ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- The Army requires a variety of transportation methods to move its vehicles, equipment and personnel -- among them airplanes, trucks and trains. And when military locomotives from all branches of service need an overhaul or repair, they turn to a single building on Hill Air Force Base where the Defense Non-Tactical Generator and Rail Equipment Center, better known as DGRC, is housed.

DGRC opened in 1942 as the Transportation Depot Maintenance Division of the Ogden Arsenal, located near what was then the Army's Hill Field.

At the time, rail maintenance operations for the Army were split between DGRC and Fort Holabird in Maryland, but, in 1964, Fort Holabird's rail activities closed, making DGRC the sole site for Army locomotive repair.

In the meantime, DGRC went through a series of changes -- moving under the authority of Tooele Army Depot in 1949, then under the auspices of the Tank Automotive and Armaments Command (now TACOM-LCMC) in 1999 and, finally, joining with Anniston Army Depot in 2000.

But, throughout the last 70 years, DGRC has continued to perform the same mission in the same location.

"Since 1942, this shop has been doing the same work," said Billy Funderburg, division chief for DGRC. "How many other shops can say the same thing?"

The building is split into two areas -- mechanical and electrical. In the mechanical side, employees disassemble and reassemble locomotives as well as perform necessary machining processes. The electrical side's workload includes wiring for the locomotives, generators and traction motors.

DGRC typically overhauls three locomotives at a time during a seven-month process. Throughout the rest of the year, employees are often deployed to repair or examine trains located at 38 bases, depots and arsenals throughout the United States.

"Our employees primarily stay in the U.S., though there are occasions when they are deployed elsewhere," said Funderburg. "A few years ago, a team went to the Philippines to assist the Voice of America."

During trips, employees inspect the train engines and make recommendations as to which locomotives should be overhauled. They also repair any train engines needing maintenance or parts that are not scheduled for overhaul.

Occasionally, a team is called out on an emergency -- typically when multiple trains at one location are down for maintenance.

"For emergency trips, we offer 24-hour service," said Funderburg. "Recently, for example, we had a base in Oklahoma with three locomotives down. They were dead in the water."

In order to save time and money on overhauls and repairs, as locomotives come through DGRC or as they are repaired in the field, employees standardize the parts used. This enables employees to bring one set of schematics in the field with them, rather than carrying a variety of specifications.

Their seven-month turnaround time for each train can be a tight schedule, depending on the availability of parts and the number of maintenance trips taken by employees. Therefore, the shop relies on daily planning meetings to update everyone on the progress of each locomotive.

"Our planning meeting each morning helps us to stay on schedule," said Stanley Bowen, mechanical supervisor for DGRC.

According to Bowen, the 50 employees who make up DGRC come from a variety of backgrounds and educational levels, but all have one defining characteristic -- a strong desire to support the Army through maintenance of its rail system.

Page last updated Thu February 16th, 2012 at 15:58