Although train tracks cross many parts of Iraq, it’s rare, if ever, that trains actually run on them.
However, work is under way in Taji, north of Baghdad, to change that by re-establishing the railroad lines of the Taji Qada, which have lain unused since 2003.
The first test run of a refurbished locomotive on the old tracks was conducted Wednesday, officials said, with the locomotive rolling through the gates of Camp Taji.
“This particular train … is part of a proof of principle,” Capt. James Kerns, assistant operations officer for the Base Defense Operations Command, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, was quoted as saying in a news release.
“[This work was done] to facilitate the Iraqi railroad infrastructure improvement so they can, in the future, utilize the train and rail system to carry goods.”
Officials hope that by getting trains back on track, goods — and Iraqi security forces and supplies — can be moved more quickly and avoid the dangerous roads.
“It’s an enduring mission. The Iraqi railroads are being put back in, and it’s going to change the face of Taji,” Maj. Henry McNealy, operations officer for the base defense command, was quoted as saying.
“It’ll become a consistent train; hopefully, over time, the infrastructure of Iraq will be rebuilt.”
One of the hopes this year, McNealy said, is to open the “rail going all the way from Mosul to Baghdad — being unimpeded by criminal elements, al-Qaida in Iraq or special groups.”
Conducting, maintaining and navigating the locomotive to Camp Taji was done by Iraqis with U.S. oversight, officials said.
“This is going to help out a lot if the train makes it every time,” said 1st Sgt. Dwalyn Dasher, of Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery.
“If you have two or three guys in a truck, you’ll have 50 guys driving a bunch of smaller trucks. [With the rail system operational], you’ll have less guys out there on the road and less chances of casualties happening.”
Battery B is tasked with security at the Camp Taji train yard.