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.

BNSF helps sponsor battle of the bands for young musicians in Pacific Northwest

BNSF puts an emphasis on supporting communities throughout its network; and recently, the BNSF Railway Foundation helped promote the talents of young people at a music event in Seattle.


Young artists representing a range of styles, from hip-hop to indie, demonstrated their musical talents at the 14th annual Sound Off!, a battle of the bands event for Pacific Northwest musicians 21 years old and younger. The BNSF Foundation provided a $25,000 grant that helped fund the month-long music event, hosted by leading-edge popular culture museum EMP.


“The event is such an amazing thing to see happening,” said Cody Sargenti, one of the band members of Champagne Babylon. “We are so happy that we were able to place in an event that supports local music for a younger music scene.”


Each year, musical groups and solo artists from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia are invited to apply. A panel of music industry professionals reviewed all applicants, who submitted four audio tracks of original music, and selected 12 bands to perform live at EMP. The selected musicians had the opportunity to showcase original music and make connections within a larger artistic community. Bands were scored on song composition and arrangement, creativity and originality as well as technical ability and musicianship.


“You can’t mention the Pacific Northwest without talking about music. From Jimi Hendrix to Nirvana to Macklemore, music has defined the PNW,” said Courtney Wallace, regional director, Public Affairs, for BNSF. “It was a natural fit for us to be a part of Sound Off!, a program that is helping to nurture the next generation of musicians. We’re excited that we could be a small part of helping these amazing young people achieve their dreams.”

One Above Below None, a hip-hop group from Seattle, was crowned the 2015 Sound Off! Champion on March 7. Naked Giants were runners-up. Emma Lee Toyoda took third place and won the Audience Favorite Award, and Bleachbear took fourth place.


“This experience has helped us develop so much as musicians and opened so many doors that would've otherwise remained shut,” said Toyoda.


The winners will have the opportunity to perform at major music festivals and venues in the Pacific Northwest region.


More about the competition at the EMP Museum website.


Great photos from the finals at the EMP Museum's Flickr Page.


About the photos: Bleachbear, top, placed fourth. One Above Below None, bottom, won first place at Sound Off! Finals. Photos courtesy of EMP staff. 

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BNSF helps sponsor battle of the bands for young musicians in Pacific Northwest

Mary Colter, notable architect of Grand Canyon landmarks, also designed Harvey House hotels

"Grand Canyon Historic Mary Colter Portrait c. 1892”, courtesy of NPS, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mary Colter was an architect who designed a number of important buildings for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (ATSF) as well as iconic landmark structures in the Grand Canyon.


Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1869. She spent time in Texas and Colorado during her early years before moving to St. Paul, Minn. After high school, she attended the California School of Design in San Francisco and apprenticed in a local architect’s office. After graduation, she moved back to St. Paul, where she taught art at Mechanic Arts High School for 15 years.


She visited San Francisco in 1901 to spend time with a friend who worked at a gift shop owned by Fred Harvey. The Fred Harvey Company developed hotels, restaurants and other facilities that served ATSF’s many passengers.


 "Grand Canyon Historic Mary Colter Portrait c. 1892”, courtesy of NPS, licensed under CC BY 2.0 

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Mary Colter, notable architect of Grand Canyon landmarks, also designed Harvey House hotels

Service making significant progress

BNSF employees work during a major winter storm in Ft. Madison, Iowa in February 2015.


BNSF employees work through a major winter storm in Fort Madison, Iowa in early February. Despite challenging winter conditions, thanks to the efforts of its employees and its significant capital investments around its network, BNSF’s service has improved since the extreme winter of 2013-2014. Train velocity was up 23 percent last week from the same week in 2014, and the number of trains waiting for a locomotive to be available has decreased by 93 percent in the same time period.
Photo courtesy of Jeffery Metcalf.
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Service making significant progress

ATSF helped reporter Nellie Bly break record for around-the-world trip

After reading Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days in 1889, Elizabeth Cochrane, a female reporter for the New York World who went by the pen name Nellie Bly, claimed she could travel around the world in 75 days.


Nellie BlyNellie Bly began her journey from Jersey City, N.J., on November 14, 1889, and landed in San Francisco on January 21, 1890. She was ahead of the schedule set by Verne’s fictional protagonist Phileas Fogg, but just even with the timeline promised to her editor. Not one to settle for good enough, Bly wanted to beat her editor’s deadline and needed to get to Chicago as quickly as possible in order to do so.


The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (Santa Fe) Railway provided a special train, the Miss Nellie Bly Special, from San Francisco to Chicago. To ensure a speedy journey, the train had only one sleeping car and one baggage car. Orders were given that the train had right of way over all other traffic and speed limits were suspended. 


Crews along the way became interested in the race and changed engines at record speeds. The crew at Needles, Calif., changed engines in one minute and the crew at La Junta, Colo., claimed a record engine-change time of 42 seconds.


Two of the many locomotives used on the trip were Santa Fe 93 and Santa Fe 469. Both were 4-4-0 locomotives, known as “American” types because of their widespread use in North America. Santa Fe 93, built by Manchester Locomotive Works in the 1870s, replaced the previous engine at Williams, Ariz. After several more locomotive changes, Santa Fe 469, built by Schenectady Locomotive Works in 1872, was used from Emporia, Kan. to Kansas City, Mo.


Nellie Bly arrived at Dearborn Station in Chicago on January 24, 1890. The run clocked in at 69 hours for the 2,577 miles from San Francisco to Chicago for an average speed of 37-1/3 miles an hour. The next day, Nellie Bly arrived back at Jersey City, just over 72 days after her departure.


In February 1890, Santa Fe named one of its dining cars “Nellie Bly” after the female reporter who inspired the railroad to set speed records while helping her on her race around the world.


Santa Fe would later become famous for similar races against time, such as the 1905 run of the Scott Special, which completed its run from Los Angeles to Chicago in 44 hours and 54 minutes.

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ATSF helped reporter Nellie Bly break record for around-the-world trip

BNSF employees help deliver U.S. mail in annual Pony Express ride

Hashknife Pony Express 2015

With the help of two determined BNSF employees, the Old West was again brought to life in Arizona for the annual journey of the Hashknife Pony Express. 

Each year, the U.S. Postal Service puts its unofficial motto – “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” – to the test. Volunteers are sworn in to deliver mail 200 miles from Holbrook, Ariz., to Scottsdale, outside of Phoenix, on the Hashknife Pony Express. The Hashknife was a tool used by chuck wagon cooks to cut meat, which was then often fed to cowboys on the range. 

By car, the journey would take just a few hours, but by horseback, it takes riders three days. Shawn Maestas, signal inspector, Holbrook, and Billy Fischer, engineer, Los Lunas, N.M., participate each year. Maestas has been riding with the group for seven years, and Fischer has been with the group for more than 25 years. 

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BNSF employees help deliver U.S. mail in annual Pony Express ride

Amarillo Station

In April 1887, J. T. Berry and a group of Colorado City merchants sought to establish a town site that would serve as a future stop for the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway (FW&D) in the Texas Panhandle.With the railroad rapidly building toward the Panhandle, Berry and company created the Oneida settlement in a well-watered area of Potter County. Later renamed Amarillo for the yellow flowers surrounding the nearby river and lake, Berry represented the town as it competed with the town of Washburn for the designation of county seat. With the support of the local Frying Pan Ranch, the electors voted for Amarillo, and the railroad arrived shortly after, making the town one of the fastest growing cattle marketing centers in history.


On June 19, 1888, the owner of the Frying Pan Ranch, Henry B. Sanborn, and business partner Joseph F. Glidden began to purchase land east of Amarillo out of a growing concern about possible flooding of the lower-elevation site chosen by Berry. Sanborn and Glidden urged Amarillo shop owners to move to the new location on Polk Street by offering to trade new lots for old and help with moving costs. While people gradually began to move to the new location, heavy rains in 1889 proved the entrepreneurs correct in their assessment of the old site, and the rest of the town relocated. Subsequently, Sanborn and Glidden’s new location became the new county seat in 1893.


While the cattle industry is largely responsible for Amarillo’s initial population growth and continued importance as a major railroad hub, the discovery of oil and natural gas in the early 1900s continued to bolster the town’s position. Eventually, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad both followed the lead of the FW&D in creating stations in Amarillo. Today, BNSF still heavily uses the acquired route of FW&D (which dropped “City” from its name in 1951) for coal and intermodal transportation to and from the western United States.


The former Santa Fe route through Amarillo is a key link in BNSF’s route for intermodal and other traffic between the central United States and California. While most Santa Fe Chicago-California passenger trains were routed via western Kansas and Raton Pass on the New Mexico-Colorado border, the San Francisco Chief provided connections from Amarillo to points east and west, complementing FW&D passenger train services to points north and south. During the World War II years, Amarillo was also served by such Santa Fe passenger trains as the Grand Canyon Limited and The Scout.

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Amarillo Station