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Great Northern Electric Rosters


N/A Alco-GE 4 1000 B-B
Z-1 BLW-Westinghouse 10 1830 1-D-1
Y-1 Alco-GE 8 3000 1-C+C-1
Y-1a Alco-GE / GN 1 3000 1-C+C-1
W-1 GE 2 5000 B-D+D-B
Copyright 2005 Ben Ringnalda


Great Northern's electric locomotives were confined to the Cascades, purchased to relieve asphyxiation problems in the Cascade tunnel caused by exhaust of steam locomotives. The initial class of four locomotives were confined to the Old Cascade Tunnel only, while the later models were used on the entire line-segment from Wenatchee, through the New Cascade Tunnel, to Skykomish.


 The Great Northern Railway rostered a total of 24 electric locomotives. The first four used a 6,000 Volt three phase electric system using two overhead wires and the rail as conductors. Power was taken from the overhead wires by means of trolley poles. With the opening of the New Cascade Tunnel and the enlargement of the electrified district a switch was made to a single phase 11,000 Volt system. Power was now taken from a single overhead wire by using pantographs, making for a less troublesome layout of the catenary system. 


Great Northern used 2 different paint schemes for its electric locomotives. All electrics were delivered in a Pullman Green livery except for the two W-1 class locomotives which arrived new in the Empire Builder scheme of orange and green separated by imitation gold stripes. All electrics, except the original 3-phase and Z-1 classes, were eventually repainted in Empire Builder colors.


Electric operations started in 1909 with the opening of the first Cascade tunnel and ended on July 31, 1956 when the decision was made to force-ventilate the Cascade tunnel and run all trains through using diesel power, instead of upgrading the entire electrical operation, which was coming due. This method of force-ventilation is still being used today by BNSF.


The rosters provided here give information on all the electric locomotives the Great Northern Railway owned, their renumbering and the different paint schemes they wore and (where known) when. Repaint dates are given where known.