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Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC profile (BNSF Railway)

By | May 8, 2020

Texas-based railroad boasts of deep, historic ties to the Midwest and West

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An empty BNSF coal train passes through La Grange, Ill, on Oct. 27, 2019.
TRAINS: David Lassen

BNSF Railway summary
Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC is a railroad holding company formed in 1994 and incorporated in Delaware that owns BNSF Railway Company, a Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad with roots in Western U.S. railroading. It is primarily an East-West railroad serving Chicago, Texas, Los Angeles, the Pacific Northwest and point in between. The holding company and the railroad are wholly owned by Berkshire Hathaway, based in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Class I railroad operates over about 32,500 route miles throughout the West and three Canadian provinces and employed about 40,750 employees by Dec. 31, 2019. Its primary competitor is Union Pacific. BNSF Railway connects with five other class I railroads in Chicago. Other major interchange points are in Kansas City and Memphis.

BNSF Railway logo
BNSF Railway history
The product of the Sept. 22, 1995 merger of the parent companies of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway and the Burlington Northern Railroad, BNSF is one of the west’s two giant railroad systems. Its 32,000-mile network (24,000 owned route miles plus 8,000 route miles of trackage rights) covers the western two-thirds of the U.S., serving 27 states and two Canadian provinces. In 2005, Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway became BNSF Railway, and introduced a new logo concurrent with the launch of the railroad’s new brand. (The corporation name remains Burlington Northern Santa Fe.)

Burlington Northern had been formed on March 1, 1970 by the merger of Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; Great Northern; Northern Pacific; and Spokane, Portland & Seattle. BN operated in three principal corridors: Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul (the Twin Cities) to Portland and Seattle in the Pacific Northwest; Chicago to Omaha, Denver and Montana, including the coal-rich Powder River Basin in Wyoming; and from Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis to Dallas-Fort Worth, Memphis, and Birmingham, Ala. On November 21, 1980, BN acquired the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (the Frisco), once owned by the Santa Fe in the 1890’s, whose main lines formed an “X” from St. Louis through Oklahoma to Texas and from Kansas City to Birmingham and Pensacola, Fla., (making BN and successor BNSF a true transcontinental railroad).

The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company was chartered in 1859 and operated under that name, or its better known nickname “The Santa Fe,” since 1863. The Santa Fe stretched from Chicago via Kansas City and Albuquerque to California, serving the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, plus Denver, Phoenix, and extensive parts of Oklahoma and Texas.

BNSF announced its intent to merge with Canadian National on December 20, 1999, creating a 50,000-mile rail network. In response, the Surface Transportation Board imposed a 15-month moratorium on rail mergers on March 17, 2000, in order to rethink the rules under which future merger proposals would be evaluated. As a result, BNSF and CN called off their proposed merger on July 20, 2000.

BNSF Railway industrial mix*
BNSF Railway told the Securities and Exchange Commission that its 2019 carload volume consisted of Consumer products, 52%; Industrial products, 19%; Coal, 18%; and Agricultural products, 11%.

*Figures are calculations by Trains using tables in BNSF Railway’s 2019 10-K filing.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC executive officers (from BNSF Railway’s website May 2020)
•Carl R. Ice, President and Chief Executive Officer
•Stevan B. Bobb, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
•Kathryn Farmer, Executive Vice President, Operations
•Roger Nober, Executive Vice President, Law and Corporate Affairs
•Julie A. Piggott, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

BNSF Railway selected 2019 financial details (totals may not balance due to rounding)
Balance sheet:
Total assets: $88.6 billion
Total liabilities: $44.8 billion
Total shareholders’ equity: $43.7 billion

Income statement:
Total revenues: $23.5 billion
Operating expenses: $15.4 billion
Operating income: $8 billion
Net income: $5.5 billion

Information taken from a Securities and Exchange Commission filing and BNSF’s website. History provided by Matt Van Hattem.

An eastbound BNSF Railway train passes a stopped BNSF freight at “Summit” in California’s Cajon Pass in 2013.
TRAINS staff
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