The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, Santa Fe All The Way!
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, distinctively known as the Santa Fe,
likely is not only this country’s but also the world’s most recognized
and famous railroad. It has had its own movie, song, and numerous model trains
and other purchasable gifts created in its honor. The railroad’s
renowned Warbonnet livery has been made in several variations ranging
from the more popular silver and red with yellow trim to the blue and
yellow. The Santa Fe albeit no longer an operating company, is truly a railroad whose name is as common as that of Coca Cola or General Electric. Today, much of the original AT&SF system survives as part of the BNSF Railway in particular its high-speed, Chicago - Los Angeles main line.
The Santa Fe was one of the last Class Is to purchase four-axle road-switchers for main line freight service (it took delivery of its last units in 1992). Seen here is a parade of General Electric B40-8Ws and other power leading a freight near Walong, California on October 16, 1992.
The Santa Fe had its humble beginnings in 1860, originally organized to connect Atchison and Topeka, Kansas with Santa Fe, New Mexico in the southwest and known originally as only the Atchison & Topeka Railroad. After completing its connection to Santa Fe it was renamed as the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe,
a name it would carry throughout the rest of its history. After
completing its initial main line the railroad quickly began expanding
eastward and westward. It reached Needles, California in 1883 and would
later reach all the way to Los Angeles in 1885 with a connection to San
Francisco by 1900.
The AT&SF accomplished this growth through a combination of takeovers and new construction.
It would also expand east from Kansas and reach Chicago in 1888 and by
the early 20th century it had spread all the way to the Deep South
serving all of Texas’ major cities and even western Louisiana, which
would later become a rich business in chemicals. At its largest the
AT&SF would own well over 13,000 miles
and the routes which made up its system would become some of the most
heavily and strategically used throughout the West that remains so to
this day. Even before the intermodal revolution the Santa Fe's system
was very important in allowing for fast movement of goods in transit
from Chicago and other gateway cities to the west coast and vice versa.
Coupled with this business the AT&SF also served a number of
manufacturing centers throughout the south and southwest.
A quartet of nearly brand new GE U25Bs are at speed as their eastbound freight passes a westbound counterpart through the Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, Arizona on July 27, 1962.
What led the Santa Fe, however, to becoming an industrial icon was the introduction of the Chief passenger train in late 1926, and then the Super Chief ten years later. In the late 1930s its legendary Warbonnet paint scheme was born, applied to the new streamlined Super Chief
led by Electro-Motive’s new EA streamlined passenger diesels (the new
motive power was something the AT&SF was very quick to embrace), and
it was an instant hit.
Santa Fe F7A #40L leads an A-B-A-B-B-A consist of covered wagons leading the Chief through the diamonds at Joliet, Illinois on August 23, 1964.
The Santa Fe over the years had become a
class act in transportation service, and this was no different with its Super Chief
passenger trains which regularly cruised at speeds reaching 90 mph
between Chicago and LA covering the distance in around 40 hours (because
of its excellent service its no wonder the railroad had many well known
figures using its trains, all the way until the Amtrak takeover in
1971). The Super Chief would also have a number of other similar trains like it (such as the Texas Chief and San Francisco Chief) including its sister train the El Capitan.
Much of the railroad’s success throughout its existence was a result of
its willingness to embrace new technologies and strive for excellence.
Several “firsts” the railroad is credited with include autoracks, a term
describing a railroad car built specifically with two or three levels
to haul automobiles, and the innovative TOFC or piggyback service
(trailer-on-flat-car). As the intermodal revolution took root in the 1980s Santa Fe
was quick to jump on board and quickly was perfecting the service,
something which carries on today with the BNSF Railway running train
after train of containers, literally back-to-back between Chicago and
Restored Santa Fe 4-8-4 #3751 only occasionally is out on excursion duty; the locomotive is seen here as part of the 2002 NRHS Convention rolling through Ludlow, California during the last rays of an early August day that year.
A classic Santa Fe steel caboose, #999816, tags along at the end of a westbound freight rolling through Joliet, Illinois on the evening of June 25, 1991.
The mid-1990s would finally see this famous railroad’s name come
to an end as it agreed in 1994 to merge with northwestern giant,
Burlington Northern, to form the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway,
who recently changed its name to simply the BNSF Railway. Now gone is
the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and its famous Warbonnet
livery although its legend will forever live on in the products bearing
its name and famous paint scheme, including gifts and models.
Few other railroads, and institutions for that matter, are so recognized
and respected as the AT&SF. Its star status can be compared to
that of many of today’s
Hollywood stars, rich and famous. While the name is gone the Super Chief carries on with Amtrak (as the Southwest Chief)
and interestingly many have questioned the BNSF Railway about bringing
back the Warbonnet livery and applying the famous paint scheme to its
locomotives once more.