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"Railway Track Destroyer" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on German railway track destroyers used during WWII was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 45, April 1, 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


There have been a number of reports concerning a German railway track destroyer and the devastating damage caused by it in Italy. According to one report, the equipment consists of a locomotive, a flat car, a freight car for explosives, a freight car for personnel and a hook or claw as shown in the accompanying photograph. The crew is reported to consist of one noncommissioned officer and 12 men.

a. Use on Ties

Two or three ties are first removed and a hole dug deep enough to accommodate the hook or claw. The hook is lowered and placed in position underneath the first tie and the first two or three ties loosened. The hook is then drawn forward by the locomotive, dragging up the ties and breaking them in the middle. The road bed is damaged considerably in the process. When not in operation, the hook is kept clear by means of a distance block.

b. Use on Rails

There is a box arrangement forward of the hook providing room for six men and a number of cases of explosive charges.* Each 2.2 pound charge is initiated by an 8-inch length of safety fuze. There is a 20-second delay after ignition of the fuze.

The men are divided into two teams of three each. The first man hands the charges to the next who passes them to the third man who initiates the charges and drops them into guide chutes which rest on the rails. The charges automatically attach to the inside of the rail by means of metal clips fixed to them by grubscrews.

[German Track Destroyer; Track after Destruction]

c. Speed of Operation

As the rear wheels on which the hook is based lack firm support, the apparatus is subjected to a pronounced swaying movement which necessarily slows the operation. The speed of the destroyer has been reported as about 9.4 miles per hour.

*These charges damage the rails and new rails are required to restore the track, (see Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 43, p. 26 for a reference to the subject of rail destruction and restoration).


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