BNSF 787, CN 5541, and BNSF 4749 on the TRRA Merchants Subdivision

Back on a hot summer evening in June of 2008, I was up chasing trains in North St. Louis. While hanging out on Branch Street I heard a train coming north on the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA) Merchants Subdivision. It turned out I was lucky enough to catch a BNSF manifest freight train being led by an ex-Santa Fe (SF) Warbonnet locomotive and a Canadian National (CN) cowl unit. 

North Market Interlocking

I first photograph the train as it rolled north through the TRRA's North Market Interlocking. The interlocking is listed as being at milepost 5.0 of the Merchants Subdivision, per a TRRA timetable. It is located between Branch Street, to the north, and North Market Street, to the south. North Market Interlocking is a junction where BNSF Hannibal Subdivision and a short NS line (now unused) interchange with the TRRA's Merchants Subdivision. The NS line connects on the west side of the interlocking, while the Hannibal Subdivision connects on the east side of the interlocking.

BNSF 787, CN 5541, and BNSF 4749 are northbound at North Market Interlocking.
Looking southeast down the NS tracks, from Branch Street, toward North Market Interlocking.

This train featured a colorful group of locomotives. Leading the train north here is BNSF 787, a General Electric (GE) built C44-9W. Even though BNSF 787 is painted in the Santa Fe Warbonnet paint scheme, the locomotive was built for BNSF in 1997, after the Burlington Northern's (the BN in BNSF) and Santa Fe's (the SF in BNSF) merger. The third locomotive is BNSF 4749, also a GE built C44-9W model. BNSF 4749 was built for BNSF in 1998, and like BNSF 787, features the standard narrow body behind the locomotive cab. 

Cowl Unit

The second locomotive is CN 5541, a SD60F and was built in 1989 by Electro Motive Division (EMD). The SD60Fs were built with a "full" width body behind the cab, known as a cowl. The SD60F model of locomotive was unique to CN, though other railroads, especially passenger railroads feature the cowl body style, such as the Santa Fe. The idea behind the cowl design for the Canadian railroads was that it would offer more protection against the weather for the crew. These days, per an article on, the Canadian railroads are either scrapping or selling off their cowl units, and CN 5541 has been scrapped. 

West approach of the Merchants Bridge

A lot of times BNSF trains diverge onto the Hannibal Subdivision at North Market Interlocking. This train however kept on going north on the Merchants Subdivision. A little while later it made its way up the west approach of the TRRA's Merchants Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri, and Venice, Illinois. The train is passing over the BNSF's Hannibal Subdivision. The train most likely was a transfer run from BNSF's Lindenwood Yard in the southwest area of St. Louis, to the TRRA's Madison Yard at Madison, Illinois.

Looking south along the Hannibal Subdivision from East Grand Ave. towards the west approach.

The bridge behind the Merchants Bridge approach is the McKinley Bridge. It is about 3,600 feet down river from the Merchants Bridge. It was originally built by the Illinois Traction System and was a dual rail and road bridge.

Photographs taken on June 7, 2008, at St. Louis, Missouri.


  1. Great colorful shots! I was thinking it looked nice and warm and then read your description. I need to do some train spotting in St Louis some day.

    1. Thanks, Shelly. St. Louis is a great place to railfan. Lots of variety, like the KC area.


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