Great Northern Lines West

Revised Edition

by Charles R. Wood

Full Text of Some Reviews:

Review from Model Railroader magazine, July, 1998

"This book is a revised edition of one that was first published in 1967. The hardcover 208-page book by Charles R. Wood covers the history of the GN's western lines (Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California).

"More than 250 black-and-white photos illustrate the book, which covers original line construction, early and late steam locomotives, electric locomotives and the Cascade Tunnel, and diesel locomotives. New in the revised edition are a 12-page section of 24 color photos (most are diesel and electric shots) and an index, which makes the book a much handier reference for modelers. The new edition also includes a dust jacket painting by J. Craig Thorpe. The book is an improved edition of a classic work."

-- Jeff Wilson


Review from Model Railroad News, April 1999

"From the purchase of the St. Paul and Pacific in 1878 by James J. Hill and his associates, till the end of the Great Northern as a separate entity due to its merger into the Burlington Northern in 1970, the history of this transcontinental road has been one of change and progression. Charles Wood's Great Northern Lines Westhas been one of the favorite photographic studies among railfans for the colorful history of this road since first being published in 1967. Now, Mr. Wood, along with Signature Press has released an updated version of this classic book that has been out of print for several years.

"The revised edition has made an already great book better! First of all, having had several different printings of Lines West over the years, I saw the original quality of the book continue to go down hill. Subsequent printings seemed to only yield poorer quality photograph reproduction and cheaper bindings. But Signature Press has done an outstanding job in restoring the book to its original look.

"Comparing the revised edition to the original printing, they have brought back to life many of the old photos and, in some cases, improved upon their contrast. The book has returned to print with hard covers and a colorful dust jacket adorned with a beautiful painting by railroad artist J. Craig Thorpe depicting an electric, diesel, and steam locomotive meeting at Skykomish.

"Another great addition to this book are the 24 new color photographs that have been included mostly depicting diesels. and more importantly, coverage of the final "Big Sky Blue" paint scheme which takes the book up to the merger. An index has been added also. The endpapers now carry a more colorful map depicting the operating divisions of the Great Northern and many of the towns it serviced, and is an excellent reference while reading and studying the more than 280 photographs in this 208-page book.

"For those of you who are new to Lines West, Mr. Wood has broken the contents of the book into four chapters: The Early Years, Steam Power, Electrics and the Cascade Tunnel and Diesels. The first section covers early steam on the Lines West (from Bainsville, MT to the Pacific Coast). Photos from the 1860s through the 1920s are shown depicting passenger and freight service in the rustic settings of the Northwest. Included is a rare 1864 shot of the famous GN predecessor St. Paul & Pacific's William Crooks 4-4-0, the first steam locomotive in Minnesota and adjacent territories.

"The following section concentrates on modern steam power on the Great Northern. Beginning in the 1920s, many of the features that made the GN steam locomotives so interesting and unique were instituted. One of the major appearances setting the GN locomotives apart was the use of the Belpaire firebox design that gave a squarish look to the end of the boiler near the cab Another feature that would become a hallmark of the Great Northern was their use of the Vanderbilt tender with its big cylindrical tank. At the same time these new designs were being instituted, the GN started applying the famous Billy Goat herald to the sides of their tenders.

"Mr. Wood covers many examples of the various GN locomotive classes from yard goats to Mikados, Mountains, and the big articulated locomotives. Besides locomotives, there are also some good photos of heavyweight passenger cars from the Empire Builder,including interesting Pullman interior pictures.

"The Great Northern began electric operations in 1909 through the two and a half mile Cascade Tunnel. The chapter on Electrics and the Cascade Tunnel goes on to describe the various problems encountered with the original tunnel and the subsequent planning, construction, and opening of the new eight-mile long Cascade Tunnel in 1929. The large boxy looking class Z and Y electrics are covered, as are the monstrous 101' long streamlined class Ws.

"The remaining chapter on diesels benefited the most from the revisions of this edition. The additional color photographs have given the reader the experience of seeing the vibrant colors of the Great Northern fleet--Pullman Green and Cascade Orange. The additional photos have also brought this section to a full conclusion showing examples of the last locomotives to be purchased after 1967, and before the merger of 1970. Diesel photos include: F units, the distinctive NW-3 and NW-5 road switchers, E-7s, GP-7s, RS-3s, GP-30s, SDP40s, U33Cs, and SD45s. The chapter concludes with examples of the "Big Sky Blue" paint scheme introduced in 1967, the last GN paint scheme to be used.

"Great Northern Lines West will always remain a classic. Both the Great Northern fan and the historian of American railroads will find this work a great addition to their library. Mr. Wood's superb choice of photographs and informative text give the reader a full sense of this famous fallen flag road. And, thanks to Signature Press' quality restoration and improvements to this book, it will be available to many more generations of railroad historians to come!"

-- David Otte


Review from Vintage Rails magazine, May/June 1999

"Now available from Signature Press is Great Northern Lines West (Revised Edition), by Charles R. Wood. In 1967, noted northwest railroad historian Charles Wood produced the first edition of Lines West, in which he presented a history of the building and evolution of the Great Northern Railway in Montana, Idaho, and Washington, as well as its isolated Klamath Division in central Oregon and Northern California. Following the first edition, subsequent reprintings were in some cases of poor quality, damaging the reputation of this excellent work. The Signature Press edition has been made with the original page negatives, thereby achieving the quality of the first printing. This revised edition has also been updated by replacing some photographs and by adding a color section, a new dust jacket painting by J. Craig Thorpe, and an index.

"While some of the early views are still a bit dark or grainy, this is more a function of the quality of the original material, rather than the printing, which, overall, is quite good. There are lots of construction views, winter scenes, locomotive roster shots, lineside structures, crews posing in front of their trains, etc. The building of the original Cascade Tunnel is covered, as is the 1929 replacement bore and its electrification. Fans of GN "juice" will find much valuable information. The chapter on dieselization is somewhat disappointing, as most of the photos selected are GN publicity views. The color section is equally disappointing, with a curious selection of old "duplicates" (judging by the color shift) [in fact, nearly all original slides were used--publisher] and photographs of models, as well as a lot of "gray day" material. Actually, in this section the two publicity photos are welcome, because they are among the best photographs presented. Overall, however, if you haven't got a copy of Great Northern Lines Westand are interested in the history of this magnificent railroad, the new edition will be a good investment."

-- Brian Jennnison