The Oriental Limited
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Northern Pacific’s company charter in 1864, making it the second continental railroad. The goal was to connect the Great Lakes with the Pacific Ocean. It was an engineering challenge. Track laying began at the Colombia River in March of 1871 and progressed through remote territory. It was a slow process, and it was ten years before the railroad began pushing across the Rocky Mountains. The final spike was driven in 1883 at Gold Creek, Montana. And beyond the physical challenges, the company also had to survive financial difficulties including the financial panics of 1873 and 1893.
On this date in 1905, the Bottineau Courant announced the addition of a new train to the Northern Pacific lineup. The Oriental Limited would provide service between St. Paul and Puget Sound. It was touted as offering “all the comforts of home” while passengers sat back in luxury and enjoyed the scenery. Instead of being worn and tired from the trip, a traveler would reach the end of the journey well rested and with happy memories of a pleasant journey.
A Northern Pacific brochure described the luxury two-room suites, and compartments that included drawing rooms and bathrooms. Tourist sleeping cars with upper and lower berths were advertised for less than the cost of traditional standard Pullman travel. The deluxe cars offered bathroom facilities and dressing rooms. The dining car was said to be famous for its menu.
Limited the top of the line train from 1905 to 1929 when it fell to second place behind James J. Hill’s Empire Builder. It was eventually canceled in 1931 because of the Depression. It was restored to service in 1946 in anticipation of increased post-War travel, but the name Oriental Limited was retired for good in 1951.
The Northern Pacific was a powerhouse in the world of transportation. The company pioneered two innovative locomotive designs. It was the first railroad to create a National Park connection with its “Yellowstone Park Line.” That proved so popular that the Oriental Limited began stopping at Glacier National Park from June through September. By the early 1950s, there were 6,888 miles in the NP system. Modernization included diesel engines and lightweight streamlined passenger cars. In 1970 the NP merged with other lines to become Burlington Northern. With another merger in 1996, it became the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, a name simplified in 2005 to BNSF.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
" Bottineau Courant. “Oriental Limited.” Bottineau, ND. 17 November 1905. Page 1.
Streamliner Memories. “The Oriental Limited.”
Accessed 19 October 2017.
National Railway Historical Society. “The Northern Pacific.”
Accessed 19 October 2017.