A lot of photos, documents and artifacts of the Great Northern Railway have been preserved in archives and museums around the country. For both historians and modelers they offer a great resource for researching the GN and its subsidiaries.
For researchers the GNRHS Archives have historic documents and photos available on a wide range of subjects covering the Great Northern. A large part of the information is accesible via the joint GN-NP Archives website, but researchers can also visit the Archives or ask our Archives staff to search for materials.
GNRHS and NPRHA jointly operate large archival facilities in St. Paul, MN and Burien, WA. For years volunteer crews have been painstakingly cataloging hundreds of thousands of documents, drawings, photos and artifacts. Indexes and scans of some of these materials are available on the web at www.gn-npjointarchive.org.
You'll find so far:
- an index to nearly 100,000 GN AFE (Authorization for Expenditure) capital project records in searchable/sortable form.
- 9,600 structure drawings (mostly GN, NP and SP&S) from the BN Aperture Card collection.
- 4,323 station plat maps
- an index to 24,435 bridge/building drawings
- almost 8,000 photos of trains, equipment and structures from various collections
- dispatcher train sheets from the GN Cascade Division and NP Tacoma Division
This project is built on years of efforts by dozens of people, including everyone who's ever donated materials or archived, scanned, catalogued, remodeled, or otherwise helped preserve the railroads' historical materials. The technology's role here is simply to "bring that work to light" – to make it broadly available to members, researchers and the public worldwide. "Thank you" to all involved.
The Joint Archives physically reside at Jackson Street Roundhouse in St. Paul, MN and the Pacific Northwest Railroad Archive in Burien, WA, and comprise hundreds of thousands of files, drawings, books, photos and physical artifacts. These items are old, often delicate, and irreplaceable, so both locations are “closed-stack libraries” and visits require an advance appointment. All serious researchers are welcome; preference is given to NPRHA & GNRHS members.
Higher-resolution electronic versions of our online materials are often available, and scanning services are available for material not online. Please refer to our Archive and Publications Special Use Policy.
Do you or someone you know have materials we should be preserving for prosperity? Please consider donating to the Archives.
We regret that we cannot answer your questions on relatives who worked for the Great Northern Railway. We have no GN or NP employee records, but have created a genealogy resource page to assist your search.
The Minnesota Historical Society has a wealth of information on the Great Northern Railway including an enormous collection of official GN documents, with excellent finding aids here. They also maintain the Hill Family papers. Their address is: 345 Kellogg Boulevard West, Saint Paul, MN 55102-1906. Phone 651-259-3000 or 800-657-3773. Phone ahead or check their website for hours, they are typically closed on Mondays.
The late Max Ulver built a database of libraries, museums and historical societies which have Great Northern related resources available. Look for it on our Other GN Resources page.
For inquiries about property records, it is best to contact the successor to Great Northern, the BNSF Railway directly.