Up Frequent Questions GNRHS Staff Reference Sheets Modeling Conventions Research & Archives Empire Builder Links GNRHS Store What's New? Contact GNRHS




Page 4

The Great Dome Lounge cars, named in the View Series, were very beautiful cars with an interior decor that was startling to a first-time viewer. The upstairs full-length dome area provided 57 sofa seats angled for better viewing and 21 lounge seats in the Top Deck Lounge that was located at the rear of the dome area. One very pleasant way to enjoy the passing scenery was to order a refreshment from the car's attendant and watch the view in the Top Deck Lounge. The table tops had indirect lighting that softly illuminated their inlaid designs. Even at night with the main lights out, this area was an enjoyable spot to watch the trip's miles pass by in the moonlight, with lots of stars visible overhead and the green signals changing to red as the Empire Builder rushed past.

The Lower Level Club-Lounge of the Great Dome Lounge Car provided an informal Western atmosphere with a beverage bar and 32 sofa and lounge seats at tables plus a writing desk and chair. The beautiful decor included multi-colored carvings and etched glass totem pole panels derived from Pacific Northwest Native American art. This Club-Lounge was the place to be to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail, and it was very popular with business travelers as well as vacationers. Other than wine with dinner, the dining car did not serve alcoholic beverages so that the dinner reservation system was not hampered by guests who lingered. With the Great Dome Lounge Car right behind the dining car, sleeping car passengers had their pre-dinner cocktails and after-dinner cordials in the Lower Level Club-Lounge or the Top Deck Lounge.

Without a doubt, the best place for viewing the sights was in one of the Great Domes as the Empire Builder hustled along the Mississippi River Palisades, cruised through the Rocky Mountains and Glacier National Park, and snaked its way along Puget Sound between Everett and Seattle. The Great Domes were also excellent places to observe Great Northern and Burlington Route train operations. Passengers were always fascinated with the signal lights changing and with the Empire Builder meeting or overlapping freight trains in the sidings as it raced along on single-tracked main line or passing, at speed, opposing passenger and freight trains on double track.

This is the type of scenery which could be enjoyed in comfort from the new domes of the 1955 Empire Builder. The GN publicized this new travel amenity with relish.

Other consist changes were made when the Great Domes came. The Mountain Series observation cars and one of the Chicago-Seattle Pass Series 6-5-2 sleeping cars were replaced by the Great Dome Lounge Cars and the Coulee Series six roomette-four double bedroom-one compartment-lounge-observation cars. The Coulee Series 6-4-1 lounge-observation cars were remodeled 1947-edition River Series two double bedroom-one drawing room-buffet-lounge-observation cars that retained their equipment car numbers. This remodeling took place during the 1955 summer months. The floor plan was somewhat unorthodox in that starting from the vestibule end of the car one found the existing porter's room, the rear brakeman (flagman) seat, and the two existing double bedrooms, followed by a new double bedroom, a new compartment, and a second new double bedroom. Then came the six new roomettes, three on each side of the car, and the hallway in between that opened up into the lounge. This small room had a lounge chair in each corner, a four-seat diagonal table arrangement in the center, and a three-person sofa that faced backward toward the observation windows and rear door. This door carried the lighted square Empire Builder tail sign on its outside lower panel.

Many appraised the 1955 Empire Builder with its 150 non-reserved dome seats, distinctive Ranch Car, exquisite dining car, unique Great Dome Lounge Car and Great Dome Coaches, and variety of sleeping car accommodations as "the most beautiful passenger train in the nation!" When "The Incomparable Great Dome Empire Builder" was compared to the competition, even though its arrival on the scene was tardy, it is easy to understand the Great Northern's contention that its Empire Builder was still number one and incomparable.

With the introduction of the Great Dome Coaches on the Empire Builder in 1955 the revenue reserved coach capacity was reduced to 192 passengers. The revenue sleeping car accommodations capacity with the inclusion of the Coulee Series 6-4-1 observation car in place of a Pass Series 6-5-2 sleeping car was also revised to 12 lower berths, 12 upper berths, 19 duplex roomettes, 18 roomettes, 23 double bedrooms, and eight compartments. This sleeping car accommodations capacity did not include the Spokane to Seattle 16 duplex roomettes and four double bedrooms.