Panzerdraisine (1942-44)

Nazi Germany - c30 draisines.

The wide family of German armoured draisines

Tank trolleys or Draisines of the Wehrmacht where needed, as operations on the Eastern Front bogged down. Now with a more static frontline, communications lines needed to be protected by late 1942. Soon it became more urgent in 1943 to devise a solution as gradually partisan multiplied more ambitious operations, notably in the Balkans, Greece and Yugoslavia. Alonsgide regular tanks placed on railway cars and able to dismount, the Heer expressed the need for independent draisines such as those fielded by Poland and Czechoslovakia among others.

Supplies became absolutely vital in 1942-43 and to keep a well-functioning supply system meeting its quantitative requirements, the railway connections needed to be monitored and protected against partisan attacks. For thios was designed a serie of armoured draisines (panzerdraisinen) for the Wehrmacht. As required in late 1942, they needed to highly mobile. The frist to come put were the light reconnaissance platoons (le.Sp. 301 to 304) and later heavy reconnaissance platoons (see Col. 301 to 210). These draisines soon became just as important as main armored trains or auxiliary railway armored trains. They were declined, often in common railway car basis, to railway protection and command trains, and declind into multiple variants, the more fearsome of these being the railway tank destroyers (Panzerjäger).

The backbone of these light and heavy reconnaissance train units were their armored draisines declined organically into infantry, artillery, radio and command cars, a completely new development of the German armaments industry at the time. There was no such thing as armoured draisines in german service prior to 1942. These vehicles had their own propulsion and coupling system to allowed other self-propelled units to be joined together, the manoeuver made from the protected inside.

The infantry cars were the basic versions, used to transport infantrymen with four turret machine guns for fire support in two casemates fore and aft. The artillery car was created by combining and infantry car and a heavier draisine equipped with a Panzer III Ausf. N. turret. It was the trusted 7.5cm KwK L/24, same used in early Panzer IV variants. The radio and command cars had a central casemates (also with MGs) and a distinctive bedframe antenna on top.

Heavy reconnaissance platoons:

The schweren Spähzüge were formed September 15, 1943 and comprising:
  • 1x Kommandantenwagen (commander's car)
  • Zugtruppführerwagen (Infanterie) (platoon driver's car)
  • 2xInfanteriewagen (troop transports)
  • 1x Pionierwagen (engineering vehicle)
  • 1x Zugtruppführerwagen Artillerie (artillery platoon command car)
  • 4x Artilleriewagen (artillery wagons)
  • 2x Flakwagen (anti-aircraft cars, 2cm Flakvierling)
  • 2x Panzerträgerwagen mit Skoda Pz 38 (t)(Panzer 38 (t) on flatcar)
  • 1 Spähpanzer (Schienepanzer) Panhard 204 (Railway Reconnaissance Car)

  • Hiwever as the war progressed, this nice scheme of armoured train was cut down to the following:
  • 2x command cars
  • 2x infantry wagons
  • 2x pioneer wagons
  • 2x artillery wagons
  • 2x Flakvierling flat cars
  • 2x Skoda Pz 38 (t) flatcars
  • 2x supply flatcars (Abstoßwagen mit u.a. Gleisbaumaterial) with spare tracks and repair equipments
  • 1x Dampflok (steam locomotive, when gasoline was in short supply)

  • In the Balkans, such train was observed:
  • 2x gewöhnliche Waggons (middle utility flatcars)
  • 4x multi-purpose infantry wagons
  • 2x artillery wagons
  • 2x FLAK cars
  • 2x flatcars with Somua or Pz 38 (t)
  • 2-4x additional flat cars
The artillery cars were generally built with surplus or retrieved Panzer III or Panzer IV turrets fitted with L/25 75 mm short barrels. They lacked antitank protection, which could be offered by the Panzer 38(t) carried, but by 1944 to deal with better Soviet tanks such as the T-34/85, it was decided to add either dependent tank hunter railcars the panzerjägerwagen railcars or draisines with better turrets such as the Ausf J and it's long barrel 75 mm. Only three of these were apparently ever built due to shortages.

Light reconnaissance platoons:

The leichten Spähzüge consisted of four command cars, six multi-purpose cars. They escorted supply/passenger trains. It obviously lacked AA fire, artillery support or even antitank defense.

Leichter Panzer Draisine Kanonenwagen

First model with two-bogies base. The Panzer Draisine was a self propelled heavy railway unit armed with a short barrel gun mount on a Panzer III Ausf M turret, and armed with up to five machine guns: The turret coaxial, two on either side in hatch mounted pistol ports (the doors and hatches were interverted from left to right). The base version had slab sides armour, slightly sloped up and down on both sides but much more fore and aft. There were smaller vision hatches, two on either sides, two on the forward plate and two on the back plate.

Little info is available on the powered railcar built as a base for the frame and armour cover, likely just enougb to resist small arms fire and splinter. The central section was reinforced by a cage that acted as support for the ring mount and Panzer III turret. In it took place the commander and his own panormaic hatch aft and center, the gunner and loader on either side of the gun. Being from an Ausf M, it carried the same number of ready rounds in the turrets, with more in the hull below. The crew could amount six men, including the turret crew (3) and two MG-gunners plus a mechanic. The tank commander was likely the draisine commander as well.

No info on the speed and autonomy of these vehicles (yet). They were a more odular, flexible basis, to be operated alone or joint in composite "trains" counting also an infantry draisine, command, engineering and supply vehicles, for vulnerable sections of the railway, and use against partisans on rear lines from the frontline in Russia to back in the Balkans. They were also used in Italy from 1943 to 1945.

Schwere Panzerdraisine (1945)

Same as above, three heavier, twin axles bogies and longer hull but same hull design, created to support Panzer IV turrets. The Kanonenwagen Heavier variant used Mark B/C turm. Same basic hull than the Leichter Pz.Draisine K.Wagen but with twin bogies. The tank-hunter variant used the Panzer IV ausf J turret with the long barrel 75 mm guns, and was called the Schwere Panzerspähwagen Ausf J pr Panzerjäger ausf J. There were also alternative variants on two and four axles bogies with a different armour design, with tiered faces and back upper plates.

Schwerer Spähzug (s.Sp.) Artilleriewagen

Another type was the Schwerer Spähzug (s.Sp.) Artilleriewagen, self-propelled draisine, railcar and railway wagon, equipped with a 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 low-velocity gun in a PzKpfw III Ausf N turret. It fought in Germany by 1944. The Artilleriewagen combined a standard Panzer Draisine hull, at first created for a command and infantry model, reinforced to carry the turret from a Panzer III Ausf. N. The latter mounted the 7.5cm KwK L/24 firing either high-explosive and if needed, a few AP shells in bad enounters. As partisans lacked armor, it was often enough to break an ambush. The vehicle was likely to carry a few infantry as well and in any case, had four machine guns posts, sometilme with just two MG.34 or 42 that were just mounted on the ports facing the attack.

Closely related: Steyr Armoured Trolleys

Steyr of Austria was directed by the Wehrmacht to built a serie of reconnaissance draines, lightly armed, called the L2670 leichtes panzertriebwagen.

The light armoured reconnaissance trains Panzerzug (le.Sp) 301 to 304 created on 16 September 1943 were sent to the Balkans. No 301 operated in March and April in Serbia in the Ujse-Raska region and was destroyed at the end of the year. No 303 would be captured at the end of the war and No 304 was destroyed. To the best of our knowledge only one of these trolleys survives, in Trieste, being the one used by the British in their zone.

Steyr built the trolleys which would form the heavy reconnaissance armoured trains Eisenbahn-Panzerzug (s.Sp) Nos 201 to 210 on the mechanical base (chassis and motor) of the le.Sp. Train PZ (s.Sp) 201 was created on 5 January 1944 then was sent to the Balkans, where it would be captured at the end of the war. Nos 202, 203 and 204 became operational on 10 January 1944, 21 February 1944 and 23 March 1944 respectively, and were also sent to the Balkans. Nos 205 to 208 were built between April and June 1944. The last two in the series were not completed, at least one of them being captured at Millowitz in April 1945.

Note: To be followed by more updates. Portal Page.

Others

Panzertriebwagen No. 16



Panzertriebwagen No. 16 (PO PzTrWg 16 or PT 16) - German heavy armored motor car , powered by a diesel engine with an output of 550 HP driven by a Voith hydraulic transmission, was produced by the German company Berliner Maschinenbau-Gesellschaft Actien vormals L. Schwartzkopff in 1942. It is based on type WR 550 D14 armored locomotive, then fully encased in armor and equipped with two additional crew members for the armored artillery positions on the two ends of the unit. They were initially armed with two 20 mmanti-aircraft gun - 2 cm Flakvierling 38 - but were modified by the crew members. The armament were replaced with Russian 76.2 mm FK 295/1 artillery cannon (as found on type BP42 armored trains). The thickness of the armor of Panzertriebwagen No. 16 ranged from 31 to84 mm. This vehicle was the heaviest single-rail armored vehicle. Only one copy was built, which fought on the Eastern Front.

In 1943, PzTrWg 16 was a reserve weapon, which was used to patrol areas threatened by the guerrillas. In the spring and summer of 1944 it was deployed to Army Group Centre. It saw action in the battles of Rawa Ruska andLublin, then withdrawn toRadomafter moving the front to the west. From August to September 1944, it ran the stretch of Kielce, patrolling the railway lines to Krakow, Skarzysko and Radom. In April 1945 PzTrWg 16 took part in the battles of Neuruppin. On 1-2 May 1945, it was captured intact in Neustadt (Dosse).

Galerie


Panzer Draisine with Panzer III Ausf M turret, Italy 1943


Same, camouflaged, Greece 1943.


Experimental early Schwere Panzer draisine with a Panzer IV Ausf C turret, 1942


Schwere Panzerspähwagen Ausf J



Ovrview of the artillerie Draisine


Schwerer Spähzug (s.Sp.) Artilleriewagen in winter (model kit art)


schweren Spähzüge


Coupled infantry, command and artillery draisines


Examples (top) or a command and artilelry draisine (all:pinterest)

Sources

bp42-44 on panzerbaer.de
Schwerer Panzerspähwagen (Artilleriewagen) fingolfen.tripod.com
Schwerer Spähzug s.Sp. (1944)
inet.hr/steelpanthers
pzdraisine on panzerbaer.de





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  • References

    blog.railwaymuseum.org.uk
    armedconflicts.com Russian Trains
    warhistoryonline.com
    feldgrau.com ww2 german trains
    cuttersguide.com
    wikipedia.org/wiki/Armoured_trains_of_Poland
    derela.pl/drais
    derela.pl/tatra.htm