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"Soviet Railroad Restoration" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following translated article on the rebuilding of Soviet railroads during WWII was published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 43, January 27, 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.]


The following is a translation of an article, published in the Soviet magazine "Zheleznodrozhny Transport", which tells of the reconstruction to broad gauge of Soviet railways recovered during the retreat of the Germans.

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To assist in rapid completion of the task of rebuilding our [ Soviet ] lines of communication, the men, women and children of the liberated regions have furnished invaluable assistance. Their aid was particularly welcome because the many problems confronting us in this effort.

For instance, the retreating enemy did not leave a single large or medium-sized bridge intact; of the small spans and culverts, 80 per cent were ruined. The extent of destruction of these engineering works was such that ordinarily the gap made by the enemy's explosives was 20 per cent longer than the structure itself; in some cases the explosions resulted in holes of from about 6 to 12 cubic yards.

In addition to destroying bridges and culverts, the Germans demolished all water supply equipment except in very few instances.

Such extensive restoration as we accomplished was speeded up not only by calling on the people of a given locality to furnish labor, but also by using all available local materials for the rebuilding of bridges and other essential reconstruction. On one section of the railroad we had to erect 240 bridges and re-lay a considerable amount of the track. In this particular operation, 79 percent of the required I-girders, forgings, assorted fittings and rails, was taken from sidings and from industrial and quarry lines, 8 per cent seized from the enemy, leaving only 13 per cent (mainly I-girders) to be furnished from new materials. However, such conditions as existed on this line were more favorable than those usually encountered.

When converting track in order to use their own rolling stock, the Germans followed the procedure of moving one of the rails inward. However, sometimes they laid a third inner rail in order to use both Soviet and German rolling stock. There were few cases of cutting of ties.

In the urgent matter of re-laying track, we generally use the following method:

The rail which has been shifted inward by the enemy is completely loosened. Then the workers remove the damaged sections of the other rail, and undamaged sections of the loosened rail were used to replace them. Next, the damaged rails are cut into usable sections to be employed in rebuilding. Some new rails are frequently necessary. The result of this procedure is that one rail is made up entirely of whole sections, while the other is formed partly of short pieces of reclaimed rails and partly of complete lengths. This means of re-laying track is successful in cases where the percentage of damaged rails is small (20 to 30 percent). We used it on the Salsk-Sarepto line of the Stalingrad railroad.

In other instances, when every joint or every other joint has been damaged, both rails must be cut into short sections. In using reclaimed sections, the shortest length employed is 5 yards for curved track and 3 yards for straight track, and the reclaimed rails must be used in combination with some new rails. Where damaged, or temporary material was used the speed of the trains was not to exceed 10 miles an hour.

In addition to track restoration, we were forced, in some instances, to rebuild crossings completely. It was also necessary, at some places, to widen curves when reconverting to Soviet gauge.

There were many other important tasks in connection with the reopening of railroad lines. There was the responsibility for restoring telephone and telegraph wires, building shelters for patrols and guards at railroad, telegraph, and telephone stations and at switching posts, and providing homes for workers.

The Germans do not seem to have undertaken the shortening of ties to any great extent, due to the tremendous amount of labor which would have been required.


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