CHICAGO, AUG. 27 -- Employes of the Southern Pacific Railroad will make a bid next month to buy the company from Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corp., a union consortium said today.

The Railway Labor Executives' Association, whose 17 unions represent about 25,000 Southern Pacific employes, retained Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. to arrange financing.

"This isn't being pursued for pride of ownership," said Brian M. Freeman, a Newark attorney hired as financial adviser. "This protects jobs and incomes over time."

The employe group is the second suitor since Santa Fe announced in late June that it would no longer appeal an Interstate Commerce Commission order forbidding the merger of the company's two railroads. The Southern Pacific and the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe run between Chicago and the West Coast.

The ICC, which said the merger would be anticompetitive, gave Santa Fe until Sept. 28 to file a divestiture plan for at least one of the railroads. Most observers speculate that Santa Fe will get rid of the less profitable Southern Pacific.

Even before the plan was unveiled, Kansas City Southern Industries Inc. said it was interested in the Southern Pacific. The company would sell a major portion of the railroad -- the line running from Ogden, Utah, to California -- to Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Co., which wants access to the West Coast.

Other rumored fates for the Southern Pacific include a management-led buyout, its breakup into a series of short-line railroads, or the sale of major lines to companies such as the Denver & Rio Grande and Burlington Northern Railroad Co.