Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corp., ordered by the Interstate Commerce Commission last June to get rid of one of the two railroads it had hoped to merge, said yesterday it would retain the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and sell the Southern Pacific Transportation Corp.

The corporation outlined several possible alternatives for divesting itself of the Southern Pacific, including selling the railroad to its employes or management.

SFSP has two years to pare its operations back to one railroad under the ICC ruling but indicated that it hopes to move swiftly to unload the railroad. "We believe it is in the best interest of all concerned to accomplish the divestiture as soon as possible," said Robert D. Krebs, the corporation's new president and chief executive officer.

The corporation spent nearly four years pursuing the merger of the two Western railroads, which would have produced the nation's second-longest rail system. The ICC dealt the final blow to hopes for the merger in June when it refused to reconsider its rejection of the plan.

ICC members who voted against the merger said the competitive problems it represented outweighed potential public benefits.

SFSP said that, in addition to a potential sale to employes or management, it would consider selling the rail operations to either another railroad or noncarrier, spinning off Southern Pacific shares to SFSP shareholders in proportion to their holdings of SFSP stock and creating an independent Southern Pacific or selling the railroad in pieces.

Krebs said the corporation would consider public interest, shareholder interests, feasibility and timing in making its decision. The fact that the corporation wants to move rapidly to divest itself of Southern Pacific may work against attempts by other railroads to acquire the Southern Pacific.

For instance, if Norfolk Southern wanted to acquire the railroad, the move would likely be opposed by its East Coast competitors and other Western railroads, said Henry H. Livingston, a railroad analyst with Kidder, Peabody & Co. Such a merger would probably present problems with the ICC as well, he said.

Livingston said the railroad's most promising future might be to remain independent. "What's wrong with Southern Pacific being an independent and making its way back into the world?" he said. "People have been too negative about this railroad."