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WW2 German Eisenbahn-Panzerzug


Initially, the German Wehrmacht did not favor the idea of maintaining armored trains within its arsenal. Advances in tank and aircraft technologies and tactics made the concept of large, lumbering armored trains seem a thing of the past, but none-the-less, as of July 23rd, 1938, seven armored trains were on the rolls of the Wehrmacht. Each was formed from already existing Reichsbahn (German National Railway) track protection trains, in existance since the 1920's.

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 1

It is not known exactly which Reichsbanh track protection train Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 1 was formed from, but in 1938, it was offically under the control of General Kommando, III.Armee-Korps located in Berlin.

Panzerzug 1 (Feldpost Nr. 07641) was activated on August 26th, 1939 along with its techical staff. In its initial standard gauge configuration, Panzerzug 1 did not contain any heavy weapons. This meant that it was only suitable for rear area duties and for rail track protection assignments. Therefore, it did not participate in the Polish Campaign as a front line unit. During the middle of September, 1939, Panzerzug 1 was assigned to protect the Schneidermühl - Bromberg - Laskowitz - Dirschau - Danzig rail line, and in November, it was transferred to Radom. From there, the train was to conduct regular track security patrols.

In December of 1939, Panzerzug 1 was transferred to Düsseldorf-Eller where it was assigned to assist with the planned invasion of the Netherlands on May 10th, 1940. Shortly before the invasion, Panzerzug 1 was based in Hassen, Germany. Panzerzug 1 crossed the Dutch border as planned; following close behind was a German transport train carrying III./Infantrie-Regiment 481 of the 256.Infantrie-Division. Both trains surprised the local Dutch forces near the town of Mill and proceeded eastwards. Near the Dutch town of Zeeland, the engine of Panzerzug 1 received a hit in an air-line forcing it to stop for emergency repairs. The following troop train also stopped. The infantry troops dismounted and began to engage the Dutch forces in the area. Having completed the emergency repairs, Panzerzug Nr. 1 elected to retreat back to the railroad station at Mill. The troop train remained where it was believing it was out of danger. Anticipating a retreat of at least one of the German trains, the Dutch mined the approaches to Mill. Panzerzug 1 hit one of these mines causing nearly the entire train to derail and topple over. Fire from a nearby Dutch bunker caused additional casualties. Elements of the III./Infantrie-Regiment 481 attempted to circle back and provide relief to the beleaguered troops of the now derailed Panzerzug 1. Dutch resistance was particularly effective which truly slowed down the German relief effort. Luftwaffe Stuka's had to be called in to help. In addition, other elements of the 256.Infantrie-Division were diverted to help salvage the situation. Eventually, Dutch resistance collapsed. Panzerzug 1 was salvaged as much as possible, all surviving cars being sent to Darmstadt for extensive repairs. However, as III./Inf.Reg.481 made its way back towards Panzerzug 1, the Dutch moved in and set fire to the German troop transport train. While in Darmstadt, some train cars from Panzerzug 5 were reassigned to Panzerzug 1.

On September 1st, 1941, Panzerzug 1 was transferred to Allenstein (later Heilsberg) in East Prussia; being assigned to Heeresgruppe Nord. Panzerzug 1 remained configured as a standard gauge train because the Soviets had not yet converted all of the standard gauge rail lines in Lithuania and eastern Poland over to the wide gauge and the Germans wanted to take full advantage of the situation. After the invasion of the Soviet Union, Panzerzug 1 advanced from Grodno to Minsk. During October of 1941, it found itself near the town of Krasnoye. This would be its home base for the next few months as it engaged in track security details from between there and Smolensk. A key assignment for Panzerzug 1 was to secure the railroad bridge over the Dnieper River near the town of Isdyeshkovo. The Soviets had made numerous attempts to destroy this vital bridge, but the Germans were successful in preventing this from happening. Panzerzug 1 would remain in the Smolensk region until April of 1942.

Sometime during the summer of 1942, Panzerzug 1 was ordered to Warsaw for repairs and refit. This was completed by years end and in January of 1943, Panzerzug 1 took up it old duty stations near Smolensk and Orsha. On August 17th, 1943, Panzerzug 1 participated in defensive actions near Viyasma. It remained in this region until November. On November 28th, 1943, Panzerzug 1 suffered heavy damage from a derailment caused by the Soviets blowing up a section of track. Eight wagons plus the engine were derailed. Two recovery trains worked around the clock and under enemy fire to set the derailed train back onto the tracks. While retreating back to Viyasma, Panzerzug 1 was hit by a bomb. Because the damage was so extensive, the surviving elements of Panzerzug 1 were withdrawn to Königsberg to be totally rebuilt.

During the refit period, Panzerzug 27 temporarily replaced Panzerzug 1 on the front lines. In February of 1944, Panzerzug 1 was released once more for front line service. A new addition to the train was that a number of its wagons contained T-34 turrets. In early March of 1944, Panzerzug 1 was fighting defensive actions near Rogatshev. On March 18th, 1944, the train was located near Brest-Litovsk. On March 24th, the train was sent toward Orel to help secure the rail lines in that region.

The rapid Soviet advance in June of 1944 towards Orel finally spelled the end of Panzerzug 1. Near Mirandino, Panzerzug 1 was cut off from any means of escape. On June 27th, 1944, the crew blew up the train and attempted to make their way back by foot to the German lines near Bobruisk. Most of the crew failed in their escape attempt and they became Soviet prisoners of war.

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 3

It is not known exactly which Reichsbanh track protection train Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 3 was formed from, but in 1938, it was offically under the control of General Kommando, VII.Armee-Korps in München

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 3 (Feldpost Nr. 03841) (a standard gauge train) first saw action during the Polish campaign of 1939. Like most of the other German armored trains participating in the Polish campaign, Panzerzug 3 had a most dubious start. Having barely crossed the German-Polish border on September 1st, 1939, Panzerzug 3 quickly found itself near the town of Könitz, a point not missed by the Poles who proceeded to damage it extensively. The very timely arrival of III./Inf.Reg.90 insured the trains survival. It was then sent to Danzig for repairs and refitting.

For the French Campaign, Panzerzug 3 was assigned to support German infantry attacks against the Netherlands. On May 10th, 1940, near the bridges over the Ijssel river in the town of Zutphen, Panzerzug 3's advance was stopped by determined Dutch troops who held an advantage by also being located in a concrete bunker. Panzerzug 3 received heavy battle damage from the defending Dutch forces. Elements of the 227.Infantrie Division and an Infantry Batallion from the Liebstandarte SS Adolf Hitler fought with the crew of Panzerzug 3 until the defending Dutch forces surrendered. The heavily damaged train was immediately withdrawn to Köln for repairs. During August of 1940, Panzerzug 3 was reassigned to perform guard duties in the Netherlands. It remained there for the next nine months.

On May 10th, 1941, Panzerzug 3 was transferred to Prosken, East Prussia, from Eindhoven, the Netherlands, to support Operation Barbarossa. Panzerzug 3 was assigned to Heeresgruppe Mitte, 9.Armee, still configured to standard gauge. Shortly after 22 June 1941, Panzerzug 3 helped capture the border town of Grajevo and from there it proceeded towards the city of Byalistok. In October of 1941, Panzerzug 3 returned to Königsberg to receive upgraded radio and communications equipment. During the winter of 1941/1942, Panzerzug 3 was assigned to protect the immediate hinterlands in and around the city of Nevel in Russia. In May of 1942, Panzerzug 3 was heavily damaged by mines in the same area. It was withdrawn from front-line service for repairs and refitting. Panzerzug 83, a home-made armored train created by a most enterprising 83.Infantrie-Division (hence the number 83) temporarily replaced Panzerzug 3. By December of 1943, Panzerzug 3 remained in the rear areas of Heeresgruppe Mitte still undergoing repairs from the May 1942 mine attack.

In August of 1944, Panzerzug 3 was reassigned to Heeresgruppe Nord where it was ordered to support the XXXIX.Panzer-Korps. On August 16th, 1944, Panzerzug 3 derailed near the village of Krottingen in Eastern Prussia/Lithuania; it was forced back to German rear areas for repairs and so was not able to participate in preventing the Soviets from separating Heeresgruppe Nord from the rest of the German defensive positions which the Soviets did on August 20th, 1944, near the Latvian town of Tukkums. After being repaired in September of 1944, Panzerzug 3 was returned to the front lines and transferred to Latvia to support the 201.Sicherheits-Division operating between the villages of Akmene and Papile. On October 5th, 1944, Panzerzug 3 was supporting German defensive efforts near the Latvian and Lithuanian border region. On October 10th, 1944, Soviet armored troops cut the rail lines at both ends of the Latvian town of Vainode; Panzerzug 3 was thus cut off from retreat. To prevent its capture and use by Soviet forces, the train was blown up by its crew, thus ending the operational history of Panzerzug 3.

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 5

It is not known exactly which Reichsbanh track protection train Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 1 was formed from, but in 1938, it was offically under the control of General Kommando, IX.Armee Korps located in Kassel.

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 5 (Feldpost Nr. 15107) had the shortest operational career of the original seven German armored trains in existence in 1939. Though it became operational right after the start of the Second World War, because it was lightly armed in its initial configuration, it was best suited for rear area actions only. On September 15th, 1939, Panzerzug 5 departed from the rear areas of Heeresgruppe Süd through the Polish city of Krakow towards Lvov. On September 20th, 1939 the train was ordered to provide area security near Lvov as German and Soviet forces met to discuss the demarcation lines. Shortly after this, the train was relocated to the Silesian industrial region.

After the end of the Polish Campaign, and towards the end of 1939, Panzerzug 5 was transferred to Emden on the western front. There, it was to prepare itself for the invasion of the Netherlands. Just prior to the start of the Western Campaign of 1940, Panzerzug 5 was moved up to the town of Dalheim (near München-Gladbach) on the Dutch-German border. It was envisioned that Panzerzug 5 would provide close support to the Dutch uniformed German commando teams of Baulehr-Batallion zbV 800 (Otherwise known as the Brandenburgers, here under the rather non-descript unit title they were at the time a part of) as they rushed to occupy key bridges and rail junctions over the Maas river north of the Dutch town of Roermond. A team of "Dutch dressed" Brandenburgers proceeded towards the railroad bridge near Buggenum. Another team of Brandenburgers started to make their way towards Roermond. But they were spotted by the Dutch and got caught in a firefight. The Dutch quickly alerted their sentries guarding the Buggenum bridge who blew the bridge just as a team of "Dutch" Brandenburgers was storming it in hopes of capturing it intact. On May 10th, 1940 Panzerzug 5 moved forwards through Roermond and now found itself in front of the destroyed Ijssel Bridge. As soon as it stopped, hidden Dutch anti-tank cannons opened fire hitting the brake control lines with their first shot. This essentially immobilized the train. Dutch fire then pounded the train to pieces. The surviving wagons were reassigned to Panzerzug 1; Panzerzug 5 was officially thereafter stricken from the records in June of 1940.

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 6

It is not known exactly which Reichsbanh track protection train Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 6 was formed from, but in 1938, it was offically under the control of General Kommando, I.Armee-Korps in Königsberg/Insterburg.

Panzerzug 6 (Feldpost Nr. 09171) (standard gauge) first saw action in the Polish campaign in 1939; though at that time, it was not fully operational A a few troops wagons were missing from its full complement and not all of the armor plates were yet affixed to the train as per standing regulations. Panzerzug 6 was one of the few German armored trains which actually met with operational success while fighting in Poland. On September 1st, 1939, the Polish town of Grajewo, just a few miles to the south of the East Prussian-Polish border, was captured with the help of Panzerzug 6.

In October of 1939, Panzerzug 6 was brought to the RAW facilities in Königsberg so that the train's missing components could be completed. It then remained in the east for a while, being assigned benign patrolling duties.

For the French campaign, Panzerzug 6 was transferred to the German town of Weener, just to the south of the port-city of Emden. It was assigned to support the German 1.Kavalliere-Division as it advanced against Dutch forces in northern Holland. The German forces in this area hoped to gain the advantage through a surprise attack, but the Dutch saw the threat and as soon as Panzerzug 6 approached the bridge over the Bulten Aa river, the Dutch blew up the bridge. German engineers were quickly able to repair the bridge so that Panzerzug 6 could advance. A short distance later, Panzerzug 6 approached a second bridge, this one was west of the Dutch town of Winschoten. As this bridge was a turn-bridge, the Dutch simply turned the bridge so that it became impassable. German forces attempted to dislodge the defending Dutch troops, but failed. Shortly thereafter, Panzerzug 6 was redeployed to Wuppertal in Germany.

During the spring of 1941, Panzerzug 6 was transferred to Klaipeda (Memel) in German annexed Lithuania. For Operation Barbarossa, Panzerzug 6 was assigned to Heeresgruppe Nord. It remained configured to standard gauge because the Germans had determined that the Soviets had not finished converting the standard gauge Klaipeda-Liepaja rail line to wide gauge. Panzerzug 6 advanced as planned and participated in the capture of the Latvian port-city of Liepaja in late June of 1941. From there, the train advanced to Riga, then Valka in Estonia, reaching the town of Pskov on September 3rd, 1941. By December of 1941, the train was patrolling the Dno to Novgorod area on the far ends of the northern fringes of the eastern front.

In May of 1942, Panzerzug 6 received heavy battle damage and was removed from the front lines and sent to Warsaw for repairs. Because an armored train was still needed in the region, Panzerzug 6 was replaced with Panzerzug 51. After being repaired and refurbished, Panzerzug 6 was re-assigned to Serbia, where on October 1st, 1944, Panzerzug 6 was destroyed in combat in Yugoslavia.

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 26

Panzerzug 26 (Feldpost Nr. 40046) (wide gauge) was the product of the 'Panzerzug 1941' program. Created in early 1941 in Wehrkreis VIII - Breslau, it was designed for operations on Soviet wide gauge rail lines. When initially made operational, the train contained an un-armored Deutsche Reichsbahn Class-57 engine, a number of open flat wagons and two tank-carrying wagons (transporting French Souma S-35 tanks). For Operation Barbarossa, it was assigned to the 16.Armee; being home based in Königsberg. The trains first assignment was to advance towards Kaunas in Lithuania from Eydtkau in East Prussia. Between June and the fall of 1941, Panzerzug 26 advanced from Kaunas to Vilniusin Lithuania, to Daugavpils and to Rezekne in Latvia, from there to Idritsa and then to Novosokolniki in Russia where it remained until winter 1941. By December of 1941, Panzerzug 26 was located in the region between the cities of Novosokoloniki and Dno near Leningrad.

During the month of April, 1942, Panzerzug 26 was converted to operate on standard gauge lines because the Germans had by then converted all of the Soviet wide gauge lines to standard gauge up to the Novosokolniki region. Panzerzug 26 operated in the Staraya Russa region in the month of May, 1942. On March 8th, 1943, Panzerzug 26 was withdrawn from the front lines. It was then completely refurbished and refitted in Zwickau, the process taking nearly a year to complete - being finished on February 19th, 1944.

Once agian in operational status, on February 20th, 1944, Panzerzug 26 returned to Rezekne in Latvia where it and Panzerzug 51 were ordered to secure the rail lines near Daugavipls and Rezekne in Latvia. Later, during May of 1944, Panzerzug 26 was serviced and refitted with two wagons mounting Soviet T-34 tank turrets in Daugavpils. Once completed, the train was sent back to the Nevel region.

During the month of July, 1944, the train was engaged in combat actions near Polotsk and Idritsa. On July 26th, 1944, Panzerzug 26 fought a duel with Soviet tanks from the Stalin Tank Brigade near the village of Bigosovo. Though Panzerzug 26 was able to destroy six Soviet tanks, the attacking Soviet armor was able to destroy the trains command wagon. Panzerzug 26 was able to escape, but the accompanying train carrying German Infantry Troops fell in to Soviet captivity. Panzerzug 26 fought another battle with Soviet forces in late July of 1944, forcing it to Riga for additional repairs.

On August 6th, 1944, the train was ordered to Mitava in Latvia and from there to southern Estonia. In Estonia, Panzerzug 26 provided artillery support to German and Estonian forces near the Estonian villages of Lepassare and Husari. On August 11th, 1944, a Soviet air attack seriously damaged both Panzerzug 26 and 51, which were located on the same line in nearly the same place. Two days later, on August 13th, 1941, a Soviet armored attack derailed Panzerzug 51 near the Estonian village of Sümerpalu. Panzerzug 26 was able to escape first to the village of Antsla and then on to the village of Anne, though at Anstla, the train had to first destroy all of the Soviet tanks which were occupying the Anstla railroad yard before it could move on to Anne. Panzerzug 26 remained in Anne until August 20th, 1944. While there, the crews of the destroyed Panzerzug 51 and Panzerzug 67 were added to the roster of Panzerzug 26. The train was able to make it from Anne in Estonia to Tukkums in Latvia. Panzerzug 26 remained in the Tukkums to Liepaja region for the duration of the war; now a part of the Kurland pocket. Plans did actually call for a maritime evacuation of the train, but the Germans were never able to realize these plans.

Panzerzug 26 participated in many defensive actions while in the Kurland pocket. Towards the end of April 1945, its artillery and command wagons had been totally destroyed. Panzerzug 26 was then brought to Liepaja for repairs, but it saw no further combat action after that time.

Panzerzug 26 surrendered to the Soviets on May 9th, 1945 in Liepaja (Libau) in Latvia.

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 30

Panzerzug 30 (Feldpost Nr. 42308) (wide gauge) was the product of the 'Panzerzug 1941' program. Created in early 1941 in Wehrkreis VIII - Breslau, it was designed as a wide gauge armored train suitable for operations on Soviet wide gauge rail lines. The train contained an un-armored Deutsche Reichsbahn BR class 57 engine (57 1504), three open-top flat wagons and two tank-carrying wagons (transporting two French Souma S-35 tanks). For Barbarossa, it was assigned to the 16. Armee; being home based in Königsberg. As with Panzerzug 26, Panzerzug 30's first assignment was to advance towards Kaunas in Lithuania from Eydtkau in East Prussia. However, during the day on June 22nd, 1941, the coal tender of the train sustained a hit from a Soviet dud bomb. The damage was enough to take the train out of action for a few days until the damage could be repaired.

Between June and the fall of 1941, Panzerzug 30 advanced from Kaunas to Vilnius to Daugavpils to Rositten, following Panzerzug 26. From Rositten, Panzerzug 30 was re-routed to advance on Pskov and then towards Luga. By December of 1941, Panzerzug 30 found itself close to the German rear areas of Leningrad, near Yeglino. Because of the Soviet winter counter-attack during the end of January 1942, a number of crew members were temporarily detached from the train and ordered to man the front lines as regular infantry troops. The situation has stabilized itself by the middle of March, 1942, and the surviving commandeered railway troops were returned to their train now patrolling the Nevel to Velike Luki region.

In October of 1942, Panzerzug 30 found itself near the villages of Gatshina and later Lyuban. In December of 1942, it was withdrawn from the front-lines for refit and upgrading in Germany. Panzerzug 63 was ordered to take up the duty stations previously assigned to Panzerzug 30. After refitting, Panzerzug 30 was reassigned to Heeresgruppe Süd.

In February of 1944, Panzerzug 30 was supporting the German positions between Nikolayev to Odessa. The trains engine was seriously damaged on April 6th, 1944 near Yeremeyevka, forcing it to be sent to Odessa for repairs. During the summer of 1944, Panzerzug 30 received a captured Soviet "S" class locomotive as a replacement for its irreparable German locomotive (Class 57, number 57 1504). In early 1945, Panzerzug 30 was placed under the jurisdiction of Heeresgruppe Mitte. By March of 1945, Panzerzug 30 was able to escape to East Prussia, but was captured by Soviet forces on March 21st, 1945 near Gross-Katz.

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 51

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 51 (wide gauge), was initially a Streckenschützzug, or track-protection train, before it was converted to an Eisenbahn-Panzerzug in June of 1942. After Operation Barbarossa began, surplus Soviet rolling stocks were combined to form ad-hoc train units armed with non-repairable Soviet tanks. Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 51 was one of these units. Conversion in this case consisted of adding four Soviet BT-7 tank turrets to its offensive armament. Prior to the conversion, Panzerzug 51 was listed in German records as Streckenschützzug Stettin.

A short while after conversion, Panzerzug 51 was assigned to Heeresgruppe Nord. Its immediate function were to replace the May 1942 damaged Panzerzug 6 (standard gauge 1.435mm) withdrawn from front-line service. Panzerzug 51 found itself in Valga/Valka (Walk) in Estonia in August of 1944 where it was either destroyed in battle or abandoned by its crew.

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 63

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 63, a BP 42 class train, was first made operational in October of 1942. Upon completion, it was assigned to Heeresgruppe Nord, 18. Armee. It fought with Heeresgruppe Nord until April of 1944 when it was transferred to Heeresgruppe Süd.

Panzerzug 63 was destroyed in combat on 17 July 1944 just to the east of the town of Krasne.

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 67

Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 67, a BP 42 class train, was first made operational in late summer of 1943. In September of 1943, it was assigned to Heeresgruppe Mitte. A few months later, in January of 1944, Panzerzug 67 was transferred to Heeresgruppe Nord. Panzerzug 67 was damaged in battle while fighting in Latvia and shortly thereafter it was destroyed by its crew south of Mitva (Mitau) on 27 July 1944.