The Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railroad, often abbreviated as just the "Santa Fe," was one of the largest railroads in the United States.
In 1859, it was chartered in Kansas as the Atchison & Topeka Railroad Company for building a rail line from Topeka, Kansas, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and then on to the Gulf of Mexico. The railroad exercised great influence on the settlement of the southwestern United States.
Cyrus K. Holliday, a Topeka lawyer and business promoter, founded the railroad along the Santa Fe Trail - a 19th-century trading route. He was also the first president of the railroad, as well as one of its directors for nearly 40 years (1860-1900).
During his years as railroad president, Holliday secured land grants from the federal government that would soon be used by the railroad to populate the western portion of Kansas.
The railroad changed its name to the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railroad in 1863, and it opened to traffic in 1864. The following year, the railroad acquired several small lines. By the early 1890s the Santa Fe, with its nearly 9,000 miles of track and connections to Chicago and Los Angeles, it became one of the world`s longest railroad systems.
The railroad increased its holdings in the 20th century. By 1929, it had 13,000 miles of track in the Southwest. A holding company, Santa Fe Industries, was created in the 1960s for the railroad and various subsidiaries.
Santa Fe Industries decided to merge with the Southern Pacific Company to form Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corporation in 1983. But the Interstate Commerce Commission blocked the proposed merger of the two railroads.
After defeating a hostile takeover attempt, the company sold the Southern Pacific Transportation Company (1988), Kirby Forest Industries (1986), and Robert E. McKee (1987).
Many pipeline and energy subsidiaries were sold or their securities were distributed to stockholders.
In 1989, the railroad emerged as a part of the newly named Santa Fe Pacific Corporation, which later merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1995, and became the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway.