The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad is one of the largest railroads in the country. Although the merger that resulted in the BNSF name and logo happened in 1995, the railroad itself has been around in some form or another since the mid 1800s. Like many railroads in the country, BNSF was formed through a series of mergers of other railroads.
In total, BNSF is made up of more than 390 different railroads which all have combined under one name. The BNSF is a well-respected railroad which has a fleet of more than 6,000 locomotives. It serves the western two-thirds of the United States and has track in portions of Canadian and Mexican gateways.
BNSF has a network of 32,500 route miles across 28 states and three Canadian provinces. It transports a variety of different goods including grain and other agricultural commodities, consumer products, industrial products, and coal. In 2016 it shipped 9.7 million carloads of products. On average, a new car or truck is loaded or unloaded onto a BNSF train about every 11 seconds.
The evolution of the BNSF is a fascinating tale of mergers, dreams, and innovation. During the more than 160 years that the railroad has been in operation, there have been numerous smaller railroads which either went bankrupt or merged with larger corporations before becoming BNSF.
The history of BNSF starts in 1849 when the oldest BNSF railroad, the Aurora Branch Line, was founded. When it originally started, it used borrowed equipment to chug its way across six miles of track made of secondhand iron for each delivery. That railroad eventually became Burlington Lines – the largest of BNSF’s predecessor railroads, which boasted nearly 10,000 miles of track on its own.
The most important and largest merger which saw the beginnings of what would become BNSF happened in 1970, when the merger of five railroads (the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, the Spokane, the Great Northern, the Northern Pacific, the Pacific Coast Railroad, and the Spokane, Portland and Seattle) became known as the Burlington Northern Railroad (BN). Ten years later, then Frisco was added to Burlington Northern. Then in 1995, the BN and the Santa Fe combined to become the BNSF—Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.
In 2005, the company had continued to innovate, lay track, and grow in reputation. So, it decided to create a new logo, unveil a new name (BNSF), and create a new look to better serve its customers and represent what this historic railway had become. the iconic orange locomotives with the black BNSF logo are recognizable nationwide.
Berkshire Hathaway acquired BNSF in 2010, proving to the country that the railroad industry was an invaluable and worthwhile investment. Since then, BNSF has continued to improve and grow into one of the top-rated and most-used railroads in the nation, hauling millions of cars of products for various industries every year.