Military railways

Military railways

Military railways are a form of transport communication technology used by the military forces for movement of strategically significant forces, bulk cargo or as a platform for military systems.

Due to the expense of building the railway networks, the national railway infrastructure is usually utilised by the military forces, however it often uses specialised rolling stock designed to solve uniquely military logistics or combat problems.


Military railway maintenance

Maintaining a rail network during its use by military forces requires maintenance and repair of railway bridges, buildings, signals, track and tunnels. The purpose of this work is to ensure scheduled movement of troops and equipment in support of time-critical operations, and include rail road maintenance, rail safety and railway security, maintenance of roadbeds and drainage, track repair, ballast, banking and lining, tamping, ties, rail, laying rail or replacing damaged rails, turnouts, joints, fastenings, gauging and spiking, lining and surfacing, curves, string lining, throwing track, shims, track maintenance on bridges, through tunnels in interlocking plants and electrified areas, bumpers, removal of derails, and provision of track cars. It also includes maintenance and repair of railways associated structures, bridges, buildings, culverts, piles, tunnels, crossings, signs and fences, turntables, water supply facilities, demolition of obstructions, and negotiating foreign railway characteristics as experienced by the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front.

Current railways

Historical railways

Crimean War

One of the first uses of military railways was to establish a more reliable supply of British Army troops in the Balaklava positions during the Crimean War severe winter of 1855.

American Civil War

United States Military Railroad known as the City Point Railroad, which extended to Petersburg during the Siege of Petersburg during the American Civil War in 1864 -1865.

Russian use in Asia

Trans-Siberian Main Railway (Транссибирская железнодорожная магистраль - Транссиб), before 1917 was named The Great Siberian Way (Великий Сибирский Путь). First construction begun on 19 May (31 May) 1891.

Mahdist War

In 1896-98 during the Mahdist War, Kitchener extended the Egyptian railways into the Sudan.

World War I

Narrow gauge military railways serviced the Western Front, see Trench railways, Decauville (French), Feldbahn and Heeresfeldbahn (German and Austrian) and War Department Light Railways (British).

World War II

Japan built several railways for military purposes, notably the Burma-Siam Railway, known as the Death Railway because of the number of Allied prisoners-of-war and Asian labourers who died constructing it.

The existing Northwest Indian Railways were expanded by the Americans to supply China via the Ledo Road.

See also

Sources and references

  • Vecamer, Arvo L., Deutsche Reichsbahn: The German State Railway in WWII, [1]
  • Connor, W.D., Maj., Military Railways, Professional Papers No.32, Corps of Engineers US Army, Revised edition 1917, Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1917.