NASA Railroad

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NASA Railroad
NASA logo.svg
NASA Railroad locomotive 3.jpg
A recently refurbished NASA Railroad SW1500 poses outside the maintenance shop.
Reporting mark NLAX
Locale Kennedy Space Center
Dates of operation 1963 (1963)–present
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 38 mi (61 km)
Headquarters Cape Canaveral, Florida

The NASA Railroad (reporting mark NLAX) is a Class III industrial short-line railroad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The railroad consists of 38 miles (61 km) of track connecting the mainline of the Florida East Coast Railway and trackage at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.[1]


NASA uses the railroad to transport equipment which cannot be transported over the road to and from other NASA locations. Rail transportation also offers cost savings over transporting bulky and heavy cargo via barge or aircraft.

Much of the rail traffic is devoted to segments of the reusable solid rocket boosters (SRB) from the Thiokol plant in Utah back again for refurbishment after Space Shuttle launches and recovery. There are 24 cars that are devoted to transporting the SRBs.[1]

With the end of the Shuttle program in 2011, the railroad's future is uncertain. Its future is under review by the government, and a decision will be made in late 2011 or early 2012.[needs update] It could possibly serve to deliver equipment for private space launches at Cape Canaveral. As of the end of 2013 the NASA railroad ceased operations and is currently dormant awaiting an uncertain future.[2]

As of 2012, the program's helium tank cars, a liquid oxygen tank car, and a liquid hydrogen dewar or tank car were transferred for delivery to the SpaceX engine test complex outside McGregor, Texas. Originally, the tankers belonged to the U.S. Bureau of Mines. Five tank cars are being loaned to SpaceX and repurposed to support their engine tests in Texas. Eight cars previously were shipped to California on loan to support the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Space Launch Complex-4 on Vandenberg Air Force Base. SpaceX already has three helium tank cars previously used for the shuttle program at Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.[3]


The NASA Railroad currently operates three SW1500 switcher locomotives, all of which are former Toledo, Peoria and Western Railway units, and more than 102 rolling stock cars. The fleet is maintained by the NASA Railroad shop, which also maintains locomotives and cars for the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.[1]

Model Built Acquired Number
EMD SW1500 1968 1983 1
EMD SW1500 1970 1983 2
EMD SW1500 1970 1983 3

In March 2014 locomotive #2 was transferred to Gold Coast Railroad Museum. In April 2015 Locomotive #1 was transferred to Natchitoches Parish Port. In April 2015 Locomotive #3 was transfered to Maddison Railroad.

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