The BNSF Railway (reporting mark BNSF), formerly known as the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, is an American freight railroad company headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas; it is one of four remaining transcontinental railroads and one of the largest freight railroad networks in North America. Only the Union Pacific Railroad, its primary competitor for Western U.S. freight, is larger in size. The BNSF Railway moves more intermodal freight traffic than any other rail system in the world.
It was formed December 31, 1996, as the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway was merged into the Burlington Northern Railroad. In 1999 BNSF and the Canadian National Railway announced their intention to merge and form a new corporation entitled the North American Railways to be headquartered in Montreal, Canada. The United States' Surface Transportation Board (STB) placed a 15-month moratorium on all rail mergers, which ended this merger. On January 24, 2005, the railroad's name was officially changed to BNSF Railway.
The BNSF Railway is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation, the holding company formed by the September 22, 1995 merger of Burlington Northern, Incorporated and the Santa Fe Pacific Corporation. According to corporate press releases, the BNSF Railway is among the top transporters of intermodal freight in North America. It also hauls enough coal to generate roughly 10% of the electricity produced in the United States. The company's three transcontinental routes provide a high-speed link between the western and eastern United States.
On November 3, 2009, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway announced that it would acquire the remaining 77.4% of BNSF that it didn't already own for $100 per share in cash and stock - a deal valued at $44 billion. The company is investing an estimated $34 billion in BNSF and acquiring $10 billion in debt. On February 12, 2010, shareholders of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation voted in favor of the acquisition.
Markets and services
With BNSF's large system, it hauls many different commodities, most notably coal and grain, as well as intermodal freight.
Predecessor Burlington Northern Railroad (BN) entered Wyoming's low-sulfur coal-rich Powder River Basin in the 1970s through construction of the Powder River Basin Joint Line with Union Pacific Railroad predecessor Chicago and North Western Transportation Company. Coal goes north in unit trains on the three-to-four-track Joint Line to Gillette or south to Orin, where older BN lines and other railroads take it in all directions to coal-burning power plants.
BNSF serves over 1500 grain elevators, located mostly in the Midwest on former BN lines. Depending on where the markets are, this grain may move in any direction in unit trains, or wait in silos for demand to rise. Most commonly, grain may move west on the Northern Transcon to the Pacific Northwest and its export terminals, or south to Texas and Gulf of Mexico ports.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway's main contribution to BNSF was the Southern Transcon, a fast intermodal corridor connecting Southern California and Chicago. Most traffic is either trailers of trucking companies such as intermodal partner J. B. Hunt, or containers from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The latter begins its trip on the three-track Alameda Corridor, shared with the Union Pacific Railroad, and then follows BNSF rails from downtown Los Angeles. Its route, the Southern Transcon, has been almost completely double-tracked, and triple-tracking has begun in areas such as Cajon Pass.
The BNSF Railway directly owns and operates track in 27 U.S. states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The railway also operates a small amount of track in Canada, including an approximate 30-mile (48 kilometer) section that runs from the U.S.-Canada border to Vancouver, British Columbia, a yard in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and approximately 70 miles of joint track with the Canadian National Railway, which runs south to the U.S. border.
For administrative purposes, BNSF is divided into fourteen operating divisions: California, Chicago, Colorado, Gulf, Kansas, Los Angeles, Montana, Nebraska, Northwest, Powder River, Southwest, Springfield, Texas, and Twin Cities. Each division is further divided into hundreds of subdivisions, which represent segments of track ranging from 300-mile mainlines to 10-mile branch-lines.
Not including second, third and fourth main-line trackage, yard trackage, and siding trackage, BNSF directly owns and operates over 24,000 miles (38,624 kilometers) of track. When these additional tracks are counted, the length of track which the railway directly controls rises to more than 50,000 miles (80,467 kilometers).
Additionally, BNSF Railway has gained trackage rights on more than 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometers) of track throughout the United States and Canada. These rights allow the BNSF to operate its own trains with its own crews on competing railroads' main tracks. BNSF locomotives also occasionally show up on competitors' tracks throughout the United States and Canada by way of leases, mileage equalizations, and other contractual arrangements.
Yards and facilities
BNSF operates various facilities all over the United States to support its transportation system. Facilities operated by the railway include yards and terminals throughout its rail network, system locomotive shops to perform locomotive service and maintenance, a centralized operations center for train dispatching and network operations monitoring in Fort Worth, and regional dispatching centers.
The BNSF Railway also operates numerous transfer facilities throughout the western United States to facilitate the transfer of intermodal containers, trailers, and other freight traffic. The BNSF Railway has direct control over a total of 33 intermodal hubs and 23 automotive distribution facilities. On February 9, 2005, BNSF announced that it plans to build a new intermodal transfer facility near the port of Los Angeles called the Southern California International Gateway. The new facility, with direct rail access to the recently constructed Alameda Corridor, would supplement the container transloading abilities of the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF) built by Southern Pacific in the 1990s.
Large freight car hump yards are also scattered throughout the BNSF system. In 2005, Argentine Yard in Kansas City, Kansas processed the most freight cars. Further on, there is a list of currently operating BNSF Hump Yards.
The BNSF mechanical division operates eight locomotive maintenance facilities that perform preventive maintenance, repairs and servicing of equipment. The largest of these facilities are located in Alliance, Nebraska and Topeka, Kansas. The mechanical division also controls 46 additional facilities responsible for car maintenance and daily running repairs.
The BNSF system mechanical division, a subset of the mechanical division, operates two maintenance-of-way work equipment shops, responsible for performing repairs and preventive maintenance to BNSF's track and equipment, in Brainerd, Minnesota and Galesburg, Illinois. The system mechanical division also operates the Western Fruit Express Company's refrigerated car repair shop in Spokane, Washington.
In 2006, BNSF teamed with Vancouver, WA-based Tri Star to run BNSF's new transload facility in Fontana, CA, near the California Speedway.
Passenger train service
BNSF mainly operates commuter trains: BNSF Railway Line, Metrolink (Southern California), New Mexico Rail Runner Express, Northstar Commuter Rail, and Sounder (Puget Sound).
According to BNSF's 2007 Annual Report to Investors, at the end of 2007, the railway had more than 40,000 employees; 6,400 locomotives; and 85,338 freight cars
Broken down by specific kind of car, the BNSF owned
36,439 covered hoppers,
11,428 open hoppers
4,196 refrigerated "reefer" cars,
416 automobile cars,
427 tank cars,
324 "other" types of cars.
In addition, the railway also owned:
3,253 domestic containers,
11,714 domestic chassis,
4,070 company service vehicles,
1,200 trailers, and
163 commuter passenger cars.