S. Berliner, III's sbiii.com Naval Weapons Station Yards RR Page keywords = rail road way navy Naval Weapons Station Concord Seal Beach Fallbrook Norco San Diego Charleston Yorktown Earle Port Chicago Magazine disaster munition ammunition ammo explosive ordnance model train boxcar

Updated:   10 Apr 2018; 16:45  ET
[Page posted 09 Dec 2015; created 16 Aug 2015

    original AT&T Worldnet Website begun 30 May 1996.]
URL:  http://sbiii.com/rrnwsyds.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 Yards RR Page

Continuation Page

[Railroads You Can Model]


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 this Naval Weapons Station Yards RR page, other Naval Weapons Stations:   new.gif (18 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 the NWS Earle RR page:   new.gif (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 the Naval Weapons Station Concord (Port Chicago Naval Magazine) RR page:
  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 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 their

[Railroads You Can Model]

NWSEarleSat NWSConcordSat

Naval Weapons Stations (NWS or WPNSTAs) are major military installations/bases where ammunition/munitions/weapons are received, stored, and shipped out.  Several existed, and some still exist, along the east and west coasts of the United States.  They are railroad-intensive operations as most munitions are brought in by rail, dispersed by rail, and even stored in railcars.

  [Naval Weapons Stations (NWS) were formerly known as Naval Ammunition Depots (NAD).]   added (05 Apr 2018)

The infamous 2005 BRAC (Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission) chose, in its dubiously-infinite wisdom, to close some of the biggest facilities and "repurpose" them (God help the U. S. if we ever need them again!); some are still very much in business.

Two so caught my attention that I devote separate pages to them; they are:

  Naval Weapons Station Earle, in New Jersey, and

  Naval Weapons Station Concord (the former Port Chicago Naval Magazine), in California.

Naval Weapons Station Earle, dating back to 1943, sits in the arc of Sandy Hook on the New Jersey shore, adjacent to the Lower Harbor of New York City, and is still running strong.  It was initiated after the ammunition ship SS El Estero caught fire while moored in nearby Bayonne, New Jersey, endangering New York and surrounding cities (the fire was extinguished before any disaster ensued).

Naval Weapons Station 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.  NWS Concord was created 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 and is being redeveloped commercially; the Tidal Area was administratively subsumed into NWS Seal Beach (below).  It was the site of the terrible Port Chicago Naval Magazine disaster of 17 Jul 1944.  The latest twist or quirk is that operation of the Tidal Area has been reassigbed to the Army's Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) and is now known as Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTCO).


We are looking eastward in early 1944 with the town of Port Chicago in the upper right and utility and personnel piers extending toward the two sections of Seal Island at lower left.  The munitions loading pier curves to the left beyond 20-odd revetments and tidal marshes separate the munitions pier from barracks buildings near the personnel pier and near the town.

There are three other major installations equally deserving of coverage; they simply didn't catch my eye the way Earle and Concord did.  They are:

  Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, which includes (all in California) -
    Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, itself,
    Naval Weapons Station Concord,
    Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook,
    Naval Weapons Station Norco, and
    Naval Weapons Station San Diego,

  Naval Weapons Station Charleston in South Carolina, and

  Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in Virginia.

Now, why would I devote whole pages to Naval Weapons Stations, especially in a railroad segment?  Well, they have/had railroads and piers.  Then, why not put them on a rail-marine page?  Well, they caught my fancy and the more I looked into them, the more they appealed from many aspects in addition to railroad and rail-marine operations - ordnance, history, New York locale (I was born a NYer and remained such most of my life), 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.  Also, NWS Concord WAS the Port Chicago Naval Magazine, where a terrible explosion on 17 Jul 1944 killed 320 men 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 the NWSs, which are/were dockage facilities, as a rail-marine operation.

They also appeal as interesting modeling possibilities, especially as a shelf layouts (see below).

Marine-oriented NWSs basically consist of two primary areas, a "Waterfront Area" and an "Inland Area", a big ammunition storage facilty and transfer station, and their associated piers, where ammunition ships tie up and are loaded.  In the "good old days", all this was connected by miles of railroad tracks, with extensive yards; some still are and some are entirely dependant on motor trucks.

So, how do these other NWSs differ from NWS Earle or Concord?  I could lump discussion of the features together or cover each station on its own merits; I choose to follow the latter course, giving the features in the same format as for Earle and Concord, namely:

      Munitions Storage - bunkers, revetments, and warehouses       Railroad Shops     Modeling Features
    USGS Topo Maps

Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach (CA)



NWS Seal Beach is, as previously noted, a conglomerate of several facilites, all in California:
    Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, itself.
    Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook.
    Naval Weapons Station Norco.
    Naval Weapons Station San Diego.
coverage of which follow (as well as NWS Concord, on its own page).

NWS Seal Beach is all of seven miles southeast along the coast from downtown Long Beach

NWS Seal Beach occupies 5,256 acres (21 kmē), has 230 buildings and 128 ammunition magazines providing 589,299 feetē (54,747 mē) of ammunition storage space.  Ammunition is moved from storage to the docks on 56 miles (90 km) of railroad line and 80 miles (128 km) of road.  The base owns 130 pieces of railroad rolling stock and 230 trucks and trailers to move the ammunition which is loaded onto ships using six mobile cranes that can lift up to 90 tons (81 tonnes).[1]

The station is bounded on the north by the combined Interstate 405 and State Route 22; on the west by Seal Beach Boulevard; on the south west by the Pacific Ocean; on the south east by the Bolsa Chica Channel and Edinger Avenue; and on the east by the Bolsa Chica Channel and Bolsa Chica Road.  From Edinger Avenue to Interstate 405, a distance of about three miles, all roads to the east of the station terminate at Bolsa Chica Road, with the exception of Westminster Boulevard, which runs through the center of the facility, separated by a chain-link fence on both sides.  Edinger Avenue enters the facility, but public access terminates at an emergency gate.  On the west side of the station south of Interstate 405, Westminster Boulevard and the Pacific Coast Highway are the only public roads running through any part of the station.


The Weapons Station is also home to the World War II National Submarine Memorial - West.  The Memorial is dedicated to the over 3000 submariners who lost their lives in United States submarines in the 52 submarines lost during WWII.  There are also plaques dedicated to those who lost their lives in submarine accidents during the Cold War.  The Memorial is located outside the main entrance to the Weapons Station on Seal Beach Boulevard and is accessible to the public.[

Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook (CA)

Fallbrook, landlocked up in the hills only two miles northeast of USMC Camp Pendleton North and five miles from the coast, has no rail OR coastal access whatsoever that I can see: so we'll bypass Fallbrook (sorry 'bout that).


Dispersed, indeed!

It did survive a massive brush fire on 14-15 May 2014 without significant damage, though:


Naval Weapons Station Norco (CA)

So far, I can't find any trace of a weapons station at Norco, landlocked some 12 miles north of Corona; all I find there so far is the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division, clustered aroud its own private lake, Lake Norconian, and that's more of a laboratory and think-tank than an ammo handler.  So much for NWS Norco.

Naval Weapons Station San Diego (CA)

Similarly, I find no weapons station in San Diego and rather assume it is the pierside activity in the massive Navy yard.  There are two piers uniquely suited to the task and they have rail lines:


look very closely and you can see two dinkies (GE 25-tonners?) working the shorter pier:


The only catch here is that the yard is in the middle of a very heavily-populated area.  ???

Naval Weapons Station Charleston (SC)

Now, NWS Charleston is quite a different story;




USS Holland AS-32 up the creek - Goose Creek, NWS Charleston, 1983-92:

Frank A. Jackson, Jr. photo)


[The Holland was a Hunley-class submarine tender.
Ooh!  Look what's moored alongside.]
  added (04 Apr 2018)

NWS Charleston bunkers:

(click on thumbnailed picture for much larger image)

(click on thumbnailed picture for much larger image)

NAVWPNSTA CHASN is located on the west bank of the Cooper River in the southeast portion of Berkeley County, 25 miles from Charleston and 13 river miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

Naval Weapons Station Yorktown (VA)

NWS Yorktown is perhaps the best case study of the lot, though, except for one tiny detail - its tracks are mostly torn up, but we can't let little things like THAT stop us!


USS Dahlgren Guided Missile Cruiser DDG-43 taking on stores at NWS Yorktown

Lotsa RR pix (some 30) and misc./maps (20) which need editing; I've gotta get busy!   rev (04 Apr 2018)

Munitions Storage

note-rt - More on this can be found on the Munitions Storage - 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 south from the Pier Complex, through the Waterfront yard, and then branch out all over Mainside:


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.

Should you wonder why I stress all this, let's just look at NWS Earle, just before noon on 30 Apr 1946, when three blasts ripped open the USS Solar, DDE-221, a a Buckley-class destroyer escort (after Wikipedia, DESAUSA.ORG, and NavSource):

Solar exploded at the NWS Earle ammunition pier while unloading munitions; seven sailors were killed and thirty (NOT over 100 to 125!) dock workers were injured.

The forward half of the little ship was peeled open like a sardine can by the blast, her wrecked superstructure was cut off to prevent her capsizing, and she ended up being towed 100 miles out to sea and scuttled in 700 fathoms of water on 09 Jun 1946.

The accident is attributed to detonation of a dropped Mousetrap ASW rocket during unloading (other accounts say it was a Hedgehogs ASW mortar round- no matter, both carried simlar charges).  Supposedly, Seaman Joseph Stuckinski of Baltimore was pasing a Mousetrap/hedgehog from the ship to a truck on the pier when it exploded in his arms and set off the blasts.  Stuckinski was not injured.")[2] He was able to escape with relatively minor injuries, but three ensuing explosions blasted the ship near her number 2 upper handling rooms. Her number 2 gun was demolished and the bridge, main battery director, and mast were all blown aft and to starboard. Both sides of the ship were torn open, and her deck was a mass of flames. The order to abandon ship came after the second explosion and was carried out expeditiously. Nevertheless, the tragedy claimed the lives of 7 sailors and injured 125 others. Salvage work on Solar was begun by 15:00, and her wrecked superstructure was cut off to prevent her capsizing. She was moved to New York, where she decommissioned on 21 May 1946. Solar was then stripped of all usable equipment, towed 100 nautical miles (200 km) to sea, and sunk on 9 June 1946, in 700 fathoms (1,300 m) of water. Her name was struck from the Navy List on 5 June 1946.

  [What follows is an eyewitness account for which I have lost all provenenace (very slightly edited):]

"On morning of 4/30/46 I departed the USS Solar DE-221 approx. 1 hr prior to explosion/s.  I had visited with my X-team of ammo handlers (approx. 12) detailed to unload the ships ammo.  I returned to my ship (YF 854) approx. 100 yds. away moored bow to stern with an LST in between.  I never saw any of my x-teammates again.  One of the 3 explosions was a boxcar they were loading with "hedge hogs" whose overhead {roof?} landed about a half a mile or so on the adjacent parallel pier.  The pier along side the ship where the unloading took place had a half moon crater thru about 5' of concrete.  I seriously question that the fatalities were only 7 men of the ships crew.  Thank you ... your web site does bring back memories.  R.J. Whitsitt, then S/2C."

  [The YF 854 was a Self-propelled Lighter which later became the USS Littlehales (AGSC-15) Coastal Survey Ship.]

Here's the Solar before and after:

NWSEarleSolar1  NWSEarleSolar2  NWSEarleSolar3  NWSEarleSolar4

L.-to-R. - Solar in New York harbor on 22 July 1944 with a barge and harbor tug alongside, photographed from a 300-foot altitude by Naval Air Station New York aircraft. || Solar tying up at Leonardo Pier 1 at NWS Earle just prior to explosion || For'ard after the blast || Stern after the blast.

NOW you see why so much stress is laid on Munitions Storage and Handling!

What makes some of the Naval Weapons Stations so unique are NWS Earle's triple-headfed 2.9-mile long pier and NWS Concord's three offshore loop piers, allowing ocean-going vessels to tie up along a marshy tidal shoreline for loading and off-loading, and giving maximum flexibilty for rail movements.

Rather neat shelf layouts could incorporate minimal features such as the piers, a few buildings, the "main" line, highway and rail over/underpasses, some bunkers and some spurs in revetments, such as at NWS Earle:

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

If you want more action and can't fit in a loop, substitute a "FIDDLE YARD" or some such:

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

or at NWS Concord:

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

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 coud 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 the Naval Weapons Stations and define definitively {did I really write that?} the extent of the base, usually extending across adjacent quadrants, as shown on the Earle and Concord quadrant keys:

NWSEarleTopoQuads NWSConcordTopoQuads
{Topo map quadrant keys by S. Berliner, III 13 (l.) and 16 (r.) Aug 2015 - all rights reserved]

USGS Topographical Maps for NWS Seal Beach - extending across adjacent quadrants - Los Alamitos and Seal Beach (all in Virginia), in this case:


[from Long Beach on the west to Huntington Beach on the east]

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]
{* - to within one pixel accuracy}

Most unfortunately, the Seal Beach quadrangle shows only a smitch of the internal base trackage and the Los Alalmitos quadrangle doesn't show any at all - but look at the wild contour lines around the bunkers and revetments!

Because of the significant track mileage noted, 56 miles, I went back to the 1949 topo maps but they are not much more informative:

(click on thumbnailed picture for larger image)
[Topo maps excerpted and joined* by S. Berliner, III 22 Aug 2015 - all rights reserved]
{* - to within one pixel accuracy}

USGS Topographical Maps for NWS Yorktown - extending across adjacent quadrants - Williamsburg, Clay Bank, Hog Island, and Yorktown (all in Virginia), in this case:


[from Williamsburg on the west to Yorktown on the east]

The conjoined Yorktown excerpts:

(click on thumbnailed picture for larger image)
{Topo maps excerpted and joined* by S. Berliner, III 19 Aug 2015 - all rights reserved]
{* - to within one pixel accuracy}

USGS Topographical Maps for NWS Charleston - extending across adjacent quadrants - Mount Holly, Kittredge, Ladson, and north Charleston (all in South Carolina), in this case:


[from Goose Creek in the north to North Charleston in the south]

The conjoined Charleston excerpts:

(click on thumbnailed picture for larger image)
[Topo maps excerpted and joined* by S. Berliner, III 20 Aug 2015 - all rights reserved]
{* - mostly to within one pixel accuracy - the upper ends of the
Mount Holly and Kittredge images were off by three pixels, but almost
every detail lines up and I'm not THAT much of a fanatic!}

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 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.

In 2011, 343 railcars had to be removed from NWS Concord and recycled:



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


Stay tuned - there's lots more to follow!

[See also detailed coverage of Naval Weapons Station Earle and Naval Weapons Station Concord, two other Railroads You Can Model.]


  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