Let's Talk Trainbusting

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Conslaw, Apr 22, 2013.

  1. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    When General Doolittle took over the Eighth Air Force, and General Kepner took over 8th Fighter Command in January 1944, they imposed a new policy allowing fighters to attack ground targets of opportunity after their escort leg. I've always thought the significance of this change never was fully appreciated. I have read countless first person narratives of German military men and civilians who experienced fighter attacks on their trains. Many of us have been on passenger trains that have stopped for either a technical reason or because of traffic tying up the track ahead. Imagine the tie-ups in Germany and France with many trains attacked on the same day. This is a call out to the experts then to provide nifty tidbits regarding the impact of trainbusting on the war in Europe. How long did it take to clear a track when a locomotive was put out of action? How long did it take to repair a locomotive? What kind of specialized equipment was available to clear the tracks quickly? Why do we never hear about Soviet train busting, or trainbusting by the Luftwaffe?
     
  2. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I can just add that in the lead up to D-Day the French Resistance tried to derail trains in tunnels where they were difficult to recover. There was heavy lifting equipment available and I know of at least one instance where this was specifically targeted to further impede German efforts to clear the lines to the invasion front.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  3. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    Good topic Conslaw and while I know little about it (other than we attacked trains) I'm really looking forward to reading what our resident experts have to contribute.
     
  4. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    I have some info on the He 111's and later Ju 88C's used by the LW on the Ost front in their train busting, obviously the 2cm weapons wer quite adequate in tearing the Soviet munitions cars and locos to shreds. We should have bill (aka drgndog) reply with his observations from his Fathers 355th fg as they blew away countless German transport units. I do believe in the ETO for the 8th AF the 353rd Yellow jackets in their Jugs shot up locos when flying escort and no LW A/C were encountered so the naturale' was to hit the ground running.

    US ground tallies were added in with the LW A/C shot down on the sides of the canopy of the A/c and the LW heavy fighters/bombers introduced kill types of sorts on the tails by using a loco symbol.

    of course the US 9th AF were very high in score for German Locos ripped flying P-47's....... I have seen many gun cams from Mustangs of the 8th on the train prowl...
     
  5. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    trying to find the saved article on the KG 3 Eis unit flying Ju 88C-6's and very successful in their soviet train hunt kg3_ju88c_6.jpg
     
  6. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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  7. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    I would imagine shooting up locos was quite effective at slowing transportation down.

    Damaged tracks could be, and were, repaired relatively quickly. But locos couldn't be replaced quickly. Unless, obviously, you have spares - then the race is to make replacements before you run out of spares.
     
  8. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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  9. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    One thing I've never seen is the average time a track was out of service due to a "busted" train. I would think it would have to be several days. If you are lucky, the train will all still be on the tracks even if it has no power. If you aren't lucky, cars willl be derailed. You may have a mixture of destroyed, intact, and derailed but intact cars. Most of the time the attacks will be in the middle of nowhere, without even road access to bring any equipment in. You'll have to bring the rail salvage equipment on the same track the "busted train is on. The closest equipment may be hundreds of miles away and busy on another wreck. I can't imagine that Germany planned ahead and anticipated trainbusting on the level that they encountered. They would have had to pre-placed dozens of custom-made heavy salvage units at regular intervals in Germany and the occupied countries. I understand that most of the "busted" locomotives were repaired and placed back in service, but I wonder how long it took, and how many hours of labor were needed.
     
  10. Conslaw

    Conslaw Member

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    The Strategic Bombing Survey does NOT support my supposition that fighter attacks substantially degraded Germany's transportation system in the first half of 1944, but it does state that a coordinated anti-transportation campaign in the Fall of 1944 was a substantial factor in Germany's collapse. (Since this is a public document it can be liberally quoted. United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Summary Report (European War)

     
  11. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    you had to be weary of trains. as they became "targets of opportunity" the germans took measures to counter the loses. they had special cars with drop down sides and an 88 crews inside. these 'flak wagons' gave more than one straffing airman an nasty surprise! as for how fast they cleaned the tracks up? my ex-brother-in-law used to work the wreck crew for the RR. its quite an undertaking but i am sure the germans ( and russians) had this down to an art. so what takes a week or 2 now probably could be accomplished in days back then.
     
  12. Maxrobot1

    Maxrobot1 Member

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    Interesting. In all the Gun-Camera footage I've seen I can't recall seeing any film of cranes used in train wreck repair. Of course marshalling yards were always being bombed by medium bombers so any repair equipment there was subject to damage.
    I can just imagine the repair crews frantically working while bomber streams flew overhead and fighters buzzed around!
     
  13. model299

    model299 Member

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    #13 model299, Apr 24, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2013
    From various sources I've read, it wasn't unusual for repair crews to do their work at night, in order to avoid daylight raids by the fighters.

    I know from a brakeman's training class I took some years ago that track repairs are done quickly here in the states, as downtime costs money. The faster the repairs are done, the better. In fact, usually the biggest hangup is waiting for the NTSB to make their investigation before repairs are started.
     
  14. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    An awful lot depends on the actual damage. A steam locomotive with a shot up boiler (and a bunch of .50 holes in the cars behind it. ) simply needs another engine backed up to it, couple them together and have the new engine pull them to a siding or yard to get them off the track. IF the train has come off the rails things get a bit harder, if the engine/cars are still upright and within a few feet of the rails it still isn't too hard.

    Lg-CW-3R-3.jpg

    No heavy equipment needed. If the engine or cars have tipped over things get a lot more difficult. On the other hand if they have tipped over several feet from the rails you may be able to leave them there and just run the next trains past them.

    Worst is if the engine/cars are laying on their sides across the track and the track is distorted, twisted, torn up.

    But don't forget,with a lot of hand labor, replacing the rails is fairly fast. Once the roadbed is laid out and leveled large crews used to lay miles of rail in a single day. Bring in several dozen workers, a flat car of rails and ties, a car with new gravel and even bomb craters can be filled in and new rails run across it in under a day.

    Bombing rails in the country side may look impressive but the repairs were a matter of hours. Switches (points) require more parts and more careful Alignment. Bridges, cuts , tunnels and embankments all take much more time to repair
     
  15. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The shooting up of the engines is what was effective, especially if it ruptures the steam tubes. It's a repairable but time consuming repair job. An engine in the shop is an engine not pulling freight around.

    Damage to the rolling stock and rails was inconsequential.
     
  16. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    Flak cars for train defence were typically armed with single or quad 20 mm or single/double 37 mm, rather than 88 mm flak. The 88 mm was too unweildy a weapon to really trouble a low, fast flying fighter. Its rate of slew and elevation were just not sufficient to track a fighter moving at 250-300 mph.

    German Railway Flak, WWII Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 17, January 28, 1943 (Lone Sentry)

    The Germans did take to mounting 88mm, 105 mm and 128 mm flak guns on railcars though, so that they could be transported around the Reich where they were most needed for defence. By the end of 1943, there were 100 heavy railroad flak batteries.
     
  17. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    I guess steam locks would have been very vulnerable to strafing as the boiler is a large target and once it's holed, that's it. On the other hand, if that was the total of the damage wouldn't,t it be pretty easy to repair?
    Had the Germans been using Diesel engines the trains might have been tougher to kill. Non volatile fuel and the engine could have been armoured, which I imagine would have been impractical with a stem loco. At the end of the day though, a train is always going to be a comparatively large, slow moving target.
     
  18. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Don't underestimate the effects of sabotage. The French in particular caused chaos for the Germans (and paid a heavy price in reprisals). It took a full strength German Division 80-90 trains to move. The French managed to do simple things like divert some down the wrong lines. In 1944 the Germans imported 2,500 of their own railway workers (badly needed back home) to sort out the mess.

    For all the bombing pre-Overlord, t was the French Resistance that cut 37 rail lines in the Dijon area in the 12 hours before D-Day.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  19. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    German heavy Flak guns were moved at night to semi-stationary positions and these were not the ones our air P-47/Mustangs/P-38's attacked but moving rails-cargo plus rail crossroad centres.
     
  20. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    To Erich's point, yes the 8th FC very nearly Always attacked rail and M/Y and barge and road traffic on the way home. During May 1944 the 8th FC ran several "Chattanooga" strikes across France and Western Germany specifically tasked for Rail targets. IMO the P-38 was the most effective because of the 20mm.

    During the Normandy campaign all the fighter groups were flying three missions per day for two weeks - most of which were either escort to heavies bombing M/Y then dropping to strafe, or Fighter bomber missions with 250 and 500 pound bombs - equally tasked to M/Y where the flak was heavy. My father led, and was shot down during one such sweep ne of Paris on August 18, 1944 but was rescued by his number 3 - Royce Priest.

    On November 29 he was 'doing another' on his last mission - 1st tour and took 200 holes in his 51, one 40mm hit behind the fuselage tank and one unexploded 20 mm in the tank from rail flak batteries. He limped home with Priest on his wing (also his last mission) and belly landed at 165mph because he had no hydraulics for flaps.

    He didn't 'like' strafing trains so much after that.
     
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