Why was Great Falls important to GN?
The GNRHS holds its annual convention every year in July at an "online ex-GN city". Locations alternate every year between a western location and an eastern location. Everything west of Havre, MT was considered "Lines West" and east of there considered "Lines East".
Great Falls lies at the center of an "X" with ex-GN lines leading off in four directions: Northwest to Shelby, MT and the "Hi-Line"; Northeast to Havre, MT and the "Hi-Line"; Southeast to Laurel/Billings, MT; and Southwest to Helena and Butte, MT.
In its heyday, Great Falls was an important point on the GN system. Located roughly in the center of Montana, Great Falls processed raw ore brought up from "the richest hill on earth" at Butte and nearby Anaconda. Processing of the ore was made possible by the cheap, hydroelectric power available along the Great Falls of the Missouri. Great Falls was also a collection point for local grain traffic in the area.
While Great Northern's flagship train, "The Empire Builder" bypassed Great Falls to the north, the line's secondary train, "The Western Star" headed south from near Havre to Great Falls and then rejoined the GN "Hi-Line" at Shelby, MT giving the town a direct connection with a Chicago to Seattle transcontinental train.
Great Falls was also home to a large trucking company owned by the GN named, "Motor Freight Division" which served much of the state of Montana.