Great Northern Railway: A History

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In the sprawling Northwest, from the upper Mississippi River valley to Puget Sound, no railroad shaped the landscape and society like the Great Northern Railway Company. This is the complete history of that enterprise, from 1856, when the first charter was granted, through the era of James J. Hill -- known as the Empire Builder -- to its maturation and eventual merger in 1970, when the eight-thousand-mile Great Northern was incorporated into the massive Burlington Northern. The first part of the book (1856-1916) examines the railway's early strategies and philosophy, relations with employees, and vigorous campaigns to develop the service area. The second part (1916-1970) offers an assessment of a dramatic period of transition for the railroad -- international conflicts, the Great Depression, the rise of motor vehicles, increasing labor costs, and stronger unions. Illustrated with more than two hundred maps, period photographs, and drawings, the volume also includes appendixes listing the original tracklaying history, track removals, ruling grades on main freight routes, and main line ruling grades from Minneapolis to Seattle.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816644292
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 3/5/2004
  • Series: Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 360
  • Sales rank: 575,424
  • Product dimensions: 10.75 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Pt. I 1856 to 1916
1 The First Ten Miles 2
2 Frustrated by Finance 5
3 Growing Pains 11
4 Northern Pacific Interlude 18
5 Legislation and Litigation 25
6 The Associates Gain Control 28
7 The Manitoba 36
8 Consolidations and Adjustments 49
9 From Butte to Buffalo 54
10 Tensions in Finance 66
11 On to Puget Sound 72
12 Creating an Empire 85
13 Developing the Northwest 99
14 Men and Mallets 108
15 Locals, Limiteds, and Liners 121
16 Corporate Structure and Finance 130
17 "Leading the Band" 136
Pt. II 1916 to 1970
18 World War I and the USRA 148
19 Of Good News and Bad 155
20 Polishing the Operation 162
21 Passenger Business and Change 172
22 Expansion and Development 182
23 An Attempted Merger 191
24 Corporate Health 195
25 The Tangled Ways of Finance 199
26 Traffic and Profits in Adversity 207
27 The Pressures of War - Again 216
28 Labor-Management Relations in Depression and War 230
29 Prosperity Under Stress 238
30 John Budd and a Changing Environment 248
31 Labor Tensions and Personnel Policies 256
32 Economic Development Programs 261
33 SD45s and Univac III 267
34 "No Sacred Cows - or Goats" 278
35 The Last Spike is Never Driven 294
Notes 305
App. A Original Track-laying Record 318
App. B Track Removals 325
App. C Great Northern Railway: Ruling Grades on Main Freight Routes 328
App. D Northern Pacific: Main Line Ruling Grades Minneapolis - Seattle 328
Bibliography and Notes on Sources 329
Index 353
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The Great Northern Railway "A History"

    This book is fully worth the price it costs. If you are a GN fan or doing research on the GN Rwy. and need a plethora of information about the GN and the fight to get through or over the Cascade Mountains, then this is the one to get. It is printed extremely well, clear pictures and type. Even the front and rear covers are of thick paper stock with a glossy face on them and will last for many years.
    Historically correct in all ways that I know of, I even ran across some surprises that I did not know about GN and the Cascades. This is truly a well written, researched book. It is easy to understand what is written or intended therein.
    The authors and their assistants should be congratulated on a superior job well done involving the trials and tribulations involved for the GN Rwy., also GN's workers and officers alike, are well understood what they had to go through.
    It was absolutely not an easy task by any means. At times, it was deadly for them. Fighting the elements in the mountains, tunneling, fighting wild animals, living in tight conditions, cutting down thousands of trees to be used for rail ties, bridges and buildings, also to open areas for excavating the terrain for the new trackway, to depots along with some new towns to crop up along the way. Meetings with GN officials and surveyors, to figure out their plans of finanancing and doing the almost impossible task of running a railroad through the Cascades. It was done with the literal sweat and blood, plus the loss of life occasionally from any number of things that could happen in the wilds while building this northern most transcontinental rail system.
    Many people do not know that the "Northern" in the current day Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF), came from the merger of the GN and Burlington Railroads back in 1970.
    Worth the price of the book? Positively-Absolutely! I wondered myself if it was money wasted and when I got the book, I could hardly wait to read through it each day to understand what went on with the GN Rwy. Company. I have read it 4 times now and have used it in my research for referencing in other areas to expand on more knowledge of what happened with James Jerome Hill's "Empire Builder" railroad. You will not be sorry you purchased it. Enjoy!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2004

    Great Book about the Great Northern Railway

    This is a wonderful book covering the in-depth history of the Great Northern Railway. I have several other books covering the G.N., and this book includes 'new' information and photos not included in the other books. I have been anxious to acquire this book before, but was hesitant to spend the amount asked for in used book shops, etc. This book is excellent for both it's text and photos. If you are a Great Northern fan, this is a wonderful research resource or book to be read for pleasure.

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