In mid-1995, Burlington Northern Railroad and Santa Fe Pacific Corporation — whose Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway was one of its wholly owned subsidiaries — announced their intent to merge. On September 22 of that year, the two entities formed a holding company called “Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation.” The two carriers officially merged as the “Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway” (BNSF) on December 31, 1996. At that time, BN was the largest and ATSF the smallest of the “Super Seven” railroads in the United States.
After the merger of Union Pacific (UP) with Chicago & North Western (C&NW) in 1995 and especially with Southern Pacific (SP) in 1996, UP’s trademark iconic shield shone through these combinations to retain a strong corporate identity. The carrier’s subsequent reintroduction of its eagle “wings” strengthened that brand. In contrast, a single, dominant corporate image for BNSF would be some time in coming. The essential difference between the two mergers was this: UP effectively absorbed SP and C&NW, while BN and ATSF tried to forge a new, common image from two powerful predecessors.
Santa Fe entered the merger with two locomotive paint schemes: the blue and yellow “Yellowbonnet” and the red and silver “Super Fleet” or “Warbonnet” scheme. BN entered with virtually five: the classic green scheme with diagonal stripes on the nose; the “white face” with a large “BN” on the nose; Grinstein green and cream as on its SD70MACs; blue and white Oakway SD60s; and gray, red, and white LMX B39–8s. In May 1996, BNSF painted SD60M 9297 in a bimodal experimental paint configuration, where the schemes were different on either side of the engine. The purpose of this painting was to gather feedback from employees and perhaps shareholders as well as management on BNSF’s new but formative corporate image. On the nose was a BNSF logo based on Santa Fe’s classic cross and circle emblem and “BNSF” in ATSF Cooper Black style on the side. Designers used colors reminiscent of those of the Great Northern Railway — one of BN’s predecessors…
The article appears in the 2015 Railroads Illustrated Annual.