Models of Great Northern Electrics


Great Northern operated five types of locomotives during the 47 years of electricification in the Cascades. The first were the four original B-B boxcabs 5000-5003 in use 1909 - 1926. The second were the light 50 ton units transfered from the Spokane and Inland Empire for the construction of the new Cascade tunnel, c 1925 -1929. The third group were the Z-1 box cabs used from 1926 till the end in 1956. Concurrent were the next type, the Y-1s 1927-1956. Finally the huge W-1 arrived in 1947 and served until the end in 1956.

Since I model the 40's there are only examples of the last three on my layout.


As delivered, they were painted passenger green and lettered in gold leaf. I'm painting one Y and one Z-1 like that.

Later, in the thirties the lettering was changed to dulux yellow and a red field was added behind the yellow goat. About this time Y-1's were modified by adding a busbar and moving the bell and headlight. The Z-1's were just repainted.

Finally, sometime after 1951, the Y-1 were painted in orange and green and the bell was moved again. The Z-1 remained the same except the goat was painted white on a red field. This scheme is too modern for the period I model so I'm using the second scheme.

Juice Jacks on the layout

Original Green and Gold paint scheme

Y-1 5016, in the Original colors and configuration leads the westboud Empire Builder through Casmere.

The Builder meets The Cascadian which has Z-1 5001 on the point.


5015 and 5017 wait for a westbound that they will assist up the hill.

Note the inside of the busbars are painted red. I noticed this detail while studying the Y-1's prior to painting.

While waiting, an Eastbound freight approaches. Note the front hand rails have not yet been installed after painting.

The east bound's caboose zips by.


Y-1 electric motor number 5016 passes Spokane yard with the heavyweight Empire Builder. This photo was retouched in Photoshop to remove the benchwork. The blurry locomotive in the Spokane holding yard is the 3216, a class O-4 mike.



Four Z-1s are on the point of a west bound load of apples headed for the port of Seattle and exportation to Asian markets

Three Z-1's lead an eastbound freight.


The extra passes the Cascadian waiting in the hole. It was common practice to put passenger trains in the hole rather than stopping and then restarting the heavy tonnage of opposing trains.




The W-1 electrics were huge as seen in this roundhouse photo. This model is from Overland and came painted.

A W-1 electric eases the eastbound Builder out of the Puget holding yard.


Observation Going-to-the-Sun Mountain passes the Spokane holding yard where the 3381, a westbound O-8 Mike, is waiting to depart with a manifest freight.

The Builder reaches the site of the future town of Cashmere


Modifying and painting the Y-1 Electrics                     Painting the Z-1s

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