ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. — To ensure continued industrial base munitions readiness across the globe, the Joint Munitions Command Safety Office is leading an initiative to assess the condition and compliance of all rail infrastructure throughout its ammunition enterprise.
The goal is to assist in rail assessment, modernization, training and reduction of all potential safety issues. The JMC Safety office is committed to assessing the condition and compliance of all Army rail facilities in the next two years. Upon completion of inspections, the safety team will provide guidance and recommendations to the eight JMC installations that use rail to provide lethal munitions to the Joint Warfighter.
The JMC Safety Office’s core mission is to “properly manage risk and reduce accidents,” said Mike Styvaert, director, Safety and Risk Management Directorate. “It is our goal with this initiative to reduce Army rail accidents 50 percent by FY2021. “This rail assessment will provide multiple benefits,” added Styvaert. “Safety is always goal number one, but it also gives us an opportunity to obtain the information needed to modernize rail infrastructure.”
Recently, the JMC safety team partnered with the U.S. Army Transportation Rail Safety office from Fort Lee, Va., to perform an assessment of the 17 miles of track at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Radford, Va. The assessment focused on four main areas: mechanical; maintenance of way (track); train and engine service; and rail-loading procedures.
“The overall rail program at RFAAP has immensely improved since the last assessment,” said Howard Mayhew, chief, Transportation Corps Regimental Safety Office. “It has been four years since the previous rail safety survey and Radford is satisfactory in conducting safe operations.”
Letterkenny Munitions Center is currently equipped with a 23 mile freight rail network that is limited by aging infrastructure in need of modernization. LEMC's existing rail lines date back to 1842, when 80 lb. and 90 lb. lines were the industry standard. Critical upgrades to the freight rail system, approved in 2019, are currently being installed. This track upgrade project will remove maintenance requirements associated with the existing lines, reduce overall cost and permit the use of more modern freight by upgrading to 115 lb. rail lines.
LEMC has identified a second project to finish a 4-mile stretch of incomplete track. This section of track, called the South Line, is a critical piece of infrastructure. Upon completion, LEMC will support future workload requirements and increase efficiency by allowing access to facilities currently inaccessible by rail.
Tooele Army Depot has 54 miles of track dating from 1942. Thanks to a dry climate and regular maintenance, the track has served for almost eighty years. However, the majority of this rail is rated at 70 pounds per yard. The current Army standard is 115 pounds per yard. In the early 1990s, Tooele began replacing segments of track that receive the most traffic, a process that has continued as funds become available. To date, approximately 75 per cent of the rail at Tooele has been upgraded to Army standards, allowing for heavier workloads in support of the Army mission.
In addition to assessments, JMC’s rail improvement initiative includes refresher training in rail safety skills to ensure proper Army certification for both government and operating contractor staff. This training is being provided at no cost to the installations.
Safety and rail contractors from various states attended a Rail Safety Operations Class at Blue Grass Army Depot. “The class provided an interactive experience with an introduction of rail rules and regulations with safety being the number one priority,” said Tim Cumberworth, JMC safety specialist. “The class highlighted protection procedures of 50 feet during maintenance operations; rail terminology; and components of rail to include the railcar, the engine and the track itself.”
Instructors also shared first-hand experiences of accident investigations and lessons learned. These efforts increase rail operations safety at BGAD and installations across JMC’s Industrial Base.
As the JMC safety team continues to review rail infrastructure, this effort assists in providing the Joint Warfighter with ready, reliable and lethal munitions at the speed of war.