712th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion 2029

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712th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion 2029
Posted by wanswheel on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 12:20 PM

https://www.hodrrm.org/body.cfm?id=239 Heart of Dixie RR Museum SW-8 page

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JTtwBpeiPQ&t=6m19s 2017 loaded on ship

Silent newsreel of ceremonial opening of bridge, eventually featuring 2029

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/video/troops-at-attention-salute-under-an-open-air-stage-an-news-footage/638865732

https://www.scribd.com/document/41870941/712th-TROB

http://www.koreanwar-educator.org/memoirs/712_trob/index.htm

 

Back Home From Korea by Capt. Carlton U. Baum

Reading Railroad Magazine, Jan. 1953

 

For the second time, in less than 10 years, a Railway Operating Battalion, co-sponsored by the Reading Company, the 712th, has returned from foreign service after having been called to active duty by the Army.

Throughout the summer, men of the 712th have been returning from Korea to this country and their homes and by now practically all are back at work on the railroad. Actually, the 712th TROB remained in Korea as a numbered unit, since the men returned home as individuals or in small groups when replacements arrived to take their places.

Most of the men had almost a year and a half in the war-torn mountains and rice-paddies of Korea. In that time, they earned five battle stars, representing that number of campaigns in which they actively participated. All members are entitled also to wear the United Nations ribbons.

However, ribbons do not begin to tell the story of the soldier railroaders and how they were responsible for the operation of over 500 miles of railroad, ran thousands of trains with inadequate and dilapidated equipment over lightweight and poorly maintained track through crumbling tunnels and over bridges hastily repaired as the tides of battle moved back and forth several times. Neither do battle stars reveal the millions of tons of ammunition, equipment, food and other supplies carried and the numerous troop trains moved through the mountainous terrain to railheads often but a short distance behind the fighting lines. Nor can words adequately portray the lonesomeness of 18 months of uncomfortable (to say the least) living in a foreign land of strange customs where, on every hand, there was so much human misery and poverty, filth and disease, and the discouragement of a none-too-successful and little understood police-action war.

The story of the men of the 712th should be told, if for no other reason, simply because so little of it has been told publicly. Many transportation outfits, especially higher headquarters, mostly chair borne, were busy getting themselves interviewed and publicized for their accomplishments, and those of outfits (like the 712th) under them, in trade and national magazines. The 712th, however, was content, and at times even seemed to prefer, to remain in the background and let others take the credit and glory for the month-by-month increase in tonnage, personnel and trains moved which kept the U.N. troops supplied. The same situation applied to living conditions-where some units devoted much time and manpower to seeking luxuries, the 712th secured adequate necessities and then went to work. To their unselfish and self-sacrificing credit, keeping the trains moving was always the prime and uppermost consideration.

The beginning of the Korean story goes back to 1945 and 1946, when a number of railroaders, who had served in World War II, for various reasons, innocently enough, and unsuspecting of future events, signed up with the Army Reserves and went back to their railroad jobs. In 1948, upon the prompting of the Government, the Reading and the Jersey Central decided to join in sponsoring a Railway Operating Battalion, and sufficient volunteers showed enough interest to have the 712th reactivated.

A continuing recruiting campaign in the succeeding two years brought additional men from the two railroads and a few outsiders with rail knowledge and experience, like the writer. Monthly meetings were held in Philadelphia along with other rail units on a voluntary and unpaid basis.

The first contact with the military for the reactivated 712th came around Labor Day, 1949, when a small band of seven went to summer camp at Ft. Eustis, Virginia, for a two-week training program. In this group were five officers and two enlisted men, five of whom were Reading employees. In the next nine months until May, 1950, the group continued to grow in membership, so that when the summer training was moved up the last two weeks of the month over 30 reserves attended. Again, the majority of those attending were from the Reading. The trainees received the regular Army pay, in accordance with their rank, for the two-week period. In generous co-operation with the reserve program, the sponsoring companies made up the difference between his railroad and Army pay. This was only a few weeks before the Korean conflict began, but there wasn’t even a whisper of a crisis then.

South Korea was invaded June 25, 1950, and in a few days the United States began sending men and supplies to repel the invaders, but practically no one suspected that the rail units would be recalled to active duty. However, in a few weeks, early in August, the 712th was alerted. On September 3, they were sworn in at the Spring Garden Street Station and two days later took off for Ft. Eustis. The 724th from the Pennsylvania went a little earlier and the 729th from the New Haven followed closely behind.

During the processing period after the alert, some men were eliminated, so that on September 3 the 712th had a roster of 75 men, 60 enlisted men and 15 officers. Thus Lt. Col (then major) Arthur C Palmer of Pottstown, who had been commanding officer since the 1948 reorganization, had less than 10 percent of the 785 men required for a full Army Operating Battalion at that time.

The period at Ft. Eustis was necessarily one of getting men to fill up the battalion, processing and giving them refresher military training, since most of them were involuntary reserves with previous service and “owing” time to the Army. Most of these were from Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia - and the few railroaders obtained were merely coincidence. Due to administrative, military, housekeeping and supply problems, the technical training of these men was necessarily rather sketchy - at times even grass cutting and leaf raking took precedence.

As the weeks passed, it was plain that one of the three battalions was hot for overseas service, and around Thanksgiving it was the 712th which was elected the lucky one. This meant a last-minute rush of final elimination and fillers, the receiving of carloads of an operating battalion’s equipment - from shovels to bulldozers, and the inevitable overseas shots in the arm. The original strength of the 712th by now had dwindled to around 60.

It was on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1950, that the 712th took off for the west coast on three trains, taking separate routes to Ft. Lawton, Washington, the port of embarkation. More processing and outfitting there, and suddenly the “C”, or operating company, was alerted for air shipment, while the other three were to go by boat.

Japan was the secretly whispered destination, but it didn’t take much imagination to predict Korea as the final one. The U.N. forces had driven the North Koreans back to the Yalu River on the Manchurian border, but the Chinese had now entered the conflict and were making a terrific counterattack.

“C” Company arrived in Korea at Christmas time, just in time to ride a few trains into Seoul, the capital, before the Chinese chased the Allied forces across the Han River. During this chase, much of the Korean railroad equipment was abandoned or destroyed along the way.

Meanwhile, the Headquarters, A and B Companies, were making their way across the 6,000 miles of ocean in a 20-day trip. Not a comfortable one, as six storms were encountered, slowing down or driving the ship off its course. The rough weather, the none-to-comfortable quarters, and the increasingly bad war news made it anything but a pleasure cruise for the passengers, who by now knew they were going to Korea - if there was any place left to land. Christmas and New Year on the open water, with the thoughts of home, added nothing to the trip.

After passing a few rocky Japanese islands the day before, on January 5, 1951, the ship, General Patrick, crept into the harbor of Pusan, Korea before dawn. The main body of the 712th had their first glimpse of the bleak, barren, mountainous country that was to be their home for the next year and a half. The first day in Pusan, too, gave the first look at the never-ending stream of poverty-stricken refugees and the stench that is war-torn Korea.

The second day, the 712th got its first experience with the Korean railroads when members were piled into a train featuring three kinds of cars, without windows, without seats or without either. The 100 mile trip took over a half day, very fast for over there, then. The new home of the 712th was at Sindong, a dozen miles, but over a big mountain, from the large city of Taegu, where a bombed-out school and a field for tents was “it.” The front then was 75 miles further north, but coming closer every day, with an unknown number of guerrillas somewhere in between.

While setting up house, the 712th got the Korean rail picture. The roads were nationally owned and operated, but under the complete supervision of the Army by the 3rd Military Railway Service. A regular Army battalion, the 714th, already there, controlled from Pusan to Taegu and the 712th was assigned, and kept to the last, the territory from Taegu north to the battle lines. It consisted of a single track East Coast line and a double track main line through central South Korea with several intersecting feeder lines.

To expedite train movements, which allegedly ran more by the calendar than the clock, the 712th put its four companies to work.

Headquarters Company, with its hodgepodge of clerks, supply men, cooks, dispatchers and operators, spread the latter out in two to four-man groups at lonely stations along the way, with this writer commanding and division operator.

A Company, under the command of Capt. William H. Bahrenburg, set up and maintained a dispatcher’s communication line to augment the poor Korean lines and also began its working with the natives in maintenance of way and water supply problems. This company also was spread out over the entire system.

B Company, under Capt. Edgar E. Cavany, of the Jersey Central, was the maintenance of equipment company. It moved into the Korean shops at key points to prod the Koreans into faster and better ways of keeping inadequate and scarce motive power and cars in service.

C Company, under the veteran leadership of Capt. Peter J. Pirrall, provided train-rider crews to keep the Korean crews going, who were somewhat reluctant to move toward the battle zone. Later the company operated the yards at several division points.

With all the companies functioning in their regular and countless additional duties, the rail net soon was under systematic operation, which eventually extended to a 712th courier and supply train, a few regularly scheduled reefer and passenger trains, a PX train and finally, a 712th private car. As always, in a war zone, hours and duties meant little, around-the-clock operation prevailed often down to individuals, and the job had to be done, no matter by whom. For instance, the writer became a more or less qualified engineer, at least by Korean standards, by frequently running the courier train to get it along the line and keep traffic moving.

In April, 1951, the 712th moved its headquarters to Yongdongpo, across the river from Seoul, soon after it was recaptured. It was their good fortune to obtain a brick apartment house, filthy, but one of the few in Korea. In May, the Chinese pulled their spring counteroffensive and almost recaptured Seoul. Even though the artillery was booming overhead, and the sky lit up like a Fourth of July, the 712th held on to their headquarters and had the distinction of being about the only service troop outfit to remain.

Soon after, the 712th extended its lines to Munsan, the peace talk headquarters, Yonchon and the outskirts of Chorwon, places that are still in the news today, near the scene of hard-fought battles.

In July of 1951, the Army sent 30 diesel locomotives to Korea which, manned by 712th crew, gave the outfit complete operation within the unit. The diesels were EMD 800-hp. road switchers stripped down to 90 tons and they were of invaluable aid in increasing train movements. A two-man GI crew operated them, with a Korean pilot as a rider.

The Korean equipment, while not primitive, at best was smaller (30 ton cars) and badly worn and beaten up. The roadbed, laid out and well engineered by the Japanese, was in poor shape through the tortuous mountain terrain, with worn light rail, rotten ties, loose spikes and mostly non-existent tie plates. There are approximately 300 tunnels and 1,000 bridges in Korea. The language barrier itself was enough to make working and getting along with the Koreans a problem. As high as 50 interpreters were employed in the 30 stations of the 712th, as well as another 200 used in housekeeping activities as carpenters, mechanics, cooks, houseboys, etc. Fortunately, most Koreans tried to be cooperative and appreciated the pay, extra food and clothing they received for working for Americans. Their standard of living was miserably low, a married Korean engineer, for instance, received around 50,000 Won (less than $10) monthly, along with a little rice and perhaps a small hut. They worked on a 24 hours on, 24 off schedule, so they could work in the rice fields on their day off.

Fortunately, none of the original 712th men suffered any serious injuries or were involved in any serious accidents. In fact, the 712th, as a whole, had a remarkable safety record in their 18 months* of operation. Aside from damage to two diesels, all operational incidents were traceable to Korean rather than 712th responsibility. Each of the men who were overseas has stories to tell, humorous or otherwise, of their experiences. Some may sound fantastic, but it must be remembered that this is a fantastic police-action war in a fantastic country, Korea, where many strange things can and do happen.

Promotion-wise, the men of the 712th did very well as a whole. The commanding officer, Arthur C. Palmer, went from major to lieutenant colonel; Company commanders Barhrenburg and Baum rose to captains; 2nd lieutenants Benner, Haines and Smythe advanced from 2nds to 1sts; Matthew Peel, Alfred Krause and Charles Fronheiser became 2nd lieutenants; Robert Dalton, John Warden and Rahn Erdman became warrant officers; Matthew Werner, Earl Scheid, Harold Webb, Donald Barr and William Baeighkley became either first or master sergeants. Also late in 1951, Col. Palmer and Capt. Bahrenburg were transferred to the 3rd Military Railway Service, after which Major J.P. Naughton, executive officer, formerly with the Jersey Central, became commanding officer; Capt. Peter J. Pirrall became executive officer for the balance of the 712th’s stay. Capt. William P. Houwen was adjutant or administrative officer until recalled home by an emergency early in 1952; Capt. Earl O. Lyons, battalion supply officer and Lt. Charles L. Benner was battalion mess officer and later operated the PX train.

In the final analysis, however, whatever credit, praise, thanks or glory there is for the 712th belongs not to the unit alone or to any individual or group - but rather to each individual who served and sacrificed in his own way to make the job “well done.” Young or old, veteran or rookie, enlisted man or officer, each can hold his head high in self-satisfaction, and the Reading Company and Jersey Central, in their entirety, can be proud of each man who gave these two* years to the Army, and in the name of their battalion kept the trains moving in Korea.

* Captain Baum rotated back to the States in the fall of 1952 as the references to 18 months and 2 years of service fall well short of the time the 712th was in Korea.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syngman_Rhee

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franziska_Donner

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Van_Fleet

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Posted by wanswheel on Tuesday, September 05, 2017 12:16 PM

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, September 05, 2017 5:03 PM

^ in defining 'Modern Korea' is this before WW I, WW II, the Korean War or subsequent to the Korean War?

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

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Posted by wanswheel on Tuesday, September 05, 2017 9:05 PM
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Posted by NorthWest on Wednesday, September 06, 2017 12:05 AM

Thanks for the pictures, wanswheel. US Army rail operations abroad were very interesting, yet not often seen.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Thursday, September 07, 2017 7:54 PM

The Erie Railroad sent one of their Pacifics, I think a K1, to aid in South Korea's post-war rebuilding.  It even operated in Erie markings!

I wonder whatever happened to it?  It's whereabouts now are a mystery.  Scrapped, I suppose.  But wouldn't it be something if...

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Posted by Miningman on Thursday, September 07, 2017 8:36 PM

Firelock76- wow, really...hmmmmm

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Posted by M636C on Friday, September 08, 2017 5:56 AM

Firelock76

The Erie Railroad sent one of their Pacifics, I think a K1, to aid in South Korea's post-war rebuilding.  It even operated in Erie markings!

I wonder whatever happened to it?  It's whereabouts now are a mystery.  Scrapped, I suppose.  But wouldn't it be something if...

 

There are some preserved steam locomotives in Korea, but these are generally from the standard locomotive built during the Japanese occupation era.

Anyone interested in the Korean War era can't go past:

http://donsdepot.donrossgroup.net/indexknr.htm

Don Ross' photos are an amazing resource, regarding Korea and the US Army locomotives there and at home.

For example, the steam loco 1610 illustated in a post above appears to be one of a number of Japanese built Mikados to the Chinese standard design "Mika-1" delivered to Korea during the war, often from orders for China left part complete in Japan after WWII.

These appear as Korean Mika-1, Mika-4 and Mika-5 classes in Don's listing.

Peter

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Posted by wanswheel on Friday, September 08, 2017 12:09 PM

 

Erie Engine Serves Korea, Erie Railroad Magazine, Jan. 1955 (page 10)

 

http://elmags.railfan.net/ERIE_Jan1955.pdf

 

Donated to the people of Korea after being displaced on the Erie by a more efficient diesel, one of our retired steam locomotives has started a new, useful career, with a leading role in the program to rehabilitate the war-torn country.

 

The locomotive went by rail to San Francisco and then across the Pacific Ocean aboard the steamship Indian Bear. Retaining its old Erie Engine No. 2524,it was officially accepted by the Korean government in a ceremony on Oct. 23 at Seoul Central Station on the day that it pulled its first passenger train.

 

The train, No.17 and 18, or the “Unifier” as it is more popularly called, is the fastest inKorea. It runs daily between Seoul and Pusan, a distance of 164kilometers. No. 2524 powers No.17 to Taejon and then returns to Seoul with No.18.

https://books.google.com/books?id=RhytBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA28&dq=%22by+november+1952+the+erie+had+finished%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj0hLCl75TWAhWBwiYKHS-RAzUQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q=%22by%20november%201952%20the%20erie%20had%20finished%22&f=true

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Posted by wanswheel on Friday, September 08, 2017 4:50 PM

http://www.gettyimages.com/license/514957468

Dwight D. Eisenhower's remarks at the Help Korea Trains Ceremony, April 9, 1954:

“First of all, I think I may speak for the people of the United States in thanking you three gentlemen—and you, Mrs. Willkie—for your part in mobilizing the gifts of America to go to a country where they are so badly needed.

“I think I can speak, also, for the nation, in thanking the railroads for being so helpful and cooperative in showing such a sympathetic attitude toward this great need.

“I want to speak for just a moment about my pride in what the Army has done. The Army had a long and grueling experience out in that country, as did, of course, all our fighting forces. Yet so impressed were our soldiers by the great need out there, and by the gallantry of their ally, that they themselves contributed more than 25 million dollars. This was completely aside from all of the work they did in providing the know-how for reconstruction of schools, hospitals, roads, bridges—all the things that were destroyed in the war.

“So as they excite my pride, you people excite my thanks. I am certain that all of us are going to have our sentiments stirred very deeply in this country by your efforts. I am sure the response will be everything that you expect.

“Now to each of you—good luck.”

Note: The President spoke in the Rose Garden at 2:30 p.m. In the opening paragraph he referred to Dr. Howard A. Rusk, President of the American Korean Foundation, Henry C. Alexander, National Chairman of the Help Korea Trains campaign, Philip A. Hollar, Vice President of the Association of American Railroads, and Mrs. Wendell L. Willkie, National Chairman of the Women's Division of the American Korean Foundation.

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Posted by M636C on Friday, September 08, 2017 8:35 PM

wanswheel

The train, No.17 and 18, or the “Unifier” as it is more popularly called, is the fastest inKorea. It runs daily between Seoul and Pusan, a distance of 164 kilometers. No. 2524 powers No.17 to Taejon and then returns to Seoul with No.18.

 

Even a quite elderly US locomotive would be too heavy for most of the Korean track. As was noted earlier in the thread, the SW8s were stripped down to 90 US tons, giving an axle load of around 22 US tons or around 200kN.

 

I'd expect that the track from Seoul to Tajeong would be the heaviest available.

 

The Pasi 5 locomotives were built during WWII and would have standard parts available. The Erie locomotive might have met a short term need but was more a symbolic indication of support than any real assistance.

 

Peter

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Posted by Firelock76 on Friday, September 08, 2017 8:43 PM

Did some checking here in the archives of the "Fortress Firelock."

Pulled out my Morning Sun book titled "Erie Railroad In Color" by David R. Sweetland, printed in 1991 (holy jeez, have I really had it 26 years?) and on page 21, in living color, are two photos of Erie Pacific 2524, a K1, at Cho Cho Chang in 1954.

According to the captions 2524 was overhauled at the Pusan backshops under the supervision of the 712th Railway Battalion's XO, a former Erie employee who made darn sure those Erie markings were prominent!

Also according to the captions the C&O, GN, and PRR also sent steamers to South Korea as well.  Now wouldn't THAT be something if THEY were still around too?

There was a Railway Preservation News forum topic concerning 2524 in 2006, of the "is it still there or isn't it?" genre.  Long story short, no-one knows.  Google "Erie K1 Pacific" and you should be able to find the discussion.

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Posted by wanswheel on Monday, September 11, 2017 9:45 PM
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Posted by wanswheel on Thursday, September 14, 2017 2:22 PM
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Posted by Firelock76 on Thursday, September 14, 2017 7:05 PM

Anyone notice that was a Baldwin "Shark" on the point of the "Help Korea Train?"

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Posted by wanswheel on Friday, September 15, 2017 12:31 AM

 

Yes, hard not to. There’s another photo in NYC Headlight, May 1954 http://www.canadasouthern.com/caso/headlight/images/headlight-0554.pdf and a photo caption calls it a cabbage cutter https://nycshs.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/dieselroster6.pdf .

 

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Posted by M636C on Friday, September 15, 2017 6:13 AM

At the linked photographs from the link under the photos of GN 1130 in the post above, the sixth photo shows a locomotive "765".

This appears to be a WWI US Army "Pershing" with a non standard cab.

One of these was sent to Korea. It may have been numbered CS2-101 following the 100 WWII USA Army 2-8-0s. I think it was returned to the USA for preservation.

Peter

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Posted by wanswheel on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 1:59 PM

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