What Knickerbocker came up with is arguably the most beautiful and best remembered livery to ever grace a locomotive. Employing stainless steel (or matching silver/aluminum paint) into the design the artist used bright red to convey a bonnet over the nose, which swept back over the cab and curved downward over the carbody behind the cab door then narrowing along the bottom as "skirting." Added to this was red and black trim. On the nose Knickerbocker applied a Circle and Cross Native American design with "Santa Fe" displayed in the center. Black trim then accented this herald. Much of the rest of the carbody was, as mentioned above, either stainless steel or aluminum to match the cars although as one final added touch an Indian head was displayed near the center of the carbody.
It was an incredibly stunning bit of artwork that wowed the public when the Super Chief first left Chicago's Dearborn Station on May 12, 1937 heading west towards Los Angeles. Whether the Santa Fe knew it or not at the time it had created a timeless livery and an iconic passenger train. The railroad acquired 11 examples of the E1 model in all (8 As and 3 Bs), all of which bore Knickerbocker's original design of the Warbonnet livery. As Mike Danneman points out in his short piece from the June, 1996 issue of Trains, "Thanks Leland," the scheme did not look quite as elegant on future models. When Knickerbocker applied the original Warbonnet he did so using the lines of the E1, in the process making sure to get every last detail just right. In 1952 the Santa Fe returned its E1s to EMD for an overhaul as E8Ams, losing their slant-noses and original lines in the process.
Albeit slightly altered, Knickerbocker's Warbonnet creation lived on within the bulldog styling of Santa Fe's Fs and E8s. The livery continued to be used by the Santa Fe through the end of the passenger era when the Super Chief ran for the last time as part of the AT&SF on April 30, 1971. The day after Amtrak took over. Following this in 1972 the railroad began applying a variant of the Warbonnet to its locomotives known as the Yellowbonnet, a different but attractive mix of yellow and blue. During June of 1989 the Santa Fe brought back the fabled Warbonnet when it applied the livery to two FP45s, #5992 and #5998. From that point until the Burlington Northern merger in 1995 to form Burlington Northern Santa Fe the AT&SF had all of its new power sport the Warbonnet such as GP60s, C44-9Ws, C40-9Ws, B40-8Ws, GP60Ms, and SD75Ms.
|An A-A-B-B set of Santa Fe F7s led by #39L roll into Chicago's Dearborn Station with a passenger consist on July 7, 1966. In the foreground is a Wabash E8A while in the background an AT&SF Alco RS1 switches cars.|
After the BNSF merger the new company continued to use the original lines and styling of the Warbonnet during its early years, albeit with different colors. Unfortunately, it was neither attractive nor correctly applied and frankly just did not look very good. This drew the ire from some who felt it was a disgrace to have such a sloppy version of the Warbonnet applied to locomotives, notably Wally Abbey who wrote an entire article on the subject in the July, 1996 issue of Trains entitled "An Open Letter On The 'Warbonnet." Eventually, the Class I ended all use of the livery on its locomotives despite regular inquiries from railfans to bring back the classic livery even today.
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