The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (the AT&SF, generally known as "the Santa Fe") looms large in the railroad history of the Southwest.
The AT&SF and its many subsidiaries served a wide area of the Southwest, from its being chartered in 1859 to its merger to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway in 1996. Amid competition to open up the Territory, the AT&SF entered New Mexico in December 1878. The AT&SF eventually served Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
While never actually directly serving Santa Fe (the expense of running a line through the mountains being seen as not cost-effective by the AT&SF, Santa Fe was served by a spur line from Lamy 18 miles away, this branch line paid for by bonds generated by area residents), the AT&SF parlayed the Santa Fe name into a worldwide brand, drawing thousands of visitors to the American Southwest. In conjunction with the Fred Harvey Company the AT&SF offered visitors spectacular landscapes along the railway, fine accommodations at the Harvey Houses, and tours to cultural, archaeological, and geological sites.
The company was noted for innovations in equipment and services, including the addition of dedicated dining cars and observation domes for sightseeing. In keeping with the focus on the romance of rail travel each of the trains were given distinctive names, such as the Super Chief operating between Chicago and Los Angeles, and the Santa Fe Eight, running between Belen and Chicago.
But it was innovation in advertising that made "the Santa Fe" so prominent in the history of the Southwest. Many of the company's ads and posters are works of art and valued by collectors, remembrances of the successful advertising campaign that sold the idea of luxury rail travel, and the mystique of the landscapes and peoples of the Southwest, to folks around the world.
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