S. Berliner, III's sbiii.com Naval Weapons Station Concord RR Page keywords = rail road way navy Naval Weapons Station Concord Earle Port Chicago Magazine disaster munition ammunition ammo explosive ordnance model train boxcar

Updated:   04 Apr 2018; 23:05  ET
[Page posted 09 Ded 2015; created 16 Aug 2015

    original AT&T Worldnet Website begun 30 May 1996.]
URL:  http://sbiii.com/rrconcrd.html

S. Berliner, III
Consultant in Ultrasonic Processing
"changing materials with high-intensity sound"

[consultation is on a fee basis]

Technical and Historical Writer, Oral Historian
Popularizer of Science and Technology
Rail, Auto, Air, Ordnance, and Model Enthusiast
Light-weight Linguist, Lay Minister, and Putative Philosopher

note - The vast bulk of my massive Web presence (over 485 pages) had been hosted by AT&T's WorldNet service since 30 May 1996; they dropped WorldNet effective 31 Mar 2010 and I have been scrambling to transfer everything.  Everything's saved but all the links have to be changed, mostly by hand.  See my sbiii.com Transfer Page for any updates on this tedious process.

S. Berliner, III's


Naval Weapons Station Concord RR Page


Continuation Page


NOTE:  Page size was limited by HTML to 30kB; thus, I was forced to add continuation pages to fit the lengthy Horseshoe Curve and Berlinerwerke sagas and relocate the Vest Pocket Railroads You Can Model.


On the main RR page:
  Link to ALCo Love Song (moved 16 Dec 99 to it's own separate page)
  EMD Paean
  New York, Boston & Westchester Railroad
  Standard Gauge

On the NWS Earle RR page (07 Aug 2015):
  Naval Weapons Station Earle.
  History of NWS Earle.
    History (after Wikipedia).
    Facilities (after Wikipedia).
      Pier Complex (2.9-mile trestle and dock facility).
      Waterfront (land-based transfer station.
      Mainside (10,000 acres (40 km2) inland in Colts Neck, NJ.
    History (after USN CNIC).
  Munitions Storage - bunkers, revetments, and warehouses.   NWS Earle Railroad Shops.
  NWS Earle Modeling Features.
    Pier Complex.
    Waterfront Yard.
    Mainside Yard.
    History (after USN CNIC).
  Munitions Storage - bunkers, revetments, and warehouses.
  NWS Earle Railroad Shops.
  NWS Earle Modeling Features.
    Pier Complex.
    Waterfront Yard.
    Mainside Yard.
  USGS Topo Maps.
  U. S. Navy Boxcars.

On this NWS Concord (Port Chicago Naval Magazine) RR page 18 Aug 2015):
  Naval Weapons Station Concord.
  History of NWS Concord.
    History (after Wikipedia).
    Port Chicago Naval Magazine Disaster (after Wikipedia).
  Munitions Storage - bunkers, revetments, and warehouses.
  NWS Concord Modeling Features.
  USGS Topo Maps.
  U. S. Navy Boxcars.

On the Naval Weapons Station Yards RR page, other Naval Weapons Stations (27 Aug 2015):
  NWS Seal Beach, which includes these detachments (all in California)
    Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, itself.
    Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook.
    Naval Weapons Station Norco.
    Naval Weapons Station San Diego.
        (as well as NWS Concord, below)
  Naval Weapons Station Charleston, in South Carolina.
  Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, in Virginia.

On some of my many other RR pages (truncated):

  ALCO-GE-IR Boxcabs, etc.
  S. Berliner, III's Pennsylvania Railroad Page,
  Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal Railroad
  EMD - Electro-Motive Division of GM - models, etc.,
  Railroads You can Model (such as NWS Earle),
  Schnable and other Giant RR Cars, et seq..
  Long Island Rail Road, et seq.
  PRR Horseshoe and Muleshoe Curves
    etc., etc., etc.

and its

[Railroads You Can Model]

- - - * - - -

Prelminary - I give up; this never got posted (09 Dec 2015) and needs lots of work
but I'm posting it now (04 Jan 2017), anyway!

- - - * - - -


NWS Concord was in the Bay Area of California, where the conjoined Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers widen into Suisun Bay, some 20 miles NE of San Francisco.

The Concord Naval Weapons Station was created by the Navy in the 1940s during World War II. The Inland Area of the base was deactivated in 1997 and declared surplus property by the Navy in 2007.

Now, why would I devote a whole page to a defunct Naval Weapons Station, especially in a railroad segment?  Well, it had a railroad and piers.  Then, why not put it on a rail-marine page?  Well, it caught my fancy and the more I looked into it, the more it appealed from many aspects in addition to railroad and rail-marine operations - ordnance, history, Bay Area locale (my younger daughter lives out there), related disasters (Black Tom, Picatinny Arsenal, SS El Estero, Halifax, Mare Island, and, especially, Port Chicago, etc.), and on and on.  NWS Concord WAS the Port Chicago Naval Magazine, where a terrible explosion on 17 Jul 1944 killed 320 men and injured several hundred sailors and civilians,

Most of my rail-marine coverage has to do with car floating but that in no way detracts from NWS Concord, which was a dockage facility, as a rail-marine operation.

It also appeals as an interesting modeling possibility, especially as a shelf layout (see below).

It basically consisted of two primary areas, the "Tidal Area" and the "Inland Area", a big ammunition storage facilty and transfer station, and three associated loop piers, where ammunition ships tie up and are loaded.  All this is connected by miles of railroad tracks, with extensive yards.

History of Naval Weapons Station Concord [after Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia {to be summarized}]:

Concord Naval Weapons Station was a military base established in 1942 north of the city of Concord, California at the shore of the Sacramento River where it widens into Suisun Bay. The station functioned as a World War II armament storage depot, supplying ships at Port Chicago. The Concord NWS continued to support war efforts during the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War, processing and shipping thousands of tons of materiel out across the Pacific Ocean.[2] During World War II it also had a Naval Outlying Field at its southern edge of the base. It ceased being an operating airfield after World War II.

The station consisted of two areas: the Inland Area (5,028 acres (2,035 ha)), which is within the Concord city limits, and the Tidal Area (7,630 acres (3,088 ha)).[3] Because of changes in military operations, parts of the Inland Area began to be mothballed, and by 1999 the station had only a minimal contingent of military personnel and contained mainly empty ammunition storage bunkers, empty warehouses, and disused support structures. In 2007 the U.S. Federal Government announced that the Inland Area of the Naval station would be closed. The Tidal area of the base was not scheduled for closure.[2]

The 5-member City Council of Concord, sitting as the Federally designated Local Reuse Authority, is in the process of formulating a Reuse Plan for the Inland Area that includes residential and commercial development while reserving approximately two-thirds for open-space and parks projects.[4] City staff are assigned to manage this effort. The Reuse Plan is subject to approval by the Navy.[3][5]

The East Bay Regional Park District will be receiving 2,540 acres (1028 hectares) of the Inland Area that will be developed for public use as Concord Hills Regional Park. Formal conveyance of the property is expected in early 2016 whereupon the property will be prepared for public access and recreation. [6][7]

In 1944, thousands of tons of munitions aboard a Navy cargo ship exploded while being loaded, resulting in the largest number of casualties among African Americans in any one incident during World War II. On the evening of July 17, a massive explosion instantly killed 320 sailors, merchant seamen and civilians working at the pier. The blast was felt 30 miles away. A subsequent refusal by 258 black sailors to load any more ammunition was the beginning of the Navy's largest-ever mutiny trial in which 50 men were found guilty. Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall sat in on most of the proceedings and declared that he saw a prejudiced court.[8] War protests

In 1982, at the height of U.S. intervention in the Central American Crisis, Concord Naval Weapons Station was the site of daily anti-war protests against the shipment of weapons to Central America, including white phosphorus. On September 1, 1987 U.S. Air Force veteran and peace activist Brian Willson was run over by a Navy munitions train while attempting to stop the train outside the compound gates. He suffered a fractured skull and the amputation of both his legs below the knee, among other injuries. The incident that caused Mr. Willson's injury were never prosecuted in criminal court, but a civil suit was filed and an out-of-court settlement was awarded.

In the days afterward, thousands participated by protesting the actions of the train's crew and the munitions shipment including Jesse Jackson and Joan Baez. During the demonstration, anti-war protesters dismantled several hundred feet of Navy railroad tracks located outside of the base, while police and U.S. Marines looked on. Billy Nessen, a prominent Berkeley-based activist, was subsequently charged with organizing the track removal, and his trial resulted in a plea bargain that involved no jail time.

Superfund cleanup site

The Concord NWS was listed as a Superfund cleanup site on December 16, 1994. 32 areas of the facility were identified as having been contaminated with heavy metals including zinc, copper, lead, cadmium, and arsenic, as well as semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOC) and organochloride pesticides. An area of great concern is the risk to the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse and the California clapper rail. Environmental remediation is underway at the base with some sites having soil removed and others being capped to prevent spread of contaminants.[9][10]

Current operations

In 2008 control of the site was changed. The Inland Area became a Detachment of the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, pending ultimate closure. The Tidal Area was transferred to the U.S. Army Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) and is now known as Military Ocean Terminal* Concord (MOTCO). This facility was also used by the Diablo Squadron and Training Ship Concord of the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps.

* - Military Ocean Terminals are operated by the U.S. Army Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) for distribution of surface cargo from storage and repair depots to military forward based units.  Currently there are two active facilities:

    Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTCO), California (formerly Concord Naval Weapons Station)     Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU), North Carolina

Three former facilities are now closed:

    Military Ocean Terminal (MOTBY), Bayonne, New Jersey     New Orleans Military Ocean Terminal (NOMOT), New Orleans, Louisiana     Military Ocean Terminal Bay Area (MOTBA), headquartered at Oakland Army Base, Oakland, California

History of the Naval Weapons Station Concord

  [from EPA {to be summarized}]

Naval Weapons Station (WPNSTA) Concord (also known as Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Detachment, Concord) is a 12,800-acre site located in the north-central portion of Contra Costa County. WPNSTA Concord is comprised of two geographically separate units, the Inland (5,170 acres) and Tidal (7,630 acres) Areas, and a radiography facility (approximately 1 acre) in Pittsburgh, California. Aside from typical administrative and support work activities, this facility is a major ammunition transshipment port of the West Coast for the Department of Department of Defense, under operation by the Department of Army.

The Navy's Installation Restoration Program (IRP) identified 32 areas potentially containing hazardous substances. The Tidal Area is organized into two site groups or Operable Units that include the Tidal Area Sites and the Litigation Area Sites, and the Army is taking over the responsibility for cleanup from the Navy for this area. The Tidal Area Sites are represented by the Tidal Area Landfill (Site 1), the R-Area Disposal Area (Site 2), the Wood Hogger Area (Site 11), the Froid and Taylor Road Area (Site 9), and the Taylor Boulevard Bridge Disposal Area (Site 30). The Litigation Area is represented by four Remedial Action Sub-Sites (RASSs), that contain the original seven IR Sites (Sites 3, 4, 5, 6, 25, 26, and 28), and geographically includes a recently added Former N-P-K Fertilizer Plant Site (Site 31)(formerly Area of Concern-1). The contamination in the Tidal Area Sites, located in wetlands and low-lying areas in the northwestern portion of the facility, comes from past on-base waste disposal practices, including an estimated 3,000 tons of mixed wastes that were deposited in the landfill from the early 1940s to 1979, material and waste generated during the repackaging of conventional munitions, and chipped wood contaminated with pentachlorophenol (PCP). Investigations identified heavy metals to be the primary contaminants in these sites, but low levels of organochlorine pesticides, such as DDT and its breakdown products, and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) are also present. The contamination in the Litigation Sites, located in both wetlands and upland habitat on the northeastern portion of the Tidal Area, was the result of private industrial activities on portions of property that was subsequently purchased by the Navy to create a buffer zone for the activity at the facility's piers. Soil sampling that started in 1986 detected metals in these areas. Subsequent testing confirmed this result and expanded the areas impacted. Documented historical releases from industrial operations and tidal action in the wetlands transported and distributed contamination across wetlands and into engineered Mosquito Ditches and Lost Slough, a natural tidal channel. The Tidal Area Sites and Litigation Sites are located in critical habitat for endangered species, such as the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse and the California Clapper Rail. Suisun Bay supports extensive sport fishing as well as providing habitat for the endangered fish species, Winter-run Chinook Salmon and Delta Smelt.

Other areas of environmental concern are located in the Inland Area, which is still being addressed by the Navy, and include an expanded Site 22 (Building 7SH5 and Main Magazine Area) where elevated arsenic has been detected across wide areas in shallow soils, the Solid Waste Management Units (SWMUs) Sites 2,5,7, and 18, where industrial activity, such as waste storage, has resulted in contamination of soil and groundwater by volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and Former Ordnance Burn and Fire Training Area (Site 13) where low levels of perchlorate have been detected in groundwater and surface water.

In November 2005, WPNSTA Concord was recommended for partial closure and realignment under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. The final BRAC determination that was made resulted in approximately half of the facility (Tidal Area) transferred to the Department of the Army in 2008 and the remaining portion (Inland Area) being closed, transferred, and redeveloped.


Aerial photograph looking eastward in early 1944. The town of Port Chicago is in the upper right. The lower left shows utility and personnel piers extending toward the two sections of Seal Island. The munitions loading pier curves to the left beyond 20-odd revetments. Marshy tidal zones separate the munitions pier from barracks buildings near the personnel pier and near the town.

Port Chicago Naval Magazine {to be summarized}:

Contra Costa County, California. Constructed 30 miles NE of San Francisco, California, on Suisun Bay; authorized December 9, 1941 by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. Ammunition loading aboard civilian deep water transports destined for the Pacific Theater of war commenced November 1942.

The Navy facility was identified by the nearest United States post office and thus designated Port Chicago by reference to the small rural town that lay one and one-half miles inland from the southern shore of Suisun Bay at the base of a range of low hills south of the town. Beyond the hills lay a fertile expanse of small and picturesquely lovely small California farms and orchards that since World War II have been entirely transformed to accommodate the present population of one million, of whom 120,000 live in the city of Concord.

The Port Chicago magazine was served by the Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and Western Pacific rail roads by which the flow of wartime munitions to the magazine could easily move from manufacturing plants across the country and, for example, from the remote and very much larger Navy munitions depot at Hawthorne, Nevada.

Ship loading operations at the facility pier were conducted by 1,000 African-American enlisted Navy personnel in 24-hour operations. The explosion of the fully laden Liberty ship E. A. Bryan at the magazine pier at 10:30 the evening of 17 July 1944 resulted in the immediate death of 320 men on and about the exploded ship and the injury of several hundred-sailors on the base and civilians in the surrounding territory. Destruction and damage at the base facilities was extensive, but the base was rapidly reconstructed and returned to service.

Fissionable and hardware components of the atomic bomb detonated in combat 6 August 1945 at Hiroshima, Japan, were transshipped through the Port Chicago base late in July 1945. The base has since continuously been a munitions transshipment facility operated by the Navy with contributions to the conduct of the Korean and Vietnamese wars and was the site of contentious antiwar protests and antinuclear demonstrations during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The base since World War II has been the principal West coast transshipment, storage and repair facility for the Navy's nuclear weapons, but the site was recently transferred to the U.S. Army.

In consideration of the casualties of the 1944 explosion, the important role of the base during World War II and the national historical importance of the explosion, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial was established by Congressional enactment (Public Law 102-562; 102d Congress) 28 October 1992 and signed into law by President George Bush. The National Memorial was dedicated by the National Park Service on the 50th anniversary of the explosion 17 July 1994.

It isn't the provenance of this page to cover the disaster in detail; here are a diagram, two epic photos, and the memorial:

NWSConcordPortChicagoDiagram NWSConcordPortChicagoPhoto1 NWSConcordPortChicagoPhoto2 NWSConcordPortChicagoMemorial
[Click on thumbnails for larger images]

Munitions Storage

note-rt - More on this can be found on the NWS Earle Munitions Storage section - bunkers, revetments, and warehouses.

One of the first rules of explosive ordnance storage is DISPERSE, DISPERSE, DISPERSE!  NWS Concord certainly obeyed that rule - amply:


Let's take a look at how munitions are stored safely; the rail lines run east from the Piers, through the Tidal Area yard, and then branch out all over the Inland Area:


Zooming in on just the top center of that photo, you begin to see the incredible detail involved:


At NWS Earle, long-term explosive munitions storage is in underground bunkers, with massive embankments around all four sides and a relatively thin roof so that, in case of an accident, any resultant explosion will be directed straight up.  I find no evidence of any such at Concord. The rail line runs right alongside a massive concrete facade, with buried bunkers at right angles.

Shorter-term explosives storage, and there seems to have been a lot of that, was in white Navy 1½-door ammunition boxcars@ (USN #61-05822 here):



Looking more closely at the multitudinous stub spurs, you can see that each is surrounded on three sides by high embankments, known as revetments, and that no spurs point into the mouth of any other:


and then, looking right down into a spur, you can see just how deeply the spur burrows between the revetments:


Non-explosive munitions are stored in warehouses; our interest here is in those served by rail lines:


There is also a plethora of truck-served bunkers:


but, unlike at Earle, they are open ended revetments served by truck at one end asnd rail at the other.

Homing in one site of truck-served bunkers solely because I like the name, "Hominy Hills":   added (15 Aug 2015)




Again, note the buried bunker with a concrete front wall, single this time, but here they also have berms opposite the entrance to block any blast through the entrance.

What makes NWS Concord unique in its way, much as NWS Earle has the 2.9-mile long pier, is that Concord has/had three offshore loop piers, allowing ocean-going vessels to tie up along a marshy tidal shoreline for loading and off-loading.

A rather neat shelf layout could incorporate minimal features such as the ferry pier, the three offshore loop piers (without the loops), a few buildings, the dual-track "main" line, a roadway overpass, a dual-track rail underpass, some bunkers and some spurs in revetments.

(17 Aug 2015 image by and © 2015 S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

[Hey!  How can the track go over the yard leads but under the roadway?
Probably better have the leads cross at grade.]

Well, there's a very good reason why the track did NOT go over the yard leads or under the roadway - they DIDN'T!  The apparent over-and-under is an artefact of Google maps.  The crossings were, in fact, at grade:   new (04 Apr 2018)

(04 Apr 2018 image by and © 2018 S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

As I suggested for the NWS Earle shelf model, if you want more action and can't fit in a return loop, substitute a "FIDDLE YARD" or some such.

If you can't spin it, lift it out with a train on it, reverse it end for end, and put back the other way 'round (or have more than one yard available and swap them - in a very small space, you could even have a stack of yards to alternate)!

USGS Topo Maps

United States Geological Survey Topographical Maps - these are a fabulous source of information about NWS Earle and define definitively {did I really write that again?} the extent of the base, extending across the Vine Hill quadrant and easterly into (however slightly) the Honker Bay quadrant:


The conjoined excerpts, then:

(click on thumbnailed picture for larger image)
[Topo maps excerpted and joined* by S. Berliner, III 16 Aug 2015 - all rights reserved]
{* - mostly to within one pixel accuracy -
the images were off a fraction of a degree of rotation -
and I'm not THAT much of a fanatic!}

There is an oddity here, though.  Earle has its own shops but I can't find hide nor hair of any such at Concord.  It seemed that they were just two miles due east but that small complex turns out to be Chemtrade Logistics, not a RR shop:


The logical repair shop would be 20 miles west at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, which had more massive manufacturing and repair capabilities and an extensive rail network, except for one little detail - Mare Island is on the north shore of the Bay; if and when I ever find out, I'll post it here.

Up close, the maze of trackage seems a little less bewildering/intimidating:


Five locos (of four different models!) can be seen from above, about 2/3 of the way inland from the ferry pier along Kinney Boulevard:


Where were they serviced?

U. S. Navy Boxcars -

  [A more complete write-up can be found on the NWS Earle page.]

This is USN 61-06646 (left); coupled to it was an unidentifiable car (right - 61-85858 or more likely 61-05858) and, in the same string, 61-04299(?), a different class:

NWSEarleUSNAmmoBoxcar6106646 NWSEarleUSNAmmoBoxcar#?

(Three photos courtesy of O Gauge Railroading On-Line Forum)

These pix, taken in Apr 1992 at NWS Concord are of cars used only on the base, NOT in interchange service.

Ca. Oct 2011 , 343 railcars had to be removed and recycled! This was serious stuff:






Think outside the box, indeed!  Probably unintended but a great pun, nevertheless,


Stay tuned - there's lots more to follow!

[For my previous act, I examined Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey, another Railroad You Can Model.]

For my next act, we will journey up and down both coasts to visit (virtually) the other extant and closed Naval Weapons Stations and their railroad facilities, namely (as in the Page Index above):

  The Naval Weapons Station Yards RR page, other Naval Weapons Stations:
    NWS Seal Beach, which includes these detachments (all in California)
        Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, itself.
        Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook.
        Naval Weapons Station Norco.
        Naval Weapons Station San Diego.
            (as well as NWS Concord, on this page)
    Naval Weapons Station Charleston, in South Carolina.
    Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, in Virginia.


  What happens to all this when I DIE or (heaven forfend!) lose interest?  See LEGACY.


See Copyright Notice on primary home page.

U.S.Flag U.S.Flag


THUMBS UP!  -  Support your local police, fire, and emergency personnel!

Contact S. Berliner, III

(Junk and unsigned e-mail and blind telephone messages will NOT be answered)

Not listed in this series of Railroad pages.

© Copyright S. Berliner, III - 2015, 2017, 2018  - all rights reserved.

Return to Top of Page