Manhattan Project National Historical Park
Top Secret Technology: Jumbo!
As scientists geared up for the first test of an atomic weapon, questions swirled around the potential success—or failure—of the bomb. Precious materials, like plutonium, could be lost if the test failed. Manhattan Project personnel devised a plan to create a physical containment vessel that could help capture the materials, and Jumbo was born. Designed by the X-2A section of the Los Alamos Lab and manufactured by a company in Ohio, the massive piece of equipment traveled across the country in May of 1945. Weighing in at 214 tons, Jumbo became the heaviest item ever shipped by rail at the time of its transport.
By the time Jumbo arrived in New Mexico, scientists felt more confident about the weapon’s success and thought the vessel would only interfere with data collection. After all of the design, manufacture, and transport hours invested into Jumbo, it endured the Trinity Test suspended from a tower 800 yards away from the explosion. The test destroyed the tower, but Jumbo survived entirely intact. Groves worried that he would catch flak for spending $12 million on a vessel that ultimately served no purpose and ordered it destroyed. Even with eight 500-pound bombs, they only managed to blow the ends off of Jumbo. Today you can still see its remains at the Trinity Site.
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