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 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

BNSF senior special agent responds to school bus rollover, works alongside son to help passengers

BNSF Senior Special Agent Bryan Schaffer and his son, James, worked together to help passengers after a school bus rollover in Alabama.

On Jan. 23, Bryan Schaffer, senior special agent in Birmingham, Ala., was driving home in the rain when something unsettling came up on his police radio.

“I heard there was an accident involving a loaded school bus in nearby Pinson,” said Schaffer. He immediately went to assist and was one of the first three responders at the scene.
The bus driver had pulled over to the side of the road, but the ground was saturated and slick, so the bus slid into a ditch, first face down then onto its side.
BNSF's Bryan Schaffer responded to a school bus rollover in Pinson, Ala.Schaffer’s son, James, a Center Point Fire District fire explorer, arrived several minutes after him.
“We triaged patients. Everybody was crying and upset,” Schaffer recalled. “I’m glad we were there because you need as many people as you can in any incident that is that big.”
There were no serious injuries. However, 10 children were transported to Children's of Alabama Hospital. Most injuries consisted of bumps, bruises and scratches.
Schaffer reflected on the relationship BNSF police agents have with local law enforcement.
“BNSF Police rely heavily on local agencies. I have a personal relationship with all of the agencies along our track in my region,” explained Schaffer. “If I know they need assistance, I will go and back them up, just like they will back me up when I need help. It’s a partnership.”
Schaffer is proud that his position at the railroad allows him to help others. “I enjoy giving back to my community and supporting those who support my job,” he added.
About the photo: BNSF employee Bryan Schaffer, right, and his son, James, worked together to triage patients after the accident.
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BNSF senior special agent responds to school bus rollover, works alongside son to help passengers

Santa Fe Railway 55 and San Bernardino Shops

The American Locomotive Company (Alco) built PA locomotives for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (ATSF) Railway between 1946 and 1948 in Schenectady, New York. ATSF purchased 28 PA1 and 15 PB1 units from Alco. Alco’s first production PA1-PB1-PA1 set was displayed in New York before being delivered to the Santa Fe.


The main competition for the PA (with P designating its use as a passenger locomotive, A for a cab unit or B for a cabless booster unit, and 1 representing its status as the first model) was the E-unit produced by General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division (EMD). One major difference between the PA and the E-unit was the PA’s use of a single 2,000- horsepower diesel engine, while EMD’s E7, introduced in February 1945, was powered by two diesels with 1,000 horsepower each.


The PA’s handsome styling and long nose also set it apart from the E-units. Its Amplidyne generator excitation system, which allowed the use of circuit breakers rather than fuses, was an important first in locomotive manufacturing. The truck was arranged in an A-1-A configuration, with the two outer axles of each truck powered and the center axle assisting with even distribution of the locomotive’s weight, providing a smoother ride for passengers.


The first PA built by Alco, which was also the builder’s 75,000th locomotive, was ATSF 51. Despite a strong marketing campaign and the locomotive’s sleek look, the PAs were largely unsuccessful because of reliability issues with their diesel engines and the overwhelming popularity of the E-units; a total of only 297 PA cabs and boosters were built before production ended in 1953. The Santa Fe used some of its PAs for over 20 years, but most PAs were gone by the late 1960s.



ATSF 55, pictured above center, was a PA1 model locomotive built between 1946 and 1948. The photo was taken in the 1950s at Santa Fe’s diesel repair facility in San Bernardino, Calif. The original shops were built in 1886 and the main shop buildings were constructed between 1920 and 1930.


The San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum contains memorabilia and historic photographs of the shops as well as many other historic materials of the Santa Fe. ATSF’s San Bernardino Depot, which houses the museum, has been restored and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Passenger and Freight Depot.

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Santa Fe Railway 55 and San Bernardino Shops

Details of BNSF's plan to invest $6 billion in 2015 to expand capacity, maintain network

 Graphic shows details of BNSF's plan to invest $6 billion to maintain and improve its rail network in 2015.

BNSF announced in January more details about the major capital projects it plans to complete in 2015 to maintain and grow its rail network. Click the image above to view a full-size PDF.

In BNSF's North Region, the company will invest approximately $1.5 billion across eight states for engineering maintenance and line expansion projects, of which approximately $700 million* is planned for projects to expand the rail lines and Positive Train Control (PTC) in that region. BNSF's North Region has experienced the most rapid growth in recent years. It is the corridor used to move agriculture and coal to export facilities in the Pacific Northwest, petroleum products produced in the region that are destined for refinery facilities, and for consumer products shipped to and from marine ports in the Pacific Northwest. The North Region is also a destination point for materials that support the production of crude oil in the Bakken shale formation.  

In BNSF's South Region, the railroad plans to spend approximately $800 million in nine states for engineering maintenance and line expansion projects, of which $175 million is planned for line expansion initiatives and continued implementation of PTC. The South Region includes BNSF's high-speed transcontinental route with more than 2,000 miles of double track that allows customers to move freight from West Coast marine ports to interchange facilities in Chicago as well as major rail terminals in Kansas City, Fort Worth, Denver and St. Louis. 

In the Central Region, primarily used for the movement of coal, BNSF will invest approximately $650 million across six states for engineering maintenance and line expansion projects, of which almost $260 million is planned for line expansion projects and continued implementation of PTC. 

Read the full news release on www.bnsf.com

* Illinois is included in the disclosure of the planned expenditure for the North Region despite the state being part of the company's South Region. In this announcement Illinois was included in the North Region because the Chicago complex also serves as an origination and destination point for traffic along that corridor. Illinois was also included in the North Region reporting when BNSF's 2014 capital expenditure was announced in the prior year.

 Projects presented are the BNSF capital projects as of this date; changes may be made to the projects throughout the year. BNSF undertakes no obligation to update these planned expenses in the future.

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Details of BNSF's plan to invest $6 billion in 2015 to expand capacity, maintain network

Automotive facilities develop nighttime loading and unloading capabilities

Crews use both magnetic LED lights inside the railcar and headlamps for greater visibility after dark.
One of the marks of the stronger economy has been an increase in consumer demand for vehicles, as well as BNSF serving some new automotive plants in the U.S. and Mexico. The sharp uptick in automotive volumes has led BNSF to develop new capabilities to effectively handle this business, including adding nighttime loading and unloading at its automotive facilities to supplement its traditional daytime operations.
“With this growth, BNSF is expanding capacity through infrastructure and improved processes. As part of our continuous improvement efforts, the Automotive team determined extended unloading hours could be accomplished at night given the lighting technology improvements that now make this a safe and efficient option,” said Chris Carlsen, regional manager of automotive facility operations in Fort Worth.
Last year the Automotive team at the Alliance facility in Haslet, Texas tested four new light sources and benchmarked sources used at other loading facilities. The team identified a few options that might work for nighttime unloading. After the team made sure the new LED lights met all Association of American Railroads (AAR) rules for adequate loading and unloading of finished vehicles, they asked a light expert to analyze the results. They also sought the auto unloaders’ input, which was highly favorable.
The team selected new lights and looked for more ways to ensure a high level of safety. At dusk, unloaders attach small magnetic lights to the railcar’s interior, opposite each vehicle’s tire. The LED lights, along with headlamps worn by unloaders, provide enough light to safely and effectively inspect and unload after dark.
The first night this method was used, an additional 61 railcars of finished vehicles were unloaded that may have had to wait until the next day.  Since that time, more than 11,000 vehicles have been safely unloaded at night.
About the photos: Crews use both magnetic LED lights inside the railcar and headlamps for greater visibility after dark.
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Automotive facilities develop nighttime loading and unloading capabilities