Great Northern streamliner the Western Star which traveled between Chicago and Seattle, in the Cascades, 1951.

(Great Northern Railway-photographer-Hedrich-Blessing, Chicago., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Western Star drumhead.


The Western Star was a named passenger train operated by the Great Northern Railway between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest via Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. Between Chicago and St. Paul the train used the route of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad; in later years eastbound passengers were accommodated on Burlington trains east of St. Paul. Through cars from the train operated between Spokane, Washington and Portland, Oregon via the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway. It operated from 1951 to 1971.


Great Northern (GN) Railway's 'Western Star' passenger train No. 3-1953 sitting in the station at

Whitefish, Montana with a Great Northern bus pulled up alongside, 1953.

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(Dan Pope Collection / RMP Archive)



The Western Star was inaugurated on June 3, 1951, replacing the Oriental Limited as the secondary train along the Great Northern's transcontinental route. The Great Northern's primary train was the famed Empire Builder, which made the run in 45 hours. The Western Star required a more leisurely 58 hours, making more intermediate stops and serving branches the Empire Builder bypassed, such as Grand Forks, North Dakota and Great Falls, Montana.  The Star used equipment from the Empire Builder, which had been completely reequipped.

The Western Star and a connecting train between Havre and Great Falls continued operating until May 1, 1970. Amtrak did not retain the Western Star as part of its national route network and the train was discontinued, although it did re-route the Empire Builder to serve Grand Forks.


Great Northern's Western Star arriving at Glacier Park Station. Photo by Hedrich.

(Great Northern Railway, H.S. Crocker Co., San Francisco, CA, via W. Lenheim Collection)



The 1951 Western Star required six sets of equipment to operate; it inherited five of these from the faster Empire Builder. Each set of equipment consisted of fourteen cars:
Baggage-mail car
Baggage car
Coach (60 seats)
Coach (48 seats)
Coach (48 seats)
Coach (48 seats)
Lounge car
Dining car
Sleeping car
Sleeping car
Sleeping car
Sleeping car
Sleeping car
Observation lounge
Each set could carry 330 passengers.


The Empire Builder and Western Star served Glacier Park, stopping at both east and west gateways during the season.

The train is shown in the GN's new sky blue livery.

(SUN Publishing, Public domain, via W. Lenheim Collection)



Status: Discontinued
Predecessor: Oriental Limited
First service: June 3, 1951
Last service: May 1, 1971
Successor: Empire Builder
Former operators: Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, Great Northern Railway, Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway, 
Burlington Northern Railroad
Route Termini: Chicago, Illinois / Seattle, Washington/Portland, Oregon