Germany & railway bottlenecks in the east

Discussions on WW2 in Eastern Europe.
Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 10 Jun 2004 10:08

Qvist wrote:
I think some of the unwarranted optimism with which the Germans invaded the USSR in 1941 was due to their very successful use of railroads in 1914
I seem to remember though from Creveld that the Germans had extremely large problems keeping their advance supplied through Railways in 1914, mainly because of absence of means to move supplies up from the railheads to the advancing troops. What you are describing is rather an advantage in speedy mobilisation and pre-war deployment. Once the German armies crossed the frontier it was a different story - as in 1941.

cheers
Yes. Not that Creveld is the final authority on everything, but he is one of very few historians who pay more than passing attention to German use of railroads in war, but his chief point seems to be that the 1914 advance did not break down due to the inadequacy of the Eisenbahntruppen, but rather despite of it. There were alternative means of supplying the troops when the railroads fell behind schedule.

In 1914, the troops could still to a degree get away with living off the land for many of their needs (especially fodder); this was not the case in 1941.

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 10 Jun 2004 10:18

Hi Shrek

Presumably you mean "there were NO alternative means of supplying the troops when the railways fell behind schedule"?

Anyway, given that the Germans suffered very great supply difficulties during the drive through Belgium and France in 1914, this hardly could have given much cause for excessive optimism in 1941. And the Germans actually did practice quite extensive "living off the land" in Russia during WWII, for everything from clothing, shelter, firewood, food and fodder (as you know, there were still one or two horses around in the Wehrmacht in 1941 :D ) to panje wagons.

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Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 10 Jun 2004 10:24

Qvist wrote:He means trains, which is frequently used a standard measure. But what exactly constitutes "a train" is a good question - I've always wondered about that too, and have never seen it defined anywhere.

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Handbook on German military forces p. 305-306 uses these type definitions:

K-Trains (Kraftfahrzüge) - avg. 51 cars per train, carries c. 250 soldiers, 20 heavy vehicles (but no tanks), 20 light vehicles and other equipment.

S-Trains (Sonderzüge), for tanks - avg. 30 to 35 cars, carries from four to eight tanks, 125 soldiers, and other equipment. Tanks are distributed out along the entire length of the train.

Sp-Trains (Sonderpanzerzüge) - avg. 33 cars, carries approx. 20 medium tanks, as well as personnel and other equipment.

I-Trains (Infanteriezüge) - approx. 55 cars per train, holds about 350 soldiers, 10 light and 10 heavy vehicles, 70 horses, as well as other equipment. Up to 800 men can be carried in this train type if equipment carried is cut back to a minimum.

Maximum vehicle weight in non-S and Sp trains is stated as 22 tons.

It is furthermore stated that a double-track railroad has a daily capacity of 30 military trains in each direction; single-track railroads have a capacity of 10 trains each way.

Train requirements are stated as 'about 35 to 40' trains for an infantry division, twice that number for an armoured division. Also, if a larger number of divisions are moved, additional trains will be needed for corps and army units.

Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 10 Jun 2004 10:34

Qvist wrote:Hi Shrek

Presumably you mean "there were NO alternative means of supplying the troops when the railways fell behind schedule"?

Anyway, given that the Germans suffered very great supply difficulties during the drive through Belgium and France in 1914, this hardly could have given much cause for excessive optimism in 1941. And the Germans actually did practice quite extensive "living off the land" in Russia during WWII, for everything from clothing, shelter, firewood, food and fodder (as you know, there were still one or two horses around in the Wehrmacht in 1941 :D ) to panje wagons.

cheers
Of course the Germans would live off the land to as wide an extent as possible - but in 1914, food and especially fodder (of which you will find much more, I am sure, in a Belgian village in August and September 1914 than you would in a White Russian village in June and July 1941) constituted a much larger part of supplies needed than they did in 1941. You won't find any gasoline (crucial in 1941, but not in 1914) lying around in the villages you advanced through, and certainly no artillery shells.

The basic difference is one of severely hampered supply in 1914, versus a breakdown of supply in 1941.

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Foelkersam
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Post by Foelkersam » 10 Jun 2004 14:02

Thanks for the info Shrek, really nice. Do you know how many wagons they had on each train? (of cource this vary due to type of load and type of locomotive) But, maybe some figures.

By the way, new avatar?

/David

Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 10 Jun 2004 14:36

You're welcome, David :) I rather like the shark.

It is specified that the Germans tried to carry self-contained units on their troop trains as far as it was possible - so if a train carried a battalion, it would carry all the battalion's weapons etc. too.

Cars=waggons, in my terminology. Additionally, trains would carry Flak flatcars, and a guard (?) car at the end of the train. For example, a Sp-Train would consist of locomotive, followed by two 22-foot flatcars, followed by seven 35-foot flatcars, then four 26-foot boxcars, a 22-foot AA car, and finally 18 27,6-foot flatcars with stanchions, finally a 27,6-foot 'guard car' (=caboose with soldiers?) apart from the AA car, this train seems to be made up of standard stock railcars - the S-Train, on the other hand, would include special 36,7-foot flatcars for 'Tiger' tanks.

---

Handbook on German military forces is by no means always correct, and it is somewhat tedious to read - but it's pretty good for quick reference, since it pays attention to more trivial matters also - such as content of field rations, number of cigarettes distributed per day to combat troops (seven, in case you were curious, but only to troops in forward areas), descriptions of petrol operated dough mixers for field bakeries, and trains!...

It's available in a 1990 reprint from Lousiana State University Press and well worth its 39,95$ tag. Amazon probably has it.

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baldviking
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Post by baldviking » 10 Jun 2004 20:08

This German military handbook uses the phrase "cars", not "axles"? I am just curios as I might be participating in an reenactment of a military train (not german) next year and all handbooks here in Norway uses the number of axles to describe a train, since there are both 4-axles bogie cars and 2-axles cars in use since the 1890's.

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Post by Jon G. » 10 Jun 2004 20:27

Yep - cars, not axles. I assume that at least the longer cars (+24 feet) would have four axles arranged in trucks, or bogies :), whereas the rest presumably have only two axles each.

BTW, said handbook also mentions that '...The standard trains found in the Balkans, Italy and Norway are composed of fewer cars than the base types in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands which are described below [the train types I described]...'

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baldviking
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Post by baldviking » 11 Jun 2004 08:50

This thread is becomming very interesting, my primary interest beeing railways. Can any one recommend good books on railways, logistic and war (WW2 or other)? I would prefer written in english, but I am able to read german if necessary. Writer, title and ISBN would be perfect. :wink:

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 11 Jun 2004 11:11

The best (and in fact only) general study I have come across so far is Martin van Creveld's "Supplying War. Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton". It's available from amazon.co.uk, and it's not that expensive either.

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Post by Jon G. » 11 Jun 2004 14:34

Many books, even fairly general ones, mention military use of railroads - but for synthesis, I am likewise only familiar with Van Creveld's book. That applies for the study of logistics too - too many writers get away with a few generalist remarks about logistics, quite often with a reference to Van Creveld.

Pretty picture books of armoured trains and so on are probably easy to find, but then I don't think that's what you are after :)

The German army handbook I mentioned is quite good, though sometimes in error - it's good for the nitty-gritty stuff and hard numbers, but it contains practically no analysis. It's intended as a simple work of reference.

I have been promising myself the Jentz books for a while now, but still haven't gotten round to actually purchasing them - is there any specific mention of movements of panzer units by train in those?

Michate
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Post by Michate » 14 Jun 2004 08:57

Here are some further infos (and for all people able to read German, two scholarly German sources) covering this topic.

(This is taken from a German forum: http://forum.panzerlexikon.de/index.php ... #entry4814 Many thanks to Jörg Wurdack who provided that information oiginally.)

For a transport train on average 800 tons in total were calculated, which meant 400 tons supplies after subtraction of locomotive and wagon weights.

In November1941, shortly before the crisis in front of Moscow, the following figures are given:

Daily trains needed for normal supplies:

Army group North 20
Army group Center 32
Army group South 22
sum eastern front 74 trains daily, (ca. 29,600 tons daily).
This means per month 2220 trains or 888,000 tons.

actually arrived on eastern front:
September 1941: 2093 trains
October 1941: 1860 trains
November 1941: 1701 trains
December 1941: 1643 trains
January 1942: 1420 trains

Sources:
- Schüler, Klaus: Der Ostfeldzug als Transport- und Versorgungsproblem. In: Wegner, Bernd (Ed.) Zwei Wege nach Moskau. Vom Hitler-Stalin-Pakt zum "Unternehmen Barbarossa". München 1991, p. 203 - 220
- Kreidler, Eugen: Die Eisenbahnen im Machtbereich der Achsenmächte während des Zweiten Weltkriegs. Einsatz und Leistungen für die Kriegswirtschaft. (= Studien und Dokumente zur Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges, 15) Göttingen 1975

Best regards,
Michael

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