Freight Car Friday – U.S. Army Transportation Corps.

9 11 2012

In respect to our many veterans, this week we’ll take a look at some historic railcars that have also helped serve our country overseas. The military railroads and the men who ran them were a critical part of the war effort from the front lines to humanitarian relief and their story continues to evolve today.


This Transportation Corps boxcar is similar to the “40 and 8” cars in use in France during WWII. Although this car was still in service in Europe in the 1940s, it’s size and equipment is more typical of American cars nearly 100 years older.

The equipment shown here is all part of the collection of the United States Army Transportation Corps Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia. This great museum honors the history of the corps from its earliest days to today’s conflicts.

The railroad collection includes some of the larger artifacts, but you’ll find great exhibits and amazing transportation history inside as well. Only a short distance from major attractions like Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens, this museum is a must-see if you are in the area.


Cranes and other work equipment worked overtime on military railroads where rebuilding was a never-ending task.

Also, unlike many museums, the staff at this institution are not just preserving history, their making it. All of the staff are active-duty, and as was the case on my visit, your guide this week could be in Afganastan the next. It is a sobering connection between the artifacts on display and the lives they represent.

For more information, see the museum’s website.

tank car

Tank cars carried vital fuel to the front lines. They were also used for drinking water and in both military and civilian relief.

Moving and supplying an army is no small task, so it is no surprise that our fighting forces have been pioneers in transportation and logistics technology for thousands of years. Although the railcars seen here are from relatively recent conflicts in the Twentieth Century, the need for a transportation wing of the military date back well beyond the American Revolution to the roads of ancient Rome, the Phoenician navy and more.

Duty Train

Flatcars were among the most versatile equipment on the military railroads form light duty cars like these to modern heavy-duty cars. In the background, two cars from the Berlin Duty train include a sleeper and guard car (caboose) which helped keep Berlin connected to the West.

Military transportation is about much more than armored trains and rail-guns. The majority of the equipment has a much more humanitarian mission. The same equipment used to transport troops and supplies also often serves the civilian population. One of the trains in the Museum’s collection was part of the Berlin Duty Train performing just such a role to West Berlin during the Cold War years.

And the lessons learned and advances gained through these railroads and operations are often passed on to traditional railroading. This was as true in Europe and Asia as it was in the United States following the Civil War.


Equipment like Jordan Spreaders do everything from plowing snow to clearing ditches.

The pictures seen here represent just a small part of their collection and an even smaller part of the overall story. So next time your on the Virginia Penninsula, stop by to see the Museum and of course to say, Thank You!


Here is a caboose like no other. Equipment was often built from whatever was on hand and adapted to unique and changing environments.



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