Re: Ordnance Works and Freight Cars

Denny Anspach <danspach@...>

About ten years ago, about fifteen of us took our track motorcars and were treated to a comprehensive Sunday tour of all of the trackage in then very active Concord Naval Weapons Station on the north side of Concord, California. A short rail line connected with the adjacent Port Chicago Naval Depot on SF Bay, where the ammunition ships were loaded (and where the notorious WWII incident of the black stevedores loading the ammunition ships took place).

It was a fascinating experience, hampered only by an absolute prohibition on photography (very frustrating for a Sacramento Bee newspaper reporter and photographer with me trying to write a feature story!).

Virtually every single bit of internal and external transport or movement of bombs and other ordnance was undertaken *only by rail*, and this only in a vast fleet of meticulously-maintained solid-bearinged silver boxcars that still had running boards, and (by memory only) seemed to be similar to, if not PS-1s (perhaps someone will know more in this regard). These boxcars were also principally used as mobile storage, and the track layout was so designed.

There was track everywhere (101 miles of it in about 5000 acres). I have never seen so many turnouts, diamonds (straight and curved), or spurs anywhere. It was a boy's fantastic dream layout, given an infinite number of tinplate turnouts, crossings, and track.

A given line would go along a corridor, and every so many hundred feet, spurs would peel off right and left into street-railway type curves, each spur ending in a thick concrete revetment surrounded on two or three sides by very high berms. Along the hillsides, the revetments would be cave-like. There seemed to be thousands of these, each sized to hold one 40' boxcar. This is how the ordnance was stored, ready to move!

The lines climbed up the sides of hills. They interconnected everywhere. The maintenance of the track and roadbed was *perfect*. Perfect clean ballast shaped into a sharp prism. Ties perfect. Not a weed or blade of grass to be seen. All rail also "perfect" with no low joints, or visible or palpable wear. The railroad's GM (a former ATSF person) reminded us of the Zero Defect policy when one is moving explosive devices, and even a simple bump, much less a minor derailment was cause for the most intensive serious investigation, if not discipline. 15 mph was the drop-dead speed limit (as it was for us as well. Fouled spark plugs plagued us the whole day in this regard!).

We were unable to take the line out onto the wharves (big disappointment), the reason for which I never understood.

Currently, as I understand it, the Station is largely moth-balled, and the port Depot is now an Army facility. I presume that the hundreds of time-warp boxcars are probably still there, although I do not know for certain.


Denny S. Anspach, MD

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