Railway Gauge in Russia

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
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Narvik
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Railway Gauge in Russia

Post by Narvik » 08 May 2002 20:11

How exactly do you compensate for a different gauge? Do you have to hoist up each car and adjust the axels? How long does the transition take?

Homer martin
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hi

Post by Homer martin » 08 May 2002 20:22

You move one of the rails to compensate for a different gauge.

Gwynn Compton
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Post by Gwynn Compton » 08 May 2002 22:32

And as you can imagine it was a rather time consuming job. And given the reliance of the Germans on rail to bring supplies up, it was a very important job. Thousands of miles of track had to be relaid.

Does anyone know how the Russians came to have a different gauge to the rest of Europe?

Ovidius
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Post by Ovidius » 08 May 2002 23:04

Gwynn Compton wrote:Does anyone know how the Russians came to have a different gauge to the rest of Europe?


When the Russian rail network was built, the Tsar of that time(I don't remember his name right now) asked how could an enemy attack on the railroad have been made impossible. The answer was to make the gauge wider, from 1453mm to 1524mm(which also did help the train to carry more weight per car, but hampered the ability to climb hills - not a problem on the Russian plains).

Russian is not the only European country with non-standard gauge. Spain and Portugal have narrower gauges.

~Ovidius

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Matt Gibbs
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Different gauges

Post by Matt Gibbs » 08 May 2002 23:28

Mainly the considerations of gauge make a big factor in choice by the cost. A 2 foot gauge narrow railway can be built with half as many wooden sleepers as a 5 foot gauge. In Britain there used to be the 'broad' gauge which was thought to make more comfy and faster ride. Those who have ridden 2 or 3 foot gauge in the US and continent will know that isn't necassarily slow. A devious idea is to build a railway to a different gauge to stop your enemy using your railway in time of war though. I didn;t know that had been a consideration of the Tsar in Russia!!!
Some railways have transporter wagons made to carry narrow or wider gauge wagons like some narrow gauge lines in Germany can carry standard gauge wagons with a special place to have the interchange.
Ripping up a railway and changing the gauge must have cost the Germans a helluva lot !!!
Regards

Homer martin
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hi Matt

Post by Homer martin » 09 May 2002 03:12

Hi Matt,
Let say you where on a German work crew to change the gauge of the Russian railroad from 1524mm to 1453mm, would you rip up the rail, or change the under carrige to wide gauge, or would you do the following which the Germans did?
You can take gang of about 12 man of workers and move one rail into the 1453mm gauge at about 1 mile a day very easy. So if you put a number of gangs out there it would be easy to do a number of miles a day. Unless the Russians took the time to burn fires and bent the rails it would be easy to keep up with an advance of 10 miles a day. When you come to a turn out in a line you spike it for the main line and keep going, a second gang of 12 that comes behind the main gangs to work on turn outs.
This is the tools you need for your gangs to work on the railraod to regauge:
2 spike pullers
8 lining bars
1-2 gauges
12 malls
3-4 track wrenches

This is how the day starts for the gang,
1st 2 men pull spikes on one rail for up to 1 mile
2nd 8 men get on the lining bars and move the track into the new gauge,
one man use the gauge to make sure they line it to gauge the last
man spikes one or two ties to gauge until the mile is done
3rd the hole gang spikes the rest of the ties to gauge.

If the Russian have bent the rails you have to have a another gang to work on the rails, this is a easy job too. For reading on this job read how the Union in the American civil war fixed the rails.

Last if the Russians ripped up the ties and bruned them, this is the hardest to fix. It will add into play the following;
You have to have a tree cutting gang or gangs and way to transport the new ties to where you want them in place. You don't have to put enough tie to cover every jointed rail ie 15-17 ties you only need 8-9 ties to keep gauge and can come back to put more ties in.

I hope this helps.

/HGM

Darrin
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Post by Darrin » 09 May 2002 07:27

There is an article at feddgrau that says a construction bat could narrow track at 20km per day. That must be under min damage to ties and good weather. I'm sure during the winter this rate would be a bit reduced. The captured rus cars could be narrowed with little problem. There was no reliable way to narow the engines though.

The wide rus engine would be a problem on the narrow ger rails. It is much easier to narrow then widen you need wider ties for it to work. Laying new ties was required as rus drove into europe. Some of the lend lease engines were probably narrow guage and helped overcome the problem.

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Post by michael mills » 09 May 2002 08:48

The original German plan was to use Soviet broad-gauge locomtives and rolling stock, which meant that they would not have needed to re-lay track, just undergo the hassle of transshipping men and materials at the points where the broad-gauge lines met the standard-gauge ones.

However, the Soviet authorities succeeded in either destroying or transporting away nearly all their broad-gauge locomotives, which meant that the Germans had to use standard-gauge locomotives from Germany or other European countries, which in turn necessitated the conversion of the Soviet railway system.

Conversion work continued throughout the German occupation, and had still not been completed when the Wehrmacht began its reteat in 1943.

The work was performed by gangs of Jewish slave-labourers, mainly from Poland.

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Post by Karl » 09 May 2002 10:04

When the Russian rail network was built, the Tsar of that time(I don't remember his name right now) asked how could an enemy attack on the railroad have been made impossible. The answer was to make the gauge wider, from 1453mm to 1524mm(which also did help the train to carry more weight per car, but hampered the ability to climb hills - not a problem on the Russian plains).


I thank thee Ovidius, I thank thee.

Ages ago we talked about this at the WW1 forum and I quoted Tuchman who said they did this for exactly this reason. Everyone said they didn’t think so, that it just happened that way, etc.

The said author also commented that this backfired on them when invading E. Prussia a la 1914 :lol: …supplies became an incredible headache for them as a consequence.

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Matt Gibbs
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Agreed

Post by Matt Gibbs » 09 May 2002 11:31

I did think of this of course, like the GWR did in the 1880's here in the UK when they cancelled their broad gauge plan, huge gangs of men were drafted in to slew the outer rail and refix it at the standard gauge. Big saving of money!
Considering what the workers over here could do overnight to repair railway networks destroyed by bombing I guess a considerable mileage per day could be relaid by moving the rails.
Best tactic for the Russians would be ripping up and bombing the tracks of course...blowing up bridges being another good idea!
Of course, destroying locomotives by strafing would lowetr the morale of the engineers and crew too..!
Regards
MattG

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Post by Pumpkin » 09 May 2002 12:18

Reading this thread, I remember that my old high-school teacher once claimed that the Germans had a much quicker way of solving the problem:

Put down a new rail next to and inside of one of the existing rails. Narrow gauge wagons could then roll on that new rail and one of the old ones! Given that the difference in width was 71 mm, this might just be doable. A train loaded with rails would be the first to enter a line. A few men could very quickly take a rail from the train, put it down, secure it with a few nails and let the train move a rail length further. The conversion could probably be made as fast as walking! Later, the third rail could be collected for use further ahead.

Anyone heard of this?

Homer martin
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hi

Post by Homer martin » 09 May 2002 13:28

The problem of laying a new rail inside of the wide gauge rail is transportion of the new rail to the spot where you want to lay the rail. One car load of jointed rail would give you about 1332-1508 feet, if you put the cars to be unlaoded to the front of the locamotive and had 10-12 cars a train gives you about 2 1/2 to 3 miles a train. Each time you unload a car it takes more man power to keep up with the laying of the track. When you run out of rail the gangs have to wait on another train. Also your using badly needed steel that could be used else where. I don't know what size rail was in use but the bigger the size the less rail a train will be able to carry and the more men it takes to but it in place, ie 65lb, 75lb, 90lb so on.

Bombing of rail lines:

This is how you fix rail line that are bombed, you have a mobile track gang with a locamotive and 2-3 flat cars with 6-10 panel rail joints and 2-3 rock cars, with up to 20 men in the gang.
Panel rail is a piece of jointed rail with ties on it already.
When you get to the place in the rail where it has been bomb, you clear up the old rail and ties that can't be used and then level the ground at best as can't be done. Then move the panel rail into place and tie it into the line. This operation takes about 3-4 hours max, unless there was a carpet bombing campaign, in which case you use a bigger train with more men, the main line maybe down 24 hours in that case.

Bridges :

Burning or blowing up bridges, this is the hardest operation to repair. You have bridge gangs that have as many as 100-400 men and up two trains with a crane and a 2-5 cars of pillons, 4-6 cars of panel rail.
You have to clear away the old rail and start by driving the new pillions into the water way and then lay the panel rail down. This operations speed is determined by the length of the bridge to be repaired and how much of the bridge needs to be repaired.
I hope this helps.

/HGM

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Matt Gibbs
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Interesting

Post by Matt Gibbs » 09 May 2002 14:37

I am finding this post very interesting as my job is actually in Railway Infrastructure engineering and the planning of trains to go to repair sites! LoL.......
We use long trains of 600' with long welded rail lenghts but also in trains of 10 - 12 cars with 6 'rafts' of track panels to be unloaded by a mobile crane which are then laid down and bolted into place to update worn out trakc which has been removed. Mostly these works take between 8 and 12 hours when a possesion of the line is taken.
During the war I guess more track could be laid as there was greater urgency involved in the work...!

With regards to locomotive endurance the Henschel company produced a number of condensing Kriegslok types for use in Russia which had condensing gear fitted to the steam vents. There was no blastpipe as such and fans were used to draught the locomotive, special larger tenders were ised and the pipes returned the warm water which was condensed back to the feed for the boiler. These locos had a range of about 750 - 800 miles before requiring a water stop.

Regards

MG

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Post by AndyW » 09 May 2002 14:54

Pumpkin wrote:Reading this thread, I remember that my old high-school teacher once claimed that the Germans had a much quicker way of solving the problem:

Put down a new rail next to and inside of one of the existing rails. Narrow gauge wagons could then roll on that new rail and one of the old ones! Given that the difference in width was 71 mm, this might just be doable. A train loaded with rails would be the first to enter a line. A few men could very quickly take a rail from the train, put it down, secure it with a few nails and let the train move a rail length further. The conversion could probably be made as fast as walking! Later, the third rail could be collected for use further ahead.

Anyone heard of this?


Yeah, but 71 mm was to near to built a new rail next to th other. I'm not exactely sure whether this was theoratically impossible or not, but you have to imagine the amount of additional steel that takes, and I read that the workload (time) would have taken longer than just re-nailing an existing track.

On all this excellent posts dealing with the problems of different gauges, I 'd like to add two more points one needs to imagine:

Think about the problems of having to narrow an existing track in tight curves. You'll face problemd because of the changing radius.

Think about the mess in marshalling yards with all their switches.

Cheers,

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Matt Gibbs
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Broad gauge

Post by Matt Gibbs » 09 May 2002 15:03

I believe that a broader gauge with wider and possibly longer wagons would imply no really tight curves...?? The wider apart the rail the more lsack the radius of the curves surely..?
I agree on the mess made by turnouts in yards etc though, on the railway today as in the past I assume, we use prefabricated turnouts loosly assembled like track panel sand they go down in the ame way, craned off the back of a wagon. Built elsewhere to save time with standard radii they are not much harder to put down than plain trak, you just have to line up 2 points instead of 3.

Regards

Matt G

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