Monday, April 21, 2014

Cold War Relic: The White Train

I lived in Texas in the mid-80s. Due to my time spent living there, I developed a minor interest in Texas railroading. This included an interest in the White Train, which played a major role in the Cold War.

From 1951-87, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) used armoured trains to move nuclear weapons from the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX to 13 nuclear weapons storage areas near military bases in 12 states across the U.S.

Called the “White Train” because its cars were originally painted white, it traversed the U.S. delivering its dangerous cargo. In addition to cars that carried the weapons, other cars carried crew members who watched the train through bullet proof glass.

Chris Guenzler caught the White Train in
action in Utah in 1984.

Although the train’s colour was changed numerous times to make it less noticeable to anti-nuclear weapons protesters, the train continued to be referred to by its original colour.

In 1987, the DOE switched the transport of the weapons to trucks, partly due to the many protests along the tracks.

Altogether, there were about 60 cars for the White Train. Eleven of the White Train’s cars were donated to the Amarillo Railway Museum, while others have been kept at the plant for historical purposes.

As the world worries that we might be headed into a new Cold War, due to Vladimir Putin’s aggressive actions towards Ukraine, railfans can look back to the previous Cold War and recall the role the railroad played in it.

More information about the White Train can be found at the links below.

Roster of preserved cars at the Amarillo Railroad Museum and Pantex.

More photos available from John Dyer at RR Pictures Archives, Tom & Marci Jones and Tai Shan

Photos on this page from Amarillo Railroad Museum, Don Barrett, Chris Guenzler, Tom & Marci Jones. 

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