Welcome to Friends of BNSF!

If any of the following describes you, then this might be just the website for you:

  • You want to know more about how BNSF contributes to our way of life;
  • You or a family member works at BNSF;
  • You or a family member has retired from BNSF or one of its predecessor companies;
  • You want to explore the rich history of BNSF;
  • Or, you just flat out love trains!

From historic photos and videos to a library of resources about BNSF to free downloadables like wallpaper and ringtones, we've got plenty for you to check out. Take a look at the sample stories below. Then, join the site.

Public-private partnership secures $10 million federal grant for Willmar, Minn. railroad wye

U.S. Sen. Al Franken speaks at a ceremony to announce a $10 million federal TIGER grant that will help fund a railroad wye project in Willmar, Minn.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, right, speaks Friday in Willmar, Minn. for the announcement of a $10 million federal TIGER grant that will help fund a $49 million railroad project in Willmar. The construction of a railroad wye will allow several trains a day to bypass Willmar’s downtown railroad, reducing train traffic through the city and enhancing rail capacity and efficiency. Listening are, from left, are Minnesota Department of Transportation Chief of Staff Eric Davis, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg and Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin.

TIGER stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. Funding for the project includes contributions from several sources, including $16 million from BNSF Railway and $15 million from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

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Public-private partnership secures $10 million federal grant for Willmar, Minn. railroad wye

Austin Western Railroad is BNSF's Shortline Railroad of the Year for 2015

Congratulations to Austin Western Railroad (AWRR), BNSF's 2015 Shortline Railroad of the Year! AAWRR operates from Marble Falls to Elgin, Texas and interchanges freight with BNSF at McNeil, Texas. AWRR moves approximately 49,000 carloads annually, shipping commodities such as aggregates, crushed limestone, calcium bicarbonate, lumber, beer, chemicals, plastics and paper. View news release.

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Austin Western Railroad is BNSF's Shortline Railroad of the Year for 2015

On this day in 1883, American railroads introduced time zones

Today is the 132nd anniversary of the creation of the first time zones, courtesy of railroads.


U.S. railroads helped originate the concept of time zones in the late 19th century. Prior to that, time was localized to individual communities based on when the sun reached its apex at noon. So, for every degree of longitude, there was a four-minute difference in time, and each community had its own timekeeping. These small differences were not an issue in the days when travel on foot, horseback or stagecoach took weeks or months. But, as railroads enabled travel from one town to another in a matter of hours, managing train schedules required much more precision and consistency.


So the railroads created four national time zones – which rolled out officially on Nov. 18, 1883. All locations within a time zone shared the same time, with a one-hour difference in each zone from east to west. Although the public quickly adopted the concept, it took Congress 35 years to pass the Standard Time Act of 1918, which mandated the use of time zones by law. 

Watch from Russ Bryan’s family collection.

While the implementation of time zones improved the efficiency and safety of railroads, more accurate timepieces were also needed. A tragic train collision on April 18, 1891, near Kipton, Ohio, that resulted in several fatalities prompted an investigation underscoring the need for accurate, reliable clocks and watches in railroad operations. A rail industry committee was established to outline specifications for “railroad-approved” watches. Railroad approved watches were high quality and made from premium materials to ensure the most accurate time measurement. Specifications included white dials with contrasting black numbers and hands, and numbers rather than Roman numerals.


Additional procedures also required the regular inspection of watches for accuracy. Railroad rules mandated that certain employees, including train dispatchers, conductors, enginemen and brakemen, have an approved watch and current watch inspection certification cards with them while on duty.


A similar set of rules is still in effect for on-duty crew members that requires they have a watch that is in good working condition and reliable, that displays hours, minutes and seconds, and cannot vary from the correct time by more than 30 seconds.


While train crew members are required to have a watch, other employees must only have access to a watch or a clock.


Today, these timepieces are valuable collectibles – and often treasured heirlooms within railroad families. Russ Bryan, manager, Load and Ride Solutions at BNSF, inherited several antique railroad watches.


“My family has more than 225 years of railroad service combined,” he says. “These watches are cherished family heirlooms with good reason. They were an investment in safety that my family members came to rely upon. Some of us still have fond memories of seeing our father or grandfather wearing his railroad watch that seemed to almost be a part of him.”



This Precision Clock made by Seth Thomas was the most expensive ever produced by the manufacturer and has an exceptionally heavy pendulum, weighing over 30 pounds. It is designed to run eight days with one winding. This clock originally resided in the General Watch & Clock Inspectors Office in Topeka, Kan. and can now be found at BNSF’s Fort Worth headquarters.


In addition to requiring many employees to carry watches, railroads also installed accurate clocks in major train depots.


One of the most esteemed clockmakers of the 19th century was Seth Thomas Sons & Co. Known for producing exceptionally accurate clocks and regulators, Seth Thomas was recognized for its advanced technology and beautifully crafted oak, mahogany or walnut cases. Like the railroad watches, these clocks are now considered collectors’ items, and some are quite valuable.


This E. Howard & Co. clock was crafted during the early 1900s for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway and is made of oak. 



Many antique railroad clocks and regulators are housed at BNSF headquarters in Fort Worth. The inventory includes nearly 200 items, ranging from standing floor clocks to long wall clocks and even small “schoolhouse” models, which are half the size of long wall clocks and usually have round or hexagonal faces. While most were produced by Seth Thomas, some upscale models were produced by E. Howard & Co.



A Santa Fe “schoolhouse” model clock.



This clock was manufactured in France between 1880 and 1890 and is a manual wind weight clock operated by weights on rollers. 


Although these clocks are antiques, they are still reliable.


“I find it impressive that so few of these [clocks] need maintenance,” says Sally King, BNSF curator. “Probably fewer than a dozen a year need work. For 100-year-old mechanical devices, they are surprisingly dependable and accurate.”


The official time for the United States is regulated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), formerly the National Bureau of Standards. Using the NIST-F1, a cesium fountain clock, the time is so precise it is not expected to lose or gain a second in nearly 100 million years. The official time is available via the NIST website and an automated radio broadcast from government radio station WWV in Boulder, Colo. Dial 303-499-7111 to listen to the broadcast.

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On this day in 1883, American railroads introduced time zones

BNSF honors Gallup with Heritage Community Award

Andrew Johnsen, assistant vice president, Community Affairs, talks with Jackie McKinney, mayor of Gallup, N.M. aboard a BNSF business car after presenting him with a model locomotive.


BNSF honored the city of Gallup, N.M. in a ceremony on Nov. 2 with its BNSF Railway Heritage Community Award. The award honors communities around BNSF’s 32,500-mile rail network that embrace their past, present and future ties to freight rail.


A reception and dinner were held aboard BNSF business cars brought to the Gallup Rail Yard for the occasion. 


Mayor Jackie McKinney accepted the award on behalf of the city. McKinney was joined by elected officials as well as representatives from area businesses and non-profit organizations. 


Andrew Johnsen, assistant vice president, community affairs, presented the award and expressed BNSF’s appreciation to the citizens, staff and leadership of Gallup and McKinley County. 


“BNSF Railway and Gallup have a shared history -- a history of seeking collaboration to grow jobs and the economy, solve problems together and strengthen our role as a good neighbor,” Johnsen said.       


As part of the recognition, donations were presented from the BNSF Railway Foundation to three area non-profit organizations.


BNSF and Gallup have ties dating back to 19th century


In 1880, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, a BNSF predecessor, built headquarters for its paymaster David L. Gallup in a small New Mexico town. Workers in the area started using the phrase “going to Gallup” when they discussed picking up their paychecks. When the town was established in 1881, Gallup was chosen as the name. 


The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (Santa Fe) selected Gallup as a division point in 1895 and built shops, repair facilities and a depot hotel. Gallup was incorporated on July 9, 1891 and the A&P was sold at foreclosure to the Santa Fe in 1897.


Gallup’s early economy centered on coal mining. Gallup is located at the center of the Gallup-Zuni coal field and from 1886 to 1903, the area produced the most coal in New Mexico. 


Gallup was also located near the Navajo Nation, Zuni Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo and Laguna Pueblo and became a center for Native American arts and crafts. Route 66 came through Gallup in 1926 and many Indian Trading Posts were built to attract tourists traveling on the highway.



View of the Santa Fe yard and part of Gallup in March 1943. Photo by Jack Delano.


View of the Santa Fe yard and part of Gallup in March 1943. Photo by Jack Delano.


The Santa Fe Super Chief between Belen and Gallup, N.M. in March 1943. Photo by Jack Delano.


In the early 1900s, Gallup became a stopover point for the Santa Fe’s Indian Detours due to its proximity to Native American landmarks such as Zuni and Acoma Pueblos and the Petrified Forest. 

The "El Navajo" hotel, in Gallup. To the left of the hotel is the passenger depot. Photo courtesy of kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply.

Another view of the El Navajo hotel. Photo courtesy of kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply.

This is an architectural rendering by E. A. Harrison, the Santa Fe’s chief architect, for the El Navajo Hotel in Gallup. The rendering was based on Mary Colter’s designs. Photo courtesy of kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply.


Mary Colter, a prolific Fred Harvey Company architect, designed a Harvey House for Gallup in 1916. Completed in 1923, El Navajo did not feature the Mission Revival architectural style of some of her other work. Instead, she used the Pueblo Revival style in honor of the community’s strong Native American ties. Native American artwork adorned the interior of the hotel, which was one of the largest on the system and one of the main training grounds for Harvey Girls. The Harvey house closed in 1957 and was demolished that year.


In 1996, the city of Gallup renovated the Santa Fe depot and opened the Gallup Cultural Center, a community center featuring a cultural and historic exhibit, Native American Art Gallery and visitor center.


A BNSF intermodal train west of Gallup. Photo courtesy of Dave Traudt.


A BNSF intermodal train east of Gallup. Photo courtesy of Dave Traudt.


Today, Gallup is part of BNSF’s Southern Transcon, a transcontinental route which runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. The Southern Transcon is an important route for intermodal trains.  Intermodal means freight containers are switched between these different modes of transportation – ships, trains and trucks -- on their journey from suppliers to consumers, carrying goods that we use every day such as clothes, electronics and vehicles. BNSF’s Gallup Subdivision covers track from Belen, N.M. to Winslow, Ariz. 

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BNSF honors Gallup with Heritage Community Award

BNSF intermodal train passes through Mississippi Palisades

An intermodal freight train passes through last year’s autumn colors in the Mississippi Palisades north of Savanna, Ill.  Intermodal traffic represents nearly 50 percent of BNSF’s business by volume. BNSF’s intermodal business unit serves more than 8,000 shippers per year. In fact, BNSF loads the equivalent of a trailer or container every seven seconds. For more information about BNSF’s intermodal business, visit www.bnsf.com/intermodal.

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BNSF intermodal train passes through Mississippi Palisades

Sand train near Stockton, Calif.

As the sun sets, a sand unit train rolls through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta near Stockton, Calif. A unit train is a train carrying just one commodity. 

While other modes of transportation operate on infrastructure paid for by taxpayers, BNSF operates almost exclusively on infrastructure it owns, builds and maintains independently. In 2015 alone, BNSF is investing $6 billion in its 32,500-mile rail network and related infrastructure. 

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Sand train near Stockton, Calif.