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BNSF WarBonnet engine on the NS #BackBelt

bnsf warbonnet

BNSF #738, a GE Dash-9 in Warbonnet livery.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe in New Orleans

The #BackBelt gets regular BNSF activity. The NS tracks connect BNSF (working out of the big UP yard in Avondale) with Norfolk Southern in Gentilly and CSX on the east side of the Industrial Canal. Usually, the engines pulling BNSF trains are one to three GEs in the orange livery. I kept seeing BNSF 738 wearing the “Warbonnet” scheme. It usually stopped on the NS underpass at I-10. That’s not a good place to catch a photograph. So, I finally got a photo of the engine at the Canal Blvd. underpass.


The distinctive silver and red “Warbonnet” livery originated in the 1930s. Santa Fe commissioned General Motors artist Leland A. Knickerbocker to design a scheme for their “Super Chief” passenger train. So, the Super Chief ran from Chicago to Los Angeles. It operated from 1937 to 1971. The Super Chief offered all-Pullman service, featuring streamlined trainsets. Diesels always pulled the train. When Amtrak took over passenger service in 1971. The Super Chief operated as Amtrak service for three additional years. When Amtrak replaced the “heritage” equipment with Superliners, they re-named the train the “Southwest Chief,” with ATSF’s blessing. The railroad did not use the Warbonnet livery for freight service. They dropped the Warbonnet in 1971, when they turned passenger service over to Amtrak.

In 1995, ATSF merged with Burlington Northern. The combined system, BNSF, became the largest in North America. BNSF, revived the Warbonnet livery on a number of its freight engines.

Qstation maintained a list of BNSF Warbonnet engines, but it dates to 2002.

BNSF 738

The one local Warbonnet engine is a GE C44-9W. These engines are colloquially known as “Dash-9s.” This follows the earlier Dash 7 and Dash 8 nicknames. So, the C44-9Ws date from 1993 to 2004. They still roam the rails in large numbers. While the Dash-9s’ max speed is 74mph, you’re not likely to see them move that fast on the #BackBelt. They generate 4400hp.

Both BNSF and NS have projects in progress to convert Dash-9s to AC.