by Will Davis
At the end of the 1950’s the US Army was looking at its entire operational sphere to determine in what areas nuclear energy could be of benefit. While many of these are fairly well known today – for example, the small nuclear plants that were to have been installed at remote locations for powering bases like the Defense Early Warning stations – there are a few applications that remain obscure.
The booklet seen here, “Army Nuclear Power Program,” was given out as a part of the Associate Engineer Officers Course at The Engineer School, Fort Belvoir, Virginia as a complement to a presentation delivered by Major James T. White, Office, Special Assistant for Nuclear Power, which was itself a part of the Office, Chief of Engineers (US Army Corps of Engineers.) The presentation was given April 22, 1958.
In the booklet (among many interesting things) is the mention of a peculiar concept of transportation – an “off road train.” Some description here is required.
The Army was responsible for operating many far-flung bases, some of which were sited well within very primitive and, meteorologically and climatologically, hazardous areas. The Army had to constantly transport back and forth personnel, and ship abundant supplies (in particular diesel fuel) to these various bases – a massive, and incessant, logistical consideration. Further, this kind of operation would have to be established in a massive scale in the event of actual combat, as supplies would have to be ferried from rear or landing areas to the front area. These continuous land shuttles would take up more and more fuel just to move themselves the further they stretched.
A way to alleviate at least some of the cost and complexity of this sort of operation, at least in theory, was to develop “road trains” – that is to