Story and Photos by Justin Franz
Like many railroads, BNSF Railway maintains a fleet of historic passenger cars for use on business trains, employee appreciation trips and shippers specials. Throughout the year — but especially in the summer and fall — the office car special will travel the railroad’s 32,000-mile system and one of the most frequent destinations for the train is northwest Montana, home to Whitefish and Glacier National Park.
During the summer, it’s not uncommon for the train to spend a few days or even a week based in Whitefish giving rides to shippers and VIPs. The stainless steel train is made up of cars from BNSF predecessors, including Santa Fe, Great Northern, Northern Pacific, and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. The railroad has a handful of ex-Southern Pacific bi-level coaches that are often used on employee specials. A roster of BNSF’s passenger cars can be found here. The train is usually led by one or two locomotives out of the freight pool (cleaned up for the occasion, of course).
Here’s a look at BNSF’s office car special in northwest Montana, from trackside and onboard…
Along the Flathead River
BNSF Railway’s office car special is seen heading east along the Flathead River near Coram, Mont., on August 15, 2022. The train was making a round trip from Whitefish to Essex to entertain shippers and other invited guests.
Aboard the Glacier View
Passengers enjoy the scenery of the Flathead Valley from the dome-observation car Glacier View on September 17, 2018. The car was built by the Budd Company in 1955, for the Great Northern Railway. This trip was being run in coordination with the Glacier National Park Conservancy to thank supporters of the national park.
After touring the Pacific Northwest, BNSF Railway ran a shipper’s special to Whitefish, Mont., on May 19, 2023. The following day, the train deadheaded east over Marias Pass. The train is seen coming down the east slope with the mountains of Glacier National Park in the background.
Enjoying the Ride
On July 11, 2015, BNSF Railway invited local first responders and members of the Boys and Girls Club on a train ride along the southern edge of Glacier National Park. Nolan Sanders and Logan Emerson enjoyed the view as the train passed through Bad Rock Canyon, just east of Columbia Falls, Mont.
Back to Whitefish
The BNSF Railway business train rolls west around the curve at Coram, Mont., on August 6, 2019, during a roundtrip from Whitefish to East Glacier Park, Montana.
Aboard the William B. Strong
On August 5, 2022, BNSF Railway ran a passenger train from Whitefish to Essex, Mont., and back. Bringing up the rear of the train was theater/lounge car William B. Strong. The car was built for the Santa Fe in 1940 and is named in honor of the railroad’s president in the 1880s.
Winter in the Rockies
BNSF Railway’s business train made an early season trip to the Northwest in early 2023. On March 24, the train is seen heading east near East Glacier Park, Mont., as the snowcapped peaks of Glacier National Park loom in the distance.