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.

The Santa F 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 LA.

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.

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.

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.

Diesel Locomotive Roster

The American Locomotive Company

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
DL-1095019411
DL-11050A19411
PA51C, 51L-62L, 64L-78L1946-194828
PB51A-62A, 70A-73A1946-194816
RSD-7600-60119552
RSD-15602-611, 800-8491955-196060
S41500-15371951-195338
RSD-42100-2109195110
RSD-52110-21621952-195353
HH-6002300-23021935-19373
S12303-230419442
HH-10002310-2321193912
S22322-23911942-194970
RS12394-23991947-19506

It often seems like everything about the Santa Fe was popular, even its steam fleet. Here is AT&SF 4-6-4 #3452 taking on water at Topeka, Kansas on March 10, 1941.

The Baldwin Locomotive Works

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
DS-4-4-750525-53319499
DS-4-4-10002200, 2260-22991948-194941
VO-10002201-22591939-194559
DT-6-6-20002600-26061948-19507

Fairbanks Morse

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
Erie-Built (A)90L, 90B19472
Erie-Built (B)90A19471
H10-44500-5021945-19483
H12-44503-540, 544-5641950-195759
H12-44TS541-54319563
H16-442800-28191951-195220

Another view of a Santa Fe Hudson, #3457, shows the steamer pausing with its train at Dodge City, Kansas on October 23, 1931 loading passengers at the depot.

Electro-Motive Corporation/Electro-Motive Division

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
E1A2-91937-19388
E1B2A-4A1937-19383
E3A11L19391
E3B11A19391
E6A12L-15L1939-19414
E6B12A, 13A, 15A1939-19413
E8A2, 4-5, 82, 84-871952-19538
E8B83A-84A19532
F3A16L-36L, 16C-36C, 37L-47L, 37C-47C1946-195264
F3B16A-36A, 16B-36B, 37A-47A, 37B-47B1946-195264
FP45100-10819679
GP60M100-162199063
FTA100L-179L, 100C-179C1940-1945160
FTB100A-179A, 100B-179B1940-1945160
SD75M200-2751995-199676
F7A37-47, 37C-47C, 200L-280L, 200C-280C, 202-280, 300-316, 336-344, 300L-314L, 325L-344L1948-1953324
F7B200A-280A, 200B-280B, 300A-314A, 300B-314B, 325A-344A, 325B-340B1948-1953228
F9A281L-289L, 281C-289C195618
F9A281A-289A, 281B-289B195618
GP60B325-347199123
GP9700-7511956-195752
SD24900-9791959-196080
GP201100-11741960-196175
GP301200-12841962-196385
GP351300-14601964-1965161
SD401700-1719196620
SD451800-1889, 5590-56241966-1970125
F451900-1939196840
SC2151-2153, 23011936-19374
NW2350-235219373
NW22353-23671939-194315
SW72420-2438195319
GP72650-28931950-1953244
GP7B2788A-2792A19535
GP383500-3560197061
GP39-23600-37051974-1980106
GP40X3800-3809197810
GP503810-38541981-198545
GP604000-40391988-198940
GP604000-4019196920
SD40-25020-5192, 5200-52131977-1981187
SD45-25625-57141972-197490

General Electric

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
U28CG350-359196510
U30CG400-40519686
44-Tonner460-4681942-19449
B40-8/W500-582, 7410-74491988-1992123
C44-9W600-6991993-1994100
C40-8W800-9261992-1993127
C41-8W927-951199325
U25B1600-1615196216
U23B6300-63481970-197149
B23-76350-64181978-198469
B39-87400-740219843
B36-77484-7499198016
U23C7500-7519196920
C30-78010-81661977-1982157
U33C8500-8524196925
U36C8700-87991972-1975100

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.

Steam Locomotive Roster

Class Type Wheel Arrangement
1170, 3300Articulated2-6-6-2
3296Articulated2-8-8-0
1790, 1798Articulated2-8-8-2
3000Articulated2-10-10-2
507Atlantic4-4-2
4101, 4193Berkshire2-8-4
789, 2439, 2442Consolidation2-8-0
987Decapod2-10-0
3450, 3460Hudson4-6-4
1396Mallet4-4-6-2
882, 3100, 3129, 3160, 4000Mikado2-8-2
591, 2445Mogul2-6-0
3700Mountain4-8-2
2900, 3751, 3765, 3776Northern4-8-4
1200, 1226, 3400, 3500, 3600Pacific4-6-2
1000, 1050Prairie2-6-2
900, 985, 1600, 3020, 3290, 3291, 3800Santa Fe2-10-2
2110Switcher0-6-0
2450Switcher0-6-0T
2535Switcher0-8-0
5000, 5001, 5011Texas2-10-4

Notable Passenger Trains


The Chief:  (Chicago - Los Angeles)

El Capitan:  (Chicago - Los Angeles)

Grand Canyon: (Chicago - Los Angeles)

The Scout: (Chicago - Los Angeles)

San Francisco Chief: (Chicago - San Francisco)

Texas Chief: (Chicago - Houston)

San Diegan: (Los Angeles - San Diego)

Super Chief:  (Chicago - Los Angeles)

Tulsan: (Kansas City - Tulsa)

Chicagoan: (Dallas - Kansas City - Chicago)

Golden Gate: (Los Angeles - San Francisco)


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.

For more reading on the Santa Fe you might want to consider Santa Fe Railway from Steve Glischinski. Of course, being that the Santa Fe is our country's most legendary railroad hundreds of publications (many quite good) have been written about it over the years detailing various subjects. However, this book will at least give you a general overview and history of the Santa Fe (filled with many, excellent, historical and colorful photographs) at which point you can decide if you are interested in further books of study on the railroad. Even if you are a historian of the AT&SF and have not seen this book I'm sure you will enjoy it!  And, for more reading on the Santa Fe's famous Super Chief consider purchasing a copy of Santa Fe Chiefs from author Bill Yenne. The book not only covers the famous flagship but also a number of other Chiefs operated by the Santa Fe. For anyone interested in the Santa Fe and/or its passenger operations you will very likely enjoy this book, which is also filled with photographs. If you're interested in perhaps purchasing either (or both) of these books please visit the links below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.

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