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GN Timeline


This timeline is also available for download in Microsoft Excel format:


GN Timeline.xls


Important dates in Great Northern history and beyond of interest to the Great Northern railfan and modeler.

This list is compiled and maintained by Jim Betz. Please email Jim with your corrections and/or additions at:


DATE ITEM SOURCE (see below)
1857 Charter issued for Minnesota & Pacific Railway B29
1860 William Crooks built for St. P. & P. (4-4-0), Delivered in 1861 B25
1862 St. Paul & Pacific acquires Minnesota & Pacific B29
1866 First 4-4-0 built for the GN B25
1870s Archbar trucks dominate freight car market B31
1878 J.J. Hill acquires the St. Paul & Pacific B29
1879 Reorganized to St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba B29
1879 The #3 built (0-4-0) B25
1879 A-1 #13 built (0-6-0) B25
1882 to 1883 Stone Arch bridge is constructed over the Mississippi B27
1883 November 18th - Standard Time adopted THC1
1885 Rails reach Devil's Lake, N.D. B29
1887 Rails reach Montana B29
1889 Great Northern Railway formed from its predecessors B27,B29
1889 Stevens surveys Marias Pass (winter) B29
1889 First 2-6-0 built B25
1890 Construction of Pacific Coast extension begins B29
1890 First 4-6-0 built B25
1891 First 4-8-0 built B25
1892 First 2-8-0 built B25
1890s Pressed steel trucks such as Fox introduced B31
1892 First Rock Creek bridge is completed across the Columbia B27
1892 Foss River bridge built - of wood B27
1892 GN reaches tidewater at Everett B25
1893 Last 4-4-0 built B25
1893 GN reaches Seattle B25
1893 GN Flyer inaugurated as first Transcon on the GN B25
1893 Final spike driven near Scenic B29
1893 GN begins regular service from Mn to Wa B29
1900s Andrews and Vulcan trucks introduced B31
1900 Last 0-6-0 built B25
1900 Last 4-8-0 built B25
1900 First Cascade Tunnel completed B25, B29
1900 All freight cars use air brakes and knuckle cplrs Thompson, James D.
1900 Great Northern Steamship company formed B27
1901 First 0-8-0 built B25
1901 Foss River bridge rebuilt - with steel B27
1901 GN and NP acquire CB&Q to have access to Chicago B29
1904 Fraser river bridge completed (Vancouver) B25
1905 First 4-6-2 built B25
1905? King Street Station opens in Seattle (GN & NP) B25
1905 First run of the Oriental Limited (58 hour schedule) B25, B29
1905 GN and NP form S.P.&S. as a jointly-owned subsidiary B29
1905 Glacier Park Co. formed as GN subsidiary B29
1905 Great Northern Flyer renamed to the Fast Mail B4
1905 or 1906 First iron ore trains ship from Duluth B27
1906 First 4-4-2 built B25
1906 First GN electrics are built (B+B) B25
1906 First 2-6-2 built B25
1906 First 2-6-6-2 built B25
1906 Last 2-6-0 built B25
1906 Last 4-4-2 built B25
1906? King Street Station opens in Seattle (GN & NP) B27
1907 Last 2-8-0 built B25
1907 Last 2-6-2 built B25
1907 First and Last of the 2-6-6-2s built B25
1907 Start of rebuild of 2-6-6-2s to 2-8-2s B25
1907 Hill leaves presidency and assumes Chairman of the Board B29
1907 Louis Hill becomes President of the railroad B29
1908 First 2-6-8-0 built B25
1908 End of rebuild of 2-6-6-2s to 2-8-2s B25
1909 Milwaukee reaches Seattle B25
1909 Slant lettering in white square herald introduced B27
1909 First electrics run in Cascade Tunnel (original) B27, B29
1909 First silk trains run - 45 hour schedule B25
1910 Last 4-6-0 built B25
1910 Last 4-6-2 built B25
1910 Last 2-6-8-0 built B25
1910 Rebuild of 2-6-8-0 to 2-8-2 B25
1910 Union Pacific reaches Seattle via OWR&N B25
1910 GN begins operating Seattle to Portland (trackage rights) B29
1910 Wellington Disaster, town renamed to Tye B27
1910 (?) Andrews trucks in production ("1st decade") B31
1910 (?) Vulcan trucks in production ("1st decade") B31
1910 (?) Bettendorf T-section in production ("1st decade") B31
1911 First 2-8-2 built (as a 2-8-2) B25
1912 First and last 2-8-8-0 built (2 later rebuilds) B25
1912 Surrey Cutoff completed B29
1912 Carl Gray becomes President of the railroad B29
1912 James J. Hill retires from Board B29
1912 Louis Hill becomes Chairman B29
1913 First Gas Electric B25
1914 First order of 4-8-2 delivered (P-1, 63" drivers) B25
1914 Hill makes his last trip over the entire line B27
1914 Louis Hill again becomes President of railroad B29
1914 SP&S formed, GN and NP joint venture B27
1914 Great Northern Pacific Steamship company formed B27
1915 GN station in Vancouver completed B25
1915 Louis Hill coins slogan "See America First" (earlier?) B27
1915 Standard ladders, grabs, steps, etc. Thompson, James D.
1916 Surrey Cutoff built B4
1916 James J. Hill dies in St. Paul B27, B29
1918 Last 0-8-0 built B25
1918 Express companies merged into Railway Express WWW1
1917 USRA formed to operate RRs during WW-I WWW1
1919 Ralph Budd becomes President of the railroad B29
1920 Last 2-8-2 built (as a 2-8-2) B25
1920 ARA standards for stenciling reporting marks Wilber, Guy
1920s PRR introduces the U-section truck ("after WWI") B31
1920s U-section/one piece cast side frames adopted by ARA B31
1920 US Government disbands USRA WWW1
1921 GN ships automobiles stacked on flat cars (1st 'piggybacks') B27
1922 Pullman assumes operation of sleepers B25
1923 First order of 2-10-2 (Q-1s) B25
1923 Front facing goat herald replaces slant lettering in square B27
(First "Rocky" herald)
1923 Second & last order of 4-8-2s (P-2, 73" drivers) B25
28 engines, 18 oil, 10 coal
1923 GN and FGEX form WFEX company WWW1
1924? Q-2 class produced by rebuilding P-1 4-8-2s B25
1924 (22?) The new Oriental Limited (steel sheathed cars) 68 hr schedule B25, B29
1924 All cars in primary psgr service are Pullman cars B25
1925 First 2-8-8-2s built and delivered B25
1925 New freight cars have steel center sills
1925 ARA requires std capacity and size info Wilber, Guy
1925 Statue of John F. Stevens is erected on Marias Pass B27
1925 Rock Creek rebuilt to 'a bridge within a bridge' B27
1925 Alternative date for the start of the 2-6-6-2 rebuild program Fr. Peterka
1925(?) Bettendorf U-section replaces T-section ("mid 20's") B31
1926 First diesel locomotive on the GN (#5100) B25
1926 Alternative date for the end of the 2-6-6-2 rebuilds into 2-8-2s Fr. Peterka
1927 First Z-1 electrics in service B25
1927 First Y-1 electrics in service B25
1927 Electrics built in 1909 are retired B25
1928 Last Z-1 built B25
1928 New freight cars have all steel under frames
1928 Wood draft sills banned from interchange (steel center sills OK) Hendrickson, Richard
1928 First GN train into Klamath Falls B29
1929 The Empire Builder goes into service - 60 hour schedule B25
1929 First order of 4-8-4s (S-1) delivered B25
1929 New Cascade Tunnel goes into service B25, B29
1929 Last train over the old line is powered by R-1 #2043 B27
1929 Old Cascade Tunnel abandoned B25
1929 Train numbers 37/38 renamed to "Cascadian" B25
1929 Glacier Park Limited withdrawn from service B25
1929 Louis Hill retires from Chairman B29
1930s Snubbers introduced on trucks B31
1930 Second order of 4-8-4s (S-2) delivered B25
1930 Last steam ordered from outside builder (S-2s) B25
1930 Last 2-8-8-2 delivered B25
1930 Last NEW steam engine delivered B25
1930 Last new Y-1 delivered B25
1930 Last Gas Electric delivered B25
1931 GN enters California (Bieber) B25, B29
1931 Oriental Limited is dropped from service B25, B29
1931 Cars constructed of all wood banned from interchange Wilber, Guy
1931 B&O introduces the first air conditioned train (ice) WWW1
1931 ARA adopts "Type E" coupler as recommended practice WWW1
1932 William Kenney becomes President of GN B29
1932 The O-7s are rebuilt to O-8s B25
1933 Last runs of the silk trains (45 hour schedule) B25
1933 Freight cars get additional grab (left side) Wilber, Guy on STMFC
1933 AB brakes required on all new built cars Wilber, Guy
1933 GN & SP begin joint/alternating operation of OC&E (K-falls) GNGoat - Don Delay
1934 First rebuild of the 2-8-8-0s (to N-2) B25
1934 or so SCT introduces the Barber S-1 which quickly becomes S-2 B31
1935 Empire Builder is air conditioned B25
1935 Empire Builder uses "semi-streamlined/light weight" equipment B25
(Cars have bolted sides and 6-wheel trucks, look stream-lined.) B4
1935 Last passenger trains to Anacortes GN PTTs
1936 Initial ban of archbar trucks (extended to 1940) Wilber, Guy
1936 First MARS light developed (used on CNW first, on GN later) WWW1
1937 4-6-6-4 built (and also year of last - only one order) B25
1937 Pullman built semi-streamlined coaches on Builder B25
1937 Most billboard reefers and box cars gone Westerfield, Al
1937 All new cars built after Jan 1st have "power" brakes Gene Green in STMFC
(this means they were not built with the brake wheel above roof) Some exceptions, of course
1937(?) Barber S-2 truck introduced ("late 30's") B31
1938 First and last NW-1s delivered B25
1938 All new switchers from now on are diesels B25
(Among 1st steamers to be replaced are the Class "A" switchers) B27
1938 Billboard reefers and box cars gone entirely Westerfield, Al
1939 Start of 2nd rebuild program (N-2 to N-3) B25
1939 First NW-2 diesels delivered B25
1939 First NW-3 diesels delivered B25
1939 First SW-1s delivered B25
1939 Two 4-6-6-4s delivered to GN (and quickly passed to SP&S) B27
1939 Frank Gavin becomes the President of the GN B4, B29
1939 The William Crooks goes to N.Y. World's Fair (own power?) B29
1940 First and last GE 44-tonners delivered B25
1940 Archbar trucks banned in interchange (final) Wilbur, Guy and WWW1
1941 EMD formed by GM - from EMC and Winton Engines WWW1
1941 End of 2nd rebuild program (N-2 to N-3) B25
1941 Last steam (rebuild program) completed B25
1941 First road power diesels B25
1941 First FT's delivered (First Orange and Green) B25
1941 First VO-1000s delivered B25
1941 Empire Builder adds 2nd section (WWII) B25
1941 Side Facing Goat Herald introduced ?
1941 Last SW-1 delivered B25
1941 or 1942 Number boards applied to all GN steamers except switchers B27
1942 Last NW-3 delivered B25
1942 Z-6 Challengers (2) delivered 4-6-6-4 B25
1942 (approx.) Bettendorf ceases to produce freight car trucks entirely B31
1943 All Ten Wheelers are either scrapped or in dead storage B27
1944 Last VO-1000 delivered B25
1944 First and last RS-1s delivered B25
1944 First use of Scotchlite lettering by the GN WWW1
1944 All time freight record - 19,586,780,000 ton miles in one year B29
1944 ASF "ride control" A-3 trucks go into production B31
1945 First E-7s delivered B25
1945 Last FT delivered B25
1945 NW-5s delivered (predecessor to GP-7) B25
1945 Wood roofwalks/running boards outlawed on new cars O'Connor, Tim and WWW1
1945 S-2 Northern's are equipped with roller bearings B27
1945 First Vista Dome cars (on the CB&Q) WWW1
1945 All time passenger record - 1,305,138,000 passenger miles B29
1946 First F3's delivered B25
1947 Orange and Green Empire Builder initiated (withOUT domes) B25
1947 E.B. is stream-lined, lt. weight - 45 hour schedule, E-units B25
1947 Heavyweight E.B. becomes re-incarnated/2nd Oriental Limited B25, B29
1947 W-1 electric created in GN shops B25
1947 Steam repaints start using white lettering GNGOAT - Laasko
1947 First RS-2s delivered B25
1947 Last E-7 delivered ('unsuccessful' on the Builder) B25
1947 First Pullman Standard 40' PS-1 box cars built (6/47) STMFC (Kline, Hawkins)
1948 Last F-3 delivered B25
1948 (?) E-units replaced with F's on E.B. B27
1948 New/repainted freight cars use "Great Northern" Westerfield, Al
instead of "Glacier Park" in logo
1948 Plate "B" adopted (maximum height 15'1") 1948 ORER
1948 Running boards and platforms must be "grid" (new only?) Wilber, Guy
1948 Heavy "asphalt" paint prohibited on trucks Wilber, Guy
1948 Car wheels must NOT be painted Wilber, Guy
1948 Covered hoppers start to show up on the GN B4
1948 Mechanical reefers in service for FGEX WWW1
1948 First 50' PS-1 box cars built (12/48 - for GTW) riveted STMFC (Hawkins)
1949 Last NW-2 delivered B25
1950 Both Z-6s 'sold' to SP&S 4-6-6-4 B25
1950 First F-7 delivered B25
1950 First and last Alco S-2s delivered B25
1950 First and last SW-7s delivered B25
1950 First SW-9s delivered B25
1950 First RS-3s delivered B25
1950 First and last order of FA-1s delivered B25
1950 First and last order of FA-2s delivered B25
1950 First GP-7s delivered B25
1950 Last RS-2 delivered B25
1950 International goes into service between Seattle & Vancouver B29
1950 Red River goes into service between St. Paul & Fargo B29
1950 E-units replaced with F-3's and F-7's on E.B. B18?
1951 New equipment replaces 1947 Builder B25
1951 First time since 1924 not 'all Pullman' B25
1951 1947 E.B. equipment goes to Oriental Limited B25
1951 Oriental Limited is renamed Western Star B25, B29
1951 June - Western Star begins operation B29
1951 Last SW-9's delivered B25
1951 Frank Gavin is replaced by John Budd as President of the GN B4, B29
1951 Gavin becomes Chairman
1951 Reduced rates for Federal shipments for Land Grant RRs ends NPTellTale
(The GN was -not- a land grant RR, NP was.)
1952 First SD-7s delivered B25
1952 Truss rod cars banned in interchange ICC/ARR
(steel center beams excepted)
1953 Last F-7 delivered B25
1953 Last RS-3s delivered B25
1953 First and last Baldwin S-12s delivered B25
1953 First and last NW-1s delivered B25
1953 Last SD-7 delivered B25
1953 Last GP-7 delivered B25
1953 K brakes banned on all cars except tank cars (AB brakes required) Tony Thompson
1953 Extensive use of radio implemented B29
1953 Caboose safety slogans introduced B23
1953 Trucks with "T" and "L" section banned Wilber, Guy
1953 Lower tack boards introduced on freight cars Wilber, Guy
1953 GN donates F-8 #1246 to City of Seattle, it is the B27
last active steamer on the Cascade Division B27
1954 Jan 1, K brakes banned in all service Kelly, Bill
1954 First SD-9s delivered B25
1954 First GP-9s delivered B25
1954 First and last order of F-9s delivered B25
1954 First Piggyback service on the GN B4, B29
1955 Allied full cushion truck banned due to derailments Hendrickson, Richard
1955 Dome coach and Dome Lounge cars on the Empire Builder B4
1955 Airslide hoppers from General American B4 and WWW1
1955 Construction begins on Gavin Yard B29
1956 Ag and Industrial Development departments 'joined' B29
1956 Fan exhaust system for Cascade Tunnel finished B25
1956 Diesels begin regular service thru Cascade Tunnel B25
1956 RDC-3 #2350 from Budd in service B25
1956 GN completes Mn to Wa VHF radio network B29
1956 Headlights during daytime mandated by ICC WWW1
1956 Y-1 electrics are retired (many sold to Pennsy) B25
1956 W-1 and Z-1 electrics are retired (scrapped?) B25
1956 Cascade tunnel ventilation project completed B29
1956 Gavin Yard in Minot opens - hump B4
1956 or 57 Catenary comes down B25
1957 First and last SW-1200s delivered B25
1957 Last steam operations - August (some locos stored) B29
1957 Integrally cast journal boxes required in interchange Hendrickson, Richard
(only Andrews "U" section survived this change)
1958 All steam retired - spring B29
1958 Last SD-9 delivered (most lasted until M-day) B25
1958 Cast iron wheels banned from all new cars - or rebuilds WWW1
1959 Last GP-9(m) delivered B25
1959 Last gas electric retired B25
1959 Last runs of the Cascadian B25
1959 Hydrocushion under frames introduced WWW1
1960 First and last GP-20s delivered B25
1960 Fast Mail and Western Star combined into a single train B4
(for passenger, Fast Mail becomes a 'freight' on same sched?)
1960 Last delivery of Original E.B. (GP20s) B25
1960 May - Western Star operates thru Chester Mark Meyer
1960 First auto racks on the GN, GN joins Trailer Train B29 (B4 disagrees on date)
1960 First unit train (coal) operates on the Southern Railway WWW1
1961 Glacier Park Co. sold to Glacier Park, Inc. (not subsidiary) B29
1961 Rumors have it that a few diesels were repainted in "simple" GNGoat
1961 CTC is already on 874 miles and ribbon rail up to 287 B29
1962 First E.B. "Simple" color scheme units (repaints?) B25
1962 GN station in Vancouver abandoned B25
1963 Plate "C" adopted, maximum height 15'6", Hi-cube box cars ORER, WWW1
1963 First GP30s delivered (1st new power in "simple" E.B.) B25
1963 Bulkhead flats, 57foot, 90 ton B4
1964 First GE U-25Bs delivered B25
1964 First GP-35s delivered B25
1965 Last U-25B delivered B25
1965? Last new diesel painted in "Simple" E.B. scheme => BSB
1965 Last GP-35 delivered B25
1965 GN station in Vancouver torn down B25
1966 First SD-45s B25
1966 First Big Sky Blue color schemes (diesels and freight) B25
1966 First and last SDP-40s delivered B25
1966 First and last U28Bs delivered B25
1966 Federal ban on new cars delivered with running boards Kaminski, Bill
1966 COTS standard adopted - label not required ORER?
1966 FRA created WWW1
1967 First Big Sky Blue on the Empire Builder B6-B
1967 GN BSB paint does not use Caboose safety slogans B23
1967 First and last SW-1500s delivered B25
1967 First and last SDP-45s and F-45s delivered B25
1967 Thrall introduces the all door boxcar WWW1
1967 First shipments of taconite ore (to pocket docks) B19
1967 Last Pullman Standard 40' PS-1 box cars built (9/67) STMFC (Kline, Hawkins)
1968 First U33Cs delivered to GN B25
1968 ACI labels begin use (should be earlier?) O'Connor, Tim
1968 First Bi-Level and Tri-level autorack cars (open sides) - May B4 (B29 disagrees on date)
1969 Last U33C delivered B25
1970 ACI labels required
1970 Merger day (3 March) - Burlington Northern B25
1970 Some power goes to BN in all three paint schemes GNGoat
1970 Flathead Tunnel dedicated B25
1970 Cast iron wheels banned from interchange Neubauer, Eric
1971 Last run of the Empire Builder (pre-Amtrak) B25
1971 Amtrak formed, May 1st - 1971 WWW1
1971 First runs of Amtrak E.B. and International B25
1971 BN renames the Fast Mail to "Pacific Zip" B4
1972 Latah Bridge dedicated (Spokane) B25
1972 COTS label recommended by AAR Eager, Jim
1972 AAR "consolidated" stencils adopted ORER?
1972 Last Pullman Standard 50' PS-1 box cars built (11/72) MFCL, Eager
1973 First enclosed tri-level autoracks WWW1
1974 Roofwalks/Running boards removed from all freight cars Kaminski, Bill
1974 Plate "E" adopted, 15'9" ORER, WWW1
1974 Plate "F" adopted ORER
1974 Plate "G" adopted (17'0") WWW1
1974 Plate "H" adopted (20'2") WWW1
1974 COTS label required MFCL, Eager
1974 FRA "consolidated" stencils required ORER?
1974 Railbox is formed WWW1
1976 US Government forms Conrail WWW1
1977 GN SW1200 #162 (Orig E.B.) repainted into CG, May 10 B30
1977 GN NW2 #494 (BSB) repainted into Cascade Green, May 23 B30
1977 GN SW1 #83 (simple) repainted into Cascade Green, June 10 B30
(This was the last motive power still in GN paint on the BN)
1977 Hazmat Markings change Illinois Central Employee Pub (Dec 77)
1977 Last R.P.O. trains in U.S. are operated WWW1
1978 ACI labels not required (but stayed long after) ORER
1978 White dot/Yellow Dot wheel inspection labelling begins (3/78) MFCL
1978 White dot/Yellow Dot wheel inspection ends (12/78) MFCL
1980 Staggers rail act - ICC WWW1
1982 Walkways banned in interchange (date should be 1979?) WWW1
Roofwalks ban was never really enforced and relied upon car retirement
1982 COTS stencil changed to 3rd version MFCL
1986 Cabooses not required on mainline freights MFCL
1987 CAPY started to be removed from freight cars MFCL
1989 CAPY data no longer required MFCL
1991 Hazmat cars must have journal roller bearings WWW1
1994 Journal roller bearings required on all cars in interchange (1995?) WWW1
1995 BNSF formed
1996 Conrail sold to CSX, NS, others WWW1
1996 AEI 'FET' tags required on interchange cars MFCL
1996 ICC replaced by STB WWW1
2004 June 11th, Amtrak celebrates 75 years of the E.B. Mark Meyer

Last updated:

February 27, 2006

Copyright 2006 Jim Betz


B1 C.E.R.A. Electrification by G.E. (G.N.)
B2 Dorin, P Iron Ore Railroads, Minnesota-Ontario
B3 Dorin, P Lake Superior Iron Ore Railroads
B4 Dorin, P Lines East, Great Northern
B5 Great Northern Empire Builder Breakfast Menu, circa 55?
B6 Hickcox, D Great Northern Steam & Electric in Color
B6-B Hickcox, D GN Color Guide to Freight and Passenger
B7 Hidy/Hidy/Hidy Great Northern Railway, A History, The
B8 Kalmbach Train Album of Photographs, GN
B9 Martin, C Locomotives of the Empire Builder
B10 Olsen, B Great Northern Railway, 1945-70 Photo Archive
B11 Olsen, B Great Northern Railway, 1945-70, Vol. II
B12 R.&L.H.S. Railroad History #143 - Great Northern Railway
B13 Randall/Ross Pullman-Standard GN, NP, SP&S, Vol 3.
B14 Shine, J Great Northern Pictorial - Volume 1
B15 Shine, J Great Northern Pictorial - Volume 2
B16 Strauss, J Great Northern Pictorial - Volume 3
B17 Strauss, J Great Northern Pictorial - Volume 4
B18 Strauss, J Great Northern Pictorial - Volume 5
B19 Strauss, J Great Northern Pictorial - Volume 6
B20 Strauss, J Great Northern Pictorial - Volume 7
B21 Thompson, S Great Northern Equipment Color Pictorial
B22 Thompson, S Great Northern Equipment Color Pict, Book 2
B23 Thompson, S Great Northern Equipment Color Pict, Book 3
B24 Wilson, Jeff Great Northern Railway in the Pacific Northwest
B25 Wood, C Great Northern Railway
B26 Wood, C Great Northern Railway (2nd Copy)
B27 Wood, C Lines West, Great Northern REVISED
B28 Wood, C Lines West, Great Northern
B29 Great Northern Public Relations Dept. GN Railway Condensed History, Revised '62
B30 Del Grosso? BN Motive Power Annual, 1977-80
B31 Hendrickson, Richard RP Cyc #4 Article on Trucks and Wheels
R__ Various GNRHS Reference Sheet Numbers
THC1 Modern Marvels Program - RR Safety The History Channel
WWW1 www.hosam.com/grd/dates.html Website
GNGoat Yahoo Groups - not a 'solid' reference at all times but useful Website
STMFC Yahoo Groups - Steam Freight Car list Website
MFCL Yahoo Groups - Modern Freight Car list Website