Great Northern Railway's "Badger Express" train No.23, southbound, stops at the depot in Superior, Wisconsin enroute from Duluth to Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1958. Click image to enlarge. (Photo: [Great Northern Railway's "Badger Express"], photograph, 1958~; ( accessed March 20, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Museum of the American Railroad.)


The Badger Express or Badger was a Great Northern Railway (GN) passenger train. Both the Gopher and Badger were trains operated by the Great Northern Railway and then Burlington Northern Railroad until the start of Amtrak between Saint Paul, Minnesota and the Twin Ports of Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota via Cambridge and Sandstone. The Great Northern introduced the services with two six-car streamlined trainsets on April 26, 1952. The two consists operated as the Badger for the morning trains No.19 and No. 20, which operated in both directions as all-stop locals in 3 hours 58 minutes over the 160-mile (260 km) route. The late afternoon/early evening trains No. 23 and No. 24 operated as the Gopher, over the same route, but as limited-stop express trains in 3 hours 30 minutes. In addition to Saint Paul and the Twin Ports, the Gopher stopped in Minneapolis, Cambridge, and Sandstone, Minnesota Service was terminated with the establishment of Amtrak in 1971. The trains were succeeded by Amtrak's Arrowhead in 1975.

The Badger and Gopher route is nearly the same route as the proposed Northern Lights Express, except the NLX is not currently planned to serve Saint Paul.

The trains utilized six of the pre-World War II Empire Builder 58-seat luxury coaches, with four of these remaining as-built, and two converted to 44-seat coaches with galley for train service by an attendant at one's seat. Each consist was assigned a baggage/railway post office car with a 30-foot (9.1 m) RPO section; initially, one consist operated with a heavyweight, the other a lightweight. Each consist also carried a streamlined baggage express car built by the Great Northern Railway themselves; this car only operated in each day's Gopher schedule. Each consist then carried one of the 44-seat galley coaches and two of the 58-seat luxury coaches. The last car in each consist was a café parlor observation rebuilt by GN shops from heavyweight coaches the railroad had purchased at the beginning of the war from Pullman as parlor cars for rebuilding as coaches.

The entire consists were painted in Omaha Orange and Pullman Green paint with the gold Scotch-lite lettering and separation stripes paint scheme most commonly referred to as "Empire Builder". Even as there were variations in the consists regarding the baggage/railway post office cars, the power was even more interesting with one set powered by an A-B set of EMD F7s and the other train set powered by an EMD E7A.

Train consists


Consist 1 

EMD F7A 1,500 hp (1,100 kW) diesel passenger cab unit No. 267A 

EMD F7B 1,500 hp diesel passenger booster unit No. 267B 

Heavyweight Baggage 30’ Railway Post Office Car No. 81

Baggage-Express Car No. 271 

Train Service Galley 44 Revenue seat Coach No. 945 

58-seat Revenue seat Coach No. 948 

58-seat Revenue seat Coach No. 949

10-seat Dining Café, 26-seat Parlor Observation car No. 1083 Twin Cities 


Consist 2

EMD E7A 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) Diesel passenger cab unit No. 508

Heavyweight Baggage 30’ Railway Post Office Car No. 87

Baggage-Express Car No. 270

Train Service Galley 44-seat Revenue seat Coach No. 944

58-seat Revenue seat Coach No. 946

58-seat Revenue seat Coach No. 947

10-seat Dining Café, 26 seat Parlor Observation car No. 1084 Twin Ports

The No. 1084 Twin Ports parlor observation car survives today, although the tail end has been modified. It has been owned by the Minnesota Transportation Museum since 1979.


Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Minnesota / Wisconsin
First service: April 26, 1952
Last service: April 30, 1971
Successor: Arrowhead
Former operators: Great Northern Railway; 1970-1971: Burlington Northern
Route Termini: St. Paul, Minnesota / Superior Union Station, Wisconsin 1975–1977, Duluth, Minnesota 1977–1978
Stops: 6
Distance traveled: 160 miles (260 km)
Average journey time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Service frequency: Daily
Train numbers: 19 (southbound), 20 (northbound). Later, several others.
On-board services
Seating arrangements: Reclining seat coaches
Catering facilities: Parlor-buffet car
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)
160 mi / 257 km - Duluth
156 mi / 251 km - Superior
97 mi / 156 km - Sandstone
52 mi / 84 km - Cambridge
11 mi / 18 km - Minneapolis
0 mi / 0 km - St. Paul

Burlington Northern 9908 (ex-GN E9A 510) at Superior, Wisconsin on April 1971 with train 53, the Badger, which left St. Paul in the morning and ran to Superior, WI with bus connection to Duluth. It returned as the Gopher in the evening as Train 40. Click to enlarge.

(Photo by Roger Puta, railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


 A southbound train - either the Radisson, LaSalle, Nicolet, or Badger - at Sturtevant station on December 23, 1985.

(Photo: Hikki Nagasaki, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)