GN Empire Builder

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TrinityJayOne

N gauge fan
I'm thinking about modelling one of the later Empire Builder trains and am after some information/discussion on the subject.

Now, I already have a set of F7s in Empire Builder livery and Kato made what appears to be a very nice set of passenger cars (five years ago :(), so chances are good that I'll model the mid-century version. I've found GNGoat.org to be a great resource on both the Empire Builder (love the scans of the original brochures!) and GN in general. I also see that the Empire Builder briefly saw Big Sky Blue, although it doesn't look like anyone has produced this in miniature (I'd love to be proven wrong here). While I'm on the subject, this site has some nice info on the story behind Big Sky Blue. Now, questions-

-What happened to the Empire Builder when the BN merger happened?
-Anyone here get a chance to ride it?
-Anyone here model it?
 
N

NP2626

Guest
The Empire Builder is alive and well as the Amtrak "Empire Builder", running between Chicago and Seattle with a split at Spokane making two trains, the second heading to Portland Oregon. Upon return, the two meet up at Spokane; again, and head back to Chicago. One train runs per day in both directions. I have ridden the Empire Builder one time out and back to Seattle from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota and several times from Detroit Lakes MN to Chicago.

The train is very comfortable! For me a seat in coach is all that I need, as the seats extend out, into comfortable lounge chairs, very comfortable for sleeping on. Most of the time, little schedule mishaps occur when taking the train. Passenger trains take a back seat to freight trains now-a-days and there always seems to be something putting the ones I've ridden, off schedule, sometimes for several hours, most times for less than an hour. I was a private pilot and I love to fly; but, if I have the time, I would prefer taking the train if it's going where I want to go.

In addition to the Empire Builder, I have ridden on the "Lake Shore Limited" from Chicago to Buffalo N.Y. and the "Maple Leaf" from Buffalo N.Y. to Toronto Canada. The wait at Depew Depot at Buffalo for the "Lake Shore Limited" was about 10 hours long and there is heavy freight traffic at this location. So I got to do plenty of rail fanning, even got to see the "Orient Express" come through and be serviced, due to a wreck somewhere where it was supposed to have run.

Because of the schedule leaving Chicago, the "Empire Builder" travels through the Rocky's mostly at night, which is to bad as this certainly is the most beautiful portion of the trip. It is also night time, when the train goes through Cascade Tunnel which is close to 8 miles long and the longest tunnel in the U.S.

I model the steam to diesel transition period on the Northern Pacific, so the Empire Builder would not be a train I would normally see on my railroad. If I did model the "Empire Builder" I would likely model the GN version, as I love GN's orange/green livery!
 
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TrinityJayOne

N gauge fan
I should have specified a bit better - what happened to the Empire Builder for the first year of BN before Amtrak started up? I searched a bit harder and found some answers myself. :) Apparently BN ran the Empire Builder as well as the other GN, CB&Q, etc passenger services until Amtrak took over. One article I read mentioned that BN repainted all the passenger cars into the Cascade Green "hockey stick" livery, but I also found pictures of the Empire Builder from '72 & '73 where there were F units in a mixture of Big Sky Blue & Empire Builder liveries pulling a rainbow of those colours plus Cascade Green and silver Pullmans (CB&Q perhaps). I think I'll believe the pictures.

I notice that when they updated to Big Sky Blue in '67 they also started using SDP40 & 45s to help spruce up their image further. The SDP40s were delivered the year before though, and if the use of these modern engines coincided with the launch of Big Sky Blue, what were they doing with them prior to that? Did SDP40s not see use on the Empire Builder prior to Big Sky Blue?
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
Apparently BN ran the Empire Builder as well as the other GN, CB&Q, etc passenger services until Amtrak took over.
True.

One article I read mentioned that BN repainted all the passenger cars into the Cascade Green "hockey stick" livery, but I also found pictures of the Empire Builder from '72 & '73 where there were F units in a mixture of Big Sky Blue & Empire Builder liveries pulling a rainbow of those colours plus Cascade Green and silver Pullmans (CB&Q perhaps). I think I'll believe the pictures.
I would guess that the article means that they painted two train sets in the cascade green. They always do that for promotional purposes and photos. But what happens is the sets eventually go to service, get broken up at both ends of the system some going to Portland on the SP&S and others to Seattle. Etc, as that happens the "other" cars get mixed in. Plus there are always the "through" cars from other railroads. As the prior poster noted the CB&Q cars were often stainless. One will see the same thing in the North Coast Limited - always 1 or 2 silver CB&Q cars in the mix. Seldom after the first few months of running was a train once painted all nice and the same still together.

I do have pictures of the May 2, 1971 Empire Builder. A Big Sky blue SD40P is on the point with booster of a simplified green/orange F7B, an orange baggage is next. The two years between Big Sky Blue and Amtrak were not nearly enough time to economically repaint the entire fleet.

Another note here is that the GN great domes were used for for experimental schemes for the BN. There is one paint scheme with a super wide hockey stick.

I notice that when they updated to Big Sky Blue in '67 they also started using SDP40 & 45s to help spruce up their image further. The SDP40s were delivered the year before though, and if the use of these modern engines coincided with the launch of Big Sky Blue, what were they doing with them prior to that? Did SDP40s not see use on the Empire Builder prior to Big Sky Blue?
I have some facts and some speculation on that. First is that the SD45s and SDP40s were not purchased to spruce up the image but just because new power was needed. The F's had been run into the ground. I do have pictures of the SDP40s in the orange and green scheme, BUT they are all on the point of the Western Star, the Portland-Seattle train, and the Fast Mail. I have another note that states, "The 3,600 hp SD45s purchased in 1966 to power the Empire Builder ... were painted two years later into Big Sky Blue..." So my speculation is that the SD45s were used on the Builder until such time as the other trains were discontinued. The SD45s then went to freight service and the less powerful SDP40s got promoted to the Builder.
 

TrinityJayOne

N gauge fan
Great info, thanks. I found some of the Kato N scale sets on ebay but couldn't win them as the same individual was purchasing every single Empire Builder set listed. Their feedback was literally filled with EB set purchases, some with prices as high as $500 for each 4 car set. I didn't want the EB set that badly thank you very much, so I looked at other passenger trains. I've just recently received my new California Zephyr set in the post and couldn't be happier. :)
 

jrbernier

Milw Road in SW Wisconsin
The SDP40 engines were delivered in the orange/green paint scheme, and were used system wide on the Western Star/Fast Mail and the Empire Builder. The SDP45's arrived later and were delivered in Big Sky Blue. They were also used in the same trans-con service. I know of one SDP40 that was repainted in Big Sky Blue. There were not enough SDP40/SDP45's to cover the Western Star/Fast Mail and Empire Builder assignments, so they were mixed with passenger F's.
The BN merger saw some of the passenger engines get repainted to Cascade Green, but Amtrak was only a year off, & BN kept the SDP40/SDP45 engines for freight service. The S/G's were de-activated or removed, and the water tank partition was opened up so tha the SDP40's had a full 4000 gallon full tank, and the SDP45's had a 5000 gallon fuel tank.
BTW, there was no 1958 observation cars. The original 1947 cars were rebuilt when the dome cars arrived, and replaced the 'Mountain' series observation cars from the Mid-Century Empire Builder. The 'Mountain' series cars became parlor cars in later years.

Jim
 

doct0rnic

Member
The Empire Builder is alive and well as the Amtrak "Empire Builder", running between Chicago and Seattle with a split at Spokane making two trains, the second heading to Portland Oregon. Upon return, the two meet up at Spokane; again, and head back to Chicago. One train runs per day in both directions. I have ridden the Empire Builder one time out and back to Seattle from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota and several times from Detroit Lakes MN to Chicago.

The train is very comfortable! For me a seat in coach is all that I need, as the seats extend out, into comfortable lounge chairs, very comfortable for sleeping on. Most of the time, little schedule mishaps occur when taking the train. Passenger trains take a back seat to freight trains now-a-days and there always seems to be something putting the ones I've ridden, off schedule, sometimes for several hours, most times for less than an hour. I was a private pilot and I love to fly; but, if I have the time, I would prefer taking the train if it's going where I want to go.

In addition to the Empire Builder, I have ridden on the "Lake Shore Limited" from Chicago to Buffalo N.Y. and the "Maple Leaf" from Buffalo N.Y. to Toronto Canada. The wait at Depew Depot at Buffalo for the "Lake Shore Limited" was about 10 hours long and there is heavy freight traffic at this location. So I got to do plenty of rail fanning, even got to see the "Orient Express" come through and be serviced, due to a wreck somewhere where it was supposed to have run.

Because of the schedule leaving Chicago, the "Empire Builder" travels through the Rocky's mostly at night, which is to bad as this certainly is the most beautiful portion of the trip. It is also night time, when the train goes through Cascade Tunnel which is close to 8 miles long and the longest tunnel in the U.S.

I model the steam to diesel transition period on the Northern Pacific, so the Empire Builder would not be a train I would normally see on my railroad. If I did model the "Empire Builder" I would likely model the GN version, as I love GN's orange/green livery!

I have ridden the empire builder about 20 times from Minot, the chair was great for me until I booked the superliner roomet and now I cant go back, it was only an extra hundred bucks when I did it and you get all your meals included in the dining car and the room steward gave us free champagne. As far as the cascade green, I have been finding out that the hockey stick was an experimental paint scheme by the GN. I have seen several pictures of cars with the GN goat on it, I think that the BN though just copied the scheme and started to paint everything like that, later for the officer trains they ditched the hockey stick and just made a straight white line with the cascade green, I have been buying all the walthers cars with BN hockey stick and made a pretty good train out of it, I might start buying the Big sky blue later.

http://www.northeast.railfan.net/images/gn1391.jpg

BN officer train in 1991
http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=368798&nseq=19

this link is great site for all the passenger cars the BN had as well as the GN and other railroads if you navigate through it.

http://passcarphotos.info/Indices/BN.htm
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
That Ocean View car is interesting, never seen that design before. Good info, thanks.
There were more than just one experimental paint job applied to the great domes. About 20 years ago I decided I was going to model all (6?) of them. At the time there was no GN great dome only the Bachmann's Santa Fe full dome. I started buying those and converting them to use. It was not an easy conversion as one had to cover up certain windows and cut others, then there was the fluting of the sides. Needless to say I never finished that project. BUT when Walthers came out with their GN great dome I did buy six domes so I could do all the paint jobs. Unfortunately now I've misplaced the article that covered them. I call the one given in the link the "wide hockey stick".

GN was always real big on painting stuff up in experimental schemes and running them around to see what people think. I believe that by this time the GN Executive Management knew the merger was coming and so they were actually experimental GBP (Great Burlington Pacific) schemes. This is also why the GN goat loco and Road Names were hung on placards on the railings of the locomotives rather than being painted on the side. They knew it would be short lived.
 

trailrider

Well-Known Member
I can't tell you much about the BN or Amtrack era. I model the 1942-1960's period, mostly Burlington. However, I do have one train each GN and NP. Due to space limitations (14 x 14 room), I run pseudo-Empire Builder, North Coast Ltd, and Denver Zephyr's (about six cars plus the engines are all that fit reasonably on the layout without looking weird). The interesting thing is that there was always a "BN", after the 1880's! GN & NP jointly owned the "Q", and GN and NP had interlocking boards of directors. The ICC wouldn't let them have a single set of books, so there were three different managements, paint schemes, philosophies, etc. until the "merger".

In the period before the merger, on the Chicago-Twin Cities runs, mixed sets, and name trains owned by the "other" road. You might see silver or stainless steel "Q" E-units pulling the green and white Empire Builder from Union Station to Minneapolis. The passenger cars might be marked for their home road, or they might have C.B.&Q. lettering up in the corner, indicating the owner. The same was true for North Coast Limited trains (at least two of them), which were owned by the "Q". From Minneapolis to the West Coast, the respective roads' power would take over...unless traffic required motive power that wasn't available from the home road. In which case you might just see a Burlington unit interspersed with the GN or NP, or some other combination. But that was in the glory days of Zephyrs, Builders and Limiteds.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
The interesting thing is that there was always a "BN", after the 1880's! GN & NP jointly owned the "Q", and GN and NP had interlocking boards of directors. The ICC wouldn't let them have a single set of books, so there were three different managements, paint schemes, philosophies, etc. until the "merger".
Hill actually controlled the Milwalkee too. I've never read the history of the CMStP&P so I don't know why it never got considered or folded into the Northern Securities Corporation. Do any Milwalkee fans know? Since this was the height of the Teddy Roosevelt trust busting the Union Pacific also had a share of the Q. For those that don't know the Northern Securities Corporation "purchased" the Q via stock aquisition on May 1, 1901. After all the Anti-Trust court battles, in a split decision, the Northern Securities Corporation was dissolved March 14th, 1904. The Q became basically a wholly owned subsidiary of the GN and NP. Harriman finally gave up his (UP) share during 1905.
 




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