• Civil War Railroads

  • A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads
A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by fordhamroad
-the grandaddy of all our American military railroad activity was of course the U.S. Military Rail Road of the Civil War. I was at the Timonium Rail show this weekend, and there was a nice display of USMRR artifacts and models by the Yahoo Group on Civil War Railroads. Some participants in this site might find their discussions interesting.
-despite the obvious interest of railfans in military railroading, not much effort is made by the Army to recruit at such gatherings, or even to do public relations work.
-one exception is the 1205th transportation unit which is one of two remaining army railroad units. It usually has a table at the February Springfield show to publicize its history and functions, and perhaps recruit.
-does the Army currently do any other activities with railfans?

  by RailVet
As a former member of the 1205th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion, I manned a table at one of the Springfield shows a few years ago, as well as tables at Westover ARB and Barnes ANGB during air shows. I can tell you with 100% certainty that train shows are a complete waste of time for recruiting purposes. Most train show attendees are way past the eligibility age range for potential recruitment and usually have far too much tonnage around their waistlines. One unit member brings an HO train layout for display, and although this is nice to see, it has often led to people assuming the table was recruiting for a military train club, not an actual unit. Even old timers who were in the Army many decades ago when there were active duty rail units expressed surprise when told that, yes, the Army has rail units (a few, all in the Reserve).

Rail units don't need over-age train buffs, they need freight railroad employees who already know what they're doing around railway equipment. Unfortunately they are very hard to recruit. Those working for Class I lines must "mark off" to attend drill, and doing so costs them more money than they'd make from the Reserve. They really have no incentive to join. Most rail employees who have already done an active duty tour know better than to sign up in the Guard or Reserve these days, since they could easily find themselves back on active duty. Even if your unit doesn't get mobilized, if you have an MOS needed elsewhere, the Army will "cross-level" you to an open slot and away you go. Think your days in the infantry ended when you left active duty? Think again.

Although train shows are truly a waste of time for recruiting purposes, they do serve as an opportunity for some unit members to wander away, enjoy the train show, have a beer, goof off, leave manning the table to others, and collect drill pay for doing so.

The 1205th TROB is scheduled to inactivate on Sep 16, 2006 as part of a larger plan to close units that do not deploy overseas. (The 1205th's primary mission for years has been to augment Army civilian employees at Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, NC, with rail operations and track maintenance personnel.) Its attached 226th Transportation Company (Railway), a deployable unit with a completely different configuration and mission, will remain active and may be put directly under the Milwaukee-based 757th Transportation Battalion (Railway), which it would join if mobilized. As a deployable field unit, the 226th spends much more of its available drill time "playing Army" than training on rail equipment. Anyone contemplating joining the 226th should keep this in mind.

Until a few years or so ago the 1205th had numerous officers assigned, including one whose primary duty focused on "community outreach" programs, which included train shows and the like. With the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, all but the commander of the 1205th, the commander of the 226th, and a full-time XO (major) were pulled and assigned to deploying units. This has significantly trimmed the unit's ability to attend "nice to do" activities, such as train shows.
  by fordhamroad
-Great reply, right from the trenches. As a slightly overweight and way too old railfan at Springfield, I did enjoy meeting with some of the 1205th crew, recalling my own days in the Transportation Corps, and appreciating the sacrifices 1205th unit members made when they were mobilized for two Gulf wars.
-I am not suprised, although I am disappointed, that the 1205th is being shut down. I am not suprised by anything that comes out of the current Pentagon and Secretary of Defense. He seems to be a lot better at reorganizing units than wlnning wars.
-How the rail industry, and the country really, has changed. The ancestor of the 1205th, the 729th Ry Bn, was proudly sponsored by the New Haven RR. Many NH men volunteered to serve in that and other rail units in WW II, and their service was highly valued by their colleagues who stayed behind on the job. The Army had enough sense to let rail people in uniform do their job without interfering too much or reorganizing things constantly. You do not see much appreciation of railroads by the current high brass, nor much active cooperation from today's railroad corporations.
-thanks for your service.

  by RailVet
I should point out that the 1205th was mobilized only once, and that was for the first Gulf War. The unit went to Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point and worked some very long hours, but there were plenty of "antics" that long-time members will recall. Compared to what other units endured, they got off pretty well. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, some members of the unit were sent on temporary duty to stateside locations to support load-outs, but there was no mobilization of the unit. This was probably due in part to more munitions being shipped in containers rather than boxcars, resulting in much less handling necessary at the MOTSU port, thereby reducing the need for reservist augmentation. Additionally, the invasion was planned long in advance, allowing for significant pre-positioning of munitions.

In early 2003 one or two rail crews were sent to Fort Carson, CO, to support post's load-out. Three people were sent (a fourth could not be found on short notice) to the port of Corpus Christi, TX, supposedly to do yardmaster duties in support of a New Orleans-based transportation terminal unit (TTU), with two 12-hour shifts and 24-hour coverage. The Corpus Christi Terminal Railroad had its own yardmaster and didn't need any others, and the three sent had no training or experience as yardmasters. What was actually needed was a daily car count, broken down by type and point of origin, on an Excel spreadsheet to be used in a daily teleconference by the TTU. The one reservist with computer skills provided this data each morning while the other two went to an extended breakfast. Total time expended each day on the spreadsheet was 60 minutes, sometimes 90. The other two would eventually return to pick up the third and then go goof off for the rest of the day. Those two would also spend half the night, each night, at the local strip bars, where lap dances were available for only $1 (much less than in New York City, they said). According to a local man, the city has more strip joints, per capita, than any other city in Texas, and those two reservists got to know many of them well. Amazingly enough, the one in charge of the trio put in for, and obtained, medals for all three from the TTU commander. The one who actually did the spreadsheet work fed his medal documentation into a shredder rather than shamefully have it entered into his record.

Are you sure you want to thank us for our service?

Back to railroads… Unlike their predecessors, today's Class I railroads are in no position to sponsor reserve railway units as they once did. Manning is greatly reduced and much too tight, and railroads really have nothing to gain by sponsoring units again. Post-WW II events also had a hand in this as well, such as when Harry Truman pissed off both rail management and employees in 1946. Below you'll find a link to the story, and the applicable portion is just below the link.


Harry Truman’s conception of presidential power as in principle unlimited was as manifest in his domestic as in his foreign policy. Some key episodes illustrate this.

In May 1946, Truman decided that the proper response to the strike of railroad workers was to draft the strikers into the Army. Even his attorney general, Tom Clark, doubted that the Draft Act permitted "the induction of occupational groups" or that the move was at all constitutional. But, as Truman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer David McCullough wrote, in his typical stupefied admiration: "Truman was not interested in philosophy. The strike must stop. ‘We’ll draft them and think about the law later,’ he reportedly remarked." McCullough neglects to note that bold "action" in defiance of law is considered a characteristic of fascist regimes.

On May 25, Truman addressed Congress, requesting the authority "to draft into the Armed Forces of the United States all workers who are on strike against their government." His proposal was greeted with tumultuous applause, and the House quickly approved the bill by 306 to 13. In the Senate, though, the bill was stopped in its tracks by Senator Taft. He was joined by left-liberals like Claude Pepper of Florida. Eventually, the Senate rejected the bill by 70 to 13.
  by fordhamroad
-Railvet, guess "you're not wild about Harry". He was pretty high handed about the railroads, and the steel industry too. I thought he was otherwise generally sympathetic to the working guy. He didn't start the Korean War until after we were attacked. He eliminated the curse of segregation in our armed forces. On balance, I might disagree with you.
-Captain Truman served in WW I, unlike most currrent political leaders of both parties who managed to avoid military service, and I see very few of their military age kids volunteering either.
-So, I will continue to say thank you to anyone who volunteers to serve, regardless of some of the ridiculous bulls--t most of us encountered in the military from time to time. Peace, Brother.


  by Legio X
I believe Harry Truman was a captain in the Field Artillery, and he commanded a battery of French-made 75mm field guns, no doubt transported to a railhead near the front by the Societe National Chemin de Fer- the SNCF, the French National Railway. I don't know what DIVARTY or Corps Artillery Capt. Truman belonged to. Maybe Railvet or Fordhamroad might know?
  by fordhamroad
- Legio X, more likely Harry S. was transported by one of the numerous US Military Railways trains which brought US troops and their supplies from the ports to the rear areas. This was a massive undertaking, importing a whole railroad system to France. See the detailed account by Col. William J. Wilgus (of Grand Central Terminal Fame) TRANSPORTING THE AEF. Many libraries have this. Not sure about Truman's artillery period. Check out the biographies. Best wishes

  by CarterB
During the War Between the States, did the military transport prisoners to camps via rail? I would assume so, since the infamous Camp Douglas was in Chicago.

Also, was the Annapolis & Elk Ridge RR in MD used for military movements to and from Annapolis and Camp Parole?
Last edited by CarterB on Wed Feb 15, 2006 5:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by RailVet
Those considering joining a Reserve rail unit will need to keep this in mind as well. Most Reserve units are support outfits, and future training in Reserve units will focus on combat, not support role training. The Reserve hopes to recruit more people who do the same sort of things in their civilian jobs (i.e., medical personnel for medical units, truck drivers for truck units, etc.) so the limited time available on weekends and during Annual Training can focus on training for combat. Someone joining a rail unit may find very little, if any, time spent training on railway equipment, since the bulk of such training would be expected to come from one's civilian job. Whether this is a realistic expectation for rail units (because recruiting freight railroaders has been extremely difficult) remains to be seen.
  by TB Diamond
Many years ago a person informed me that Civil War hospital trains ran with puce (brownish purple) running lights and were of the highest priority. Can any Civil War student confirm this as fact?
  by TB Diamond
To corrrect my previous post: "running lights" should have read "classification lights".
  by fordhamroad
-Carter B and TB, you should really pose these questions to D.C. Cebula and his colleagues on the Yahoo Groups Civil War Railroads site. There is also a Yahoo Group on Early Railroads. I have read references to Civil War railroads hauling wounded in various places, including reports on the Military Railroads in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion They might be able to give you more specific information as they are really into the topic. Best wishes,

  by fordhamroad
- Railvet: to the extent that some use will be made of rail transportation in future wars or interventions overseas, it will probably be very integrated with port and trucking operations. Twenty-first century warfare seems to be more and more like Viet Nam, with a lot of resistance and guerilla tactics. This is not the most favorable situation for rail transportation, because it is so vulnerable to attacks. In the Iraq war, there is no front, and no rear area. Soldiers running trains in future wars better be good at their infantry skills, because they may have to use them frequently.
-exactly what role military rail units can play in this type of war is unclear. But we will probably need some of them someplaces and some of the time, and there ought to be at least a small nucleus preserved for future needs. Railroad companies make a good deal of money, operating in this country. Why shouldn't they show some public spirit and patriotism, when it comes to assisting the military with its future logistical needs?


  by Legio X
Perhaps we'll see armored trains like the Germans used in the East during the Second World War. although I'm sure the military-industrial complex and their Pentagon accomplices will fill these trains with alll sorts of features that the troops in the field don't need or want......has anyone else noticed that the military-industrial complex and the weenies in the Pentagon really have'nt listened to the troops in the field since the early '90's......?

  by CJPat
Rail is extremely useful on the domestic side during Mobe out of the equipment to the ports. In Theater is another story. Rail infrastructure is very fragile and difficult to defend. If a road is cratered, a useable bypass can be put in within a very short time. If a road bridge is destroyed, a replacement bridge can be put up in a day. Rail bridges are extremely heavy duty and take a while to reconstruct.

It always comes down to speed and defendability.