In 1941, could the Germans have produced more locomotives?

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
Avalancheon
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In 1941, could the Germans have produced more locomotives?

Post by Avalancheon » 24 Feb 2018 04:22

After Germany embarked on operation Barbarossa in June of 1941, they relied very heavily on the railways that were seized from the Soviets to supply their troops in the field. Since they failed to capture much in the way of rolling stock, they had to make up the shortfall by diverting trains from within central Europe over to the Eastern front. The sudden vacuum in rail traffic (especially in the occupied countrys) made it difficult to move supplys to Germany, especially the bulk shipments of coal that were their lifeline.

My question is this: If the Germans had made it a priority, could they have produced more locomotives and rolling stock? If so, then what programs would they need to cut back on? Would the benefits of extra railcars have been worth the tradeoff?

Bob423
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Re: In 1941, could the Germans have produced more locomotives?

Post by Bob423 » 24 Feb 2018 16:16

This is my first post in the forum.

You have asked an excellent question that I can answer.

The Germans had an overabundance of rolling stock that they could easily use to supply their frontline units. The problem that the Axis faced was that the Russian Empire standardized their railroad tracks with a gauge of 5 feet or 60 inches. The gauge is the measurement from the inside of the left railroad tie to the inside of the right railroad tie. The Soviet Union kept the Russian gauge as their standard. The entirety of continental Europe had setup their rail lines to the standard gauge of 1,435 mm or 56-1/2 inches. So the axles of a German locomotive or a captured French or Polish boxcar was 3-1/2 inches too small to operate on a Soviet railway. The only way a continental engine or boxcar could operate on a Soviet rail line would require the dismounting of the locomotive or boxcar and the replacement of the axle assembly with 60 inch axles.

Army Group North had an advantage in the beginning in that most of the rail lines in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were still at the standard gauge so the Germans could use the track to supply their soldiers. The remainder of the Soviet Union was a different story including the Soviet occupied areas of Poland and Romania that have been converted to the Russian gauge. The German construction engineer battalions could not rebuild the tracks fast enough from Russian gauge to Standard gauge to keep pace with the German advance so the trains pilled up in massive jams while waiting to be off loaded or for the laborers to convert the track. The condition of the Soviet railways in 1941 was also a severe impediment to the Germans because the Soviets followed the tradition of the Russian Empire in investing and building canals to connect the rivers inside the soviet Union together. The majority of transportation inside the Soviet Union was done by river barges using the existing canal network. Most of the Soviet railways consisted of only a single track with an occasional spur line built in to allow for a train to pull off to the side so a train can pass going the opposite direction. The Germans also fell way behind the advance in laying down new track alongside the existing lines so trains can go in both directions to bring forward supplies to the frontline soldiers. Railroad bridges were also a major bottleneck that would jam up trains in the Soviet Union because the majority of the bridges were build with only a single track crossing them. Again, the German construction of rail road bridges to cross rivers could not keep pace with the German advance.

The greatest weakpoint the Germans had in Operation Barbarossa was the lack of truck companies. The Germans could bring the trains forward until the construction blocked their advance but they lacked the trucks to offload the supplies into that could rapidly deliver what was needed to the frontline soldiers. The horse drawn wagons were just too slow to deliver the supplies to the front. What the Germans actually needed for Barbarossa to succeed was an additional 200,000 to 300,000 trucks.

Avalancheon
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Re: In 1941, could the Germans have produced more locomotives?

Post by Avalancheon » 25 Feb 2018 05:37

Hi Bob, thank you for the response. I knew about the different gauges used in Russia, but not about the supporting role of the canals. Thats definitely an interesting detail.
Bob423 wrote:The German construction engineer battalions could not rebuild the tracks fast enough from Russian gauge to Standard gauge to keep pace with the German advance so the trains pilled up in massive jams while waiting to be off loaded or for the laborers to convert the track.
WRT the railway conversion efforts, the amount of backlog varied from day to day. In optimal conditions, an Eisenbahnpionier battalion could convert the track from broad to standard gauge at the rate of about 20 km per day. I'm not exactly sure how many of these railway pioneer battalions were in action during Barbarossa.

However, I do know that by August 8th, 1941, they had converted 16,148 km of track, and 4414 km of that was in Army Group Centers sector. There was a substantial backlog in the first few months of the invasion, but this wasn't caused solely by slow conversion efforts. It was aggravated by poor discipline in the running and scheduling of the trains, the scorched earth policy of the Red Army, and other things.
Bob423 wrote:Most of the Soviet railways consisted of only a single track with an occasional spur line built in to allow for a train to pull off to the side so a train can pass going the opposite direction.
Just out of curiosity, do spur lines serve the same purpose as a siding? I ask because the German and Soviet railways actually used different operating systems.

The German lines used more sidings and more advanced signalling, which enabled them to run trains at different speeds and safely pass them. Hence, their railways could accommodate a higher volume of traffic than the Soviet lines. This was one of the reasons why, even after the Eisenbahnpionier had converted the lines, they were still not able to move forward all the supplys required by the army.
Bob423 wrote:The Germans also fell way behind the advance in laying down new track alongside the existing lines so trains can go in both directions to bring forward supplies to the frontline soldiers.
Are you sure that the railway pioneers were trying to lay down new track along the single-track lines? Thats a pretty major task. From what I had read, they were focused solely on converting the broad gauge railways as quickly as possible. The task of actually upgrading the lines (by adding depots, signalling equipment, refueling and watering stations) was left to the Feldeisenbahn-Direktion, and even they struggled to do this due to bad organisation and equipment shortages.
Bob423 wrote:The greatest weakpoint the Germans had in Operation Barbarossa was the lack of truck companies. The Germans could bring the trains forward until the construction blocked their advance but they lacked the trucks to offload the supplies into that could rapidly deliver what was needed to the frontline soldiers. The horse drawn wagons were just too slow to deliver the supplies to the front. What the Germans actually needed for Barbarossa to succeed was an additional 200,000 to 300,000 trucks.
Sure, theres truth to that. The German industry should have made a better effort to produce more trucks and enhance the armys mobility. But my question wasn't really aimed at the logistics of Barbarossa. I was simply wondering whether it would have been financially possible for the Germans to make more locomotives and railcars.

After all, the diversion of so many trains to the eastern front caused economic problems that prevented them from achieving a real expansion to the armaments industry. If they had built more rolling stock in early to mid 1941, this would have positive knock on effects for the rest of their industry. More locomotives and railcars means they won't suffer those annoying shortages of coal, which also affects the steel industry! These things are all tightly connected with each other.

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Re: In 1941, could the Germans have produced more locomotives?

Post by PZ38t » 29 Dec 2018 21:47

This one topic, on all else ( long distance supply, movement , for non stop long distance blitz) depends, We know WHAT they did - and did not work - so what if - railway conversion meant several thousand rail cars in Poland re gauged for operation over Russian gauge rail system all the way - on every route- to Moscow and beyond, repair crews left do do only repair work! Admit wider drivers on several hundred locomotives ARE more complex being inter connected - but one and 3/4 inch spacers on each wheel PRIOR to 6-22, would save a lot of grief after!

PZ38t
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Re: In 1941, could the Germans have produced more locomotives?

Post by PZ38t » 29 Dec 2018 22:05

as to more trucks - sorry, forget it - problem with the 500, 000 they did have - no roads ( paved ) for them except the one " invasion highway," - Minsk to Moscow. I love trains - the efficiency of even a tiny train - say 20 4 wheel cars of 30 feet ( total length 600 feet) capacity - 500 -600 tons, equal to about 300 Opel 3000 trucks - with ZERO petrol use for each train - and crew of maybe 5 - to feed!

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Mark in Cleveland, Tn.
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Re: In 1941, could the Germans have produced more locomotives?

Post by Mark in Cleveland, Tn. » 22 Jan 2019 00:18

BoB423,,thank you for the detailed guage and backlog paragraphs. I read a book ma few months ago about the German Armies and their problems in the Eastern Front battles ,and every other page was a refer. to trains being jammed up at some rear area packed with supplies and the Germans saying they could not get the supplies, the author did not expand as to why, your repl;y fills in some gaps I wanted to know.Good answer. thanks

g6337772
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Re: In 1941, could the Germans have produced more locomotives?

Post by g6337772 » 31 Jul 2019 13:23

Actually, they could and did-in sharp contrast to the USSR.I believe the germans produced 20,000 locomotives , and until 1944 their production priority for same was in the top 5.O'brien,"How the War was Won".The soviets shut their rolling stock production down completely after june 1941 and converted it to tanks(they may have produced as few as 100!! locomotives).The Allies did ship 5,000+ locomotives to the USSR as part of Lend Lease

Hanny
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Re: In 1941, could the Germans have produced more locomotives?

Post by Hanny » 05 Aug 2019 14:57

Avalancheon wrote:
24 Feb 2018 04:22
After Germany embarked on operation Barbarossa in June of 1941, they relied very heavily on the railways that were seized from the Soviets to supply their troops in the field. Since they failed to capture much in the way of rolling stock, they had to make up the shortfall by diverting trains from within central Europe over to the Eastern front. The sudden vacuum in rail traffic (especially in the occupied countrys) made it difficult to move supplys to Germany, especially the bulk shipments of coal that were their lifeline.

My question is this: If the Germans had made it a priority, could they have produced more locomotives and rolling stock? If so, then what programs would they need to cut back on? Would the benefits of extra railcars have been worth the tradeoff?
To bring the oil from Roumania to central Germany took 10,000 extra rail wagons, ( it needed 6500 wagons for 1.5 million tons, rising to 10,000 for 2.4 million tons of oil) Germany only had a total of 4000 oil wagons, and built 4000 more in 1940/41 rail lines took, 120k tons of steel, used over 100k labourers and 20k technicians, cost 400,000,000 RM and took 20 months to more than double its rail oil wagon capacity. It was a cheaper option than a pipeline that Goring wanted.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

TheMarcksPlan
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Re: In 1941, could the Germans have produced more locomotives?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 15 Aug 2019 07:11

Bob423 wrote:The problem that the Axis faced was that the Russian Empire standardized their railroad tracks with a gauge of 5 feet or 60 inches.
The gauge-switching issue is overrated IMO. It was a relatively simple operation to change gauges (pull up one rail, move it a couple inches, nail it back down) and the Eisenbahntruppen were able to do this at a rate of ~30km/day - far faster than the strategic pace of the Ostheer (30km/day gets you from Poland to Moscow in 4-5 weeks).

The bigger issue is the quality of rebuilding, not the rate. Germany didn't supply its Eisenbahntruppen with sufficient signals/communication equipment to last beyond 60km. It didn't anticipate that the Soviets would destroy their depots and water stations and therefore made no allowance to replace them quickly. Despite the obvious increase in ton-mileage posed by supplying a massive army 1000km from the Reich, Germany made no effort to build more rolling stock ahead of Barbarossa.

All of these factors meant that, even after conversion to standard gauge, the rail capacity was insufficient to meet army needs.

Re the original question - yes, the Germans could have built more rolling stock. Steel allotments to the railroad industry declined by 56% during early war years; that was from a pre-war state of disinvestment in the Reichsbahn. Later in the war Germany was able quickly to accelerate rolling stock construction.

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