Iraqi Republic Railways rolls back into Taji

An 11 February press release from Multi-National Force Iraq has a few details of the train.

The locomotive is DHL160 (I think!), one of 12 Type DH12000 diesel-hydraulic Bo-Bo locos supplied by Tülomsas of Turkey in late 2004 and early 2005.
The first locomotive on Camp Taji since 2004 comes through Train Gate on Feb. 10 to begin the Proof of Principle Rail Mission of moving 40 containers from Camp Taji to Umm Qasr (Photo Sgt Mike Brantley/DVIDS)

Iraqi Railroad rolls back into Taji

CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Iraqi national distribution capability took a big step forward Tuesday as the Iraqi Railroad successfully picked up cargo from Iraqi Transportation Network trucks at Camp Taji and moved it to the Port of Umm Qasr.

The rail spur at Taji opened for cargo movement for the first time since 2004. A 20-car IRR train owned and operated by the Government of Iraq picked up 40 empty containers for movement to the port of Umm Qasr. The operation was an important step in an effort to linking Iraqi trucking, Iraqi rail, and Iraqi port operations.

One Iraqi with a critical role in the day’s event stated the operation was a sign of Iraq’s rebuilding effort. “It’s our country and we want to serve our country. Whatever it takes to do, we’ll do it. So we came here to serve our country; rebuild it,” Mohammed, the train’s conductor said through an interpreter.

The IRR is a key piece of transportation infrastructure for Iraq according to Maj. Scott D. Meyer, Strategic Mobility – IRR Program Officer, Multi-National Force-Iraq. Meyer said that Iraq has a geographic advantage to turn it into a hub for moving cargo from the port at Umm Qasr to Turkey, Syria and Jordan. The rail lines themselves are in good repair and Iraq has experienced operators for running the trains, Meyer added.

Meyer said that the IRR and Iraqi Transportation Network, a consortium of all Iraqi owned trucking companies, are working together to move cargo efficiently. Where the ITN is responsible for short-haul of cargo and the IRR is responsible for long-haul.

“Trucks are more efficient with short-haul and trains are more efficient with the long haul,” Meyer said. As part of the Tuesday’s rail operation, ITN trucks delivered the 40 containers eventually uploaded on IRR rail cars.

In addition to demonstrating transportation infrastructure progress, these initial small rail movements will eventually prove the IRR is ready for regular transportation of cargo added Meyer. He stated as the IRR moves more and more cargo for both the Iraqis and Coalition forces it offers the option to move Iraqi transporters and Coalition forces off Iraq’s roads.

Upon arrival in Umm Qasr, the IRR will load cargo and move it back through Iraq.

Sustainers and transportation experts from the 10th Sustainment Brigade provided partnership and planning for the Tuesday’s operation. Maj. Peter P. Vien, Brigade Engineer, 10th Sust. Bde. said that coordination involved all echelons of command starting at MNF-I, through the 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), the 10th Sust. Bde.’s higher command.

“I think it was very successful, because this will be the first time we had the Iraqis come into Taji and pick-up stuff and move it out, Vien said.

Source: Multi-National Force Iraq, release 20090211-05

Container train from Camp Taji to Umm Qasr

A 14 February 2009 release about rail services to Camp Taji, by Sgt. Mike Brantley of the 10th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs Office.

Loading containers at Camp Taji (Photo: Sgt Mike Brantley/DVIDS)

Railroad Operations Come Back to Camp Taji

CAMP TAJI, Iraq – The rusted steel railroad tracks lay in wait. Two concrete barriers that had stood in front of a black metal gate for more than five years sat off to the right as security forces opened the gate leading to Main Supply Route Tampa and to the first train to enter Camp Taji since 2004.

A rail master summoned the oncoming train, both arms raised. The train began slowly moving across Tampa and forward through the gate and onto post.

Once the engine, pulling 20 empty railroad cars, entered the post, the gates were secured and the barriers replaced, thus beginning railroad operations here again.

Maj. Scott Meyer, Strategic Mobility – Iraqi Railroad, or IRR, Program Manager with the Multi-National Force – Iraq, said this was the first time in five years that empty containers were loaded for coalition forces on the Iraqi Public Railroad.

“This will continue the circle of commodities flowing into Iraq,” the Naugatuck, Conn., native said, referring to the train’s two-day trek to the port city of Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf. “The proof of principle shows it’s a safe, efficient and cheaper manner and takes Soldiers off of the road.”

The train engine pulled the cars forward, each holding two containers. Once the cars were loaded, the engine unhooked, pulled forward, switched tracks and came around to what was the rear of the railroad cars to hook up to take the cars off post to the Taji Station for further movement south and onward to Kuwait.

The train conductor, Mohammed, said that he is proud to serve his country and to help rebuild it. He said that he has worked in the railroad business since 1994.

The 10th Sustainment Brigade has the lead to synchronize all rail efforts at Taji, said Maj. Peter Vien, 10th Sustainment Brigade engineer, and Orlando, Fla., native. “In addition, we also worked with the IRR in the last several months to repair the damaged rail spur so that it can accommodate limited train operations.” He said it was a successful mission since “we achieved the mission end state – to be able to load 40 empty containers on the train and ship them out of Camp Taji in four hours.”

Meyer added that a follow-on mission will continue this operation and bring cargo from Umm Qasr to Taji as an efficient means of transport, and will give the Iraqis more pride and shows they can move the cargo and validates the transportation corridor between Umm Qasr and Taji. “The IRR is the heart and soul of inland distribution with Iraq being a land bridge.”

Vien said that this will directly impact on coalition forces’ abilities to retrograde equipment and material in the future. It also indicates the possibility of expansion of rail operations to other parts of Iraq, he said. “This will revitalize the IRR and will have direct impact on the Iraqi economy.”

Source: DVIDS

Cleanup gets rails back on track

Another press story from the US military. This one was dated 18 March 2008.

Iraqi Republic Railways at Camp Taji
Workers with the Iraqi republic railways clear debris, March 12, from the tracks on Camp Taji, Iraq. It has been four years since the tracks were last used and as a result they have fallen into disrepair. The yard at Taji is an important part of the railway’s future.

Cleanup Gets Rails Back on Track

By Staff Sgt. Bryant Maude
1st Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs

CAMP TAJI, Iraq – It has been four years since a train powered its way onto Camp Taji, Iraq, and at least that long since any care or attention has been paid to the rail yard. As a result, a crew of ten Iraqi Republic Railway’s workers started the rigorous task of cleaning and repairing the neglected tracks.

Today they are repairing switches, placing derailed train cars back onto the tracks, and clearing debris,” said Staff Sgt. Gilbert Torress, a native of Fresno, Calif., and the sergeant of the guard with Detachment 1, 1st Battalion, 143rd Field Artillery, a California National Guard unit attached to the 1st Sustainment Brigade. After this they will load containers on cars and test the tracks.”

These tracks are currently being renovated as part of an initiative to rebuild the railroad and it’s capabilities to move large volumes of cargo.

The trains pulling in here will carry mostly containers and Iraqi army materials bound for the maintenance facilities under the Taji National Depot,” said Maj. Ira Baldwin, a Laurinburg, N.C., native and mobility chief for the 1st Sustainment Brigade.

Every track cleaned and switch repaired is a step closer to a fully functioning railroad and the eventual creation of good paying jobs for Iraqi people.

Train runs through Taji

A story from US military press services DVIDS, dated 10 March 2008.

Iraqi Republic Railways DEM2716
Waving to spectators and honking the horn of his bright, green and red, locomotive, Mustapha the train conductor is the first Iraqi Republic Railways worker to make the journey along the old tracks between the central Baghdad rail yard in Baghdad and Camp Taji, in many years.

For the First Time in Several Years an Iraqi Republic Railways Locomotive Entered the Rail Gates at Camp Taji

By Staff Sgt. Bryant Maude
1st Sustainment Brigade, Public Affairs Office

CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Waving to spectators and honking the horn of his bright, green and red, locomotive, Mustapha the train conductor, was the first Iraqi Republic Railways worker to make the journey along the old tracks between the central Baghdad rail yard in Baghdad and Camp Taji, in many years.

This historical journey was part of a proof-of-purpose designed to rebuild the tattered railway and stimulate the young economy; it was one small step in that direction for sure.

“An increased use of the rail infrastructure will translate to big dinars for the Iraqi economy,” said Maj. Ira Baldwin, Laurinburg, N.C., native and mobility chief for the 1st Sustainment Brigade.

As far as coalition forces are concerned, the new train will enable large movements of cargo between the port at Um Qasar and Camp Taji, creating greater logistical economies-of-scale.

“Since Taji is the closest secured location nearest Logistics Support Area-Anaconda the trains will allow a faster movement between the two,” stated Baldwin. “This will reduce the costs of moving cargo as compared to over the road, but the greater benefit is that trains will take a great number of Soldiers off the road which translates to lives saved.”

This concern for safety translated to a heavy presence of security forces on Camp Taji. Soldiers from Macedonia were on hand to inspect, Soldiers from Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment opened the rail gates, and Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, Detachment 1, 143rd Field Artillery, 1st Sustainment Brigade, Soldiers provided over watch.

“We are on the lookout for any suspicious activities along the route line,” stated Spc. Justin Cox, a native of Visalia, Calif., and artilleryman with HHB, Det. 1, 143rd FA.

Although there was no call for security intervention, like all things in life, this exercise did not come without challenges.

“There were at least two attempts prior to the successful engine proof of purpose,” said Baldwin. “The conductor’s house was raided and his son was arrested the night prior to the first scheduled POP; then later, there was another train carrying petroleum originating from Bajyi that was high jacked.”

In spite of the challenges, the train movement was a success. Compared to what occurred repeatedly back in 2004 at the height of the insurgency where seemingly every train was a moving target.

“The Multi-National Corps-Iraq future operation cell, the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, the Taji Base Defense Operations Cell, and the Soldiers of the 1st Sustainment Brigade came together and proved that joint efforts do work with close coordination and rehearsals,” stated Baldwin. “I am very proud of what the Iraqi people want to reestablish in regards to improving their lives.”

This increased use of the IRR will equate to increased income generated by local, national, and eventually international trade; overall, the rail industry will provide solid jobs for the Iraqi people as exampled by the conductor Mustapha who has been employed by the IRR for over 27 years.

“I am very lucky to be a part of history in the making by helping to make a train run through,” stated Baldwin.