The BNSF Railway Company is the principal operating subsidiary of parent company Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC. Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, the railroad's parent company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.
According to corporate press releases, the BNSF Railway is among the top transporters of intermodal freight in North America. It also hauls bulk cargo, including enough coal to generate around ten per cent of the electricity produced in the United States.
The creation of BNSF started with the formation of a holding company on September 22, 1995. This new holding company purchased the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (often called the "Santa Fe") and Burlington Northern Railroad, and formally merged the railways into the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway on December 31, 1996. On January 24, 2005, the railroad's name was officially changed to "BNSF Railway," using the initials of its original name.
In 1999, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the Canadian National Railway announced their intention to merge and form a new corporation entitled North American Railways to be headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The United States' Surface Transportation Board (STB) placed a 15-month moratorium on all rail mergers, which ended this merger.
On November 3, 2009, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway announced it would acquire the remaining 77.4 percent of BNSF it did not already own for $100 per share in cash and stock — a deal valued at $44 billion. The company is investing an estimated $34 billion in BNSF and acquiring $10 billion in debt. On February 12, 2010, shareholders of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation voted in favor of the acquisition.
BNSF's history dates back to 1849, when the Aurora Branch Railroad in Illinois and the Pacific Railroad of Missouri were formed. The Aurora Branch eventually grew into the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, (CB&Q), a major component of predecessor Burlington Northern. A portion of the Pacific Railroad became the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco).
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF) was chartered in 1859. It built one of the first transcontinental railroads in North America, linking Chicago and Southern California; major branches led to Texas, Denver, and San Francisco. The Interstate Commerce Commission denied a proposed merger with the Southern Pacific Transportation Company in the 1980s.