Great Northern 1957 Annual Report

In the mid-1950s, the trend was to turn boxcars into rolling billboards advertising the railroads that owned them. In 1956, Great Northern experimented with ten different paint schemes that were so bright they became known to employees as circus boxcars. The lettering on the cover of this report was used, with slight variations, on three of the circus cars, and in 1957 GN apparently chose this version for many of its new boxcars.

Click image to download a 18.3-MB PDF of this 28-page report.

Appropriately, the centerfold features the railway’s freight car construction shops in St. Cloud, which built 1,191 box cars in 1957. There is some evidence that James J. Hill developed the first moving assembly line for boxcar construction in these shops several years before Henry Ford’s much-more celebrated use of such a line to make Model Ts in 1913.

Great Northern 1956 Annual Report

Someone has “photoshopped” a wide-angle image of a GN F7 on top of a photo of the west entrance to the Cascade Tunnel. I’m only an amateur graphics artist, but the image is almost painful for me to look at. There really is a signal by the tunnel entrance, but the signal in this picture also looks heavily edited.

Click image to download a 17.5-MB PDF of this 28-page report.

The centerfold celebrates the opening of Gavin Yard, “Great Northern’s new 6-1/2 million dollar electronic freight classification yard.” It was named for Frank Gavin, GN president until 1951 and still chairman of the board at the time the yard opened. It seems strange for a railroad to name something after a living officer in the 1950s, but this is the railroad whose predecessor named its first locomotive after its first chief engineer and later erected a larger-than-life statue of a later chief engineer at the summit of the rail operations.

June, 1956 Great Northern Timetable

The covers of Great Northern’s timetables had been predominately orange since 1947 when it introduced the streamlined Empire Builder. They stayed orange, with F-unit locomotives replacing E units, when the dome cars were introduced in 1955.

Click image to download a 23.6-MB PDF of this 36-page timetable.

The problem with this timetable cover is that it doesn’t actually show the dome cars that it advertises. That was a significant fault considering Northern Pacific featured the interior of a dome car on its timetable cover. As a result, in 1957 GN would change to a predominately blue cover that featured the Western Star and dome-laden Empire Builder passing in the mountains.

Great Northern 1955 Annual Report

Leslie Ragan’s painting of the dome-laden Empire Builder wraps 1-1/4 inches around the back cover of the 1955 report. Incongruously, the rest of the back cover shows an iron ore strip mine in the Minnesota hills, no doubt on Great Northern Iron Ore Properties trust lands.

Click image to download a 17.7-MB PDF of this 28-page report.

The Great Northern Iron Ore trust was created by James J. Hill who, on the advice of Louis Hill, had invested about $5 million in mineral lands in Minnesota. It turned out the lands were worth about $500 million. Hill felt uncomfortable profiteering from his railroad’s inside access to local resources and he would have simply sold the land to the railroad at his cost. But the Interstate Commerce Commission forbade railroads from owning their customers, so he created the trust and gave shares in it to GN stockholders. Since he was a major stockholder, he still made lots of money, but so did everyone else who owned stock in the railroad.

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January, 1955, Great Northern Goat

Just to make sure there is no mistake, the masthead for this issue of the Goat says it “is not an employee magazine” but is for people interested in industrial traffic and travel by the railway. Being another winter issue, this one also features ski areas, this time Big Mountain near Whitefish, Montana. Unlike the Snoqualmie resort featured in the January 1953 Goat, Big Mountain was directly served by the Great Northern (and is still a popular destination for the Amtrak Empire Builder).

Click image to download an 8.3-MB PDF of this 20-page magazine.

Other articles this month describe the St. Paul Winter Carnival, winter sports on Mount Spokane, and the use of a retired Great Northern steam locomotive in providing steam heat for an aluminum plant in Montana. The centerfold describes the Junior Achievement program sponsored by the Great Northern.

Great Northern 1954 Annual Report

This year’s front and back covers at least relate to one another, as the front shows the new Hillyard yard office at twilight while the back cover shows the view from inside the same office. The building is a modern or International style, which was probably considered quite fashionable at the time even though it was really several decades old.

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

Inside, the third page (which is numbered page 1) shows the Empire Builder along Puget Sound. But the train in the picture is the 1947 Empire Builder, complete with E7s instead of the F3s and F7s used to pull both the Empire Builder and Western Star in 1954.

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Great Northern 1953 Annual Report

The cover photo of this report shows a machinist turning a wheel, an important job on a railroad but not one likely to bring a flutter to a potential investor’s heart. The photo wraps about 2-1/4-inches around the back cover, so I’m showing the entire spread below.

Click image to download a 17.9-MB PDF of this 28-page report.

The rest of the back cover is devoted to a photo–unfortunately black-and-white–of two Western Stars passing somewhere in Montana. A similar photo was in the 1951 annual report, and looking at them closely, I think they are both the same photo but the train on the right has been cut-and-pasted to change its location relative to the train on the left. Notice the train on the right doesn’t cast a shadow on the other train as it does in the 1951 photo.

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1953 Many Glacier Breakfast Menu

This menu has no prices, so it was for tourists on the American plan. Except for the Finnan haddie, it is pretty conventional with eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, griddle cakes, and a variety of cereals, fruits, and juices.

Click image to download a 0.5-MB PDF of this menu.

The menu is dated July 26 and the irregular typography suggests it was hastily printed the night before. The photo of horseback riders shows two horses carrying large packs, suggesting they are on an overnight trip.

January, 1953, Great Northern Goat

As suggested by the cover photo, this issue of the Goat emphasizes winter sports. This includes another article about Timberline Lodge in Oregon plus a curious one-page article about skiing at Snoqualmie Pass in Washington. That’s curious because the Snoqualmie ski resort was owned and served by the Milwaukee Road, having originally been known as the Milwaukee Ski Bowl.

Click image to download an 10.0-MB PDF of this 24-page magazine.

Another article describes the construction of Hungry Horse Dam in Montana, which was completed in late 1952. The Great Northern delivered 4,600 carloads of cement for the dam’s construction. Also, a full-page article describes the Great Northern’s two wall calendars for 1953, one featuring a Winold Reiss painting of a Blackfoot Indian man named Middle Rider, with tear-off months, and the other showing all months on one page with the GN logo on top and a map of the GN at the bottom.

Great Northern 1952 Annual Report

The 1952 annual report has a wrap-around cover, but unlike the 1946 and 1951 reports, the photo only extends about 1-3/4 inches on the back cover. Still, I’m including a PDF of the full cover below.

Click image to download an 18.5-MB PDF of this report.

The cover photo shows a GN train crossing a new irrigation canal built as part of the Columbia Basin project, in which water retained by Grand Coulee Dam was used to irrigate hundreds of thousands of acres in Washington. The Great Northern was certainly pleased by the fact that many of those acres were “served almost exclusively by Great Northern.” The annual report includes a two-page spread about the project; however, that was not placed in the centerfold.

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