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Blocking Viet Nam Troop Trains

Picture above is protestors blocking a troop train.

Over 40 million men and women served in W.W.II and almost every one of them rode a Troop Train during that war. In the latter part of the war on any given day over one million servicemen were riding a Troop Train. The US was averaging 2500 Troop Trains a month.

We continued to use trains to transport soldiers during the Korean War. Large numbers of military units in the eastern half of the US rode trains to the West Coast to ship out to Japan, and then Korea.

The last major troop train to be used was in 1965 when 15,000 men and their equipment from the 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) rode the rails from Ft. Riley, Kansas, to Oakland, California on their way to Vietnam. I never realized at the time I “rode” in it that it was the last major one. Makes sense though. By 1965, passenger was passé. It was probably tough to find all the equipment. What we had was a bunch of “rainbow” trains.

During W.W.I and W.W.II railway bridges and tunnels were guarded to prevent sabotage from disrupting the critical flow of troops and supplies. When the 1st Infantry Division deployed to Vietnam many of the same bridges were guarded against American war protesters trying to stop the Army from sending solders to another foreign battle ground. Times had changed since the Pearl Harbor generation rode the rails to war.

My one and only involvement with troop trains was to go from Junction City, Kansas to Oakland, California in September, 1965. I never made a written record of this trip (who expected to be writing about it 25 years later and besides I had other things on my mind). I was part of a large movement of several trains but not in a position to know how many trains were required, what type of equipment was required, or the routes. Both men and equipment went West and not all trains took the same route.

The 1st Infantry Division consisted of 15,000 men and tons upon tons of equipment. As much as possible, our equipment was packed in containers which we trucked to rail sidings. Vehicles were driven on flat cars and then tied down. Fortunately, Fort Riley, Kansas had ample sidings at several spots. It was on the Union Pacific. Junction City was not a big rail center; it was named for the junction of two rivers, not the junction of two railroads (although a Katy branch once ran there and a Union Pacific branch to Concordia was intact but out of service). The Rock Island ran on the other side of the fort (a 104-mile branch between Belleville on the Colorado line and McFarland on the Tucumcari line), but was not used at all for this troop movement.

The trip began early in the morning (doesn’t everything in the Army?). I rode in a Union Pacific sleeper consisting of 4 double bedrooms, 4 compartments and 2 drawing rooms. I was approximately fifteen cars back but every once in a while I could spot at least three cab units pulling us. Our diner was also Union Pacific and had real china, glasses and tablecloths. While I was an officer, I understand that everybody in the division had comparable transportation. A 1940-era draftee would have felt out of place.

1965 was near the end of good intercity rail transportation. My understanding was that Pullman was contractor to the military to assemble the equipment. They pulled equipment from railroads all over the country. The resulting trains looked like the “rainbow trains” in the first years of Amtrak.

We ran day and night, but held up several times for as long as two hours. We went west to Denver, then through Wyoming to Utah. At Ogden, we ended up on the Southern Pacific “Overland Route” through Reno and Sacramento to Oakland. The trip was almost 1900 miles and not as interesting as trains in the East. Remember Reno in the middle of the night: not very sophisticated looking place! The only real excitement was as we neared Oakland and each grade crossing was protected by National Guardsmen (the first train had delays because of war protestors). At Oakland, we pulled onto a siding that ran right on to the dock. This gave us only a short walk to the transport that sailed us across the Pacific.


Find other great stories on the military


Robert Moses – Against Mass Transit

Did you ever wonder how the mass transit situation in New York got so fouled up? A lot of the answer is from an unusual man named Robert Moses.

An in-depth look at this man can be found in a book called “The Power Broker” by Robert A. Caro. Robert Moses (sometimes referred to as “RM”) was born in 1888. His parents were well-to-do merchants. Although he was born in New Haven, his family was from New York City and moved back when he was a youngster. Moses graduated from Yale in 1909. An example of his arrogance involved the swimming team. A consistent benefactor of this team was Ogden Mills Reid. As a matter of fact, he paid almost all of the expenses of this team as Yale was then concentrating its funding on such projects as the Yale Bowl. Moses had organized a “minor sports association” in which each minor sport at Yale would share equally in donations. Moses approached Reid and got a contribution but didn’t tell him it was for all minor sports and not just swimming. When challenged by the team captain for deliberately misleading Reid, Moses offered his resignation the first of many times in his life. This time it was accepted. Other times it was refused by many mayors and governors. The next time his resignation was accepted was by Nelson Rockefeller almost sixty years later!

It can be argued that Robert Moses shaped New York in its present form. He built every major highway except the East River Drive, all seven bridges completed since 1931, Shea Stadium, Lincoln Center and the now-empty New York Coliseum. In addition, he cleared the obstacles to acquiring the United Nations land and built huge numbers of public and private housing units (Coop City for example). But he didn’t do much for mass transit.

Between 1924 and 1968 he held immense power. The base for this power was a public corporation named the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. In addition, he held several other titles such as New York Power Authority Chairman; New York State Parks Commission Chairman; New York City Construction Coordinator; New York City Planning Commission Chairman.

He controlled his empire from an unobtrusive building on Randall’s Island below the Triborough toll plaza. As a matter of fact, his authority administered all of Randall’s Island. The TBTA had its own flag; fleet of cars, trucks and boats; and private army of “Bridge and Tunnel Officers”. It had its own source of revenue in the coins dropped into toll booths.

Moses had a secret veto on all public works projects in New York City and had more power than the mayor. He kept secret files which he used to discredit his opponents.

He was the long-time New York City Parks Commissioner. When he took the job there were 119 playgrounds in the city. When he left there were 777. Outside of the city, he built power dams at Massena and Niagara Falls as well as many parks and parkways on Long Island. Since he built both Jones Beach and all roads leading to it, that explains why there is no mass transit to it.

In the 1930’s the Regional Plan Association proposed improved mass transit. Robert Moses didn’t listen to them; instead he built 100 miles of new parkways which filled up as soon as they were opened. RM was responsible for the West Side Improvements and wanted “the great highway that went uptown along the water”. He completed a long-stalled 5-mile elevated expressway from the southern tip of Manhattan to 72nd Street. He also built 6 1/2 miles north to the tip of the island. He then built a park on the river and the Henry Hudson Bridge.

The West Side project involved moving the New York Central Railroad. Details of this were set up in a 1927 agreement between the railroad and the city. The 30th Street and 72nd Street yards were built to replace track further downtown. Before 1929, the city had spent $25 million and the railroad $84 million. The Depression had halted all work but RM found money for the railroad by tapping the state grade crossing elimination fund.

The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge which was built in 1936 made no provision for mass transit. Earlier bridges in New York (not built by Moses) had subway lines as well as roads. Some of these are the Brooklyn, Queensboro, Manhattan and Williamsburg. Many of the parkways he built were designed with bridges too low to accommodate buses. This was very intentional as Moses wanted to make them for cars-only and to exclude trucks.

Between 1930 and 1950, rail commuters declined while highway commuters into New York increased. Every trainload of commuters shifting to automobiles required parking space about equal to the effective parking capacity of one side of Fifth Avenue from Washington Square to Sixty-eighth Street (3 miles).

The Van Wyck Expressway was built where 13 tracks of the Long Island Railroad cross Atlantic Avenue in Jamaica. While construction was underway, 1100 daily train movements (one of the busiest in the world) were maintained. One can’t help but wonder why a rail line from this point couldn’t have easily followed the parkway to Kennedy Airport. Cost to construct when the road was being built would have been reasonable – today it would be prohibitive.

You might have remembered the name Hortense Gabel from the Mayor Koch/Bess “Miss America” Myerson scandal in the late 1980’s. Hortense was by then a judge who had a flaky daughter that Bess hired in order to get a favorable divorce ruling. But years before, Hortense had been one of the most vocal opponents of Moses. She had organized groups in the 1950’s that began to pressure to limit the vast powers of Robert Moses.

There was an attempt in 1955 to use Triborough and Port Authority funds to modernize the Long Island Railroad, build a subway loop to New Jersey, build a new Queens subway and build the famous but still-born 2nd Avenue Subway. At central locations in Queens and Nassau Counties, multilevel parking garages could have been built atop commuter rail stops. There could have been a new East Side Long Island RR terminal and even a new rapid transit line along the median strip of the Long Island Expressway. The New Jersey tunnel loop would have not only given access to Manhattan where commuters really wanted to go from the Battery to Fifty-ninth Street. It would have prevented the current mess on New Jersey highways, trans-Hudson vehicular tunnels, the West Side Highway and Manhattan streets. The Nostrand Avenue Subway in Brooklyn could have been extended and the even-today bottleneck in train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan at DeKalb Avenue eliminated.

RM’s proposed highways were designed to help automobile-owning families. In 1945 two out of three residents of the city did not own automobiles. Subway fare increases hurt these people. While highways were being extended into areas of the city where they might or might not be needed, subways were not being extended to where they were vitally needed. His monopolization of public funds for highways made subway construction impossible. Even for car-owning families, no subway meant the hardship of having to drive into Manhattan – and park – and pay bridge tolls. It is also said that Moses’ transportation policies helped the poor stay trapped in their slums (“ghettoization”).

In the 1950’s, millions were spent on highways in New York City but only a fraction of that on mass transit. In 1974, New Yorkers were still riding on tracks laid between 1904 and 1933 – before Moses had come to power. Not another mile was built under Moses. Since shortly after World War I, the city had been promising to build a Second Avenue Subway to serve the East Side. Plans have sat in city engineer’s desks since 1929. The city repeated its promise when the Second Avenue El was torn down and again in 1955 when the Third Avenue El went. A Second Avenue Subway coupled to a dedicated East River tunnel could have been extended to Queens to provide subway lines to residents who were miles from the nearest station. The result was, and is, an overcrowded Lexington Avenue IRT line. Subway cars were not replaced (at one point, much of the fleet was a half century old) and a policy of “deferred maintenance” began to take its toll. Fortunately, the subway system had been well engineered and previously well maintained – but eventually it deteriorated.

The last great project Robert Moses was involved in was the 1964 World’s Fair. It was a financial disaster and, again, no gains for mass transit. In the meantime, the Long Island Expressway was built without provision for rapid transit. As each section opened, it was jammed to capacity (“The world’s largest parking lot”). For an extra 4 percent of the cost, it would have been possible to acquire the land to build a rail line.

New York City Mayor Lindsey and many others tried to throttle Moses, but only Nelson Rockefeller was successful. “Rocky” was one of the most dynamic and forceful governors New York ever had. Moses had always used financial protection of creditors as a defense against any takeover of “his” Authority. But his principal bondholder trustee was the Chase Manhattan Bank. Chase Manhattan was the only major bank still controlled by one family – the Governor’s! Rockefeller brought all the region’s transportation elements together under William Ronan and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

When “RM” came to power, New York City’s mass transit system was the best in the world. When he left, it was the worst.

Read more stories about Robert Moses


Following the Strates Carnival Train is absolutely FASCINATING

Above picture shows the Strates Carnival Train crossing the Iona Trestle
CSX River Line (former New York Central) on June 7, 2004.

Copyright © 2005 Lewis Bogaty.


Sunday, June 5, 2005
The Strates Carnival train should be moving Monday from Gaithersberg,MD to Danbury, CT

Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Looks like we are gonna be in for a long wait. The Strates Carnival train was still in Maryland, at 9 PM! Monday It’s on the move – slowly but surely. We probably won’t see the train heading down the Housatonic until late Tuesday afternoon or Tuesday night.

CSX Philly list has P955 finally making its way east… CSXT 2684 on the point through Newark, Delaware on a slow order, 0540. Strates Train, P955 at CP Nice on the CSX Trenton Line at 7:45 a.m.

Strates was going through Iona Island NY on CSX River Line at 3:40pm, symbol P955.

It was in Jersey at noon; Bear Mountain a little before 4pm; it’s not even to Pittsfield yet.

Once in Pittsfield, MA the HRRC takes over as power and brings the train South. HRRC track speeds vary. Max is around25MPH with some sections 10 MPH or less.

NX-11 just went north through New Milford at around 3:45 PM with 16 cars and 3602 for power. I guess this would mean it will be a while before the Strates train comes down.

All, latest update is that the carnival train won’t arrive into Pittsfield until approx 21:30 (if all goes well with CSX). Might be an early morning arrival into CT!

For what it’s worth, the strates train finally amde it to Selkirk at 1845 Tuesday night. They added a unit at the Ravena siding, and presumably headed directly east on the B&A without entering the yard.

The Strates Carnival Train arrived in the darkness of late night at 10:08 PM Tuesday, at Pittsfield, MA. The train was hauled by four CSX units; the leader was an ex-Conrail SD40-2 still in Conrail paint.

As of 23:20 hours, the Strates train (Extra 3604) received an additional Line 2 on their Form D authorizing them to go from MP 70 (South Lee) to SHIRE (Berkshire Junction).

June 8, 2005
At about 11:15 PM there was some talk on the scanner about ‘giving the carny train more railroad’. At 12:37 AM the Strates Train was spotted in Housatonic with two engines.

In Canaan the train stopped at the Housatonic Engine Facility to add power. After a 10-20 minute delay, the train resumed the trip South, now with three engines. .

The two HRRC Hi-Railers were spotted at several crossings. In Cornwall one of them even did an impressive Defect Detector impersonation, except he left out the axle count.

My best guess is that the train would have arrived at FAIR somewhere around 4:00-4:30 AM today.

As of 0815 the Strates train was parked at MP74 on the Maybrook line behind Stop & Shop (on Mill Plain Rd) in Danbury. Power consist is 3604, 3601, and 3602 (GP35/GP35/GP35M). Units are on the west-end of the flats, unloading was going on at Segar St; approx 1/3 of the flat cars unloaded. Coaches are spotted east of Segar St. crossing.

At Segar street, half the flats were already unloaded at 10 am. Power was a sole GP35M 3602 which departed probably to work NX11. They began to unload the second half of the Flats. I would guess the power will return later this afternoon to move the flats and spot the coaches under the 84 underpass as they have done in past years.

June 9, 2005:
There are actually 9 coaches, and one generator car (converted baggage car), and 45 flats.They expect to be in Danbury for 4 or 5 weeks.

Now you can follow the Strates Shows with their GPS map!

See more circus stories at



11 Travelers Pass Through Security Without Screening in JFK Breach: Officials | NBC 10 Philadelphia

The Stoop

A security breach at JFK airport this morning resulted in 11 people getting through security without being checked, three of whom set off metal detectors, officials told NBC News.

Source: 11 Travelers Pass Through Security Without Screening in JFK Breach: Officials | NBC 10 Philadelphia

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