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Santa Fe Railroad

This article is about the railway. For the Academy Award-winning song, see On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.
"ATSF" redirects here. For the unrealized European aircraft, see Avion de Transport Supersonique Futur.
Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway
Reporting mark ATSF
Locale Arizona
New Mexico
Dates of operation 1859–1996 (as ATSF)
Successor BNSF Railway
Track gauge (standard gauge)
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (reporting mark ATSF), often abbreviated to Santa Fe or AT&SF, was one of the larger railroads in the United States, chartered in February 1859. Despite the name, its main line never served Santa Fe, New Mexico, as the terrain was too difficult, the town ultimately being reached by a branch line from Lamy. The railroad reached the Kansas/Colorado state line in 1873 and Pueblo, Colorado in 1876. It set up real estate offices and sold farm land from the land grants that it was awarded by Congress; the farms would create a demand for transportation.

As an innovator, the railroad was one of the pioneers in intermodal freight service, an enterprise that (at one time or another) included a tugboat fleet and an airline (the short-lived Santa Fe Skyway). A bus line allowed the company to extend passenger transportation to areas not accessible by rail, and ferry boats on the San Francisco Bay allowed travelers to complete their westward journeys to the Pacific Ocean. The railroad officially ceased operations on December 31, 1996 when it merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF).


The Santa Fe railway was chartered on February 11, 1859, to join Atchison and Topeka, Kansas, with Santa Fe, New Mexico. In its early years, the railroad opened Kansas to settlement. Much of its revenue came from wheat grown there and from cattle driven north from Texas to Wichita and Dodge City by September 1872.[1]

Rather than turn its survey southward at Dodge City, Santa Fe headed southwest over Raton Pass because of coal deposits near Trinidad, Colorado and Raton, New Mexico. The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (D&RGW) was also aiming at Raton Pass, but AT&SF crews arose early one morning in 1878 and were hard at work with picks and shovels when the D&RGW crews showed up for breakfast. At the same time the two railroads had a series of skirmishes over occupancy of the Royal Gorge west of Cañon City, Colorado; physical confrontations led to two years of armed conflict that become known as the Royal Gorge Railroad War. Federal intervention prompted an out-of-court settlement on February 2, 1880, in the form of the so-called "Treaty of Boston", wherein D&RG was allowed to complete its line and lease it for use by Santa Fe. D&RG paid an estimated $1.4 million to Santa Fe for its work within the Gorge and agreed not to extend its line to Santa Fe, while Santa Fe agreed to forego its planned routes to Denver and Leadville.[1]

Building across Kansas and eastern Colorado was simple, with few natural obstacles (certainly fewer than the railroad was to encounter further west), but the railroad found it almost economically impossible because of the sparse population. It set up real estate offices in the area and promoted settlement across Kansas on the land that was granted to it by Congress in 1863. It offered discounted fares to anyone who traveled west to inspect land; if the land was purchased, the railroad applied the passenger's fare toward the price of the land.

The Santa Fe reached Albuquerque in 1880; Santa Fe, the original destination of the railroad, found itself on a short branch from Lamy, New Mexico.[2] In March 1881 Santa Fe connected with the SP at Deming, New Mexico, forming the second transcontinental rail route. The railroad then built southwest from Benson, Arizona, to Nogales on the Mexican border where it connected with the Sonora Railway, which the AT&SF had built north from the Mexican port of Guaymas.[1]

The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (A&P) was chartered in 1866 to build west from Springfield, Missouri, along the 35th parallel of latitude (approximately through Amarillo, Texas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico) to a junction with SP at the Colorado River. The infant A&P had no rail connections. The line that was to become the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway (Frisco) would not reach Springfield for another four years, and SP did not build east from Mojave to the Colorado River until 1883. A&P started construction in 1868, built southwest into what would become Oklahoma, and promptly entered receivership.[1]

In 1879 A&P struck a deal with the Santa Fe and Frisco railroads to construct a rail line for each. The railroads would jointly build and own the A&P railroad west of Albuquerque. In 1883 A&P reached Needles, California, where it connected with an SP line. A&P also built a line between Tulsa, Oklahoma and St. Louis, Missouri for Frisco, but a Tulsa-Albuquerque portion of A&P remained unbuilt.[1]

Santa Fe still wanted to reach California on its own rails (it leased the SP line from Needles through Barstow to Mojave), and the state of California eagerly courted the railroad to break SP's monopoly. In 1897 the railroad traded the Sonora Railway of Mexico to SP for their line between Barstow and Mojave, giving the Santa Fe railway its own line from Chicago to the Pacific coast. It was unique in that regard Template:Why? until the Milwaukee Road completed its extension to Puget Sound in 1909. [1]

The Santa Fe Railway took further expansion following the A&P line: a line from Barstow, California, to San Diego in 1885 and to Los Angeles in 1887; control of the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway (Galveston-Fort Worth) in 1886, and a line between Wichita and Fort Worth in 1887; lines from Kansas City to Chicago, from Kiowa, Kansas to Amarillo, Texas, and from Pueblo to Denver (paralleling the D&RGW) in 1888; and purchase of the Frisco and the Colorado Midland Railway in 1890.[1]

The Panic of 1893 had the same effect on Santa Fe that it had on many other railroads; financial problems and subsequent reorganization. In 1895 Santa Fe sold the Frisco and the Colorado Midland and wrote off the losses, but it still retained control of the A&P.[1]

Subsequent expansion of Santa Fe encompassed lines from Amarillo to Pecos (1899); Ash Fork, Arizona to Phoenix (1901); Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon (1901); the Belen Cutoff from the Pecos line[where?] at Texico to Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, south of Albuquerque, bypassing the grades of Raton Pass (1907); and the Coleman Cutoff, from Texico to Coleman, Texas, near Brownwood (1912).[1]

In 1907, AT&SF and SP jointly formed the Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP), which took over several short railroads and built new lines connecting them to form a route from San Francisco north to Eureka, California. In 1928, Santa Fe sold its half of NWP to SP. In addition, Santa Fe purchased the U.S. portion of the Kansas City, Mexico & Orient Railway (the Mexican portion of the line became the Chihuahua-Pacific Railway, now part of National Railways of Mexico). Post-World War II construction projects included an entrance to Dallas from the north, and relocation of the main line across northern Arizona, between Seligman and Williams.[1]

Because long stretches of its main line traverse areas without water, Santa Fe was one of the first buyers of diesel locomotives for freight service. The railroad was known for its passenger trains, notably the Chicago-Los Angeles Super Chief (currently operated as Amtrak's Southwest Chief), and for the on-line eating houses and dining cars that were operated by Fred Harvey.[1]

In 1960, Santa Fe bought the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railroad (TP&W), then sold a half interest to the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). TP&W cut straight east across Illinois from near Fort Madison, Iowa, to a connection with PRR at Effner, Indiana, forming a bypass around Chicago for traffic moving between the two lines. The TP&W route did not mesh with the traffic pattern PRR successor Conrail developed after 1976, so Santa Fe bought back the other half, merged with TP&W in 1983, then sold it back into independence in 1989.[1]

Santa Fe began to propose a merger in the early 1980s. On December 23, 1983, the Southern Pacific Santa Fe Railroad (SPSF) was a proposed merger between the parent companies of Southern Pacific and Santa Fe. As part of the joining of the two firms, all rail and non-rail assets owned by Santa Fe Industries and the Southern Pacific Transportation Company were placed under the control of a holding company, the Santa Fe–Southern Pacific Corporation. The merger was subsequently denied by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) on the basis that it would create too many duplicate routes.[3]

The companies were so confident that the merger would be approved they began repainting locomotives and non-revenue rolling stock in a new unified paint scheme. While Southern Pacific was sold off, all of the California real estate holdings were consolidated in a new company, Catellus Development Corporation, making it the state's largest private landowner. Some time later, Catellus would purchase the Union Pacific Railroad's interest in the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (LAUPT).[1] After SP's sale, SPSF is renamed to Santa Fe Pacific Corporation, the holding company of Santa Fe.

Burlington Northern merger

Main article: BNSF Railway

On September 21, 1995, Santa Fe Pacific merged with Burlington Northern Inc. to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF). Some of the challenges resulting from the joining of the two companies included the establishment of a common dispatching system, the unionization of Santa Fe's non-union dispatchers, and incorporating Santa Fe's train identification codes throughout. Therefore, the two lines maintained separate operations until December 31, 1996, when it officially became BNSF.

1870 1945
Gross operating revenue $182,580 $528,080,530
Total track length 62 miles (100 km) 13,115 miles (21,107 km)
Freight carried 98,920 tons 59,565,100 tons
Passengers carried 33,630 11,264,000
Locomotives owned 6 1,759
Unpowered rolling stock owned 141 81,974 freight cars
1,436 passenger cars
Source: Santa Fe Railroad (1945), Along Your Way, Rand McNally, Chicago, Illinois.
Revenue Freight Ton-Miles (Millions)
ATSF/GC&SF/P&SF Oklahoma City-Ada-Atoka FtWorth & Rio Grande KCM&O/KCM&O of Texas Clinton & Oklahoma Western New Mexico Central
1925 13862 14 42 330 2 1
1933 8712 12 18 (incl P&SF) (incl P&SF) (incl ATSF)
1944 37603 45 (incl GC&SF)
1960 36635 20
1970 48328 (merged)
Revenue Passenger-Miles (Millions)
ATSF/GC&SF/P&SF Oklahoma City-Ada-Atoka FtWorth & Rio Grande KCM&O/KCM&O of Texas Clinton & Oklahoma Western New Mexico Central
1925 1410 5 6 8 0.1 0.1
1933 555 0.1 0.8 (incl P&SF) (incl P&SF) (incl ATSF)
1944 6250 0.2 (incl GC&SF)
1960 1689 0
1970 727 (merged)

Company officers

Passenger service

The Santa Fe railway was widely known for its passenger train service in the first half of the 20th century. Santa Fe introduced many innovations in passenger rail travel, among these the "Pleasure Domes" of the Super Chief (billed as the "...only dome car[s] between Chicago and Los Angeles" when they were introduced in 1951) and the "Big Dome" Lounge cars and double-decker Hi-Level cars of the El Capitan, which entered revenue service in 1956. The railroad was among the first railroads to add dining cars to its passenger train consists in 1891, following the examples of Northern Pacific and Union Pacific. Dining along Santa Fe was often a memorable experience, whether it be on board in a dining car or at one of the many Harvey House restaurants that were strategically located throughout the system.

In general, the same train name was used for both directions of a particular train. The exceptions to this rule included the Chicagoan and Kansas Cityan trains (both names referred to the same service, but the Chicagoan was the eastbound version, while the Kansas Cityan was the westbound version), and the Eastern Express and West Texas Express. All of Santa Fe's trains that terminated in Chicago did so at Dearborn Station. Trains terminating in Los Angeles arrived at Santa Fe's La Grande Station until May 1939, when the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (LAUPT) was opened.

To reach smaller communities, the railroad often operated Budd Rail Diesel Cars for communities on the railroad, and bus connections were provided throughout the system via Santa Fe Trailways buses to other locations. These smaller trains generally were not named; only the train numbers were used to differentiate services.

The ubiquitous passenger service inspired the title of the 1946 Academy-Award-winning Johnny Mercer tune "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe." The song was written in 1945 for the film The Harvey Girls, a story about the waitresses of the Fred Harvey Company's restaurants. It was sung in the film by Judy Garland and recorded by many other singers, including Bing Crosby. In the 1970s, the railroad used Crosby's version in a commercial.

Named trains

The Santa Fe operated the following named trains on regular schedules:

  • The Angel: San Francisco, California — Los Angeles, California — San Diego, California (this was the southbound version of the Saint)
  • The Angelo: San Angelo, TexasFort Worth, Texas (on the GC&SF)
  • The Antelope: Oklahoma City, OklahomaKansas City, Missouri
  • Atlantic Express: Los Angeles, California — Kansas City, Missouri (this was the eastbound version of the Los Angeles Express).
  • California Express: Chicago, Illinois — Kansas City, Missouri — Los Angeles, California
  • California Fast Mail: Chicago, Illinois — Los Angeles, California — San Francisco, California
  • California Limited: Chicago, Illinois — Los Angeles, California
  • California Special: Los Angeles, California — Houston, Texas
  • Cavern: Clovis, New Mexico — Carlsbad, New Mexico (connected with the Scout).
  • Centennial State: Denver, Colorado — Chicago, Illinois
  • Central Texas Express: Sweetwater, TexasLubbock, Texas
  • Chicagoan: Kansas City, Missouri — Chicago, Illinois (this was the eastbound version of the Kansas Cityan passenger train).
  • Chicago Express: Newton, Kansas — Chicago, Illinois
  • Chicago Fast Mail: San Francisco, California — Los Angeles, California — Chicago, Illinois
  • Chicago-Kansas City Flyer: Chicago, Illinois — Kansas City, Missouri
  • The Chief: Chicago, Illinois — Los Angeles, California
  • Eastern Express: Lubbock, Texas — Amarillo, Texas (this was the eastbound version of the West Texas Express).
  • El Capitan: Chicago, Illinois — Los Angeles, California
  • El Pasoan: El Paso, TexasAlbuquerque, New Mexico
  • El Tovar: Los Angeles, California — Chicago, Illinois (via Belen)
  • Fargo Fast Mail/Express: Belen, New MexicoAmarillo, Texas — Kansas City, Missouri — Chicago, Illinois
  • Fast Fifteen: Newton, Kansas — Galveston, Texas
  • Fast Mail Express: San Francisco, California (via Los Angeles) — Chicago, Illinois
  • Golden Gate: Oakland, CaliforniaBakersfield, California with coordinated connecting bus service to Los Angeles and San Francisco
  • Grand Canyon Limited: Chicago, Illinois — Los Angeles, California
  • The Hopi: Los Angeles, California — Chicago, Illinois
  • Kansas Cityan: Chicago, Illinois — Kansas City, Missouri (this was the westbound version of the Chicagoan passenger train).
  • Kansas City Chief: Kansas City, Missouri — Chicago, Illinois
  • Los Angeles Express: Chicago, Illinois — Los Angeles, California (this was the westbound version of the Atlantic Express).
  • The Missionary: San Francisco, California — Belen, New Mexico — Amarillo, Texas — Kansas City, Missouri — Chicago, Illinois
  • Navajo: Chicago, Illinois — San Francisco, California (via Los Angeles)
  • Oil Flyer: Kansas City, Missouri — Tulsa, Oklahoma with through sleepers to Chicago via other trains
  • Overland Limited: Chicago, Illinois — Los Angeles, California
  • Phoenix Express: Los Angeles, California — Phoenix, Arizona
  • The Ranger: Kansas City, Missouri — Chicago, Illinois
  • The Saint: San Diego, California — Los Angeles, California — San Francisco, California (this was the northbound version of the "Angel")
  • San Diegan: Los Angeles, California — San Diego, California
  • San Francisco Chief: San Francisco, California — Chicago, Illinois
  • San Francisco Express: Chicago, Illinois — San Francisco, California (via Los Angeles)
  • Santa Fe de Luxe: Chicago, Illinois — Los Angeles, California — San Francisco, California
  • Santa Fe Eight: Belen, New Mexico — Amarillo, Texas — Kansas City, Missouri — Chicago, Illinois
  • The Scout: Chicago, Illinois — San Francisco, California (via Los Angeles)
  • South Plains Express: Sweetwater, Texas — Lubbock, Texas
  • Super Chief: Chicago, Illinois — Los Angeles, California
  • The Texan: Houston, TexasNew Orleans, Louisiana (on the GC&SF between Galveston and Houston, then via the Missouri Pacific Railroad between Houston and New Orleans).
  • Texas Chief: Galveston, Texas (on the GC&SF) — Chicago, Illinois
  • Tourist Flyer: Chicago, Illinois — San Francisco, California (via Los Angeles)
  • The Tulsan: Tulsa, Oklahoma — Kansas City, Mo. with through coaches to Chicago, Illinois via other trains (initially the Chicagoan/Kansas Cityan)
  • Valley Flyer: Oakland, CaliforniaBakersfield, California
  • West Texas Express: Amarillo, Texas — Lubbock, Texas (this was the westbound version of the Eastern Express).

Special trains

Occasionally, a special train was chartered to make a high-profile run over Santa Fe's track. These specials were not included in the railroad's regular revenue service lineup, but were intended as one-time (and usually one-way) traversals of the railroad. Some of the more notable specials include:

  • Cheney Special: Colton, California — Chicago, Illinois (a one-time train that ran in 1895 on behalf of B.P. Cheney, a director of the Santa Fe).
  • Clark Special: Winslow, Arizona — Chicago, Illinois (a one-time train that ran in 1904 on behalf of Charles W. Clarke, the son of then-Arizona senator William Andrew Clarke).
  • David B. Jones Special: Los Angeles, California — Chicago, Illinois and on to Lake Forest, Illinois (a one-time, record-breaking train that ran between May 5 to 8, 1923, on behalf of the president of the Mineral Point Zinc Company).
  • Huntington Special: Argentine, Kansas — Chicago, Illinois (a one-time train that ran in 1899 on behalf of Collis P. Huntington).
  • H.P. Lowe Special: Chicago, Illinois — Los Angeles, California (a one-time, record-breaking train that ran in 1903 on behalf of the president of the Engineering Company of America).
  • Miss Nellie Bly Special: San Francisco, California — Chicago, Illinois (a one-time, record-breaking train that ran in 1890 on behalf of Nellie Bly, a reporter for the New York World newspaper).
  • Peacock Special: Los Angeles, California — Chicago, Illinois (a one-time train that ran in 1900 on behalf of A.R. Peacock, vice-president of the Carnegie Steel and Iron Company).
  • Scott Special: Los Angeles, California — Chicago, Illinois (the most well-known of Santa Fe's "specials," also known as the Coyote Special, the Death Valley Coyote, and the Death Valley Scotty Special: a one-time, record-breaking train that ran in 1905, essentially as a publicity stunt).
  • Wakarusa Creek Picnic Special: Topeka, KansasPauline, Kansas (a one-time train that took picnickers on a 30-minute trip, at a speed of 14 miles-per-hour, to celebrate the official opening of the line on April 26, 1869).


Santa Fe employed several distinctive wayside and crossing signal styles. In an effort to reduce grade crossing accidents, Santa Fe was an early user of wigwag signals from the Magnetic Signal Company beginning in the 1920s. They had several distinct styles that were not commonly seen elsewhere. Model 10's which had the wigwag motor and banner coming from halfway up the mast with the crossbucks on top were almost unique to the Santa Fe - the Southern Pacific also had a few as well. Upper quadrant Magnetic Flagmen were used extensively on the railroad as well - virtually every small town main street and a number of city streets had their crossings protected by such wigwags. Virtually all the wigwags were replaced with modern signals by the turn of the 21st Century.

The railroad was also known for its tall upper quadrant semaphores which provided traffic control on its lines. Again, the vast majority of these have been replaced by the beginning of the 21st Century.

Paint schemes

Steam locomotives

Santa Fe operated a large and varying fleet of steam locomotives. Among them was the 2-10-2 "Santa Fe", originally built for the railroad by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1903. The railroad would ultimately end up with the largest fleet of them, at over 300. Aside from the 2-10-2, Santa Fe rostered virtually every type of steam locomotive imaginable, including 4-4-2 Atlantics, 2-6-0 Moguls, 2-8-0 Consolidations, 2-8-2 Mikados, 2-10-0 Decapods, 2-6-2 Prairies, 4-8-4 Northerns, 4-6-4 Hudsons, 4-6-2 Pacifics, 4-8-2 Mountains, 2-8-4 Berkshires, and 2-10-4 Texas. The railroad also operated a fleet of heavy articulated steam locomotives including the 1158 class 2-6-6-2s, 2-8-8-0s, 2-10-10-2s, 2-8-8-2s, and the rare 4-4-6-2 Mallet type.

While most of Santa Fe's steam locomotives were retired for scrap, a handful were saved and ended up as notable locomotives from the railroad. Among them Santa Fe #3751, a 4-8-4 delivered by Baldwin in 1927 and based near San Bernardino, California. The more-modern Santa Fe #2926, another 4-8-4 delivered by Baldwin in 1944 and based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is being restored by the New Mexico Steam Locomotive and Rail Historical Society of Albuquerque, which has expended 55,000 man hours and $700,000 in donated funds on her restoration since 2000.

Diesel locomotives


Santa Fe's first set of diesel-electric passenger locomotives was placed in service on the Super Chief in 1936, and consisted of a pair of blunt-nosed units (EMC 1800 hp B-B) designated as Nos. 1 and 1A. The upper portion of the sides and ends of the units were painted gold, while the lower section was a dark olive green color; an olive stripe also ran along the sides and widened as it crossed the front of the locomotive.

Riveted to the sides of the units were metal plaques bearing a large "Indian Head" logo, which owed its origin to the 1926 Chief "drumhead" logo. "Super Chief" was emblazoned on a plaque located on the front. The rooftop was light slate gray, rimmed by a red pinstripe. This unique combination of colors was called the Golden Olive paint scheme.[6][7] Before entering service, Sterling McDonald's General Motors Styling Department augmented the look with the addition of red and blue striping along both the sides and ends of the units in order to enhance their appearance.

In a little over a year, the EMC E1 (a new and improved streamlined locomotive) would be pulling the Super Chief and other passenger consists, resplendent in the now-famous Warbonnet paint scheme devised by Leland Knickerbocker of the GM Art and Color Section. Its design is protected under headdress. The scheme consisted of a red "bonnet" which wrapped around the front of the unit and was bordered by a yellow stripe and black pinstripe. The extent of the bonnet varied according to the locomotive model, and was largely determined by the shape and length of the carbody. The remainder of the unit was either painted silver or was composed of stainless-steel panels.

All units wore a nose emblem consisting of an elongated yellow "Circle and Cross" emblem with integral "tabs" on the nose and the sides, outlined and accented with black pinstripes, with variances according to the locomotive model. "SANTA FE" was displayed on the horizontal limb of the cross in black, FP45 units, a three-part yellow and black stripe ran up the nose behind the band.

A "Circle and Cross" motif (consisting of a yellow field, with red quadrants, outlined in black) was painted around the side windows on "as-delivered" E1 units. Similar designs were added to with a few notable exceptions.

Railway identity on diesel locomotives in passenger service:

Locomotive Type "Indian Head" "Circle and Cross" "Santa Fe" Logotype Starting Year Comments
ATSF 1 Yes Yes* Yes No 1937 "Circle and Cross" added to No. 1 after rebuild in May 1938
EMC E1, E3, & E6 Yes* Yes Yes No 1937 "Indian Head" added to B units at a later date
ALCO DL109/110 Yes* Yes Yes No 1941 No "Indian Head" on B unit
EMD FT Yes* No Yes No 1945 "Indian Head" added to B units at a later date
ALCO PA / PB Yes* No Yes No 1946 "Indian Head" added to B units at a later date
EMD F3 Yes* No Yes No 1946 "Indian Head" on B units only
FM Erie-built Yes* No Yes* No 1947 "Indian Head" and "SANTA FE" on A units only
EMD F7 Yes* No Yes* No 1949 "Indian Head" on B units only; "SANTA FE" added in 1954
EMD E8 Yes* No Yes No 1952 "Indian Head" on B units only
GE U28CG No No No Yes 1966 "Santa Fe" logotype in large, red "billboard"-style letters
GE U30CG No No Yes* No 1967 5"–high non-extended "SANTA FE" letters
EMD FP45 No No Yes* No 1967 9"–high "SANTA FE" letters

Source: Pelouze, Richard W. (1997). Trademarks of the Santa Fe Railway. The Santa Fe Railway Historical and Modeling Society, Inc., Highlands Ranch, Colorado pp. 47–50.

In later years, Santa Fe adapted the scheme to its gas-electric "doodlebug" units.[10] The standard for all of Santa Fe's passenger locomotives, the Warbonnet is considered by many to be the most recognized corporate logo in the railroad industry. Early after Amtrak's inception in 1971, Santa Fe embarked on a program to paint over the red bonnet on its F units that were still engaged in hauling passenger consists with yellow (also called Yellowbonnets) or dark blue (nicknamed Bluebonnets), as it no longer wanted to project the image of a passenger carrier.


Diesels used as switchers between 1935 and 1960 were painted black, with just a thin white or silver horizontal accent stripe (the sills were painted similarly). The letters "A.T.& S.F." were applied in a small font centered on the sides of the unit, as was the standard blue and white "Santa Fe" box logo. After World War II, diagonal white or silver stripes were added to the ends and cab sides to increase the visibility at grade crossings (typically referred to as the Zebra Stripe scheme). "A.T.& S.F." was now placed along the sides of the unit just above the accent stripe, with the blue and white "Santa Fe" box logo below.

Due to the lack of abundant water sources in the American desert, Santa Fe was among the first railroads to receive large numbers of streamlined diesel locomotives for use in freight service, starting with the EMD FT. For the first group of FTs, delivered between December, 1940 and March, 1943 (#100–#119), the railroad selected a color scheme consisting of dark blue accented by a pale yellow stripe up the nose, and pale yellow highlights around the cab and along the mesh and framing of openings in the sides of the engine compartment; a thin, red stripe separated the blue areas from the yellow.

Because of a labor dispute with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, who insisted that every cab in a diesel-electric locomotive consist must be manned, FT sets #101-#105 were delivered in A-B-B-B sets, instead of A-B-B-A sets used by the rest of Santa Fe's FT's. Santa Fe quickly prevailed in this labor dispute, and FT sets from #106-onward were delivered as A-B-B-A sets.

The words SANTA FE were applied in yellow in a 5"–high extended font, and centered on the nose was the "Santa Fe" box logo (initially consisting of a blue cross, circle, and square painted on a solid bronze sheet, but subsequently changed to baked steel sheets painted bronze with the blue identifying elements applied on top). Three thin, pale yellow stripes (known as Cat Whiskers) extended from the nose logo around the cab sides. In January, 1951, Santa Fe revised the scheme to consist of three yellow stripes running up the nose, with the addition of a blue and yellow Cigar Band (similar in size and shape to that applied to passenger units); the blue background and elongated yellow "SANTA FE" lettering were retained.

The years 1960 to 1972 saw non-streamlined freight locomotives sporting the "Billboard" color scheme (sometimes referred to as the "Bookends" or "Pinstripe" scheme), wherein the units were predominantly dark blue with yellow ends and trim, with a single yellow accent pinstripe. The words "Santa Fe" were applied in yellow in a large serif Cooper Black font (logotype) to the sides of the locomotive below the accent stripe (save for yard switchers which displayed the "SANTA FE" in small yellow letters above the accent stripe, somewhat akin to the Zebra Stripe arrangement).

From 1972 to 1989, the company utilized a new paint scheme colloquially called "Yellowbonnet", which placed more yellow on the locomotives (reminiscent of the company's retired Warbonnet scheme); the goal again was to ensure higher visibility at grade crossings. The truck assemblies, previously colored black, now received silver paint.

In 1989, Santa Fe resurrected the "Warbonnet" scheme and applied the scheme in a modified fashion to two rebuilt FP45 units, #5992 and #5998 (displaying "Santa Fe" in billboard-style red letters across the side). The units were re-designated as #101 and #102 and reentered service on July 4, 1989 as part of the new "Super Fleet" campaign (the first Santa Fe units to be so decorated for freight service). The six remaining FP45 units were thereafter similarly repainted and renumbered. From that point forward, all new locomotives wore red and silver, and most retained this scheme in this day after the BNSF merger. The scheme was used for few extra years on some new BNSF locomotives with "BNSF" displayed on the sides and emblem.

For the initial deliveries of factory-new "Super Fleet" equipment, Santa Fe took delivery of the EMD GP60M, GP60B and General Electric B40-8W, which made Santa Fe the only US Class I railroad to operate new 4-axle (B-B) freight locomotives equipped with the North American Safety Cab. These units were intended for high-speed intermodal service, but toward the final days of the railroad, could be found working local trains and branchline assignments.

Several experimental and commemorative paint schemes emerged during Santa Fe's diesel era. One combination was developed and partially implemented in anticipation of a merger between the parent companies of the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific (SP) railroads in 1984. The red, yellow, and black paint scheme (with large red block letters "SF" on the sides and ends of the units) of the proposed Southern Pacific Santa Fe Railroad (SPSF) has come to be somewhat derisively known among railfans as the Kodachrome livery, due to the similarity in colors to the boxes containing slide film sold by the Eastman Kodak Company under the same name (Kodachrome film was one of the preferred brands in use by railfans). A common joke among railfans is that "SPSF" really stands for "Shouldn't Paint So Fast." Though the merger application was subsequently denied by the ICC, locomotives bearing this color scheme can still be found occasionally in lease service.

Ferry service

Santa Fe maintained and operated a fleet of three passenger ferry boats (the San Pablo, the San Pedro, and the Ocean Wave) that connected Richmond, California with San Francisco by water. The ships traveled the eight miles between the San Francisco Ferry Terminal and the railroad's Point Richmond terminal across San Francisco Bay. The service was originally established as a continuation of the company's named passenger train runs such as the Angel and the Saint. The larger two ships (the San Pablo and the San Pedro) carried Fred Harvey Company dining facilities.

Rival SP owned the world's largest ferry fleet (which was subsidized by other railroad activities), at its peak carrying 40 million passengers and 60 million vehicles annually aboard 43 vessels. Santa Fe discontinued ferry service in 1933 due to the effects of the Great Depression and routed their trains to Southern Pacific's ferry terminal in Oakland. The San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge opened in 1936, initiated a slow decline in demand for SP's ferry service, which was eventually discontinued circa 1958; starting in 1938, Santa Fe passenger trains terminated near San Pablo Avenue in Oakland/Emeryville, with passengers for San Francisco boarding buses that used the new bridge.

Atlas Shrugged

In 1946, the writer Ayn Rand met with Lee Lyles, assistant to the president of the Santa Fe, as part of her research for the novel Atlas Shrugged whose plot centers in a large railway company.

The Journals of Ayn Rand, published in 1997 on the basis of notes left after her death, preserve a list of detailed questions which Rand put to Lyles about the company's administrative structure and its practices in various situations and conditions. Later notes in the same journals show that Rand assigned to various characters in her book administrative titles in the book's fictional railway company modeled on those in the Santa Fe railway, and adjusted the actions which they are depicted as taking in various situations on the basis of what Lyles told her would be plausible acts for railway executives in similar situations.[11]

See also


Further reading

  • Baker Library Historical Collections, Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Records, 1879–1896. Retrieved May 10, 2005.
  • The Cosmopolitan (February 1893), The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe. Retrieved May 10, 2005.
  • Template:Glischinski-Santa Fe
  • Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University (2004), Alumni Profiles: W. John Swartz. Retrieved May 11, 2005.
  • Santa Fe Railroad (1945), Along Your Way, Rand McNally, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Santa Fe Railroad (November 29, 1942), Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway System Time Tables, Rand McNally and Company, Chicago, Illinois.

External links

  • "Along Your Way", 1946 edition
  • Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe photos and other documents on Kansas Memory, the digital portal of the Kansas Historical Society (over 2500 items)
  • Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Company Records at the Kansas Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas
  • Russell Crump's Santa Fe Archives — a very extensive set of resources for Santa Fe history.
  • Santa Fe All-Time Steam Roster
  • Santa Fe Preserved Locomotives
  • Santa Fe Preserved Passenger Cars
  • Santa Fe Railway Historical and Modeling Society official website
  • Life Magazine featuring the Santa Fe fleet.
  • James William Steele. . Chicago: Rand, McNally & Co., 1888. Illustrated guide to the Santa Fe trip circa 1888.
  • Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture – Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway
  • Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe Railroad Records at Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School
  • Oklahoma Digital Maps: Digital Collections of Oklahoma and Indian Territory
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