• What are military railroads?

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

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by CSXTfan
This is kinda a dumb question but what dose the military have to do with the railroad?
I know that their are military trains but never heard of a forum FOR the military.
  by Aa3rt
Many military bases had (or have) rail service. Some are large enough to have had their own motive power at the base.

If you'll look down through the threads in this forum, there are a number of topics discussing various aspects of railroading dealing with the military.

IIRC, you stated the you live in or near Baltimore in another thread. The Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay was served by the B&O at one time and the Aberdeen Proving Grounds also had rail service on base, large enough to have had their own motive power.

Art (Aa3rt) Audley, co-moderator, General Discussion: Short Lines, Industrial & Military Railroads.
  by mike157
On October 22, 1962, in order to defend against a potential strike from Russian missiles discovered on the Island of Cuba, President Kennedy declared a state of military alert, known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. There was no serious defense of the skies in southern Florida at that time. So ... to defend against the possibility of air attack on Miami and the region’s strategic military staging areas, the Army deployed the 52nd Air Defense Artillery Group to south Florida for the Homestead-Miami (HM) Defense Network. These were Nike Hercules Missiles and they ringed Miami. The system, rails, missiles, radar, etc. were shipped to Miami by trains. Along with personnel, headquarters staff, cooks, armorers, MPs - all that a Missile Sytem needs. Several of the sites were planted (excuse the pun) in tomato fields. At first ... the soldiers lived in tents, had no traditional electricity or running water. The radars and missiles were exposed to the weather and sank in the muck. South Florida’s proximity to Cuba meant that HAWK and Nike troops would receive almost no warning of enemy attack.

In the early 70s I serevd in a battery on the edge of the glades by the Tamiamai Trail. The rail trip from Fort Bliss (El Paso) Texas to Miami, Forida was the thing of legends. I don't think it could have been done by road in a matter of days, like it was.

  by CBRy
In several cases the military actually maintained entire railroads,
suchas the 30-mile line in MD that ran from Brandywine, MD to
NAS/NATC Patuxent River MD. It had several locos, a fleet of
assorted freight cars, cabooses and guard-cars and even, for a
while, a few passenger cars!

There was a RR system on bas composed of over 20 miles of track
in addition to the 30 mile line to Brandywine MD. There were
several section-houses, way stops and other facilities along the
line that were military-maintained and operated, plus the terminal
at Brandywine MD was home to an engine house, small shop and
loading and interchange facilities along with several interchange

Another complete RR was the 30+ mile USN railroad from Dahlgren VA
to Fredericksburg VA. This, too linked a vast RR system on base with
the RF& P and C&O at Fredericksburg VA, but the USN owned and
maintained the entire line from Dahlgren to Fredericskburg and also
had quite a fleet of rolling stock and locomotives in their heyday!
They even operated several self-propelled passenger and combination
motorcars build by Edwards and Brill over the years. There was an
engine house, major shops, and yards on the Dahlgren base as well
as interchage facilities on the Fredericksburg end.

Also there was a 20 mile railroad built in the early part of the 20th
century from Indian Head MD to White Plains MD that was owned
and operated by the USN for transporting naval gun parts, powder,
and other large cargo to the Indian Head Naval Proving Grounds.
This base also had an extensive Railroad that was composed of
TWO different gauges! The standard gauge RR ran throughout the
base for regular supply and passenger service, and the narrow gauge
RR ran inside the base for the transportation of propellants and other
"hazmats"of the era. The narrow gauge RR was originally operated by
small Forneys, but later was operated by a catenery-supplied electric
locomotive fleet.

All of these railroads had designated personnel such as locomotive
engineers, section hands, conductors, track gangs and shop men.

So....yes....the military DOES, in fact have RAILROADS! :wink:

Ft. Eustis VA still has a complete railroad on base for training
purposes complete with a locomotive shop, personnel, etc. They
also have a fleet of DoD rolling stock on the base and a couple of
locomotives. The US Army also owns and maintains a 4 mile line
from Eustis to the CSX interchange outside the base.

These are just a few examples of military RAILROADS.....you can
easily find others right here on these boards.

Happy hunting!
  by RailVet
Fort Eustis does indeed have a post railway but its manning is very minimal, its activity consists mainly of occasional training classes and infrequent interchanges with CSX. Most of the on-post rolling stock consists of secondhand Army-owned boxcars used for training purposes.

This website lists military bases operating their own railways:


It was last updated in 2006 and there have been numerous changes since then, to include: the inactivation of the 1205th TROB and the sale of its two locomotives to the TVA; the sale of the GE 65-ton locomotive at Camp Lejeune, NC, to an excursion railroad; the lifting of the rails between the naval base at Indian Head and the CSX interchange at White Plains, MD, and the conversion of the route to a bike trail, etc. Other bases have locomotives but little or no rail activity. For example, I visited Naval Construction Battalion Center Port Hueneme, CA, a couple of years ago and the lone GE 80-ton had been sitting for years without moving. An employee said only one person had been qualified to operate it and he'd been gone for months, so it just sat there. The couplers were rusty and the cab was filled with dust.
  by Deval
I know the owner of Military Rails Online, and he says he's working on updating and improving the website. But to your question...

Military railroads operate for one or two reasons - 2) the military wanted cars switched when they wanted them switched without working with a third party and/or 2) there are some things civilians don't need to see.

There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about contracting out all military railroad operations instead of having them operated by DoD civilian employees, but then again, those rumors have been around for years. The only change we might see is the replacement of all of the GP type engines with Gensets. But that, like everything else, depends on funding. The engines and track will still be 'owned' by the army, the only question is who will operate them.
  by SemperFidelis
The conclusion that the military's operation of railroads might be in response to situations/equipment whose existance the military would not want civilians to witness is most likely incorrect. All branches of the Armed Forces have civilian contractors and all of those contractors are subject to required background checks whose intensity and selectivity coincide with the nature of thier work. There are civilian contractors who work on very secretive projects whose security clearence requirements are far higher than those of many members of the military.

Besides, most of the work performed by military railroads is rather mundane. Were something top-secret to be shipped by rail it would no doubt be enclosed and its presence in said enclosure would most likely only be known by a very few people. The people operating the train would have no interaction with the shipment aside from spotting it in the correct location. Nuclear weapons are handled at certain locations by civilian railroad crews and no one I know of has had any reason to question thier commitment to secrecy and security.

I've never really supported the "outsourcing" trend that the military has been following for many decades. Many civilian contractors and DOD employees are wonderful and hard working people, but thier reputation among the rank and file service-member is tarnished by both the much higher pay they recieve for identical work as well as the negative personality traits exhibited by some civilian workers. I was hoping that some of our recent experiences with civilian contractors in Iraq would give our civilian leadership reason to analyze the costs and benefits associated with civilian contractors and thier actions, but those hopes were dashed rather quickly. In my mind, if there is a task directly associated with the various needs of the military, it should be the military who performs it. Was there a good reason my first uniforms and gear were issued to me by a mobidly obese civilian with a nasty mouth? Heck no. Rather than paying a civilian $70,000 and benefits, train some fine men and women in uniform how to run the warehousing and logistics.

But then again, I never quite made General so the decision was never mine to make.

A little off topic, but relevant- One of the few decisions that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld made that I viewed as positive for the military was his insistance that a military base's rail access be a factor that was weighed heavily when base closures and realignments were/are decided upon. Apparently Secretary Rumsfeld was of the mind that rail access was a very good thing for a military installation to have.
  by Arrestmespi
Aberdeen Proving Ground and the Edgewood Aresenal have(had to a point) extensive railroad including 3 or four gauges, on base passenger service, interchange with the PRR/PC/CR/Amtrak/NS though it is quite scaled back if not dormant now. They are planning on trying to move the huge rail gun via a special shipment over Amtrak/NS to Ft. Lee I believe. There are plans to use part of the base railroad as a MARC train yard.
  by RailVet
APG shipped its last locomotive, an EMD SW8, out to the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, CA, in 2005, and now uses a trackmobile for on-post movements. It mainly resides in the restricted area, so unless you're able to go there, you will probably never see it. The track has been in very poor condition for many years and the post wished to abandon it back in the late 1990s; however, a tenant activity wanted to keep the rail so it could continue rail car impact testing within the restricted area. During a visit in 2005, shortly after the last locomotive left, an employee said the post was receiving occasional inbound rail shipments of damaged military vehicles from Iraq and Afghanistan so they could be examined to determine where and how their armor failed.

A few years ago I asked the APG museum staff about the narrow gauge railroad that had existed on post during the WW I era, but they had no idea where it ran and suggested I contact the local area historical society. (WTH?)

The staff did say the plan is to move the rail gun to Fort Lee via rail and that the event would be well publicized in advance. Whether or not that day will ever actually arrive, we'll have to wait and see.

Edgewood Arsenal, now a subpost of APG, has not had active rail service in decades. In many areas, trees grow between the rails, which are extremely rusty, and the ties have largely crumbled into mulch. Rails in grade crossings had long since been pulled up by the time of my first visit in 1996. It's not clear why the remaining rails were not pulled as well. The post's rail connection to the Northeast Corridor was severed many years ago. There was a Maryland MTA document posted online that described a storage yard to be constructed at Aberdeen, but upon closer examination it appears that the actual location will be the abandoned, brush-covered yard at Edgewood Arsenal (APG subpost) just within the post fence. I have not heard anything yet to indicate construction of the yard has begun. Undoubtedly all of the old rails and ties will have to come up and be completely replaced.
  by Deval
I don't put civilians with "Top Secret" clearances in the same category as civilians that don't. I'm sorry I didn't make that clear in my original post.
SemperFidelis wrote:The conclusion that the military's operation of railroads might be in response to situations/equipment whose existance the military would not want civilians to witness is most likely incorrect. All branches of the Armed Forces have civilian contractors and all of those contractors are subject to required background checks whose intensity and selectivity coincide with the nature of thier work. There are civilian contractors who work on very secretive projects whose security clearence requirements are far higher than those of many members of the military.
  by SemperFidelis
Fair enough. I suppose the folks manning the registers at the commissary shouldn't be placed in the same league as our weapons development people.
  by trackwelder
the earle naval weapons depot in sandy hook, nj has a very active on-post railroad, sees at least two trains a week, some up to 30 cars. it interchanges with csx; there's a pretty active thread on nj railfan forum just for spotting it.
  by Storknest
CSXTfan wrote:This is kinda a dumb question but what dose the military have to do with the railroad?
I know that their are military trains but never heard of a forum FOR the military.
Depends on the era.

There was a time when military rail was big, it still has a presense but less than before.
When I served at Fort Hood in the 90s, three times I was involved in railoading flatcars for large vehicles and auto racks for humvees. I remember seeing two GPs then, probably GP10s but only two, they were usually parked in the open near the loading area for the flatcars.

Here is a link for the Fort Eustis rail including a map when it was really active.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Eusti ... y_Railroad

The military also had at least one unique locomotive to my knowledge, the MRS-1 both Alco and EMD designs.
Once it had a rail fleet designed to operate throughout the world, this required both the cars to be easily transportable and able to be modified to operate on various rails, the second needing things like the ability to use various gauges thus different trucks and sometimes equipment modification for another country's standards, you can see an example in the pictures for this item.
http://cgi.ebay.com/Army-Technical-Manu ... 562fbc427f
Notice the "bumpers" in the flatcar ends.
  by SemperFidelis
The military, and this seems especially true for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps, seemed to have a strong preference for GE centercab switchers. Every Navy and Marine Corps base I was ever aboard that had active rail had at least one or two small GE switchers. Most of those were not regularly use as the military heirarchy isn't too fond of rail transport anymore and also because many of the moves to/aboard the bases were performed by servicing railroads such as NS (in Camp LeJeune's case).

The Army seemed to have a preference for EMD units. Most Army installations I was aboard were formerly rail served, with those that were currently rail served appearing as mere shadows of their past. Fort Leonard Wood was a fine example of that, having miles and miles of railroad next to dozens of warehouses, but never having aboard base more than only one or two boxcars at a time.

When the railroads truly shine for the military is when the military moves to a port for deployment. Then the TTX flats loaded with HMMWVs, Abrahms tanks, Amtracs, Paladins stretch for miles. I've casually attempted to have some of the shortlines I move material with try to get rates for moving National Guard and Reserve equipment from centralized loading points to whatever installation the vehicles have to be shipped to from time to time for communications/armor/armament/equipment upgrades but there never seems to be a heck of a lot of interest in even trying to serve that market.

Most Army and Air Force bases are ghost towns when it comes to rail, with remnants that trained railfans (no pun intended) can spot all around but nothing much at all left that anyone else would recognize as having once been rail-related. Obviously a lot of military rail traffic was going to leave once the interstates were built and once quick deployment and mobility became tantamount in the minds of those trying to gear the military for Cold War survival but now, when national defense is much more geared towards sending the military somewhere to defend our nation's many interests than it is for static forces defending our homeland from potential invasion, one would think the mentality of economy and efficiency would have returned.