Minuteman Mobility Test Train

A Minuteman Mobility Test Train was a railway train which carried LGM-30 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles for the United States Air Force.[1] It tested Strategic Air Command's deployment of planned trains for launching the ICBMs. Moving the ICBMs by rail might reduce their vulnerability to Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces attack. At the time, the trains had the heaviest railroad cars used on regular rail routes,[2] and rail sidings were surveyed during the trains' 1960 Operation Big Star (surveyed sites were subsequently used in 1961 by different SAC trains for evaluating bomber accuracy.)

Operation Big Star


Operation Big Star[3] was a series of US military exercises using 4 trains (of 6 planned) from the Hill Air Force Base rail terminal over "21 railroads in the Northwest and Midwest" during summer 1960.[4] The US Air Force Ballistic Missile Division conducted the tests while SAC had operational control of the trains[5] with a "SAC task force" in Utah and on the train, military personnel and "civilian engineering, maintenance and logistic representatives" (the last 3 of the 6 planned trains were to leave from Des Moines, Iowa).[6]

21–27 June train
The 1st train of 14 cars left Hill AFB for routes "over trackage of Union Pacific, Western Pacific and Denver & Rio Grande railroads".[5]
2nd train
The 2nd test train with Col. Carleton V. Hansen again as "train commander" had 31 SAC "airmen and officers and 11 civilian engineering, maintenance and logistic representatives" when it left the Hill AFB rail terminal (Col. Lucion N Powell was also on the train as commander of the SAC "task force at Hill Field".)[7]
26 July train
The 3rd train had an additional flatcar with maintenance vanSpokane Daily Chronicle - Google News Archive Search holding a 3rd stage Hercules SRM,[8] as well as the 1st 80 ft (24 m) "pre-prototype" launch car with special shock absorbers ("three-way stretch" system)Prescott Evening Courier - Google News Archive Search transporting a simulated missile load using tank & steel compartments (with sand & concrete) for a total of 13 cars that left Hill on 26 July.[8] The 3rd train was planned for a 3000 mile, 14 day trip over 7 railroads (UP, SP, WP, GN, SP&S, Milwaukee, & NP)--the 1st train's route was 1,100 mi (1,800 km) and the 2nd was 2300 (10 days), both using 11 cars.[8] The 3rd train was near Spokane on 6 August,[9] Personnel included 35 SAC & BMD military and 13 civilians.[8]
4th train
The commander of the August 1960 train was Lt. Col. James F. Lambert[10]

By 16 November, "no operational date [had] been set for the missile trains"[11] and on 13 December 1960, a "full-scale mockup of a Minuteman train [was] in a big hangar at the Boeing Airplane Co. plant"[where?][12] (in 1959, the "assembly and recycle plant" had been planned "on the western end of Hill Air Force Base [Ogden Air Material Area] in the section formerly known as Ogden Ordnance Depot" and next to the Thiokol plant.[13] Minuteman trains were cancelled on 14 December 1960.[14]

Planned Minuteman trains

External image
  "dummy missile", boxcar with rocket motor, and "train control room"

The operational Minuteman trains were planned to have "five of the 10 cars [for] living and working quarters for the missilemen, including a control section where two launch officers [would] sit at duplicate panels…separated by bullet-proof glass."[15] The Hill Air Material Area personnel were to rebuild existing Army-owned rail "cars to handle crews and equipment." The missile launch cars were to be specially built at Utah General Depot.[16] On 27 January 1961, a train was in Chicago "testing switching facilities" with "launching cars weigh 127 tons, equipped with four extra wheels to bear the weight of the 30 ton Minuteman, and a set of 12 hydraulic jacks to secure the missile in firing position"[17] (the 1st operational train was planned for June 1962.)[18]

The planned deployment with "Minuteman trains cost[ing] more than silo sites" was for wide-ranging operations to require the enemy's use of "more than 10,000 missiles against railroad trackage to immobilize the minuteman train fleet" of 150 missiles[19] using 100,000 mi (160,000 km) of the US's 218,000 mi (351,000 km) of tracks by 1963.[20] American Machine and Foundry and American Car and Foundry were to develop the railroad carrying and launch cars.[21] In December 1960, plans included the use of a "radio-launch…network[specify] of antennae buried a few feet underground adjacent to each control tower."[22]

The plan for Minuteman trains "had been shelved temporarily" by 19 May 1961,[23] and on 14 December 1961, the Pentagon ended the rail program due to cost.[24]

The 1st Utah-made Minuteman was shipped to a silo field from Air Force-Boeing Plant No. 77 in July 1962 in a 63.5 ft (19.4 m) "transport-erector vehicle" on a "special-built 85-foot flatbed railroad car".[25]

Twenty-five years later a Peacekeeper Rail Garrison plan was announced by the Reagan Administration in 1986.


  1. ^ Power, Gen. Thomas S. (September 1960). "Strategic Air Command" (PDF). Air Force Magazine. Retrieved 30 August 2010. A special SAC task force was established at Hill AFB, Utah, to conduct a series of deployments with a Minuteman Mobility Test Train. The first deployment ended June 27 after seven days of random travel over existing civilian rail facilities in the Ogden area. The test series will continue through the fall of 1960 with other rail movements in the Far West and Midwest.
  2. ^ "Experts Explore Needs for Minutemen Missile Trains". The Milwaukee Sentinel. 16 November 1960. design of the missile cars-the actual launching vehicles--was set last year and construction contracts were awarded. These cars carrying the 65,000-pound missile and their associate gear will be the heaviest ever put into regular rail operation. … The first model, called a preprototype missile car, will soon be ready for installation of launching equipment. It will be tested next year at Cape Canaveral… "command control" cars…will merely be standard baggage cars, modified to carry…electronic…equipment. … "power cars," mobile electric power plants… F. A. (Flip) Jendrick of Seattle, mobile system manager for Boeing… four test movements of Minuteman-style trains over 21 railroads in the Northwest and Midwest last summer
  3. ^ http://www.siloworld.net/DOWNLOADS/Mighty%20Ninety%20Reduced.pdf This system was also tested for mobile capabilities on railroad car launchers, nicknamed "Operation Big Star. … Every flight of 10 LFs (five flights per squadron) was monitored by a missile combat crew of two officers stationed in a hardened, underground launch control center (LCC). …all five LCCs of a Minuteman squadron were linked together by hardened underground cables."
  4. ^ "Experts Explore Needs for Minutemen Missile Trains". The Milwaukee Sentinel. 16 November 1960.
  5. ^ a b "Minuteman ICBM Train Concept Displayed in Model" (image used on TrainWatchersJournal.com webpage). Retrieved 23 May 2014. scheduled to leave Hill AFB, Utah, today (June 2x) over trackage of Union Pacific, Western Pacific and Denver & Rio Grande railroads. … First test train will consist of 14 cars… Strategic Air Command will be in operational control and USAF's Ballistic Missile Division will be test conductor. {{cite news}}: External link in |format= (help)
  6. ^ "The Spokesman-Review - Google News Archive Search".
  7. ^ "Minuteman Train Rolls on Second Run". The Deseret News. 5 July 1960. second development of the U.S. Air Force's mobile Minuteman test train left Tuesday morning from the Air Force terminal at Hill Air Force Base. … Train commander will be Col. Carleton V. Hansen who served in the same capacity during the first test run which returned to Hill on June [tbd] after a seven day trip.
  8. ^ a b c d "Minuteman Run Begins From Hill Air Base" (Google News Archive). Deseret News. 26 July 1960. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  9. ^ "Missile Train Visits in Area" (Google News Archive). Daily Chronicle. 6 August 1960. Retrieved 25 May 2014. Eight cars of the train are used as living quarters, one is a command post and two tank cars carry fuel and water.
  10. ^ "Spokane Daily Chronicle - Google News Archive Search".
  11. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1368&dat=19601116&id=LWtQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=4BAEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7251,2997671
  12. ^ Dighton, Ralph (15 December 1960). "Blue Train Would Be Prime Target". Daily Item. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  13. ^ "The Deseret News - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  14. ^ https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=485675. For several years up until late 1961, the Air Force had worked on developing a mobile Minuteman to be launched from railroad trains deployed at reinforced sidings in the western United States. For various reasons -- problems of weight and safety among them, -- OSD canceled this program on 14 December 1961. The decision made available $10 million in fiscal year 1963 funds for USAF research that would contribute to an advanced type of ICBM. The new undertaking emphasized technology that could be incorporated in a successor to Minuteman. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ "Minuteman Missile Trains To Keep Enemy Guessing". Gadsden Times. 12 December 1960. four or five windowless cars. Each car carries a glistening white missile ready to rocket…58 feet long and 6 feet in diameter at its base (also available at [1])
  16. ^ "Status in Doubt On ICBM Trains". Deseret News (from Deseret News Washington Bureau. 21 March 1961. Retrieved 24 May 2014. (see also [2])
  17. ^ "US Minuteman Missile Lands on Ocean Target". The Milwaukee Journal. 1 February 1961. Complete power packs will make the trains independent. … Minuteman is assembled by the Boeing Aircraft Corp. The test [Minuteman-with extra length] vehicle Wednesday was the first ever put together at the cape
  18. ^ "The Milwaukee Journal - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Archived from the original on 17 April 2016.
  19. ^ "Toledo Blade - Google News Archive Search".
  20. ^ "Times Daily - Google News Archive Search".
  21. ^ "Hats Off, Men, To Minuteman". The Milwaukee Sentinel. 17 February 1961.
  22. ^ "The Victoria Advocate - Google News Archive Search".
  23. ^ "The Norwalk Hour - Google News Archive Search".
  24. ^ "Missile-Train 'Dead'". St. Petersburg Times. 14 December 1961. December 14, 1961 The Pentagon yesterday killed plans to mount Minuteman [ICBMs] on hard - to-hit moving trains. …Kennedy administration…said the mobile bases cost about [tbd] per cent more than those dug in the ground
  25. ^ "Utah's Minutemen En Route To Silo Slot". Deseret News. 21 July 1962. Retrieved 25 May 2014. first Utah-made Minuteman…a silo… a product of Air Force-Boeing Plant No. 77 was removed from its igloo and wheeled inside a transporter-erector vehicle…63 1/2 feet long…then loaded aboard a special-built 85-foot flatbed railroad car