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Awesome Armoured Trains and Rail Cruisers
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Link - article by Simon Rose and Avi Abrams
Armoured train as a symbol of military power, as well as "a symbol of stable stagnation"
Armoured trains usually had a number of railroad cars, equipped with machine guns and heavy artillery, and were heavily protected with armour. The armies of several countries used these military trains during the late 19th and early 20th century and in World War II. Armoured trains were protected by a variety of thick metal plates, but concrete and even sandbags were sometimes used to create makeshift armoured trains in some conflicts.
(Czech troops on an armored train in Irkutsk, Siberia - photo taken in 1918, via)
Once trucks, tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other military vehicles became more effective and possessed sufficient firepower, the days of the armoured train were numbered. The trains and the tracks they operated on were very vulnerable to attack from the air, despite their protection, and the tracks could also easily be sabotaged with explosives.
Armoured trains were used in the American Civil War (1861-65), the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and in the Boer War in South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century. The Russian Empire, which was to see extensive use of armoured trains in the first half of the twentieth century, used them during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). Armoured trains also saw action in the years of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20 and in World War I (1914-18).
This "railroad battery" from 1861 (see below) was used to protect workers during the American Civil War:
(illustration from Frank Leslie Illustrated Newspaper, 1861 , via)
This train (shown below) is seen transporting British soldiers in Egypt in 1882. It isn’t as well protected as later armoured trains, but is equipped with a Nordenfeldt Gun, an early machine gun that was eventually superseded by the Maxim gun in the 1880s:
(the armored train in Egypt, via)
In World War I, among others, one of the armoured trains used by the Russian Army were the Zaamurets. These were self-propelled rail cars equipped 57 mm cannons and machine guns. It could move independently or be used to pull other armoured wagon trains. Armoured trains also played a large role during the Russian Civil War. The Zaamurets shown below traveled halfway across the world on the Trans-Siberian Railway, passing from the Bolsheviks, to the Chinese Nationalists, and then to the Japanese:
Here are a couple of armoured trains used in Russia by the opposing sides in the years of bloody conflict that followed the 1917 revolution:
When World War II began, the Soviet Union had a lot of armoured trains, but many of these were destroyed or damaged when the Germans invaded in 1941. The trains used later in the war had turrets usually fitted onto tanks and some were even armed with huge naval guns transferred from ships:
(image credit: Alexey Grachev)
Some specialized Soviet armoured trains were equipped for anti-aircraft duties. This MBV -2 armoured train from World War II (above) can be viewed at a tank museum near Moscow.
The MBV-2 (seen below) was deployed on the Leningrad Front in 1942, while the bottom image is from the 14th Separate Armored Train Battalion in early 1944:
(images via 1, 2)
The Soviet military greatly valued the MBV-2 and the trains were frequently fitted with different types of guns. German armoured trains of World War II were often used almost as mobile forts on the Eastern Front. The Soviet trains (below) acted in more of a supporting role for army units, able to perform reconnaissance in an area and also attack any German infantry or tanks that they encountered:
This book in Polish (left, below) covers Soviet armoured trains used in the 1930s and in the early years of World War II. Trains deployed from 1941 to 1945 are the topic of the book in the middle. Both books have a summary and photo captions in English, for those who are interested in delving deeper into the subject:
(right image: "Armored Train in Action", 1915 painting by Gino Severini, Museum of Modern Art, New York, via)
The left picture shows armoured train number 695 of BP-35 type, supported by armoured railcars. On the right is the armoured locomotive BR-35 in 1942:
Humongous Railway Gun (used during the siege of Leningrad)
This railway gun of the TM-3-12 model (below) can be seen at the St. Petersburg Outdoor Train Museum. This was not part of an armoured train, but was actually built with others in the late 1930s using guns taken from a battleship and placed on a rail chassis. It was used in World War II, but captured by the Finns and used during the siege of Leningrad. When Finland ended their war with the USSR in 1944, the gun was handed over as part of the peace agreement:
(image credit: Tekhnika Molodezhi magazine, 1975)
(image credit: Andrei Korchagin)
The train on the left has its guns pointing skyward, as they might once have done to target the Luftwaffe on the Eastern Front:
(images credit: Rob Dickinson; bottom image Nataliya)
Here's the impressive armoured train "Zheleznyakov", used to defend Sevastopol in World War Two. The lettering reads "Death to the Fascism!"
(image credit: Sevastopol Photo)
At the beginning of World War II in September 1939, Poland used armoured trains after the German invasion. The trains were used to move troops around, but the trains and tracks were heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe:
Some armoured trains were escorted by a draisine, which was kind of like a tank that ran on rail tracks. These were mostly used for advance scouting, patrols along the track and similar tasks. Sometimes, armoured cars were converted into vehicles that could run on tracks, but most draisines were built specifically for this purpose. This armoured draisine (left) was built in Czechoslovakia for Polish armed forces in 1920s and 1930s. On the right is a Polish draisine captured by the German forces during the campaign in Poland in September 1939:
(images via 1, 2)
This armoured train from World War II (below left) is on display in Poland. The one on the right can be seen in the Warsaw Railway Museum, but is a Panzertriebwagen, a German heavy armored train built in 1942. It was used on the Eastern Front and was captured at the end of the war. Polish forces then used the train for a couple of years, before it was retired and placed in the museum:
Germany didn’t use armoured trains as much as their Soviet counterparts did, but had trains that were very well equipped. The Germans had heavily armoured locomotives that were used to pull the trains and some railcars were fitted with anti-aircraft gun turrets. Some cars were also designed with ramps to be able to carry and deploy tanks. The BP 42 train on the right was apparently used in some movies after the war:
(images via 1, 2)
This is the command wagon of the BP 42 train (left). On the right are a few examples of German rail cruisers from World War II:
(images credit: Thomas T., 2)
The Slovak resistance used three armoured trains during the Slovak National Uprising in the fall of 1944. A replica of the Hurban train is on display near the castle in Zvolen, Slovakia, and two original cars are preserved in the local rail repair shops:
(images via 1, Greg)
After 1945, some countries still used armoured trains in the Cold War, including French forces during the war in Indochina. Most recently, armoured trains were employed in the conflict following the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the Russian military also used modified armoured trains (left) during the fighting in the Caucasus. On the right, Russian troops are shown manning a gun on a train during the war in Chechnya:
Imaginary Armored Trains
What about this fearsome looking armoured train, from the post-apocalyptic video game Transarctica? This is actually the famous Rodney Matthews painting "Heavy Metal Hero", see it here:
(right image credit: Rodney Matthews)
This train is also from video game, the World War II themed Rush for Berlin, but gives a reasonably accurate depiction of the German armoured trains of the era:
Here's another imaginary armoured train, a Polish model made for Flames of War, featuring an unusually-shaped battlefront assault car:
(images via 1, 2)
Here's a neat sci-fi concept for an armoured train, designed by Martin Kornelius Dahl:
(image credit: )
Gothic Armor on Rails
And finally, this is a hand-built model of the armoured train from the War Hammer 40K universe, made by the guys from the Games Workshop studio team:
Article by Simon Rose and Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.
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