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Guest Steve Relei

Discontinued Trains

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Guest Steve Relei

In your section about discontinued trains, you forgot to mention the North Coast Hiawatha, which was discontinued in October 1979. The train traveled between Chicago and Seattle along the former Northern Pacific line through southern North Dakota and Montana--passing through Fargo, Bismark, Miles City, Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Butte, Missoula, Sandpoint, Spokane, and continued westward on the old Great Northern line through Wenatchee and the Cascade Tunnel (Stevens Pass) into Seattle. At the time, the Empire Builder went southward through Pasco, Yakima, Ellensburg, over Stampede Pass into Seattle. In the aftermath of the Mount St. Helens eruption, it was the Empire Builder that helped by picking up stranded people along its route.

In 1981 (I think) the Empire Builder was switched to the former GN line. In Spokane, the train split apart (or joined together depending on direction), one part of the train going the Portland over the old Spokane, Portland and Seattle line, which traveled on the Washington side of the Columbia River (to Vancouver and then to Portland). This is a process that continues to the present day.

 

The North Coast Hiawatha (the name is a combination of two trains: NP's North Coast Limited and Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha trains) holds fond memories. I lived in Billings from 1973 to 1979. I arrived in Billings on the train. I frequently went down to the station to watch the trains come and go. At the time, the train crews (engineers, conductors, brakemen) were employees of the host railroads (BN, in this case), and many had worked on the North Coast Limited. One of the ticket agents was also a veteran ofrom NP days and always wore a NP (Monad--Ying-Yang symbol) tie pin.

 

I had the chance to ride the train many times, and it was one of the most scenic in the country--along the Yellowstone River for many miles, over Bozeman Pass, through the Rocky Mountains, Jefferson River Canyon, Homestake Pass, descending slowly into the city of Butte, past numerous other rivers, canyons, mountain passes, etc. Riding in the dome cars was great; I still prefer them to the Superliner lounges. Often it was dark upon leaving Missoula and one could see the stars through the roof.

 

Until the end, the train provided the best service it could and it was widely missed and mourned when it was taken away. To me, southern Montana has not been the same since.

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Guest Steve Relei

On more side note:

Since the Empire Builder was switched to the old GN line and split at Spokane, the cities of Yakima and Ellensburg have ever since been without passenger train service. For a while, the NP line through the Cascades was closed--almost abandoned. However, BN (yes, I know:BNSF) has experienced an upswing of traffic and has reopened the NP line for freight service.

 

For years, the BN has relied primarily on its old GN line for fast freights; after traveling along Puget Sound to Everett, the line goes due east through the Cascade Mountains. The 8-mile Cascade Tunnel is the longest in the United States. However, it is a bottleneck, and the grades can be severe in places. Also, the Cascade Tunnel needs to be aired out between trains--which can take considerable time and affect train schedules.

 

On the other hand, sending trains on the old SP&S line, along the Washington side of the Columbia River, with its easier grades (very few) was considered more economical. Many trains are routed this way.

 

However, even this route has gotten crowded with train travel, encouraging BN to reopen other lines.

 

This is an interesting time in railroading.

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On more side note:

Since the Empire Builder was switched to the old GN line and split at Spokane, the cities of Yakima and Ellensburg have ever since been without passenger train service.

Steve,

 

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the Empire Builder follow it's current route before Amtrak took over? Wasn't it Amtrak that rerouted the Builder onto the Stampede Pass (former NP) route until BNSF (then BN) forced them to move it back to the Stevens Pass (old GN) line? I'm trying to learn more about the Builder's history, and it sounds like you might have some more information.

 

Also, I think that one of the long-term plans for the Washington Department Of Transportation is to run at least one train each way from Spokane to Seattle through Yakima, so it may not be that long before passenger trains are rolling across Stampede Pass.

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Guest Steve Relei

Yes, you are correct. When BN took over, the Empire Builder and North Coast Limited used there regular routes. When Amtrak took over, the North Coast was not part of the original plan, the Builder was rerouted onto the old NP line. Perhaps they felt that was where most of the people (the larger cities) were. There was no service to Portland from Spokane (under the early days of Amtrak). When the Hiawatha was added, it was routed onto the old GN line. Between Sandpoint, Idaho, and Spokane, however, under the BN and with Amtrak, all trains used the same NP line. The NP had the superior routing and the BN took advantage of it. The old GN line (between Sanpoint and Spokane) was downgraded. I don't think it is used at all anymore. Both Amtrak Builder and Hiawatha used the former NP station. The old GN station was torn down to make way for Expo '74 and the park which occupies the site now. West of the NP station, a new bridge was built to connect to the old GN line to the west as well as the NP and SP&S lines (which were still separate) going southward. Before the discontuance of the Hiawatha, the Builder operated four times a week and the Hiawatha three times a week, allowing seven days a week service between Seattle, Spokane, Sandpoint(old NP station used here, too), Fargo, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Milwaukee, and Chicago. But not for cities and towns in between--which was part of the problem to many people.

 

Eventually, the Builder was put on its present routings and returned to daily service. It received Superliner cars in 1979. Oh, for a time, the Portland section of the Builder used the NP line going south as far as Pasco and the SP&S line northbound. Now, the both directions use the old NP line to and from Pasco.

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I didn't realize that the Portland section of the Builder runs over the old NP line. For some reason, I had it in my head that it runs over the SP&S line. That was very interesting. Thanks!

 

Please feel free to create a user account and join us. I'm sure you'd have some good stuff to add to our conversations here.

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Guest Steve Relei

Keep in mind that the SP&S was a join operation of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads, built by James J. Hill. He had control over all three railroads and also the Burlington Route. As you know, GN and NP trains switched at St. Paul to and from the Burlington to Chicago. The Burlington also had mainlines running from Nebraska and Colorado through Wyoming to connect with the NP and GN at Billings and Laurel.

 

The BN merger took place in 1970, but the foundation for it had been laid since 1900.

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Does anyone have a copy of the North Coast Hiawatha timetable from October, 1979 when it last ran?

 

Close as I have is Jan 1978.

 

Jan-1978.jpg

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Just wondering - what does the "E" stand for? :huh: "Estimated time", similar to the "L" now? :huh:

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Just wondering - what does the "E" stand for? :huh: "Estimated time", similar to the "L" now? :huh:

 

Dave - the symbols page for that table says: E - stops only to receive or discharge passengers. Advanced noticed needed.

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Thanks Tom! After seeing the later schedule with an "F", I thought it may be a flag stop, but the earlier schedule showed an "E".

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Thanks Tom! After seeing the later schedule with an "F", I thought it may be a flag stop, but the earlier schedule showed an "E".

 

Here are all of them:

 

Symbols.jpg

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Thanks Tom! After seeing the later schedule with an "F", I thought it may be a flag stop, but the earlier schedule showed an "E".

 

 

neat to see the "Experimental" mark

 

I'd like that to be used again :)

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My memory can be bad at times but we took one of the very early amtrak trains and I seem to remember that it did not stop in Butte but insteat went to Helena and bypassed Butte. This was the route of I think the Mainliner NP train.

 

Is my memort correct?

 

Stan

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My memory can be bad at times but we took one of the very early amtrak trains and I seem to remember that it did not stop in Butte but insteat went to Helena and bypassed Butte. This was the route of I think the Mainliner NP train.

 

Is my memort correct?

 

Stan

 

No. I think your memory is correct. The North Coast Hi, as the train was named during the Amtrak era, followed the line through Helena. It bypassed Butte.

 

The name you're thinking of is the Northern Pacific's Mainstreeter, which was the coach-only counterpart to the NP's premier train, the North Coast Limited.

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My memory can be bad at times but we took one of the very early amtrak trains and I seem to remember that it did not stop in Butte but insteat went to Helena and bypassed Butte. This was the route of I think the Mainliner NP train.

 

Is my memort correct?

 

Stan

 

No. I think your memory is correct. The North Coast Hi, as the train was named during the Amtrak era, followed the line through Helena. It bypassed Butte.

 

The name you're thinking of is the Northern Pacific's Mainstreeter, which was the coach-only counterpart to the NP's premier train, the North Coast Limited.

 

I agree with you that the Mainstreeter was all coach or nearly so, in its later days. But it did have pullmans in earlier, better years, I see in my 1957 Official Guide. It's history, like tons of pre-Amtrak trains. was one of gradual decline. First the lounge goes, the diner, then the sleepers and finally nothing but a coach or two and then nothing.

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After posting the following on a different thread I chanced upon this thread and thought that it belongs better here. So here goes.....

 

I found this fascinating List of trains that ran on the eve of Amtrak. Thought y'all might like it.

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Guest Guest_johnb_*
My memory can be bad at times but we took one of the very early amtrak trains and I seem to remember that it did not stop in Butte but insteat went to Helena and bypassed Butte. This was the route of I think the Mainliner NP train.

 

Is my memort correct?

 

Stan

 

No. I think your memory is correct. The North Coast Hi, as the train was named during the Amtrak era, followed the line through Helena. It bypassed Butte.

 

The name you're thinking of is the Northern Pacific's Mainstreeter, which was the coach-only counterpart to the NP's premier train, the North Coast Limited.

 

I agree with you that the Mainstreeter was all coach or nearly so, in its later days. But it did have pullmans in earlier, better years, I see in my 1957 Official Guide. It's history, like tons of pre-Amtrak trains. was one of gradual decline. First the lounge goes, the diner, then the sleepers and finally nothing but a coach or two and then nothing.

 

when my family moved from memphis to helena in december, 1947 we rode the mainstreeter and had a drawing room. that that time the north coast limited ran through butte while the mainstreeter ran through helena. the mainstreeter, going west, left the mainline at logan, mt. and rejoined it at garrison, mt.

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