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

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

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