EYGELSHOVEN ARMY DEPOT, Netherlands –
After five years of being out of commission, the Eygelshoven Army Depot rail line is now back to full operations.
U. S. Army Garrison Benelux Commander Col. Lindsay Matthews celebrated the momentous occasion alongside local installation staff and mission partners with a ribbon cutting ceremony May 19.
“This is a big win,” said Erica Nowells, Eygelshoven Army Prepositioned Stock-2 (APS-2) site manager. “Now we have multiple ways of supporting [Army Field Support Battalion-Benelux (AFSBn-Benelux)] with their mission throughout Europe.”
The U.S. Army acquired the Eygelshoven Army Depot in 2016, turning it into an APS-2 site and the headquarters for the AFSBn-Benelux.
From the very start, the 65-year-old rail line previously used to transport heavy equipment was deemed unfit for use.
“Rail is so important in Europe,” said Dwayne Key, USAG Benelux-Brunssum deputy garrison manager. “Only three [APS-2] sites actually have rail, so the ability to deliver this type of infrastructure to the 405th [Army Field Support Brigade] and the Army is really significant. Making sure our tenant’s mission is always protected and ready to execute – that's what we’re here to do.”
However, before work could begin on renovating the rail many steps had to be taken to prepare for the project.
Due to Eygelshoven residing in the Natura 2000 protected nature area of the European Union, ecologists had to carefully gather and relocate endangered species over the course of many months near the potential worksite.
Additionally, the rail line crossed over privately-owned properties, requiring additional coordination with the landowners before construction could begin.
After years of prep, work on the rail line started in late 2022 with the help of a local Dutch rail construction company.
“That was a turning point that started to change things to feel more encouraging—when you start to feel that this is actually working [and] will actually be successful,” said Jill Wandoloski, general engineer for Benelux Directorate of Public Works and contracting officer representative for the rail project.
Construction on the rail line progressed quickly, with the company replacing each layer of the track. New sand was brought in, and the previously unstable smooth rock bed (ballast) was replaced with sturdier angled rocks. Special weather and insect resistant wood was sourced for the replacement rail crossties since the protected nature area restricted use of chemical treatments, such as creosote.
“Wood was the best option, so we special ordered Azobé wood from Africa,” said Wandoloski. “It is naturally a hard wood—it doesn’t require any special treatment.”
French drains were also installed on either side of the track to collect water run-off.
“We were really concerned with run-off of water. Water is always a problem,” said Wandoloski. “[For this reason] normally the rail is the highest part of the land.”
This wasn’t the case for the Eygelshoven rail line since some of the private property had been built up around it, potentially leading to watershed onto the track. The French drains provided a solution for this problem.
The construction company finished the project within the predicted timeline, working in adverse weather conditions at times. Additionally, they gave credit back to the Army since the original rails were in solid condition and able to be reused.
“We came in on schedule and under budget which never happens in construction,” said Wandoloski. She said she feels that 50 more years of rail line use was money well-spent.
Lt. Col. Stephen Blake Smith, AFSBn-Benelux commander, agreed. “The rail line improvement at Eygelshoven...provides Army leaders and planners even more flexibility and options for our strategic theater plans.”
He explained that adding rail transport to the sites pre-existing transportation options would allow AFSBn-Benelux to support requests throughout the European theater even more effectively and praised the strong host nation partnership that helped make the project a reality.
“We look forward to showcasing this renewed capability in future theater support operations, and believe it is yet another highlight of the strong U.S.-Dutch relationship on display at Eygelshoven,” he said. “Our people are the true difference makers and will ensure we remain ready to execute our important mission.”