AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Pantex is remembering a train used during the Cold War to transport military warheads across the country.
For 30 years beginning in the 1950′s, the Department of Energy considered the White Train the safest transit for military cargo out of the Pantex Plant.
The White Train cars were sandwiched between escort coaches for armed guards.
It moved at only 35 miles per hour and seven-person crews spent weeks on guard traveling across the country.
“I had a locomotive engineer from the Santa Fe tell me, he started to ratchet up the throttle to go a little faster. And he said before he knew it, he had this spotlight in his mirrors that was blinding him. So he slowed the speed back down to 35 and the spotlight went out,” said CORE Engineering Sr. Specialist for Pantex Bob Roth. “He says, ‘They must have known how fast we were going!’ And the truth is yes, in the escort coach, they had something to measure the speed of the train.”
The crews worked six-hour shifts, 24 hours a day and kept a watchful eye on cargo through mirrors on the sides.
“So when you see the rail cars, you’ll see the mirrors on the side, and from inside, wherever you’re sitting, you can always see a mirror out a window,” said Cultural Resources Sr. Associate for Pantex Katie Braughton. "And with those, they can ensure that there aren’t any people trying to get on the train or anything like that. "
In 1985, protesters who advocated against the use of nuclear weapons trespassed the White Train at the Bangor Naval Base in Washington and were arrested.
This was even after the train took on new color schemes to make it less noticeable.
“The last official train that rolled out of Pantex was in 1987. By the early 1980′s and the late 1970′s, most of the other movement of the weapons and components were by semi-truck,” said Braughton.
A few train cars are still on abandoned rails at Pantex, but most of them now reside at the Amarillo Railroad Museum.
According to the museum’s website, the interior of the cars are in good shape, but they need to re-paint and restore them on the outside.
You can donate to the restoration of the train cars on the Amarillo Railroad Museum website as well.