North Coast Limited

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North Coast Limited
2301 mi
3703 km
Portland Union Station
Columbia River
Bridge
Oregon
Washington
border
2291 mi
3687 km
Vancouver
2247 mi
3616 km
Stevenson
2225 mi
3581 km
Bingen-White Salmon
2195 mi
3533 km
Wishram
to Portland via SP&S
2319 mi
3732 km
Seattle
King Street Station
2296 mi
3695 km
Auburn Bus interchange Tacoma
Stampede Pass Tunnel
2195 mi
3533 km
Ellensburg
2158 mi
3473 km
Yakima
2069 mi
3330 km
Pasco
1923 mi
3095 km
Spokane
Washington
Idaho
border
Idaho
Montana
border
Pacific Time
Mountain Time
1736 mi
2794 km
Paradise
1665 mi
2680 km
Missoula
1597 mi
2570 km
Garrison Bus interchange Helena
1545 mi
2486 km
Butte
1474 mi
2372 km
Logan Bus interchange Helena
1450 mi
2334 km
Bozeman
Bozeman Pass Tunnel
1425 mi
2293 km
Livingston Bus interchange Gardiner
1310 mi
2108 km
Billings
1208 mi
1944 km
Forsyth
1163 mi
1872 km
Miles City
1084 mi
1745 km
Glendive
Montana
North Dakota
border
979 mi
1576 km
Dickinson
878 mi
1413 km
Mandan
Missouri River
Mountain Time
Central Time
873 mi
1405 km
Bismarck
771 mi
1241 km
Jamestown
679 mi
1093 km
Fargo
North Dakota
Minnesota
border
568 mi
914 km
Staples
to Duluth/Superior
via NP trains 57/58)
438 mi
705 km
Minneapolis
Northern Pacific
Chicago Burlington & Quincy
427 mi
687 km
St. Paul (Union Depot) Mainline rail interchange
Minnesota
Wisconsin
border
326 mi
525 km
Winona Junction Bus interchange Winona
297 mi
478 km
La Crosse
239 mi
385 km
Prairie du Chien
Wisconsin
Illinois
border
184 mi
296 km
East Dubuque Bus interchange Dubuque
38 mi
61 km
Aurora
0 Chicago Union Station Mainline rail interchange
North Coast Limited 1900.
A sugar replica of the train complete with working lights was made by the railway's head pastry chef circa 1912. The candy train was displayed at various points along the Northern Pacific.

The North Coast Limited was a named passenger train operated by the Northern Pacific Railway between Chicago and Seattle via Bismarck, North Dakota. It started on April 29, 1900, was a Burlington Northern Railroad train after the merger on March 2, 1970 with Great Northern Railway and Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, and ceased operation the day before Amtrak began service (May 1, 1971). After 1918 the Chicago to St. Paul leg of the route was on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad along its Mississippi River line through Wisconsin. The train had a Portland section which split off the Seattle section at Pasco, Washington and ran over NP subsidiary Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway between Pasco and Portland.

For much of its history the North Coast Limited was noted for its dining car service.

Heavyweight North Coast Limited[edit]

1901 Timetable front and pages.
The train and route in 1911.
Postcard ad for the train circa 1910s.

Inaugurated on April 29, 1900, between St.Paul, Minnesota, and Puget Sound, the Northern Pacific's North Coast Limited started as a summer-only service but expanded to a year-round daily train in 1902. The North Coast Limited then ran as Number 1 westbound and Number 2 eastbound.

In 1909 the train received new heavyweight cars built by Pullman-Standard and added a Portland section which operated via the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway between Spokane, Washington and Portland, Oregon. The railroad began its through train service between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest on May 23, 1909, announcing it in newspaper ads.[1]

On December 17, 1911 service was extended to Chicago over the Chicago and North Western Railway. In 1918 the route east of St Paul became the Mississippi River line of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, which ran to Chicago's Union Station instead of Northwestern Station.

In summer 1926 the schedule for 2331 miles between Chicago and Seattle was 70 hr 25 min westward and 69 hr 55 min eastward. In June 1929 the fastest trains on NP, GN and the Milwaukee started running on a 63-hour westward schedule and 61-1/4 hours eastward, still with no extra fare.

On May 14, 1930 the North Coast Limited got new heavyweight steel cars. The new trains had brass windows, barber and valet services, a barber shop, separate bath and shower facilities for men and women, a soda fountain and radios on board. Parlor cars were added for the daylight portions of the run, so the train lost its all-Pullman status and never regained it. By 1937 most cars were air conditioned; in 1942 the lounge observation cars with open platforms were replaced by buffet solarium sleepers. By that time the train had added cheap tourist sleepers and coaches.

The re-equipped train in 1930[edit]

The Streamlined Vista-Dome North Coast Limited[edit]

As a streamliner in the old paint scheme.
As the Vista-Dome North Coast Limited, with its onboard stewardess-nurse.
The North Coast Limited observation car at Union Station (Chicago) in 1963.

In 1946 the Northern Pacific board of directors authorized the purchase of new streamlined equipment for the railroad, beginning with the North Coast Limited. The new train began service in 1948; the crew included a stewardess who was a registered nurse.

In summer 1950 train 1 left Chicago at 2300 CST and took 58 hr 30 min to Seattle; it was NP's only through train. In November 1952 it was speeded up to match the competition, leaving Chicago at 1130 and taking 46 hr 30 min to Seattle. The North Coast then became trains 25 and 26; numbers 1 and 2 were given to a secondary Chicago-Seattle train, the Mainstreeter, that took its name from the Northern Pacific advertising slogan "Main Street of the Northwest."

Until 1954 the North Coast was painted in the “Pine Tree” or "Streamline" scheme: grey roof, dark green letterboards, light green windowband and dark green lower sides with black trucks. The train's more famous two-tone green paint scheme which was added in 1954 and Lewis and Clark-themed interiors of the Traveller’s Rest Tavern car added in 1955 were designed by Raymond Loewy. The train now had a green roof, letterboards and windowband, a thin white line below the window band and pale mint green lower sides with black trucks; most car names were replaced with numbers.

In 1954 the Northern Pacific introduced the dome car to the consist and renamed their flagship train "The Vista-Dome North Coast Limited." There were two dome coaches and two dome sleepers (all built by Budd) in each train. The dome sleepers had four roomettes in the short end, four double bedrooms in the long end, and four single bedrooms underneath the dome. Each car had 24 unreserved seats in the dome upstairs. The Northern Pacific placed at least one flat-topped car between each dome car to give passengers the best view.

In 1967 the observation lounge cars were discontinued, but the sleeping car passengers could still enjoy lounge atmosphere in the dome sleepers, since below the dome two of the four single bedrooms were replaced with a buffet, and 24 lounge table seats were installed on the dome level, which made Northern Pacific advertise the rebuilt dome sleepers as “Lounge in the Sky.”

The scenic route went west across northern Illinois to the Mississippi River at Savanna, Illinois and then followed the Mississippi through La Crosse, Wisconsin, St. Paul, and Minneapolis in Minnesota as far as Little Falls, Minnesota. North Dakota cities served include Fargo, Bismarck, and Dickinson. Crossing Montana, the train passed through Glendive, Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Butte, and Missoula. After passing though Sandpoint, the train made stops at Spokane, Pasco, Yakima, and East Auburn (a stop for connecting service to Tacoma) before terminating at King Street Station in Seattle.

Declining ridership and continuing red ink led the train to be jointly operated with the Great Northern's Empire Builder between Chicago and Minneapolis. By late 1967 the combination was joined by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy's Twin Cities Zephyr. The eastbound North Coast Limited/Empire Builder was combined with the Morning Zephyr, while the westbound train combined with the Afternoon Zephyr.[2]:151

The Burlington Northern Railroad was the March 1970 merger of NP, GN, CB&Q, and the SP&S, and the North Coast Limited ran combined with its former rival Empire Builder between Chicago and Minneapolis, between Spokane and Portland and between Spokane and Seattle. The original train ceased operation with the Amtrak takeover. The last train operated on April 30, 1971, seventy-one years and one day after the inaugural.

A Westbound Consist for NP Train 25, the NORTH COAST LIMITED, from the May 27, 1962 NP System Public Timetable

Applied for the main NP route from St. Paul, MN to Pasco, WA. The train split at Pasco, WA into Seattle, WA and Portland, OR sections)

  1. Baggage (for Seattle)
  2. Mail Dormitory (for Seattle)
  3. Dome Coach Car 250 (for Seattle)
  4. Coach Car 251 (for Seattle)
  5. Coach Car 254 (for Seattle)
  6. Coach Car 253 (for Portland)
  7. Dome Coach Car 252 (for Portland)
  8. “Lewis & Clark Traveller’s Rest” Buffet-lounge car (for Seattle)
  9. Diner (for Seattle)
  10. Dome Sleeper Car 256 4 Double Berooms, 4 Duplex Single Rooms, 4 Roomettes (rebuilt to Dome Lounge Sleepers “Lounge in the Sky” in 1967—car always for Seattle)
  11. Sleeper Car 258 8 Duplex Roomettes, 6 Roomettes, 4 Double Bedrooms (for Seattle)
  12. Sleeper Car 257 8 Duplex Roomettes, 6 Roomettes, 4 Double Bedrooms (for Portland)
  13. Dome Sleeper Car 258 4 Double Berooms, 4 Duplex Single Rooms, 4 Roomettes (for Seattle)
  14. Sleeper Lounge Observation Car 259 4 Double Bedrooms, 1 Compartment (for Seattle—discontinued after 1967)

At Pasco, the Portland cars were switched onto SP&S Train 1, which also carried through equipment from Spokane to Portland from the Great Northern Railway’s Empire Builder. SP&S Train 1 carried a diner and lounge-sleeper, as well as the NP and GN cars.

The balance of the train continued as NP Train 25 from Pasco, WA over Stampede Pass into Seattle King Street Station.

Amtrak North Coast Hiawatha[edit]

The North Coast Hiawatha at Yakima, Washington in August 1971.

On June 5, 1971 service was reinstated over much of the former North Coast Limited route by Amtrak as the North Coast Hiawatha. The train's name was an amalgam of North Coast Limited and Olympian Hiawatha, the Milwaukee Road's former Pacific Northwest train. The train was combined with the Amtrak Empire Builder between Chicago and Minneapolis and between Spokane and Seattle (at the time the Empire Builder used the former North Coast Limited route between Spokane and Seattle, via Yakima) and operated three days per week. On November 14, 1971, the North Coast Hiawatha began operating as a separate train from Chicago to Spokane (and daily between Chicago and Minneapolis on former Milwaukee Road trackage). It still combined with the Empire Builder between Spokane and Seattle. On June 11, 1973, the North Coast Hiawatha began operating as a separate train (still tri-weekly, except during some summer and holiday periods) all the way from Chicago to Seattle; the segment between Spokane and Seattle used was the former Empire Builder route via Cascade Tunnel. The North Coast Hiawatha was discontinued on October 1, 1979.

Much of the route today is not served by passenger train, though Amtrak's Empire Builder does run on some of the same trackage in its St. Paul-Moorhead and Sandpoint-Pasco segments. Additionally, the route in Montana through Butte and over Homestake Pass has been inactive (intact, but without any trains) since 1983, as freight trains (now operated by Montana Rail Link) use the flatter and more direct route via Helena. The lone remaining Chicago to Seattle/Portland passenger train today is Amtrak's Empire Builder which primarily traverses much of the former Great Northern route west of St. Paul, Minnesota via Grand Forks and Minot, ND; Havre, Whitefish, and Glacier National Park in Montana; and Wenatchee and Everett in Washington State.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "A New Era in the Passenger Train Service of America". The Toledo News-Bee. 18 May 1909. Retrieved 20 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Zimmermann, Karl (2004). Burlington's Zephyrs. Saint Paul, MN: MBI Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-7603-1856-0. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Dining Car to the Pacific: The "Famously Good" Food of the Northern Pacific Railway published by Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1990.
  • The Vista-Dome North Coast Limited by William R. Kuebler, Jr., published by Oso Publishing Company, Inc., 2004.
  • Northern Pacific Railway Passenger Train Schedules, issued May 27, 1962.