Lunchbox Lecture: Troops, Trains, and Travel in World War II

Diesel Locomotive at the Virginia Museum of Transportation, Roanoke, VA

Today I write on the coldest day of the season so far, and I sit bundled up in my office under a mountain of coats and blankets with my feet practically glued to the OSHA-approved foot warmer.  Because of the frigid temperatures and since the Memorial is an outdoor facility, most of our patrons choose to visit during the warmer months – and I can’t say that I blame them.  However, we think any time of year is a good time to learn about the lessons and legacy of D-Day and the Greatest Generation.  So every year around this time we offer a series of “Lunchbox Lectures” that is held indoors at the Bedford Area Welcome Center (just a short skip down the hill from the Memorial).  We use this as an opportunity to examine a variety of topics centered around WWII.  Our first lecture of the year is scheduled for next Tuesday, January 29, at Noon.  I thought I’d take a moment to give you a sneak preview now…  

This week’s session focuses on one topic that often gets overlooked in WWII history, and that is the issue of wartime transportation.  Have you ever stopped to wonder how the U.S. managed to carry thousands upon thousands of tons of materials, equipment, and servicemen and women from one part of the country to another?  To be honest with you, I hadn’t either until I started working on this specific blog post.  What I learned about the accomplishments of our nation’s wartime transportation network was nearly beyond belief! 

For instance, the Association of American Railroad (AAR) estimated that the typical serviceman traveled by rail five times between the time of his enlistment until the time of his overseas departure.  Other figures from the AAR state that trains in WWII transported nearly twice as much personnel and equipment than in WWI – and amazingly this task was accomplished with roughly 28,000 less miles of track!  Perhaps not surprisingly, WWII provided the highest railroad ridership in United States history.

So if you’re in the Bedford area, we’d love for you to join us to learn even more about the extraordinary efficiency of the railways during WWII.  Our friends from the Virginia Museum of Transportation will host the session, and admission is free (although donations are always appreciated!).

We hope to see y’all next week!


Sources: Association of American Railroads  

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