Old Military Railroad Track
Finds New Life

As the Port redevelops its 1,900-acre campus—the region’s largest commercial property—we’re committed to following best practices in construction and facility management. And often, some creative thinking and collaboration can have a big positive impact—reducing development costs, benefitting the environment and helping out our neighbors.

Recently we partnered with the City of San Antonio to take down 500,000 square feet of obsolete warehouses along our airfield. This is part of a big effort to prepare almost 200 acres of land where we plan to build hangars, aircraft workshops and other advanced technology facilities to support our community’s economic growth.

In the process of that demolition, we took 100,000 tons of old concrete and, instead of directing it to the landfill, we crushed it and left it on-site as material for upcoming projects, including fill for building foundations and road construction.

Track at the site is being dug out by volunteers.

That spirit of finding new life for old materials continues along the north airfield. Currently, long-forgotten railroad track at the site is being dug out and donated to a worthy cause. Much of the track—which was in use decades ago when our campus was the former Kelly Air Force Base—was hidden by dirt and overgrowth.

So instead of sending 200,000 pounds of iron to the landfill, we’re giving nearly a mile of track to the San Antonio Railroad Heritage Museum (SARHM). The old rails will be used to display an array of historic engines and cars at the museum’s location in Elmendorf, a town about 20 miles south of the Port.

“The track will benefit SARHM by giving us the materials needed to display the historic railroad equipment we acquire and showcase the various types and sizes of rail used around the country,” says SARHM President Gary Rodriguez. “It also gives us the opportunity to lay relay track for the operation of some of this equipment. “

The track removal is conducted in two different phases. It begins by separating bolts, joined plates and spikes—which hold the track together. The rail itself is then gradually be detached 1.5 feet at a time.

“Aside from the track, we will also reuse the spikes, bolts and bars that are removed,” adds Rodriguez. “Any components that are unusable for our display purposes will either be recycled for scrap or repurposed into items that can be sold, such as wine racks or garden decorations—with all revenues being used to purchase new spikes.”

Founded in 2001, SARHM aims to preserve the region’s railroad heritage for future generations by promoting interest in various rail-related activities. These include railroad operations, history, restoration and preservation, as well as displaying local railroad historical artifacts.

Southern Pacific #794 currently exhibited at historic Sunset Station in San Antonio, Texas.

The organization’s exhibits can also be found beyond the museum in Elmendorf. Among the most visible engines is the iconic Southern Pacific #794—owned by the City of San Antonio and currently exhibited at historic Sunset Station near downtown San Antonio. SARHM is the designated contractor responsible for the upkeep and preservation of the engine.

To learn more about SARHM’s mission in educating the public about the rich railroad history of San Antonio and South Texas, visit www.sarhm.org.