The Burlington Northern
Railroad (reporting mark BN) was a United
States-based railroad company formed from a merger of four major U.S.
railroads. Burlington Northern operated between 1970 and 1996.
Its historical lineage begins in the earliest days of railroading with
the chartering in 1848 of the Chicago and Aurora Railroad, a direct
ancestor line of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, which
lends Burlington to the names of various merger-produced successors.
Burlington Northern purchased the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe
Railway on December 31, 1996 to form the Burlington Northern and Santa
Fe Railway (later renamed BNSF Railway), which was owned by the
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation. That corporation was
Berkshire Hathaway in 2009 which is controlled by
investor Warren Buffett.
3 Equipment colors and painting
4 Company officers
4.1 Presidents of the Burlington Northern Railroad
5 Notable locomotives
6 Preserved equipment
7 Environmental record
8 See also
10 External links
The Burlington Northern
Railroad was the product of a March 2, 1970,
merger of four major railroads—the Great Northern Railway, Northern
Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway
Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway and the
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad—as well as a few small
jointly owned subsidiaries owned by the four. The merged railroad
was initially going to be called Great Northern Pacific &
Although the four railroads shared common ownership (including the
headquarters building in Saint Paul, Minnesota) from the days of the
James J. Hill
James J. Hill era, the four railroads previously had unsuccessfully
attempted four mergers to unify the Hill Lines: 1896, 1901, 1927 and
1955. The merger was finally approved in 1970 even though a challenge
occurred in the Supreme Court, which reversed the result of the 1904
Northern Securities ruling.
To further expand the Burlington Northern railroad, a single track was
constructed in 1972 into the
Powder River Basin
Powder River Basin to serve various coal
mines. On November 21, 1980, the
St. Louis–San Francisco Railway
St. Louis–San Francisco Railway was
acquired, giving the railroad trackage as far south into Florida. By
1981, however, the holding company of the railroad, Burlington
Northern, Inc. relocated headquarters from Saint Paul to Seattle,
Washington and spun off all non-rail operations to Burlington
Resources in 1988.
In 1971, BN/C&S/FW&D carried 64,116 million revenue ton-miles
of freight; in 1979 the total was 135,004 million. Most of the
increase was Powder River coal from Wyoming, a fount of traffic
unprecedented in United States railroad history, and one which BN had
to itself until 1984.
The Burlington Northern, along with handling freight trains, briefly
operated inter-city passenger trains. The BN had started operations
just a matter of weeks before the end of service of the original
California Zephyr, which had been operated by the CB&Q, in
conjunction with the Denver & Rio Grande Western and Western
Pacific railroads, and continued to operate the North Coast Limited,
"Mainstreeter" Empire Builder, "Western Star", Denver Zephyr,
"Gopher", and "International",until
Amtrak took over intercity
passenger service in May 1971, thus becoming the last "new" Class I
railroad to operate its own passenger trains. The BN also operated a
commuter line inherited from the CB&Q from Chicago Union Station
to the western suburb of Aurora, Illinois.
On September 22, 1995, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway
merged with the Burlington Northern to create the Burlington Northern
Santa Fe Railway. However, the merger was not official until December
31, 1996, when a common dispatching system was established, Santa Fe's
non-union dispatchers were unionized and the implementation of Santa
Fe's train identification codes systemwide. On January 24, 2005,
the railroad shortened its name to BNSF Railway.
Main line heading north out of
Seattle, Washington along the shore of
The Burlington Northern traversed the most northerly routes of any
railroad in the western United States. These routes started at
Chicago, Illinois and ran west-northwest to La Crosse, Wisconsin. From
here the routes continued northwest through Minneapolis and St. Paul,
Minnesota to Grand Forks, North Dakota. From Grand Forks the routes
ran west through North Dakota, Montana, and
Idaho to Spokane,
Washington. The former GN routed through North Dakota/Northern
Montana, crossing the continental divide at Marias Pass, while the
former NP line routed through the southern part of
Montana (which was
spun off to
Montana Rail Link in 1987), crossing the continental
divide at Mullan and Homestake Passes. At Spokane the routes split
into three. The former Great Northern route ran west to Wenatchee,
Washington, crossed under the
Cascade Range at New
Cascade Tunnel on
Stevens Pass, and descended to the
Puget Sound region through Everett,
Washington. The former Northern Pacific turned southwest towards the
Tri-Cities, then northwest to Yakima, Washington, and crossed under
Cascade Range at Stampede Tunnel, descending to the Green River
Auburn, Washington where it connected with existing NP lines
British Columbia to Portland, Oregon. The Spokane, Portland and
Seattle ran southwest to the Tri-Cities, then followed the north bank
Columbia River to Vancouver, Washington.
With the acquisition of the St. Louis – San Francisco Railway the
route was extended into the South Central and Southeastern United
Transport Statistics shows BN operated 23609 miles of line and 34691
miles of track at the end of 1970; it shows 4547 SLSF miles of line
not including QA&P and AT&N. At the end of 1981 BN showed
27374 miles of line and 40041 miles of track.
At the time of the
1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens
1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens the summit of the
volcano that was blasted away was owned by Burlington Northern.
Following the eruption, Burlington Northern agreed to a land swap with
U.S. government and exchanged its square mile of land on the
mountain for national forest land elsewhere to allow for the creation
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to preserve the
volcano and allow for its aftermath to be scientifically studied.
Equipment colors and painting
NW2 510 at Aurora, Illinois
The livery of the Burlington Northern traces its history to Chicago,
Burlington and Quincy Railroad.
EMD GP40 #629 was painted in a green,
black and white scheme that introduced the BN's lettering and logo.
The green color was later known as Cascade Green due to the
reflections of pine trees and nature along various routes the trains
of the CB&Q traveled.
As the final approval of the merger was approaching the Spokane,
Portland and Seattle Railway purchased 6 EMD GP38s in February 1970
that were delivered in the Burlington Northern paint scheme.
By the 1980s the locomotives and rolling stock had an unfortunate
habit of camouflaging into the scenery and causing accidents at
railroad crossings. In late 1984 the BN commenced the High Visibility
study which applied orange and black nose stripes and orange along the
cab face on one locomotive followed by two new orders of locomotives:
EMD SD40-2, EMD GP50, and
EMD SD60 respectively. By 1987 the study did
not show vast improvement of the locomotive's visibility and was
In 1989 the BN reactivated its High Visibility study, trying more
white paint on the nose and cab face. The first unit, GATX Rebuild EMD
GP40 #3079 emerged in April 1989 with a white cab face, end-sill
stripes, and a large BN logo applied on the nose; dubbed White Face
this scheme proved to be a success with only a minor change occurring
in 1991 with the application of a two-inch wide separator stripe.
In October 1990 BN departed from its Cascade Green, black and white
scheme on its business car and locomotive fleet. Adopting Grinstein
Green (an altered version of Brunswick Green/British Racing Green and
named after the president of Burlington Northern, Gerald Grinstein),
Cream, and Alizarin Red. This scheme was applied to EMD F9A-2 #BN-1,
EMD F9B-2 #BN-2, and EMD E9A-2 #BN-3, of the locomotive fleet and the
business car fleet. In November 1993, brand new
EMD SD70MAC #9401
received the Executive colors, making a departure from the standard
Cascade Green, White & Black scheme. This trend continued only on
the EMD SD70MAC's until BNSF #9837.
Presidents of the Burlington Northern Railroad
Louis W. Menk (March 2, 1970 - May 1, 1971)
Robert W. Downing (May 1, 1971 - January 1, 1976)
Norman Lorentzsen (January 1, 1976 - July 17, 1985) 
Darius W. Gaskins, Jr. (July 17, 1985 - January 1, 1989)
Gerald Grinstein (January 1, 1989 - September 22, 1995)
Robert D. Krebs (September 22, 1995 - December 31, 1996) [Post BN]
Throughout its history, the Burlington Northern had various oddities
and test demonstrators/paint schemes:
Burlington Northern Paint Schemes
First locomotive experimented in pre-Burlington Northern Livery in
EMD SD45 & GE U23C
516 – 530, 460 – 468
Pre-Burlington Northern livery designed by the CB&Q in
200 – 205 (2072–2077)
First new locomotives for the Burlington Northern; ordered by the
Spokane, Portland & Seattle in February 1970.
Carried a "Together at Last" BN-SLSF Merger slogan along the
EMD SD40-2, EMD GP50, EMD SD60
8002, 3110 – 3162, 8300 – 8302
Painted in the experimental High Visibility Tiger Stripes paint
The first locomotive to receive the Whiteface paint scheme in April
3110 & 3112
An alternative version of white with orange "Tiger Stripes" instead of
EMD F9A-2, EMD F9B-2, EMD E9A-2
BN-1, BN-2 & BN-3
The first new locomotives painted in the Executive scheme.
The only unit receiving white striping along the front cab
2075 & 2085
#2075 was the first unit painted in a "Pacific Pride" Scheme; later
replaced by #2085, dubbed "Pacific Pride II", after 2075 was reported
with fire damage 
1813 & 1863
Received "The National Academy of
Railroad Sciences" lettering along
Was the sole locomotive of the Burlington Northern Manitoba
subsidiary. Retired in 2007 as BNSF 1685. It was the last GP9 to
operate on BNSF.
Painted to honor the employees serving in Desert Storm.
7149 & 7890
Modified by Energy Conversions Inc. to run on compressed liquefied
natural gas (refrigerated liquid methane), dubbed the "DF40-2" for
Operation Lifesaver logos applied.
Operation Lifesaver logos applied.
Introduced a proposed Burlington Northern Santa Fe paint scheme.
9709 – 9710 were the last two new locomotives for the BN delivered
in January 1996. 9711 – 9712 are the first new locomotives for
EMD GP50, EMD SD40-2
3120 & 7812
The last locomotives painted in Burlington Northern green on August 8,
2911 & 2931
Painted in an experimental Cascade Green BNSF scheme.
Burlington Northern caboose No. 11687 at the Wichita Falls Railroad
Burlington Northern 1 and 2, formerly
Northern Pacific Railway
Northern Pacific Railway 6700A
and 7002C, EMD F9s, were built in 1954 and later rebuilt by BN for
special train service. They are currently owned by the Illinois
Railway Museum and are on display and occasionally operated in Union,
Illinois Railway Museum
Illinois Railway Museum also owns U30C 5383, which is
operable, and is fully restored in Burlington Northern colors.
Burlington Northern 6399, formerly Great Northern
Railroad 325, a rare
EMD SDP40, is owned by the
Minnesota Transportation Museum and
operated on the Osceola & St Croix tourist railroad. It is
restored in the Burlington Northern "White face" scheme and is used by
the museum on a regular basis. The Museum also owns Burlington
Northern 6234, formerly Colorado & Southern 839, an EMD SD9.
Burlington Northern 6008, former Great Northern 558, an EMD SD7 is
also in the collection of the
Minnesota Transportation Museum.
A number of cabooses that were used by the Burlington Northern have
been preserved and put on display at various museums and parks across
the country. Several of these are being repainted back into the paint
schemes of their original owners.
A Burlington Northern railroad tie treating plant was responsible for
Burlington Northern (Brainerd/Baxter) United States Environmental
Superfund site, located between the cities of
Brainerd and Baxter in Crow Wing County, Minnesota. The tie
treating plant operated on the property between 1907 and 1985 and
treated railroad ties with creosote and fuel oil. Wastewater generated
from the wood-treating process was sent to two shallow, unlined ponds.
This created a sludge which contaminated both the underlying soils and
the groundwater with creosote and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons
Paul Bunyan Trail
Paul Bunyan Trail Rail Trail
Great Northern Railway: Mansfield Branch (1909-1985)
Superfund sites in Minnesota
Berkshire Hathaway to buy Burlington Northern Santa Fe
^ For a pictorial survey of the BN's diesels from Day 1, see Olmsted,
Robert P., "The Green Machines" (1986).
^ Morgan, David P. (August 1968). "American Quarterly: In Brief".
Modern Railways. Shepperton, Middlesex: Ian Allan Ltd. XXIV (239):
^ Moody's Transportation Manual 1981
^ "Burlington Northern & Sante Fe: Merger". RailNews. Pentrex: 87.
March 1997. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
^ "Form 10-K:
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation for the year
ended December 31, 2007". Securities and Exchange Commission. February
15, 2008. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
^ Not including 692 route-miles operated by C&S, 1201 FW&D,
186 Oregon Electric, 152 Oregon Trunk, 19 Walla Walla Valley and 2
^ Not including 678 route-miles C&S and 1181 miles FW&D.
^ bnsf.com Archived 2011-11-21 at the Wayback Machine.
^ BN News, May 1971, pp. 1
^ BN News, 1976 Overview pp.3-5
^ Kenneth N. Gilpin & Eric Schmitt. "Business People; Burlington
Northern Promotes 2 Executives". The New York Times, December 18,
^ Daniel F. Cuff. "Business People; Burlington Northern Names 2
Executives", The New York Times, October 21, 1988.
^ Biel, Charles. "EMD SD60". www.trainpix.com.
^ epa.gov Archived December 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.,
Burlington Northern (Brainerd/Baxter) Fact Sheet"
Burlington System from the
Handbook of Texas
Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved
american-rails.com, Burlington Northern History
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Burlington Northern Railroad.
Friends of the Burlington Northern
Railroad (BN historical society)
Railroads in the Midwest: Early Documents and Images
List and Family Trees of North American Railroads
Superfund Fact Sheet for Burlington Northern
Class I railroads of North America
CP- D&H, SOO
Railroads in italics meet the revenue specifications for Class I
status, but are not technically Class I railroads due to being
passenger-only railroads with no freight component.