• Should BN Have Merged With SP, Instead of AT&SF?

  • Discussion relating to the BN, and its predecessors GN, NP, CB&Q, SP&S, SL-SF, and their subsidiaries. Visit the Friends of the Burlington Northern for more information.
Discussion relating to the BN, and its predecessors GN, NP, CB&Q, SP&S, SL-SF, and their subsidiaries. Visit the Friends of the Burlington Northern for more information.
  by Engineer Spike
I have been thinking about the BNSF merger, and wonder if SP would have been a better fit. We all know that Santa Fe was well maintained, where as SP was very threadbare. Santa Fe also had a very substantial intermodal franchise, as BN did too, on its northern tier corridor.

Let me explain my rationale for SP, and you can let me know what you think. First, the Santa Fe merger left BNSF with some big holes in its system, where UP-SP ended up with multiple lines. One is the central corridor, where UP has the traditional UP/SP route, and the Rio Grande/WP. The other hole is in eastern Texas, and also Louisiana. If BN had bought SP, it would have had a central route of its own (they got trackage rights in UP/SP merger). The Cotton Belt would have bolstered and extended what was gained in the Frisco merger. I also think that both SP, and BN were more geared to bulk trains. This doesn’t mean that either was a slacker in intermodal, as I pointed out about the BN business. SP had the Sunset Route intermodal.

SP/BN would have had a great route, which paralleled Santa Fe, with the Golden State Route, and the CB&Q. SP would also be able to expand east, by connecting to the Q in Denver.
  by swissrailfan
I live in Louisiana KCS ,CN and Watco have a lock on traffic here SP through Cotton belt has access to the port for container traffic and not much else. That is what UP was after when the purchased SP ,Cotton Belt UP has many connections with SP in Calif. and Texas. BN is a minor player in Texas and has a connection through Fort Worth and Denver with SP in Texas.AT&SF and SP are major players in Texas.UP wanted the traffic in Texas for chemical and oil. UP wanted the SP transcon for container traffic from west to east. AT&SF SP merger would have created a monopoly so that did not work.UP was the only viable merger. BNSF was the only viable merger.When UP merged with SP,SP was close to bankruptcy for the second time after the SP, DRG&W merger.SP is saddled with many redundant lines in La and UP sold many lines to LA transit. and Riverside transit. BNSP merger would not have worked and could have dragged BN into bankruptcy like the SP.DRG&W merger. That is my opinion.
  by eolesen
Had BN gone after SP, it would have pre-empted the DRGW/WP merger with SP. You'd have the Cotton Belt, but aside from the southern transcon, what else?...

There's less of a logical connection with the WP/DRGW and the ATSF, so my guess is those two would have still found their way into the UP, and who knows what would have happened to the ATSF.
  by mtuandrew
The Gulf Coast imbalance is why BNSF must, must eventually purchase KCS. The folks at Fort Worth seem to have decided that run-through rights are sufficient between Denver and Sacramento though, and so far it seems like they’re right.
  by Engineer Spike
The era I was mentioning was the 1990s. By then UP already had WP, and SP and D&RGW were married. BN/SP would have had its own central corridor with the Q to Denver, the Rio Grande, and finally SP. The network in Texas and the southern tier states would have been good. Cotton Belt would have had a good, non IC dependent line to Chicago, and the Golden State would also fit well with the Q in KC. The south central states market would further increase market share with Frisco lines. In the west, the northern lines could connect with SP, and then cover the whole Pacific coast.
  by mtuandrew
If anything BN would have been a better fit with WP and ATSF with DRGW, prior to the grand merger between the two. I think the BN+SF merger worked out quite well for both the Northern and Southern groups, except for missing the center leg that UP does have. (Though the Southern Transcon is perfect for accessing Los Angeles & Long Beach, and the Northern Transcon for both Portland and Seattle.)

If it had been more flush with money, the SP could have done much worse than buying the southern half of the Rock (southwest of Kansas City) and merging in the majority of the Milwaukee Road in their late 1970s bankruptcies. Alternately, those two groups could have functioned in a SP-as-trustee-supervised holding company similar to a Dereco (N&W) or St. Lawrence & Hudson (CPR). SP was certainly shorter of cash than ATSF, but keep in mind that the SPSF merger really robbed the SP blind of land holdings - it would have had more resources prior to seeking that merger.