well, the railway reported, that it purchased six coaches from another railroad that it “refurbished to Great Northern standards.

Click image to download an 18.9-MB PDF of this 28-page report.

In recognition of a 78 percent growth in automobile shipments on the Great Northern, the report cover shows automobile cars carrying Ford Falcons from Ford’s St. Paul assembly plant. However, autos contributed only about 1.5 percent of freight revenues while grain provided a quarter of those revenues, so the decline in grain revenues was more than twice the revenues from carrying automobiles.

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Great Northern 1960 Annual Report

The 1960 annual report represents a departure from previous reports in several ways. First, it is a bit smaller, being closer to 8-1/2-by-11 inches than the 9-by-12 format that had been used since 1940. Second, it has given up all pretense of using the centerfold for some special purpose; instead, the center is just two more pages in the report.

Click image to download a 13.9-MB PDF of this 28-page report.

We have seen the cover image of the Empire Builder before in a poster. This is the last time Great Northern would put a passenger train on the cover of its annual report.

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Olympic Park Tiny Brochure

This is one of a series what I call “tiny brochures.” Postcard-sized when folded up, this one unfolds to slightly larger than 8-1/2×11 (some unfold to 5-1/2×21).

Click image to download a 1.6-MB PDF of this brochure.

This is the fifteenth tiny brochure that I’ve posted here. I know of at least two more that I’ll post if ever I get copies.

Great Northern 1959 Annual Report

Starting in 1942, Great Northern’s annual reports had dedicated the centerfold pages to some specific theme: the latest Empire Builder, some industry or region, or some specific aspect of freight service. The 1959 report is something of a transition as the centerfold has a theme, but it isn’t obvious what that theme is without seeing the page before.

Click image to download a 15.2-MB PDF of this 28-page report.

“Two new states and a seaway inaugural stimulate growth on both ends of Great Northern’s main line,” says a headline on page 11, the page before the centerfold. The seaway is the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which opened April 25, 1959.

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Great Northern 1958 Annual Report

Unique among Great Northern’s annual reports, this one has a fold-out flap on the front cover. One side has a table of contents for the report while the other lists officers and directors.

Click image to download a 16.6-MB PDF of this 28-page report.

The report’s centerfold deals with Great Northern’s grain operations, which throughout its history was the railway’s the greatest source of income. In 1958, a third of the company’s income came from moving agricultural products.

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The Great Northern Railway in 1958

Hayden, Stone was a securities firm that, after a series of mergers and acquisitions, is part of American Express today. This report appears to have been commissioned by the Great Northern to provide potential investors with an independent review of the company’s value. Although not an annual report, it came with a collection of annual reports and contains similar information, so I’m listing it as one.

Click image to download a 13.0-MB PDF of this 32-page report.

Most of it deals with freight, of course. One of the two paragraphs about passenger service says, “Under the ICC formula, Great Northern’s passenger operating ratio for 1956 was 193.86% and its operating deficit was $23,965,884. However, on an out-of-pocket cash basis, management believes that its passenger service is provided on much more favorable terms. The Company’s crack train, the Empire Builder, grosses around $5.35 per train mile (out-of-pocket costs about $4.50 per train mile) and its secondary train, the Western Star, grosses about $3.90 per train mile with out-of-pocket costs of some $3.45 per train mile. Management feels that since the Great Northern must operate passenger service, its service and equipment should be of the best, especially if it is to generate goodwill and create additional freight traffic. Toward this end, the Empire Builder has been completely equipped with new cars twice since the end of World War II, and continuing this policy, new dome cars were placed in service in 1955.”

1958 Map of the United States

This map shows rail lines all over the country, with emphasis on the Great Northern, Burlington, and SP&S, as well as the locations of “off-line Great Northern traffic offices.” Most of these office locations make sense–New York, Boston, Washington, etc.–but Winston-Salem? This city ofabout 100,000 people in 1958 may have been North Carolina’s largest city in 1950 but by 1960 had been overtaken by Greensboro.

Click image to download a 10.1-MB PDF of this brochure.

The cover has an anomaly I just noticed: the full-length dome car is named “Shore View.” All of Great Northern’s full-length dome cars were name in a “view” series–Glacier View, Lake View, Mountain View, Ocean View, Prairie View, and River View–but no Shore View.

Spring, 1958 Great Northern Timetable

Although two years have passed since yesterday’s 1956 timetable and the covers are completely different, the schedules are practically identical. Great Northern took the trouble to redo much of the interior in entirely new fonts, including the Empire Builder and Western Star fonts shown on the cover, but few if any trains have been deleted and most train times have been changed by a few minutes at most.

Click image to download a 22.3-MB PDF of this timetable.

Great Northern used this cover, with minor variations, for nine years. Unfortunately, the schedules inside weren’t so immutable, with major changes beginning in 1960.