Emergency Support Sidings

Communities need to plan for the use of rail in support of emergency operations. Emergency support sidings should be built on rail lines that are close to real estate capable of supporting base camp operations. The sidings should be constructed for maximum flexibility of operations to include the use as passenger loading and unloading for evacuations, logistic support for base camps, and for use by stand alone emergency operations trains such as surgical trains or incident command trains. Communities already have plans to use their schools and parks by local National Guard units and other emergency response teams. Including the use of rail assets further enhances the community's ability to respond to major disasters.

Communities that relay fully on our Interstate system for logistic support and public evacuation are placing their citizens in jeopardy. Every emergency system requires a secondary backup system. Transportation corridors are no different, highways can be destroyed or blocked, Airports can quickly be utilized to capacity which leave rail as the final recourse for community survival. Rail systems when destroyed can be quickly restored to operation within hours compared to weeks and months to restore highways.

Making use of existing passenger stations works well for pre-disaster evacuation, but passenger stations have major draw backs to being used as emergency support sidings. Most stations are located on the main line without sidings so spotting an emergency support train at a passenger station would disrupt main line operations and inhibit logistic support to the disaster site.

Passenger stations are also terrorist targets themselves as has happened in Spain, Japan and England. Coordinated terrorist attacks targeting major civic structures and train stations would rendered collocated emergency support siding useless.

Concept of Operation

Emergency response trains would be spotted on support siding and tie into sewer ports located on the siding and would receive potable water, access to commercial communications systems, and electrical power, but would also have the ability to operate in a stand along configuration if public utilities were destroyed. Medical evacuation trains would be serviced at the siding while taking on patients.

The support sidings would also serve as an alternate evacuation station. Setting up evacuations at a support siding controls the flow of people and reduces the possibility of mass panic riots. Operations would be similar to that of a regular passenger stations, but the location would not be announced to the public. Passengers would be bused from an evacuation rally point to the support siding where they would board the train. The train would be supplied by either Amtrak, a regional commuter service, tourist passenger train or private railroad.

Concept of Construction

The emergency support sidings need to be constructed so they can serve as passenger loading platforms, accommodate wheeled stretchers, operate as logistic distribution points, and be secure able. The emergency support siding would meet the following specifications:

  • Siding length to accommodate a minimum of a 20 car passenger train
  • Platform on both sides of the track made of interlocking brick or concrete to allow for personnel to enter and exit the trains, and allow for easy access for wheeled stretchers
  • Pedestrian cross overs (timber or rubber). To allow pedestrians to cross over siding track to gain access to main line track.
  • Sewer hook-up to either service trains or allow for prolonged operations
  • Potable water hose locations to refill and keep the train's potable water systems
  • Power hook-ups for cars to operate in stand alone configuration with out a power car or locomotive
  • Telephone junction box located every 80 feet to provide phone data service to each car.
  • Passenger shed to provide protection from direct sun light and rain to personnel located on the platform.
  • Accessible to main vehicular supply routes

Site Selection

Disasters and terrorist attacks have their greatest impact where the population density is the highest. Locations that attract tourist are also prime terrorist targets. Sidings should be located outside of small communities, but dispersed within major cities to ensure their survivability and access to the main line. Small towns that host special events during the year that attract tourists would also benefit from constructing emergency support sidings.

Site selection should be near major cities or small communities that are popular tourist destinations. Stationing a consist inside a major city, or the center of a disaster location entraps it hampering its ability to support the relief operations. The following locations are discussed and listed in rank order from the best location to the least preferred but functional.

Adjacent to Public Camp Grounds

The ideal location for support sidings or spurs should be near the mainline adjacent to public campgrounds. Camp grounds make idea base camps because most are equipped with showers rest rooms, power hook-ups for trailers, access to main highways, and they are usually fenced in for security of the guest campers. Selected siding locations should also be equipped with sewer hookup for the retention toilets; fresh water and power hook ups for each car. This will allow the consist to operate without having the locomotive attached. This frees up the locomotive to be used in other operations.

Adjacent to major parking lots

Rail lines that run next to large single level parking lots which are common to large discount retailers offer several other advantages. Large discount retail stores are usually located on major thoroughfares with good access to major highways. The large parking lots offer enough space to set up full scale logistic operations. Parking lots are equipped with security lighting for customer safety which can be powered by generators to provide lighting for 24 hour operations. Paved parking lots provide a solid surface that resist turning into mud and remains serviceable even when flooded. Base camps that are set up in fields have to contend with mud, recovering vehicles that have become stuck in the mud, and during heavy rains the ground becomes soft causing trailers to sink into the soil.

Adjacent to Public parks

Public parks provide a more discrete location for base camps compared to parking lots. Parks that are located near rail lines lend themselves well to base camp operations. However some parks are built on property that is difficult to access or is bordered by housing. A park with restricted access is good for staging hospital evacuations where site control and discretion is desired. Sidings built next to parks should not be used as a mass morgue. Mortuary affairs operations require tight security and seclusion for a number of reasons starting with respect to surviving family members.

Inside industrial parks

When security and discretion is a top priority then operating out of an industry park is the best solution. Industrial parks are designed for security, access by trucks, have large paved parking lots. Incident command trains and morgue trains would make the best use of a support siding constructed inside of an industrial park.

Abreast to interstates and open fields - open fields are ideal when constructing large scale base camps and logistics operations because of the ability to expand. Fields located away from the community provide base camps adequate distance to operate without public interference. During times of disasters when panic sets in people are drawn to operation centers for either help or information. The draw backs include soft unstable soil which may make setup trailers difficult, susceptible to becoming muddy in rain, and lack of utilities.

  1. A surgical train can be spotted on the support siding to host community health fair operations. The surgical train would offer out patient surgery, immunizations, physicals and other need treatments to the community operating from the support siding.
  2. Private rail car parking to increased tourist revenue. Communities could rent siding space out to private car owners with full utility hook ups.
  3. Host special event trains where passengers would remain over night on board the train. This would be an advantage to small communities that don't have the seasonal tourist business to warrant the construction of additional lodging, and are lacking lodging for special events. Tourist would remain in town for longer periods of time rather than arrive for the special event and return home.