Change of train numbers

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  • Member since
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Change of train numbers
Posted by Aurora SL 1 on Tuesday, September 19, 2023 2:22 AM

Have just finished reading (again) Peter Hansen's excellent article on Northern Pacific's decision to modernize the North Coast Limited ('Dream Trains', Classic Trains, 2003) and I am puzzled about one element of the process. When the the NCL was improved, The Mainstreeter was introduced as its running mate, serving communities that would no longer be conveniently served on the NCL's new, faster schedule, Hansen explains it this way: '... The Mainstreeter, which would assume the North Coast's numbers, 1 and 2 (the North Coast became 25 and 26)'. 

Why the need to change the number? Why not leave the NCL as 1 & 2 and make The Mainstreeter 25 & 26? 


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Posted by rcdrye on Tuesday, September 19, 2023 6:34 AM

The NCL was a through train from Chicago to Seattle (and Portland).  The Mainstreeter carried through cars from Chicago, but originated in St. Paul.  NP's desire to have the train carry the same number the entire way meant that Burlington set the number, not NP.  Burlington used 1 on the Denver Zephyr (eastbound was 10, train 2 was an unnamed Zephyr from Hannibal Missouri covered by one of the low 9900 articulated trains).  The pre-streamlined NCL ran as 51 and 50 on the Burlington.

GN used 1 and 2 for the Empire Builder west of St. Paul.  Burlington ran it as 31 and 32 for many years, but it ran under other numbers as well, before it was combined with the NCL and Zephyrs on the Chicago-Minneapolis leg.

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Posted by Aurora SL 1 on Tuesday, September 19, 2023 6:28 PM

Hi rcdrye, thanks for the response, makes a lot of sense. Aand I haden't really ever considered that the Mainstreeter originated in St. Paul - something pretty obvious, now that you have pointed it out. I presume the case was the same with GN's 'Western Star'. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, September 22, 2023 6:41 AM

One thing to remember - Timetable Schedules are TOOLS for the Train Dispatcher to operate his segment of railroad.  Class of Schedule and Direction of Travel convey operating authority - authority that the Train Dispatcher doesn't have to create through the use of Train Orders.  Timetable Schedules were created to reduce the work load on the position operating the various track segments, especially single track segments - the Train Dispatcher.

First Class schedules were applied to a carriers passenger trains.  Second Class schedules were applied to the carriers freight trains.  Third Class schedules were usually applied to local freights, wayfreights etc.  Theoretically a track segment could be operated on Schedules alone - as the schedules also define the meeting points among the scheduled trains across the track segments.

Never too old to have a happy childhood!


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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, September 26, 2023 2:55 PM

There's a little more to it. The upgraded North Coast Limited was set to run on a faster schedule. This meant in some small towns where the NCL currently stopped at during the day would in the future see the train stopping there in the middle of the night. Many towns objected, to the point that it looked like NP might not get approval from the various government agencies to change it's schedule.

Someone at NP had the brilliant idea to say that trains 1-2 would be keeping the same schedule; we're just changing it's name to "The Mainstreeter"...oh, and a new/improved NCL would start up with a faster schedule, but that's 25-26...a completely different train. It worked, and NP was able to speed up the NCL and the small towns kept their old train times.

And yes, GN's Western Star only ran on GN to St. Paul, St.Paul to Chicago was CB&Q tracks/engines. Eastbound from St.Paul the Western Star was combined with the CB&Q's Blackhawk, westbound it ran on it's own. The Mainstreeter did the opposite - eastbound it ran on it's own, westbound it was combined with the Blackhawk. BTW the Mainstreeter's mail cars went from St.Paul to Chicago on the Milwaukee Road's Fast Mail.



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