JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas — More than 100 active duty military members, Veterans, community leaders, and Union Pacific employees gathered for a ceremony to unveil a special train engine at Sunset Station in San Antonio, Texas Oct. 19.
UP No. 1943 is the 16th commemorative locomotive in that company’s 155 year history.
“This locomotive is a salute to all of America’s active military and Veterans,” said Brenda Mainwaring, assistant vice president – public affairs for UP’s Southern Region during her remarks to the audience.
Railroads and the U.S. military have been connected since trains were used to evacuate casualties at the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861.
“Ever since then the railroad has been an integral part of every armed conflict that we have been a part of,” said Maj. Gen. Brian Lein, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School Health Readiness Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Lein recalled UP trains hauling armored combat vehicles to Corpus Christi from Fort Hood, Texas between 2000 and 2002.
“The railroad is a critical part of who we are,” Lein said.
The engine’s name, “The Spirit” recalls a B-17 Flying Fortress that UP’s employees paid for in 1943 using war bonds. That airplane, known as “The Spirit of the Union Pacific,” was then assigned to the 571st Bomber Squadron and later shot down in Europe.
According to Mainwaring, former and serving military and current members of the National Guard and Reserve participated in UP No. 1943’s design.
“Today Veterans comprise roughly 20 percent of UP’s workforce,” Lein said.
The Spirit’s paint scheme incorporates colors, emblems, and patterns from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The engine also features a POW-MIA flag along with the company’s familiar American Flag.
San Antonio was selected as its first stop on UP’s “Salute to the Military Tour” because of the city’s reputation and nickname, “Military City USA.”
“It isn’t just for show. Tens of thousands of people will see this locomotive as it passes through their towns and when The Spirit passes we hope they will take a moment to reflect on the service of our military,” Mainwaring said.
The Spirit will make stops across the country on a debut run and then continue its work moving cars loaded with material and people. It could be used to support future Department of Defense requirements.
“Yearly as a Department of Defense, we are increasing the number of railroad cars we are using and cutting significantly the amount of time it takes to move from stateside to an overseas location,” said Air Force Col. Jupe Etheridge, the commander of the 12th Operations Group at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas during his remarks at the ceremony.
“Union Pacific locomotive 1943 is a fitting tribute,” Etheridge said.