Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway – A Short History Lesson

ATSF, AT&SF - Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway was founded on February 11, 1859 and it was one of the largest railroads in the United States and for the first part of the 19th century it was known as a passenger train service.

The names came after the cities and towns of Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe.

Despite the inclusion of Santa Fe name, the railroad did not directly served the city, but more the New Mexico and the city area.

It operated between 1859 - 1996, ending and beginning another chapter, by merging with Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, later called BNSF Railway.


Early years started with the rail line construction between Topeka, KS and Santa Fe, NM which directly opened Kansas to settlement, making the majority of its revenue from cattle and wheat, driven from Texas to Wichita and Dodge City.

Topeka Railway Founders

Cyrus K. Holliday was one of the Topeka, KS founders, but also the man who wrote the charter for the Atchison and Topeka Railroad Company, with the goal of connecting the two cities.

One year later, on September 17th, 1860, he was declared director and president of the new railroad company.

Three years later, at the end of 1863, he stepped down from the presidency. During his time as president he had obtained land grants from the federal government, which were used by the company to populate western Kansas.

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway merging end expansion.

In 1870 the company had a gross revenue of $182,000, owned 6 locomotives and 62 miles of track

Beginning with 1885, the expansion started to happen with a new line between Barstow, California and San Diego, California followed by the Los Angeles connection in 1887.

By January 1890, the entire railroad system combined more than 7,500 miles of tracks, with lines between Wichita and Fort Worth, Kansas City to Chicago, Pueblo to Denver.

By 1945 AT&SF gross revenue has been $528,080,530, owned 1,759 locomotives and 13,115 miles of track. Source: Santa Fe Railroad (1945), Along Your Way, Rand McNally, Chicago, Illinois.

In the early 1980's, AT&SF started the process of a merge with Southern Pacific, which was later denied by Interstate Commerce Commission on the grounds that it would create too many duplicate routes.

Fifteen years later, on September 22, 1995, after many challenges, AT&SF successfully merged with Burlington Northern Railroad, which created the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, as we know it today BNSF.

Through out the history, the company had 25 chief officers:.

  • Cyrus K. Holliday: 1860–1863
  • Samuel C. Pomeroy: 1863–1868
  • William F. Nast: September 1868
  • Henry C. Lord: 1868–1869
  • Henry Keyes: 1869–1870
  • Ginery Twichell: 1870–1873
  • Henry Strong: 1873–1874
  • Thomas Nickerson: 1874–1880
  • T. Jefferson Coolidge: 1880–1881
  • William Barstow Strong: 1881–1889
  • Allen Manvel:[4] 1889–1893
  • Joseph Reinhart: 1893–1894
  • Aldace F. Walker: 1894–1895[8]
  • Edward Payson Ripley: 1896–1920
  • William Benson Storey: 1920–1933
  • Samuel T. Bledsoe: 1933–1939
  • Edward J. Engel: 1939–1944
  • Fred G. Gurley: 1944–1958
  • Ernest S. Marsh: 1958–1967
  • John Shedd Reed: 1967–1978[9]
  • Lawrence Cena; 1978-1985
  • W. John Swartz: 1985–1988
  • Mike Haverty: 1989–1991
  • Robert Krebs: 1991–1995
  • Alfred W. Nickerson Source

    Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway was between the first to add dining cars where food and drinks were served. By 1971 all passenger train services were stopped and all the trains were given to AmTrak.