Radio historian Elizabeth McLeod

The Great Northern Railway Historical Society relies heavily on the volunteerism of its members. Over the years, many people in our society have generously contributed their time, effort, and skills for the benefit of us all. Several years ago, the GNRHS Board of Directors determined that it was appropriate to recognize many of these members who have provided noteworthy support to the society, and to all who will follow us, in preserving and promoting the legacy of the Great Northern Railway. One such award is the Rocky’s Award, the purpose of which is to recognize individuals who have made “substantial contributions to the delivery of services, new developments and functioning of the organization.”

The Directors recently voted unanimously to confer a GNRHS Rocky’s Award to someone who is not a member of the society, Elizabeth McLeod.


Until only a few years ago, there were just nine known recordings of the GN’s early radio advertising program, Empire Builders (see Reference Sheet #386). Then one of our members donated materials to the society which included several reel-to-reel tapes containing copies of those recordings, plus an additional 13 episodes. These tapes represent the only known copies of those recordings, and were said to have been dubbed from fragile aluminum air check discs back in the 1980s.

The society reached out to Elizabeth McLeod, who is a nationally-known expert in the field of early commercial radio in America. She is one of the few scholars who was already keenly aware of the Great Northern Railway’s rare air checks of the Empire Builders series. She also has the equipment, technical knowledge, and experience working with digital transcriptions of early radio recordings from various media. When asked for her advice on how to proceed with the task of preserving these rare treasures in digital form, Elizabeth generously volunteered her time and expertise to complete this project for the benefit of the society, and for posterity.

The Directors have presented Elizabeth with a Rocky’s Award, and conveyed the thanks of the Directors and the society. We are pleased to share this story with you, the membership.