The Olympian Hiawatha, The Empire Builder, The North Coast Limited

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Dakota 400

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After viewing the You Tube views of the Olympian Hiawatha, this question has come to mind. All three of these trains were major trains to/from Chicago and Seattle.

#1: Which train offered the superior scenic route?

#2: Which train offered the superior on board service?

#3: Which train offered the best on board accommodations?
 

railiner

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Mar 20, 2009
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Take your pick...each of them were great with their own style...unfortunately, the Olympian did not survive as long...

You can also add the City of Portland to that mix, (with a short connection to Seattle from Portland...there was a thru sleeper)...
 

Dakota 400

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Take your pick...each of them were great with their own style...unfortunately, the Olympian did not survive as long...

You can also add the City of Portland to that mix, (with a short connection to Seattle from Portland...there was a thru sleeper)...
Bad me! I forgot about UP's City of Portland.

During that era when I was collecting railroad timetables, brochures, etc., I had material on all of those trains. The Dome Dining Car on the City of Portland was an unusual feature. (Think only the City of Los Angeles had such a car.) The Empire Builder's brochures were the most enticing to this teenager dreaming of traveling. The North Coast Limited was #2.
 

prech786

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Since riding all four back in the day my vote is for the NCL. Yes Oly had the Super Domes & Skytops, and EB had Big Domes and Glacier Park too. However NCL had Dome Sleepers, plenty of short domes, Stewardess Nurses, arguably better food (think Big Baked Potato), Yellowstone Park and the Raymond Lowey paint scheme. Its route was probably more consistently scenic than the EB Hi-line route.

City of Portland was OK. But for the Dome Diner it was only fair for amenities & scenery.
 

Siegmund

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Nov 19, 2018
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153
All four were before my time, but having driven along all their routes a number of times...would give the scenery vote to NCL. The scenery is at least interesting (along the Yellowstone River) starting between Billings and Columbus, and exceptional from Homestake Pass westward.

Ironically, that's partly because of the schedule - the Western Star is a much more serious contender than the Builder for good scenery, because the entire trip from Glacier Park to Spokane was in daylight, instead of just to Libby (old GN schedule) or Whitefish (current Amtrak schedule.) Pre-Flathead Tunnel there was 3 solid hours along the bank of the Kootenai River (Rexford to Bonners Ferry) that I think is better viewing that most of the Clark Fork canyon. It's not so much that NP had better scenery, but that NP's good scenery begins farther east.
 

Seaboard92

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Now I haven't ridden the EX Milwaukee Road, or the EX Northern Pacific but I will join this discussion anyway.

Of your five routes from the midwest to the Northwest each had their own merit.

I'll grade the trains on each scenery, equipment, food, and schedule. For starters here is a list of routes.

1. North Coast Limited (Burlington Route Chicago, IL-St. Paul, MN, Northern Pacific St. Paul, MN-Seattle, WA, Spokane, Portland, & Seattle Pasco-Portland) via St. Paul, MN, Fargo, ND, Bismark, ND, Billings, MT, Butte, MT, Spokane, WA, Pasco, WA.

2. Empire Builder (Burlington Route Chicago, IL-St. Paul, MN, Great Northern St. Paul, MN-Seattle, WA, Spokane, Portland, & Seattle Spokane-Portland) via St. Paul, MN, Fargo, ND, Minot, ND, Whitefish, MT, Spokane, WA.

3. Olympian Hiawatha (Milwaukee Road Chicago, IL-Tacoma, WA) via Milwaukee, WI, St. Paul, MN, Aberdeen, SD, Butte, MT, Spokane, WA, Seattle, WA.

4. City of Portland (Chicago & Northwestern/Milwaukee Road Chicago, IL-Omaha, NE, Union Pacific Omaha, NE-Portland, OR) via Omaha, Cheyanne, WY, Boise, ID.

5. Mountaineer (Soo Line St. Paul, MN-Portal, ND, Canadian Pacific North Portal, MB-Vancouver, BC) via Minot, ND, Moose Jaw, SK, Calgary, AB, Kamloops, BC.

From now on I'll list them in order of best to worst.

Scenery:

1/2: North Coast Limited. Going westbound you cruise along ole man river for 300 miles in daylight. Cross over North Dakota overnight, and enter the Rockies around noon and stay in them the rest of the day. They had a beautiful route across Montana. Fun fact the secondary train the "Mainstreeter" used a different route and went via Helena. Equally scenic.

1/2: Mountaineer. Nothing really can top the remarkable beauty of the Canadian Pacific mainline route across the Canadian Rockies which westbound travelers are treated to from Calgary to Kamloops in daylight. The only better route is the old Kettle Valley Line of the Canadian Pacific.

3. Olympian Hiawatha. The route across Wisconsin is unimposing but very scenic in it's own right. It parallels the river for over 100 miles into St. Paul which is nice. The Rocky Mountain crossing is spectacular with several viaducts and tunnels. Including one that the train leaves the tunnel straight onto a large viaduct. The route across the Cascades was also spectacular over Snoqualmie Pass. If you are wondering why this isn't my No. 2 it's mostly because the Mountaineer is impossible not to put in the tied for first column.

4. The City of Portland. Three words describe this route. Columbia River Gorge!!!! The route across the midwest to at least Cheyanne is fairly dull and not really exciting. But once you start getting into the northwest it gradually gets better. But once you get into the Gorge it's AMAZING.

5. Empire Builder. The highlight of the route it shares with the North Coast Limited over the Burlington Route. The train's schedule doesn't provide much daylight running in the Rockies and the Cascades. Which is why it landed the worst spot. The Western Star was far better.

Equipment

1. North Coast Limited. Hands down this train had amazing equipment. 4 dome cars per train, two of which were the rare dome/sleepers that we're only built for the Northern Pacific. Then you have the lovely Lewis & Clark Travelers Rest lounge cars. Towards the end of it's run it also had SlumberCoaches which ruined the two tone green paint, but provided a budget sleeper.

2. The City of Portland. Union Pacific equipment has always been consistently above average for starters. Secondly the dome diners just can't be beat.

3. The Olympian Hiawatha. What can I say Super Domes and Skytop lounges. But you only had one dome car per train the least of all of the contenders with dome cars. The Skytop was unique however.

4. The Empire Builder. Another train with four domes per train, including a full dome. But other then that I don't think it was particularly note worthy however the paint was sharp.

5. The Mountaineer. It was a heavyweight train so the ride was probably much smoother in the heavier cars. It did have a one of a kind piece of equipment a open air observation where most of the car body was covered but had no glass in the wide windows. Allowing people to get fresh air.

Food

Something that I can actually talk about seeing I've made a lot of these dishes.

1. North Coast Limited. Can't touch that Big Baked Potato with anything else.

And a four way tie for second because the rest weren't remarkable.

Schedule

1. City of Portland. By far the fastest option into and out of the Pacific Northwest. With a very fast 40.5 hour trip.

2. North Coast Limited it may have been two hours longer than the Empire Builder but it's route was timed better for the scenery, which is what earned it this rank.

3. The Empire Builder just because it's a quick 43 hour trip.

4. Olympian Hiawatha it's still fairly fast at 45 hr 45 minutes but it includes a lot of the scenic portions in daylight in both directions.

5. The Mountaineer. By far the slowest trip of them all with a 59 hour carding. Which is not a great carding, made only worse by the fact it does not originate in Chicago.

Overall the train that I have deemed the best is the North Coast Limited. I would really love to see all of the former NP cars get together for a charter on the Montana Rail Link ex Northern Pacific main line. There is almost enough equipment remaining to run a complete consist minus locomotives.
 

Willbridge

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Mar 30, 2019
Messages
356
Bad me! I forgot about UP's City of Portland.

During that era when I was collecting railroad timetables, brochures, etc., I had material on all of those trains. The Dome Dining Car on the City of Portland was an unusual feature. (Think only the City of Los Angeles had such a car.) The Empire Builder's brochures were the most enticing to this teenager dreaming of traveling. The North Coast Limited was #2.
The UP Pool train had the only Astra-Dome diner, until it had to be retired due to corrosion. My first dining car meal was in that car. Later I enjoyed a lunch in the dome diner on the City.
 

Willbridge

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Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
356
After viewing the You Tube views of the Olympian Hiawatha, this question has come to mind. All three of these trains were major trains to/from Chicago and Seattle.

#1: Which train offered the superior scenic route?

#2: Which train offered the superior on board service?

#3: Which train offered the best on board accommodations?
My votes:

#1 - The NP - as the song said - offered "...a thousand miles of mountains" -- to the distress of the shareholders.

#2 - The GN - I'll always remember riding the Builder eastbound and as we came out of the Cascade Tunnel being served the pickled herring appetizer in a hotel silverplate bowl.

#3 - The Milwaukee - based on my parents' travels.

When friends or family in Portland would ask, my father always sent them on the North Coast Limited. When he went on his own to pick up a new Studebaker at the factory, he made an "all-electric" trip Portland>Tacoma>Milwaukee>Chicago>South Bend on a through ticket for the same price as if he'd taken the City east.

My own favorite as I've mentioned before, was the Mainstreeter.

Olympian.jpg
 

Willbridge

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Mar 30, 2019
Messages
356
....

5. The Mountaineer. By far the slowest trip of them all with a 59 hour carding. Which is not a great carding, made only worse by the fact it does not originate in Chicago.
At one time the Mountaineer carried through cars from Chicago via the North Western. There were other CP-based sleeper runs, too, such as the Soo-Spokane route (Soo - CP - SI) and the Seattle - Mission City - Montreal sleeper (NP-CP). And there was a Portland - Spokane - St. Paul sleeper (UP - Milw) in the Columbian.

As I posted in this forum before, in pre-computer days the knowledge of the agent was critical. 52 rail miles south of Portland you'd find an agent who would say that the best way to Washington, DC was via the Sunset Route. When Amtrak started up, there were agents in Salem who knew how to write a ticket on the NdeM, but had no idea of the Canadian stuff. And there were agents in Vancouver, Washington who could give you a choice of Canadian connections, but had little idea of what the NdeM offered.
 

Palmland

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May 25, 2006
Messages
815
Yes, a good agent was a lot better than any computer system, especially for those who aren’t familiar at all with the routes. On one trip the tickets, including rail and Pullman accommodations, unfolded to about 5 feet and included six railroads. All it required was one call to our friendly and knowledgeable L&N agent.

The only western trains I rode then was the DZ, CZ, Super Chief and Chief, and City of Portland/Denver. The dome dinner was a real highlight. Wish I had experienced the trains to the northwest. I believe I would have grabbed a seat in that Skytop observation and not moved for a couple days.
 

jloewen

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 10, 2009
Messages
64
Yes, a good agent was a lot better than any computer system, especially for those who aren’t familiar at all with the routes. On one trip the tickets, including rail and Pullman accommodations, unfolded to about 5 feet and included six railroads. All it required was one call to our friendly and knowledgeable L&N agent.

The only western trains I rode then was the DZ, CZ, Super Chief and Chief, and City of Portland/Denver. The dome dinner was a real highlight. Wish I had experienced the trains to the northwest. I believe I would have grabbed a seat in that Skytop observation and not moved for a couple days.
In the early 1960s I took the train from Chicago to St. Paul and back, en route to Carleton College in MN. Always overnight, both ways. Four choices, as I recall: Northwestern, Milwaukee Road, something Pacific (Northern? Union?), and Soo Line. Each was scheduled at about six hours, except the Soo Line, which was a mixed freight (!) scheduled at about twelve hours! It had drab olive green cars and tho I wanted to try it once for the experience, I could never find anyone else to do it with me.
As I recall, the Milw. Road had the best schedule, to connect with the Rock Island train from St. Paul to Des Moines that stopped in Northfield, MN, two blocks from campus. But we were warned not to take it because it was usually late. Once I tried it and, sure enough, it was late and I did miss the connection.
It was kind of fun, riding coach, sprawled all over each other at night.
Chicago of course had four rr stations. Usually I came up on the Wabash and had to walk several blocks to Union Station.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,852
Now I haven't ridden the EX Milwaukee Road, or the EX Northern Pacific but I will join this discussion anyway.

Of your five routes from the midwest to the Northwest each had their own merit.

I'll grade the trains on each scenery, equipment, food, and schedule. For starters here is a list of routes.

1. North Coast Limited (Burlington Route Chicago, IL-St. Paul, MN, Northern Pacific St. Paul, MN-Seattle, WA, Spokane, Portland, & Seattle Pasco-Portland) via St. Paul, MN, Fargo, ND, Bismark, ND, Billings, MT, Butte, MT, Spokane, WA, Pasco, WA.

2. Empire Builder (Burlington Route Chicago, IL-St. Paul, MN, Great Northern St. Paul, MN-Seattle, WA, Spokane, Portland, & Seattle Spokane-Portland) via St. Paul, MN, Fargo, ND, Minot, ND, Whitefish, MT, Spokane, WA.

3. Olympian Hiawatha (Milwaukee Road Chicago, IL-Tacoma, WA) via Milwaukee, WI, St. Paul, MN, Aberdeen, SD, Butte, MT, Spokane, WA, Seattle, WA.

4. City of Portland (Chicago & Northwestern/Milwaukee Road Chicago, IL-Omaha, NE, Union Pacific Omaha, NE-Portland, OR) via Omaha, Cheyanne, WY, Boise, ID.

5. Mountaineer (Soo Line St. Paul, MN-Portal, ND, Canadian Pacific North Portal, MB-Vancouver, BC) via Minot, ND, Moose Jaw, SK, Calgary, AB, Kamloops, BC.

From now on I'll list them in order of best to worst.

Scenery:

1/2: North Coast Limited. Going westbound you cruise along ole man river for 300 miles in daylight. Cross over North Dakota overnight, and enter the Rockies around noon and stay in them the rest of the day. They had a beautiful route across Montana. Fun fact the secondary train the "Mainstreeter" used a different route and went via Helena. Equally scenic.

1/2: Mountaineer. Nothing really can top the remarkable beauty of the Canadian Pacific mainline route across the Canadian Rockies which westbound travelers are treated to from Calgary to Kamloops in daylight. The only better route is the old Kettle Valley Line of the Canadian Pacific.

3. Olympian Hiawatha. The route across Wisconsin is unimposing but very scenic in it's own right. It parallels the river for over 100 miles into St. Paul which is nice. The Rocky Mountain crossing is spectacular with several viaducts and tunnels. Including one that the train leaves the tunnel straight onto a large viaduct. The route across the Cascades was also spectacular over Snoqualmie Pass. If you are wondering why this isn't my No. 2 it's mostly because the Mountaineer is impossible not to put in the tied for first column.

4. The City of Portland. Three words describe this route. Columbia River Gorge!!!! The route across the midwest to at least Cheyanne is fairly dull and not really exciting. But once you start getting into the northwest it gradually gets better. But once you get into the Gorge it's AMAZING.

5. Empire Builder. The highlight of the route it shares with the North Coast Limited over the Burlington Route. The train's schedule doesn't provide much daylight running in the Rockies and the Cascades. Which is why it landed the worst spot. The Western Star was far better.

Equipment

1. North Coast Limited. Hands down this train had amazing equipment. 4 dome cars per train, two of which were the rare dome/sleepers that we're only built for the Northern Pacific. Then you have the lovely Lewis & Clark Travelers Rest lounge cars. Towards the end of it's run it also had SlumberCoaches which ruined the two tone green paint, but provided a budget sleeper.

2. The City of Portland. Union Pacific equipment has always been consistently above average for starters. Secondly the dome diners just can't be beat.

3. The Olympian Hiawatha. What can I say Super Domes and Skytop lounges. But you only had one dome car per train the least of all of the contenders with dome cars. The Skytop was unique however.

4. The Empire Builder. Another train with four domes per train, including a full dome. But other then that I don't think it was particularly note worthy however the paint was sharp.

5. The Mountaineer. It was a heavyweight train so the ride was probably much smoother in the heavier cars. It did have a one of a kind piece of equipment a open air observation where most of the car body was covered but had no glass in the wide windows. Allowing people to get fresh air.

Food

Something that I can actually talk about seeing I've made a lot of these dishes.

1. North Coast Limited. Can't touch that Big Baked Potato with anything else.

And a four way tie for second because the rest weren't remarkable.

Schedule

1. City of Portland. By far the fastest option into and out of the Pacific Northwest. With a very fast 40.5 hour trip.

2. North Coast Limited it may have been two hours longer than the Empire Builder but it's route was timed better for the scenery, which is what earned it this rank.

3. The Empire Builder just because it's a quick 43 hour trip.

4. Olympian Hiawatha it's still fairly fast at 45 hr 45 minutes but it includes a lot of the scenic portions in daylight in both directions.

5. The Mountaineer. By far the slowest trip of them all with a 59 hour carding. Which is not a great carding, made only worse by the fact it does not originate in Chicago.

Overall the train that I have deemed the best is the North Coast Limited. I would really love to see all of the former NP cars get together for a charter on the Montana Rail Link ex Northern Pacific main line. There is almost enough equipment remaining to run a complete consist minus locomotives.
Well done!

One more unique feature on the North Coast Limited, was the Vista-Dome, "Lounge-in-the-Sky"...for Pullman passenger's...the "Traveler's Rest" was for all.

The Empire Builder's "Ranch Lounge" coffee shop, had lovely Western decor...branding irons, etc, there was also a sleeper buffet-lounge for Pullman passenger's. The Great Dome, buffet lounge was for all.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,852
In the early 1960s I took the train from Chicago to St. Paul and back, en route to Carleton College in MN. Always overnight, both ways. Four choices, as I recall: Northwestern, Milwaukee Road, something Pacific (Northern? Union?), and Soo Line..
Chicago of course had four rr stations. Usually I came up on the Wabash and had to walk several blocks to Union Station.
The road you thought was...Pacific, was the Burlington Route....it carried the trains of the Northern Pacific, and the Great Northern between Chicago and St. Paul. In addition, it had its own "Morning and Afternoon Zephyr's between those points, at times combined with those other trains. Also had an overnight Black Hawk. You could also take the Chicago Great Western, and the Rock Island between those cities, on longer routes...

Chicago had six major stations, and a couple of minor ones at one time....
 
Last edited:

Dakota 400

Conductor
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Mar 5, 2014
Messages
1,812
The Empire Builder's "Ranch Lounge" coffee shop, had lovely Western decor...branding irons, etc,
Thank you! That was the car whose name I could not recall. That may have attracted me to the EB because I thought the design of the car to be so unique.
 

Dakota 400

Conductor
Joined
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Messages
1,812
The You Tube video of the Olympian Hiawatha showed an electric engine through the mountains. Was The Milwaukee Road the only one that used such power to get their trains through? If so, why would The Milwaukee Road choose to use that type of engine power? I would think during the Winter trying to maintain those lines in such difficult terrain would have been a problem.
 

20th Century Rider

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
318
Now I haven't ridden the EX Milwaukee Road, or the EX Northern Pacific but I will join this discussion anyway.

Of your five routes from the midwest to the Northwest each had their own merit.

I'll grade the trains on each scenery, equipment, food, and schedule. For starters here is a list of routes.

1. North Coast Limited (Burlington Route Chicago, IL-St. Paul, MN, Northern Pacific St. Paul, MN-Seattle, WA, Spokane, Portland, & Seattle Pasco-Portland) via St. Paul, MN, Fargo, ND, Bismark, ND, Billings, MT, Butte, MT, Spokane, WA, Pasco, WA.

2. Empire Builder (Burlington Route Chicago, IL-St. Paul, MN, Great Northern St. Paul, MN-Seattle, WA, Spokane, Portland, & Seattle Spokane-Portland) via St. Paul, MN, Fargo, ND, Minot, ND, Whitefish, MT, Spokane, WA.

3. Olympian Hiawatha (Milwaukee Road Chicago, IL-Tacoma, WA) via Milwaukee, WI, St. Paul, MN, Aberdeen, SD, Butte, MT, Spokane, WA, Seattle, WA.

4. City of Portland (Chicago & Northwestern/Milwaukee Road Chicago, IL-Omaha, NE, Union Pacific Omaha, NE-Portland, OR) via Omaha, Cheyanne, WY, Boise, ID.

5. Mountaineer (Soo Line St. Paul, MN-Portal, ND, Canadian Pacific North Portal, MB-Vancouver, BC) via Minot, ND, Moose Jaw, SK, Calgary, AB, Kamloops, BC.

From now on I'll list them in order of best to worst.

Scenery:

1/2: North Coast Limited. Going westbound you cruise along ole man river for 300 miles in daylight. Cross over North Dakota overnight, and enter the Rockies around noon and stay in them the rest of the day. They had a beautiful route across Montana. Fun fact the secondary train the "Mainstreeter" used a different route and went via Helena. Equally scenic.

1/2: Mountaineer. Nothing really can top the remarkable beauty of the Canadian Pacific mainline route across the Canadian Rockies which westbound travelers are treated to from Calgary to Kamloops in daylight. The only better route is the old Kettle Valley Line of the Canadian Pacific.

3. Olympian Hiawatha. The route across Wisconsin is unimposing but very scenic in it's own right. It parallels the river for over 100 miles into St. Paul which is nice. The Rocky Mountain crossing is spectacular with several viaducts and tunnels. Including one that the train leaves the tunnel straight onto a large viaduct. The route across the Cascades was also spectacular over Snoqualmie Pass. If you are wondering why this isn't my No. 2 it's mostly because the Mountaineer is impossible not to put in the tied for first column.

4. The City of Portland. Three words describe this route. Columbia River Gorge!!!! The route across the midwest to at least Cheyanne is fairly dull and not really exciting. But once you start getting into the northwest it gradually gets better. But once you get into the Gorge it's AMAZING.

5. Empire Builder. The highlight of the route it shares with the North Coast Limited over the Burlington Route. The train's schedule doesn't provide much daylight running in the Rockies and the Cascades. Which is why it landed the worst spot. The Western Star was far better.

Equipment

1. North Coast Limited. Hands down this train had amazing equipment. 4 dome cars per train, two of which were the rare dome/sleepers that we're only built for the Northern Pacific. Then you have the lovely Lewis & Clark Travelers Rest lounge cars. Towards the end of it's run it also had SlumberCoaches which ruined the two tone green paint, but provided a budget sleeper.

2. The City of Portland. Union Pacific equipment has always been consistently above average for starters. Secondly the dome diners just can't be beat.

3. The Olympian Hiawatha. What can I say Super Domes and Skytop lounges. But you only had one dome car per train the least of all of the contenders with dome cars. The Skytop was unique however.

4. The Empire Builder. Another train with four domes per train, including a full dome. But other then that I don't think it was particularly note worthy however the paint was sharp.

5. The Mountaineer. It was a heavyweight train so the ride was probably much smoother in the heavier cars. It did have a one of a kind piece of equipment a open air observation where most of the car body was covered but had no glass in the wide windows. Allowing people to get fresh air.

Food

Something that I can actually talk about seeing I've made a lot of these dishes.

1. North Coast Limited. Can't touch that Big Baked Potato with anything else.

And a four way tie for second because the rest weren't remarkable.

Schedule

1. City of Portland. By far the fastest option into and out of the Pacific Northwest. With a very fast 40.5 hour trip.

2. North Coast Limited it may have been two hours longer than the Empire Builder but it's route was timed better for the scenery, which is what earned it this rank.

3. The Empire Builder just because it's a quick 43 hour trip.

4. Olympian Hiawatha it's still fairly fast at 45 hr 45 minutes but it includes a lot of the scenic portions in daylight in both directions.

5. The Mountaineer. By far the slowest trip of them all with a 59 hour carding. Which is not a great carding, made only worse by the fact it does not originate in Chicago.

Overall the train that I have deemed the best is the North Coast Limited. I would really love to see all of the former NP cars get together for a charter on the Montana Rail Link ex Northern Pacific main line. There is almost enough equipment remaining to run a complete consist minus locomotives.
Woah There! Let me into this discussion. Just out of high school I took my dream trip to the West Coast from Milwaukee out on the Empire Builder and back on the Mainstreeter. I took the Mainstreeter because it took longer to get back, and I wanted to enjoy the Northern Pacific Baked Potato for as many times as possible. I remember that potato to this day. I piled it high with butter and sour cream. Didn't have much money but riding in coach was for me an extravagant dream... and the baked potato was filling and good. What I wouldn't trade to have that exact adventure again! 🤠

BigPotatosong.jpg
BigPotatoPC.jpg
 

Siegmund

Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 19, 2018
Messages
153
The You Tube video of the Olympian Hiawatha showed an electric engine through the mountains. Was The Milwaukee Road the only one that used such power to get their trains through? If so, why would The Milwaukee Road choose to use that type of engine power? I would think during the Winter trying to maintain those lines in such difficult terrain would have been a problem.
The Milwaukee had far and away the longest electrified sections of any US railroad (but not quite the whole western extension - two separate districts totaling over 600 miles.) The Great Northern had a very short electric district centered on the Cascade Tunnel in steam days.

The appeal was in large part due to the combination of abundant copper and abundant very cheap hydro power - Montana built several dams around the same time as the Pacific Extension was built, some of them still standing 100 years later.
 

OlympianHiawatha

Conductor
Joined
Feb 7, 2008
Messages
4,281
The Milwaukee had far and away the longest electrified sections of any US railroad (but not quite the whole western extension - two separate districts totaling over 600 miles.) The Great Northern had a very short electric district centered on the Cascade Tunnel in steam days.

The appeal was in large part due to the combination of abundant copper and abundant very cheap hydro power - Montana built several dams around the same time as the Pacific Extension was built, some of them still standing 100 years later.
I know the electrified sections of the Milwaukee lasted at least into the 60s; not sure when GN retired their electric equipment. The electric engines on both lines were classy looking machines that meant business.
 

jloewen

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 10, 2009
Messages
64
The Milwaukee had far and away the longest electrified sections of any US railroad (but not quite the whole western extension - two separate districts totaling over 600 miles.) The Great Northern had a very short electric district centered on the Cascade Tunnel in steam days.

The appeal was in large part due to the combination of abundant copper and abundant very cheap hydro power - Montana built several dams around the same time as the Pacific Extension was built, some of them still standing 100 years later.
I thought the Milw. Road used electric because they HAD to. They were the third route thru the Rockies and the flattest routes had already been taken, and electric trains can climb grades that steam could not. True?
 

Siegmund

Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 19, 2018
Messages
153
I thought the Milw. Road used electric because they HAD to. They were the third route thru the Rockies and the flattest routes had already been taken, and electric trains can climb grades that steam could not. True?
They did go through less desirable and less inhabited territory, but a) had less-steep grades (but more of them) than NP did, and b) operated all-steam for about five years before the first electric section opened.
 

Dakota 400

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Thanks to the posters who answered my question about the use of electric locomotives. I keep learning!
 

20th Century Rider

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Messages
318
As unusual as this pandemic seems to be, one only needs to turn back a few pages of history to see there were many times when it felt like our great nation was tilting at the edge of a cliff. During the 40's no one quite knew how bad things would get with the war... or when it would end. Then, as now, and even more so than now, things were very stoic and there was rationing, shortages, vacations were cancelled, and there was a lot of fear. In this full page ad by the Great Northern Railway, the nation was encouraged to be hopeful and optimistic. It read... "What a great day it will be when you can all come back here again after the war! The park will be more beautiful, more inviting than ever. And Great Northern Railway will have even finer, faster trains to bring you here. Yes, some summer soon we'll have more fun together in Glacier National Park in Montana!"

That day came... and there were beautiful trains to get there on. In retrospect, the postwar era of rail travel indeed deserves to be called the 'golden era of rail travel in America!'
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