The UK military has access to various rail assets and even had its own military railway units.
MOD Railhead Facilities
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has railhead facilities at:
- Glen Douglas;
- Marchwood Port.
Marchwood Port is owned by Solent Gateway Ltd but the MOD holds some rolling stock at the railway located in the port.
What Does MOD Rolling Stock Consist Of?
- Rail cars;
- Rail car trailers;
- Ramp wagons;
- Vegetation control trolley;
- Warflat wagons; and
- Warwell wagons.
Military Railway Units
Military railway units provided the British Army with a unique railway capability (one which many other NATO countries no longer had).
A unit’s peacetime role was to operate the army’s rail-served depots in Germany, and could be used to to run a limited rail support network in times of crisis to move men, equipment and matériel.
An extensive amount of training was required before becoming a rail operator, but first and foremost the operator was a trained soldier:
- Class 2 course dealt with supervisory role; and
- Class 1 course dealt with planning and operation of railways.
Units would include administration section, operating unit, SQMS (quartermaster) department and small equipment maintenance team, plus a dedicated REME workshop with its own locomotive shed and engineering facilities.
79 Railway Squadron RLC
The modern-day 79 Railway Squadron was part of the 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps (RLC), of the British Army. They were responsible for maintaining and providing the British Army with its railway transportation requirements.
Originally, the Railway Squadron started life in the Royal Engineers at Longmoor Military Camp in Hampshire. They were known as the Longmoor Military Railway and operated steam locomotives. The squadron eventually moved to Mönchengladbach in West Germany and in the fullness of time became 79 Railway Squadron, Royal Corps of Transport. The locomotives were all diesel and for a while the future of the squadron seemed uncertain until 1983, when a multimillion-pound makeover was begun. New locomotives started to arrive, and the operating yard at Mönchengladbach got a makeover.
The squadron was relocated to Marchwood, near Southampton, in 1999. It was taken under command of 17 Port & Maritime Regiment RLC, and renamed 79 Port Enabling Squadron, with the addition of a troop of Vehicle Support Specialist (VSS) personnel.
The squadron was disbanded at Marchwood on 26 April 2012 (2012 Berliner Bulletin, 2012). The VSS were resubordinated elsewhere in the regiment, and the Military Railways capability ultimately lost on the disbandment of the remaining Army Reserve unit, 275 Railway Squadron, in 2014.
Other RLC Regiments referred to the military railway operators colloquially as the ‘Railway Children’.
275 Railway Squadron RLC
Before 1999, 275 Railway Squadron was a stand-alone squadron, but by the time of its disbandment on 15 March 2014 it was reduced to a Troop.
It recruited almost exclusively from the civilian railway industry, as it was an Army Reserve unit, with every member being a tradesman – able to drive a locomotive, operate railway signals, shunt, and do permanent way work.
The Bicester Military Railway (BMR) was the main base for 275 Railway Squadron, with the unit’s Regular Army sister unit being 79 Railway Squadron and it sometimes undertook permanent way work with the Royal Engineers unit 507 STRE.
275 Railway Squadron’s now defunct insignia is a cross section of flat bottom rail in a blue diamond. This dates back to unit’s involvement with the Longmoor Military Railway.
507 Specialist Team Royal Engineers
507 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (STRE) is a track building/repair troop of the Army Reserve.
It is part of the 65 Works Group (Reserves) which provides Defence with infrastructure support via professional engineer capabilities in fuels, water, power, rail, ports, and works.
- Army Railway Association.
- Army Railway Squadrons (Facebook group), open to RE, RCT and RLC military railway personnel.
- 275 Railway Troop, Royal Logistics Corps (v) (Facebook group).
- 507 STRE on Facebook.
2012 Berliner Bulletin. (2012) Sunday 13 May – And Then There Were None…. 2012 Berliner Bulletin. Issue 7, March 2012. Available from World Wide Web: https://web.archive.org/web/20130603030548/http://www.trainofevents.co.uk/downloads/berliner-2012/2012-berliner-bulletin-ed-7.pdf. [Accessed: 20 April, 2022].
FOI 2022/01200 dated 23 February 2022.
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