Our Shared History: Cincinnati Union Terminal & the Military
Train stations were where everyone went to see their loved ones off to war and where brave men & women were welcomed home – Cincinnati was no exception. Union Terminal, like most rail facilities around this country, witnessed a huge increase in military transport traffic during WWII. Those increases repeated during the Korean Conflict and again, somewhat, in the early stages of the Vietnam War.
Cincinnati Union Terminal was conceived during and built for pre-Depression traffic levels; it was severely under-utilized during the Depression, not uncommon across the country. Unlike every other major station but Los Angeles, Union Terminal was virtually still a brand-new building when WWII started. Cincinnati was in the unique position of being able to offer excess capacity and modern facilities to the war effort just when it was needed most. These qualities – combined with a Midwestern location at the heart of the Eastern rail network – made Cincinnati Union Terminal a valuable asset and high-volume facility for the military.
Regularly-scheduled traffic quickly swelled with ‘unscheduled’ troop transports beyond the Terminal’s planned capacity of 216 trains per day. Official numbers record highs of 275 trains per day is misleading. As many troop trains were too large for even CUT’s 2,400-foot platforms but those larger trains had to be broken into smaller sections for loading and unloading. Each section then required its own switcher and crew to move it through the Terminal, essentially making the volume about 400 trains per day.
The collection includes Cincinnati Union Terminal Company official records – this archive is a history of the ways CUT played a vital support role throughout the major wars and conflicts of the mid-20th century. Time is of the essence – and not just because of document deterioration; since these records aren’t currently accessible to the public, this rich history only lives in the memories of the servicemen, -women and Terminal Co. personnel who lived it. Those folks, all members of our Greatest Generation, are leaving us at a tremendous rate, something on the order of 1,000 people nationally per day.
As several of our members are veterans, this part of our collection holds a very special place in our hearts. Help us tell their stories and that of the Terminal during some of our finest hours as a nation and a people before it’s too late.What Does This Have to Do With YOU?
CRRC is putting the word out to everyone who’s had friends or family in the military, particularly those who have used the rail system during their service. In order to preserve this rich history for future generations, we’re gonna need some help – donations of time and money, in particular.
By scanning everything and then cataloging it electronically on the Web, anyone will be able browse, peruse, research, or even buy reprints and merchandise for their very own – all from the comfort of their own pajamas.
CRRC is doing it right, hiring professionals with the expertise to make high-resolution scans, catalog the items, prepare them for archival storage, and build a searchable database. But this is the best part – the pros aren’t the only ones who get to play. We can all help and claim a part of this for ourselves. You can share in the sheer joy of discovering that hugely cool photo, map, drawing or document that no one living today has ever seen. Click on a link and find another item that confirms a story about something you may have thought was only a legend, or – even better – tells a story that you knew nothing about.
It’s easy to get involved. Please continue around this site – everything you need to get started is here. Welcome aboard!