John Speller's Web Pages Great Northern Electrics

John Speller's Web Pages - US Railroads
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In 1909 the Great Northern Railway (USA) began the nation's first main line electrification by electrifying part of its route for 73 miles between Wenatchee and Skykomish where there were particularly heavy grades that taxed steam locomotives and also provided unpleasant conditions in the Cascade Tunnel. The electric locomotives were the first in North America to use regenerative braking. The electricity for the locomotives was on the 6,600V AC three-phase system and was hydro-electrically generated. Sadly, after the arrival of diesel locomotives, the electric equipment was removed in 1956. The rationale for this was that the relatively low density of traffic on the line meant that the maintenance of the overhead electric lines was uneconomically high when set against the reduced cost of running individual trains.
Map of the western division of the Great Northern Railway showing the 73-mile electrified section between Skykomish and Wenatchee
Prototype Great Northern 1,900 h.p. electric locomotive No. 5001, built by General Electric in 1909
The "Empire Builder" behind General Electric 5,000 h.p. Class "W-1" locomotive No. 5018, built in 1946
The two 2,500 kW hydro-electric generators that produced the power for the Great Northern route over the Cascade Mountains. The power house was situated a few miles to the east of the electrified section of the Great Northern
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