We’re going ‘loco’ for these unique locomotives
At BNSF, we love orange. You may be used to seeing our bright orange locomotives moving down the tracks, but there are a few that look a bit different and have interesting backstories. Keep an eye out, and you may be lucky enough to spot them!
Eric Goodman, manager, Economic Development and longtime railfan, provided insight on some of BNSF’s locomotives that sport a different look.
These iconic blue locomotives are the only BNSF units in this color and are sometimes referred to informally by railfans as “Smurfs,” evoking the animated TV show. These are switcher engines, small, low-horsepower locomotives used to move rail cars inside of a rail yard—a process known as switching or shunting.
“BNSF bought them from another railroad and rather than repainting them, we kept the blue color scheme,” Goodman said. “We needed them quickly at the time, but now most have been repainted.”
Of the original 10 units that BNSF purchased, only one or two remain in the blue and white paint scheme.
The “Great Pumpkin” was a test paint scheme following the 1995 BNSF merger between Burlington Northern and Santa Fe. These locomotives stand out from the rest of the fleet because of their distinctive green and orange paint, hence the name “Great Pumpkin.”
This locomotive has two different paint schemes, one on each side for comparison purposes, which remain today.
This locomotive was originally numbered 9297 but has since been renumbered as 1474.
The “Golden swoosh” locomotive was also a test paint scheme, this time when BNSF was rebranding in the early 2000s. BNSF tested the golden-yellow letters as the BNSF logo before deciding on the current paint scheme with its black logo. This locomotive was also the first to embody the current “swoosh” font instead of the previous “wagon wheel” design. BNSF 7695 is the only one of these in existence!
Microsoft Train Simulator
This locomotive, No. 4723, was featured in the Microsoft Train Simulator computer game, which was very popular with railfans upon its release in 2001. The locomotive Microsoft modeled the simulator after has a decal on the side today that reads “Microsoft Train Simulator – Featured Locomotive.”
Executive Scheme (“Grinstein Green”)
This cream and green paint scheme is featured on a small number of locomotives. It’s named after Gerald Grinstein, former CEO of BNSF predecessor Burlington Northern, and is sometimes referred to informally as “Grinstein Green.” One of the remaining locomotives featuring this unique paint scheme is numbered 9535 and now features a BNSF logo.
“This scheme originally came out in 1993 on the Burlington Northern,” Goodman said. “These locomotives were almost all on coal service and were ac-traction units. Some people also call this the Eddie Bauer paint scheme because of the coloring.”
While it is a unique design, this scheme divides railfans, some of whom have an appreciation for it and some of whom… don’t.
In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe merger, BNSF created a paint scheme for 10 locomotives in 2020. These locomotives feature logos of our major predecessor lines on both sides.
“It was my project, and it was a lot of fun,” Goodman said. “We wanted to do something to honor the railroads that made up our heritage. Sometimes the anniversary locomotives are used for the CEO inspection trips.”
While all these unique locomotives may be elusive, they’re out there! If you’re a railfan out photographing trains, remember to follow safety protocols and keep a safe distance from railroad tracks. Don’t forget to take photos and videos from a safe location outside of railroad property. Trespassing on the tracks or right-of-way is illegal and dangerous.