Empire on Parade 1957

Empire Photosound, Inc.

We sing the song of a railroad! Narrator Roger Krupp waxes poetic during this 40 minute film extolling the history and present day operations (circa 1957) of the Great Northern Railway.

Empire on Parade features the westward journey of freight train #401 from Minneapolis to Seattle and the industries and agriculture it serves along the way. We also get many views of the GN’s flagship Empire Builder passenger train.

It’s a festival of first-generation diesel locomotives including representatives from EMD, Alco and Baldwin.  In color.  So let’s take a journey during the hey-day of the post-war Big G.

The Empire Builder is about to drop a semaphore signal somewhere in the Montana Rockies. Note the 3 short Great Dome coaches and 1 large Great Dome lounge car which helps date the film after late 1955.

The eastbound Builder crosses Two Medicine Bridge near East Glacier, MT. A westbound freight makes its way along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, approaching West Glacier (Belton), MT.

James J. Hill, dubbed the “Empire Builder” for his ability to create prosperity where none previously existed. Seen here on the steps of William Crooks, Hill built a series of railroads which were later combined into the Great Northern, the northern-most railway in the United States.

In our final B&W picture, we see the driving of the “last spike” on GN Ry., near the current hamlet of Scenic, Washington.

Steam ran on the GN up until late 1957 or early 1958. Behold the film’s only shot of a working steam locomotive. It looks like an “O” class 2-8-2 on a freight somewhere in Minnesota. This also helped me date when this film was made — as there was no year shown in the credits.

Okay, let’s tour the GN shall we? Here we see freight train #401 being made up in Union Yard, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Check the funky Baldwin VO1000 switcher (GN #140), 1000 hp, built August 1944. Later, the frame and trucks of this locomotive were reused in transfer caboose X-179!

I just noticed in the second view behind the GN truck trailer is #3, an Alco S2 switcher.

Leaving the Twin Cities behind, #401 heads towards western Minnesota — according to the helpful map superimposed over the train. For much of the journey, motive power is provided by a matched set of EMD FT freight locomotives in A-B-B-A configuration. 5400 horsepower in toto. That long box on the roof indicates these units had dynamic brakes.

Just like that, #401 is across Minnesota and approaching Fargo, North Dakota.

Why not, Minot? GN was justifiably proud of its big, new (1955) hump yard smack dab in the middle of the GN Ry. system. An A-B pair of EMD FT’s pulls a string of freight cars on a switching move.

I love these shots. Great detail in these C.T.C. siding meets alongside good old-fashioned “hooping up the orders”. I can’t quite make out the station name, but ya gotta love those semaphore signals and the tidy, little depot with order board set for “Form 19”.

Butte, Montana plays host to a funky lashup of Alco FA units along with what I think is an Alco RS-2 or RS-3. The locomotives are passing a brand-new cut of vermillion red hopper cars — probably for transporting ore from the nearby mines.

It’s pretty hard to top Montana scenery. Here we find the Empire Builder skirting the southern boundary of Glacier National Park. Unfortunately, most of the views are backlit. Oh, to be able to ride those 3 short domes again!

While in Glacier territory, filmmakers caught caboose X-278 of train #401 passing a spectacular stand of mountains. Sister caboose X-277 is still around (as of 2001) and residing on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Crossing into Idaho, #401 splits a pristine set of semaphore signals.

Great Northern had a big yard and shops at Hillyard, just north of Spokane. A lone Alco RS switcher tugs some pulp wood, whilst #401 appears to have acquired an EMD F3 or F7 on the point.

If this is Wenatchee (apple capital of the world), that string of yellow Western Fruit Express reefers are gonna need a lot of ice!  Look how close that kid is standing to the tracks at Wenatchee depot.  Safety first, kiddo…

So up the Wenatchee River, through Cascade Tunnel, along Puget Sound at Meadowdale to the docks in Seattle goes #401. I like that huge GN Ry. sign on top of the building.

The map is correct, but the ROUTE of the GN Ry. is printed BACKWARDS!  IOW, the lines around Spokane, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver have been plunked down where Winnipeg, Grand Forks, Fargo and the Twin Cities are located. Somebody in Marketing really messed up. Nice logo though, aaaaand the credits roll.

From the final credits, it turns out there was an actual Empire Photosound Building, 1920 Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis. Goober street view shows it still stands:


There’s nothing in IMDb about Empire on Parade. There are bits and pieces of it on YouTube. If you’d like to see the entire picture, your best bet is probably searching on ye olde Ebay.

If you have ANY information about this movie you’d like to share, please contact me at: Lindsay.Korst@gmail.com, or leave a comment.  Thanks and enjoy the blog!



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