the businessman Hill did not initially start out in the rail industry
until the latter 19th century when he purchased the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, which connected St. Paul, Minnesota to St. Anthony (Minneapolis).
The Great Northern Railway was formed in 1889 when Hill created the
company to control or lease a number of other railroads including the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway (successor of the StP&P) and Montana Central Railroad.
Now that these railroads were all under one-control Hill quickly set
about building to the Pacific Coast and Seattle which was accomplished
just four years later in 1893.
James J. Hill, "The Empire Builder" Who Constructed The Great Northern
Great Northern's 7.8-Mile Cascade Tunnel, Through The Cascades
Burlington Northern, The West's First Mega-Railroad
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, "Everywhere West"
Northern Pacific, "Main Street Of The North West"
Spokane, Portland & Seattle, "The Northwest's Own Railway"
King Street Station
Great Northern's Passenger Trains
Badger: (Twin Cities - Superior/Duluth)
Cascadian: (Seattle - Spokane)
Dakotan: (Twin Cities - Williston, North Dakota)
Empire Builder: (Chicago - Seattle)
Gopher: (Twin Cities - Superior/Duluth)
International: (Seattle - Vancouver, B.C.)
Oriental Limited: Served Chicago and Seattle/Portland via allying roads CB&Q and SP&S.
Red River: (Twin Cities - Grand Forks)
Western Star: (Chicago - Seattle)
Winnipeg Limited: (Twin Cities - Winnipeg)
Throughout the rest of the early 20th century Hill worked to modernize his main line, especially through the Rockies by eliminating grades and curves. Before his death in 1916 he was able to achieve this with the most famous project along the line being the Cascade Tunnel through Washington’s Cascade Range (a new tunnel was later bored and opened in the 1920s, which is still used today by the BNSF Railway, and is some 8 miles in length!). The western main line through the Cascade Mountain range was also electrified for years (although it proved to be a troublesome and unreliable operation) until better ventilation and improved diesel locomotives allowed for its discontinuance in the late 1950s.
One particular reason why the GN was so successful
and respected throughout its life was the excellent presidents who
oversaw the railroad. Following Hill’s death Ralph Budd, the renowned
leader of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, took the helm
and led the railroad through significant growth allowing it to weather the Great Depression relatively well. It was also during this time, the late 1920s, that the legendary Empire Builder
passenger train was inaugurated between Seattle and Chicago via the
CB&Q, who also partially owned the train. The train became
tremendously successful and the premier way to travel through the
Northwest. Because of the train’s success and high respect under GN's
tenor, it’s not surprising that it became a part of Amtrak and continues
so to this day as the carrier’s best known long distance passenger
After Budd gave up the presidency in 1951 to his son John, the Great
Northern Railway continued to prosper and grow as the younger Budd
looked to increase efficiency and add additional customers and traffic
where possible. The railroad, however, was destined to be merged with its allying railroads the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway; Chicago, Burlington
& Quincy Railroad; and Northern Pacific Railway, it was simply a
matter of time, as many had speculated for years (it was also something
Hill had always wished to accomplish but could never accomplish before
his death). While trying for years this did not come to fruition until
1970 when the ICC finally granted permission to do so thus forming the
then Burlington Northern Railroad.
Diesel Locomotive Roster
The American Locomotive Company
The Baldwin Locomotive Works
|RS3||197-199, 220-224, 228-232||1950-1953||13|
|FA-1||276A-276B, 310A-310C, 440A-440D, 442A-442D||1948-1950||6|
|FB-1||310B, 440B-440C, 442B-442C||1948-1950||5|
|VO-1000||139-144, 5332-5333, 5337-5338||1941-1944||10|
The Electro-Motive Corporation/Electro-Motive Division
|SW8||98, 99, 101||1951-1953||3|
|FTA||252A, 256A-258A, 300A-305A, 300C-305C, 400A-428A (Evens), 400D-428D (Evens), 5600A, 5700A, 5701A, 5900A, 5900B||1941-1945||51|
|FTB||252B-258B, 301B-305B, 400B-428B (Evens), 400C-428C (Evens), 5600B, 5700B, 5701B, 5900C||1941-1945||46|
|F3A||225-231, 259A-267A, 259B, 262B-265B, 275A, 275B-276B, 306A, 306C, 350A-358A, 350C-358C, 375C-376C, 430A-438A (Evens), 430D-438D (Evens)||1946-1948||56|
|F3B||260B-261B, 267B, 306B, 350B-358B, 430B-438B (Evens), 430C-438C (Evens)||1948||23|
|F7A||268A-274A, 271B-275B, 275A-276A, 280A-281A, 307A-317A, 307C-317C, 350A, 360A, 364A-365A, 364C-365C, 444A-456A (Evens), 444D-456D (Evens), 460A-468A (Evens), 460D-468D (Evens)||1949-1953||68|
|F7B||268B-270B, 280B-281B, 307B-309B, 311B-317B, 350B, 364B-365B, 380B-385B, 444B-468B (Evens), 444C-468C (Evens), 500B-504B||1949-1953||45|
|F9B||470B-474B (Evens), 470C-474C (Evens)||1954||6|
|E7A||500A-504A, 500B-504B, 510-512||1945-1947||13|
Steam Locomotive Roster
|A-1 Through A-11||Switcher||0-6-0|
|B-1 Through B-22||American||4-4-0|
|C-1 Through C-5 (Various)||Switcher||0-8-0|
|D-2, D-4, D-5||Mogul||2-6-0|
|E-1 Through E-15s||Ten-Wheeler||4-6-0|
|F-1 Through F-12||Consolidation||2-8-0|
|G-1 Through G-5||Twelve-Wheeler||4-8-0|
|J-1 Through J-2s (Various)||Prairie||2-6-2|
|N-1 Through N-3||Articulated||2-8-8-0|
|O-1 Through O-8||Mikado||2-8-2|
|Q-1, Q-2||Santa Fe||2-10-2|
Alas, the Burlington Northern itself would last a mere quarter-century before merging with the Santa Fe to become the Burlington Northern
Santa Fe Railway, today known as simply the BNSF Railway.
While the GN is no longer around today it certainly continues to
live on in many ways aside from being an important Northwestern gateway
for successor BNSF Railway (the BNSF also continues to employ a version
of the GN’s famous dark green, orange, and yellow paint scheme), a
testament to the mark the railroad left on the industry. The GN can still be seen in the Empire Builder operated by Amtrak and its famous Cascade Tunnel in Washington, just to name a few.
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