In July 1985, Burlington Northern created a new service called “Expediters”. This new service was designed to compete with truckers on the Interstate highways; this new service was to provide fast, guaranteed delivery for customers. The inauguration was held in early September 1985.
Service began in September 1985 with 10 trains serving 7 intermodal hubs: St. Louis, Memphis, Tulsa, Kansas City, Dallas, Springfield and Birmingham. Galesburg, Houston, Denver and Seattle would be added later.
The Expediter trains would be high priority intermodal trains. The trains were to be non-stop (no picking up or setting out cars), caboose less, use two-man crews from a special pool of crew members, and be limited to 30 cars maximum (or 60 containers). The routes would be around 200 miles long. A single SD40-2 was assigned to power the trains. The locomotives were from the last two groups of SD40-2s BN purchased between 1977 and 1980; 8000-8099 and 8100-8181.
In early February 1987, two Expediter trains began running between Seattle and Portland. The trains were given numbers #95 for the southbound, and #96 for the northbound. Train #95 operated Tuesday thru Friday from the South Seattle intermodal hub to Southern Pacific’s Brooklyn Yard in SE Portland where the train was handed over to Southern Pacific. Train #95 started out as a night train, going on duty at 7:30pm. Train #96 operated from Southern Pacific’s Brooklyn Yard and terminated at South Seattle. The Expediters were supposed to be non-stop, but train #96 would sometimes set out cars in Tacoma. Train #96 started out going on duty at 11:30pm.
Two months later, in April 1987, another pair of Expediters were put into service between Seattle and Portland. Trains #90 and #97 would join the two existing Expediters.
Train #90 handled cars from Southern Pacific’s LABRF (Los Angles-Brooklyn Forwarder) train to South Seattle, running Wednesday thru Sunday. The train went on duty at 7:30am at the Hoyt Street roundhouse, then went over to Brooklyn Yard where it would sometimes wait for the LABRF to arrive. Train #97 ran Tuesday thru Friday from South Seattle to Brooklyn Yard where the entire train was handed over to Southern Pacific to be put on the high-priority PTLAT (Portland-Los Angles Trailers).
In 1988 the schedule changed for all four trains. For the northbound trains, #96 went on duty first at 6:00am, and then train #90 went on duty later in the day at 1:00pm in Portland. Southbound train #95 went on duty in Seattle at 4:30am, and then train #97 went on duty at 10:30am.
The four trains were very successful at getting trucks off Interstate 5 between Portland and Seattle. The trains were never delayed, both Centralia South and Centralia North dispatchers kept them moving, only stopping them to meet Amtrak trains. Train #97 was always right on the heels of Amtrak #11 (1011). Train #90 was supposed to be in front of Amtrak #14 (1014), but sometimes that didn’t always work out.
In July 1992 Burlington Northern ended the Expediter program. Train #95 was terminated but trains #90, #96 & #97 still operated. The name was dropped, their arrival times were no longer guaranteed, the Expediter pool was eliminated and the trains were returned to the regular train crew pool and operated with a full crew. Any power could be assigned to the trains; GP40s, GP50s, and LMXs were seen pulling the trains.
Then in November 1992 more changes were made. Train #90 ran to Interbay instead of South Seattle. Train #96 now departed Lake Yard in northwest Portland in the early evening hours. Train #97 now started its journey at Stacy Street Yard instead of South Seattle.
In March 1994 train #95 was back in operation, this time handling autoracks from train #33 in Seattle and taking them south to Tacoma and Portland (Terminal 6).
When the BNSF merger rolled round at the end of 1996, all four Expediter trains were gone. Southern Pacific was history in August of 1996, so there was no more traffic between Brooklyn Yard and Seattle. Union Pacific took care of that themselves.