North African railroads

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Nacht
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Post by Nacht » 19 Apr 2007 13:06

Jon,
Since we had the Tunisian map posted... I thought the Libyan map should also be considered... I had simply not looked at it closely enough... to understand the road and rail interplay.

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Post by Jon G. » 19 Apr 2007 21:58

Looking closer at the map, it's evident that it must be post-war, and probably post-1959 too, which alas makes it less useful for our purposes. Oil fields are indicated on the map. Some oil was found in the 1930s but commercial exploitation of Libya's oil fields did not really begin until the 1950s. The Zelten oil field, which is evident on the map, was only opened by Esso in 1959.

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Post by Jon G. » 20 Apr 2007 15:22

Here is a map of Mersah Matruh, clearly showing the unusual rail layout. Trains had to leave Matruh the same way the came in. The map was drawn post-war, but it's based on WW2-era data, so should give an accurate idea of what Matruh and its surroundings looked like during WW2.

Image

...sorry, by the way, for getting a little carried away with all the maps I've found. I've always been a sucker for pretty maps.

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Post by Jon G. » 22 Apr 2007 19:19

...and, to compliment the map I've posted here viewtopic.php?p=1048221#1048221 here's a connoisseurs-only picture of Tripoli railroad station and its immediate surroundings:

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Post by Bronsky » 25 Apr 2007 09:30

Regarding coal needs in French North Africa, the report is right that the place needed imports but the quantities mentioned seem high. Needs stated by the French as part of their negociations with the German armistice commissions were lower - this is from memory and I'd have to check - though perhaps the difference could be explained by the greater projected use of railroads by the Americans.

At a macro level, I wonder what amount of coal / fuel was consumed by railroads anyway?

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Post by Jon G. » 26 Apr 2007 07:55

Bronsky wrote:Regarding coal needs in French North Africa, the report is right that the place needed imports but the quantities mentioned seem high...


I have no opinion to offer on whether the stated quantities are high or not, but by way of possible comparison, Marks (in the interdiction book which I've recommended before) mentions that Sicily needed 50,000 tons of coal a month, and that this was a serious drain on Axis shipping right up to the end in Tunisia.

Wilson mentions 50,000 to 60,000 tons of coal a month delivered from France; do you know if these shipments were terminated when the Axis took over unoccupied Vichy and Tunisia? Or did the Germans oblige themselves to shipping coal to French North Africa? Perhaps that can explain why coal stocks were small.

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Post by Jon G. » 26 Apr 2007 09:02

On a different note, I recently acquired E. D. Brandt's book Railways of North Africa. There's precious little juicy stuff in it, and the chapter on Libya's railways is by far the shortest in the book. The modest scale of the system is mentioned - Libya was too thinly populated to justify the systematic construction of railroads. The 950 mm gauge was apparently chosen for both Tripolitania and Cyrenaica because that gauge was already in use on Sicily, meaning that rolling stock was readily available.

Total Libyan rail stock used in the previous 12 months as of June 30th 1939 is given as 15 steam engines, 17 passenger coaches, 151 goods wagons and 22 water tank wagons, which were needed by the steam engines in order to extend their range. Also, four diesel 'rail cars' were imported to the Benghazi branch in 1938. It's furthermore mentioned that six steam engines were shipped to Tripoli in 1940, and another two steam engines shipped to Benghazi the same year. Also, and interestingly, Brandt writes that four 500 hp diesel engines were imported to Cyrenaica in 1940. These machines were originally intended for East Africa but were 'diverted because of the war'; I wonder if that simply means that they couldn't get out of the Mediterranean post-May 1940, rather than different Italian war priorities.

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Post by Bronsky » 26 Apr 2007 18:54

Jon G. wrote:I have no opinion to offer on whether the stated quantities [of coal needed by French North Africa] are high or not


I have a ton of stuff on that topic, which I need to sort out and it's just too warm to dig up the wartime deliveries.

From a prewar (late 1938) document, here are monthly coal consumption / production figures. All figures are metric tons per month, always in the following order: Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco.

Peacetime consumption (including 46% bunker coal): 20,000 / 125,000 / 16,667
Forecasted wartime needs (not counting bunker coal): 13,333 / 58,333 / 11,667
Forecasted wartime production (after 6 months): 6,667 / 12,500 / 25,000 [IIRC these figures were never met - LC]

Stock as of 30 Nov 1938: 90,000 / 180,000 / 60,000

Jon G. wrote:Wilson mentions 50,000 to 60,000 tons of coal a month delivered from France


I show a monthly average of some 45,000 tons between March 1941 and September 1942, with American deliveries adding a very small fraction to that total.

Jon G. wrote:do you know if these shipments were terminated when the Axis took over unoccupied Vichy and Tunisia?


What do you think? :-)

Jon G. wrote:Or did the Germans oblige themselves to shipping coal to French North Africa? Perhaps that can explain why coal stocks were small.


1. The coal stocks mentioned in the US report are in Morocco, not Tunisia.
2. I'm not sure exactly how much coal the Germans sent (next to none would be my bet), as opposed to living off the land, as usual. The Wehrmacht attitude to logistics was pretty much that of a locust swarm.
3. Coal was low in North Africa because German deliveries to France were way down in the first place, and France itself was a net coal importer (all the more so with its coal-producing northern regions under German military administration), so supply was never sufficient.

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Post by Bronsky » 26 Apr 2007 19:00

Jon G. wrote:Also, and interestingly, Brandt writes that four 500 hp diesel engines were imported to Cyrenaica in 1940. These machines were originally intended for East Africa but were 'diverted because of the war'; I wonder if that simply means that they couldn't get out of the Mediterranean post-May 1940, rather than different Italian war priorities.


Make that post-June and you'll be right on, IMO.

I believe that the pictures I sent you (not the Tripoli one, the other 3) represent these machines. (if the train experts disagree, I can look up the narrative again to refresh my memory) They had just finished assembling one in November 1942 and were putting it through its trial runs in late November (one of the pics is dated 23 Nov IIRC) when they were forced to abandon them to the Allied advance.

The British found one usable machine, another partly-assembled one, one in crates and the last one I don't remember. I believe they tested them but essentially left them alone as they had little use for them.

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Post by Jon G. » 26 Apr 2007 20:48

Bronsky wrote:...
Jon G. wrote:do you know if these shipments were terminated when the Axis took over unoccupied Vichy and Tunisia?


What do you think? :-)


Heh, well, I think that the Germans probably issued some bland promises for coal - promises which they then promptly proceeded to forget. But I wasn't sure, and with the Italians being part of the equation it could have been more complicated. Perhaps the Italians wanted to use French colliers serving their own coal needs on Sicily and Sardinia.

Or did the Germans oblige themselves to shipping coal to French North Africa? Perhaps that can explain why coal stocks were small.


1. The coal stocks mentioned in the US report are in Morocco, not Tunisia.
2. I'm not sure exactly how much coal the Germans sent (next to none would be my bet), as opposed to living off the land, as usual. The Wehrmacht attitude to logistics was pretty much that of a locust swarm.
3. Coal was low in North Africa because German deliveries to France were way down in the first place, and France itself was a net coal importer (all the more so with its coal-producing northern regions under German military administration), so supply was never sufficient.


Yes, but I had assumed that a shortage in coal-producing Morocco would also mean a shortage of coal in Tunisia and Algeria.

Thanks a lot for the coal figures and, particularly, for the choo-choo pics :)

The locomotives look right to me. I'm adding one of your images here - it looks like a factory picture from Brown-Boveri's Milan works, which is where the diesel engines were built.

Image

I'm mildly mystified by the rail cars, though. Brandt states that they were delivered to the Benghazi rail system in 1938, not the Tripolitania rail network. After the Axis had been kicked out of Libya the Allies proceeded to ship train engines from Cyrenaica, and even from Eritrea, to Tripolitania, and some westwards expansion of the rail net was initiated. But December 1942 is too early for that.

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Post by Bronsky » 27 Apr 2007 15:29

Jon G. wrote:Heh, well, I think that the Germans probably issued some bland promises for coal - promises which they then promptly proceeded to forget.


Try: "Morocco and Algeria were in Allied control, Tunisia was a war zone, the Germans weren't in the business of humanitarian relief" - as far as I can tell, they never even bothered with a promise :-)


Jon G. wrote:I'm mildly mystified by the rail cars, though. Brandt states that they were delivered to the Benghazi rail system in 1938, not the Tripolitania rail network. After the Axis had been kicked out of Libya the Allies proceeded to ship train engines from Cyrenaica, and even from Eritrea, to Tripolitania, and some westwards expansion of the rail net was initiated. But December 1942 is too early for that.


I'm not sure I understand what you're mystified about. Of the pictures I sent you, only one is on the Tripoli network, presumably captured there by the Allies. The other 3 - including the one above - are on the Benghazi - Barce network.

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Post by Jon G. » 27 Apr 2007 15:59

Bronsky wrote:...I'm not sure I understand what you're mystified about. Of the pictures I sent you, only one is on the Tripoli network, presumably captured there by the Allies. The other 3 - including the one above - are on the Benghazi - Barce network.


I'm not sure just how many others consider this interesting, but as long as we do I suppose we're fine :) Anyway, here is the picture which you sent to me of the rail cars:

Image

According to the text below the photo, the picture was taken in Tripoli. But according to Brandt's book which I referred to above, the rail cars were delivered to Benghazi, not Tripoli, in 1938. Of course, it could just be the caption which is wrong.

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Post by Jon G. » 28 Apr 2007 21:27

Hmm, I somehow managed to miss that two rail cars were also shipped to Tripoli in 1938 according to Brandt. No doubt that's the two shiny-new looking rail cars on the picture above. Pardon the confusion. These two rail cars were the only non-steam traction on the Tripolitania network until the British began shifting captured rolling stock from Cyrenaica and Eritrea westwards after the Axis had been kicked out of Libya.

There was little 950 mm rolling stock to be found, so the British in fact began converting the Tripoli-Zuara (west of Tripoli) line to 1000 mm gauge. There were plans to extend this line further westwards to support the 8th Army's advance into Tunisia - rails from this extension would come from other, less essential lines. But it came to naught and instead the Tripoli-Zuara line was converted back to its original 950 mm gauge.

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Post by Jon G. » 28 Apr 2007 22:28

Here is a detailed map from the P502 collection which I've been systematically plundering the last few days. The cropped 1:250,000 map shows the railroad line from Bengazi to Barce.

Image

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Post by JeffreyF » 03 Jun 2007 17:49

Yesterday I located a clip on youtube that shows Germans operating a train in Libia. Just use Italy africa or Italia africa as the keywords and it is one of the german newsreel clips that someone has recently posted iirc. It starts off with some convoy shots and then unloading material in port iirc. Just wanted to post this before I forgot about it.

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