Germany winning on the Eastern Front

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flakbait
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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by flakbait » 15 Jan 2014 11:18

Was not aware the Soviet RR was THAT `effective` ! It STILL boils down to no matter how much arms, guns, tanks, food, fuel, bombs, ect you have, if in the end you CANNOT easily and QUICKLY get them to WHERE they are NEEDED WHEN they are needed then do not bother...you have LOST.

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Der Alte Fritz
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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 15 Jan 2014 12:51

The Soviet railways underwent a huge level of expansion between the 1928 end of the New Economic Plan and 1938 the end of the 2nd Five Year Plan with more level growth from 1938 to 1940. This is illustrated in this diagram below:

Image

In terms of traffic growth: 1928 Germany had 1.2 million tonne kilometers per km of track with the USSR the same. By 1937, after the Depression German traffic had grown 7% while the USSR had grown to 4.2 million t km per km a four fold increase.

Freight traffic for 1937 for Germany was 79 757 net tonne kilometers while the USSR was 354 839 net tonne km.

The problem for foreign observers (until post war US economists such as Howard Hunter got a full set of statistics) was that the US system comprised 680,000 km of track 47,500 locomotives and 1,776,000 wagons and 958,280 employees so the heavy traffic of approx 400,000 net tonne km is in direct comparison to European networks like Germany which had 54,000 km of track, 20,482 locomotives, 570,595 wagons and 700,000 personnel with a traffic of 80,000 net tonne km. The USSR system is similar in size to Germany in terms of network, locomotives, wagons but has a freight traffic close to that of the USA. Hence the high track utilization. They were able to achieve this because the USSR railways are run in an American style (large trains, long hauls, unit trains, bulk freight) while the German network ran a typically European/British network (small trains, short hauls and lots of small freight parcels ). The Soviet railwaymen were able to achieve high traffic volumes because they carried bulk - 10% of the lines carried 30% of the traffic (trunk lines) mainly bulk raw materials to the industrial centres in the Donetz or Urals.

The difference between the USA and USSR networks is that the US used mechanisation to lower labour costs (fewer staff) while the USSR had low labour costs and so used high levels of staff to maintain and run a more basic system. Similarly the US used high quality rails (high rail weight, lots of sleepers, modern fastenings and good ballast) to lower maintenance costs and labour while the USSR used low quality track but had high maintenance costs done by its numerous staff. The price the USSR paid for this was that its trains ran at slow speed rather than the higher speeds run by US trains.

Damage to rails is proportionately related to axle loading, (double the axle loading and damage increases by 16 times). The maximum axle load for modern trains on high quality rails is around 40 tonnes, above this and the rail is just crushed under the weight. Speed is more variable due to high speed effects such as "hunting" and wear going round corners at speed but as a rule of thumb it is that you increase the speed by 20% you reduce the axle loading you can use by 8% to keep the level of wear the same. During the 1930s the Soviet Union raised the average speed of trains from a sedate 7 km/h in 1928 to around 23 km/h in 1940 but this was still less than German freight trains who expected an average speed of over 40 km/h. The conclusion is that the Soviets avoided rail damage by running large slow trains with low axle loadings of around 9 tonnes (2 axle wagons carried 18 tonnes average load by 1940) and locomotive axle weights of 15 tonnes in the E class. They got maximum flow by all the trains on a line running at the same speed, no passing, no waiting, less signals required as blocks can be very long.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by LWD » 15 Jan 2014 15:05

Der Alte Fritz, Many thanks for your posts on railroads in several recent threads. Things that hadn't quite made sense to me before are becoming much clearer.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 15 Jan 2014 15:45

Well I would be happy to try and answer any specific questions you have.

The basis for a lot of this work comes from Prof. Holland Hunter at Haverford College who is one of those academics with no Wikipedia entry but has been slaving away at the 'coal face' of Soviet Economics for over 50 years and his work is still highly rated by such people as Prof Mark Harrison at University of Birmingham UK (author of "Accounting for War"). See his Soviet Transportation Policy (1955) right through to Faulty Foundations (1992).

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by LWD » 15 Jan 2014 16:22

When I've had specific questions I have asked them and you have given very good answers. But one of the big things was that it just seemed like the Soviet RR were over performing compared to the German ones and I couldn't understand why (and indeed just kind of put off the question) here and the other related threads you have given a very good explanation for this.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 15 Jan 2014 18:44

This was the contemporary view was well, Rees "Stalinism and Soviet Rail Transport" gives three examples of British skepticism about how long this rate can be maintained and thought it would collapse under the strain of war. Hunter "Soviet Transport Policy" gives a similar Polish view and Paul Wohl writing in 1947 quotes three German sources with the same view.

Certainly by 1941, the network was working at close to maximum capacity and it is of note that new railway building started again in 1939 with 3,500km added and 1940 with 7,100km added after a break of 8 years as the last major expansion had been in 1931 and little had been added in the intervening period. Most of this new build was in the Urals. Yet the best years for investment in the NKPS when it took nearly 20% of the entire Soviet economies investment for the year was when Kaganovish was Narkom from 1934-36 when we see the maximum additions of locomotives (1,153 in 1936 compared to 625 1929/30) rolling stock, (75,000 wagons for 1936 compared to 19,000 wagons for 1930) rails supplied (838,000 tonnes for 1936 compared to 307,000 for 1930), sleepers supplied (35 million for 1936 compared to 16 million for 1930) and overall investment of 4,428 million rubles for 1936 compared to 1,112 million roubles for 1930. So where did all this equipment go? In reality, the Soviet network was re-built from the bottom up from 1935 onwards and was left by 1941 with a strong network, the youngest rolling stock fleet in Europe and years of operating practice at a high tempo. This was not working the existing network too hard but was providing the investment to go with the expansion. When capacity plateaued in 1938, then they started to add new rail lines to increase the capacity further.

The Germans attackers in 1941 did not see this because they had to build up the Eastern Poland network in their half of the Poland, then in the Soviet half and then deal with the low capacity network in the USSR border regions until they reached the main Soviet trunk network at Kiev and Krivi Rog. By that time the Soviets were in full swing destroying railways as fast as they retreated. Having waded through 500km of rubbish rail network it is no surprise that they thought that the rest of the network was the same?

I am reading a US Air Force Study of 1949 on the rail capacity of Eastern Europe and they calculate that in a military movement from Moscow to East Germany the railway bottleneck is in Eastern Poland to the east of the Vistula. It was probably much the same going the other way.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by flakbait » 15 Jan 2014 22:00

Logistics is THE deciding factor on any front, and even just rebuilding all that destroyed track once (let alone with later partisan attacks) would have had a serious effect on trying to move materials forward towards the fighting...there was no Autobahn, and most Soviet prewar `roads` were not paved, turning into endless quagmires in the spring and fall further complicating matters.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Exlurker » 16 Jan 2014 03:19

Der Alte Fritz wrote:This was the contemporary view was well, Rees "Stalinism and Soviet Rail Transport" gives three examples of British skepticism about how long this rate can be maintained and thought it would collapse under the strain of war. Hunter "Soviet Transport Policy" gives a similar Polish view and Paul Wohl writing in 1947 quotes three German sources with the same view.

Certainly by 1941, the network was working at close to maximum capacity and it is of note that new railway building started again in 1939 with 3,500km added and 1940 with 7,100km added after a break of 8 years as the last major expansion had been in 1931 and little had been added in the intervening period. Most of this new build was in the Urals. Yet the best years for investment in the NKPS when it took nearly 20% of the entire Soviet economies investment for the year was when Kaganovish was Narkom from 1934-36 when we see the maximum additions of locomotives (1,153 in 1936 compared to 625 1929/30) rolling stock, (75,000 wagons for 1936 compared to 19,000 wagons for 1930) rails supplied (838,000 tonnes for 1936 compared to 307,000 for 1930), sleepers supplied (35 million for 1936 compared to 16 million for 1930) and overall investment of 4,428 million rubles for 1936 compared to 1,112 million roubles for 1930. So where did all this equipment go? In reality, the Soviet network was re-built from the bottom up from 1935 onwards and was left by 1941 with a strong network, the youngest rolling stock fleet in Europe and years of operating practice at a high tempo. This was not working the existing network too hard but was providing the investment to go with the expansion. When capacity plateaued in 1938, then they started to add new rail lines to increase the capacity further.

The Germans attackers in 1941 did not see this because they had to build up the Eastern Poland network in their half of the Poland, then in the Soviet half and then deal with the low capacity network in the USSR border regions until they reached the main Soviet trunk network at Kiev and Krivi Rog. By that time the Soviets were in full swing destroying railways as fast as they retreated. Having waded through 500km of rubbish rail network it is no surprise that they thought that the rest of the network was the same?

I am reading a US Air Force Study of 1949 on the rail capacity of Eastern Europe and they calculate that in a military movement from Moscow to East Germany the railway bottleneck is in Eastern Poland to the east of the Vistula. It was probably much the same going the other way.
I have based much of my understanding of the Ostfront supply situation from my studies of the work of Mierezjewski (to whom you have made reference in another thread) and what you're saying dovetails with his assessments.
That the DRG's railroaders achieved what they did do during the pre/Barbarossa period is something that has confounded me; the existing "infrastructure" they "inherited" was far from "suitable" to meet their pre-invasion conceptions for delivery of the needs of the "Ostheer".
What you have offered up goes a long way towards an explanation of the "perceived" engineering shortfalls which Ganzenmuller (etal.) actually encountered, while trying to keep the trains moving forward in the Autumn of 1941.
Mierezjewski elaborates on this in "Most Valuable Asset: vol 2" yet your research provides a viewpoint that he has not addressed...I.E.: The functionality of the extant Soviet system.
Like any "typical railroad buff" I look at it from a similar point of view as those at the DRG did. "We must move TONNAGE at SPEED, to meet our commitments as SCHEDULED". It is interesting to see your precis (other thread) of the reductive effect on axle loading (rail wear) due to mainline speeds and the use of broad gauge. Also notable are the comments vis-a-vis manpower allocations for the maintenance of railways built to "Soviet specs" and maintained by crude labor (as opposed to higher paid "Navvies", as per the "western way").
I am enjoying your contributions here (and in the Economy thread) and can only hope that you will continue to elaborate, as you dig further into the matter. This is good stuff...to me, anyways.

Logistics=BORING! lol. :lol:

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Exlurker » 16 Jan 2014 03:33

LWD wrote:Der Alte Fritz, Many thanks for your posts on railroads in several recent threads. Things that hadn't quite made sense to me before are becoming much clearer.
If you have never read it...? Seek out "The Most Valuable Asset of the Reich:Vol 2 " written by Alfred C. Mierezjewski.
If you have ANY REAL interest in the topic, this is the "go to" primer, in the English language.
Cheap on Amazon. Get his book on the WAllies bombing campaign while you're there: "The Collapse of the German War Economy..."
Well worth the price of admission; both are solidly researched; "Collapse" is NOT just another re-hash of Galbraith and the USBBS data.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 16 Jan 2014 10:28

The Mierezjewski book was also released under the title "Hitlers Trains" which is slightly cheaper and easier to get. My favourite book is this one "Die Deutche Reichsbahn 1939-1945" Knipping as it has such great pictures (and a german text) but Knipping is a railway god so well worth it.

The discussion about why the German railway effort went wrong is a difficult one. I will be dealing with it in more detail in the "Railway" thread but here is a precis:
1) Railways are large complex industrial systems so once a country has bought itself one it tends to stick to what it knows. This is certainly the case up to 1960 because before then the calculations on all the variables to determine say track strength were too many to do with slide rule and without computers. So the result was a tendency to over engineer and to stick with what you knew. Germany wanted a German system in Russia.
2) The Soviet system was strange to German eyes because it was not European in character, remember Ralph Budd President of the American Railways had been with a commission in 1930 and did not find anything strange see: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=9 ... 72,2586422 contemporary newspaper report. The US unlike Europe did not have a state railway and was used to variation in its network, different types of track, types of haulage, etc.
3) The organisation of the European network under German occupation followed a logic in that it protected the DRB and kept it running Germany's railways successfully and left national carriers to do the same in their own areas, like France. This worked well in Western Europe and gave the Army as strong say in transport matters in occupied areas. The problem was in the East, firstly Poland with the Gedob and later the GVD Osten in Russia. The Reich Ministry of Transport (RVM) was headed by Dr. Ing Julius Dorpmüller (head of the DRB) and it set up essentially 'new' railway companies to run the railways in the East. But Gedob was tiny and under resourced hardly big enough to be a couple of Divisions back in Germany. But it fitted the Nazi Party line with regard to the Government General but it left this key area weak and under developed. The same system was applied to Russia (probably and I have yet to confirm this,) for similar reasons in that the Reichs Kommisariats Ostland and Ukraine would have been set up as Nazi Party run areas with their own 'private' railway companies. But these companies were weak in terms of personnel (taken fro the DRB anyway) equipment, dominated by the Army and reliant on a whole host of para-military/governmental agencies such as the OT and RAD and German construction companies for engineering support. Add in the huge numbers of local workers, Polish, Latvians, Lithanans, It was an organisational mess which kept changing (the Ostbahn was reformed every year up to 1943 when it was effectively annexed operationally by the DRB). Pottgeisser talks about the delays in building bridges because up to 4 separate agencies might be involved in the construction. As time progresses, the DRB takes over more and more but many of the problems were those of Nazi occupation policy.
4) Without a 'strong' railway company looking at the network in June 1941, the Army is left to its own devices until Jan 1942 when the Blau Eisenbahner of the HBDs take over. One area to be looked at is the level of competence of the Eisenbahnpioniere and FEDko. Did they have the skills to evaluate the track or did they just do what they always did, especially as they had to move through the Eastern Poland 'poor railways' area? Was this design by default?

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by flakbait » 17 Jan 2014 03:47

The thought of the Nazi economic and military leadership as operating with fanatical Teutonic `efficiency` and unified purpose luckily for the rest of civilization existed almost exclusively in the imagination of the German people supporting them. Throw in the logistical nightmares of not just the Polish rail system after that country`s collapse, but then making the captured Soviet rails support the "Barberossa" invaders on top of that and logistics becomes a series of loading, unloading, reloading, re-unloading and then re-reloading that same box of spare parts or food, mail, ect HOW many times before it made it to a combat unit? It is even MORE remarkable that ANYTHING made it`s way East in usable amounts at ALL...and that is NOT including even minimum track maintainance, repairing air attack damage and the odd guerilla planting bombs to derail a train now and again.

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by steverodgers801 » 17 Jan 2014 20:29

Since Germany had to win in 3 months time, it was beyond the capacity of the crews to convert the rail lines in time. The German planners decided that Germany would simply capture enough Soviet equipment to make up the difference. A major part was that Soviet trains had a longer travel distance then German and so not only did rail lines have to be restaged, new stations had to be built requiring special crews and equipment that were in short supply.

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An article about the German railway system in Russia

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by GregSingh » 18 Jan 2014 08:26

Seems that discussion about German railway system in the East moved to this topic somehow...

I wouldn't call that network a "rubbish". Simply it was a network to support local economy prior to WWII. Poles did not plan operation Barbarossa in the 30's, they did not improve that network to support it, so Germans could use it in 1941. :D

Germans never planned for the war in the East to last years, so there was no need to significantly improve it either, back in 1939-41. They just repaired September 1939 war damage and slightly improved capacity.

Question remains: why did Germans had so much transportation problems in the East?
Clearly Soviets used the same network in 1943-45 in their swift advance to the West and did not seem to experience the same issues?

Partially it has been answered already - Soviets did not move large units from place to place by rail like Germans did - those examples from the other topic about 11th Army and 6th Panzer Division. The other explanation was that they did not have express trains? All trains had constant speed. Also perhaps there was no "German partisans" blowing up tracks in 1944-45 behind Soviet lines?
As much as those were important differences, I am not convinced we are even close to the answer...

Perhaps Soviets did not rely on rail transport so such extent as Germans did ???? And answer has nothing to do with rail network at all ??
The more you let yourself to go, the less others will let you to go.
F.Nietzsche

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Re: Germany winning on the Eastern Front

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 18 Jan 2014 09:59

No the Railway thread is alive and well, most of what I have posted here (with links back) is a duplicate of what was said previously. I am just trying to get people interested in railways.... :thumbsup:

The answer to your question is here http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forums/s ... 563&page=1 on the Soviet Supply thread at Armchair General. But in short it is about the Railway Troops/NKPS seamless integrated railway effort from day one in Poland, deploying 250,000 men of Railway Brigades backed up by I think at least 2.5 million men and women of NKPS on reconstruction. German efforts were sporadic and smaller and made by numerous agencies.

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