Gene and Bonnie have a neighbor named “L.J.” who is a dispatcher for the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad. I didn’t know it but the two rail lines merged or one acquired the other a few years ago. The corporate headquarters for the company is here in Fort Worth, just off Western Center Boulevard. If you will recall, just after we get on I-35W and head for Fort Worth, you see a Joe’s Crab Shack and it is located on Western Center. The railroad owns several hundred acres there and it looks like a campus with beautiful buildings and beautiful trees and green lawns. There is a large pond where employees can fish if they practice “catch and release” and there are two miles of jogging trails. One of the buildings contains a large weight room.
The center of activity is a large building called the “bunker” because it is built like a wartime bunker with walls that are 3 feet thick to withstand high winds and tornados. There is also an emergency generator in the basement to ensure that there is no power interruption. The reason for all of these precautions is that all of the rolling stock and the rail lines owned by the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe are controlled from one room in this building known as Federal Control. It looks like the pictures you see of NASA’s Mission Control or the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with at least 100 cubicles, 400 or 500 people and even more computer monitors. The main room has no supporting columns and we were told that when it was built a few years ago, it was the largest free- standing room ever built. To give you an idea of the scale, one wall contains 9 movie screens and each looks to be as big as what you would see at your favorite AMC. One screen always shows the weather channel and the rest are changing every few minutes with up-to-date graphs and information necessary to run the business. One interesting screen shows the number of coal trains operating at the current moment. The BNSF averages the operation of 45 coal trains per day and the Union Pacific runs about 45 trains a day over track that is owned by the BNSF. The coal is mined in Wyoming and Colorado and shipped to power plants all over the country to generate power. Our host, L.J., was showing us around on his day off. He normally works three 12- hour days in a row and then has three days off. L.J.’s main duty is to supply locomotives to the 45 coal trains and keep track of the status of each. The rest of the screens show on-time performance and stuff like that.
We got to go through some railroad cars that are kept on the property. There is a gift shop and a museum that is quite interesting. The walls of the buildings were hung with southwest art. The whole layout was interesting and quite impressive.