The Great Northern Railway (GN) main line stretched 1,700 miles from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Seattle, Washington, and was the most northern transcontinental railroad in the United States. In addition, GN branch lines stretched north from the Twin Cities to Superior and the Minnesota Iron Ore Range, and from Grand Forks, North Dakota, to Winnipeg, Manitoba; through Montana to Great Falls, Helena and Butte, and from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia. Other popular Great Northern passenger trains were the Badger-Gopher (St. Paul-Superior-Duluth), Dakotan (St. Paul-Minot), Cascadian (Seattle-Spokane), Red River (St. Paul-Grand Forks), Internationals (Seattle-Vancouver) and Winnipeg Limited (St. Paul-Winnipeg). Historic images include 4-4-0 steam locomotive William Crooks, the first steam locomotive to operate in Minnesota. Like other railroads, Great Northern purchased diesel locomotives from Electro-Motive Division consisting of the FT, F3, F7 and E7. Later models were U25B, U28B, U33C, SDP40, SDP45 and the first SD45 named “Hustle Muscle.” Also pictured are boxcab Z-1, Y-1 and W-1 electric locomotives.
John Kelly grew up in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where his dad's best friend, an engineer on the Chicago & NorthWestern, gave him and his brother occasional midnight cab rides on C&NW freight trains from Altoona to Elroy, Wisconsin. As a teenager, he enjoyed watching C&NW, Milwaukee Road and Soo Line trains come through his home town. Given his hobby of railroad history, John has written articles for Trains magazine, Trains.com, and Vintage Rails and has also authored a number of books on streamlined passenger trains, including Streamliners to the Twin Cities, Interurban Trains to Chicago, and Chicago Stations & Trains. In 2009, John co-authored Trains to Victory--America's Railroads in World War II--with Don Heimburger. Railroads of Milwaukee continues John's interest in Midwestern cities that offered passenger train service. His memories of the Milwaukee Road include photo outings to the Milwaukee Shops--in 1922 it was one of the largest rail car complexes in the United States--and diesel service facilities in the late 1970's. It was exciting to stand near the 35th Street Viaduct, he says, and take photos of the various locomotives and sprawling railroad yards. John is also a volunteer-docent for the innovative National Park Service-Amtrak partnership Trails & Rails program during the summer travel season. This program provides rail passengers with the educational opportunities that foster an appreciation of a selected region's natural and cultural heritage. He joined Trails & Rails in 2007, completing four years as a docent on Amtrak's famed Empire Builder between Chicago and Winona, Minnesota. In addition, he volunteers with the Center for Railroad Photography & Art in Madison, Wisconsin, archiving historic railroad images.