Posts Tagged ‘Great Northern Railway’

Last Amtrak Dome Car Sold

August 19, 2020

Amtrak’s Ocean View is shown in Oakland, California, in the consist of a National Railway Historical Society excursion.

Amtrak’s last dome car has been acquired by a private operator who plans to return it to service in excursion service in 2021.

Paxrail said it bought full-length dome Ocean View, a 92-seat passenger car built by the Budd Company in 1955 for the Great Northern for use on its Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle.

In recent years the car ran sporadically, most recently assigned to the Adirondack and Downeaster during the fall.

Amtrak retired the car in 2018 and offered it for sale last year. At the time the intercity passenger carrier said the car had become too expensive to maintain.

“We’re excited to now be a chapter in this wonderful car’s history,” said Paxrail President James Evenson.

“The Ocean View is a beautiful art-deco car offering a spectacular panorama for over 70 passengers in the dome. We’re looking forward to welcoming guests back aboard in 2021.”

Paxrail maintains a fleet of more than 20 historic passenger cars and provides the cars for excursions, day trips and corporate events.

Full-length domes, also known as great domes, also operated on the Santa Fe and Milwaukee Road.

At one time Amtrak owned all six full-length domes once used by the Empire Builder. Those cars were replaced in 1979 by Superliner equipment.

A few of the cars operated on Amtrak’s Auto Train in the 1980s and 1990s.

Amtrak Dome Ocean View Has Been Retired

September 2, 2019

The great dome car that was used in recent years for special duty on Amtrak trains has been retired.

The carrier’s last dome car is thought to be in storage at Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops near Indianapolis.

In recent years the car had been assigned to the Adirondack between Albany, New York, and Montreal during the fall foliage season.

Known as the Ocean View, the dome was built in 1955 for the Great Northern for use on its Empire Builder.

It was acquired by Amtrak from the Burlington Northern and given roster number 9361.

After being rebuilt in March 1985 to head end power, the car was renumbered to 9300(2) and assigned to the Auto Train.

It was renovated in 1999 and given roster number 10031 at which time it was assigned to Amtrak’s corporate services unit.

Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams told the Times Union newspaper of Albany that the Ocean View was retired “due to the age and expense of maintaining this vintage car.”

Gary Prophet, president of the Empire State Passengers Association, told the newspaper he was “very sad and disappointed” that Amtrak decided to retire the car rather than repair it.

He described the Ocean View as “a huge benefit for passengers riding through the Adirondacks.”

Amtrak Marks 90th Anniversary of Empire Builder

June 13, 2019

Amtrak this week observed the 90th anniversary of is Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

The train was created by the Great Northern Railway with the first westbound train departing Chicago on June 10, 1929.

The train was named for James Hill, the “empire builder,” who in the late 19th century founded what became the GN.

GN and three railroads merged in 1970 to form Burlington Northern, which continued to operate the Empire Builder until May 1, 1971, when Amtrak took it over and changed the route to include Milwaukee by using what is now Canadian Pacific between Chicago and St. Paul.

In October 1979, the Empire Builder became the first overnight train to be assigned bi-level Superliner rail cars.

Amtrak said that last year 428,854 passengers rode the Empire Builder.

Fate of Amtrak Great Dome Car Uncertain

November 16, 2018

Amtrak retired all but one its dome cars several years ago, but a former Great Northern great dome has continued to operate in seasonal service in recent years, most recently on the Adirondack and Downeaster trains during the fall foliage season.

The car was built in 1955 and with Amtrak having retired and now seeking to sell its former Pacific Parlour cars once assigned to the Coast Starlight there has been concern raised about the future of the great dome.

Amtrak management is reportedly considering if the attractiveness of the car is worth the cost of refurbishing it, including fabricating parts.

Amtrak has said it will take into account ticket sales on the Adirondack and Downeaster when deciding if the benefits outweigh the costs.

Dome to Operate on 2 Amtrak Routes This Fall

July 18, 2018

Amtrak will assign a dome car to two eastern routes this fall.

The car, Great Dome No. 10031, is a former Great Northern dome that was built by Budd in 1955 for use on the Empire Builder.

It is now the last dome car on the Amtrak roster.

The car will operate on the Downeaster between Brunswick, Maine, and Boston between Aug. 11 and Sept. 23, and on the Adirondack between Montreal and Albany, New York, between Sept. 27 and Nov. 2.

Seats are unreserved and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Amtrak is encouraging passengers to rotate in and out of the dome to allow more people to experience the view.

More information is available at https://www.amtrak.com/fall-travel-on-the-great-dome-car

Good Morning, Fargo

May 21, 2018

It was still dark outside as I awakened in my Superliner roomette aboard Amtrak’s westbound Empire Builder.

The train had stopped and I pulled back the curtains to see where we were.

The sun was just starting to climb over the horizon as No. 7 paused at the former Great Northern passenger station in Fargo, North Dakota.

From what I could tell the depot is now in part a bicycle shop.

The dawn of a new day also brought a certain amount of anticipation. By the time the sun set we would be in the Rocky Mountains in Montana.

It sort of worked out that way. Because we were running behind schedule, we didn’t make it into the Rockies until after dark.

Most of the day would be spent in Big Sky country, which in its own way is dramatic enough.

But for the next few hours I would be witnessing the North Dakota countryside.

Rugby Station Gets New Old Looking Signs

December 14, 2016

Amtrak tends to place its own city identification signs on its stations, but in Rugby, North Dakota, the new signs recently affixed to the depot resemble the original signs they replaced.

Amtrak 4The depot, used by the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder, was built in 1907 by the Great Northern Railway.

One existing GN sign remains at the station, but two others have been replaced.

The signs have black lettering on a white background.

“Amtrak has been very good about trying to maintain the historical appearance of the building,” said Dale Niewoehner, the coordinator of this project.

Amtrak paid for the sign renovation program, which also included cleaning and refurbishing the sign brackets.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder in Big Sky Country

October 20, 2016
Snow covered mountains loom behind Amtrak's eastbound Empire Builder as it heads for Chicago near Browning, Montana.

Snow covered mountains loom behind Amtrak’s eastbound Empire Builder as it heads for Chicago near Browning, Montana.

Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder passes through Montana during daylight hours in both directions, so Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee went chasing after the Builder during his trip to the Treasure State this past September.

He tracked down No. 8 in various locations including against a backdrop of mountains, open range and grain elevators, making images of the train near Browning, Cut Bank, Shelby, Malta and Havre.

This is the territory of the former Great Northern Railway, which was built by “empire builder” James Hill. For decades the Empire Builder was the premier passenger train on the GN and is now Amtrak’s only train linking Chicago and the Pacific Northwest.

Today these tracks are owned by BNSF and Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the only passenger train to use these rails.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Two views of No. 8 near Browning Montana. Glacier National Park is beyond those mountains.

Two views of No. 8 near Browning Montana. Glacier National Park is beyond those mountains.

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Passing an empty crude oil train west of Malta.

Passing an empty crude oil train west of Malta.

Passing a waterway near Shelby.

Passing a waterway near Shelby.

Making a station stop in Malta.

Making a station stop in Malta.

In the barren countryside between Cut Bank and Shelby.

I like how I could do a broadside of the whole train out there.

Dropping down into the Valley of Cut Bank Creek.

Dropping down into the Valley of Cut Bank Creek.

Gliding over Cut Bank Creek on a high trestle.

Gliding over Cut Bank Creek on a high trestle.

Passing an old elevator at Ethridge.

Passing an old elevator at Ethridge.

Getting fuel in Havre.

Getting fuel in Havre.

The heritage of this line is Great Northern as someone wants you to know in Havre.

The heritage of this line is Great Northern as someone wants you to know in Havre. The stained glass shows “Rocky,” the GN mascot.

Posing with a relic of the Great Northern in Havre.

Posing with a relic of the Great Northern in Havre.

Study Reduces Cost Estimates, Speeds for Proposed Minneapolis-Duluth Passenger Trains

December 22, 2015

A study of a proposed passenger rail route between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota, has reduced the cost of the project, but also the speed at which trains would operate.

The departments of transportation of Minnesota and Wisconsin, which collaborated on the study, estimate that the project will cost between $500 million and $600 million, which is nearly half of earlier projections. This includes costs of stations, equipment, and track improvements.

Trains would operate at 90 mph rather than the 110 mph that was earlier planned.

Known as the Northern Lights Express, trains would use existing BNSF tracks and offer four round trips per day Service is projected to begin in 2020 with a travel time of about 2.5 hours.

The study estimated patronage for the first year to be 700,000 to 750,000 trips, which is expected to increase to 1 million trips by 2040.

Fare revenue would cover most of the operating costs, estimated to average $17.5 million per year.

Amtrak’s Minnesota-funded North Star was the last passenger train in the corridor, ending on Easter Sunday 1985 after the state ended its funding.

During the 1960s, the former Great Northern Railway operated the twice-daily Badger and Gopher in the corridor.

A source of funding for construction of the corridor has yet to be identified.

In the meantime, the next step will involved updating the preliminary project and operation cost estimates, and preparation of a final benefit-cost analysis after cost-sharing discussions with BNSF are completed.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is conducting preliminary engineering, a Tier II environmental assessment, and financial and implementation plans. MinnDOT officials said the project could be ready to begin 2017, officials said.

As for funding, MinnDOT is eyeing the possibility of a federal TIGER grant or other federal funding.

Officials said that in seeking federal funds, a project needs to be ready to begin construction.

The project is being overseen in part by the The Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance, a joint powers board formed to explore options for renewing passenger service on the 155-mile corridor.

Also participating in the project are local communities along the route and the Minnesota Department of Transportation Passenger Rail & Environmental Services.