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