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Trains have a long-time, little known history at HAFB


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CLEARFIELD -- When we think of Hill Air Force Base, most of us think of planes, but did you know the base is a temporary home for a lot of trains, as Hill is the only train repair depot in the country that serves our nation's military.

The unique locomotive shop is an Army-run facility that happens to be located inside Hill Air Force Base. With more than 1,000 military train cars in the U.S., they're constantly taking apart old trains and making them run more like new.

The components are huge, the technology maybe a bit outdated. Sometimes getting the old trains back on the tracks can take a lot of work.

Rail Center division chief Billy Funderberg said, "We disassemble the locomotive. We start putting it through the process of cleaning."

For each locomotive, the process takes about seven months.

"It is a challenge every day to find parts for the locomotives, but we get ‘em," Funderberg said.

Sometimes those parts don't exist anymore, so large pieces of sheet metal are built on site. Each of the fifty workers there, you might say, develops a unique understanding of these 30- sometimes 40 year-old engines.

Despite their age, the locomotives serve an important purpose. They're still the easiest way for the military to move lots of heavy equipment quickly.

"Locomotives can move so many at the same time, and not get anybody hurt, and get the component there without damaging it," Funderberg said.

It's one piece of the military in which the technology hasn't changed much in several decades.

About half of the team stays here in Utah while the others travel to make repairs and find parts. Because it's such a long and labor-intensive process, they refurbish three locomotives on site each year.

Photos

Mike Anderson

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