Re: Ordnance Works and Freight Cars

Roger Hinman <rhinman@...>

I was stationed on an ammo ship out of Concord in the mid seventies and
seem to remember six wheel Alco? switchers
making all the moves to the pier. I routinely saw all the pier
trackage but never saw the other end

Roger H.

On Feb 8, 2005, at 3:56 PM, Denny Anspach wrote:

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

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

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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