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    Army rail operators prepare for new role

    Army rail operators prepare for new role

    Photo By Spc. Cal Turner | Soldiers from the 226th Transportation Railway Operating Company discuss attaching...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Cal Turner 

    214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. – The shrill blast of a train whistle tears across Joint Base Langley-Eustis as a massive red locomotive with the words “United States Army” on it moves across an intersection. Onboard, soldiers from the 226th Transportation Railway Operating Company from Chicopee, Mass., are doing their part to support of the Seaport Operations Company 13-2 training exercise.

    These soldiers represent one of the oldest Military Occupational Specialties in the Army. Railroad operations were crucial as far back as the Civil War, as both Union and Confederate forces used railroads to move both weapons and personnel.

    “The railroad has been active here at Fort Eustis since 1918,” said Spc. Paul Tofani, a train conductor with the 226th TROC. “Every railroading servicemember and civilian who works trains with the military trains here. To this day, moving freight by rail is the best way to move tonnage. You can move 1 ton of cargo 486 miles on a train using one gallon of fuel. It’s the second most fuel efficient way to move cargo next to ships.”

    The bright red engines are known as Dual Purpose Road Switcher engines. Each of the 2100 horsepower engines hold almost 2000 gallons of fuel apiece and weigh in at 120 tons each. Army trains handle loading operations for other branches as well. Currently, 39 US installations have railway service with 50-100 military locomotives being operated on them at a given time. The base’s training rail loops and junctions link to civilian interchanges so Soldiers can move rail cars onto civilian lines.

    Army Reserve units have run the railway system since the last active Army unit was shutdown in the 1970s. During the Seaport Operations exercise, the railroad soldiers will work alongside several other units to move the required cargo from Joint Base Langley-Eustis to the port areas on the water and will also assist with the unloading operations.

    “Basically we will be handling all the movements of rail equipment and spotting cars and vehicles for correct loading and unloading,” said Spc. Steven Ramirez, a railway operations crew member with the 226th TROC. “Then we will be pulling the train to each load site and to the ship port.”

    Fort Eustis has a tremendous training history with the railroad. In World War 2, soldiers trained with replica German and French railroad signs to help the American military crews be prepared to operate overseas during the Allied takeover of French and German railway systems.

    This may, however, be one of the last times Army personnel lead the way operating Army train engines during military exercises. The Department of Defense plans to retire the longstanding MOS and turn train operations completely over to civilians.

    “All the guys in my unit are professional railroad personnel,” Tofani said. “I owe my entire professional career to the Army railroad. All my experience, tools, knowledge and know-how I got from being a military railroader. This is really a travesty to think that this is going away from the Army.”

    Because no final decision has been made, the Soldiers of the 226th TROC continue to drill out of Naval Weapons Center Earle, N.J.

    “This is great bunch of guys,” said Spc. Salvatore Ciancio, a railway operations crew member with the 226th TROC participating in this exercise. “We work together for the NYC Transit Authority. This is a good job and we feel good about our part of the exercise.”

    The railway operations will continue at Fort Eustis and other military posts and bases, but the ultimate fate of the Army railroad soldiers seems dim due to budget cuts and restructuring.

    For now, however, the Army railway mission keeps chugging forward.



    Date Taken: 08.01.2013
    Date Posted: 08.03.2013 13:17
    Story ID: 111307
    Location: VA, US

    Web Views: 1,038
    Downloads: 3