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Out of the mountains and into the plains, GN's Empire Builder travels eastward on its way to the Twin Cities and Chicago after passing through the grandeur of the Cascade Range and Glacier National Park. GNRHS Archive photograph.


A trend toward meeting ever increasing passenger expectations was seen in the service being offered by competitive railroads, and in 1953 the Great Northern announced an order of dome cars for the Empire Builder. These dome cars became the last new passenger cars purchased by the Great Northern. Even though the Great Northern could be regarded as the "Johnny-Come-Lately" to the dome competition, when it decided to do so, it did so in grand style. Each of the five Empire Builders in service received three dome coaches and one full-length dome lounge car, and they were the only Northwest domeliners to have two differently styled domes in their consists. With these four dome cars, the Empire Builder offered 150 dome seats to its passengers, more by quite a few than offered by any of the competing domeliners; the Candian, the City of Portland, the North Coast Limited, the Olympian Hiawatha, and the Super Continental.

The coach domes were inaugurated into the consists on May 29, 1955 and the full-length dome lounge cars were placed in service during the following October. The dome coaches and the full-length dome lounge cars were named "Great Domes" by the Great Northern, which described the 1955 Empire Builder in an information brochure, as follows:

"Today's modern fleet of five Great Dome streamliners whisks across the top of the nation daily, offering the utmost in luxurious accommodations at standard fares. Rediscover the joys of train travel. Go Great...Go Great Northern's Incomparable Great Dome Empire Builder."

Some authors who have written about this 1955 edition of the Empire Builder have ascribed "Great Dome" to the full-length lounge cars only. This implication is incorrect as the Great Northern, from the day they entered service, had named these cars "Great Dome Coaches" and "Great Dome Lounge Cars", and always referred to this latest edition as the "Incomparable Great Dome Empire Builder".

With the inclusion of the full-length Great Dome Lounge Cars, each of the five consists of the Empire Builder was assigned the following locomotives and cars. Included are the line numbers assigned to those cars that provided reserved coach seats and sleeping car accommodations. Cars without line numbers (000) did not contain reserved spaces.