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  • Photo Roster: Great Northern Railway - Part 1

    Great Northern's S-class Northerns were impressive locomotives, as attested by this near-broadside view of S-1 2551 at Fargo, N. Dak., in September 1954. GN had six S-1's and 14 S-2's, used in passenger and fast-freight service. - Photo: Charles Felstead, collection of William A. Raia
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       Why would a guy from Texas be interested in the Great located Northern Railway, located more than a thousand miles to the north? Well, my wife came from St. Cloud, Minn., so while making visits to the area to see in-laws and outlaws, I began to look around at the railroads. I found the Great Northern and Northern Pacific. The more I learned about GN, the more I could see why it has always been a popular railroad among modelers and railfans. Its popularity has been enhanced by the large number of brass GN steam locomotives that have been imported. Let me tell you some reasons why I believe GN is so popular.

       One of the first things that comes to mind are the neat steam engines used by GN. Early in its history, the line decided to use Belpaire fireboxes on their locomotives. All engines built for GN since 1891, with the exception of three classes (S-1 4-8-4's, 0-3 2-8-2's and Z-6 4-6-6-4's), have had Belpaire fireboxes. Also, there were a few engines without these fireboxes obtained from some small railroads that GN purchased. The Pennsylvania was the only other railroad that used large numbers of steam engines with Belpaire fireboxes. In addition to this distinctive feature, GN used a colorful paint scheme on many of their engines, sometimes called the Glacier Park scheme. The exact colors used have been debated for years by experts on GN and almost everyone has his own concept of the exact colors. It appears that different shops used slightly different variations of this scheme over the years. This scheme was not frequently used after 1942, but I believe I have seen a photo of an engine painted with this scheme circa 1950. Basically, the scheme consisted of a green boiler, black domes, cab, tender and in some cases green cylinders with polished cylinder heads.

       GN was a very frugal road and in many cases rebuilt old cars and engines into more modern equipment instead of purchasing new items. Examples of this were the two major rebuilds of the class N 2-8-8-0's, building heavy 2-8-2's from old 2-6-6-2's, building 21 0-2's from poor-running 4-8-2's, etc.

       GN electrified a 71-mile portion of their main line in the Cascades and owned an electric interurban line in Washington. Even on the diesel roster they had some unusual engines such as an early diesel built in 1926, several of the rare NW5's and the only NW3's built. Add to this the Alco heaven on the West Coast. GN diesels were first painted in an attractive scheme of green and orange separated with yellow stripes (the Empire Builder colors). Later, a nice paint scheme of blue, black and white was applied to a number of engines (the Big Sky scheme).

    The fireman of Class A-9 No. 7 strikes a classic pose with his 0-6-0 at Duluth, Minn., in August 1936. Baldwin built the 7 in 1907 and it was scrapped in 1940. Note the older-style herald on the tank.
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    Great Northern Steam Roster

      1-26 27 A-9 0-6-0 Baldwin, GN, Rogers 1903-1912 19x26 49"
      30-31 2 A-11 0-6-0 Lima 1916 20x24 49"
      49-57 9 A-9 0-6-0 Baldwin, GN, Rogers 1903-1912 19x26 49"
      73-94 22 A-9 0-6-0 Baldwin, GN, Rogers 1903-1912 19x26 49"
      95-99 5 A-10 0-6-0 Brooks 1898, 1900 19x26 49"
      125-132 8 B-15 4-4-0 Schenectady 1882 17x24 63"
      145-149 5 B-17 4-4-0 Grant 1882 17x24 63"
      152-186 35 B-19 4-4-0 Brooks 1882-1883 17x24 63"
      188-196 9 B-9 4-4-0 Pittsburgh 1881 17x24 63"
      197-206 10 B-20 4-4-0 Rhode Island 1882-1883 18x24 63"
      207-225 19 B-21 4-4-0 Rogers 1887 18x24 63"
      380-399 20 A-9 0-6-0 Baldwin, GN, Rogers 1903-1912 19x26 49"
      450-476 27 D-5 2-6-0 Brooks 1897 19x26 55"
      500-565 66 F-1 4-8-0 Brooks 1892 19x26 55"
      600-615 16 G-1 4-8-0 Brooks 1891 20x24 55"
      720-769 50 G-3 4-8-0 Rogers 1899-1900 19x32 55"
      770-779 10 G-4 2-8-0 Brooks 1900 19x32 55"
      780-790 11 C-4 2-8-0 GN(rebuilt from F-8) 1926-1930 20x32 55"
      810-849 40 C-1 2-8-0 Baldwin 1918-1919 26x28 55"
      850-869 20 C-2 2-8-0 GN(rebuilt from F-6) 1925-1927 21x32 55"
      870-873 4 C-5 2-8-0 GN(rebuilt from F-5) 1929-1930 20x32 55"
      875-899 26 C-3 2-8-0 GN(rebuilt from F-9) 1925-1927 21x32 55"
      925-933 9 E-6 4-6-0 Rogers 1902 19x26 63"
      948-949 2 E-13 4-6-0 Baldwin 1893,1896 19x24 55"
      970-971 2 E-12 4-6-0 Baldwin 1897 19x24 55"
      1073-1092 20 E-15 4-6-0 Baldwin 1910 22x28 73"
      1095-1099 5 F-4 2-8-0 Rogers  1901 20x32 55"
      1100-1109 10 F-5 2-8-0 Rogers 1901 20x32 55"
      1130-1139 10 F-7 2-8-0 Cooke 1901 20x32 55"
      1140-1264 125 F-8 2-8-0 Rogers, Baldwin  1901-1903 20x32 55"
      1326-1327 2 F-12 2-8-0 Brooks 1907 21x28 52"
      1350-1374 25 H-5 4-6-2 GN(rebuilt from E-14) 1921-1927 23½X30 73"
      1375-1384 10 H-7 4-6-2 GN(rebuilt from E-14)  1926-1927 23½X30 73"
      1406-1490 85 H-2 4-6-2 Baldwin 1906-1907 22x30 69"
      1441-1485 45 H-4 4-6-2 Baldwin, Lima  1909,1914 23½X30 73"
      1700-1709 10 K-1 4-6-2 Baldwin 1906 21x26 73"
      1710-1724 15 H-6 4-6-2 GN(rebuilt from J-1, J-2) 1921-1927 23½X30 69"
      1950-1984 35 M-2 2-6-8-0 Baldwin 1909-1910 20x32, 23½X32 55"
      2000-2024 25 N-3 2-8-8-0 Baldwin 1912 22x32, 22x32 63"
      2030-2043 14 R-1 2-8-8-2 Baldwin, GN 1925,1928 28x32, 28x32 63"
      2044-2059 16 R-2 2-8-8-2 GN 1929-1930 28x32, 28x32 63"
      2100-2109 10 Q-1 2-10-2 Baldwin 1923 31x32 63"
      2175-2189 15 Q-2 2-10-2 GN(rebuilt from P-1) 1928 29x32 63"
      2500-2527 28 P-2 4-8-2 Baldwin 1923 29x28 73"
      2550-2555 6 S-1 4-8-4 Baldwin 1929 28x32 73"
      2575-2588 14 S-2 4-8-4 Baldwin 1930 28x29 80"
      3000-3144 145 0-1 2-8-2 Baldwin  1911-1919  28x32 63"
      3149 1 0-2 2-8-2 Brooks 1915 20x28 52"
      3200-3208 9 0-3 2-8-2 Schenectady/Brooks 1919-1920 27x32 63"
      3210-3254 45 0-4 2-8-2 Baldwin 1920 28x32 63"
      3300-3344 45 0-5 2-8-2 GN(rebuilt from L-2) 1922-1925 25x30 63"
      3350-3371 22 0-6 2-8-2 GN(rebuilt from L-1) 1925-1926 28x32 63"
      3375-3395 21 0-7 2-8-2 GN(rebuilt from M-2) 1929-1930 31x32 69"
      3396-3399 4 0-8 2-8-2 GN 1932 28x32 69"
      4000-4001 2 Z-6 4-6-6-4 Alco 1937 23x32, 23x32 69"

    1. The following classes of engines were equipped with radial-stay fireboxes: A-11, B-9, B-15, B-17, B-19, B-20, 8-21, 0-2, 0-3, P-2, S-2 and Z-6.
    2 . Class M-2 2-6-8-0's were rebuilt in the 1920's. Class N-3 2-8-8-0's were rebuilt in the 1920's and again in the 1940's. Class 0-7 2-8-2's (originally rebuilt from M-2 2-6-8-0's) were later rebuilt to class 0-8 specs.

    Class B-194-4-0 No. 183 was built by Brooks in 1883. It was rebuilt with a new boiler in 1914 and scrapped in 1939. Here it pauses between assignments at Devils Lake, Minn., in 1934.

    (Above) Number 511 was from Class F-1, built by Brooks in 1892. In 1947 it was renumbered to 523 and scrapped in 1949 after 57 years of service. This is a 1934 view. (Below) GN was among a handful of roads owning 4-8-0's. They had about 105 of them in six classes, and No. 726 was from the largest, G-3. Built by Rogers in 1899, it was scrapped in 1950, two years after this photo was taken at Minneapolis.
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    (Above) Class C-4 No. 780 at St. Cloud, Minn., in July 1938 had an interesting history: It started as Class F-8 No. 1254 in 1907; in 1910 a boiler extension from Baldwin was added to make the front engine of the first Class M-2 (2-6-8-0)-the 2000 (see page 18). In 1912 it was renumbered 1999, but in 1926 it was rebuilt into an 0-8-0! It was finally scrapped in 1947.

    (Below) The 970 was built as Spokane Falls & Northern No. 11 in 1897; that road was purchased by GN in 1907. Note the large oil bunker in the tender and the radial-stay firebox. - Photo: W.C. Whitaker

    One of GN's larger classes were the F-8 2-8-0's. They were built by three builders between 1901 and 1907 and many were not scrapped until 1952. The 1143 was built by Rogers in 1902 and scrapped in 1939; it is shown at Superior, Wis., in 1938.
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    A number of GN Pacifics were rebuilt from 4-6-0's and 2-6-2's in the 1920's. The 1362 is an H-5 that began life as Class E-14 No. 1010 (Baldwin, 1909). In 1926 it was rebuilt by GN to this slender-boilered 4-6-2 shown at Spokane in 1947; it was scrapped in 1951.

    (Above) The 1381 looks like a rakish race horse. It is a member of the H-7 class and was rebuilt from E-14-class 4-6-0 No. 1039 in 1926. It is shown at St. Paul in 1948 and lasted until 1955.

    (Below) GN had a large number of 2-6-2's in the J-class. The J-1's were built by Baldwin in 1906 and were all off the roster by 1936; also Baldwin-built, the J-2's were outshopped in 1907 and off the roster by 1936 as well. J-1 1506 is at St. Cloud in 1934. Fourteen J's were built into 4-6-2's in the 1920's.
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    GN had only ten Atlantics, which began as compounds in 1906. They were all rebuilt into simple engines and remained on the roster until the 1940's. Note 1700's slanted cylinders and the pilot truck with one solid wheel set and one spoked. Shown here at St. Paul in 1938, the 1700 was scrapped three years later.

    L-1 No. 1800, here in a builder's photo, was the first articulated on the GN and one of the first built in this country. In the mid-1920's all Class L locomotives were rebuilt into 2-8-2's.

    Tender full and ready to go: M-2-class 2-6-8-0 No. 1963 is at Kelly Lake, Minn., in April 1949. The 1963 and its 34 sisters were built by Baldwin i n 1909-1910.
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    Class Q-2 No. 2178 began as Class P-1 4-8-2 No. 1761, which was built by Lima Locomotives Works in 1914. It was rebuilt into its final form as seen here at Grand Forks, N. Dak., in August 1956; it was scrapped in 1958.

    (Above)P-2-class 4-8-2 2505 is at Fargo, N. Oak., i n November 1955. It and 27 sisters were built in 1923 by Baldwin. - Photo: Charles Felstead, collection of William A. Raia

    (Below) The 14 engines in Class S-2 were built by Baldwin in 1930. Their 80-inch drivers made them ideal for fast passenger schedules. The dual air pumps on the smokebox front, slanted cab front and large Vanderbilt tender are typical of the way these locomotives appeared in their later years. The 2579 is at St. Paul in May 1948.
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    Continuing the saga of GN's vast assortment of Mikados: Class 0-4 3244 (above), here under steam at Fargo in 1954, was built by Baldwin in 1920.

    (Below)Class 0-6 No. 3363 was rebuilt from an L-1 class in the mid-1920's. - Both photos, Charles Felstead, collection of William A. Raia

    Only two Z-class 4-6-6-4's, Nos. 4000 and 4001, roamed GN rails, Alco turned out these two mammoths - GN's largest steam locomotives - in 1937 for GN subsidiary Spokane, Portland & Seattle. In this 1941 view, the 4001 (ex-SP&S 904) is in SP&S territory at Wishram, Wash.
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       As with most railroads, traffic and terrain played a major role in the development of the locomotive roster. Let's examine how these factors affected the engines used on GN. Early in this century GN built lines in northern Minnesota so it could haul iron ore from the Mesabi Range to the trans-shipment facilities located at Superior, Wis., on Lake Superior. For this traffic, heavy 2-8-2's and 0-8-0's were used for mine runs and switching, while 2-8-8-0's and 2-6-8-0's were used for the runs to port. West of the Twin Cities GN traversed the northern portion of the Great Plains. Here it was desired to run fast trains, even for freight. Mikados were well-suited for this service and GN developed the classic O-8-class engines that were probably the heaviest, most powerful and best of that wheel arrangement ever built. In the mountains, articulateds were used to pull trains. GN was one of the first roads to use articulateds with the purchase of 2-6-6-2's in 1906. In all, GN owned about 160 articulateds in five different wheel arrangements. To cross the Cascade mountain range, GN built the Cascade Tunnel, the longest in the world for a number of years. To combat exhaust fumes in the tunnel, GN electrified 71 miles of of mainline track in this area.

       GN played a most significant role in developing Glacier National Park and this park was extensively advertised by GN with slogans painted on freight cars. From about 1920 until merger into the Burlington Northern, the mountain goat was used as a symbol for GN. GN ran some of the best passenger trains in the country with the Empire Builder being the flagship for many years.

       In addition to the iron ore mentioned earlier, GN hauled agricultural products from the farm belt in the upper Midwest, forest products from several areas and apples from Washington.

       Just as with most early railroads, GN at one time had a large roster of 4-4-0's. Most of these were gone by 1930, but a few lasted into the 1940's. Unlike many granger roads, GN had only a token number of Moguls, and most were removed early with only one making it into the 1940's. A number of 2-6-2's were on the roster, but most of these were rebuilt into 4-6-2's by the middle 1920's. Most of the 4-6-0's were scrapped by 1935, but a few lasted into the late 1940's. A number of them were rebuilt into Pacifics in the 1920's. Several classes of low-drivered 2-8-0's were on the roster for years, many of which were used for switching duties. The relatively uncommon 4-8-0 was used by GN, but only a few survived into the 1940's.

       For many years a large fleet of Pacifics handled passenger service. These were assisted by two classes of 4-8-2's, the first of which was rebuilt into 2-10-2's. The second class, P-2, had a radial stay firebox and was an excellent engine that lasted until the end of steam. Two classes of powerful Northerns were built by GN. The second class, S2, had radial-stay fireboxes. These engines were used mostly for passenger service, but were used for fast freight toward the end of steam operations.

       The mainstay for freight was eight classes of Mikados, total of 293 engines. Drag freight was pulled by two classes of slow, powerful 2-10-2's. For mountain service GN developed two classes of modern, powerful 2-8-8-2's. On the iron range, 2-8-8-0's were used with some assistance from the smaller, unusual 2-6-8-0's. During the 1920's the 2-6-6-2's were rebuilt into 2-8-2's.

       GN had a small group of 0-6-0's for switching, but these were phased out fairly early in favor of larger, more powerful 0-8-0's. GN had a large number of these engines, split into five classes, four of which were rebuilds from old 2-8-0's.

       A number of books have been written about the Great Northern and various aspects of it have been covered in numerous magazine articles. I have prepared a list of references that I am aware of on GN, should you wish to find out more about this fine railroad. The Great Northern Historical Society is very active and is one of the best railroad historical societies. If you are interested in GN, joining the society is a must. More detailed articles on GN's A-9 0-6-0's, Class B 4-4-0's and 0-3 2-8-2's have been published in earlier issues of PROTOTYPE MODELER.

    GN Reference List


    LINES WEST, Wood

    R&LHS, Railroad History No. 143, Locomotive roster of the GN



    Editor's Note: Part Two of the GN PhotoRoster - featuring diesel power will appear in the next PM.

    Article Details

    • Original Author CYRIL DURRENBERGER
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date December 1986

    Article Album (1 photo)

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