The Artillery Express: A Photographic Journey through the Era of Railway Guns

Today, we’re taking a fascinating journey to explore a unique combination of transport and military might – the Railway Guns. These impressive weapons, also known as railguns, were an innovation of military engineering and played a crucial role during the times of conflict. So, let’s dive into the story of these giants of the railways.

In the simplest terms, railway guns were massive artillery pieces, mounted on specially designed railway carriages. Their origins date back to the late 19th century, but they came into their own during World War I. The concept was innovative for the time – these guns provided the heavy artillery with increased mobility and the ability to rapidly reposition, something previously unheard of in warfare.

Railway guns were a force to reckon with. Imagine the heaviest and most destructive artillery you can think of, but on wheels! With sizes ranging from relatively small field guns to colossal pieces of equipment, these guns packed a powerful punch. The most sizable of these could fire shells weighing over a ton to distances of more than 25 miles. Now that’s a long shot!

One of the most famous railway guns was the German ‘Paris Gun’, used during World War I. With a barrel length of over 112 feet and weighing a colossal 256 tons, this railgun was used to shell Paris from a staggering distance of around 75 miles. These figures give you a sense of the massive scale and devastating power of these rail-mounted artillery pieces.

But it wasn’t just the Europeans who embraced this technology. The United States also built a series of railway guns. One notable example was the US Navy 14″/50 caliber railway gun. During World War II, these were deployed along the coastlines, acting as a sort of movable coastal defense.

One interesting aspect of railway guns was their relative mobility. They were designed to use existing railway networks, which enabled them to be deployed relatively quickly to different areas of the front. This mobility was a double-edged sword, though. While it allowed the guns to be used flexibly, it also limited them to areas with suitable rail infrastructure. This restriction made them less useful in areas without rail networks, or where railways had been damaged or destroyed by previous fighting.

These railway guns were not without their weaknesses. They were massive and therefore difficult to conceal, making them easy targets for enemy aircraft. Furthermore, their reliance on railways for mobility made them vulnerable if the tracks were sabotaged or damaged.

By the end of World War II, the era of the railway guns was largely over. Advancements in aviation, missile technology, and other areas of military technology had made them obsolete. However, they remain an intriguing part of military history, symbols of a time when the worlds of transportation and warfare collided to create something truly unique.

#1 Confederate railroad gun and crew during the Siege of Petersburg, American Civil War, Petersburg, Virginia, 1864.

#2 Krupp 71-ton gun of 1881, manufactured by Krupp of Essen, Germany, late 19th century.

#4 Sergeant Borrowe and the Dynamite Gun during the Spanish-American War, June 1898, Port Tampa, Florida.

#5 British six-inch naval gun mounted on a railway truck for transportation to Modder River Station, 1900.

#6 Naval gun on a railway truck being sent forward from Naddier River Station for Lord Roberts’ advance.

#7 Battery of 320mm cannons firing during the offensive in the region of Reims, France, April 1917.

#8 War industry: tube for gun manufacturing, 1915-1918.

#9 British 16-inch railway guns in action during World War I

#10 Large German artillery gun mounted on a railroad car firing a shell.

#11 German troops setting the azimuth for horizontal lay on a 28 cm rapid-firing gun mounted on a train.

#12 Loading a 15′ naval gun onto a waiting train at The Royal Ordnance Works in Coventry, 1915.

#13 Heavy artillery in the Somme, a 274-mm gun mounted on the railway, France, 1916, World War I.

#14 Railway gun being repositioned after firing on the British Western Front during World War I, 1916.

#15 British soldiers with a field gun mounted on a railway on the Western Front during World War I, 1916.

#16 French soldiers camouflaging a 370 mm railway gun named “Keity” in Noyon, Oise region, France, September 5, 1917.

#17 French soldiers camouflaging a 370 mm railway gun named “Keity” in Noyon, Region Oise, France, September 5, 1917.

#18 Heavy artillery on a train, circa 1914-1918, with a large gun named “Louise.”

#19 African troops and heavy artillery mounted on a train in Champagne, northern France, 1914-1918.

#20 370 mm railway gun named “Louise” in Mailly, northern France, 1914-1918.

#21 320 mm railway gun, Split trail gun, 1918, France.

#23 16-inch railway gun that pulverized the Hindenburg Line, France, 1917-1918.

#24 American 14-inch railway gun used during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France, 1918.

#25 United States Railway Ordinance or Artillery in World War I, France, 1918.

#26 US military ordinance on a railway artillery train in France during World War I, 1918.

#27 Buried trolley tracks being salvaged for war efforts in the United States, 1919.

#28 German anti-aircraft gun mounted on a railway truck after the taking of the Polish corridor town of Karthaus in 1939.

#29 One of the big 14-inch guns used in the war against the Germans, firing a 1200-pound shell with a range of 19 miles, February 11, 1919.

#30 Heavy artillery mounted on a train during World War I, known as “The Monster British Guns,” 1919.

#31 Massive railroad gun towering over troops, 1940s.

#32 Long-range gun mounted on a railway carriage pointing out to sea.

#33 Big artillery railroad gun firing during World War II in the 1940s.

#34 American soldiers examining an abandoned German giant gun on a railway southeast of Torigny-sur-Vire, France, in 1944.

#35 An American soldier examining a giant 10-inch German railroad gun mounted on a circular track in the Cherbourg Peninsula, France.

Avatar of Matthew Green

Written by Matthew Green

Andrew's writing is grounded in research and provides unique insights into the cultural and historical contexts of vintage pieces. Through his work, he aims to foster a greater appreciation for the value and beauty of vintage items.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *