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11/22/2017 10:05:29 PM
Posted: 10/6/2004 10:03:17 AM EST
The Shaw AFB spur line is approximately 4.5 miles in length from the switch at the CSX line to the AFB, and the spur extends about 3/4 mile into the Base.



SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. — Afterburners light only after steel wheels roll — that’s how it works when fuel used by thirsty F-16CJ/DJ Fighting Falcons is delivered by train.

The 20th Transportation Squadron operates the Air Force’s last active train system within the continental United States.

Train systems used by the Department of Defense, especially the Air Force, have dwindled from the norm to a rarity. For many years, material and bulk goods were shipped to military bases via rail, but now deliveries are made mostly by commercial trucks. Shaw is the last major stateside base that uses an Air Force-operated train system. America’s newest jet fighters rely on one of America’s oldest transportation technologies for fuel delivery — a testament to the notion of building on a solid foundation.

Senior Airman Thomas Lanier and Michele Hill are vehicle operators who make up the team that delivers more than 1 million gallons of JP-8 jet fuel to the base every month. Their deliveries make sure hundreds of F-16 sorties head out of Shaw in full burner.

“We usually make our runs twice a week, depending on the flying,” Lanier said.

So every few days, he and Hill use Air Force-blue locomotives to move up to eight leased tanker cars loaded with precious fuel.

Once the railcars return from their seven-mile trek to Cane Savannah, the fuel is transferred into large storage tanks.

Civilian-operated trains usually have three- or four-person crews. Shaw trains operate with a crew of two. This is possible because of an innovative system of hand signals, teamwork and dependence on headset radios.

“This train doesn’t move if we can’t communicate,” Lanier says. “There are many times when we can’t see each other. It would be almost impossible to do our jobs safely without the radios.”

Adding to the overall safety of rail operations are plans to upgrade the entire stretch of wing-owned track. Some of the rails were manufactured in the early 1900s. The planned upgrades include replacing sections of rail and replacing most of the rail ties. Sections of the roadbed where erosion and poor landscaping along steep grades create a safety concern will also be reinforced or shored-up.

Getting the supplies to the base safely is the most important job of the engineers on the Air Force’s last operating train system. Hill and Lanier keep more than 12 million gallons of JP-8 rolling on the 36-inch steel wheels of the train each year. They keep the fuel moving, so the F-16s can roll down the runway.


Air Force locomotive #1249, a Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton RS4TC-1A switcher last used at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, SC. Sister RS4TC-1A #1276 has been in service at the South Carolina Railroad Museum since mid-2003. The repair of the1249, which suffered a main generator failure while still at Shaw, will give the Museum four reliable diesel locomotives for its excursion trains.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Shaw trains still chugging


SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Train conductor Michele Hill moves a locomotive toward empty rail cars before pulling them off base. Shaw has two 80-ton locomotives that deliver jet fuel to the fuels management flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Suzanne Ovel)

by 1st Lt. Suzanne Ovel
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/1/2004 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFPN) -- History stops here often. It chugs to a halt about three times a week outside an elongated single-story building as two 80-ton locomotives deliver jet fuel to the fuels management flight. Shaw's rail operation, which has been active since 1941, is almost an anomaly in the Air Force.

"We're one of the very few bases that have a locomotive," said Lt. Col. Michael McDaniel, 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander.

The rails brought military equipment and fuel here through the 1970s, but today the locomotives, built in the 1950s, only lug fuel onto base about 10 to 12 cars at a time.

Michele Hill, a conductor here for nine years, is part of the two-person team that serves as a liaison between the fuels flight and the commercial railroad. They coordinate the timing and the amount of each delivery.

"We plan out what their needs are for fuel day to day," Ms. Hill said.

When she and Tom Scher, an engineer, are not delivering fuel, they handle maintenance and daily, monthly and quarterly inspections on the trains. While these veterans work daily to maintain Shaw's locomotives, the Department of Defense is looking at the trains' long-term future.

"The Defense Energy Supply Center is the single fuel-managing organization for DOD, and (officials there) decide if we receive fuel via rail or train," Colonel McDaniel said.

As more and more DOD-owned cars go out of service, DOD will need to decide which bases receive the remaining serviceable train cars and which bases start using trucks.

In the meantime, Shaw is scheduled to receive $4 million to upgrade six miles of rails, which the base owns.

Colonel McDaniel said the base already spent $1 million of this money to replace some of the rails and rail ties.

"There's a piece of rail out there that was stamped 'made in 1895,’" he said. "The rail's been replaced, but it's an indication of [the age of Shaw's rail tracks]."

While the base focuses on upgrading its railroad tracks, the train's operators focus on enjoying the job that lets them work outside independently.

Mr. Scher, who has worked on trains from their steam-engine days to diesel-engine upgrades, said his job is one of the most desirable occupations on base.

"It doesn't get any better than this," he said.

http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?storyID=123008819
Link Posted: 10/6/2004 5:47:08 PM EST
bump - where are the rail fans?
Link Posted: 10/6/2004 5:51:44 PM EST
interesting, I was in the AF 87-91. I had no idea there were AF trains in operation...
Link Posted: 10/10/2004 5:16:29 PM EST
[Last Edit: 10/14/2004 5:44:58 AM EST by AMHsix]
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Link Posted: 10/10/2004 5:32:12 PM EST

Originally Posted By AMHsix:

Originally Posted By Mr45auto:
interesting, I was in the AF 87-91. I had no idea there were AF trains in operation...



I was in '95-'03 and neither did I... but in my last year or so I found out we had cargo ships sailing in the ocean.



I'm sure they're contract ships but it'd be a riot to see a ship marked with USAF
Link Posted: 10/10/2004 5:43:58 PM EST

Originally Posted By KA3B:
bump - where are the rail fans?



I'm one- BLH locos- holy crap- I thought they had all been scrapped in the 1960s....GE 44 tonners? (I think 80 is a misprint) Wow!
Link Posted: 10/11/2004 2:16:15 AM EST
Yes they are 80 tonners. They are very similar in appearance to the 44 tonners (one of the major spotting feaatures is the 80 tonners have end walkways while 44-tonners don't.). The Baldwins are not used any more and are going to the state museum shortly. One will remain as back-up power.

The Baldwins are not a commercial model they were a GI design . The trucks are adjustable to accomodate several different gauges. they have recently rebuilt and re-signalled several of the crossings. It's a neat little run. How do I know, well my son is stationed at Shaw and is a diehard rail fan. He made contact with the crew and got his first cab ride about a week after arriving. And has helped the crew several times and rides the runs every chance he gets and has been getting a lot of throttle time. Oh and I got to ride along last year when I was back there.
Link Posted: 10/11/2004 3:34:17 AM EST
SAC operated trains when I first came in. They had KC-135 and B-52 simulators built inside Pullmans. They pulled them around to the bases for training. I got my KC-135 Engine run training in one. There is a B-52 sim rail car in the museum at Fairchild AFB. I've got a ton of research on them. Waiting for retirement to do my HO scratch build for the retirement layout in preparation of grandkids!
Link Posted: 10/11/2004 3:40:48 AM EST

Originally Posted By Mr45auto:
interesting, I was in the AF 87-91. I had no idea there were AF trains in operation...



There are plenty of trains in operation on military posts. They usually have a USAF female involved somehow.
Link Posted: 10/11/2004 3:48:28 AM EST

Originally Posted By KA3B:
...Civilian-operated trains usually have three- or four-person crews. Shaw trains operate with a crew of two. This is possible because of an innovative system of hand signals, teamwork and dependence on headset radios...



Civilian operated trains also have two crew members (and have had for MANY years !) and sometimes only one ! The same hand signals, radios and teamwork are used every day on U. S. railroads.
Link Posted: 10/11/2004 5:07:42 AM EST

Originally Posted By PaDanby:
Yes they are 80 tonners. They are very similar in appearance to the 44 tonners (one of the major spotting feaatures is the 80 tonners have end walkways while 44-tonners don't.). The Baldwins are not used any more and are going to the state museum shortly. One will remain as back-up power.

The Baldwins are not a commercial model they were a GI design . The trucks are adjustable to accomodate several different gauges. they have recently rebuilt and re-signalled several of the crossings. It's a neat little run. How do I know, well my son is stationed at Shaw and is a diehard rail fan. He made contact with the crew and got his first cab ride about a week after arriving. And has helped the crew several times and rides the runs every chance he gets and has been getting a lot of throttle time. Oh and I got to ride along last year when I was back there.



Wow- thanks for the info and corrections. Your son is very fortunate to be where he is. I remember seeing on some airbase we lived on years ago (1960s) some diesels that I was told were originally going to go to the USSR under Lend-Lease in WW2. I'm not sure what kind they were. They had six wheel trucks, I do remember that, though.
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