Chicago Great Western passenger service

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Chicago Great Western passenger service
Posted by NP Eddie on Monday, August 06, 2018 8:11 PM


This is about CGW passenger service. I know that the CGW was not a large passenger carrier, but I did some research on the CGW. I don't have access to my old OG's and I know that the CGW did run some Pullman service. Wayner's book on Pullman names states that two heavy weight cars (Old Elm Club and Rochester Club) were rebuilt to 10 section diner-lounge cars. Can anyone fill me in with other Pullman service that the CGW operated? What train were the two above cars used on.

Ed Burns

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Posted by rcdrye on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 8:41 PM

CGW was never the dominant carrier on any run, but they put together pretty good service bolstered by mail and express.  A typical CGW passenger train had a light Pacific or an FP7, with a baggage-RPO, a Baggage coach combine, and sometimes an additional coach.  CGW had 2 FP7s, a few s/g equipped F7s and 8 s/g equipped F7Bs. In 1948 principal runs were:

Chicago - Rochester/Twin Cities Coaches and a 10sec-2 Cpt-1 DR sleeper to Rochester (Minnesotan, lasted 'til 1955)

Chicago - Kansas City change in Oelwein, worked eastbound only

Twin Cities - Kansas City  Coaches, 10 sec restaurant, 12-sec DR Rochester - Kansas City (Mill Cities Limited 24-15/12-23)

Kansas City - Twin Cities via Rochester  Coaches, 8 sec 1 DR sleeper (KC-Rochester), Pullman club-lounge (dining service) KC-Rochester (16-25/26-11)

Twin Cities - Omaha Coaches, 10 sec sleeper, Pullman club-lounge (grill service) (34-21 Twin Cities Limited 28-33 Nebraska Limited)

Even though they were listed separately, the sleeper and diner/lounge were actually a single car as you can see from the list below.

CGW's lightweight cars included a pair of baggage cars later sold to GN, a couple of ex-MILW coaches form the 1934 Hiawatha, and the 3 dbr, 1 cpt 1 DR "George M. Pullman" (which CGW purchased in 1952, so it's not in the list below).

Here's a list of CGW cars listed with Pullman in 1950, from Wayner's "Pullman Company List of Cars 1950"

Cape Kiwanda     10 sec 2 cpt 1 DR

Cape Poge          10 sec 2 cpt 1 DR

Mount Mansfield  10 sec obs lounge

Mount Royal        10 sec obs lounge

Old Elm Club         8 sec 1cpt dining lounge

Rochester Club      8 sec 1 cpt dining lounge

Thompson            12 sec 1 DR

Wayzata               12 sec 1 DR

Woodhill Club        10 sec obs lounge

CGW could also borrow what it needed from the Pullman Pool.

There were also a number of local services connecting the main line junctions and providing secondary, often express-heavy, service.

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Posted by NP Eddie on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 11:02 PM


Thanks for all the information. I rode the last Kansas City to Minneapolis train and the last Omaha to Minneapolis. The CGW stopped at all stations for passengers!

Ed Burns

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Posted by Miningman on Tuesday, August 07, 2018 11:31 PM

Passenger service ended 1965

The Chicago Great Western was not known for its passenger trains, although it did fleet several named trains, mostly running between Chicago and the Twin Cities. Regardless of the railroad's small size and meager passenger fleet it looked for ways to more efficiently move passengers, such as employing all electric (battery powered)[6] and gas-electric motorcars on light branch lines, which was much cheaper to operate than traditional steam or diesel-powered trains.[4] The CGW's most notable passenger trains from its major terminal cities included:[14]

  • Blue Bird (Minneapolis/St. Paul–Rochester)
  • Great Western Limited (Chicago–Minneapolis/St. Paul)
  • Rochester Special (Minneapolis/St. Paul–Rochester)
  • Red Bird (Minneapolis/St. Paul–Rochester)
  • Legionnaire (Chicago–Minneapolis/St. Paul)
  • Minnesotan (Chicago–Minneapolis/St. Paul)
  • Mills Cities Limited (Kansas City–Minneapolis/St. Paul)
  • Nebraska Limited (Omaha–Minneapolis/St. Paul)
  • Twin Cities Limited (Omaha–Minneapolis/St. Paul)
  • Maple Leaf Route (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Rochester, Stewartville, Racine, Spring Valley MN etc. to Chicago 
They came out of the war cash rich. There were attempts at a merger with a combined C&EI and the Katy (MKT) which would have been interesting and when that failed a merger with Soo Line which is also kind of a dandy thing with implications today. 
However they ended up merging with C&NW in '68, who immediatly tore up almost the entire 1,411 mile system.
At the time of the merger they hauled 2,452 million tons of freight and made a profit of 29.7 million bucks. So why the panic to merge and lose their independence? 
I just don't get it. Oh yeah, too much trackage, too little traffic for everyone, blah blah yada yada however ...please direct your attention to the preceding above paragraph.
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Posted by rcdrye on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 6:28 AM

CGW used Grand Central in Chicago and B&OCT's Lincoln Ave coach yard

Union Stations were used in St Paul, Omaha and Kansas City, and GN's station was used in Minneapolis.

CGW had several McKeen cars as early as 1910.

CGW also bought EMC's first gas-electric and rebuilt a set of McKeen cars (repowered by EMC) for the Blue Bird.  The Blue Bird was not particularly successful (it ran from 1/29 to 1/30) but the M-300 (which burned in 1930) sparked the rebuild of several McKeen cars and the purchase of several more EMC railcars.  CGW's cars had bodies from St Louis, Pullman and Standard Steel.

The "Blue Bird" power car stayed in service, was eventually shortened and sold to Wiconsin's Kettle Morain Railway.  Now owned by the Nevada State Railroad Museum, it is supplying parts for the Museum's restoration of a McKeen car.

On the Chicago leg, CGW freight trains were assigned 9000 horsepower, either in the form of an A-B-B-B-B-A set of F-Units (CGW had more boosters than cabs, and cabs did not have nose MU), a four unit set of GP30s (CGW had 8) or a three unit set of SD40s (CGW had 9).

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Posted by Jones1945 on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 12:14 PM


F7A of CGW, 1971. Source: Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

Jones Family Railroad Hobby YouTube Channel:

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Posted by 3rd rail on Friday, August 17, 2018 10:51 PM

It's no secret here that Grand Central is my favorite of Chicago's defunct stations, but this thread prompts me to make one observation. G.C. was the most beautiful of the lot, but, also the smallest. 6 platform tracks, and the coach yard was 2 or 3 miles away, over a drawbridge, not too practical. No way that that could work for the heavy traffic of today. Still would have been nice if they had preserved the structure though.. The station was demolished in 1970 I believe, and the property stood vacant for over 25 years. I think they are putting up high-rises there now, but very slowly.  I hate to see old classic structures fall to the tides of corporate greed. But, I guess that's how things are these days. 



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Posted by rcdrye on Saturday, August 18, 2018 10:02 AM

B&OCT's Lincoln Street coach yard at 14th and Wood was about two miles from Grand Central, about the same as C&NW's California Ave. and MILW's Western Ave yards from their respective stations.  Except for the PRR and CB&Q yards on the south side of Union Station, AT&SF's Archer Avenue coach yard and IC's Weldon yard at 18th (IC trains looped at 46th) all of the Chicago railroads used coach yards that were further away from their terminals.

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Posted by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer on Tuesday, August 21, 2018 6:02 AM

I always have contended that a CGW-MKT-KCS merger would have worked.  Ironically, all three roads were under the domain of William N. Deramus III at one time.  His solid red color scheme showed up on all three roads as well.

Look at the track that has been lifted due to poor ICC judgement (or under-the-table pay offs?) since the beginning of the modern merger madness movement illness that the USA was inflicted with starting in the late 50s.

Florida has suffered much along the west coast (which includes the famous Perry Cut Off constructed by ACL in order to reach the mid-America market faster) as well as the greater Tampa Bay region.  We lost GM&O to IC; even neat little Tennesee Alabama & Georgia (The TAG Route) was severed in the middle by SOUTHERN.  What a way to better serve freight shippers....?  The list goes on and on.       


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