The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company , headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, and established as a result of a 1995 merger between the parent companies of the Burlington Northern Railroad and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, is one of the largest railroad networks in North America (only the Union Pacific Railroad is comparable in size). The railroads were formally combined in December 1996 and the BNSF is a wholly owned subsidiary of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation.
According to BNSF press releases, the BNSF Railway is among the top transporters of intermodal traffic in North America, and moves more grain than any other American railroad. It also hauls enough coal to generate roughly 10% of the electricity produced in the United States.
The BNSF Railway directly owns and operates track in 27 U.S. states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. In addition, the railway also operates a small amount of track in British Columbia, Canada, including an approximate 30-mile (48 kilometer) section that runs from the U.S.-Canada border to Vancouver. For administrative purposes, the BNSF railway is divided into thirteen different divisions: Chicago, Gulf, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Northern California, Northwest, Powder River, Southern California, Southwest, Springfield, Texas, and Twin Cities. Each division is further divided into hundreds of different subdivisions, which represent segments of track ranging from 300-mile mainlines to 10-mile branch-lines.
Not including second, third and fourth main line trackage, yard trackage, and siding trackage, the BNSF Railway directly operates some 24,500 miles (39,429 kilometers) of track. When these additional tracks are counted, however, the amount of track that the BNSF Railway has direct control over rises to over 50,000 miles (80,467 kilometers).
Additionally, the BNSF Railway has been able to gain trackage rights on over 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometers) of track throughout the United States and Canada. These rights allow the BNSF to operate its own trains with its own crews on competing railroads' main tracks.
BNSF locomotives also occasionally show up on competitors' tracks throughout the United States and Canada by way of lease and other contractual arrangements.
BNSF paint schemes
The assortment of colors used on the BNSF makes it one of the most colorful large railroads in North America. BNSF paints its locomotives in schemes derived from its predecessor railroads. Many locomotives, sometimes affectionately called "pumpkins," are painted in "Heritage I" or "Heritage II" schemes, which are based on the Great Northern Railroad's colors of black and orange. Some locomotives are painted in Santa Fe's famous silver-and-red "warbonnet" scheme, sometimes with "BNSF" painted on the sides instead of "Santa Fe". Even more locomotives continue to be wear the green and white or blue and yellow colors of the two railroads that merged to create the BNSF. Recently, the "Heritage III" paint scheme was introduced, featuring the new company logo painted on the nose and sides of the locomotive and black stripes instead of green.
Old BNSF logo (new one at the top of the article).
On January 24 2005, the railroad introduced a new logo to replace the circle and cross logo of Santa Fe heritage. The new logo symbolizes the railroad's goals to be "a leader in in transportation service and innovation."  This logo also marks a move away from the more verbose Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway moniker displayed in the old logo.
From left: Heritage I, Heritage II, and Heritage III, front and side views.
BNSF yards and facilities
BNSF operates various facilities all over the United States to support its transportation system. Some of the various facilities operated by the railway include yards and terminals throughout its rail network, system locomotive shops to perform locomotive service and maintenance, a centralized operations center for train dispatching and network operations monitoring in Fort Worth, Texas, regional dispatching centers, computers, telecommunications equipment, and signal systems.
The BNSF Railway also operates numerous transfer facilities throughout the western United States in order to facilitate the transfer of intermodal containers, trailers, and other freight traffic. The BNSF Railway has direct control over a total of 36 intermodal hubs and 25 automotive distribution facilities. On February 9 2005, BNSF announced that it plans to build a new intermodal transfer facility near the port of Los Angeles; the new facility, with direct rail access to the recently constructed Alameda Corridor , would supplement the container transloading abilities of the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF) built by Southern Pacific in the 1990s.
Large freight car hump yards are also scattered throughout the BNSF system. In 2003, the Argentine Yard in Kansas City, Kansas processed the largest number of freight cars.
The BNSF mechanical division is responsible for operating 8 locomotive maintenance facilities involved with preventive maintenance, repairs and servicing of equipment. The largest of these facilities are located in Lincoln, Nebraska and Topeka, Kansas. Furthermore, the mechanical division also controls 46 additional facilities that are responsible for car maintenance and daily running repairs.
Meanwhile, the BNSF system mechanical division, a subset of the mechanical division, also operates two maintenance-of-way work equipment shops, responsible for performing repairs and preventative maintenance to BNSF's track and equipment, in Brainerd, Minnesota and Galesburg, Illinois. The system mechanical division is also responsible for the operation of the Western Fruit Express Company's refrigerated car repair shop in Spokane, Washington.
BNSF's northern route
Northern route overview
One of the routes operated by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe traverses the most northerly route of any railroad in the western United States. This route was originally part of the Northern Pacific Railway system, followed by the Burlington Northern Railroad system. The route starts at Chicago, Illinois and runs west-northwest to La Crosse, Wisconsin. From here the route continues northwest through Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota to Grand Forks, North Dakota. From Grand Forks the route runs west through North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho to Spokane, Washington. At Spokane the route splits into two routes, one going to Seattle, Washington and the other to Portland, Oregon. This route required construction of the Flathead Tunnel through the Rocky Mountains in Montana and the new Cascade Tunnel through the Cascade Mountains in Washington.
Traveling east from Seattle, Washington to the western portal of the Cascade Tunnel
Traveling east from the King Street Station in Seattle, Washington, the main line of the BNSF heads north through a tunnel under downtown Seattle. After exiting the tunnel the main line continues north through the Interbay classification yard and maintenance facilities and across the Lake Washington Ship Canal on the Salmon Bay Bridge. The main line continues north along the shore of Puget Sound through the cities of Edmonds, Washington and Mukilteo, Washington past Rucker hill in Everett, Washington to the old Everett station. From there the main line makes a 180 degree turn through a partially covered cut through downtown Everett to the new Everett station. From the new station, the main line heads south, then southeast along the Snohomish river through the cities of Snohomish, Washington and Monroe, Washington. From Monroe the main line follows the Skykomish river through the towns of Index, Washington and Skykomish, Washington to the western portal of the Cascade Tunnel.
BNSF's commitment to railway crossing safety
As one of the leading supporters of the Operation Lifesaver program to promote safety at railway crossings and right-of-ways, the BNSF Railway, in 2000, established a grade-crossing closure program. This program, wherein BNSF works with communities and landowners to identify crossings that are unnecessary or redundant, has helped close over 2,000 of BNSF's railway crossings throughout the United States. Largely thanks to this program, BNSF has been the industry leader in lowering the amount of grade-crossing collisions.
BNSF facts and figures
According to the BNSF's 2003 Annual Report to Investors, at the end of 2003, the BNSF Railway had more than 36,000 employees, 5,377 locomotives, and 87,549 freight cars.
- Broken down by specific kind of car, the BNSF owned:
- In addition, the railway also owned:
- 10,627 domestic containers
- 9,864 domestic chassis
- 4,028 company service vehicles
- 2,152 trailers
- 163 commuter passenger cars
The average age from date of manufacture for the BNSF's locomotive fleet was 15 years at the end of 2003, while the average age from date of manufacture for the freight car fleet at the end of 2003 was 16 years.
In 2003, BNSF hauled 4 million intermodal containers and trailers, 236 million tons of coal, 47 million tons of grain, and 30 million tons of building products, in addition to thousands of various other products used by people throughout the United States every day.
Last updated: 08-01-2005 00:16:11