Amherst Railway Society - meeting - October, 2018Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2018
US Army Medical Evacuation - by Rail
Beginning with the Civil War and running through the Korean War, the American military used Hospital Rail Cars to transport wounded solders. The high point for military Hospital Cars was World War II. By 1945, the US Army owned and operated 380 Hospital Cars of various types. Hospital cars were equipped with berths, pharmacy units, sterilizing equipment, and complete kitchens. Many cars contained a “dressing room” that could also be used as an operating room for emergency surgery. Wounded soldiers arriving on hospital ships would be transferred to hospital trains waiting at the ports. The trains would take the soldiers to the military hospital closest to their home of record, or to specialized medical facilities. A long hospital train would leave from the port. Along the way, some cars would be switched to other trains to get the soldiers to there destination. During the Korean War, medical air transport developed quickly. Hospital Rail Cars still played a role, but as the need decreased, many were converted to passenger and dining cars by private carriers. Others were stored. The Lee Hall Train Station Foundation is dedicated to preserving this important part or military railroad history. The first step for the foundation was the restoration of the Lee Hall station, done in conjunction with the city of Newport News, Virginia. The former C&O depot played a significant role in the transportation of troops from World War I through the Viet Nam era. The station restoration is scheduled to be complete in 2019. The second step is the restoration of a Military Hospital Car which will be on display at the restored Lee Hall station. Over the years, Lee Hall saw many military hospital trains pass through carrying thousands of wounded soldiers. On Wednesday, October 10, Ken Jones will present an overview of the work of the foundation to restore the Lee Hall station, and the Military Hospital Car. He will also document the operations of the US Army 714th Railway Battalion which operated out of Ft. Eustis, Virginia. Ken Jones is a retired fire-fighter, and a steam locomotive engineer at Bush Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. The Lee Hall Station Foundation is the recipient of the Amherst Railway Society’s 2018 Heritage Grant award. Amherst Railway Society meetings are open to the public.