NASA Railroad

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NASA Railroad
NASA logo.svg
NASA KSC Railroad map.png
NASA Railroad and connector to Florida East Coast Railway
Reporting mark NLAX
Locale Kennedy Space Center
Dates of operation 1963 (1963)–2015
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) was a Class III industrial short-line railroad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The railroad consisted 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] As of 2015, the railroad officially ceased operations. All of the equipment has been donated to museums and/or sold off and much of the remaining trackage now sits abandoned in place.


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

Much of the rail traffic was devoted to sending 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 were 24 cars that were devoted to transporting the SRBs.[1]

With the end of the Shuttle program in 2011, the railroad's future was uncertain and was under review by the government, with a decision expected to be made in late 2011 or early 2012.[needs update] One possibility that was being considered was the delivery of equipment for private space launches at Cape Canaveral. As of the end of 2013, the NASA railroad remained dormant for several years awaiting an uncertain future.[2]

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

In 2014, NASA donated locomotive #2 to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami where it remains on static display. In the spring of 2015, it was announced that the NASA railroad would formally cease operations. The remaining two locomotives, #1 & #3, were pulled from service and delivered via the Florida East Coast Railway to their respective new homes. Locomotive #1 was sold to the Natchitoches Parish Port in Natchitoches, Louisiana, while locomotive #3 was sold to the Madison Railroad in Madison, Indiana, where it is used for regular freight service and passenger excursion train service.[4] As of 2016, a good portion of the trackage has been pulled up and was presumably scrapped, although much of it still remains abandoned in place.


The NASA Railroad operated three SW1500 switcher locomotives, each former Toledo, Peoria and Western Railway units and 75 rolling stock cars.[5] The fleet was maintained by the NASA Railroad shop, which also maintained locomotives and cars for the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.[1][6]


Locomotive #3 outside of the maintenance shops at KSC
Model Built Acquired Number Disposition
EMD SW1500 1968 1983 1 Natchitoches Parish Port, April 2015
EMD SW1500 1970 1983 2 Gold Coast Railroad Museum, March 2014
EMD SW1500 1970 1983 3 Madison Railroad, April 2015

Rolling stock[edit]

Type Built count
Flat car – Spacer – 70-ton 1952 2
Flat car – Aft SRB skirt – 70-ton 1985 2
Flat car – 90-ft 1961-1969 8
Flat car –60-ft; 100-ton 1968 3
Flat car –Pig -70-ton 1968 2
Flat car – 100-ton 1952 14
Flat car –65-ft; 90-ton 1965 1
Helium Car 1961 13
Nitrogen Car 2
Hopper car 100-ton 1968-1979 11
Tank car – 70-ton 1982 2
Tank car – 100-ton 1962, 1975 4
Gondola car – 60-ft 1966, 1960 2
Gondola car – 74-ft; 100-ton 1976 2
Cover car 1960 2
Boxcar – 70-ton 1970 1
Total 75


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "NASA Facts: The NASA Railroad" (PDF). October 2007. Retrieved December 26, 2010. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Grossmann, Jim (2012-05-23). "Media Detail National Aeronautics and Space Administration John F. Kennedy Space Center Kennedy Space Center, Florida 32899 FOR RELEASE: 05/23/2012". NASA Kennedy Media Gallery. NASA. Retrieved February 16, 2015quotes public domain text from NASA 
  4. ^ Dean, James (2015-05-24). "NASA Railroad reaches the end of its line". USA Today. Retrieved May 6, 2016. 
  6. ^ "NASA Railroad rides into sunset". Florida Today. 

External links[edit]