Anatomy of BNSF Train Symbols

Every train operating on the BNSF system has a unique identification code referred to as its train symbol. Most symbols use a series of seven letters and a following set of three numbers.

The first letter in the train symbol is the type of train.
B - Bare Table
G - Loaded Unit Grain
H - High Priority Merchandise
M - Low Priority Merchandise
Q - Guaranteed Intermodal
S - Marine Stack Train
U - Non Coal/Grain Unit
V - Vehicle
X - Empty Unit Grain
Z - UPS - LTL Intermodal

The next group of three letters is where the train started. The next set of three letters is where the train will terminate. To keep lists short I will have lists of origin and destination codes on each train type page.

The first number is the section code. Often there will be more than one train a day moving the same type of train between the same origin and destination. To avoid confusion, a different section number will be used for each train. In the old days, the first section was usually 1 and a following section would be 2. Now the prioity of the train is also indicated by the section number. Trains with the highest priority will use section 9 and lower prioity trains lower numbers. To avoid confusion there is a date code at the end (not shown in the illustration above) to make each train symbol across the entire system unique.

So in the illustration above, this train is a High Priority Merchandise that was assembled in Barstow, CA and is going to Belen, NM. If the train originated on the tenth day of the month, then the full symbol would be: HBARBEL1-10. Some people put a dash between the train type code and the origin, I don't.

The following guide pages are based on over 800 different freight trains that I have observed over the past couple months. I have tried to condense the unique characteristics of each of these trains into a short paragraph with its train symbol on the following pages:
Bare Table Trains
Manifest Trains Westbound
Manifest Trains Eastbound
Q Trains Westbound
Q Trains Eastbound
Marine Stack Train Overview
Marine Stack Trains Westbound
Marine Stack Trains Eastbound
Unit Trains
Vehicle Trains

I will add other pages as I have time. Hope this first installment is helpful and makes watching the Flagstaff cam more interesting.