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WEST...EAST...EQUIPMENT

000...000...Three Passenger Fs
000...000...St. Paul to Seattle (Westbound)
000...000...Seattle to Havre and Havre to St. Paul (Eastbound)

000...000...Baggage Car: Storage Mail
000...000...St. Paul to Spokane (Westbound)

000...000...Railway Post Office - Storage Mail Car
000...000...St. Paul - Seattle.

000...000...Baggage Car: Storage Mail
000...000...Chicago to Seattle (Westbound)
000...000...Seattle to St. Paul (Eastbound)
000...000...Note: Car did not depart Seattle on Saturdays or Sundays.

000...000...Baggage-Dormitory Car
000...000...Chicago - Seattle

100...200...Flat-top 60-seat Coach
100...200...Chicago - Seattle

102...202...Great Dome 46-Seat Coach
102...202...Chicago - Seattle

103...203...Great dome 46-Seat Coach
103...203...Chicago - Portland via Spokane

000...000...Ranch Coffee Shop - Dinette - Lounge Car
000...000...Chicago - Seattle

311...321...4-7-3-1 Sleeping Car (See Note)
311...321...Chicago - Portland via Spokane

033...000...16-4 Sleeping Car
033...000...Spokane to Seattle (Westbound)
Note: This car did not depart Spokane on Saturday nights.

315...325...4-7-3-1 Sleeping Car
315...325...Chicago - Seattle

000...000...Dining Car
000...000...Chicago - Seattle

000...000...Great Dome Lounge Car
000...000...Chicago - Seattle

316...326...6-5-2 Sleeping Car
316...326...Chicago - Seattle

317...327...6-4-1 Lounge - Observation Car
317...327...Chicago - Seattle

NOTE: The Great Northern alternated Lines 311 and 321, a 4-7-3-1 sleeping car, with Lines 312 and 322, a 6-5-2 sleeping car, depending upon the winter travel season being considered between 1955-1956 and 1959-1960.

During the 1955-1956 winter season the Great Northern decided to replace the Ranch Car in each consist with the remodeled Western Star's coffee shop-dinette-dormitory cars, Nos. 1140-1144 and 1148. This was done in order to provide coach and sleeping car passengers with lounge as well as meal service between Williston and Seattle on the consolidated Western Star-Fast Mail during the winter season. The Western Star's dining car and Mountain Series buffet-lounge-observation car were in the consist between St. Paul and Williston only in order to facilitate the consolidation west of Williston. However, Empire Builder coach passengers sent a barrage of letters to the Great Northern complaining about the loss of the Ranch Car. Suffice it to say that, following the 1955-1956 winter season, the Ranch Car was returned to the Empire Builder's consists, and it was not removed again during the winter season until the Big Sky Blue Era that began in 1967.

Effective with the April 29, 1956 timetable, the Empire Builder's train numbers were changed to trains 31 and 32 for its Chicago-Seattle runs on the Great Northern and the Burlington Route. All of the through sleeping car line numbers had the digit "3" added as shown in the table above in the 1958-1959 winter season consist.

During the 1959-1960 winter season the assigned consist reflected the decreasing passenger traffic pressures upon the Empire Builder. For the first time since its 1929 inauguration, the Empire Builder did not have an observation car. Lines 317 and 327 were withdrawn on February 14, 1960, and the consist was reduced to three coaches and three sleeping cars. Along with the observation car, the famous lighted square Empire Builder tail sign also disappeared. Only a portable red oscillating Mars light appeared on the tail gate of the Chicago-Seattle 6-5-2 sleeping car, Lines 316 and 326. The Coulee Series observation cars continued to be in the Empire Builder's consists during the summer travel season until 1967, however.

As the Empire Builder completed service during the decade of the 1950's, there were regressive trends emerging in the seasonal traffic statistics that trains 31 and 32 were accumulating. Operating costs were also increasing at a precipitous rate despite winter season on-train crew reductions along with car removals from the five consists. It was also difficult to project a positive future for the Empire Builder during the 1960's. (The Empire Builder's service during the decade of the 1960's leading up to the Burlington Northern Lines merger will be covered in a future Reference Sheet.)

Great Northern modelers have expressed frustration over the years with their attempts to model the "Incomparable Great Dome Empire Builder." Modeling it accurately as a transcontinental streamliner results in an extremely long train that overwhelms most modelers' layouts. However, if the modeler is willing to fantasize a bit, it is possible to construct a shorter Empire Builder that is historically accurate.

Assume that the layout centers in Spokane during the 1955-1959 period, and it is modeling the winter travel season. The Great Northern Empire Builder's westbound 12-car winter season consist was as follows between Spokane and Seattle during that period:

Three Passenger Fs
St. Paul-Seattle Railway Post Office-Storage Mail
Chicago to Seattle Storage Mail Car
Chicago-Seattle Baggage-Dormitory Car
Chicago-Seattle Flat-top 60-seat Coach
Chicago-Seattle Great Dome Coach
Chicago-Seattle Ranch Car
Spokane to Seattle 16-4 Sleeping Car
Chicago-Seattle 4-7-3-1 Sleeping Car
Chicago-Seattle Dining Car
Chicago-Seattle Great Dome Lounge Car
Chicago-Seattle 6-5-2 Sleeping Car
Chicago-Seattle 6-4-1 Lounge-Observation Car.