It was a train to somewhere.
A video showing more than 100 Bradley fighting vehicles and HEMTT fuel trucks being shipped by train was shot outside of Watsonville last week. It went viral on YouTube and netted hundreds of thousands of views in five days.
Andrew Tuckman originally posted the footage, shot Jan. 19, on Facebook. Two YouTube users uploaded the video the next day, generating 134,000 and 89,000 views, respectively, by Wednesday night.
But the 2 minute, 44 second video created far more questions—and conspiracy theories—than answers. The two versions of the video posted on YouTube had about 1,500 comments between them.
"Oh my, heading for Occupy Salinas! Turn your tanks into tractors, feed the world!" Patrick Putnam commented.
"War with Mexico??" Beverly Young suggested.
Actually it's not that complicated. Interviews with military officials and a railroad representative delivered some answers and interesting factoids.
"In the case of the recent train that was seen moving through the Watsonville area, Union Pacific made the shipment from Southern California to the Portola area," said Aaron Hunt, spokesman for the railroad.
The Portola area, where Hunt said the trains were heading, is in Plumas County, near Reno. Hunt didn't know where the vehicles may be heading from there.
But one astute videographer, who captured the same train running through Morgan Hill, explained it:
Military equipment train loaded with tanks and other vehicles of war rolls through Morgan Hill, Calif. on Jan. 19, 2012. The train originated in Oxnard and is headed to the Sierra Army Depot in Herlong. This train ran as the UP 7623 SOXHR-17 via the Coast Line.
Here's a link to his video. People also posted videos of the train rolling through Castroville and Hayward, though none were as popular as Tuckman's.
So, question answered.
Hunt, whose company owns the rail line east of Watsonville where the train chugged through, said Union Pacific regularly transports equipment for the military because shipping freight by train is cheaper than trucking it.
"A single Union Pacific train can carry as much freight as 300 trucks," Hunt said.
It's also common practice for active duty Army and National Guard units to ship their equipment as part of training exercises, according to Maj. Jonathan Shiroma, California National Guard Army public affairs.
“They train or they rail the tanks in from anywhere in the country," Shiroma said. “What’s likely that could happen is there is a training base in the desert—Fort Irwin.”
Fort Irwin spokesman Donald Ross said a portion of training for each Army unit involves packing and transporting all of their gear, including tanks like what was seen in the YouTube video.
However, Ross didn't claim the tanks that rode the rails in Watsonville.
“Those are Bradley fighting vehicles but I have no idea where they might be going,” Ross said, explaining that the woodland camouflage pattern on the vehicles indicated they wouldn't be coming to Fort Irwin, smack in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
Shiroma offered one exciting possibility for the tanks: that they were heading to the big screen. Some National Guard tanks are being used in the filming of the new Superman movie, which got underway this week.
However, the tanks coming through Watsonville were traveling the wrong way. Shiroma said they weren't the movie extras.