Mid-Century Empire Builder Press Release

    When the Mid-Century Empire Builder was introduced in 1951 the Great Northern made an all-out effort to announce the news sending out elaborate press releases describing the new equipment and amenities in every detail. Below is a compilation of the areas concerning and describing the Mountain series observation cars.



    "Adding lustre to the Great Northern Railway's tradition of leadership in transportation will be the inaugural of on June 3, 1951 of its thrilling new MID-CENTURY EMPIRE BUILDER.

    The fleet of five identical streamliners will make Great Northern's twice-daily passenger service between Chicago and Seattle-Portland unsurpassed in the nation.

    Sharing christening honors with the newest Empire Builder on June 3 will be its companion train, the WESTERN STAR, a name being added to Great Northern's constellation of streamliners. De luxe equipment of the present EMPIRE BUILDER, which entered service just four years ago, will make up the WESTERN STAR--with one completely new train being added to bring the fleet to a total of six streamliners.




    The EMPIRE BUILDER will operate on the same fast but comfortable 45-hour schedule introduced by Great Northern in 1947 when this fleet was first streamlined and 13 1/2 hours were clipped from previous schedules between Chicago and Seattle-Portland. Burlington Lines is the route between Chicago and St. Paul and Great Northern between St. Paul and Seattle. Portland is reached from Spokane over the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway.




    Each of the five new EMPIRE BUILDERS has 15 lightweight, streamlined cars, with coach and sleeping car accommodations for 335 passengers.

    Each train has includes a mail-baggage car, a baggage dormitory car (the dormitory section being for crew members), one 60-seat coach, three 48-seat coaches, a coffee shop-lounge "The Ranch", a diner, six sleeping cars and an observation lounge car. Locomotive power is a three-unit 4,500 hp. diesel electric.

    Builders of the EMPIRE BUILDER fleet were the master craftsmen of the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company (sleepers, 48-seat coaches and mail-baggage cars) and the American Car and Foundry Company (coffee shop-lounge cars, diners, observation lounges, 60-seat coaches and baggage-dormitory cars). The locomotives were built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors Corporation.

    The individual products of more than a hundred other manufacturers, and the talents and skills of literally thousands of artists and artisans, were combined in the production of these magnificent trains.




    In their distinctive color and decorative treatment the new EMPIRE BUILDERS give delightful expression to the vast and diverse Northwest Empire which Great Northern has served and helped develop for more than 60 years.

    Inspiration for the decor of the trains came from the striking color and beauty of this superbly scenic territory, from its traditions, resources and enterprise. Elaborate planning and research are reflected even in minor details, as will be noted in the descriptions of the individual cars.




   Offering the latest in travel comfort and convenience, the newest EMPIRE BUILDER is the worthy bearer of the name which, throughout America, has become synonymous with excellence in transportation.

  1. Sleeping car accommodations are of unprecedented variety and include lower and upper berths, duplex roomettes, roomettes, bedrooms, compartments and drawing rooms.

  2. Bedrooms and compartments have closed-off space housing private toilet facilities. Bedrooms have aisle-side wardrobes for clothes.

  3. "Feather Touch" vestibule doors on the cars are electro-pneumatically operated and easily opened.

  4. All rooms in the sleeping cars, including duplex-roomettes, have ice-water on tap, in addition to the usual hot and cold water, and razor outlets.

  5. Remarkably spacious seats in the three day-nite coaches have adjustable reclining backs and leg rests--all designed especially for pleasant distance travel.

  6. Each of the day-nite coaches has two ladies' rooms rather than the usual one, each complete with all rest room facilities and providing privacy in dressing quarters.

  7. Window glass is double-paned, heat resistant and fog proof for full visibility under all weather conditions reducing glare and radiant heat from the sun and insulating against outside temperatures both hot and cold.

  8. Radiant panel heating at the windows eliminates cold drafts which might occur during extremely cold weather. This is in addition to the usual type of thermostatically-controlled pipe radiation at floor level.

  9. A loud speaker system serves all except the sleeping cars and dining car, for public announcements and radio programs. Selection of entertainment has been increased by installation of equipment for reproduction of wire-recorded music.

  10. Auxiliary diesel-driven electric generators for lighting and air conditioning, operating independently of train motion, are on alternate cars.

  11. A uniformed passenger representative is a member of each EMPIRE BUILDER crew. In addition to giving personal assistance to travelers, the passenger representative announces important train information and calls attention to points of scenic and historic interest over the public address system. He also operates the dinner-by-reservation plan through which passengers may dine at the hour of their choice without standing in line for the evening meal.

  12. Many of the outstanding innovations are visual, being embodied in the distinctive decorative treatment of such cars as the observation-lounge, the diner and the spicily western coffee shop, "The Ranch", all described in succeeding pages.



    EMPIRE BUILDER is the most honored among Great Northern's distinctive train names, one of the world's best known.

    It pays tribute to the memory and achievement of James J. Hill, who founded Great Northern and was the railway's guiding genius for many years.

    Due to his role in helping transform the vast, fertile Northwest country into a rich productive empire, Mr. Hill became known the world over as "The Empire Builder". His renown continues to live.

    The EMPIRE BUILDER name was first given to Great Northern's premier passenger train in 1929. This fleet, which firmly established the EMPIRE BUILDER as one of America's great trains, was completely replaced in 1947 with the modern, streamlined equipment of a new EMPIRE BUILDER.

    Inaugural in 1951 of the newest EMPIRE BUILDER thus marks the third occasion on which the railway has perpetuated the memory of its founder in this fashion. The five trains of the fleet move constantly eastward and westward through the large territory to which he devoted his life and energies."




    Ten states and two Canadian provinces served by the Great Northern Railway are intimately linked in the exquisite color and decorative treatment of the observation-lounge.

    Deep cushioned settees and lounge chairs in this luxurious car provide seating for 24 persons, with table accommodations for an additional 12.

    Soft drinks and spirituous liquors are available, subject to regulations applicable to the state through which the train is running at the time.



COLOR SCHEME: The mountains and evergreen forests of the Pacific Northwest inspired the color scheme in the observation-lounge. It is based on shades and tints of purple, turquoise and yellow with natural gray.

    Upholstery is in needlepoint plush in mauve, woodtone and turquoise. Deep carpeting in rose beige covers the floor.

    Card tables for two triangular settees and a corner settee are covered with American Elm Truwood Micarta, a laminate. Magazine racks are of American Elm with bases covered in Sandalwood Kalistron, a durable synthetic simulating leather.

    Wainscoting through the observation-lounge section is covered in Red Birch Realwood Formica. This wood was molded in a high pressure laminate especially for these cars and marks the first time that red birch has been used this way.

    The upper ceiling deck is painted light armor gray. The lower deck, with indirect fluorescent trough lights around its perimeter, is in cream, as are the frieze panels.


DECORATIONS: Silhouettes and seals of 10 states and two Canadian provinces served by Great Northern provide striking decorative spots for the panels between windows in the observation-lounge.

    The state and provincial silhouettes are in blue-green and the seals in full colors of each authentic state or provincial seal. The decorations are partially silk screen printed and partially hand painted on Gold Kalistron covering the panels.

    States and provinces represented are Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Manitoba and British Columbia.

    The gold pier panels are flanked by drapes in a solid blue-green with a gold thread.

    Partially separating the lounge and observation sections is a full height partition of half-inch safety glass, artistically "carved" with the sandblasted images of the official flowers of the same states and provinces.

    Mounted on the Gold Kalistron which covers the bulkhead at the forward end of the car is a decorative map of the Great Northern system. Especially designed for the railway, the map was first silk screen printed and then molded in plastic, in shades of brown, light and dark blue-green and beige, with red orange for the route of the railway."




    The good food tradition that has long added to the pleasure of travel on the Great Northern continues to live on the new EMPIRE BUILDER.

    Table d'hote meals and a variety of a la carte selections are served in the dining car and the coffee shop section of "The Ranch"--tastefully prepared in the fully-equipped and glistening stainless steel kitchens of both. Between meal snack are also available in the Ranch Car.

    Beverage service is provided only in "The Ranch" and in the observation-lounge car at the rear of the train. Dispensing of spirituous liquors is subject, of course, to regulations of the state through which the train is passing.




    Adding to passenger pleasure and convenience on the EMPIRE BUILDER is the latest type of radio installation.

    From a master radio set, programs can be channeled to the coaches, coffee shop-lounge, diner and observation lounge, where multiple speakers produce a uniform sound level over the car. An auxiliary unit for reproduction of wire-recorded music permits increased selections of entertainment.

    This same installation, by the flick of a switch, becomes a public address system for use by the conductor, train passenger representative and dining car steward in broadcasting announcements of interest to passengers.




    Great Northern's distinctive color scheme, dominated by alternating bands of olive green and dark orange, fashions the bright exterior dress of the EMPIRE BUILDER.

    Narrow stripes of imitation gold separate the broad areas of green and orange, and along the bottom of each car side there is a stripe of silver.

    This brilliant color combination assures visibility at great distances and is thus an additional safety factor. The same hues are used on the exteriors off all of the railway's diesel-electric locomotives and increasingly on other equipment.

    Lettering and numbering on cars is in imitation gold "Scotchlite", a light-reflective material which appears illuminated when automobile or other lights shine upon it at night.





    Safety and comfort of passengers were of paramount consideration in every phase of design and construction of the new EMPIRE BUILDER which embodies latest engineering research.

  1. Car are of welded girder type construction, with structural members--underframes, sides, ends and roofs--fabricated of high strength alloy steel throughout. This type of car has been subjected to an 800,000 pound squeeze test by the builders to prove the safety of the design.

  2. Cars couplers provide maximum safety and contribute to the riding comfort of passengers by eliminating between-car slack which causes jolts in starting and stopping.

  3. Smooth and fast stops are possible thanks to the innovation of graduated electro-pneumatic air braking, in which electric impulses aid the deft hand of the diesel engineer in providing maximum efficient braking at each speed range.

  4. Double-pane, shatterproof window glass, both heat and glare resistant, is used to assure insulation against window frosting and steaming and outside noises and dirt. Cars are thoroughly insulated to control temperature and  reduce exterior noises.

  5. Complete air conditioning adds to passenger comfort in all seasons of the year. The latest electro-mechanical type of air conditioning system with thermostatic control is used.

  6. Auxiliary diesel-drive electric generators for lighting and air conditioning, operating independently of train motion, are on alternate cars.

  7. Trains are equipped with the latest type of zone control steam heat, thermostatically governed. Radiant pane heating at the windows eliminates possible drafts during extremely cold weather. Floors also are heated and overhead heating is provided to operate in conjunction with the air conditioning system. All rooms in sleeping cars are individually heated and cooled through conveniently located thermostatic controls.

  8. New "feather touch" vestibule doors are electro-pneumatically operated and can be opened easily.

  9. As an additional safety feature, the end car is equipped with a powerful oscillating red light, visible at a considerable distance irrespective of weather. This light is automatically on below certain a speed. The locomotive has an oscillating light.

  10. Car trucks are of the four wheel, cast steel, all coil type with roller bearings and vertical shock absorbers.

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