North African railroads

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Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 03 Jun 2007 18:52

Thanks a lot for pointing to the existence of this Wochenschau on YouTube. This must be the clip you are talking about Lots of interesting footage - the pictures of the German diesel engine being unloaded from the Ankara and loaded onto a road transport wagon which can be found a few pages upthread must come from this Wochenschau. Also some interesting footage of an Italian MZ ferry unloading its cargo of goats (!) and fuel drums.

Best of all, this clip comes with English subtitles :) Although the voice-over should not be that hard to understand. Note that even though it's labelled as a September 1942 newsreel the footage in all probability is from August, which is when the German locomotives were shipped over.

I've compiled some more links to North Africa movie clips on YouTube in this thread:

viewtopic.php?t=105827

...but this clip is the most interesting one I've seen so far.
Last edited by Jon G. on 04 Jun 2007 00:16, edited 1 time in total.

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JeffreyF
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Post by JeffreyF » 03 Jun 2007 18:57

That is nothing there is a clip of sheep being paradropped in Abyssinia. I will have to find it again when I get home.

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JeffreyF
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Post by JeffreyF » 05 Jun 2007 15:18

Off topic: As I promised above.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0gDRKLTu00

Sheep resupply.

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Nacht
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Rommel's Line...

Post by Nacht » 10 Aug 2007 03:48

Friends,

I have a small comment from Rommel himself about the line from Tobruk to El Daba... his 'harbouring of tremendous hopes"...

There is also what is to believed to be a "Hurri" strafing photo of a rare German run train with its limited number of rolling stock with delivery on this line... would readers like me to post the photo and quote from Rommel to accompany this discussion?

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Nacht
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Post by Nacht » 10 Aug 2007 03:55

Strafe...

Image

Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 10 Aug 2007 11:40

That is a very nice picture, Nacht. Is that the shade of the strafing pilot's wingman visible on the left, or is it merely a patch of dark sand? I can't really see if it's one of the German diesels pulling the train or if it's a Stanier. In the latter case, it might in fact be a British train strafed by Axis planes? As far as I know the Axis never operated any captured Staniers - in part because the retreating NZ railwaymen did their best to render any left behind machines unusuable, and in part because the Axis didn't have the coal and water infrastructure needed to run steam trains in eastern Cyrenaica and Egypt.

The very angular-looking front of the engine in the pictures suggests that it might be a Wehrmacht WR 550 diesel; on the other hand the smoke and the apparent smokestack on the engine suggest a Stanier. One of the WR 550 diesels was totalled by a DAF air raid in October 1942, so it might be that very air raid your image depicts?

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Nacht
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Post by Nacht » 19 Aug 2007 21:37

JonG,

Do not know more... Simply wish the photo were a bit more clear but as a gun camera photo goes... it is pretty clear...

I have a single shot of the upturn to left after and this shot. It is simply noted on the back about location... as I noted.

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Post by Jon G. » 20 Aug 2007 19:23

Thank you for that Nacht.

I've assembled some data on Italian stocks of train engines in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica on the eve of war:

Code: Select all

                          TRIPOLI RAILROAD

# of units      Type      Numbers      Year built      Year placed in service
Steam engines                                              in Tripoli
 12             0-8-0t    R.401.1-12     1908               1912
  5             2-6-0t    R.302.10-13&20 1922               1939
  1             2-6-0t    R.302.42       1927               1939
Diesel railcars
  6(?)                                   1938               1938

                          CYRENAICA RAILROAD
# of units      Type      Numbers      Year built      Year placed in service
Steam engines                                              in Cyrenaica
 2              2-6-0t    R.301.21-22    1914               1918
 1              2-6-0t    R.301.33       1914               1918
 1              2-6-0t    R.301.??       1914               1918
 1              2-6-0t    R.302.22       1922               1939
 1              2-6-0t    R.302.35       1927               1939
Diesel locmotives
 4              BoBo      DE 201-4       1940               1941*
Diesel railcars
 2                                       1938               1938

*The diesel engines were sent across in crates. Only one was ever assembled and put to service in Libya.

All steam engines were originally built for the Sicilian rail system but subsequently shipped to Libya as hand-me-downs; the Libyan rail gauge of 950 mm was originally selected because it corresponded with the Sicilian rail system. The Tripolitanian and, especially, the Cyrenaican rail systems were puny by any standard - but some strengthening of the system can be observed around 1939, though that is probably more connected to Abel Balbo's grand scheme for colonization than it is connected to active preparations for war.

All data from E. D. Brandt's book Railways of North Africa

Here is an image of the Italian diesel engine in Barce, probably in 1942:
Image
...I am indebted to Bronsky who very kindly made this image available to me.

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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 22 Aug 2007 11:01

The loco in the picture can't be a Stanier, and the smoke pattern is wrong for engine smoke anyway. Even though it doesn't quite look angular enough (particularly the top) for a German diesel, that's what I'd give the nod to.

And I'm absolutely positive that the Axis didn't capture any (see beginning of this thread).

I'd be happier if the little thingy behind the "funnel" was on the left-hand side, is there a possibility that the picture be reversed?

The caption for the Barce loco reads (my translation): "Barce, 11 November 1942: the first of the 4 diesel-electric locomotives built by Brown Bovery and by Fiat, starts its trial run". The civilian (2nd from right) is Mr Mozzana, a Brown Bovery employee.

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Post by farrelly » 05 Sep 2007 08:04

Someone asked earlier if the rail line from Tripoli to Benghazi and on to Tobruk was ever mapped out/planned by the Italians. The answer is it was, as early as WW1. The Italian plans and route are listed in the British Admiralty Naval Intelligence guide on Libya from 1920.

If the money and desire was there, and perhaps a bit more advanced planning, this line could have been completed by WW2.

Cheers,

Stefan

Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 05 Sep 2007 19:09

Hmmm, I suspect that the intelligence guide must have been misinformed, then :)

The rail system of Tripolitania was originally expanded westwards, i.e. in the direction away from Cyrenaica and Benghazi/Tobruk. The line from Tripoli to Zuara was completed in 1915; the line from Tripoli to Henshir el Abiad (south of Tripoli) was also completed in 1915.

The Cyrenaican rail system, where construction began already in 1911, was originally built to a different gauge than the Tripolitania rail net - 950 mm in Tripolitania and 750 mm in Cyrenaica. The Cyrenaican rail net was converted to 950 mm in 1918 - not in order to link up with the Tripolitanian rail net (which would have been a very big task), but in order to make it possible to use second-hand Sicilian rolling stock also in Cyrenaica. The main line in Cyrenaica was the Benghazi-Barce line, completed in 1927. Another line from Benghazi to Solluch was completed in 1926.

There were plans to expand the Benghazi-Barce line eastwards all the way to Derna, but these plans were never realized - in part because Cyrenaica wasn't fully pacified until well into the 1930s, in part because railroads don't seem to have had high priority in Balbo's grand colonization schemes for Libya.

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Post by Jon G. » 21 Oct 2007 09:21

I recently purchased this highly fascinating book. Lauscher is a true choo-choo enthusiast and it shows - but he also manages a nice balance between pretty pictures and very fact-packed text. Why, BTW, is it that German authors seem to be so much better at this sort of book than Anglo-Saxon writers...? Anyway, Lauscher's book has a short but extremely comprehensive chapter about the Wehrmacht's diesel locomotives in North Africa.

It appears that we (or at least I) have some backtracking to do - according to Lauscher, no less than ten German diesel locomotives were shipped to Libya in the autumn of 1942. I am inclined to believe him, for he makes ample and frequent reference to BA-MA archive files. According to the book, the locomotives arrived at Tobruk according to this schedule:

Code: Select all

               Shipments of German train engines to North Africa

Cargo      Port & date of departure    load date    DoA to Tobruk    unload date

WR360C14    Taranto 03.08.1942           n/a         05.08.1942       05.08.1942
WR200B14           "                     n/a             "            07.08.1942
WR200B14           "                     n/a             "            08.08.1942


WR550D14   Brindisi 06.09.1942         01.09.1942    08.09.1942       08.09.1942
WR200B14           "                       "             "            09.09.1942
WR550D14           "                       "             "            10.09.1942
WR200B14           "                       "             "         10/11.09.1942
WR200B14           "                       "             "         10/11.09.1942


WR360C14    Taranto 17.10.1942         16.10.1942    19.10.1942    20/21.10.1942
WR360C14           "                       "             "         20/21.10.1942

All three shipments were with the Ankara, a ship which was a dedicated train engine freighter as discussed earlier. Shipment 2), above, also included two trucks modified to run on tracks and an Italian workshop wagon. Shipment 3) also carried two track-trucks. Lauscher mentions in passing that the Italians sent 30 of the tiny Badoni shunting tractors across, but does not give a cargo schedule.

Although the three WR-type engines were superficially similar, there were enough mechanical differences between them to make the spare parts situation difficult - sort of a Panzer Division microcosm :) The WR200 were rated for trains with 28 axles, or 150 tons; the WR360 were rated for 42/225, and the WR550 were rated to pull a maximum of 56 axles or 300 tons.

No engines were lost in transit - it's mentioned somewhere that the Ankara practically had its own air escort - but spares did; at some point prior to Oct. 13th a vital cargo with 15 crates of traine engine spare parts was sunk by the British.

The first train bound for the El Alamein front left Tobruk August 8:
Image

Tonnages/month delivered via the captured rail line were as follows:

Code: Select all

Tonnages delivered on the Tobruk - El Alamein line by month

Customer      Aug.      Sept.      Oct.      Nov.

Heer         1020       n/a       1646       973
Luftwaffe     267       n/a        598       
WH combined: 1287      3385       2244       
For Italians 1126      2954       1907

Daily avg.    151       211        134       122
(tons/train)


...according to this schedule:

Image
...note that it took a full 24 hours to cover the distance Tobruk - Mersah Matruh!
Last edited by Jon G. on 22 Oct 2007 17:57, edited 1 time in total.

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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 21 Oct 2007 18:32

Jon G. wrote:It appears that we (or at least I) have some backtracking to do - according to Lauscher, no less than ten German diesel locomotives were shipped to Libya in the autumn of 1942.


Thanks for that. It clears up the discrepancy between our previous sources: mine was only listing the August shipment, and Nacht was missing the last trip.

Small typo: in the first trip, one of the locos was unloaded 5.8.42, not 5.9.42.

Jon G. wrote:...note that it took a full 24 hours to cover the distance Tobruk - Mersah Matruh!


Tobruk to El Alamein = 500 km, or 20 hours at 25 km/h average speed (Badoni shunters, remember?).

Add an 8 hours pause for the night, and the whole the trip took 28 hours.

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Post by Jon G. » 22 Oct 2007 18:37

Bronsky wrote:
Jon G. wrote:...note that it took a full 24 hours to cover the distance Tobruk - Mersah Matruh!


Tobruk to El Alamein = 500 km, or 20 hours at 25 km/h average speed (Badoni shunters, remember?).

Add an 8 hours pause for the night, and the whole the trip took 28 hours.


Lauscher gives the top speed of the Badoni as a mere 10 km/h. There's an almost 12-hour long break in the schedule between Mohalfa and Mersah Matruh - and there's still a healthy bit of distance to cover from Mersah to El Alamein.

There are a few trains going west from Capuzzo in the schedule (empty trains aren't in the schedule) to Tobruk - perhaps trucking supplies shipped in via Sollum back to Tobruk before being assembled in larger trains going back east. That suggests that the railroad running from Tobruk actually had more capacity than Tobruk harbour.

The schedule is for the last week of September 1942, by the way.

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Post by Bronsky » 22 Oct 2007 19:56

Top speed was supposed to be 25 km/h, and the Italian schedule that I saw reflected that. It's entirely possible that practical sustained speed was lower, and German sources would be all too likely to emphasize the low field of the range while Italian sources would quote the high field.

I'm skeptical of supply being unloaded in Sollum and railed to Tobruk, as that port's capacity wasn't maxed out (after August the Regia Marina largely kept away from it due to RAF attacks), also there were intermediate stations between Tobruk and the front so even if shipments had been unloaded in Sollum there would be little point loading them to Tobruk.

My bet would rather be shipments moving back e.g. damaged equipment, wounded, perhaps empty fuel drums, that sort of things.

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