Deep personal connections to agriculture at BNSF

Agriculture matters to BNSF Railway. At BNSF we not only work together with farmers, many of us ARE farmers. Many of our employees grew up on a farm and still harbor cherished memories of the farming life. Others are still farming today.

In this video we meet BNSF Chief Financial Officer Julie Piggott, who comes from a farming family in North Dakota, and Locomotive Engineer John Knierim, who grows wheat, peas, lentils, canola and corn in Montana. “I remember when we were young we used to take lunch out to my dad every day while he was working the harvest so he could have something to eat, and we’d put a blanket down and treat it like a picnic,” Pigott says.

Piggott, Knierim and many others at BNSF bring their deep personal connection to farming in to work every day and it drives them to do their best for our agricultural customers.

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Deep personal connections to agriculture at BNSF

Video: The American farmer and BNSF Railway

American agriculture and BNSF Railway go back a long way. In the early years, farmers and the railroad depended on each other and survived and flourished because of each other. Today, that relationship still powers BNSF. The evolution of American agriculture has driven the U.S. food supply chain to become the most productive in the world, and we at BNSF are proud to help get American farms’ bounty to tables around the world. 

Many of our employees grew up on farms and understand the challenges our agricultural customers face. Driven by that personal connection, they do their very best for our agricultural customers every day when they come in to work. Agriculture matters at BNSF.

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Video: The American farmer and BNSF Railway

Northern Pacific Railway depot in Wallace, Idaho

The Northern Pacific (NP) Railway depot in Wallace, Idaho was built in 1901. The chateau-style building was constructed using bricks imported from China at a total cost of approximately $9,000. The depot opened on May 20, 1902. The following year, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the town and gave a speech at the NP station. 


The depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. In 1986, the depot had to be moved because of construction of a new highway. Many citizens watched the event, which is celebrated every year on the day before Mother’s Day with the Depot Days Classic Car & Motorcycle Show


The depot has since been converted into the Northern Pacific Railroad Museum, which is open from April until the end of October. The depot museum, shown in the above photo courtesy of the Northern Pacific Ralroad Museum, is at 219 Sixth Street in downtown Wallace, Idaho. 


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Northern Pacific Railway depot in Wallace, Idaho

Warren Buffett stops by BNSF's "Berkyville" model train display at Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting

Carl Ice, Warren Buffett and Matt Rose visit BNSF's booth at Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting on May 1, 2015.

BNSF Railway President and CEO Carl Ice, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matt Rose visit the BNSF booth and model railroad display “Berkyville” at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Neb. on May 1. Up to 44,000 people are expected to attend this year’s meeting. BNSF became a Berkshire Hathaway company in 2010.

Carl Ice, Warren Buffett and Matt Rose visit BNSF's "Berkyville" model train display.

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Warren Buffett stops by BNSF's "Berkyville" model train display at Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting

BNSF releases 2014 Annual Review

BNSF manifest train in Deschutes River Valley, Oregon.

In 2014, BNSF achieved its best-ever year for employee safety. We faced service challenges on capacity-constrained parts of our rail network, and responded with a record capital investment of $5.5 billion to expand capacity. Here’s an in-depth look at our commitment to growth, increasing capacity, safety, the environment, our employees and our communities.

2014 Annual Review

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BNSF releases 2014 Annual Review

North Coast Limited offered premier passenger service


“Off to see the Northwest, Good-bye all! Another happy vacation party heads for scenic Yellowstone Park, Rocky Mountains, Rainier Park, and other nationally famous regions. Their train, the North Coast Limited runs between Chicago, Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland via the Northern Pacific Railway.”


The above picture and caption showcase the commercial appeal of Northern Pacific’s (NP) premier passenger train, the North Coast Limited (NCL).


Departing from St. Paul, Minn., on April 29, 1900, the NCL made its maiden voyage to Puget Sound as one of the first named trains in the United States. It was joined in the Midwest-Pacific Northwest trade by Milwaukee Road’s Olympian in 1911 and Great Northern Railway’s Empire Builder in 1929.


Initially, the NCL operated in a limited capacity during the summer season. NP, however, quickly saw the popular appeal of the NCL and promoted the train to year-round service.


While the NCL achieved success in the early 1900s, it trailed the Empire Builder and Olympian in passenger occupancy rates later in the century until the streamliner era took hold of the industry in the 1940s.


The NCL benefited the most from the improvements of the era when Northern Pacific spent $65 million right after World War II to update the train’s equipment with lightweight, streamlined equipment from Pullman-Standard. At the same time, the train was equipped with new diesel-electric locomotives.


Extensive aesthetic upgrades in the mid-1950s included Vista-Dome cars, which offered passengers a panoramic view. The new cars’ sleek two-tone green exterior was complimented by a single white pinstripe. The interiors depicted stunning scenes of the Northern Plains and the Cascades Range.


While the artful elegance of the NCL certainly attracted customers to the railroad, the dining car service set the train apart from its competitors. Added in 1955, the Traveler’s Rest buffet lounge cars became the talk of the industry. Named after Lewis and Clark’s favorite campsite, the cars put the NCL once again into the forefront of the luxury train travel experience, which supported Northern Pacific’s efforts to continue long-distance rail passenger service in the grand manner.


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North Coast Limited offered premier passenger service

BNSF predecessors helped promote national parks

It’s National Park Week!  Did you know one of BNSF’s predecessor railroads helped create a national park?


Great Northern Railway (GN) helped to promote legislation to designate Glacier National Park in 1910. In 1913 Glacier Park Company, a subsidiary of GN, built Glacier Park Lodge. The lodge was the first in a series of hotels that served visitors brought to the park by the railroad.


Glacier National Park was a major attraction given its central location to “Dude Ranch Country” in Montana and Canada. Travelers could board the renowned Empire Builder passenger train for a scenic ride along the southern border of the park. This brochure published by GN highlights the attractions of visiting dude ranches.  


Learn more about GN and Glacier National Park in this video




President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the Two Medicine Valley in Glacier National Park on Aug. 5, 1934, when he gave a national radio address in which he expressed the wish that “every American, old and young, could have been with me today.”  




Another BNSF predecessor, Northern Pacific Railway (NP) played a major role in attracting early visitors to Yellowstone National Park. NP began rail service to Yellowstone in 1883 and shortly afterward began a “Wonderland” advertising campaign based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” This photo shows one of the brochures produced as part of the advertising campaign. It included a fictional letter written by a grownup Alice traveling on an NP train. 


Northern Pacific Railway brochure photo courtesy of National Park Service.

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BNSF predecessors helped promote national parks

Industrial Products employees lend a helping hand to Fort Worth community organizations

BNSF employee Levi Graci at Tarrant County Animal Shelter

BNSF's Industrial Products business unit fanned out across Fort Worth, Texas to spend the day helping a good cause on April 21. The annual volunteer event, Day of Caring, brought 170 employees from all around BNSF's rail network to 10 community organizations that needed a helping hand. "This special day demonstrates BNSF's commitment to making a difference in our community," said Dave Garin, group vice president of Industrial Products. 

Employees spent the day working at Tarrant County Animal Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, the Northside Boys & Girls Club and other locations, completing jobs like caring for dogs, building benches, painting walls, planting flowers and trimming shrubs.

Jim Cherry and David Alegria build benches for a pavilion at Casa, Inc.

Jim Cherry and David Alegria build benches for a pavilion at Casa, Inc., a housing facility for low-income elderly and people with disabilities.

 Employees tackle an overgrown garden at the Northside Boys and Girls Club .

Employees tackle an overgrown garden at the Northside Boys and Girls Club before mulching and planting flowers.

Employees assemble prosthetic hands at Enabling the Future.

BNSF employees assemble prosthetic hands created with 3D printing technology at Enabling the Future.

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Industrial Products employees lend a helping hand to Fort Worth community organizations

BNSF honors Employees of the Year for 2014

BNSF's Safety Employees of the Year for 2014

BNSF recognized a special group of employees for their outstanding achievements in 2014 at an awards ceremony on April 13 in Fort Worth, Texas. BNSF’s annual Employees of the Year event recognizes employees who embody the company’s vision and values. Their achievements positively impact BNSF customers, fellow employees, owners and the communities served by BNSF. Of the 48,000 team members across the company some 100 employees received this special recognition.
“Our Employees of the Year recognition is a way to thank our people for truly exceptional efforts and results. I’m grateful for their hard work and dedication. From rendering aid in an emergency to implementing business processes that will forever make our railroad better, this distinctive group of employees deserves this special recognition and BNSF’s gratitude,” said Carl Ice, BNSF president and chief executive officer. “All of the men and women who work for BNSF do so with commitment and dedication. Every day, all year long, they bring incredible focus and perseverance to BNSF’s goal of serving our customers and delivering on the important role we play in moving our global economy forward.”
This year’s award recipients’ actions span a wide range of achievements and reflect valuable contributions to some of BNSF’s most important initiatives. Examples of their efforts include the reduction of rail congestion in heavily populated areas, the successful training of more than 800 employees in advanced track inspection that improves safety and the opening of the Big Lift Automotive Facility, which will help BNSF meet the increasing needs of automakers to get their vehicles to markets across the country.  
Pictured are the five Safety Employees of the Year: Montserrat Beamon, Gary Sage, Tessa Collins, Mike Warrington and Clintel Betts.
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BNSF honors Employees of the Year for 2014

CIO Jo-ann Olsovsky discusses building a diverse workforce in STEM fields at White House roundtable

BNSF Railway Vice President Technology Services and Chief Information Officer Jo-ann Olsovsky, center, participates in a roundtable discussion hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in Washington, D.C. on April 7.  Olsovsky is an advocate for encouraging minorities and women to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. She described BNSF’s growing need for technically skilled employees and its efforts to hire a diverse technical workforce.  These include joint programs with schools and universities and Technology Awareness Day, an annual event on the BNSF headquarters campus designed to spark interest in technical careers among high school students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.


“The question persists: Where and how is America going to identify and prepare the talent to fill the need for technology based professions? Investing in and developing strong math and science talent in America’s youth is paramount to our ability to innovate for years to come,” Olsovsky said. “We understand the importance of finding answers to this question. From our perspective, those answers will help strengthen and advance America’s transportation industry as well as all others, which is vital to our nation’s global prominence. “


Later the same day, BNSF Mechanical Foreman Oscar Vazquez spoke to a group of students and educators from the Washington, D.C. area. Vazquez was one of four resourceful high school students who won a 2004 national underwater robotics competition against the odds, beating out major universities like Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The group was treated to a screening of Underwater Dreams, a documentary film about the competition. The story is also retold in the feature film Spare Parts, starring George Lopez and Jamie Lee Curtis, released in January.

BNSF employee Oscar Vazquez speaks to students and educators from the Washington, D.C. area at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on April 7.

BNSF Vice President Technology Services and Chief Information Officer Jo-ann Olsovsky listens during discussions at the Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C.

From left to right, Alejandra Ceja, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics; Richard Voyles, assistant director for Robotics and Cyber-Physical Systems, Office of Science and Technology Policy; Oscar Vazquez, mechanical foreman at BNSF Railway; and Joe Faust, regional public affairs director at BNSF Railway.

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CIO Jo-ann Olsovsky discusses building a diverse workforce in STEM fields at White House roundtable

A&P roundhouse at Needles, California

The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (A&P) was incorporated in 1866 and authorized by Congress to construct a railroad between Springfield, Mo., and the Pacific. After building west from Springfield, the railroad would enter what is now Oklahoma, then continue to the Colorado River at Needles, Calif., where it would meet the Southern Pacific. A&P completed only 327 miles of track from Missouri into Oklahoma before a financial panic in 1873 put a halt to their transcontinental plans. 


The owners of A&P incorporated the Saint-Louis and San Francisco Railway (Frisco) in 1876. In the 1880s, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (ATSF) and Frisco financed A&P’s stalled expansion of tracks westward from Albuquerque, N.M., in order to establish a direct route to California. Frisco continued to operate the central division in Oklahoma, while ATSF operated the westward division. 


A&P entered Needles on Aug. 3, 1883, and soon built a roundhouse to service its engines. The photo above, taken in 1890, shows the A&P roundhouse in Needles. Roundhouses featured a semicircle design because early steam locomotives did not function well going in reverse. Instead, a turntable turned the locomotive around and then it was pulled into a stall for maintenance work. The square building to the left of the roundhouse is the water tank.


In 1884, A&P gained the Mojave Division and trackage rights over Southern Pacific to San Francisco. The transcontinental A&P line was never completed due to its continued financial troubles. Instead, its two detached segments included one connecting St. Louis to Tulsa and one that connected Albuquerque to San Francisco. A&P was dissolved in 1897. Its Western Division in New Mexico and California was incorporated into ATSF, and A&P’s Central Division in Missouri and Oklahoma became part of the Frisco.

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A&P roundhouse at Needles, California

Great Northern in Missouri River Canyon

James J. Hill, George Stephen, Donald A. Smith, Norman W. Kittson – known as “the associates” – with the support of John S. Kennedy and Company, organized the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway (SPM&M) in 1879.  The railway was formed upon the acquisition of the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, which had 565 miles of completed track and a total of 667 miles under construction in Minnesota. James J. Hill became general manager of the railway and was instrumental in the creation of a transcontinental railroad.


SPM&M completed construction from St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn., to several miles west of Minot, N.D., in 1886. Hill formed the Montana Central Railway in 1886 to construct a line connecting Havre, Great Falls and Helena with the point several miles west of Minot. This section of track was known as the Montana Extension. 


Montana Central completed the last section of the 643-mile line between Minot, N.D. and Helena in 1887. The line was completed in just one year, an impressive feat considering its great distance. 


Initial grading and surveys of the 643-mile line began in 1886. Construction began on April 2, 1887, and the line reached Helena on November 18 that same year. Eight thousand men and 3,300 teams of horses worked on the grading, and 225 teams and 650 men completed the timber and track laying. On August 11, workers laid 8.2 miles of track, setting a record for the longest section of track laid on the Montana Extension in a single day. SPM&M purchased the Montana Central in 1888, formally connecting the Montana Extension with SPM&M’s existing track.


The Great Northern Railway Company (GN) was incorporated in 1889 and acquired SPM&M in 1907. This photo shows a steam locomotive leading a GN passenger train through the Missouri River Canyon, located between Great Falls and Helena, Mont., in 1910. This section of track was part of the Montana Extension and provided scenic views of the rugged Montana terrain. GN operated the line between 1907 and 1970, when it merged with Burlington Northern. BNSF continues operations in Montana, and many of its routes follow trails blazed by the original SPM&M and GN.

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Great Northern in Missouri River Canyon

BNSF employee steps up to build relationships with Native American nations

The BNSF network spans much of the western United States, and a BNSF line or a shared track passes within one mile of 86 different Native American nations. In fact, there are more than 300 Native American nations located in states where BNSF operates.


BNSF’s close ties with Native American nations throughout the United States provide a unique opportunity to engage American Indian communities and work cooperatively toward shared development goals.


While BNSF has a long history of working with Native American nations, Cherie Gordon, manager, Economic Development, saw additional opportunities and became a driving force behind expanding BNSF’s efforts. In 2013, Gordon helped form a cross-departmental committee to focus on relationships with Native American nations, including defining the mission, vision, strategy and objectives.


“Cherie has done great work with the American Indian relationship-building initiative. She took ownership and ensured its success,” said Skip Kalb, director, Economic Development.


In the almost two years since the initiative began, Gordon and steering committee members identified key American Indian nations, made contacts with tribal leaders and attended meetings and conferences. Moreover, the committee built a solid foundation for sustainable development opportunities, while enhancing tribal economies, jobs and education.


Gordon received an Achievement Award on Feb. 13 for her leadership throughout the project, but she also noted the important contributions of team members in the project’s success.


Gordon has been a member of the Council of Native Americans, a BNSF affinity group, for more than 10 years, and was elected this year to serve as chairman. Gordon is known among her colleagues as being passionate about issues related to Native American nations. She has trace heritage from the Choctaw and Cherokee tribes and additional ties through her son, Samuel, who is a direct descendant from the Choctaw nation.


About the photo: Gordon accepts her Achievement Award from Vann Cunningham, assistant vice president, Economic Development, on Feb. 13.

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BNSF employee steps up to build relationships with Native American nations

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