Burlington Northern Railroad

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The Burlington Northern Railroad was a railroad in the United States. It was formed from a 1970 merger among the Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Chicago, Burlington and Quincy and Spokane, Portland and Seattle railroads. The Burlington Northern was known for its distinctive green and white logo and locomotive color scheme. In 1996, the Burlington Northern merged with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe to become Burlington Northern Santa Fe.


At the turn of the 20th century, railroader James J. Hill controlled the Great Northern and Northern Pacific, both of which served the same region covering Minneapolis to Seattle. In 1901 a competition ensued between Hill and rival railroader Edward P. Harriman for control over a third railroad, the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy. Hill wanted that railroad because in addition to expanding his hegemony over the northwest it would give him access to Chicago. Hill would ultimately be successful, but unfortunately for Hill his success came at the dawn of the trust-busting era when Theodore Roosevelt assumed the Presidency in 1901. Hill along with banker J.P. Morgan had formed the Northern Securities Company with the intention of merging the three rail lines into one. Instead, the Northern Securities Company was ordered dissolved under the authority of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Despite this dissolution of his trust, James J. Hill managed to maintain control over the individual rail lines, and gained control over two additional lines during his later life, including the Spokane, Portland, and Seattle. Hill passed away in 1916. Attempts were again made to merge the railroads in 1927 and 1955. The 1955 attempt was fought all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which finally gave permission for the four roads to merge in a March 1970 ruling.

Additional acquisitions and divestitures

In 1980, the Burlington Northern acquired the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway.

In 1988, Burlington Northern's oil and gas holdings were spun off into a separate company, Burlington Resources, which was eventually acquired by ConocoPhillips in 2006.