The Kennedy Space Center Railroad is owned and operated by NASA and runs from the Florida East Coast Railway at Cape Canaveral Junction into the Space Center. The photograph was taken in March, 2009, when the railway received the solid rocket booster (SRB) segments for the Ares I-X launcher, while the video was filmed for the most part in 2010, during one of the final deliveries of SRB segments for the Space Shuttle program. With the end of Space Shuttle flights and the cancellation of the Ares program, the railway has seen little traffic in recent years.
The remainder of this article, together with the photographs, were taken from the June 8, 2001 issue of the Kennedy Space Center magazine, Spaceport News.
The Kennedy Space Center Railroad is a vital part of the transportation system at KSC.
The railroad is used to transport solid rocket booster (SRB) segments, ground support equipment and construction materials to locations on Center.
It is also used to make rail shipments, including rocket fuel and oxidizer, to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS).
The railroad, based at the KSC Railroad Equipment Shop and interchange area on Contractor Road, includes 45 miles of track, several interchanges, three 1,500-horsepower locomotives and about 60 freight cars. The track connects with the Florida East Coast Railroad (FEC) several miles north of Titusville.
Although the railroad traverses a large area, many KSC team members are not aware that the Center has a railroad, said Will Eriksen, lead for railroad operations.
“Our conductors have to be extremely careful at railroad crossings because many employees here don’t think to look and listen for warnings that a locomotive is coming down the tracks,” Eriksen said. “We look out for employees, but it would be safer if drivers would pay a little more attention at the crossings.”
Good advice, considering that each loaded SRB segment and its freight car weigh 500,000 pounds.
Eriksen supervises the team of six railroad employees, including conductors, engineers and mechanics, who work for CMT, a subcontractor on the Joint Base Operations and Support Contract.
Railroad team members maintain and repair KSC’s railroad equipment and are sometimes called upon to assist in repairing CCAFS equipment.
Fighting corrosion caused by the Cape’s salt-laden winds is one of the team’s biggest maintenance challenges, Eriksen said.
Two members of the group, the engineer-conductors, drive the locomotives.
Each of their trips to pick up or deliver freight can take up to several hours. For example, transporting spent and cleaned SRB segments from the interchange on Contractor Road to the FEC drop-off point, called the Jay Jay Railyard, takes about three and a half hours. That trip through the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge parallels State Road 3 and ends with a dramatic crossing of the Jay Jay Bridge and the Indian River.
After the delivery, an FEC locomotive picks up the SRB segments and transports them to the next railroad along the route to the manufacturer in Utah.
“When you think about it, KSC features every kind of transportation, rail, trucks, aircraft and the Shuttle,” Eriksen said. “We’re proud to be a part of that.”
(45 miles = approx 74 km. 1,500 horsepower = approx 1 megawatt. 500,000 pounds = approx 227 tonnes)
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