On Wednesday, February 22, 1984, a man in Emporia, Kansas, saw the White Train traveling north through town on the Santa Fe/Wichita rail line. It was just past noon in Washington state when a reporter called the Ground Zero Center to relay the message. By 10 p.m. on Friday, February 24, the White Train was locked behind the fences of the Trident submarine base at Bangor, Washington. But it did not make the trip unnoticed. What followed that message from Emporia is a story of vigilance and waiting, of prayer and protest.
The "classified" bills of lading for this journey of the White Train probably would have read "St. Francis to Bangor." St. Francis is the train station nearest the Pantex plant, the final assembly point for all U.S. nuclear weapons, outside Amarillo, Texas. Bangor is the site of the naval submarine base, home port for the Trident fleet. This was the fourth trip to Bangor since December, 1982, when the first such nuclear weapons shipment had been sighted (see Sojourners, February, 1984).
Unlike that December 1982 train, which was not noticed until it was a few hours from its destination, this train was recognized a few hours after its late-night departure. Known as the "White Train," "Death Train," "Nuclear Train," or the "Bombs Train," it is gaining national prominence. No matter what it is called, it is a train whose cargo of nuclear warheads is more deadly than 1,000 Hiroshimas.
From Emporia, Kansas, to Bangor, Washington, throughout Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon, this all-white, heavily guarded train was sighted and tracked by a network of peace-loving people. Shortly after the first call, a second sighting was recorded. Looking out the window of the Acapulco restaurant just south of Topeka, a customer saw a train pass by. He had seen the White Train previously, so he knew what was passing before his eyes.