Welcome to Friends of BNSF!

If any of the following describes you, then this might be just the website for you:

  • You want to know more about how BNSF contributes to our way of life;
  • You or a family member works at BNSF;
  • You or a family member has retired from BNSF or one of its predecessor companies;
  • You want to explore the rich history of BNSF;
  • Or, you just flat out love trains!

From historic photos and videos to a library of resources about BNSF to free downloadables like wallpaper and ringtones, we've got plenty for you to check out. Take a look at the sample stories below. Then, join the site.

Fascinating time-lapse video: BNSF installs movable-point diamond in Vancouver, Wash.

BNSF employees recently installed a rare track component to address a bottleneck on the network in Vancouver, Wash.

When one set of railroad tracks crosses over another, the point at which they intersect is known as a crossover or a “diamond,” in reference to the diamond-shaped center. Track speeds are often reduced through a crossover or diamond to ensure safety.

BNSF trains operating through a crossover at the Columbia River Bridge between the Fallbridge and Seattle subdivisions used to be limited to no more than 10 mph. However, the recent installation of a rare “movable-point diamond” has allowed for higher efficiency through this stretch of track near the Amtrak Station in Vancouver.

“We can now get trains in and out of Vancouver faster, which makes the terminal more efficient,” said Seattle Signal Manager William Cruttenden.

The custom-built track component is the first of its kind at BNSF, and only a few are in use elsewhere in the United States. This time-lapse video captured the installation of the movable diamond over a 36-hour period.

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Fascinating time-lapse video: BNSF installs movable-point diamond in Vancouver, Wash.

New “Friends of BNSF Day” events give members a closer look at railroad's operations and challenges

Friends of BNSF members gather by the locomotive after their train ride in Vancouiver, Wash. on Sept. 10, 2015.
Friends of BNSF members from in and around Vancouver, Wash. and Portland, Ore. enjoyed a train ride in the Columbia Gorge on Sept. 10.

The Friends of BNSF initiative is about establishing connections between BNSF and its many supporters and advocates in the communities where it operates. It's been around as an online community since 2011. This year, Friends of BNSF has taken the next step by hosting real-life events that bring members together in person.

The first event took place at BNSF headquarters in Fort Worth on July 30, when 21 members from the Dallas-Fort Worth area gathered to hear presentations about BNSF from executives, enjoy lunch and take a tour of the campus. Sam Sexhus, vice president service design and performance, gave an overview of BNSF and its operations, and Zak Andersen, vice president corporate relations, spoke about current challenges in the business environment.

The attendees got a good look at the Network Operations Center (NOC), the impressive command center from which dispatchers manage traffic on BNSF's rail network.

Then Friends of BNSF headed to Washington state for events in Spokane on Sept. 9 and Vancouver on Sept. 10. At both events, Friends members heard presentations from Andrew Johnsen, assistant vice president community affairs, and Courtney Wallace, regional public affairs director. Both groups then boarded vintage business cars to take a train ride out into the countryside.

The Spokane group of more than 40 Friends members rode the train southwest along forested hills out to Fishtrap and back, and the Vancouver group of around 60 members rode east through the scenic Columbia Gorge to Stevenson and back.

At all the events, executives engaged the Friends members in a discussion about ways the railroad can reach out to the public with its message about the central role freight rail plays in the U.S. economy. The members responded with good insight and numerous suggestions.

“We started Friends of BNSF because we knew there are a lot of people out there who feel an affinity for BNSF and appreciate its importance to our economy and meeting our nation's environmental and energy challenges and potential,” Johnsen said.

Wallace added, “These events are a great way to say thank you to our supporters and to start a conversation with them about how to help the larger public understand what our supporters already understand about freight rail.”

Response to the events was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

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New “Friends of BNSF Day” events give members a closer look at railroad's operations and challenges

Farewell to BNSF's 2015 Summer Interns

BNSF’s 2015 Summer Internship Program has ended. It’s been great working with this year’s class of interns and we’re sorry to see them go.

Thanks to the 126 interns who made a positive impact across our 32,500-mile rail network, working on real business challenges. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!

BNSF’s Summer Internship Program is for college students who have one year left before graduation. If this will be you in Summer 2016, consider spending the summer working with us! Visit our website at jobs.bnsf.com to view Summer 2016 internship positions and apply!

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Farewell to BNSF's 2015 Summer Interns

BNSF summer interns spend a Day of Caring helping others

On July 24, more than 30 BNSF summer interns spent seven hours volunteering at All Church Home for Children (ACH) in Fort Worth, Texas and Harvesting Hope Community Garden in Arlington, Texas. ACH helps children and families overcome life’s challenges and protects children from abuse, neglect and family separation. Harvesting Hope’s mission is to feed those who are hungry, teach people to grow their own food and build relationships in the community.

This was the fourth year that BNSF summer interns have participated in a Day of Caring, in cooperation with the United Way.
“Being out there with all the other interns created special memories that I think we will all cherish,” said Intern Nicole Aguirre. “It was awesome to see everyone outside of the office in a different setting.”
BNSF’s Summer Internship program is designed for college students who are a year or less from graduation. After earning their degrees, many interns return to work full-time at BNSF as Management Trainees.
“It was absolutely beneficial and fulfilling to see how BNSF plays such an important role in the community. We were also given the opportunity to appreciate how much BNSF Railway truly believes in caring for others,” added Aguirre.

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BNSF summer interns spend a Day of Caring helping others

BNSF recognizes Pasco’s past, present and future ties to freight rail with first Heritage Community Award

Zak Andersen, BNSF Vice President Corporate Relations with Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins

BNSF Railway has honored Pasco, Wash. with the inaugural BNSF Railway Heritage Community Award. The award recognizes towns that embrace their past, present and future ties to freight rail.


“BNSF is proud to celebrate our shared history, future and partnership with the city of Pasco,” said Zak Andersen, Vice President Corporate Relations for BNSF. “Together we’ve grown the economy of the Pacific Northwest for over 100 years, and I can’t think of a better fit for the first Heritage Community Award than Pasco.”

Andersen was joined by Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins and members of the Pasco City Council for a presentation of the award on July 2. The award comes in the form of a model BNSF locomotive.

Andersen, left, presents a $10,000 BNSF Railway Foundation check to Brian Ace, Executive Director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties, joined by U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse.

Ace presents artwork painted by Boys and Girls Club participants.

The evening began with the presentation of a $10,000 BNSF Railway Foundation check to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties. In addition to financial support, BNSF employees in Pasco and across the rail network have donated countless volunteer hours to the organization. Brian Ace, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties, thanked BNSF with a piece of artwork, hand painted by kids from the clubs.

U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse also joined in the festivities, recognizing BNSF for its continued commitment to Pasco and to the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Dinner was served aboard BNSF business cars as the Columbia River passed by in the background. Guests included members of the Pasco business community, elected officials and senior BNSF leaders.

“I want to thank BNSF for their wonderful hospitality in hosting myself, councilmembers and other community leaders for a wonderful meal and spectacular ride through our region. Your additional donation to the Boys and Girls Clubs as well as rides for youth and community members who have never ridden on a train was also a great demonstration of your commitment to Pasco and the Tri-Cities,” said Watkins. “The model BNSF engine was a wonderful gift and will be displayed proudly at Pasco City Hall,” he added.


Pasco was a railroad town from the outset. Virgil G. Bogue, principal engineer of Northern Pacific (NP) Railway’s Cascade construction branch, named the town in 1881. Years earlier, Bogue had helped build a railroad in South America and named Pasco after Cerro de Pasco, located in the Andes in Peru. Pasco was established as an NP station in 1884 and incorporated on Sept. 3, 1891.


In 1889, Pasco made a bold bid to become the state capital. Although unsuccessful, the town of less than 500 inhabitants achieved statewide publicity for its efforts.


In 1887, NP opened a temporary railroad bridge across the Columbia River from Pasco to Kennewick. Prior to the bridge’s completion, steamboats ferried cars and locomotives across the river. A permanent bridge was completed in 1888. The Pasco-Kennewick railroad bridge has been rebuilt and is now used by BNSF.


One of the most valuable early commodities shipped by the railroad was silk, which was most prominent in the 1920s and declined in the 1930s. NP also shipped crops grown in the area, including wheat and potatoes. Passenger trains, including NP’s premier passenger train, the North Coast Limited, frequented Pasco as well.

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BNSF recognizes Pasco’s past, present and future ties to freight rail with first Heritage Community Award

Retired Chrysler car designer uses creative skills to recreate 1952 Raton Pass in his basement

When Ernie Barry of Northport, Mich., retired in 2001, he decided to devote the cold winter months to his favorite hobby: model railroading.

“Like almost anyone in the hobby, I started with an electric train around a Christmas tree when I was five or six years old,” said Barry, who worked as the director of advanced design at Chrysler and has a fine arts and design background. During his career, he designed the 1980 Chrysler Córdoba and Dodge Mirada. Some of his other achievements include developing concepts and vehicle architecture for the Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde and the current Chrysler 300 as well as leading the design program for the Dodge Viper from concept car up to the 2000 production vehicle.

His impressive layout depicts the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway at Raton, N.M., in 1952. “I’ve always been interested in the Santa Fe because of its Warbonnet paint scheme,” he said. The Warbonnet scheme, designed by General Motors’ Leland Knickerbocker, features a red “bonnet” on the front of the locomotive bordered by yellow and black pinstripes.

When he started his hobby, Barry read an article about the Raton Pass and researched its creation. The famous pass was ATSF’s main route through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the late 19th century. The area interested Barry so much, he decided to make it the setting for his dream layout. He chose the year 1952 because of its importance in the evolution of the railroad. “It’s an era people like to model because it represents the transition from steam to diesel,” he explained.

Barry, who is a member of the Santa Fe Railway Historical and Modeling Society, designed his current home’s 30-by-40-foot basement with his model railroad in mind. “When designing and building our retirement home, I was also planning the railroad, which necessitated asking the builder to move a support column and a major ceiling beam, turning a three-season room into a year-round room to get more basement space.”

He uses that space to the fullest. The layout is built close to eye level and stepstools are needed to fully view higher sections. It has 550 feet of track, 125 switches and 18 blocks governed by signals. Four of the signals are semaphore and the rest are searchlight.

When trains enter a tunnel on one end of the layout, they travel through a helix and arrive at a lower level. There are black and white cameras inside the hidden level to help keep track of the trains. The layout contains around 50 sound-equipped steam and diesel engines, 18 operating trains and 300 freight and passenger cars at any given time. It also has around 100 buildings and railroad structures.

Barry is part of a local community of railroad enthusiasts who gather once a week in the winter to operate layouts. The group meets at a different member’s house each week.
When Barry hosts, the group operates for about three hours and runs up to 18 train assignments. He has a dispatcher station in a separate room and each town in the layout has a phone connected to a dispatcher. Train movements are controlled by verbal train orders and signals.

Barry has modified the way his layout runs on those nights in order to accommodate the group. Although it’s not entirely historically accurate, the modifications create a more fun operating experience. “By 1952, one of the tunnels [near the Pass] had been sealed off, but on this railroad I decided to keep it open. We run extra passenger trains as a way to keep the dispatcher on his toes. He has to move freight out of the way as passenger trains come on stage.”

Barry has visited Raton Pass several times over the years. “I’ve been over the pass by car and Amtrak,” he said. “I’ve gotten tons of photographs.” He has also used his trips as opportunities to get authentic materials for his layout.

“I picked up soil from Raton. I bought plastic containers and mailed them to myself, but one problem with using real soil is the lighting in the room isn’t the same as real sunlight, so you have to use lighter shades.”

His favorite part of building the layout is creating the scenery. “Being a designer, I’m real hands-on. I like to build things. I painted all of the backdrops and I’ve done a lot of the buildings in Raton.”

Jim Ebejer, a friend of Barry, took this series of photos over a period of two days. “It’s not easy to photograph a model railroad,” Barry said. “The lighting isn’t good for photography and there’s not a lot of room for equipment. It took him two days to get these shots right.”


Barry has been working on the layout for about 20 hours a week during the winter months for the past 14 years and says his layout will never be complete. His next project is a scratch build of Raton station using the original plans. The station, shown below, was built in 1903 in the Mission Revival architectural style for the Santa Fe. It currently serves Amtrak trains.

Model railroad photos courtesy of Jim Ebejer.

Raton station photo released to public domain by Magicninja


Do you have a model railroad relating to BNSF or its predecessors that you’d like to show off? We’d love to see it! Email photos and details to communitymanager@bnsf.com.


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Retired Chrysler car designer uses creative skills to recreate 1952 Raton Pass in his basement