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  • GREAT NORTHERN'S GOPHER AND BADGER

    A-B F-units clad in the classic Great Northern scheme of yesteryear lead the Duluth-Minneapolis Badger at Superior. Wis., in the 1950's. - Photo: From R. R. Wallin via Al Chione and collection of James Humbert
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    Don't have room for a full-size Empire Builder on your layout? Model these two animals instead

    by MIKE SCHAFER ASSISTANCE BY JOHN H. KUEHL

       Some have referred to it as the "Gitchee Goomee Corridor" - the route between the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and the twin ports of Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis. At one time, the passenger trains of four railroads - Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Soo Line and Chicago & North Western - vied for customers. Eventually service dwindled to only the Great Northern (Burlington Northern after the 1970 merger with Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, Northern Pacific and Spokane, Portland & Seattle), and that disappeared altogether when Amtrak was born on May 1, 1971, although Amtrak restored service between 1974 and 1985.

       Most regarded GN service between the two sets of cities the best and fastest. The most well-known trains of the GN route were the Gopher and Badger, named for the two states served by the trains (Minnesota is sometimes referred to as the Gopher State, Wisconsin the Badger State). Generally, the Badger was the morning run in each direction, making all the local stops; the Gopher was the evening train in both directions, with limited stops.

    E7A 503 in the final simplified green/orange paint scheme (also see cover) leads a typical late-1960's Gopher consist across the high trestle at Holyoke, Minn., on Sept. 23, 1967. The equipment mix includes RPO-baggage 1107, semi-streamlined coach 944 built in 1937 for the Empire Builder, ex-C&NW coach 1078, one of the four ex-Frisco chair cars acquired early in 1966 and either buffet-parlor car 1083 Twin Ports or 1084 Twin Cities. - Photo: Collection of David Schauer

    As you can see, RPO-baggage 1106 was once in Empire Builder service, though originally assigned to the Seattle-Vancouver, B.C., International. It is identical to the 1107 in the Gopher consist shown above. The 1107, incidentally, was originally assigned to St. Paul-Fargo (N. Dak.) Red River service. Cars were built by ACF in 1950. - Photo: John H. Kuehl

    Third car in the trestle photo at top is identical to the 1077 pictured here and just one of 21 56-seat coaches acquired from Chicago & North Western between 1961 and 1965 and used systemwide. - Photo: John H. Kuehl
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       The trains were upgraded after World War II, though never officially "streamlined" as were many premier trains during the postwar years. Instead, GN chose to re-equip the trains with rebuilt heavyweight Pullman Standard cars that had been built in 1937. Eventually, lightweight cars showed up in train consists, although he rebuilds remained in service well into the 1960's. Of note were the trains' parlor-buffet cars, the Twin Ports and Twin Cities, which were examples of the heavyweight rebuilds. Although not true observation cars, the cars were each equipped with rearward-facing solarium windows, below which were two drumheads, one for the Badger and one for the Gopher, so the cars could be used interchangeably on either train.

       When the pair of trains was dieselized in the early 1940's, GN did so with Electro-Motive FT's, and in 1945 the trains received E7's bumped from Empire Builder service. Those locomotives proved unsuitable for the mountainous terrain encountered by the Builder, but they were perfect for the high-speed flatland operation of the Gopher and Badger. Still, passenger F's continued to be used from time to time throughout the years, but the E7's were commonplace right up to the final years of pre-Amtrak twin cities-twin ports service. In later years it was not uncommon to also see "passenger" Geeps-GP9's fitted with steam generators for providing train heat-supplement the E7's.

    On this page are three examples of types of cars likely to show up from time to time in Badger and Gopher consists in later years. The 1120 (above), first of the 48-seat coaches built by Pullman Standard for the first streamlined Empire Builder in 1947, finished its revenue-service days painted in Big Sky Blue. Once the 1955-built Budd dome coaches were delivered to GN, the 48-seat flat-top coaches were scattered throughout the system. - Three photos: John H. Kuehl

    Built to the same floor plan as the 1120 above, but slightly different in exterior appearance, coach 1226 was originally delivered by P-S in 1950 for Western Star service. EMPIRE BUILDER lettering was applied at a later date. Note individual windows for each pair of seats; double windows for two pairs is the norm on most streamlined coaches.

    Coach 1210 was built by P-S in 1951 with 60 non-legrest seats, for short-haul passengers ("shorts" in railroad terminology) and a conductor's desk. Big Sky Blue paint job is relatively easy to do and a real eye-pleaser when completed. Brass Car Sides has a kit that represents this prototype.
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       The Badger and Gopher were usually short trains, which is one reason they would make good modeling projects. Motive power was usually a si gle E7, an E7/Geep combination or a pair of F-units. A streamlined RPO baggage car shows up in several photos we have seen of the two trains, buton occasion heavyweight RPO-bag gage cars in streamliner colors as well as straight streamlined baggage cars were known to have been used on the trains. General ly, two to three coaches was the norm, plus the parlor-buffet cars, which were dropped in the late 1960's.

       I'm sure more than one reader will agree that Great Northern had one of the finest streamliner paint schemes ever to be applied to railroad rolling stock, and certainly an all-Omaha Orange/Pullman Green/yellow train would look handsome on the layout or display shelf. The trend of the 1960's for many roads, however, was modernization - read, simplification - of paint schemes, and GN was no exception. In the late 1960's the road unveiled its "Big Sky Blue" paint scheme, and although this writer feels there was no contest with the old GN scheme, Big Sky Blue was not at all unattractive in its own right. Sure enough, not only did the Empire Builder receive the new garb, but all other GN trains as well, including our pair of animals. So if you like a lot of color in your models, consider modeling a late-1960's version of the Badger and Gopher when mixtures of paint schemes were the rule.

    Modeling the Gopher/Badger

       If you're a down-to-the-nitty gritty modeler, then you have some work ahead of you because not all the rolling stock is available "out of the box." HO scale E7's are readily available from Model Power, though not in the GN scheme. If you go the F7 route, consider Athearn, and although Athearn F7's are not available in GN colors, their EMD GP7's are. No doubt some of you will want to detail your locomotives, and in the case of the Geep you'll want to add the steam-generator appurtenances and roof-mounted air tanks.

       The streamlined 85-foot RPO-baggage poses a problem in that currently there is no exact model of this car. The International Hobby Corp. (AHM/Rivarossi) streamlined RPO-baggage is not really close, though their streamlined straight baggage car would be prototypical in that straight baggage cars did at times show up on the trains. Ambitious modelers might consider "scratchbashing" a streamlined RPO-baggage using the AHM baggage car: Blank out the baggage doors at one end with styrene and cut new postal-section doors and windows. (Note: Many years ago, the now- defunct American Beauty Lines Company produced a well-known series of smooth-side streamlined cars in kit form, and in many configurations - coaches, sleeper, observation cars, baggage cars and baggage-RPO's. Occasionally these cars will show up at model railroad flea markets, so keep that option in mind.)

    E7A 509 in the original paint scheme at St. Paul Union Depot Company's facility on the wye in St. Paul. Though GN found them to be less than satisfactory in Western mountain service, the E-units ran off millions of productive service-miles in the more than 20 years they spent running the flatlands on the east and west ends of the GN. - Photos: R.R. Wallin via Al Chione and collection of James Humbert

    A short Badger consist arriving St. Paul in March 1961. By now E7s were being repainted into a scheme nearly identical to that applied to GN's F-unit fleet. A look at a third green/orange scheme, the simplified version, appears on the cover of this issue. - Photo: Burdell L. Bulgrin

    Buffet-parlor 1083 Twin Cities and identical sister car 1084 Twin Ports saw a lot of interior and exterior change during their lifetimes. The Twin Cities, representative of both cars, appears here in its final form. Red Mars lights and two tail signs (one for each train) appeared on both ends of the cars from 1959 onward, eliminating the need to turn the cars at St. Paul and Duluth. Inside each car was a buffet, table seating for 10, and 26 luxurious reclining parlor seats. - Photo: Collection of J. David Ingles
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    Prototype Modeler - June 1986 - Page 44 width=
         

    EQUIPMENT LIST
    GN Gopher and Badger

         
      Locomotives: Model Power No. 909 (undec.) E7 (NOTE: Cary Locomotive Works also makes cast-metal E7 carbodies that can be used with the popular motor-drive chassis); Athearn No. 3225 (with flywheel; No. 3123 is without) undec. F7A; Athearn No. 3024 undec. F7B dummy; Athearn No. 3051 undec. or 3157 Great Northern GP9 dummy (dummy, assuming use with powered E7 or F7A).

    RPO-baggage and/or straight baggage: AHM No. 6407 undec.
    streamlined baggage car. A model of the type of streamlined RPO-baggage regularly used on these trains is currently not available in HO scale but could be "scratchbashed"; see text under "Modeling the Gopher/Badger" for additional information.

    Coaches: Models of the rebuilt
    heavyweights described in text currently are not available but could be scratchbashed; see text for additional information. Following is recommended for streamlined coaches; AHM No. 6404 (undec.) coach ; Con-Cor No. 701 (undec.) coach; Herkimer 80-foot stainless-steel coach (currently out of production but could still be located at some hobby shops or model railroad flea 

      markets); Brass Car Sides Empire Builder 48-seat coach or 60-seat coach or Chicago & North Western 56-seat coach-yes, C&NW because GN bought several C&NW coaches secondhand.

    Parlor car: Models of these cars are
    not commercially available (and because they were oddballs, it is unlikely one ever will be). Recommend kitbashing using AHM streamline coach on six-axle trucks.

    Decals: For locomotives-Champ EH-55 (for green/orange scheme) and/or EH-65 Empire Builder green/orange scheme), both for cab diesels; Champ EH-11 2 (for green/orange scheme) or EH-200 (for Big Sky Blue), both for hood locomotives; Microscale 87-45 (for green/orange scheme) for cab units and cabooses; Walters 52920 (for green/orange) for passenger diesels and/or 52770 (for Big Sky Blue) for diesels. For passenger cars - Champ PH-122 (yellow lettering for green/orange scheme) and/or PH-128 (white lettering and heralds for Big Sky Blue scheme); Microscale 87-153 (Empire Builder, yellow for green/orange scheme) and 87-544 for striping of same; Walthers 52810 (Empire Builder, yellow for green/orange scheme) and/or 52610 (yellow lettering for green/orange) general passenger and/or 52830 (white for Big Sky Blue scheme).

      Paint: For the orange in the classic green/orange scheme - Floquil No. 30 Reefer Orange or Scalecoat No. 46 Empire Builder Orange; for green Floquil No. 45 Pullman Green or Scalecoat No. 45 Empire Builder Green. For the white in the Big Sky Blue scheme - Floquil No. 11 Reefer White or Scalecoat No. 11 White; for the dark gray (roof and on one experimental version of Big Sky Blue, the top  letterboards - see photos) Floquil No. 38 GN Gray-Green or Scalecoat No. 33 UP Dark Gray; for the blue - Floquil No. 56 GN Big Sky Blue or Scalecoat No. 75 Conrail Blue.

    NOTES
    1 . The yellow in the green/orange scheme is in decal striping.

    2. Because everyone's perception of color is different and also because some colors do appear differently under certain lighting conditions, some modelers - particularly those who specialize in GN - may prefer colors other than those specified here. PM welcomes your commentary about color selection.

     

       If you plan to model the coaches that were rebuilt for Badger/Gopher service after World War II - the 56-seat Pullman-Standard cars of 1937 that were rebuilt into 50-seat semi-streamlined coaches - that will take some added initiative. Again, no models exist of these cars, and to come up with exact replicas you would have to build them virtually from scratch. That's certainly not out of the question: As you can see in the photo of the Gopher on the bridge at Holyoke, Minn., the cars have smooth sides, square-corner rectangular windows and streamlined roofs, which all makes for a relatively simple scratchbuild job (though cutting and filing the window openings could be tedious - I know from personal experience in scratchbuilding passenger equipment! Some of you, I'm sure, could devise a system of stamping out window openings in either sheet metal or styrene sides).

       Since these trains drew other coaches from GN's passenger car pool, an easier route - if you're looking for one - would be to use AHM streamlined coaches, which are reasonably close to GN prototype, or go with Brass Car Sides two versions (a 48-seat Pullman-Standard coach and a 60-seat American Car & Foundry coach) of GN streamlined coaches. These two, of course, are exact GN prototype. In addition, GN in the 1960's acquired several stainless-steel Pullman-Standard coaches secondhand from Frisco and Katy, cars easily represented by Con Cor coaches. These veterans of Texas Special and Meteor service frequented the Gopher and Badger - again, check the photo of the Gopher on the Holyoke bridge. The fourth car is one of these coaches.

       The parlor car allows a couple options. Parlor car service on the Badger was dropped fairly early - by or about 1960, and the Gopher lost its parlor car circa 1969 - so the parlor cars are hardly essential to modeling these trains. As I mentioned earlier, the cars regularly assigned to the service were also rebuilt from heavyweights. With their wide double windows typical of new streamlined cars, they would be relatively easy to model, perhaps by kitbashing an AHM streamlined coach - adding solarium end windows in the process - and exchanging four wheel trucks for the six-axle variety.

       Despite the popularity of the original GN scheme, very little model equipment is available painted in this scheme these days. You'll have to paint your own almost throughout, but fortunately GN colors and decals are available from several suppliers.

       For additional information on GN (and Amtrak) twin cities-twin ports rail passenger service, see the May 1985 issue of PASSENGER TRAIN JOURNAL, available at $3.50 postpaid from PTJ Publishing, P.O. Box 860, Homewood, IL 60430. The feature con tains several photos not included in this PM article that may prove helpful for modelers.

       And as always, we welcome any additional information or corrections pertaining to our ongoing Prototype Portfolio series, and readers are invited to contribute Portfolio modeling features of their own. They can be of prototype freight or passenger trains of virtually any era, accompanied by modeling information and a bill of materials.

    Article Details

    • Original Author MIKE SCHAFER
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date June 1986

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