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1205th Transportation Railway Operating Bn

The 1205th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion is one of two Army Reserve Railway Battalions. The mission is to operate locomotives and to build and repair railroad tracks.

On the weekends the unit trains at Naval Weapon Station Earle, NJ; Pioneer Valley Railroad, Westfield, MA; The Newport Railway Museum in Newport, RI; MOTSU, South Port, NC; and Bluegrass Weapons Depot, Kentucky. Crews operate trains on the Main Line (up to 50MPH!), and operates trains in a switching yard. Crews operate 24hrs a day, 7 days a week if necessary, and work directly on a port with Long Shoremen crews.

MOW is the Maintenance Of Way of the Railroad Tracks. Crews build and maintain railroad tracks; replace ties and rails, and build and repair switches. They rerail cars and locomotives, string curves, and operate track maintenance equipment.

In July of 1923 the 591st Engineer Battalion Railway was constituted in the Organized Reserves. Unfortunately there is very little known about this time period in the unit's history. On May 18th 1934, Assistant Superintendent William S. Carr, who was in charge of the New York, New Haven and Hartford/Baltimore and Maryland railroads joint terminal in Worcester Mass. was appointed Major and Commander officer of the 591st. There were also 21 officers that worked for the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroads appointed to the 591st.

On February 21st 1941, the 591st Engineer Battalion Railway was renumbered the 729th Engineer Battalion. On April 1st 1942, it was redesignated as the 729th Engineer Railway Operating Battalion. On November 16th 1942, the 729th was transferred from the Corps of Engineers to the Transportation Corps and again redesignated the 729th Railway Operating Battalion. The unit was then affiliated with the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad based in New Haven, CT. The unit would meet at the New Haven Y.M.C.A.

On December 2nd 1942, the officers of the 729th reported to active duty at Fort Slocun, New York for training. At the time the Unit's Commanding Officer was still William S., Carr. Ten of the units officers at this time were from the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. The rest of the officers came from the Reading, Missouri Pacific, Baltimore and Ohio, Santa Fe, Boston and Maine, Chicago and Northwester, Lehigh and New England, and the Delaware and Hudson Railroads.

Almost six weeks later on January 11th 1943, the 729th Railway Operating Battalion was ordered to active duty at the New Orleans, Louisiana Staging Area. At this time the unit had 150 men. The 729th eventually had men from 92 different railroads.

During World War II the 729th participated in campaigns in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, and Central Europe. Although the unit did not receive any awards it did have to it's credit many accomplishments, and many of it's members were decorated.

Among it's accomplishments are:

  • First complete unit of its kind to be stationed in England.
  • Assembled the first American Refrigerator, Tank, Box, War Flats and Gondola cars in Europe.
  • Pioneered in setting up assembly lines in the United Kingdom
  • First Railway Operating Battalion to land in France 10 days after "D" Day on Omaha and Utah Beaches.
  • Ran the first passenger train in France.
  • Ran the first troop train in France.
  • Ran the first freight train in France.
  • Ran the first hospital train in France.
  • Had a part in the construction of the 1800 foot steel girder Rhine River Bridge in 10 days.
  • Ran the first train over the Weser River Bridge.
  • Ran the huge Antwerp Freight Terminal.
  • Operated rail lines in support of the First and Ninth Armies into Germany.

The first train operated in liberated France, appropriately enough, was a New Haven Railroad man, Pvt. Curtis Thompson, New Haven Division Fireman, who handled the throttle of the first American operated train in liberated France. It ran from Cherbourg to an unannounced destination. The trip was supposed to be a secret but the French had learned of it through their underground communications system and greeted the train with roses. On July 11th 1944, a regular passenger train, operated by the crews from the 729th made four complete round tips from Carentan to Cherbourg. The 729th Railway Operating Battalion participated in the Campaigns of: Normandy, June 6th 1944 to July 1944; Northern France, July 25th 1944 to September 14th 1944; The Rhineland, September 15th 1944 to March 21st 1945; and Central Europe, March 22nd 1945 to May 11th 1945. The 729th Railway Operating Battalion was given credit for the occupation of Germany from May 2nd 1945 to August 14th 1945.

The 729th was inactivated on November 18 1945, at Camp Myles Standish in Massachusetts. It wasn't under April 8th 1948 that the 729th was redesingated as the 729th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion. On April 15th of that same year the unit was reactivated in the Organized Reserve Corps at New Haven, Connecticut.

On September 3rd 1950, the 729th Transportation Operating Battalion, Commanded by Major Harold W. Gardiner, was brought into Active Military Service as directed by Paragraph 1, General Orders Number 91, Headquarters First Army. When the Korean War broke out the 729th was the second largest Railway Operating Battalion in the country. On September 6th the entire unit of 18 Officers and 120 Enlisted men was shipped by train from New Haven CT, to Lee Hall, Virginia. This is the site of the US Army Transportation School known at Ft. Eustis.

In the summer of 1990 Iraq invaded the small country of Kuwait and then threatened to invade Saudi Arabia, thus the United States set into motion "Operation Desert Shield". In September 1990, 12 men of the 1205th were called to active duty in support of this mission. They were all volunteers and were activated based on their skills. They were activated for 30 days and then again activated in November for 60 more days.

On the afternoon of January 12th, 1991 the entire 1205th was activated in support of "Operation Desert Shield" for 180 days. The mission of the 1205th T.R.S.U. was to provide support to the Military Ocean Terminal, Sunny Point in the rail movement of cargo as well as maintaining over 97 miles of track on the Terminal, the access line and the Leland interchange. Military crews provided augmentation to Civil Service crews that normally perform the rail mission throughout the year. Since no active Army railroad units exist in the Army inventory, the 1205th performed a critical mission as evidenced by the main body activation of 237 plus days. Due to around the clock operation, some crews were short handed when individuals were absent due to sick call, leave and medical appointments. Since this caused a slow down in the operations several members of the 757th Transportation Battalion (the other Army Rail Reserve Unit) from West Allis, Wisconsin were recruited to augment the 1205th. These additional soldiers allowed the port to continually serve 4 to 6 ships at a time. On Sunday September 8th 1991, the sun was shining and the main body of the 1205th TRSU returned home to Middletown, CT. There was a private ceremony of about 450 people to include U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd and many others. Forty six member's of the 1205th continued on at MOTSU to help with the retrograde mission until July 26th of 1992.

In 1994 the 1205th TRSU was again redesignated as the 1205th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion, TROB. The higher headquarters was also changed from the 76th Division to the 94th ARCOM. The unit still maintains this designation.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:20:30 ZULU