I've been pondering for a while on a concept of using trains as response vehicles for disaster situations. Trains are capable of delivering huge amounts of relief supplies in a relatively quick manner. They could bring in water, fuel, generators, communications equipment, housing, medical supplies, and specialized tools based on the type of disaster encountered. The problem is assembling the consists and having them ready to roll prior to the event.
For situations like hurricane response the effected area would need housing, medical supplies, and water. A train could be prepped with tank cars full of water, box cars with medical stations in them, 20' containers outfitted with living accommodations, and a crane truck to set them out on the ground.
The train could be parked waiting in Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee ... and when called it could reach an east coast disaster region in less than 24 hours. Our weather systems are able to detect general intensity and path of large storms further out than that, which would even give the train(s) time to mobilize before the disaster even occurs and position themselves even closer for when the storm subsides to move in for greatest response effect.
A group in Japan has even made really high tech temporary living facilities in "shipping container" form factor.
I don't think they need to be that fancy, but it is evidence of how much living space can be included in a 20' container. And on a 100 car train there could be 400 such units, which is a lot of houses for people who just lost their homes.
Other conditions for such a response train could be massive forest fires, earth slides, earthquakes, tornadoes ... to name a few (that have had extreme effect in the past couple years).
In addition to the types of supplies I listed above there could be cars with tanks full of fire suppression chemicals, bridge building supplies, trench cutting supplies, spools of high gauge cable, data cable, small helicopters and UAVs, ... on and on.
Parked in the center of the United States with government ordered rail priority it could likely reach anywhere in North America in less than 48 hours with potentially enough supplies and equipment to rebuild a small town.
What do you think? Could trains be effectively used for such a strategy?