Fred Klein, 2005, 2010, 2016
The North Coast Limited was Northern Pacific’s premier streamliner that ran from Chicago to Seattle and Portland. Chicago Burlington and Quincy carried the train over its rails from Chicago to Saint Paul, and handed the train off to Northern Pacific to run on its “Main street of the northwest”. Spokane, Portland and Seattle operated a section that split off at Spokane going to Portland. In 1948, the heavyweight train that originally began in 1900 was replaced with lightweight cars that ran with daily service. Cars built for this streamlined train were primarily owned by Northern Pacific, but a fraction were owned by CB&Q and SP&S in proportion to their route miles. Beginning in 1952, the North Coast Limited was painted in the classic two-tone green paint scheme created by industrial designer Raymond Loewy. In 1954, dome coaches and dome sleepers were added to the train. Northern Pacific required at least one flat-topped car between every pair of dome cars. Five or six complete trainsets maintained the schedule. 1955 saw the completion of the streamlined makeover when the “Traveler’s Rest” buffet lounge cars were added. Traveler’s rest was a favorite Lewis and Clark campsite. Diners were replaced in 1958. A budget slumbercoach was added in 1959. About 1967, the decline in passenger traffic required that the North Coast Limited be combined with Great Northern’s Empire Builder.
The North Coast Limited with a full consist along the Mississippi near Savanna, Illinois in the summer of 1961. From page 142 of Union Pacific Streamliners by Joe Welsh (Voyageur Press, 2008).
The North Coast Limited at Sappington, Montana in 1967. Photo by Dale Jones.
The North Coast Limited climbing the grade west of Missoula, Montana. NP publicity photo.
The North Coast Limited at Livingston, Montana. The old stone Northern Pacific station at Livingston has been restored and is now a fine railroad museum.
Models of most cars in the North Coast Limited can be made by adding brass car sides to smooth side passenger cars, or by substituting standard plastic cars that are similar in appearance to the prototype Northern Pacific cars. Sides for the remainder of North Coast Limited cars are made by M&R models, but my train does not include these M&R cars. The locomotives and all the cars in this train were custom painted by Ernie Guise of Model Railroad Customizing. Unfortunately, there are no commercially available factory-painted locomotives or cars for the North Coast Limited, and the shades of green of the factory painted Northern Pacific Con-cor passenger cars are not a good match to the prototype colors. For a treat to see an excellent model of this train (much better than mine), see Mark Jirousek’s NP train in the N Scale Railroading article in the January 2001 issue, page 50.
The consist of this train is essentially that from Wayner’s Passenger train consists 1923-1973, page 79, departing St. Paul for Seattle on July 28, 1965. Slight variations in car order can be found in the consist in Sullivan’s NP color guide to freight and passenger equipment. See also Mark Jirousek’s NP North Coast Limited in his excellent N Scale Railroading article in the January 2001 issue, page 50. Slight consist changes were normal from day to day and year to year, and there were several alternative baggage cars, coaches and sleepers that could be substituted.
This table indicates the prototype cars in the basic North Coast Limited consist, and what cars or kits I used to model them.
Slumbercoach, 24 rooms & 8 double rooms, “Loch” series 325-328
Diner, series 450-455, in service as full diners after rebuilding 1954-1958
Power for the 1954-1967 edition of the North Coast Limited was an A-B-A set of EMD F7 passenger diesels. The models are custom painted Kato F7 diesels.
The July 28, 1965 train (on which this consist is based) had an 85’ RPO-baggage car (Budd, 1948) from CB&Q with a 60’ RPO compartment. I do not know the times and places that this additional RPO car ran, but other “non-Loewy” RPO, baggage and express cars must sometimes have accommodated the demand as needed. It is also possible this CB&Q RPO car was dead-heading on this segment. I use the closest prototypical car commonly available in N scale, a 72’ CB&Q RPO-baggage (Budd, 1940) with a 30’ RPO compartment. The RPO model is a factory-decorated car from Kato sold in one of their 4-car sets.
In addition to baggage, the NP baggage car carried two 1500 gal water tanks for the boilers in the F7s to make steam heat, hence the car name “water-baggage”. If the season required steam heat (unlike the July date of this consist), the water-baggage car would have to be adjacent to the boilers in the diesel power without an intervening RPO car. The RPO is not likely to have a cold water pipe line. Because the water-baggage car was used primarily for passenger baggage and not mail storage, the RPO crews would have had to use space in the RPO cars for mail storage. The next car is an RPO-dormitory car that provided a 30’ RPO compartment and bunks for 14 crew members. The NP baggage and RPO-dormitory cars were built by PS in 1947. Both the baggage and RPO-dormitory cars in this train are prototypical models, have brass cars sides, and were custom painted.
Both dome and flat-top coaches ran in the North Coast Limited. NP required that for visibility, two domes could not be placed together, and coaches ran dome- flat-dome-flat-flat. The dome coaches (Budd 1954) had 46 leg-rest (day-night) seats, 26 seats in the dome, and washrooms under the dome. The 56-seat day-night coaches (PS 1947) were part of the streamlined refurbishing of the North Coast Limited in 1948. The Con-cor dome coaches are based on the Budd cars built for the GN and NP and are prototypical models. The Kato smooth-side coach model (based on PS 1950, 44-seat, 15 windows) is similar in appearance to the NP coach (PS 1947, 56-seat, 18 windows).
The most distinctive car in the North Coast Limited (at least the interiors) was the Traveler’s Rest buffet lounge car. Murals depicted maps and events from Lewis’ and Clark’s expedition, and the car was named after one of their favorite campsites. This lounge car served coach as well as first class passengers. Sides for the Traveler’s Rest car are available from Brass car sides. The next car is a slumbercoach, offering 24 single rooms and 8 double rooms at a coach fare lower than Pullman first class. Because the occupants were coach passengers, the slumbercoach would be somewhere forward of all the other Pullman sleepers in the train. The slumbercoach was introduced in December 1959, so omit this striking silver car before that date. Prototypical slumbercoaches are available from Con-cor and Kato.
The next car is an 8 duplex roomette/ 6 roomette/ 4 bedroom sleeper. PS built eight of these cars in 1954. The distinctive appearance of this car is from the staggered windows of the duplex berths. The Con-cor sleeper model used here is a mirror image of the PS 8/4/4 sleeper made for the GN in 1955. The Con-cor car captures the basic window pattern of the NP sleeper, even though the small upper berth windows and door placement do not match the NP prototype.
In 1948, PS built six lunch counter diners for the North Coast Limited. When the dome cars were added to the Loewy designed train in 1954, and the new Traveler’s Rest buffet lounge cars were added in 1955, the old PS lunch counter diners were rebuilt as full diners. In 1958, Budd delivered six new diners. I have only the Kato model diner that has the same basic kitchen and dining arrangement as the two different North Coast Limited diners, and mimics the prototype appearance if you don’t count windows and doors too closely. Now you can get NP prototype metal diner and duplex sleeper sides from M&R models.
Our consist follows that in Wayner’s Passenger train consists 1923-1973, which has two sleepers between the buffet-lounge and dining cars. It makes more sense to put the two food cars together using the consist in Sullivan’s NP color guide to freight and passenger equipment. This may be an example of the car order changing over time.
A group of Pullman sleepers followed the dining car section. A 4 roomette/ 4 double bedroom/ 4 single room dome sleeper followed the dining car. These ten Budd cars, built in 1954, sat 24 in the dome, had the 4 duplex single rooms under the dome seats, and 4 double bedrooms in the long section of the car. The dome seats were a glorious alternative to staying in your room. The cars had a corrugated roof, and slab panel sides instead of corrugated sides. The model has brass car sides on a Con-cor dome car, is custom painted, and is a prototypical model.
The next car is an 8 duplex roomette/ 6 roomette/ 3 double bedroom/ 1 compartment sleeper. PS built 18 of these cars in 1948. One 8/6/3/1 sleeper ran in the Chicago to Portland section of the train. The distinctive appearance of this car is from the staggered windows of the duplex berths. The Con-cor sleeper model used here is a mirror image of the PS 8/4/4 sleeper made for the GN in 1955. The Con-cor car captures the basic window pattern of the NP sleeper, even though the small upper berth windows and door placement do not match the prototype. Another 4/4/4 dome sleeper followed, thus keeping a flat top car between the dome cars. The last car was a 4 double bedroom/ 1 compartment/ buffet lounge observation car, built by PS in 1948. In 1954, they were redecorated to conform to the interior styling of the rest of the Loewy train. A Kato observation car is a satisfactory model and has a very similar appearance to the NP prototype.
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Randall, David, From Zephyr to Amtrak, Prototype Publications, 1972.
Schaefer, Mike, and Joe Welsh, Classic American Streamliners, Motorbooks International, 1997.
Sullivan, Todd, NP color guide to freight and passenger equipment, Morning Sun Books, 1995.
Wayner, Robert, Car Names, Numbers and Consists, Wayner Publications, 1972.
Wayner, Robert, Passenger train consists 1923-1973, Wayner Publications.
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