US trip [train(s) and route] from North Dakota to Kansas City - 1960s

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astroguy

Train Attendant
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Mar 30, 2020
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Hello,

I am hoping someone who reads this will be able to answer my question. In the 60s as a young boy I took two very memorable and exciting trips via train from Grand Forks, ND (my dad was in the Air Force and stationed at GFAFB) to Alexandria, LA.

The leg from Kansas City to Alexandria was on the KSC's Southern Belle. What I not sure of is what train (or trains) would have been taken from Grand Forks to Kansas City. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks! Chris
 

railiner

Conductor
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Mar 20, 2009
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It would help if you could remember just a few more details, as there are so many possible routings, especially in the earlier '60's...
Can you narrow down the date, and if you recall if you went via Chicago, or Minneapolis, or Des Moines, or Omaha? Or any details about which RR or anything about the train?
With that info, we might be able to offer some possibilites...
 

astroguy

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Mar 30, 2020
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Thanks for the reply, railiner. The first trip would have likely been Christmastime of 1966. The second one probably occurred in 1968. As I was so young I can't recall details about the route. Since my mom had three little boys with her (and I was the oldest!), I suspect she wanted the fastest route! My dad was not along as I recall... probably flew. I remember there was a diner in the caboose (I think). I ran back there a lot for $1 hamburgers... expensive for the time. I remember stopping a lot but not getting off and switching trains until we were in Kansas City. That's about it...
 

Devil's Advocate

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Were dining-cabooses a thing? That actually sounds like a laugh riot. I'd have spent the whole trip in a McCaboose if I could. Maybe it was more of a trailing observation car with a service counter?
 

railiner

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I suspect that your mom wanted the fastest and easiest trip, which could be on the Great Northern from Grand Forks to Minneapolis, and then the Chicago and North Western from Minneapolis (they used the GN station), to Kansas City Union Station. I don't have an Official Guide handy, to look up the schedules or trains...

Can you remember any more details? Did you have to take a bus or taxi anywhere to change stations? Do you recall a dome car?
 

ehbowen

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Mar 22, 2011
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I suspect that your mom wanted the fastest and easiest trip, which could be on the Great Northern from Grand Forks to Minneapolis, and then the Chicago and North Western from Minneapolis (they used the GN station), to Kansas City Union Station. I don't have an Official Guide handy, to look up the schedules or trains...

Can you remember any more details? Did you have to take a bus or taxi anywhere to change stations? Do you recall a dome car?
That looks reasonable; if they had gone via Chicago the quickest route to New Orleans would have been via Illinois Central. I've got homemade stir-fry waiting at Mom's house so I don't have any more time to spend on this, but I'll try to come back to it later.
 

astroguy

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Mar 30, 2020
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Were dining-cabooses a thing? That actually sounds like a laugh riot. I'd have spent the whole trip in a McCaboose if I could. Maybe it was more of a trailing observation car with a service counter?
Well, my memory is about 50 years old... so perhaps it wasn't in the caboose but I can't recall a car behind it... probably because getting hamburgers was on my mind and there was no reason to try to go further back! But the dining car was certainly behind where we sat at least a few cars because I recall vividly going between them to get there. And there was indeed a grill. And the burgers were exactly $1.
 

astroguy

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Mar 30, 2020
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I suspect that your mom wanted the fastest and easiest trip, which could be on the Great Northern from Grand Forks to Minneapolis, and then the Chicago and North Western from Minneapolis (they used the GN station), to Kansas City Union Station. I don't have an Official Guide handy, to look up the schedules or trains...

Can you remember any more details? Did you have to take a bus or taxi anywhere to change stations? Do you recall a dome car?
This is very helpful, railiner. Thanks. Don't recall ground transport to change stations or dome car.
 

railiner

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That looks reasonable; if they had gone via Chicago the quickest route to New Orleans would have been via Illinois Central.
Not likely go by way of New Orleans, as they were on the Southern Belle south of Kansas City, which goes directly to Alexandria...
 

railiner

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This is very helpful, railiner. Thanks. Don't recall ground transport to change stations or dome car.
Correction to my earlier post....don't think it was the C&NW from Minneapolis....more likely the Rock Island, and to avoid changing stations in Minneapolis (The Rock used the Milwaukee Road station in the '60's), the transfer would more likely be at St. Paul Union Station. The top trains on those routes were GN's Western Star, and Rock Island's Twin Star Rocket. Not sure about the connection time...could have been secondary trains with better connection's...
Perhaps someone with timetables from that era, could check it out...mine are up in NYC, and I'm in Florida....so this is just from my memory.
 

ehbowen

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Sorry, I missed that they were going to Alexandria. Lack of sleep. But I was agreeing in a roundabout way; just saying that IF they had gone by way of Chicago then the IC would have been the obvious route south...but they didn't.

Yes, the optimum route would be Grand Forks >>GN >> Minneapolis >>Rock Island>> Kansas City >>KCS>> Alexandria. Reason I didn't see it at first, aside from lack of sleep, is because the Twin Star Rocket disappeared in early 1967 and the second trip was in 1968. However, the Rock didn't drop their Minneapolis-Kansas City service until early 1970; after the connection to Texas was discontinued it was called the Plainsman.

Going to bed now, but later tonight I should be able to look up more detailed info. I've certainly got all of the requisite Official Guides....
 

astroguy

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Correction to my earlier post....don't think it was the C&NW from Minneapolis....more likely the Rock Island, and to avoid changing stations in Minneapolis (The Rock used the Milwaukee Road station in the '60's), the transfer would more likely be at St. Paul Union Station. The top trains on those routes were GN's Western Star, and Rock Island's Twin Star Rocket. Not sure about the connection time...could have been secondary trains with better connection's...
Perhaps someone with timetables from that era, could check it out...mine are up in NYC, and I'm in Florida....so this is just from my memory.
More great info... thanks!
 

astroguy

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Mar 30, 2020
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Sorry, I missed that they were going to Alexandria. Lack of sleep. But I was agreeing in a roundabout way; just saying that IF they had gone by way of Chicago then the IC would have been the obvious route south...but they didn't.

Yes, the optimum route would be Grand Forks >>GN >> Minneapolis >>Rock Island>> Kansas City >>KCS>> Alexandria. Reason I didn't see it at first, aside from lack of sleep, is because the Twin Star Rocket disappeared in early 1967 and the second trip was in 1968. However, the Rock didn't drop their Minneapolis-Kansas City service until early 1970; after the connection to Texas was discontinued it was called the Plainsman.

Going to bed now, but later tonight I should be able to look up more detailed info. I've certainly got all of the requisite Official Guides....
Thanks for the info, ehbowen... I do appreciate it!
 

railiner

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I can (and will) give you more, but these graveyard shifts are a killer. Actually, I already do have timetables up for most of this route, just perhaps not the exact same years of your trip:
I don't think the Empire Builder went thru Grand Forks at that time, believe it used the Cutoff....
 

ehbowen

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Palmland

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The schedules posted by ehbowen are interesting. Even in 1966 only the Golden State had ‘Pullman Cars’. But I wonder about the Twin Star Rocket to Southern Belle connection. It would have required an overnight stay in KC. Maybe the OP can tell us if he recalls that.
 

ehbowen

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The schedules posted by ehbowen are interesting. Even in 1966 only the Golden State had ‘Pullman Cars’. But I wonder about the Twin Star Rocket to Southern Belle connection. It would have required an overnight stay in KC. Maybe the OP can tell us if he recalls that.
Perhaps that's why he remembers the Kansas City connection but not the one in Minneapolis. Just guessing, of course.
 

astroguy

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Mar 30, 2020
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I do recall staying in a downtown KC hotel. Always assumed we had driven on that ND to LA trip... so maybe on the first trip (winter '66) we stayed in a hotel and on the later trip ('68 or '69) we slept in a sleeper car... I recall that vividly and loved the experience!
 
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