Railway Armored Trains
|Initially, the German Wehrmacht did not favor the idea of maintainingarmored trains within its arsenal. Advances in tank and aircraft technologies andtactics made the concept of large, lumbering armored trains seem a thingof the past, but none-the-less, as of July 23rd, 1938, seven armored trainswere on the rolls of the Wehrmacht. Each was formed from already existing Deutsche Reichsbahn (German National Railway) track protection trains, in existencesince the 1920’s.|
|It is not known exactly which Reichsbahn track protectiontrain Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 1 was formed from, but in 1938, it was officiallyunder 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 technical 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 forrail track protection assignments. Therefore, it did not participate in the PolishCampaign as a frontline 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 transferredto Radom. From there, the train was to conduct regular track securitypatrols.
In December of 1939, Panzerzug 1 was transferred toDüsseldorf-Eller where it was assigned to assist with the planned invasionof the Netherlands on May 10th, 1940. Shortly before the invasion, Panzerzug 1was based in Hassen, Germany. Panzerzug 1 crossed theDutch border as planned; following close behind was a German transporttrain carrying III./Infantrie-Regiment 481 of the 256.Infantrie-Division.Both trains surprised the local Dutch forces nearthe 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 tostop for emergency repairs. The following troop train also stopped. Theinfantry troops dismounted and began to engage the Dutch forces in thearea. Having completed the emergency repairs, Panzerzug Nr. 1elected to retreat back to the railroad station at Mill. The troop trainremained where it was believing it was out of danger. Anticipating aretreat of at least one of the German trains, the Dutch mined theapproaches to Mill. Panzerzug 1 hit one of these mines causing nearly the entiretrain to derail and topple over. Fire from a nearby Dutch bunker causedadditional casualties. Elements of the III./Infantrie-Regiment 481attempted to circle back and provide relief to the beleagueredtroops of the now-derailed Panzerzug 1. Dutch resistance wasparticularly effective which truly slowed down the German relief effort.Luftwaffe Stuka’s had to be called in to help. In addition, otherelements of the 256.Infantrie-Division were diverted to help salvage thesituation. Eventually, Dutch resistance collapsed. Panzerzug 1 wassalvaged as much as possible, all surviving cars being sent to Darmstadtfor extensive repairs. However, as III./Inf.Reg.481 made its way backtowards Panzerzug 1, the Dutch moved in and set fire to the Germantroop transport train. While in Darmstadt, some train carsfrom Panzerzug 5 were reassigned to Panzerzug 1.
On September 1st, 1941, Panzerzug 1 was transferred to Allenstein (laterHeilsberg) in East Prussia; being assigned to Heeresgruppe Nord.Panzerzug 1 remained configured as a standard gauge train because theSoviets had not yet converted all of the standard gauge rail lines inLithuania and eastern Poland over to the wide gauge and the Germans wantedto take full advantage of the situation. After the invasion of theSoviet Union, Panzerzug 1 advanced from Grodno to Minsk. During Octoberof 1941, it found itself near the town of Krasnoye. This would be itshome base for the next few months as it engaged in track security detailsfrom between there and Smolensk. A key assignment for Panzerzug 1 was tosecure the railroad bridge over the Dnieper River near the town ofIsdyeshkovo. The Soviets had made numerous attempts to destroy this vitalbridge, 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 Warsawfor repairs and refit. This was completed by years end and in January of1943, Panzerzug 1 took up it old duty stations near Smolensk andOrsha. On August 17th, 1943, Panzerzug 1 participated in defensiveactions near Viyasma. It remained in this region until November. OnNovember 28th, 1943, Panzerzug 1 suffered heavy damage from a derailmentcaused by the Soviets blowing up a section of track. Eight wagons plusthe engine were derailed. Two recovery trains worked around the clock andunder enemy fire to set the derailed train back onto the tracks. Whileretreating back to Viyasma, Panzerzug 1 was hit by a bomb. Becausethe damage was so extensive, the surviving elements of Panzerzug 1were withdrawn to Königsberg to be totally rebuilt.
During the refit period, Panzerzug 27 temporarily replaced Panzerzug1 on the front-lines. In February of 1944, Panzerzug 1 wasreleased once more for front line service. A new addition to the trainwas that a number of its wagons contained T-34 turrets. In early March of1944, Panzerzug 1 was fighting defensive actions near Rogatshev. On March 18th, 1944, thetrain was located near Brest-Litovsk. On March 24th, the train wassent to 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 Panzerzug1. Near Mirandino, Panzerzug 1 was cut off from any means ofescape. On June 27th, 1944, the crew blew up the train andattempted to make their way back by foot to the German lines near Bobruisk. Mostof the crew failed in their escape attempt and they became Sovietprisoners of war.
|It is not known exactly whichReichsbahn track protection train Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 3 was formed from, but in 1938, it was officially under the control ofGeneral Kommando, VII.Armee-Korps in München|
Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 3 (Feldpost Nr. 03841) (a standard gauge train) first saw action during the Polish campaign of1939. Like most of the other German armored trains participating in thePolish campaign, Panzerzug 3 had a most dubious start. Having barelycrossed the German-Polish border on September 1st, 1939, Panzerzug 3 quicklyfound itself near the town of Könitz, a point not missed by the Poleswho proceeded to damage it extensively. The very timely arrival ofIII./Inf.Reg.90 insured the trains survival. It was then sent to Danzigfor repairs and refitting.
For the French Campaign, Panzerzug 3 was assigned to support German infantryattacks against the Netherlands. On May 10th, 1940, near the bridges over theIjssel river in the town of Zutphen, Panzerzug 3’s advance was stopped bydetermined Dutch troops who held an advantage by also being located in aconcrete bunker. Panzerzug 3 received heavy battle damage from the defendingDutch forces. Elements of the 227.Infantrie Division and an Infantry Batallionfrom the Liebstandarte SS Adolf Hitler fought with the crew of Panzerzug 3until the defending Dutch forces surrendered. The heavily damaged train wasimmediately withdrawn to Köln for repairs. During August of 1940,Panzerzug 3 was reassigned to perform guard duties in the Netherlands. Itremained 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 configuredto standard gauge. Shortly after 22 June 1941, Panzerzug 3 helped capturethe border town of Grajevo and from there it proceeded towards the city ofByalistok. In October of 1941, Panzerzug 3 returned to Königsberg toreceive upgraded radio and communications equipment.During the winter of 1941/1942, Panzerzug 3 wasassigned to protect the immediate hinterlands in and around the city ofNevel in Russia. In May of 1942, Panzerzug 3 was heavily damaged bymines in the same area. It was withdrawn from front-line service for repairsand refitting. Panzerzug 83, a home-made armored train created by a mostenterprising 83.Infantrie-Division (hence the number 83) temporarilyreplaced Panzerzug 3. By December of 1943, Panzerzug 3 remained inthe rear areas of Heeresgruppe Mitte still undergoing repairs from the May1942 mine attack.
In August of 1944, Panzerzug 3 was reassigned to Heeresgruppe Nord where itwas 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 toparticipate in preventing the Soviets from separating Heeresgruppe Nord fromthe rest of the German defensive positions which the Soviets did on August 20th,1944, near the Latvian town of Tukkums. After being repaired in Septemberof 1944, Panzerzug 3 was returned to the front lines and transferred toLatvia to support the 201.Sicherheits-Division operating between the villagesof Akmene and Papile. On October 5th, 1944, Panzerzug 3 was supporting Germandefensive efforts near the Latvian and Lithuanian border region. On October 10th,1944, Soviet armored troops cut the rail lines at both ends of the Latviantown of Vainode; Panzerzug 3 was thus cut off from a retreat. To prevent itscapture and use by Soviet forces, the train was blown up by its crew, thusending the operational history of Panzerzug 3.
|It is not known exactly which Reichsbahn track protection train Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 1 was formed from,but in 1938, it was officially under the control of General Kommando, IX.Armee Korps located in Kassel.|
Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 5 (Feldpost Nr. 15107) had the shortestoperational career of the original seven German armored trains inexistence in 1939. Though it became operational right after the start ofthe Second World War, because it was lightly armed in its initialconfiguration, it was best suited for rear area actions only. OnSeptember 15th, 1939, Panzerzug 5 departed from the rear areas ofHeeresgruppe Süd through the Polish city of Krakow towards Lvov. OnSeptember 20th, 1939 the train was ordered to provide area security near Lvovas German and Soviet forces met to discuss the demarcation lines.Shortly after this, the train was relocated to the Silesian industrialregion.
After the end of the Polish Campaign, and towards the end of 1939,Panzerzug 5 was transferred toEmden on the western front. There, it was to prepare itself for theinvasion of the Netherlands. Just prior to the start of the WesternCampaign of 1940, Panzerzug 5 was moved up to the town of Dalheim(near München-Gladbach) on the Dutch-German border. It was envisionedthat Panzerzug 5 would provide close support to the Dutch uniformedGerman commando teams of Baulehr-Batallion zbV 800 (Otherwise known asthe Brandenburgers, here under the rather non-descript unit title they wereat the time a part of) as they rushed to occupy key bridges and rail junctionsover the Maas river north of the Dutch town of Roermond. A team of”Dutch dressed” Brandenburgers proceeded towards the railroad bridgenear Buggenum. Another team of Brandenburgers started to make their waytowards Roermond. But they were spotted by the Dutch and got caught in afirefight. The Dutch quickly alerted their sentries guardingthe 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 nowfound itself in front of the destroyed Ijssel Bridge. As soon as itstopped, hidden Dutch anti-tank cannons opened fire hitting the brakecontrol lines with their first shot. This essentially immobilized thetrain. Dutch fire then pounded the train to pieces. The surviving wagonswere reassigned to Panzerzug 1; Panzerzug 5 wasofficially thereafter stricken from the records in June of 1940.
|It is not known exactly whichReichsbahn track protection train Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 6 wasformed from, but in 1938, it was officially under the control ofGeneral Kommando, I.Armee-Korps in Königsberg/Insterburg.|
Panzerzug 6 (Feldpost Nr. 09171) (standard gauge) first saw action in thePolish campaign in 1939; though at that time, it was not fully operationalA a few troops wagons were missing from its full complement and not allof the armor plates were yet affixed to the train as per standingregulations. Panzerzug 6 was one of the few German armored trains whichactually met with operational success while fighting in Poland. OnSeptember 1st, 1939, the Polish town of Grajewo, just a few miles to thesouth of the East Prussian-Polish border, was captured with the help ofPanzerzug 6.
In October of 1939, Panzerzug 6 was brought to the RAWfacilities in Königsberg so that the train’s missing components could becompleted. It then remained in the east for a while, being assignedbenign patrolling duties.
For the French campaign, Panzerzug 6 wastransferred to the German town of Weener, just to the south of theport city of Emden. It was assigned to support the German 1.Kavalliere-Division as it advanced against Dutch forces in northern Holland. TheGerman forces in this area hoped to gain the advantage through a surpriseattack, but the Dutch saw the threat and as soon as Panzerzug 6 approachedthe bridge over the Bulten Aa river, the Dutch blew up the bridge. Germanengineers were quickly able to repair the bridge so that Panzerzug 6 couldadvance. A short distance later, Panzerzug 6 approached a second bridge,this one was west of the Dutch town of Winschoten. As this bridge was aturn-bridge, the Dutch simply turned the bridge so that it becameimpassable. German forces attempted to dislodge thedefending Dutch troops but failed. Shortly thereafter, Panzerzug 6 wasredeployed to Wuppertal in Germany.
During the spring of 1941, Panzerzug6 was transferred to Klaipeda (Memel) in German-annexed Lithuania. ForOperation Barbarossa, Panzerzug 6 was assigned to Heeresgruppe Nord. It remainedconfigured to standard gauge because the Germans had determined that theSoviets had not finished converting the standard gauge Klaipeda-Liepajarail line to wide gauge. Panzerzug 6 advanced as planned andparticipated in the capture of the Latvian port-city of Liepaja in lateJune of 1941. From there, the train advanced to Riga, then Valka inEstonia, reaching the town of Pskov on September 3rd, 1941. By December of1941, the train was patrolling the Dno to Novgorod area on the far ends ofthe northern fringes of the eastern front.
In May of 1942, Panzerzug 6received heavy battle damage and was removed from the front lines andsent to Warsaw for repairs. Because an armored train was still neededin the region, Panzerzug 6 was replaced with Panzerzug 51. Afterbeing repaired and refurbished, Panzerzug 6 was re-assigned to Serbia, where onOctober 1st, 1944, Panzerzug 6 was destroyed in combat in Yugoslavia.
|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-armoredDeutsche Reichsbahn Class-57 engine, a number of open flat wagons and twotank-carrying wagons (transporting French Souma S-35 tanks). ForOperation Barbarossa, it was assigned to the 16.Armee; being home based inKönigsberg. The trains first assignment was to advance towardsKaunas in Lithuania from Eydtkau in East Prussia. Between June and thefall of 1941, Panzerzug 26 advanced from Kaunas to Vilniusin Lithuania, toDaugavpils, and to Rezekne in Latvia, from there to Idritsa and then toNovosokolniki in Russia where it remained until winter 1941. By Decemberof 1941, Panzerzug 26 was located in the region between the cities ofNovosokoloniki and Dno near Leningrad.|
During the month of April 1942, Panzerzug 26 was converted to operate onstandard gauge lines because the Germans had by then converted all of theSoviet-wide gauge lines to standard gauge up to the Novosokolniki region.Panzerzug 26 operated in the Staraya Russa region in the month of May1942. On March 8th, 1943, Panzerzug 26 was withdrawn from the front lines.It was then completely refurbished and refitted in Zwickau, the processtaking nearly a year to complete – being finished on February 19th, 1944.
Once again in operational status, on February 20th, 1944, Panzerzug 26returned to Rezekne in Latvia where it and Panzerzug51 were ordered to secure the rail lines near Daugavipls and Rezeknein Latvia. Later, during May of 1944, Panzerzug 26 was serviced andrefitted 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 actionsnear Polotsk and Idritsa. On July 26th, 1944, Panzerzug 26 fought a duelwith Soviet tanks from the Stalin Tank Brigade near the village ofBigosovo. Though Panzerzug 26 was able to destroy six Soviet tanks, theattacking Soviet armor was able to destroy the trains command wagon.Panzerzug 26 was able to escape, but the accompanying train carryingGerman Infantry Troops fell into Soviet captivity. Panzerzug 26 foughtanother battle with Soviet forces in late July of 1944, forcing it to Rigafor additional repairs.
On August 6th, 1944, the train was ordered to Mitava in Latvia and fromthere to southern Estonia. In Estonia, Panzerzug 26 provided artillerysupport to German and Estonian forces near the Estonian villages ofLepassare and Husari. On August 11th, 1944, a Soviet air attack seriouslydamaged both Panzerzug 26 and 51, which were located on the same line innearly the same place. Two days later, on August 13th, 1941, a Sovietarmored attack derailed Panzerzug 51 near theEstonian village of Sümerpalu. Panzerzug 26 was able to escape firstto the village of Antsla and then on to the village of Anne, though atAnstla, the train had to first destroy all of the Soviet tanks which wereoccupying the Anstla railroad yard before it could move on to Anne.Panzerzug 26 remained in Anne until August 20th, 1944. While there, thecrews of the destroyed Panzerzug 51 and Panzerzug67 were added to the roster of Panzerzug 26. The train was able tomake it from Anne in Estonia to Tukkums in Latvia. Panzerzug 26 remainedin the Tukkums to Liepaja region for the duration of the war; now a partof the Kurland pocket. Plans did actually call for a maritime evacuationof the train, but the Germans were never able to realize these plans.
Panzerzug 26 participated in many defensive actions while in the Kurlandpocket. Towards the end of April 1945, its artillery and command wagonshad been totally destroyed. Panzerzug 26 was then brought to Liepaja forrepairs, 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.
|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 foroperations on Soviet wide gauge rail lines. The train contained anun-armored Deutsche Reichsbahn BR class 57 engine (57 1504), threeopen-top flat wagons and two tank-carrying wagons (transporting twoFrench 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 wasto advance towards Kaunas in Lithuania from Eydtkau in East Prussia.However, during the day on June 22nd, 1941, the coal tender of the trainsustained a hit from a Soviet dud bomb. The damage was enough to take thetrain 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 toVilnius to Daugavpils to Rositten, following Panzerzug 26. From Rositten,Panzerzug 30 was re-routed to advance on Pskov and then towards Luga. ByDecember of 1941, Panzerzug 30 found itself close to the German rear areasof Leningrad, near Yeglino. Because of the Soviet winter counter-attackduring the end of January 1942, a number of crew members were temporarilydetached from the train and ordered to man the front lines as regularinfantry troops. The situation has stabilized itself by the middle ofMarch 1942, and the surviving commandeered railway troops were returnedto their train now patrolling the Nevel to Velike Luki region.
In October of 1942, Panzerzug 30 found itself near the villages ofGatshina and later Lyuban. In December of 1942, it was withdrawn from thefront-lines for refit and upgrading in Germany. Panzerzug 63 was ordered to take up the dutystations previously assigned to Panzerzug 30. After refitting, Panzerzug30 was reassigned to Heeresgruppe Süd.
In February of 1944, Panzerzug 30 was supporting the German positionsbetween Nikolayev to Odessa. The train’s engine was seriously damaged onApril 6th, 1944 near Yeremeyevka, forcing it to be sent to Odessa forrepairs. During the summer of 1944, Panzerzug 30 received a capturedSoviet “S” class locomotive as a replacement for its irreparable Germanlocomotive (Class 57, number 57 1504). In early 1945, Panzerzug 30 wasplaced under the jurisdiction of Heeresgruppe Mitte. By March of 1945,Panzerzug 30 was able to escape to East Prussia but was captured bySoviet forces on March 21st, 1945 near Gross-Katz.
|Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 51 (wide gauge), was initially a Streckenschützzug,or track-protection train before it was converted to an Eisenbahn-Panzerzugin June of 1942. After Operation Barbarossa began, surplus Soviet rollingstocks were combined to form ad-hoc train units armed with non-repairableSoviet tanks. Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 51 was one of these units. Conversion, inthis case, consisted of adding four Soviet BT-7 tank turrets to its offensivearmament. Prior to the conversion, Panzerzug 51 was listed in German recordsas Streckenschützzug Stettin.|
A short while after conversion, Panzerzug 51 was assigned to HeeresgruppeNord. Its immediate function was to replace the May 1942 damaged Panzerzug 6(standard gauge 1.435mm) withdrawn from front-line service. Panzerzug 51found itself in Valga/Valka (Walk) in Estonia in August of 1944 where it waseither destroyed in battle or abandoned by its crew.
|Eisenbahn-Panzerzug 63, a BP 42 class train, was first made operational inOctober of 1942. Upon completion, it was assigned to Heeresgruppe Nord, 18.Armee. It fought with Heeresgruppe Nord until April of 1944 when it wastransferred 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, a BP 42 class train, was first made operational inlate summer of 1943. In September of 1943, it was assigned to HeeresgruppeMitte. A few months later, in January of 1944, Panzerzug 67 was transferredto Heeresgruppe Nord. Panzerzug 67 was damaged in battle while fighting inLatvia and shortly thereafter it was destroyed by its crew south of Mitva(Mitau) on 27 July 1944.|