Armored trains are trains that have been equipped with armor plating, weapons, and other defensive and offensive equipment in order to protect them from enemy attacks during times of war or civil unrest. These trains were first used in the mid-19th century during the American Civil War, but they became especially popular during World War I and World War II.
The use of armored trains allowed military forces to quickly transport troops, weapons, and supplies across long distances, while also providing a mobile base for soldiers to launch attacks from. The armor plating on the trains protected them from small arms fire, shrapnel, and other types of weapons, while machine guns, artillery, and other weapons mounted on the trains allowed them to engage enemy forces.
Armored trains also played a role in the Russian Revolution, with both the Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik forces using them during the conflict. In addition, armored trains were used in the Spanish Civil War, the Chinese Civil War, and other conflicts throughout the 20th century.
While armored trains are not as commonly used in modern warfare due to advances in airpower and more sophisticated ground-based weaponry, they remain an important part of military history and a symbol of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of military planners during times of crisis. However the cold war saw its rapid decrease in popularity, as it was too conspicuous and easy to destroy at a time of air power and increase intel. Still, having a mobile platform of operation hidden in a dedicated tunnel, that can be armed for any defense or offense, armed with ballistic missiles for example, was considered, if not translated into reality. If anything, troops are still transported by train, at least for part of the trip today, but there is not armored train in service anywhere.
Danuta and Poznańczyk (N°11 and 12 in 1939) were probably the most famous Polish Armoured Trains. Veterans of three wars (WWI, Polish-Soviet war, WW2) they had been modernized in the interwar by Cegielski Works and KBPP in Poznań, notably with new armoured artillery wagons, T3i armoured locomotives and assault wagons. They took part in the harsh combats on September 1939, illustrating themselves in fierce defence.
The MBV-2 was the heaviest WW2 self-propelled armoured carriage. Two were made by the Kirov Factory in 1938, armed each with six machine guns and three T-28 tank turrets. They were rearmed during the war with L-11 for one, and F-34 for the other, from the T-34/76 of the 1940 and 1942 types. They served with the Leningrad Front, 14th Independent Armored Train Battalion. On is now preserved at Kubinka.
The Panzerspähwagen 178 P 204(f) Schienenpanzer was based on the French Panhard AMD-35 reconnaissance armored car. c190 were captured b the Wechmacht after the capitulation, and c40-43 of these were later recycled in 1941 as reconnaissance draisines, screening in front of supply trains and looking for partisans and saboteurs in Russia. They all served on the Russian Front used until the end of the war...
Better known officially as the "Constitutionalist Revolution", this Brazilian civil war is certainly less well known that the Spanish civil war of 1936-39, bit it was as bitter and hard-fought, with as much modern technology as was the latter, but concentrated on barely five months. Trains were intensively used, and several TB series trains were used by the loyalists, as well as a few by the rebels, including several armoured ones such as the famous "Fantasma da Morte".
Birth in 1840s
The idea of carrying troops rapidly using train is not new, but almost went back to the birth of the train itself. The core idea behind the train, which almost precluded the internal combustion engine powered automobile by 80 years, was that the musteting of enough steam power for towing any load, needed the express condition to be based on the smoothest surface possible to minimize friction to the minimum, and thus, made the best of the available output, which was weak at the time. Image; the pioneering Trevithick's 1802 Coalbrookdale locomotive.
The only way to achieve this perfect surface was to built it, and the railroad concept was born. It practically never changed from the early XIXth in basic concept: The Railway Track is essentially composed of longitudinal iron (and later steel) beams as rails, fasteners, railroad ties and ballast or slab track, plus the underlying subgrade. The task of building one railway track was soon assimilated as building a road, but with even more care and accuracy, by planning far by advance the path through forests and mountained, rivers and such. This went in pair with the birth of civil engineering and the XIXth industrial revolution.
Indeed, tunnels had to be bored, and bridges had to be constructed over any obstacle, sometimes both in succession. The railroad, became soon an unmistakable symbol of human ingenuity on an untamed landscape, crossing the land without obstruction from coast to coast and symbolizing modernity. It was soon an obligatory show for any industrialized nation to criss-cross its own territory for a dense network and efficient timetables.
The first iron rails laid in Britain were at the Darby Ironworks, Coalbrookdale, in 1767. Steam locomotives were introduced in 1804, but the track then in use, adapted for mine work, proved too weak to carry their weight. Richard Trevithick's locomotive for example broke the Pen-y-darren plateway track but progresses were rapidley made in the 1810s and 1820s, with better rigid track formations. The technique adopted was to have iron rails mounted on stone sleepers, plus cast-iron chairs holding them in place. Eventually these were supersded by flexible track structures, which became the norm.
In all capitals, grand buildings shaped and thought as palaces raised off the ground, often under state subsidies: The railway stations became soon a source of awe and wonder. Not only for their appearance and size, but also soon for what they did not show, the promise of a long and safe travel for days on end. It became clear at the end of the XIXth Century that soon any point in Europe would be reachable by train, and nations opened their network to allow this, sometimes with resistance. The Train really eased travel for a century for millions of Europeans and Americans, enabling economical growth in a way that was unimaginable before, notably long travel of goods, sometimes from a country to another. This was the end of a localized economy and the birth of globalized one.
However its use for transporting troops made sense for some countries, like France and Germany, that soon saw a way to rapidly muster troops on their border, a perfect recipe for a rapid mobilization. The train could also carry guns, ammunitions, horses for the supply train or an organic cavalry unit as well. From the "landing point", troops would dismount and advance to take position, rested. This was in stark contrast of Napoleonic style of warfare when troops were limited to their pace, had to rest for the night, and needed a huge baggage train to follow them.
The case of Prussia/Germany
Prussia only really saw an interest in having a train for military operation after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, when it took, various private, commercially oriented lines under Prussian state control through annexation, purchase or conditioned financial support. Between 1880 and 1889 all the existing lines and assets were nationalised thanks to Prussia's strong financial situation. In 1870 already, they played a role in bringing rapidly troops to the border with France, although this was still a fraction as the rest of "Germany" (a collection of sovereign states) had no uniform railroad policy yet.
France also had a comprehensive railroad network but it did not took full advantage of it. Under Napoleon III, if industry and finances were given a boost, new lines and stations being created, French mobilization was halp-hazard and really dragged on, which enabled German troops to muster larger forces from the start (It did not explains fully the French defeat in 1870, but was a part of it). It should be noted that the us of trains for troops deployments and supply was not a European but American invention: It was developed as an art form during the American Civil War seen in detail below.
In WWI, Germany, now united at Versailles as an Empire following Bismarck's victory, made of of its priorities of standardizing and developing its railroad network much more extensively, now thought of as a rapid mobilization tool. It must be said that aside this, the 1870-1890s "colonial race" between Europan nation was also translated by the creation of railways in Africa and Asia or the Middle East. Although dairly paid by local populations (like in Belgian Congo) it nevertheless created new ways of transportation intended to boost economical profitability at first, but which stayed as a benefit for the concerned countries future economies in the cold war.
WWI erupted and when war was declared, troops mobilization largely counted on trains to be effective. In fact the image of freshly recruited troops outfitted from the barracks kissing their loved ones on the quays as their train departed for the front, marked collective imagination, most hoping for a short war. In this exercize, the concerned nations were not all at the same foot (to be continued...).
Armored Trains of the American Civil War
Armored trains were not used during the American Civil War as the technology had not yet been developed. However, there were some armored railroad cars used by both the Union and Confederate armies during the conflict.
The Union army used several armored railroad cars, known as "ironclads," during the war. These cars were essentially flatcars that had been fitted with iron plates on the sides and roof to protect them from enemy fire. The ironclads were used to transport troops and supplies across the front lines, and they were also used to protect troops during battle.
The Confederate army also used armored railroad cars during the war, but they were not as heavily armored as those used by the Union. The Confederate cars were typically fitted with iron plates on the sides and had loopholes for small arms fire, but they did not provide as much protection as the Union ironclads.
Overall, the use of armored railroad cars during the Civil War was limited, and they were not as effective as other means of transportation, such as wagons and steamboats. However, they did provide some protection for troops and supplies during transport, and they helped to pave the way for the development of more advanced armored trains in the years that followed.
Trains nevertheless played a very important role in the American Civil War, serving as a crucial means of transportation for troops, supplies, and equipment. The use of trains allowed armies to move quickly and efficiently across long distances, which was particularly important given the size of the country and the vast distances that had to be covered during the war.
Both the Union and Confederate armies relied heavily on trains during the conflict, with rail lines and stations becoming strategic targets for both sides. The Union had an advantage in terms of railroad infrastructure, as they had more tracks, locomotives, and rolling stock than the Confederacy. However, the Confederacy also made effective use of their railroads, using them to transport troops and supplies throughout the South.
One of the most famous examples of train use in the Civil War was the use of the B&O Railroad during the Battle of Monocacy in 1864. Confederate forces under General Jubal Early attempted to capture the railroad, which was a key supply line for the Union army, but were ultimately unsuccessful.
Trains were also used for medical evacuation, with specially equipped trains used to transport wounded soldiers from the battlefield to hospitals and medical facilities. This was a significant development in military medicine and helped to improve survival rates for injured soldiers.
In addition to their military uses, trains played a role in the war effort on the home front as well. Railroads were used to transport goods and supplies to cities and towns throughout the country, helping to sustain the war effort and keep civilians fed and clothed.
Overall, the use of trains during the American Civil War demonstrated the importance of transportation infrastructure in modern warfare and helped to pave the way for future developments in military logistics and transportation.
Armored Trains of WW1
Hungarian MÁVAG armoured train in 1914
Armored trains were first used on a large scale during World War I. These trains were primarily used to transport troops and supplies across the front lines, but they were also used as mobile fortresses, providing cover and protection for troops in battle. The Germans were the first to use armored trains during the war, and they quickly became an important part of their military strategy. The trains were heavily armed with machine guns and artillery pieces, and they were protected by thick armor plating. The Germans used the trains to transport troops and supplies to the front lines, and they were also used to support infantry units in battle.
The Russians also used armored trains during the war, primarily to transport troops and supplies across their vast empire. The trains were heavily armed and armored, and they were used to protect Russian troops from enemy fire. The British and French also used armored trains during World War I, but they were not as heavily armed or armored as those used by the Germans and Russians. The trains were primarily used to transport troops and supplies, and they were equipped with light machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.
Overall, armored trains played an important role in the military operations of several countries during World War I. They helped to transport troops and supplies across the front lines, and they provided cover and protection for troops in battle. However, advances in technology, such as tanks and airplanes, soon made armored trains less effective, and their use declined in the years following the war.
Austria-Hungary: MAVAG Typ AE panzerzug
Belgium: Light armoured train
Belgium & United Kingdom: Heavy "Anglo-Belgian" armoured train
Germany: Deutsches Heer armoured train
Russia: Zaamurets armoured train
South Africa: South African Engineer Corps armoured train
LNWR coastal armoured trains ("Norma" and "Alice")
GNR(I) armoured train
Royal Navy armoured train
Simplex armoured train
Uganda Railway armoured train
Armored Trains of WW2
A German BP42 armoured train in the Balkans, 1943.
Armored trains were used extensively during World War II by various countries, including Germany, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Romania. These trains were essentially locomotives that had been outfitted with armor plating to protect them from enemy fire, and they were used to transport troops, weapons, and supplies across the front lines.
The Germans used armored trains extensively on the Eastern Front, where they were used to support infantry units and to transport supplies and equipment. One of the most famous German armored trains was the BP 42, which was heavily armed with machine guns, artillery pieces, and anti-aircraft guns. The train was also equipped with searchlights, flamethrowers, and smoke generators, making it a formidable weapon on the battlefield.
The Soviet Union also used armored trains extensively during the war. The most famous of these trains was the "Red Arrow," which was used to transport troops and supplies to the front lines. The train was heavily armed with machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, and artillery, and it was protected by thick armor plating.
The Polish Army also had several armored trains, but they were not as heavily armed or armored as those used by the Germans or Soviets. The trains were primarily used to transport troops and supplies, and they were equipped with light machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.
In addition to their military uses, armored trains were also used to transport prisoners and concentration camp inmates during the war. The Germans used several armored trains to transport prisoners to concentration camps, including the infamous "Holocaust trains" that transported Jews and other prisoners to their deaths. Overall, armored trains played an important role in the military operations of several countries during World War II, and their use helped to shape the course of the war.
Cold war Armored Trains
A RT-23 Molodets in the Saint Petersburg railway museum
During the Cold War, armored trains continued to be used as a means of transporting troops and equipment across the front lines. However, they were not used as extensively as they were during World War II, as advances in technology had made other means of transportation more effective. The Soviet Union continued to use armored trains during the Cold War, primarily to transport troops and supplies to its western border. These trains were heavily armed and armored, and they were designed to withstand a nuclear attack. The Soviet Union also used armored trains to transport nuclear weapons, as they were considered to be more secure than other means of transportation.
The United States also had armored trains during the Cold War, but they were not as heavily armed or armored as those used by the Soviet Union. The trains were primarily used to transport troops and supplies to military bases, and they were equipped with light machine guns and anti-aircraft guns. Other countries, such as China and North Korea, also had armored trains during the Cold War. These trains were primarily used to transport troops and supplies, and they were equipped with light machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.
Overall, the use of armored trains during the Cold War was limited, as other means of transportation, such as airplanes and helicopters, had become more effective. However, these trains remained an important part of military strategy, and they were used in a number of conflicts during the Cold War, including the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Armored trains by Steve Zaloga, illustrated by Tony Bryan. Summary:First seen during the American Civil War and later appearing in the Franco-Prussian War and the Anglo-Boer Wars, the armored train came to prominence on the Eastern Front during World War I. It was also deployed during the Russian Civil War and the technology traveled east into the Chinese Civil War, and the subsequent war with Japan. It saw service on the Russian Front in World War II, but was increasingly sidelined by its vulnerability to air attack. Steven J Zaloga examines the origins and development of the armored train focusing equally on the technical detail and on the fascinating story of how armored trains were actually used in combat. This title will appeal to armor, military history and railroad enthusiasts alike. From the Trade Paperback edition. preview
Simpson, James (17 July 2015). "A Remarkable Armored Train Fought Its Way Across Eurasia". Medium.
Zaloga, Steve (2011). Armored Trains. Oxford, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Sasaki, Tōichi (1963). Aru gunjin no jiden (in Japanese). Futsūsha. p. 54
Section of a German armored train with a Panzer IVH turret.
"Kozma Minin", T-34/76 turret-armed wagons.
Zaamuretz rail-cruiser: A siberian far east armoured train surveying the border with Mongolia and China. Previously called "Orlik", Captured by the Chinese: Zaamurets was built in Odessa in 1916. It entered service with the Russian Imperial Army in October of that year. It saw service in the First World War in Galicia. The train was captured by the Red Guards in January 1918, and renamed Lenin, after which it was employed during the Russian Civil War. It was then combined with another train, the Khunkhuz-type BP No.3, and renamed BP No.4. It was deployed to the Trans-Siberian Railway to help counter the Czechoslovak Legion's use of armoured trains. In July 1918, soon after its arrival in the area, it was captured by the Legion and renamed Orlik (Czech: Orlík). As the Legion retreated to Vladivostok along the Chinese Eastern Railway in April 1920, the train was captured by the Japanese Imperial Army at Hailar, Inner Mongolia, following a skirmish known as the "Hailar incident" in which over 20 Japanese soldiers died. The commander of the Siberian Expeditionary Army Ōi Shigemoto later gave it back to the Legion in Harbin, after which it was given to White Russian forces in September 1920 upon the Legion's return to Czechoslovakia. The White Russians, allied with the Manchuria-based Fengtian clique, then utilised the train in battles in China during the Warlord era. It was finally captured by the Japanese Kwantung Army in 1931 and renamed Train No. 105, after which its history is unknown
Piłsudczyk (Polish pronunciation: [piwˈsutt͡ʂɨk], pron. Peewsudchyk) was a Polish armoured train of the early 20th century. It was among the first armoured trains serving the Polish Army and took part in the Polish-Ukrainian War of 1918-1919, the subsequent Polish-Soviet War and the Silesian Uprisings. Kept in reserve during the inter-war years, it was mobilised again in 1939 to be used during the Nazi-Soviet Invasion of Poland. "Piłsudczyk" was destroyed by its crew on 20 September 1939 at the train station at Mrozy.
German armored Trains
Various Configurations of Wehrmacht armored train wagons in WW2
Chinese Armored Trains
Warlord era nationalist armoured trains, Cheng Shan I, 1928 and 1932
Russian Armoured Trains
Various wagon configurations in WW2, Soviet armoured trains.
V2 Launcher Train 1945
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V2 Launcher Train 1945
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Polish WW1 Armoured Trains
The Polish Army made extensive use of armored trains during World War I. These trains were used to transport troops and supplies across the front lines, and they were also used as mobile fortresses, providing cover and protection for troops in battle. The Polish Armored Trains were heavily armed with machine guns and artillery pieces, and they were protected by thick armor plating. They were used to support infantry units in battle and to provide cover fire during attacks. The trains were manned by a crew of soldiers, who also operated the weapons and machinery on board. One of the most famous Polish armored trains was the "Pilsudski," named after the Polish military leader Józef Piłsudski. The train was equipped with two artillery pieces, four machine guns, and a searchlight, and it was manned by a crew of 58 soldiers. The Pilsudski was involved in several battles during the war, including the Battle of Zadwórze in 1915 and the Battle of Kaniów in 1918.
Red Army WW2 Trains
Various Types of Red Army Wagons and Trains
"Blinder" The first armored train used by the British in Egypt, 1882
Spanish Civil War Armored Trains
Armored trains played a significant role during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Both the Nationalist forces, led by General Francisco Franco, and the Republican forces used armored trains extensively during the conflict. The Nationalist forces, supported by Germany and Italy, had several armored trains that were equipped with machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, and light artillery. These trains were used to transport troops and supplies across the front lines and to provide support for ground troops during battles. One of the most famous Nationalist armored trains was the "Alcazar Express," which was used to transport supplies to the Nationalist stronghold of the Alcazar in Toledo. The Republican forces, supported by the Soviet Union, also had several armored trains that were used to transport troops and supplies across the front lines. These trains were equipped with machine guns and light artillery, and they were used to support ground troops during battles. One of the most famous Republican armored trains was the "Jaime I," which was used to transport troops and supplies during the Battle of Teruel in 1937. The use of armored trains during the Spanish Civil War demonstrated the continued importance of trains as a means of transportation and support for ground troops. However, advances in technology, such as tanks and airplanes, soon made armored trains less effective, and their use declined in the years following the conflict.