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Polish State Railways as a Mode of Transport for Troops of the Warsaw Pact

Technology in Service of a Doctrine

by Zbigniew Tucholski (Author) Barbara Bienias (Revision)
Monographs 448 Pages
Open Access

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of contents
  • INTRODUCTION
  • 1. DEVELOPING THE CONCEPT OF MILITARY RAILWAY USE
  • 2. RED ARMY MILITARY TRANSPORT IN THE FINAL STAGES OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR – TRANSPORT-BASED SECURITY OF THE RED ARMY OPERATIONS IN BELARUS AND THE VISTULA-AND-ODRA REGION
  • 3. RECONSTRUCTING, ORGANISING, AND DEVELOPING THE HEADQUARTERS OF MILITARY TRANSPORT IN THE YEARS 1944–1962
  • 3.1 Department of Military transport, Military District Command I Warsaw
  • 3.2 Reconstruction of Railway Units
  • 3.2.1 The 5th Railway Troops Battalion in Darłowo
  • 3.2.2 3rd Railway Troops Battalion in Pikulice near Przemyśl
  • 3.2.3 7th Railway Troops Battalion in Września
  • 4. PREPARING THE Polish State Railways NETWORK FOR A MILITARY CONFLICT AS PART OF WARSAW PACT STRATEGIC PLANS
  • 4.1 Securing Transport for the Frontline Offensive Campaign
  • 4.2 Evacuation of the Wounded
  • 4.2.1 Temporary Transhipment Areas
  • 4.2.2 Organisational Structure of Military Transport on the Frontline
  • 4.2.3 Organising Technical Protection for the Frontline Railway Network
  • 4.2. Destruction of Railway Lines, Stations, Facilities and Rolling Stock
  • 4.3.1 Bridge Destruction
  • 4.3.2 Bridge Mining
  • 4.4 Temporary Reconstruction (Construction) of Railway Lines
  • 4.4.1 Reconstruction of Water Supply Facilities
  • 4.4.2 Reconstruction of Buildings Indispensable to Railway Traffic
  • 4.4.3 Reconstruction of Railway Signalling Devices
  • 4.4.4 Temporary Bridge Reconstruction
  • 4.5 Folding Railway Bridges
  • 4.6 Railway Bridge Crossings Built by the Road and Railway Units of the Polish Armed Forces as part of the Warsaw Pact Military Exercises and Performing Tasks to Support the National Economy
  • 5. MILITARY TRANSPORTS
  • 5.1 Military Transports – Typology
  • 5.1.1 Military Rail Transport
  • 5.1.2 Anti-Aircraft Defence of Military Transports
  • 5.1.3 Anti-Tank Defence of Military Transports
  • 5.1.4 Safeguarding the Confidentiality of Transports
  • 5.1.5 Rolling Stock used for Military transport Purposes
  • 5.1.6 Loading Areas, Stations, and Sites; Loading Devices
  • 5.2 Transporting Soviet Army Troops in Transit by the Polish State Railways
  • 5.3 Transports for Soviet Army Troops Stationed in Poland
  • 6. MILITARY RAILWAY SIDINGS AND MILITARY RAILWAYS
  • 6.1 Military narrow-gauge railways
  • 6.1.1. Military siding no. 289 Hrubieszów (Hrubieszów narrow-gauge railway)
  • 6.1.2. Narrow-gauge military railway at the Field Artillery Research Centre in Zielonka (military siding No. 182) and standard-gauge siding No. 127727
  • 6.1.3. Rolling stock
  • 6.1.4. Narrow-gauge 600mm railway on the Hel peninsula (military siding No. 582)
  • 6.1.5. Narrow-gauge 600 mm military railway Gdynia-Port Wojenny Oksywie, (military siding No. 581) JW 3643 Gdynia Port-Oksywie, siding No. 407
  • 6.1.6 Military railway Świnoujście, military siding No. 881 (600 mm)
  • 6.1.7 Military siding No. 181, JW 1540 Nowe Miasto and sidings for fuel re-pumping station in Piaseczno No. 101/183 (standard- and narrow-gauge)
  • 6.1.8 Military siding in Zegrze Pomorskie and fuel re-pumping point siding in Koszalin
  • 6.1.9 Military siding JW 4420 No. 180 (Mława narrow-gauge railway)
  • 6.2. Military rolling stock
  • 6.2.1 Locomotives
  • 6.2.2 Wagon and special rolling stock
  • 6.2.3 Management of military rolling stock
  • 6.2.4 Road trailers for wagon transport
  • 6.2.5 Narrow-gauge military tank wagons of the Ministry of National Defence
  • CONCLUSION
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY
  • INDEX
  • Series index

About the author

The Author
Zbigniew Tucholski, Ph.D., is a professor at the Institute of History of Science of the Polish Academy of Science, a technical historian, specialised in the history of railways, transportation, industry and military technology, and the preservation of transport infrastructure and architecture heritage.

About the book

Zbigniew Tucholski

Polish State Railways as a Mode of Transport
for Troops of the Warsaw Pact

The subject of the book is the history of the planned use of Polish railway infrastructure during the Cold War as part of the strategic plans of the Warsaw Pact. Analysing both technical and operational issues related to railway military transportation in a historical perspective, the book presents the history of the military transportation service of the Polish Army and provides a detailed characteristics of the organizational structure, equipment and tasks of the military transportation units and railway troops. The book also deals with rail transports of the Soviet Army on the Polish State Railways. It is not only the result of archival queries and interviews with retired officers of the military transportation service but also field research of railway infrastructure.

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Table of contents

INTRODUCTION

1. DEVELOPING THE CONCEPT OF MILITARY RAILWAY USE

2. RED ARMY MILITARY TRANSPORT IN THE FINAL STAGES OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR – TRANSPORT-BASED SECURITY OF THE RED ARMY OPERATIONS IN BELARUS AND THE VISTULA-AND-ODRA REGION

3. RECONSTRUCTING, ORGANISING, AND DEVELOPING THE HEADQUARTERS OF MILITARY TRANSPORT IN THE YEARS 1944–1962

3.1 Department of Military transport, Military District Command I Warsaw

3.2 Reconstruction of Railway Units

3.2.1 The 5th Railway Troops Battalion in Darłowo

3.2.2 3rd Railway Troops Battalion in Pikulice near Przemyśl

3.2.3 7th Railway Troops Battalion in Września

4. PREPARING THE Polish State Railways NETWORK FOR A MILITARY CONFLICT AS PART OF WARSAW PACT STRATEGIC PLANS

4.1 Securing Transport for the Frontline Offensive Campaign

4.2 Evacuation of the Wounded

4.2.1 Temporary Transhipment Areas

4.2.2 Organisational Structure of Military Transport on the Frontline

4.2.3 Organising Technical Protection for the Frontline Railway Network

4.3 Destruction of Railway Lines, Stations, Facilities and Rolling Stock

4.3.1 Bridge Destruction

4.3.2 Bridge Mining

4.4 Temporary Reconstruction (Construction) of Railway Lines

4.4.1 Reconstruction of Water Supply Facilities

4.4.2 Reconstruction of Buildings Indispensable to Railway Traffic

4.4.3 Reconstruction of Railway Signalling Devices

4.4.4 Temporary Bridge Reconstruction

4.5 Folding Railway Bridges

4.6 Railway Bridge Crossings Built by the Road and Railway Units of the Polish Armed Forces as part of the Warsaw Pact Military Exercises and Performing Tasks to Support the National Economy

5. MILITARY TRANSPORTS

5.1 Military Transports – Typology

5.1.1 Military Rail Transport

5.1.2 Anti-Aircraft Defence of Military Transports

5.1.3 Anti-Tank Defence of Military Transports

5.1.4 Safeguarding the Confidentiality of Transports

5.1.5 Rolling Stock used for Military transport Purposes

5.1.6 Loading Areas, Stations, and Sites; Loading Devices

5.2 Transporting Soviet Army Troops in Transit by the Polish State Railways

5.3 Transports for Soviet Army Troops Stationed in Poland

6. MILITARY RAILWAY SIDINGS AND MILITARY RAILWAYS

6.1 Military narrow-gauge railways

6.1.1 Military siding no. 289 Hrubieszów (Hrubieszów narrow-gauge railway)

6.1.2 Narrow-gauge military railway at the Field Artillery Research Centre in Zielonka (military siding No. 182) and standard-gauge siding No. 127

6.1.3 Rolling stock

6.1.4 Narrow-gauge 600mm railway on the Hel peninsula (military siding No. 582)

6.1.5 Narrow-gauge 600 mm military railway Gdynia-Port Wojenny Oksywie, (military siding No. 581) JW 3643 Gdynia Port-Oksywie, siding No. 407

6.1.6 Military railway Świnoujście, military siding No. 881 (600 mm)

6.1.7 Military siding No. 181, JW 1540 Nowe Miasto and sidings for fuel re-pumping station in Piaseczno No. 101/183 (standard- and narrow-gauge)

6.1.8 Military siding in Zegrze Pomorskie and fuel re-pumping point siding in Koszalin

6.1.9 Military siding JW 4420 No. 180 (Mława narrow-gauge railway)

6.2 Military rolling stock

6.2.1 Locomotives

6.2.2 Wagon and special rolling stock

6.2.3 Management of military rolling stock

6.2.4 Road trailers for wagon transport

6.2.5 Narrow-gauge military tank wagons of the Ministry of National Defence

CONCLUSION

BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX

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INTRODUCTION

The phrase military transport first appeared in Polish military vocabulary in the late 1920s, when the Polish Armed Forces extended the existing scope of tasks of the Railway Division of the General Staff to include other modes of transport for military use, as part of an exercise aimed at re-organising its quartermaster services (to the French army model). In 1928, Headquarters for Military Transport were established as part of the General Staff.1

According to one definition, the phrase military transport shall apply to all of the following items:2

Military forms of transport and communication (fixed and mobile) used in any organised process of moving (transferring) and carrying troops and military supplies.

Organisational and technical ventures associated with the handling of military transport and ensuring the viability of the transport network in use during such ventures.

Military transport service bodies responsible for the management and control of any process involving such ventures.

Military transport units reporting to aforementioned bodies.

Militarised bodies and units (formations) of civilian transport divisions and local forces reporting to the aforementioned bodies operationally.

Another definition of military transport references the actual communication system, which comprises a network of mutually connected roads, military transport units deployed along them, together with assorted military transport formations.3

Once thus defined, the scope of the phrase blatantly includes all modes of land and air transport employed to move troops, equipment and supplies, as well as other related matters. In this work, I have decided to limit the scope of the phrase to the issues of military use of rail transport, essentially restricting it to the operational use of the Polish State Railways network as a mode of transport for the Warsaw Pact troops.

←9 | 10→

The fundamental purpose of this work is to present the history of the Headquarters of Military Transport of the Polish Armed Forces and of the railway units involved, and to analyse all technical issues tying in with military transport from a historical perspective. I took on a task of no lesser importance: that of describing the planned operational use of railway infrastructure on the Polish territory along the Western and Coastal Operational Directions as part of the strategic plans drafted by the parties to the Warsaw Pact.

In addition, my intention was also to create a detailed portrayal of the organisational structure and missions (during warfare and times of peace alike) of military transport bodies and railway troops, and strategic post-war use of railway transport. The narrative describing the transport of Red Army forces (operational transport and supplies) with the use of the Polish State Railways network was of no lesser importance.

Chronologically, the work spans the period of 1944–1960. The timeframe identified for the purposes of the project ties in closely with the fact that in the late 1950s, following a reduction to the armed forces, railway battalions were reformed into railway regiments, their purpose and organisational structure duly changed. For the Headquarters of Military Transport 1962 became the fundamental watershed: this was when railway transport units were integrated with the road service. In November 1962, the Headquarters of Military Transport of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces merged with the 15th Division of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces and the Headquarters of Military Transport of the Ministry of National Defence was formed. Due to the interconnectivity of technical matters associated with the preparation of the Polish State Railways network for warfare (requiring a more comprehensive approach), I described the issue up to and including the year 1990. If considered only up until 1962, the account would not have shown the size or importance of comprehensive investments on the Polish railway network.

In analysing significant investments on the Polish State Railways network, one cannot help but ask an undermining question concerning the effectiveness of the techniques used, and the organisation of military rail transport in times of a planned conflict. The usability of infrastructure developed for military purposes, as well as matters concerned with its potential use in times of peace following the Cold War, are also of vital interest. I attempted to answer these questions in individual chapters.

Considerable difficulties were encountered at the stage of collecting source material for this work, due among other things to the fact that the majority of archival materials regarding military transport have until recently been considered classified. Furthermore, given the orders to dispose of documentation ←10 | 11→describing operational and mobilisation exercises as well as technical documents, a considerable part of all resources has been completely destroyed. At the stage of gathering materials for the purpose of this work, it was found that only the very basic military transport service files from the 1970s and 1980s had been preserved at the Ministry of Defence Central Archives in Modlin. Additionally, issues connected with post-1945 military transports were shrouded in secrecy, which is why the few existing materials were published as classified military instructions, or as articles in restricted-access military journals of the time, such as Przegląd Kwatermistrzowski.

Reference sources for this study include technical and operational military and railway files, technical documentation related to rolling stock used for military transport, track layout plans for railway stations, military sidings, transfer routes and transhipment areas; assorted regulations and service instructions related to military transports, as well as the destruction and reconstruction of temporary and permanent railway lines (both military and civilian).

When compiling the reference list I only included the most important sources and studies.

Vital items include an extraordinarily extensive in-house study by Colonel Marian Gembora titled Wojska kolejowe, preserved at the Library of the Military Bureau for Historical Research, as well as a largely forgotten work by Captain Ryszard Strózik, Wojska kolejowe 1944–1946, [The Railway Military 1944–1946], (Master thesis under Professor Stanisław Herbst at the Department of History at Political-Military Academy) Military Office of Historical Research Archive (Military Office of Historical Research Archive), which describes the organisation and military activities of the military transport service of the 1st and 2nd Polish Armies. Interesting items depicting the organisational structure of the military transport service include a study by the Head of Staff of the Military Transport Service of the Chief Quartermaster of the Polish Armed Forces, titled Zarys historii Szefostwa Służby Komunikacji Wojskowej (unpublished). A valuable reference source for the description of tactical, organisational and technical matters related to warfare (“W”) military transport has been provided by a Ministry of Defence Manual, Chief of Transport 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa, Warsaw 1965.

A double-volume collective work published by the Ministry of Transport (Odbudowa mostów kolejowych, Stalowe konstrukcje składane), [Reconstruction of Railway bridges – Folding Structures], Part I, Warsaw 1966, Part II, Warsaw 1968 was the fundamental source used for the purposes of describing the structure of post-war military folding bridge facilities. A collective work titled Żheleznodorozhniki v velikoy otchestvennoy voyne, Moscow 1987, was an ←11 | 12→extremely interesting reference source. This is a collection of reports filed by the people involved in the Red Army railway units. Once Soviet propaganda is set aside, it is possible to use the information contained therein. In describing the system of backup crossings of the River Odra prepared for warfare I have also used the information provided by A. Kuhlmann in his study Eisenbahnen über die Oder-Neiße-Grenze, (Pürgen, 2004).

In describing the body of reference sources, one cannot fail to mention the only Polish publication discussing the military transport activities over the centuries by Professor Eugeniusz Nowak: Komunikacje i wojna, (Warsaw, 1994).

My heartiest words of thanks go to the following persons for their invaluable help and support in gathering materials and providing reviews for this work: Colonel Wiesław Bogdański, Head of the Department of Transport and Military Movement, Co-ordination Centre for the Movement of Troops; in addition, I would like to thank Lieutenant Colonel Kazimierz Balog and Professor of Engineering Henryk Bałuch, Ph. D. Hab., designer and supervisor of the Medyka transfer transhipment station and the M (Medyka) Permanent Transfer Transhipment Area in the 1950s, for their assistance in writing this work and helpful accounts; Jerzy Brych, M.Sc. Eng., former Deputy Director of the Lublin Regional State Railway Management, Wojciech Dembiński, M.Sc. Eng., Colonel Aleksander Jakimczuk, Colonel Jerzy Jarzyna, lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering of the Military University of Technology, Maciej Kucharski, M.Sc. Eng., Colonel Wacław Kuzak, retired Head of the Field Division of the Military Institute of Armament Technology (Military Institute of Armament Technology) in Zielonka, Colonel Jerzy Maj, retired Head of the Department of Military Transfer at the Regional State Railway Management in Warsaw, Aleksander Matecki, retired controller at the Regional State Railway Management in Warsaw, Bogdan Pokropiński, retired locomotive driver of the Warszawa Praga mainline locomotive depot, Krzysztof Soida M.Sc. Eng., Lieutenant Commander Stefaniak – employee of the Board of Naval Logistics in Gdynia, Jan Szponder, Colonel Józef Szwajk – former commander of the 2nd Railway Regiment in Inowrocław, Artur Weber, Colonel Jacek Wyszyński – employee of the Military Office of the Ministry for Infrastructure, and Major Jerzy Zieliński, retired Head of the Section for Internal Transport and Railways of the Institute of Military Armament Technology.

I would like to thank the following for their kindness and assistance: supervisor of my thesis Associate Professor Edward Malak, Ph.D. Hab, Professor Bolesław Orłowski, Ph.D. Hab., and Professor Leszek Zasztowt, Ph. D. Hab.


1 Mioduszewski (1974) 1/134, 155.

2 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command, 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 20.

3 Mała encyklopedia wojskowa, Vol. 2 (1970), 73.

←12 | 13→

1. DEVELOPING THE CONCEPT OF MILITARY RAILWAY USE

A proper description of the complex circumstances of developing the railway network in Poland requires an indispensable reference to the early use of the railways by the military.

For the first time in history, troops were carried by rail during the Palatine Uprising of 18494, and – that same year – during the German expedition to Schleswig. Ten years later, in 1859, the French and English were already making use of rail transport. During the American Civil War, Americans carried troops by rail on a major scale. In 1866, Austrians were the first to make strategic use of this mode of transport, moving 100,000 people from Custozza to the German Front, and thus covering 700 km in 12 days.5

In 1851 Russian military authorities developed their first guidelines for the movement of troops by rail: Przepisy o przewozie kawalerii po Petersbursko-Moskiewskiej Kolei Żelaznej [Regulations of Moving Cavalry by the Petersburg-Moscow Railway], while on November 24th 1851, the Russian Ministry of War issued its first directive on the use of railways for the purposes of transferring troops.6

The progressive development of railways is connected with the 19th-century industrialisation, making it a crucial mode of transport, which was of utmost importance to the success of both individual operations and entire campaigns. In the wake of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, the importance of rail transport was duly noted by the General Staff of almost all major European nations. Prussia owed its military success in the 1870 war to the efficient mobilisation and shipment of its armed forces, most certainly assisted by the strategic railway network which had at the time been under expansion in Prussia for quite a time already: Field Marshal Helmut von Moltke’s Prussian war doctrine provided for the expansion of a dense rail network, including technical infrastructure to serve the purposes of mass mobilisation and operational transfer. The efficiency of Prussia’s transport system enabled swift completion of all mobilisation exercises, as well as full combat readiness three weeks ahead of the Russians.

←13 | 14→

Geopolitical conditions determined the main directions of military movement to the west and east, across the territories lost by Poland as a result of partitioning upon the loss of its independence. Moreover, the highest concentration of fortifications in Europe clearly points to the operational importance of the Polish territory. In the 19th century, strategic crossings were fortified on major rivers at the following locations: Warszawa, Dęblin, Modlin, Toruń, Grudziądz, and Poznań. Furthermore, Russian and Prussian systems of centralised fortifications and ring fortresses (brought about by extensions to the artillery range and the invention of smokeless gunpowder after 1870) were developed on Polish territory in the late 19th century, serving identical operational purposes.

Within the Kingdom, the network of fortress roads connecting specific fortifications and points of resistance was also expanded in the 19th century.

Different concepts for the operational use of railway transport laid out by the partitioning powers became a lead factor in determining the development of the railway network on the Polish land.

In Poland under partitions, road and rail networks were constructed and operated in conformity to the operational plans drafted by the General Staffs of Prussia, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Consequently, due to the growing importance of railways to the military, from the mid-19th century onwards, the development of the railway network was largely determined by military goals. Nonetheless, the partitioning powers followed separate railway-related policies, appropriately adapted to the binding war doctrines of the time.

Railway construction in Imperial Russia was largely determined by strategic considerations. New railway routes, particularly those stretching across the River Vistula and into the pre-frontier area of the Vistula Country, were perceived as a significant strategic threat – ample proof that an extensive rail network would allow the enemy to attack swiftly and dislocate troops.

Construction of new railway lines (particularly in the western part of the Empire) was strictly controlled by the state and dependent on approval by the Department of Military Transport of the Russian General Staff, upon which the Ministry of Railways could issue a licence for the construction and operation of every single narrow-gauge or industrial line, even if tertiary in importance.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 exposed the shortcomings of the Russian railway system, the direct cause of the Sevastopol defeat. The mobilisation capacity of the Prussian army was far greater than that of the Russian army already in the 1880s, due to the expansion of the Prussian railway network. In view of such a state of affairs, Minister of War General Dimitri Milutin decided to abandon the “wilderness strategy” in favour of railway network development, the move to a certain degree changing the Russian military doctrine. Nonetheless, ←14 | 15→a significant number of conservative Russian generals continued to favour the already outdated strategic concepts of Kutuzov and Suvorov. The new military doctrine became the main reason behind the changes to the Russian railway-related policies. A decision was made to restore the concept of construction of railway lines by the state, leading to a rush of railway line purchases from private owners at significant loss to the state treasury. In the early 20th century, two-thirds of the railway network in European Russia were state-owned, strict state controls having been extended on the operation of lines in joint-stock control.

The weakness of the Russian rail transport, the Trans-Siberian railway in particular (efforts to increase the capacity of the line went as far as to setting up a special-purpose railway ferry across the Lake Baikal), was one of the main reasons for Imperial Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War.

Prior to the outbreak of the Great War, Russia developed a system of seven front-bound railway lines heading for the German border, their total capacity reaching 223 train pairs per day. The solution secured a mere 0.25 of train passage per day per frontline kilometre. Nine lines heading for the Austro-Hungarian border were routed (five double-track and four single-track lines). Their total capacity reached no more than 260 train pairs per day, securing the passage of a mere 0.4 of train per day per frontline kilometre.7 In the late 19th century, a system of low-density parallel lines was also developed in the European part of Russia and across Polish territory.

Efforts to expand the capacity of Russian railways immediately prior to the Great War took a wrong turn. No railway network to support the military was built (having been restricted to the network developed in late 19th century with no attention paid to the improvement of the organisation of railway traffic): Prior to the Great War, the Russian Staff failed to predict that warfare against Germany would be a largely railway-based war, dozens of corps being moved from one area to another for strategic purposes, sometimes across hundreds of kilometres. According to the view of the General Staff, the strategic network was mainly to consist of high-capacity mainlines designed to move troops in the shortest possible time from inland governorates to the venues of concentration.8

As the new mode of transport – the railway – developed and expanded, General Staffs of partitioning powers drafted railway policies according to their specific operational plans.

←15 | 16→

According to Russian military doctrine, the main theatre of war would extend along the western border of the Empire, from the Baltic Sea to the Carpathian Mountains. Such strategists assumed a specific division of the theatre of war into the following regions: the centre (near the River Vistula), the north (the Baltic Sea and Polesie region), and the south (between the Polesie region and the Carpathian Mountains). Polesie was to serve as a divide between the regions; given the Polesie marshlands, it was assumed that the area would form a natural barrier. The Vistula region incorporated the area of the Kingdom forming a major outcrop, its flanks occupied by Prussia and Austria. It was bordered by Rivers Narew and Biebrza to the north, by the River Vistula to the west, and by the San River basin to the south.

The Russian military doctrine assumed that the Vistula Country would serve as the defence boundary to the west, safeguarding the mobilisation and concentration of troops, and become a foundation, as it were, for the Russian armed forces’ development on the future Western Front (with a planned strike by the Russians towards Vienna and Berlin). The area of the Kingdom (40 % of the entire future front) was to become a major mobilisation and logistical centre for the Russian army. Last but not least, the first line of Class One fortresses intended to defend the western borders of the Empire had been expanded in the early 19th century. Consequently, the area featured considerable saturation of military infrastructure: well-developed systems of Russian fortifications warranted the protection for Russian troops’ concentration in the Kingdom, the concept was followed consistently.9 As early as in the post-1915 period, the Russian General Staff decided to fortify the river crossings – in order to expand the Modlin Fortress and construct new fortifications in Warszawa and Dęblin.

Planning to carry out defence operations in such a way as to avoid providing the enemy with a favourable technical and logistics base, the Russian General Staff restricted railway construction projects on the territory of the Kingdom from the 1880s.

On the other hand, the Prussian military powers advocated an offensive railway strategy, supporting the intensive expansion of the railway network to establish a dense transport system. The goal was even supported by a special-purpose law allowing the construction of private and self-operated local government railways: the Prussian General Staff planned for offensive railway use on enemy territory, including swift construction of temporary trench railway lines ←16 | 17→(standard- and narrow-gauge) aligned with the planned offensive directions, all works to be performed by specialist railway engineering battalions.

Prior to the outbreak of the Great War a system of thirteen double-track main lines was constructed in Germany, leading from the country’s western borders towards the borders with Russia. The main line’s general capacity reached 660 train pairs per day (an average of 1.8 trains per day per frontline kilometre). Ten lines were developed along the main direction of the German army attack, stretching over a distance of 160km.10 The frontline routes: Strasbourg – Stuttgart – Nuremberg – Prague – Częstochowa (including the parallel Nuremberg – Wrocław section), and Ulm – Munich – Vienna – Kraków crossed into Prussia and Austria-Hungary, the development arising from close co-operation between the two countries in the field of wartime operational use of the railway system. A system of high-density parallel lines was also developed in the first zone of future frontline railways, right on the Prussian – Russian border. Intense efforts to develop the railway infrastructure were also made in East Prussia, with intent to regroup and assemble troops prior to the planned flanking strike into the Russian territory.

Several years prior to the outbreak of the First World War Jan Bloch, the author of Przyszła wojna [The Future War], had emphasised the importance of Field Marshal Helmut von Moltke’s operational plan, which assumed a large-scale use of rail transport: “The Germans will initially decide to hurl all their might upon one of their opponents, and, once that opponent’s resistance is crushed, to transfer their main forces onto the second theatre of war by rail.”11 These predictions were confirmed in the course of the war in the western theatre. Bloch had also predicted the future positional nature of the war, a bold theory at the time, vastly differing from the beliefs of the majority of contemporaneous military theorists.12 “The future war – shall mostly involve a series of battles fought around defensive positions […] practice will show that the party with the more resilient army and population, and greater means to wage the war, will come out victorious, in this respect – favourable defence conditions shall prove more important than those for attacking.”13

During the First World War, the majority of operational and supply transports were performed by rail, its technical condition and carriage capacity were of key ←17 | 18→importance to success at any given frontline section. Bearing in mind the nature of military transport, the First World War would ultimately be dubbed “the railway war.”14 During this large-scale conflict railway military units developed wartime railway lines (standard- and narrow-gauge alike) for the purposes of operational transfers and supplies delivery to the troops in combat.

During this conflict, the development of military road transport began as well. Road transport served the purpose of moving troops, weapons and supplies directly to the frontline. In 1916 French troops managed to hold Verdun only thanks to the well-developed road network and a large number of heavy vehicles. When the German army broke through the railway lines from Verdun to Paris and Toul, the French army replaced rail transport with road transport.

At the end of the First World War an unprecedented number of troops was being moved by rail over a short period of time.

During the German offensive of March 21st 1918, when the British front was broken through near St. Quentin, it took ten days to move French reserve divisions to an under-fire section with the use of 1,376 operational transports (plus the transports used to forward supplies).15

The dubious Austrian railway policy adversely affected the construction and operation of railways in Galicia. Several shifts from private to public ownership had a negative impact on the development of the railway network. The density of the inconsistently developed Galician railways was only increased in the late 19th century once the development of the two strategically important lines began, both heading for the Russian border: the Karl Ludwig line connecting Cracow to Lviv via Przemyśl and further on to the Austrian-Russian and Austrian-Romanian borders, and a parallel line running at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains: the so-called Transversal Railway.16

A system of seven frontal railway lines (two double-track and five single-track lines) was extended on the Austro-Hungarian territory all heading for the border with Russia as the Empire’s main adversary. The overall capacity of these lines reached a mere 153 pairs of trains per day, which enabled the passage of 0.22 trains per day per frontline kilometre.17

←18 | 19→

Austria also followed an offensive railway strategy, although – given its economic and technical restraints – it was unable to develop a railway network matching the Prussian one in expansiveness.

Once Poland regained its independence significant efforts were made during the inter-war period to integrate the three railway networks taken over from the former invaders, and establish a single uniform transport system (as the country held a combination of terminal sections of the rail networks set up by the three occupants18). Due to financial and technical limitations, a minimum programme of adjusting the railway system to military requirements was approved. Connecting the Warsaw-Berlin mainline with a newly built Kutno – Strzałkowo railway line, and the contemporaneous development of the Herby-Gdynia coal mainline built by the French-Polish Railway Society were of key importance to the Polish raison d’etat, for economic as well as military reasons. During the inter-war period, action was taken to prepare the railway network for the times of war – yet a bare minimum of investments was carried out due to financial constraints. The course of the September campaign served to prove that in its initial stages, both the railway troops and the militarised Polish State Railways fulfilled their roles correctly. The railway lines were destroyed in border regions; wherever the enemy had destroyed stations or junctions, rail traffic was maintained thanks to the provisional reconstruction of the surface infrastructure and installation of signalling devices in order to maintain railway traffic. Yet ever-more intense bombing and organisational chaos resulted in a quick paralysis of the mainline railway traffic.19

Leaders of the Soviet Russia also recognised the importance of railway transport. Russia’s railway network was poorly developed, especially in the east. The catastrophic technical state of the railways, equipment and rolling stock in Russia as a result of the First World War and of the Revolution made operational movement of troops largely difficult. The extent of the pre-Revolution decline of the Russian railways is best proven by the following telegram: “A Telegram to the Head of the Board of the South-East Railway and the Director of the Ministry of Transport from the stationmaster of Samodurovka station. On train the No. 28 that arrived to cross with the train No. 3, there were 15 carriages with soldiers, when it came to an intersection with train No. 3. When the train stopped, the ←19 | 20→soldiers surrounded me and demanded that I dispatch them immediately while apprehending the train No. 3 which was approaching me already. Upon arrival of the train No.3, they demanded that its steam engine be uncoupled from the mail train and coupled to their train. After I explained that I could not leave the mail train without an engine, they threatened me by saying that they would deal with me. I only managed to convince them by explaining that the engine uncoupled from the train No. 3 would be running backwards, reducing their speed of travel even further. Once they understood it, the soldiers grabbed me and led me to the steam engine of the train No. 28, threatening the driver that they would throw him into the firebox if he did not go faster. Most of the discharged [soldiers] were drunk. The work is impossible and life-threatening under such conditions; please take action to protect me from such wilfulness; trains with discharged troops should be escorted by reinforced patrols – signed, Dorokhov.”20

The decapitalisation of Russian railways had also resulted from the implementation of the Leninist grab nagrablonnoye [steal the stolen!] slogan, leading to the destruction of rolling stock, railway equipment, and railway property to an extent never witnessed before. The technical and transport capacity of the Russian railways was also diminished due to the shortage of skilled staff, brought about by wartime and Revolution-related losses, and the demoralisation of Russian railwaymen. All these factors contributed to the Soviet railways being plunged into chaos and corruption. It was fully realised that victory in a world revolution depended upon a properly functioning rail transport and its carrying capacity. As part of the effort to rebuild an effective transport system, Felix Dzerzhinsky was appointed Chief of Railways. The head of the Cheka quickly intimidated railwaymen with executions and repression, introducing something of a proprietary order to the Soviet railways. His excellent organisational skills were soon proven, allowing a transformation of the Soviet railways into a well-run, totally militarised enterprise. The tsarist engineers and railway experts were put to work during the implementation of a long-term plan to modernise the Soviet railways.

The 1930s saw the implementation of the Soviet General Staff doctrine, pursuant to which the start of a war was tantamount to moving the economy onto war footing. One element of the Stalinist plan to industrialise (militarise) the entire country involved the total militarisation of railways (with military ranks introduced for railway staff). Modern rolling stock was developed in Russia at the time (a case in point involving the construction of FD and IS locomotives, ←20 | 21→mainly to American designs), with electric and diesel traction brought in alongside efforts to modernise the infrastructure, signalling, permanent way and station track layouts.21

It should be noted that projects to modernise the railways involved numerous innovative technical solutions and designs for the construction of bridges and rolling stock adopted from the Americans. In the 1930s, such tendencies included the appropriation of guidelines of the American school of locomotive construction; consequently, American locomotives were in principle adapted for the purposes of Soviet railways with no major changes. Regardless of regular intelligence missions, “white intelligence” was also carried out in the field of most recent scientific and technical literature; in the 1930s all novelties in American literature on railway technology were translated into the Russian language, one example including the Moscow-based State Rail Transport Publishing House publishing in 1935 the Russian translation of a volume on the traction economy from the American railway encyclopaedia.22 American sources had major impact on the design work by Russian railway engineers.

However, broad range of activities notwithstanding, the density of the rail network was not increased to any significant extent. The insufficiently developed Russian railway network – a legacy of the defensive military politics of the Tsarist General Staff – made it very difficult to deliver supplies to the advancing German army during the last war. Nonetheless, the dire condition of roads meant that railway transport played a dominant role on the domestic front during the 1944–45 offensive.

In the mid-1930s, once Hitler came to power, railway modernisation and full militarisation began in Germany as well. After the war broke out, special kinds of military locomotives and wagons were developed (Kriegsdampflokomotive). This was also when major cutbacks were introduced for the use of non-ferrous and deficient materials employed in the railway sector. Notably, the importance of railway transport can be proven by the fact that the production of the rolling stock remained a priority up until the end of the war, together with the production of armaments.

While preparing to invade the USSR as part of an operation codenamed Otto, road and railway networks were expanded in Germany and across its newly ←21 | 22→acquired territories. The main lines in the Reich and Poland (the Ostbahn) were modernised and expanded. As part of the efforts to carry out Operation Otto, large railway junctions together with a new Poznań Franowo marshalling yard were developed on the former Polish territory (along with a bypass and a number of connecting lines: Poznań Górczyn – Poznań Starołęka – Poznań Franowo – Swarzędz, Poznań Starołęka – Luboń, Poznań Franowo – Poznań Krzesiny, Poznań Franowo – Kobylnica), as well as the Łódź Olechów marshalling yard (along with an avoiding line Łódź Chojny – Łódź Olechów – Bedoń together with connecting lines); the following junctions and locomotive depots were expanded as well: Poznań Główna Osobowa, Poznań Franowo Towarowa, Toruń Kluczyki (one of the biggest locomotive depots in Poland, designed and built as a rectangular hall with an undercover traverser), Sierpc, Skierniewice, Skarżysko Kamienna, Dęblin, Pilawa, Łuków, Tłuszcz, Sędziszów, Suwałki, Czeremcha, Małaszewicze (pre-war Polish hangars at the Małaszewicze military airfield adapted for the purpose), Łazy, Szczakowa, Zbąszynek, Głogów, Chabówka, Żurawica, Przeworsk, Rozwadów, Nasielsk, Iłowo, Iława, and Łódź Olechów; a new depot was also built at Tomaszów Mazowiecki.23 As part of Operation Otto most railway stations were modernised and expanded along the east-west strategic lines and parallel lines.

Electromechanical (sliding) VES type signalling devices by Siemens & Halske and Siemens electrically driven switches were installed as part of the process to modernise railway signalling devices and increase capacity of all lines at major stations.

On the eve of the German attack on the USSR, the German railways introduced an innovative method of organising and performing railway traffic with intent to increase the capacity of railway lines that had reached their limits when transporting the military and supplies. The so-called report boxes were set up at block posts; report boxes served as provisional separation check points and were fitted with wired railway communication telephones.

Pursuant to the armoured and air warfare doctrine (Fuller, Liddel Hart, Guderian, Douhet) developed over the 1930s, the efficiency of direct operational transport to the frontline would drop significantly. The motorisation of infantry and artillery units, development of armoured weaponry, and the increased ability to manoeuvre new units all meant that rail transport would be facing the ←22 | 23→key task of supplying large amounts of ammunition, propellants and lubricants to the rear support units. In addition, railway lines in close proximity to military activities were exposed to damage due to aerial attacks; consequently, they would be basically taken out of operational use. Furthermore, the threat of small groups of sabotage guerrillas gave rise to the need for employing significant efforts to protect the railway lines. From that time on, the main task of railway transport involved the transfer of troops, equipment and supplies from the interior of the country to rear bases at the frontline, which was later proved by the experience of the Second World War.

Under operational plans of the Warsaw Pact, the Polish railway network was to be used for purposes of handling military and supply delivery transports along the Western (high-level operational reserves) and Coastal (regrouping of troops to protect naval landing operations) Operational Directions. The quickest route to Berlin led across Poland: ever since the early 19th century, both Germany and Russia had been investing in order to develop fortified (defensive) and transport (offensive) infrastructure. Transport by rail along the Western and Coastal Operational Directions to the rear of the frontline was only intended to serve the purposes of country-rear frontline transport of troops. The goal was supported through significant investment engaged in by the Polish State Railways as of the early 1950s. The railway network was undergoing modernisation and development at the time, railway lines and junction stations constructed to bypass the transport infrastructure that was impact-sensitive to conventional and nuclear weapons. Until 1956, total militarisation of the railways proceeded according to the Soviet model (the Polish State Railways had even introduced ranks resembling the military, insignia sewn onto shoulder pads). Such tendencies were also expressed in the official 1950s slogan of the Polish State Railways: “Traffic, transport, defence.” In the late 1950s, once a new doctrine regarding the rear support operations in the event of a nuclear war was introduced, L-30, L-36 and REM-500 folding bridges and the NZM-56 road-rail floating bridge were made part of equipment allocated to the railway military and Polish State Railways (reserve mobilisation units). Furthermore, preparations of the railway network for offensive front-end operations included the securing of appropriate technical infrastructure and rolling stock, all especially adapted for military transport purposes.

←23 |
 24→

4 Owsińska (1965), 79.

5 Koleje żelazne (1919), 4.

6 Strózik, Wojska kolejowe 1944–1946, M.A. thesis, Military Office of Historical Research Archive, Ref. No. 1036, 4.

7 Nowak (1994), 35.

8 Gawroński (1930), 7.

9 Militaria polskich formacji… (1989).

10 Nowak (1994), 33–34.

11 Bloch (1900), vol. I, 73.

12 Wyszczelski (2001), 133.

13 Bloch (1900), vol. II, 543–546.

14 Bloch (1900), vol.II, 7.

15 Sikorski (1984).

16 Wielopolski (1969), 62.

17 Nowak (1994), 35.

18 Nowak (1994), 52.

19 An example of this was the Warsaw – Poznań line, following the destruction of the important Kutno station, military railway transport and evacuation trains were totally paralysed.

20 Gołowin (2006), 363–364.

21 It is worth noting that Soviet Russia was the first country in the world to introduce mass welding technology for steel boilers in place of rivets, which had previously been most popular.

22 Tjagowoje chazjaistwo (1935).

23 Within the preparations to invade the USSR the German Eastern Railways (Ostbahn) prepared a modern design of a large rectangular steam locomotive depot together with locomotive handling facilities as well as a design of a modern water tower.

←24 | 25→

2. RED ARMY MILITARY TRANSPORT IN THE FINAL STAGES OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR – TRANSPORT-BASED SECURITY OF THE RED ARMY OPERATIONS IN BELARUS AND THE VISTULA-AND-ODRA REGION

In July 1944, having crossed the River Bug, the Soviet Army entered the area between the Rivers Vistula, Bug, and Narew as a starting point for the offensive planned for 1945. At the operational level, the railway was the main mode of transport used by the Red Army to transfer troops and supplies to the frontline and army field bases. Direct supply deliveries from army bases to tactical frontline groups were handled by motor and horse-drawn vehicles.24 During the Second World War, the share of railway transport serving the Red Army in all forms of military transport reached 70 %. Due to the overall cargo volume, the military railway lines were stretched to absolute limits of transport capacity.25 The main railway directions and army base sections were outlined for attack zones of every frontline.

In order to secure the supplies for the Vistula-and-Odra and Berlin operations, one million tonnes of material resources had to be brought in over the course of each of the respective operations.

Throughout the war, the Red Army consumed 10 million tonnes of ammunition, 13.4 million tonnes of fuel, 40 million tonnes of food and around 12–15 million tonnes of other materials. All that was brought in from distant support facilities to an army in combat by rail, over a distance of many thousands of kilometres.26 Since Polish railway lines were of European track gauge (1,435 mm), the Soviet military authorities intended to convert the entire railway network on the Polish territory to the Russian gauge of 1,524 mm. The project was abandoned in the course of planning and reconnaissance efforts to set up a new transport system for the future theatre of war. Such undertaking would have required a massive amount of technical and human resources; furthermore, the existing ←25 | 26→standard-gauge rolling stock would have to be abandoned. The Polish railway network used a large variation of types of rails, many lines were built with metal sleepers, making it increasingly difficult to re-gauge the track. Furthermore, Polish railways followed different signalling systems and traffic regulations. Had the entire Polish railway network been converted to Russian gauge, the handover of large number of broad-gauge rolling stock to the Polish side would have had a negative impact on the efficiency and transport capacity of the Soviet railways. In case of proceeding with such a transformation of Polish railways, the Red Army operational units were to be charged with their operation, which would have left a sizeable number of Polish railwaymen without a job.

Consequently, representatives of the Lublin-based Department of Transport of the Polish Committee of National Liberation engaged in negotiations with the Soviet commanders and the Supreme Board of Military Transports with regard to the upholding of the standard gauge on the Polish railway network. The Polish party proceeded to convince the Soviet command that such a move would not be expedient. Jan Grubecki, M.Sc. Eng., Head of the Department of Transport and Postal and Telegraph Services of the Polish Committee of National Liberation handled all negotiations on behalf of the Department.27 These negotiations had some effect on the Russian leadership’s decisions – ultimately, only the lines required for the delivery of supplies to the troops in combat were to be converted to the 1,524 mm gauge. On July 29th 1944, the Polish Committee of National Liberation resolved to agree to the partial re-gauging of railway lines on the liberated Polish territory for warfare purposes; the resolution intended to legally sanction the decision of the Red Army command.28

Tracks running in the direction of the River Vistula (in conformity to the overall direction of the offensive) were the first to be subject to conversion: Grodno – Białystok – Warsaw, Vawkavysk – Czeremcha – Siedlce – Warszawa,29 Brest – Łuków – Dęblin, Lubitovo –Kovel – Dorohusk – Chełm – Lublin – Dęblin,30 Pilawa – Otwock – Warszawa Praga,31 Lublin – Łuków – Siedlce, Rava ←26 | 27→Ruska – Munina – Przeworsk – Rzeszów, and Munina – Przemyśl Gł. According to S. Zamkowska, as the frontline and support unit preparations proceeded, the Lublin – Klementowice32 and Lublin – Łuków33 lines were also converted to broad-gauge.

The railway military developed a bypass of a destroyed railway tunnel, rather curious from the engineering perspective, on the 4th Ukrainian Front territory, with intent to allow the delivery of supplies for the troops entering Czechoslovakia. The circumstances of the project were the following: the Zagórz – Łupków – Medzilaborce line crossing the Łupków Pass and connecting the Carpathian Mountains to Czechoslovakia was of great operational importance for 4th Ukrainian Front troops entering Czechoslovakia. An extension of the Lviv – Sambor – Khyriv – Zagórz main line, it enabled the direct delivery of supplies and military equipment from the Russian interior. Meanwhile, the German troops blew up the railway tunnel in Łupków; they also destroyed in no small extent the 64 km-long Zagórz – Łupków – Medzilaborce line.

The railway troops of the War Directorate for Railway Reconstruction No. 3 quickly rebuilt and reopened the line. Yet the tunnel in Łupków, forming a part of the line, was blown up along its central section (175 m long), its rapid reconstruction was not possible given the extent of damage and related technical difficulties. Therefore, it was decided to construct a 3.5 km detour across the so-called Carpathian Crest. The section – and the accompanying Pobyeda mid-station – were designed and planned by I. Ogoyev, M.Sc. Eng. The construction of a railway bypass for the destroyed tunnel required 70,200 m3 of earthworks and the development of 12 civil engineering structures,34 the incline of the detour route reached 38 %.35

Due to the extremely difficult nature of the detour, it became known as the “Devil’s Loop.” The detour was constructed by units of women and prisoners of war over a mere 20 days, and completed on December 4th 1944; railway traffic along the entire Zagórz – Medzilaborce line commenced on December 15th 1944. This is how a frontline railway connection opened up across the Carpathian Mountains, allowing supplies to be delivered to the 4th Ukrainian Front troops.36

←27 | 28→

Due to the technical and operational conditions of the detour line – the incline required trains to be re-assembled at the Pobyeda mid-station – the capacity of the Zagórz – Medzilaborce line was reduced to 8 train pairs (12 wagons per train). In the years 1945–1946, the tunnel was de-mined, all post-collapse earth and debris removed – on the Polish side, the tunnel length was reduced by approximately 50m. On November 7th 1946 rail traffic commenced through the reconstructed tunnel on the Zagórz – Medzilaborce line, which had previously been converted to standard gauge.37

At the same time – in the course of struggles for the Brest 1 railway junction – a Guards Brigade of railway troops of the 1st Belarussian Front rebuilt the bridge over the River Bug in Brest. In the course of the related works, the work site had to be defended against the threat of an encircled assembly of German troops. The traffic across the reconstructed bridge recommenced on August 10th 1944.38

The 1st Belarussian Front troops comprised War Directorates for Railway Reconstruction Nos. 1 and 20, which were charged with ensuring the safety of frontline railways reconstruction in the vicinity of the frontline operating along the Berlin direction.39

In order to secure military transports, the railway troops of the 1st Belarussian Front constructed railway bypasses of Lublin40, Dęblin41, and Małkinia:42 “The bypass lines played a vital role. While railway junctions at Praga and Dęblin were under constant artillery fire, trains had to be continually available to carry out manoeuvres from one end of the front to another. With this in mind, troops at the front constructed a new 35km-long line, connecting Mińsk Mazowiecki and Pilawa railway stations, thus enabling an improved transfer in both directions between Warsaw and Lublin. I recall Marshall Zhukov’s great satisfaction upon receiving these messages. He immediately handed over a full set of guidelines to ←28 | 29→the Chief of Staff at the front, specifying additional manoeuvres and operational camouflage.”43

Railway troops on the First Belarussian Front included the following: the 1st Guardian Railway Brigade, the 29th Railway Brigade and the War Directorate for Railway Reconstruction No. 20 under the command of Major General N. Borisov.44

While one track on the Warszawa – Mińsk line was converted to broad gauge, the pre-war high-platform modernist stations were blown up, as they would not match the loading gauge of the broad-gauge rolling stock. This section was located at a distance of 12–20 km from the frontline head of enemy defences, whereas some rear units remained 4–6 km away; consequently, the organisation of train movements at the rear of the front had to be altered.45

Due to the close proximity of the enemy, the Rembertów junction – used as a bypass of the Warszawa Praga junction – gained considerable importance. The Russian railway troops constructed a strategic bypass for the Warszawa Praga junction in the vicinity of the junction in Rembertów. The works included the rebuilding of the Pilawa – Mińsk section,46 opened for traffic on December 15th 1944;47 the Wawer – Rembertów line was built (approximately 4 km in length), and commissioned on December 5th 1944.48

Pursuant to the December 21st 1944 directive of the Head of the Headquarters of Military Transport of the 1st Belarussian Front, the 1st Polish Army was positioned on the Mińsk Mazowiecki – Warszawa Praga line, between the stations Dębe Wielkie and Rembertów. The area entrusted to the 1st Polish ←29 | 30→Army comprised the following stations: Miłosna, Rembertów, and passenger halts: Sulejówek, Wola Grzybowska and Wesoła, as well as a siding post No. 14 in Rembertów (a branch of the military siding on the Rembertów – Wesoła line). The siding was accessible via a triangle from both directions: Rembertów and Wesoła. The depots of the 1st Polish Army (with excellent natural camouflage) were located at the former Wehrmacht armoured trains base (during the inter-war period the facility was held by the Polish Armed Forces). The operation of the Rembertów – Wesoła siding was rather difficult, as shunting on the siding was performed by line locomotives as there was no shunting locomotive available. The only watering point was located at the Miłosna station, and not an overly efficient one at that, ultimately requiring a four-hour interval before another locomotive could be watered again. Military trains were also routed on the way to the 47th Army and 3rd Assault Army across the 1st Polish Army base section area, from Rembertów to Tłuszcz via Zielonka.49

A. Kotow, one of the plenipotentiaries of the People’s Commissariat for Railways and the Central Board of Military Transport at the Polish Railways Management established by the Polish Committee of National Liberation, who joined forces with a group of Soviet railwaymen to organise troop transports to the 1st Belarussian front via the main front-heading line (Brest – Łuków – Siedlce – Warszawa), has included the following account in the work Zheleznodorozhniki v velikoy otechestvennoy voyne; my own translation follows: “During the preparations for the Warsaw – Poznań operation, the 1st Belarussian Front alone required over a thousand trains to reach the frontline, while the greatest capacity on the line allowed for the passage of 10–15 train pairs per day. For this reason, a ‘live’ block system50 was introduced on the line, allowing twice the number of trains to pass through. Another obstacle came up in the meantime: locomotives of the empty trains returning to Brest had to be coaled, while fuel storages at Łuków and Siedlce depots had insufficient coal resources. While coal was ultimately found at the coaling stages at the Warszawa Praga depot, it was separated from the enemy positions by the River Vistula. Provided with a favourable vantage point of the area, the Germans were able to open fire with great accuracy, which was why any daytime passage to the coaling stage was impossible. This was when the plan of operation ‘Coal’ was developed in collaboration with the ←30 | 31→military transport authorities. A group of railwaymen aboard a steam locomotive hauling five coal wagons and a crane reached the Warszawa Praga depot during night-time, and managed to load and transport 200 tonnes of coal until the following morning. The operation kept stretching out over time – ultimately, German artillery began firing at the coaling stage. Twelve railwaymen were killed and 32 injured at the time.”51

Other lines – secondary, tertiary, and local ones – on the Polish territory were retained as standard-gauge lines (the Polish railwaymen proceeded to take over standard-gauge lines from the Russian authorities one at a time, restoring them to traffic). The railway network was divided between the reactivated Regional State Railway Management.

The standard-gauge lines serving the Podkarpacie oil region (also earmarked for re-gauging) were of considerable strategic importance as well. Yet – while oil rigs were not fitted with storage tanks – the Soviet military had a large number of standard-gauge oil tankers at their disposal. This was why a decision was made to transport oil directly to refineries via the following standard-gauge lines: Stróże – Jasło – Nowy Zagórz, Gorlice – Zagórzany, Rzeszów – Jasło – Dębica – Sobów – Rozwadów, and using the single standard-gauge track on sections where the other track had been converted to 1,524 mm gauge: Rozwadów – Przeworsk, Dębica – Tarnów and Przemyśl – Przeworsk.52

As two different railway transport systems were operating using different track gauges, it was decided to implement field transhipment points at locations where standard-gauge and broad-gauge lines met. Twelve transfer points were built across the Lublin Regional State Railway Management’s area: in Stawy, Dęblin, Lublin, Rejowiec, Chełm, Dorohusk, Rozwadów, Ozeta,53 Nisko, Zbydniów, Grębów, and Tarnobrzeg (the transfer capacity of these points ranging from 60 to 200 wagons per day).54 Identical transfer points were introduced on the Nasielsk – Działdowo line, and at Warszawa, Kutno, Barłogi and Poznań stations.55 As re-gauging works proceeded in reflection of the westward shift of the frontline, the original points were decommissioned and new ones built on key railway sections directly flanking the front area.

←31 | 32→

The 1st Belarussian Front Command planned to use two primary railway traffic directions within their area of operation: the northern (Brest – Warszawa – Poznań – Frankfurt an der Oder) and southern (Kovel – Lublin – Dęblin – Łódź – Kalisz – Ostrów – Leszno – Węgliniec) directions. On both directions, tracks were converted to broad-gauge up to the River Vistula, as it was expected that onward transport would be made possible on standard-gauge lines using a large number of rail vehicles that were captured. For afore-specified reasons, it was considered whether lines running west of the River Vistula should be re-gauged. Had these lines remained as a standard-gauge system, immense transhipment bases would have to be constructed (with a capacity of 2,000 wagons per day, 1,000 in each direction). Any critical transhipment station would have become an easy target for the German air force; the destruction of a transhipment base would have completely paralysed the delivery of supplies to all frontline units. The implementation of such an undertaking surpassed the capabilities of frontline transport units.56

Given the above, the War Council of the 1st Belarussian Front submitted their own proposal to the State Defence Committee; according to the proposal, the northern line was to be converted to 1,524 mm gauge, standard-gauge track to remain on the southern line. According to the State Defence Committee’s decision of October 7th 1944, the lines in both directions were to be operated as standard-gauge lines. The repeated proposals of the War Council of the Front to re-gauge the Brest – Warszawa – Poznań – Frankfurt an der Oder mainline ended up with another decision of November 21st 1944 to open the line without re-gauging.57 Furthermore, the Supreme Board of Military transport of the Red Army saw the need to re-gauge at least one direction, related reasons are appropriately clarified by the words of the Chief of military transport, General I. Kovalev:

At that time, I was the head of the Supreme Board of Military transport as well as a member of the committee for transport of the State Defence Committee. The Committee members included the People’s Commissar for Transport L. Kaganovich, the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and a deputy chairman of the committee for transport A. Andreev, member of the State Defence Committee A. Mikoyan and the commander in chief of the Rear of the Red Army General A. Khrulov. J. Stalin was chairman of the committee. The committee for transport was formed on the initiative of J. Stalin, to the purpose of co-ordinating all transport systems operating across the country, and drafting proposals for the State Defence Committee with regard to the more important issues. The issue of converting tracks to ←32 | 33→specific gauge widths in view of the Red Army movement towards the western borders of the Soviet Union was of paramount importance at the time. The People’s Commissariat for Transport of the USSR believed that extending the lines westwards with the use of the Soviet gauge would allow further intensification of domestic transport, particularly in view of the continued works to redevelop local economy. Maximising the use of Soviet rolling stock was considered an absolute priority at the time, its primary purpose to ultimately defeat the Fascist army. I had no doubt that without gauge conversion to the Soviet gauge in at least one direction in each of the frontline operation areas, it would be impossible to secure a significant increase in the volume of military and supply transports in the final stages of war. I motioned for the concept of the War Council of the 1st Belarussian Front to be implemented. Over the course of October and November 1944, the concept had not seen support. Only later, once transport circumstances had reached their breaking point, each front was allowed to convert a single track section to Soviet gauge. It was regrettable that this delayed decision brought a number of unfortunate consequences.58

The main arguments against line conversion included the fear of depleting railway transport far behind the frontline as a result of depriving it of sizeable rolling stock volumes, and the temptation to use large quantities of captured standard-gauge rolling stock. The War Directorate for Railway Reconstruction No. 2059 under Major General N. Borisov began works to increase the capacity of the re-gauged lines in the direction of the River Vistula, as well as preparations to rebuild bridges and railway lines to the west of the Vistula that were not to be re-gauged.60 The War and Operations Board of the People’s Commissariat for Railways was formed with a view to taking advantage of foreign frontline railway lines on the Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Czechoslovak, Yugoslav, Austrian and German territories.61

The railway bridge over the River Vistula in Warszawa – destroyed by the Germans – was among the key facilities on the railway line to Berlin. The reconstruction works were performed by the 1st Railway Brigade under General ←33 | 34→W. Tisson, and the bridge reconstruction train No. 7 under N. Artemenko. Due to the extent of damage (all spans blown up, most supports destroyed), a decision was made to build a temporary bridge with the use of L-23 military folding span components, resting upon wooden supports.

Works began on the second day after the Soviet army entered Warsaw on January 18th. The new crossing, 515.7 m in total length, was built 25 metres upstream of the destroyed railway bridge. The significance of reconstructing this crossing – of vital importance to the delivery of supplies to the Rear of the 1st Belarussian Front – was conducive to the arrival of Marshall Zhukov, member of the War Council of the 1st Belarussian Front Lieutenant General K. Telegin, and Deputy Commander Lieutenant General N. Antipenko, all of whom intent on inspecting the construction site. Following the inspection, the War Council of the 1st Belarussian Front issued an appeal to the military workforce to complete the work in the shortest time possible. Shortly after party meetings had been arranged by political officers of the 1st Guardian Railway Brigade, the pace of work picked up significantly. Conscripted citizens of Warsaw were forced to join the bridge reconstruction works as well. The first train carrying military goods crossed the temporary bridge on January 29th at 05:30 p.m. Upon the order of the commander-in-chief, the 1st Guardian Railway Brigade was renamed the “Warsaw Brigade” in recognition of the extraordinarily quick construction of the temporary bridge across the River Vistula.62

Upon completion of the temporary bridges over the River Vistula in Warszawa and Dęblin, reconstruction of the northern (main) Warszawa – Poznań and southern Dęblin – Skarżysko Kamienna – Tomaszów Mazowiecki – Łódź – Zduńska Wola – Kalisz railway lines commenced. Both lines were being returned to traffic with their standard gauge retained. Concurrently, a decision was made to build large transhipment facilities at the intersection of the two track systems in the Warsaw and Dęblin areas, with a capacity of 400–500 wagons63 each.

Construction work on the bridge across the Vistula commenced after the 1st Belarussian Front had crossed the river. The rebuilding of railway lines without their re-gauging began at the same time. The 29th Railway Brigade under General V. Rogatko was charged with reconstructing the Warsaw railway junction and the Warsaw – Poznań line.64 Due to the original idea for the lines beyond the River Vistula to remain standard-gauge, construction of transhipment depots at ←34 | 35→Warszawa Zachodnia station and in the Dęblin region began. Over 30 kilometres of parallel transhipment tracks and 1 kilometre of high ramps were developed at Warszawa Zachodnia, roofing for goods storage facilities were also provided. On January 29th 1945 the rebuilding of the Warsaw – Poznań railway line and of the railway bridge over the Vistula River were both completed, an official decision was made to commission the use of the main northern line. That same day, an order arrived from headquarters to convert this line to 1,524 mm broad-gauge.65

Consequently, all work to reconstruct the line went to waste. Immense human and material resources had to be engaged to convert 300 km of double track mainline, and to convert the large railway junction of Warszawa Zachodnia to broad gauge. While works began at once, they were hurried and performed without proper equipment. The works ran into difficulties due to the fact that in the Soviet Union hooks were used to attach rails to sleepers – whereas the Polish system involved screws. Soviet soldiers hammered screws into sleepers, destroying them. As a result, once the line had been converted, the sleepers were damaged and trains derailed. Metal sleepers used in sidings slowed the pace of works as well. In spite of the numerous technical difficulties, the line was re-gauged and opened in February 1945.66 The 29th Railway Brigade was also renamed the “Warsaw Brigade” in recognition of the speed of all the work performed.67

The 5th Railway Brigade under Colonel T. Yatsino was dispatched to reconstruct the destroyed bridge across the River Vistula near Dęblin, on the 1st Belarussian Front territory. Over an extraordinarily brief period of eight days, the unit built a temporary rail bridge 510 m in length, commissioned on January 23rd 1945.68 Once the bridge was constructed, the 5th Brigade began rebuilding the southern section of the Dęblin – Łódź line, which was also soon reopened.69 By order of the Commander-in-Chief of the 5th Railway Brigade, it was renamed the “Poznań Brigade.”70 The extent of damage to technical facilities on a further section of the line (Łódź to Kalisz) made rapid reconstruction impossible.

Due to the danger of the 2nd Belarussian Front being flanked by regrouped German army units in Pomerania, an urgent need arose to move troops forward towards the River Odra. The limited capacity of the Warsaw – Poznań line ←35 | 36→necessitated the reconstruction of an additional line as well. To replace the inactive southern line, military railway traffic commenced on February 2nd 1945 on the Bydgoszcz Główna – Piła – Gorzów Wielkopolski – Kostrzyn substitute route, which opened towards the right frontline wing, to the purpose of expedient troops transfer. The 5th Railway Brigade troops under Colonel T. Yatsino was dispatched to the section.

As works progressed to open the southward line, the concept of using it as a detour route for ammunition and materials transfer developed. Munitions were transported from outposts by road to the Warsaw-Dęblin line, specially converted to the 1,524 mm gauge for the purpose.71 They were then reloaded in Dęblin onto standard-gauge rolling stock; 10 transports carrying ammunition and fuel were dispatched south per day. Due to the Soviet army offensive and continual changes of the frontline, trains were directed towards Gorzów and Kostrzyn.72 The opening of the line involved numerous technical difficulties; it was ultimately converted to broad gauge: “[…] From the 3rd to the 5th of February, there were over 100 trains carrying ammunition, fuel and heavy combat equipment on this line; however not a single train had yet arrived at the unloading area. […] In fact, trains travelled slowly, encountering many obstacles on the way, including a shortage of water or fuel for steam locomotives, speed was often restricted for technical reasons. […].”73 The perplexing and seemingly uneconomic way of delivering supplies (requiring the goods to be transhipped twice) frequently resulted in the war materials being delivered directly behind the advancing troops. An additional supply line was established at the same time. General Antipenko described the importance of opening an additional southward line: “[…] Admittedly, had the southbound line from Dęblin north and further west not been opened in the early days of the Vistula-Odra campaign, it is hard to imagine how we could have secured the frontline towards Pomerania. It is due to the usage of this line, the author of the memoirs claimed, that trains carrying ammunition and fuel arrived at the critical moment […].”74

In February 1945, the bridge over the River Warta near Poznań Starołęka was temporarily rebuilt; a 1,524 mm track was installed, shortly followed by the rebuilding and re-gauging of the Poznań Franowo – Frankfurt and Poznań Franowo – Toruń Główny lines.75

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The Sandomierz – Skarżysko Kamienna line was 104 km long, running in the direction of the 1st Ukrainian Front. The 7th Railway Brigade handled the reconstruction of the largely destroyed line (demolished bridges, water stations, and primary and secondary tracks at railway stations). Railway traffic recommenced on January 28th; on January 30th, military trains pulled into Katowice.76

The 7th Railway Brigade, and then also the 45th Railway Brigade under Colonel A. Natalevich, rebuilt and reopened the Częstochowa – Steinau an der Oder (Ścinawa) line, 330 km in length. In Steinau, the bridge over the Oder had been destroyed, its reconstruction entrusted to the 28th Bridge Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel W. Sokolov. Because of the need to provide troops in combat with immediate supplies, the War Council of the 1st Belarussian Front decided to build a lightweight wooden temporary crossing to carry wagons without locomotives near the destroyed railway bridge on the Odra. Two and a half days were allowed for works on the crossing. As the river was rather narrow at the location, it allowed the provision of a temporary lightweight wooden structure consisting of piling, frames, and frame-supported beams with turnout sleepers and rails. The bridge was ready to be used on March 9th. The wagons were pushed onto the bridge by one locomotive, and another took them over on the other river bank once the wagons were coupled onto it. A total of approximately 5,000 goods-carrying wagons were moved across the River Odra. On March 31st, the German air force destroyed the Steinau crossing; nonetheless, the 28th Battalion had it rebuilt, working three and a half days round the clock.77

The 19th Railway Brigade under General V. Miridonov, working together with bridge reconstruction train No. 7 under by A. Zhukovskyi, bridge reconstruction train No. 7 under V. Ogarkov, and water station reconstruction train No. 13 under A. Iznyarov, rebuilt the main double track line in the operational area of the 1st Ukrainian Front (Przeworsk – Dębica – Cracow – Katowice – Opole), converting it to the 1,524 mm gauge.78

The War Directorate for Railway Reconstruction No. 3, responsible for activities on the 1st Ukrainian Front, handled the construction of broad-gauge sidings to industrial plants in Silesia. In the area of Katowice, Chorzów, Bytom, Gliwice and Opole, the War Directorate for Railway Reconstruction constructed broad-gauge sidings to 27 mines and 40 industrial plants, totalling 300 km in length.79 ←37 | 38→These sidings were used to ease the transport of coal and equipment plundered from industrial plants to Russia.

A sudden thaw in the spring of 1945 led to the movement of ice; railway and road bridges of the 1st Ukrainian Front were damaged or totally destroyed. On February 28th, ice floes destroyed the starlings and 10 main supports of the bridge on the Vistula near Sandomierz. The 14th and 33rd Bridge Battalions were dispatched to perform reconstruction works, with a pontoon crossing built to handle all traffic until the ice dispersed. The destruction of all frontline crossings serves to prove the temporary nature of bridge structures developed in great haste to comply with plans imposed by political officers of the Soviet military engineering units.

In order to protect the viability of frontline routes, measures were taken to defend the bridges over the River Vistula in Warsaw and Dęblin, as their destruction would have cut off the 1st Belarussian Front from its main sources of supplies.80 Even the air force was used to bomb ice blockages, the defence of the bridge in Dęblin was handled by the bridge construction train No. 13 under Colonel Moskalev.81 Corridors were cut between spans to allow passage of the crushed ice. Troops of the 20th Bridge Construction Battalion – part of the 1st Railway Guards Brigade (later renamed the “Warsaw Brigade”) under Colonel V. Zheltikov defended the bridge in Warsaw. During the campaign to defend that bridge, head of the frontline rear units General N. Antipenko and head of the War Board of Rail Reconstruction No. 20 General N. Borisov were both present at the crossing. When defending the bridge, sappers crushed ice with explosives. The bridge was attached to the river banks with ropes, its stability ensured with 100 rock-loaded railway flat wagons. The crossing was being defended from ice floe impact for three days. Neither bridge was destroyed – only the bridge over the Vistula in Toruń (on the 2nd Belarussian Front operational territory) was ripped down by ice floes, all transports to the Front handled via a detour over the surviving bridge in Warsaw until the Toruń facility was reconstructed.82

On April 16th, the Soviet Army began the “Operation Berlin” with both the 1st and the 2nd Polish Armies participating. In the early days of the strike on Berlin, the entire length of the railway network on the operational territory of all three fronts (the 1st and 2nd Belarussian and the 1st Ukrainian) totalled 11,000 km. The main frontline railway was converted to 1,524 mm gauge along ←38 | 39→the offensive direction of every frontline. The operation of railway traffic, as well as line maintenance, was handled by 10 War and Operations units and 5 Operational regiments. Operational regiments performed railway traffic on routes at and near the frontline, over a total length of 4,000 km. The remaining 7,000 kilometres of operational routes were operated by Polish railwaymen. Along these lines goods were transported both on standard and broad gauge tracks. The People’s Commissariat for Railways dispatched 17 columns of special railway reserve locomotives to handle the military transports on frontline railway lines, a total of 426 locomotives. Six columns were dispatched to the operational territory of the 1st Belarussian Front: Nos. 5, 13, 20, 34, 35 and 111; the 2nd Belarussian Front was supported by 4 columns: Nos. 15, 22, 33 and 43; the 1st Ukrainian Front – by 7 columns: Nos. 10, 11, 21, 31, 44, 47 and 110.83

The Kostrzyn fortress was the key to the gates of Berlin. The Germans had destroyed two railway bridges over the Rivers Odra and Warta in Kostrzyn. Shortly thereafter, Bridge Battalions began constructing temporary crossings to replace them, using Russian military L-23 spans. During heavy combat for the fort and the town of Kostrzyn, on the night of April 18th 1945, once the construction of the bridges over the Rivers Odra and Warta was completed, the German air force attacked both facilities, causing serious damage. Units of the 29th Railway Brigade and bridge construction train No. 13 under Colonel Moskalev began reconstructing both the bridges. The task was completed over the course of one week until April 25th 1945 in conditions of continuous air raids, with enormous losses suffered. The 29th Railway Brigade and the War Directorate for Railway Reconstruction No. 20 handled the reconstruction and conversion to broad gauge of the Kostrzyn – Berlin Lichtenberg railway line. At 06:00 p.m. on April 25th 1945, the first military train carrying heavy artillery arrived at Berlin Lichtenberg station, General Antipenko noting in his memoirs: “[…] The Heavens84 – War Council. I hereby report: this day April 25th at 06:00 p.m., railway traffic opened on the Kostrzyn – Berlin line as far as Berlin Lichtenberg. Antipenko, Chernyakov, Borisov.” The report was duly annotated: “Brave boys. Zhukov, Telegin. April 26th […].”85 The first train to Berlin Lichtenberg station was driven by a former Sergeant-Major of the 29th Railway Brigade A. Lesnikov.86

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The reconstruction of the lines along the Red Army key operational directions comprised mainly the east to west parallel lines. The following lines were converted to broad-gauge during wartime: Warszawa Gdańska – Modlin – Nasielsk – Mława – Działdowo – Iława – Prabuty – Malbork,87 (Königsberg) – Elbląg – Tczew – Gdańsk – Chojnice – Szczecinek – Szczecin,88 (Insterburg) – Kętrzyn – Olsztyn – Iława – Toruń Główny – Inowrocław – Gniezno – Poznań Franowo – Kunowice (Frankfurt an der Oder), Warszawa – Łowicz – Kutno – Września – Poznań (one track converted),89 Warszawa – Koluszki – Częstochowa – Opole, Koluszki – Łódź – Ostrów Wielkopolski – Krotoszyn – Leszno – Głogów – Żagań, and Dęblin – Radom – Skarżysko Kamienna – Tomaszów – Koluszki – Łódź – Kutno – Toruń – Krzyż – Kostrzyn.90 In order to enable a correct rail traffic organisation in the Warsaw junction area, the Warsaw bypass line was also converted to broad gauge, forming a rail link between the left- and right-bank routes passing through Warszawa Gdańska station;91 and the line linking Warszawa Wchodnia with Warszawa Wschodnia Towarowa, including the siding of the Praga inland port.92

Both tracks on the Medyka – Przemyśl – Kraków – Szczakowa – Mysłowice – Katowice line were converted to broad gauge; one track on the Katowice – Ligota line, one track on the Katowice – Hajduki – Gliwice – Kędzierzyn – Prudnik line, one track on the line from Hajduki (now Chorzów Batory) – Bytom – Mikulczyce – Pyskowice – Strzelce Opolskie – Groszowice – Opole Wschód – Wrocław (the other track remained standard gauge: 1,435 mm) – Bolesławiec, ←40 | 41→with a branch line running towards Kluczbork, and one track on the Kraków – Skawina – Spytkowice – Oświęcim – Czechowice Dziedzice – Zebrzydowice –Ostrava line (the other track remained standard gauge: 1,435 mm).93

The Soviet Railway troops converted a total of 5,034 km of tracks on both sides of the River Vistula on the Polish territory – 38 % of tracks reopened on the so-called former Polish land (the railway lines on the Polish territory according to pre-September 1st 1939 maps).94

Railway line reconstruction was made considerably difficult by the extraordinarily quick and effective way of demolishing railway lines applied by the German railway troops. The Wehrmacht railway troops used special devices mounted on four-wheeled wagon chassis. The device had been given the name Schienenwolf [a railway wolf] – it was a special hook and arm hammered in between the rails. The wagon upon which the device had been mounted, hauled by two locomotives, ploughed across the tracks with great force, cutting the sleepers in half and ripping rails out of the ground along with other permanent-way equipment. The Schienenwolf allowed considerable savings in terms of the volume of explosives otherwise required to destroy railway lines. The device served the purpose of destroying tracks, whereas switches and civil engineering works were blown up with TNT.95

During the work carried out in field conditions by the Red Army’s railway military, one track of any double-track line would usually be re-gauged, with only the most essential, non-centralised signalling devices activated. Only single tracks intended for military train formation were subject to re-gauging at stations. At smaller stations usually only loops were re-gauged to allow the trains to pass each other. Further track reconstruction and installation of railway signalling devices took place at a later date, once the frontline had receded.

The hard work to reconstruct thousands of kilometres of tracks was handled with the use of primitive methods, both by the Russian Railway Brigades and the civilian Soviet railwaymen and workers mobilised as part of the so-called trudfront (labour battalion) campaign. German prisoners, mobilised Polish railwaymen and civilians were put to work as well. Railway line reconstruction ←41 | 42→progress – which ultimately determined the timeliness of the military transports and supplies for troops in combat – was supervised by NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) troops.

The brutal incentive method proven “effective” in Soviet labour camps would be usually applied – the system involved food rationing based on the share of daily work norm actually delivered.

The working conditions on the re-gauging of the Warsaw – Poznań – Frankfurt line are best captured in memoirs of an eye witness to these events, a Home Army soldier and Polish railwayman Eugeniusz Macewicz:

The Russian railway troops were very efficient in rebuilding and re-gauging railway lines – they would usually hand over to traffic up to 10 km of re-gauged tracks per day, or even 25 km if damage was not that great.97 Primitive track work tools would usually be employed during line conversion – occasionally, railway sleepers would even be replaced with trunks of trees felled in forests, then chiselled into shape with axes and adzes after having been laid on a rail embankment. The technical condition of such tracks rebuilt in rough conditions left much to be desired, on such sections it was not possible to reach any higher speeds, derailments were frequent. On frontline territory, rolling stock damaged in accidents was simply pushed off tracks to allow immediate restoration of rail traffic to the route.

The hasty pace of work was forced by troop movements at the time of the January offensive: Radom was captured on January 16th 1945; Skarżysko Kamienna and left-bank Warsaw on January 17th; Częstochowa on January 18th; Łowicz, Skierniewice and Kutno on January 19th; Tarnowskie Góry, Opole and Bydgoszcz on January 23rd; Katowice on January 27th; part of Poznań on January 28th; Leszno on January 31st; and Toruń on February 1st.98

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The conversion of Poland’s primary transport system to broad gauge resulted in a situation when strategic broad gauge lines were operated by Soviet military transport units, with the remaining system of secondary, local, and narrow-gauge lines rebuilt by Polish railwaymen and managed by the Polish State Railways.

Supplies delivered by rail were collected according to a specific set of rules: railway lines were designated for each army as stationing areas; field depots of munitions, armaments, food, propellants, and lubricants (in conformity to goods concealment requirements) would be set up near railway stations on a pre-specified route, to receive goods arriving by rail transport. Field depots delivered supplies to individual army units with the use of horse-drawn and motor vehicles. Depots were directly connected to army unit stationing areas with roads.99 Goods were delivered directly to the frontline from rear support units by the so-called “shuttles” – compact train formations100 carrying the required supplies and escorted by transport officers. During the Belarussian Operation, for example, such compact tank wagon “shuttles” carried petrol directly from Grozny to army depots.

During the Wisła – Odra operation, 18 shuttles with a total capacity of 3,150 tons were formed for the purposes of all the 1st Belarussian Front armies. Each “shuttle” comprised two-three fuel tank wagons, one water tank wagon to refill the locomotive, and one escort and maintenance staff wagon. In the early days, these would carry fuel reloaded from broad-gauge tank wagons on the River Vistula.101

Lines of strategic importance and all railway sections on the frontline territory were serviced by railway operational regiments. Due to the shortage of qualified railway personnel, a group of Leningrad Military Transport Academy students was even dispatched as supplementary personnel to the Belarussian Front. They were called to serve in operational positions on military railway routes, mostly as train dispatchers, telegraphers, switch operators, locomotive drivers, and firemen.102 Due to the staffing issues, transport officers were occasionally relocated, serving as train dispatchers, switch operators, train guards and locomotive drivers. The re-gauged lines were staffed with Russian railway ←43 | 44→military personnel (as train dispatchers and traffic control officers) reporting to the Supreme Board for Military Transports.

Furthermore, the German troops caused major damage to telephone and telegraph lines as well as to railway signalling devices on many railway routes, requiring rail traffic to recommence immediately without engaging in time-consuming tasks of rebuilding these devices. In order to restore frontline traffic the following action was taken:

The train operations was based on details agreed over the telephone in Russian, and in conformity to Russian rail traffic control and signalling regulations; less frequently, conditions permitting (whenever devices were operational and sufficient staff available), announcements were dispatched by telegraph. It did happen that on militarised lines Russian railway troops used a primitive yet effective method of managing traffic manually, i.e. “a token system” – a metal shield with a special-purpose handle handed over by a train guard when trains were crossing each other or at a destination station to the crew of a train dispatched in the opposite direction.

Under extraordinary warfare circumstances, Polish railwaymen fluent in Russian would be employed as train dispatchers at stations of lesser strategic importance,104 Soviet officers holding positions of station/ section commanders at ←44 | 45→“junctions.” Polish railwaymen would usually be employed as physical labourers, or to perform rail traffic control-related duties as signalmen, switch operators, shunting masters, or shunters.

Steam locomotive columns (parovozoviye colony) were established as early as 1941 in order to provide locomotives for military train operations; they were part of a special-purpose reserve of the People’s Commissariat for Railways, all militarised, and reporting to the Red Army transport units.

The immediate reason for the formation of these columns was to provide traction to military trains under circumstances of complete destruction of servicing facilities. In order to ensure their complete self-sufficiency, these units were organised along the lines of train servicing applied on long-haul sections of Russian railways. On the Siberian railway lines living vans were coupled to locomotives to accommodate a backup locomotive crew. The solution allowed considerable extension of train crew working hours: one crew worked while the other rested in the respite van. The other condition of running frontline trains required that the parovozoviye colony be made technically independent thanks to technical equipment, field workshop facilities, and qualified rolling stock repairmen and boilersmiths assigned to them.

The process of forming first columns began in 1941, at the Ilitsa and Podmoskovskaya locomotive depots of the Moscow railway junction; these columns went on to participate in the Battle of Moscow.105 More often as not, steam locomotives assigned to a column transported troops over considerable distances.106

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The system of using columns to perform rail traffic involved the formation of a group – a column of steam locomotives of the same type (in order to make their use in field conditions more expedient) – which was then assigned to one of the larger locomotive depots. Each column locomotive was then assigned 3 engine crews, 3 conductor crews, 3 wagon inspectors, 1 rolling stock fitter, and one wagon with two escorts to provide accommodation. Steam locomotives hauled trains according to schedule between two locomotive depots separated by a distance of 500 km or more, passing through stations that had their own locomotive depots on the way without stopping in these depots. The servicing of steam locomotives would be performed on station tracks or in locomotive depots, depending on conditions. Train operation began at a station adjacent to the original locomotive depot that the column had been assigned to. A steam locomotive would depart from the yard with two crews aboard – one to operate the locomotive and train, the other one resting in the van. After completing the work assignment over a specific shift, crews would rotate during a longer stopover and engine re-stoking. The third crew would remain at the locomotive yard the column was assigned to. At the final locomotive yard, the engine would undergo full servicing, and return with the train scheduled in the respective direction to the original yard it had been assigned to without stopovers.107

Broad-gauge steam locomotive of Russian classes OB, Э, Эг, Эш, Эм, C, and Cу would usually be employed to operate broad gauge military trains passing through the Warsaw junction.108 Captured standard-gauge passenger and express locomotives (coupled to passenger trains under normal circumstances), basically unsuitable for the transport of heavy military equipment, would also be employed during warfare in military rail traffic.

Field storages of coal, wood, and lubricants as well as field repair workshop facilities would be arranged to ensure uninterrupted locomotive operation. The shortage of coal (resulting in the necessity to transport it across great distances before the Soviet troops entered the Dąbrowskie Basin and Silesia) was conducive to a fuel replacement effort: railway and road military units amassed 542,000 m3 of wood for trains running in both directions on the Kovel and Brest lines.109 Wherever water stations had been destroyed, water for locomotive tenders ←46 | 47→would be drawn from rivers, streams or wells with the use of steam-powered suction pumps mounted on steam locomotives or in the vicinity of watercourses. Nonetheless, the limited capacity of such appliances resulted in considerable extension to the travel time of military trains.

The simplified servicing procedures – restrained only by the coal and water refill time and the need to wash-out locomotive boilers – increased the intensity of use of locomotives. Concurrently, such excess and intense use of rolling stock resulted in the rapid deterioration of all equipment, locomotive boilers in particular – yet nobody paid much attention to such a situation under wartime conditions. Service in war railway columns was extremely dangerous, frequently involving operating ammunition trains under enemy fire. Pre-war mobilised Polish railwaymen served in the Soviet steam locomotive columns as well. The 1st Belarussian Front train service lost 42 staff killed in action and 57 injured; notably, every German pilot would be decorated with an Iron Cross for destroying a locomotive.110 In an effort to eliminate air attacks on troop trains on particularly hazardous sections, single locomotives were dispatched ahead to draw enemy fire.111 In 1943, armoured steel plate came into use as protection for steam locomotive driver cabs to improve the safety of locomotive crews.112

When no Russian or Polish locomotive crews were available, an occasional German locomotive crew would be brought in, guarded by Soviet soldiers. As a retired German engine driver of the Lyck (Ełk) locomotive depot recalls: “it was a journey at the point of a Nagant.”113 Troops were issued orders under which they were required to shoot both the locomotive driver and fireman for the slightest misdemeanour or locomotive failure, considered an act of wartime sabotage and punishable by death.

After the war ended and all captured property was shipped to the USSR, locomotive columns returned to the Soviet Union, where they were demilitarised and disbanded. Former column rolling stock (locomotive and wagons) was returned to the Soviet Railways.114 The Zheleznodorozhniki w velikoy otechestvennoy voyne ←47 | 48→study features an interesting note of January 22nd 1946 from Gudok, a Soviet railway weekly, describing the disbanding of railway columns:

On territories not held by Poland between the wars (East Prussia, Pomerania and Lower Silesia), and in the part of Upper Silesia which had not befallen Poland post-1922, particularly intensive works were handled by Trofyeynoye Upravlenyie – Military Board for War Spoils. The special-purpose units of the Board shipped rolling stock and railway equipment out of the country, dismantling tracks and sidings. The greatest losses were sustained by East Prussia (Varmia and Mazuria) and West Pomerania, where special-purpose evacuation trains were used to dismantle a significant volume of railway lines (1,600 km, ←48 | 49→including 165 km of narrow-gauge tracks117), only partly rebuilt in the 1950s. Furthermore, the Soviet units responsible for the removal of spoils of war also took Polish rolling stock and railway workshop equipment to the east; Polish railwaymen would frequently re-direct wagons carrying looted Polish property and materials useful in the reconstruction of the destroyed railway infrastructure to sidings.118

With regard to the problem of running railways on the Polish territory under the Red Army control, on November 4th 1944 the Transport Department of the Polish Committee of National Liberation issued a decree according to which the railway was to be militarised,119 reporting to the Commander in Chief of the Polish Armed Forces; all railwaymen were considered troops drafted into military transport service – yet allowed the right to wear railway uniform, to modest salaries, and to food rations. As a result of railway militarisation, former Head of the Department of Transport and Postal and Telegraph Services Jan Grubecki, M.Sc. Eng.,120 was replaced by a Polish Workers’ Party activist Captain Jan Rabanowski, M.Sc. Eng. (first post-war minister responsible for railways). Pursuant to the railway militarisation decree, railwaymen charged with misdemeanour in service were brought before a court-martial. According to railwaymen accounts, they were punished with custody and given bread and water only for the slightest misconduct when on duty. When serving penalty, an employee would spend the night in detention and return to duty during daytime under armed Railway Security Service escort. In the case of Toruń railwaymen, for example, a special-purpose prison was established in a 19th-century fortified tower – a railway bridgehead.

Furthermore, a plenipotentiary for railway transport of the Supreme Board of Military Transports at the Polish Committee of National Liberation was appointed – General P. Rumyantsev.121 In all actuality, General Rumyantsev and Colonel Platonov were in charge of the entire department of transport of the Polish Committee of National Liberation.

On June 23rd 1945, the railway was restored to peacetime operations; on July 11th 1945 an agreement was signed with the USSR, pursuant to which the Polish State Railways were to assume control of the railways across the newly formed ←49 | 50→western part of Poland by August 15th 1945.122 The actual handover process of railway lines by the Red Army was still in progress in August 1945.

In conformity with the agreement, the representative agencies of the Russian military transport authorities were established at the Polish Ministry of Transport and the regional railway management bodies.

Under the agreement concluded on August 11th 1945123 by the Polish authorities and the government of the USSR, all railway lines converted to broad gauge by the Soviet military units were to be re-converted back to standard gauge over the period of September 15th to November 30th 1945.

On October 1st 1945, the last broad-gauge Soviet troop train from Frankfurt to Brest travelled over the Warsaw – Poznań – Frankfurt railway line.124

On November 5th 1945, another agreement was entered into in Lublin by and between the Polish Committee of National Liberation and the government of the USSR concerning the operation and management of Polish railways. It granted the Red Army plenipotentiaries the right to co-decide with respect to all the matters related to railway traffic and operation of railways. In practice, this was tantamount to the railway being taken over by the Soviet authorities.125

By year-end 1945, most broad-gauge lines on the Polish territory were converted to standard gauge. Following the decision by the Soviet Minister of Defence,126 the Przemyśl – Kraków – Katowice – Wrocław line, as well as its branches to the Upper Silesian coal mines, all of strategic importance to the Soviet Army, remained converted to broad-gauge. The line served 18 trains a day,127 and was used to carry huge numbers of inhabitants of the former eastern Polish territories incorporated into the USSR to the western parts of Poland. Hard coal was the chief cargo shipped on the return journey.128 In 1946, 7.3 million tonnes of goods (96 % of which was coal) were carried by rail along the route described.

The Upper Silesian Industrial District encompassed the longest-standing survivor of the broad-gauge network; it was used until 1947, including access to 13 coal mines (the length of the broad gauge track at railway stations reached 100 km). In 1947, these facilities were used to ship 6 million tonnes of goods ←50 | 51→(98 % of which was coal) to the USSR. As of September 1st 1947, the overall broad-gauge network of the Regional State Railway Management in Katowice totalled a mere 31 km.129

The second track on the Mamonowo – (state border) – Braniewo – Bogaczewo – Elbląg line was also left as broad-gauge, serving strategic and economic purposes, the latter to a minuscule extent. In Elbląg, at the Zamech plant (the former F. Schichau Elbing factory), thousands of passenger carriages, freight wagons and steam locomotives manufactured by the H. Cegielski factory and ordered by the Soviet Railways were converted to broad gauge. Following a short test run and technical inspection by the commissioning officer for Soviet Railways in the Polish People’s Republic, the rolling stock was dispatched to Kaliningrad. In the 1970s, the broad-gauge section of the Elbląg – Bogaczewo line was dismantled, the remaining part was retained for strategic reasons.

The absolute military, political, and economic enslavement of Poland by its eastern neighbour during the Stalinist times may be proven by the curious example of the permanently destroyed electric railways in Lower Silesia. Following an agreement with the Soviet government, Polish State Railways took over the slightly damaged, electrified rail network in Lower Silesia, formerly owned by the Germans, 321 km long (it had been subject to gradual electrification from the early 20th century until the late 1930s, 15 kV and 16 2/3 Hz alternate current was applied). The early electrification of railways within the Eisenbahndirektion Breslau was associated with the need to operate trains on the difficult mountainous Lower Silesian railway network (inclines of up to 20 ‰, curves of 170m radius), and the resulting technical difficulties with operating steam-hauled trains. Moreover, the short distances between stations and halts were detrimental to the overall economics of using steam traction (frequent starts and stops). During the period of 1912–1914, the Siemens-Schuckert Werke company constructed a power plant in Ścinawka, equipped with four sets of turbines providing power to the electric Lower Silesian railways. Coal was carried to the plant by block trains from the Nowa Ruda Słupiec mine, 12 km away.130

The Polish State Railways took over the following electrified railways lines from the Soviet military transport authorities:131 Wałbrzych Szczawienko – Szczawno Zdrój –Boguszów Gorce Wschód – Mieroszów – (state border) – (Mezimesti) ←51 | 52→(June 1st 1914132), Boguszów Gorce Wschód – Boguszów Gorce (July 15th 1914), Świebodzice – Szczawienko – Wałbrzych – Boguszów Gorce Wschód (January 1st 1916), Świebodzice – Jaworzyna Śląska (April 1st 1917), Boguszów Gorce – Sędzisław – Marciszów – Jelenia Góra (July 15th 1920), Sędzisław – Kamienna Góra – Lubawka (August 17th 1921), Jelenia Góra – Rybnica – Gryfów Śląski – Lubań (1922), Jelenia Góra – Cieplice Zdrój – Sobieszów – Piechowice –Szklarska Poręba – Jakuszyce – (state border) – (Kořenov) (February 15th 1923), Lubań –Mikułowa – Zgorzelec – (state border) – (Görlitz) (September 1st 1923), Jaworzyna Śląska – Żarów – Kąty Wrocławskie – Wrocław Świebodzki (January 28th 1928), Lubań – Węgliniec (April 3rd 1928), Lubań – Leśna (June 22nd 1928), Wrocław Zachodni – Muchobór – Wrocław Świebodzki (June 25th 1928), Jelenia Góra – Mysłakowice – Kowary – Kamienna Góra (December 9th 1932), Mysłakowice – Miłaków – Karpacz (1934), Marciszów – Kamienna Góra (January 1st 1939). Furthermore, the Polish railway authorities took over numerous electric railway vehicles and state-of-the-art, very well equipped electric traction repair workshops in Lubań Śląski (Lauban).

As stated earlier, the railway network in Lower Silesia did not suffer extensive wartime damage. Only the overhead catenary of the Wrocław junction, the Wrocław locomotive depot (completely destroyed), and the overhead catenary on the Wrocław – Jaworzyna Śląska line were damaged once heavy combat commenced during the Siege of Breslau.133 Shortly after the end of warfare, the German railway personnel – working together with the Polish railwaymen who had operated the Warsaw railway junction lines electrified between the wars and then completely destroyed by the Germans – re-commissioned electric traction on a major part of the Lower Silesian Railway Management, having removed minor damage to the overhead wires. The following lines were operational: Lubań Śląski – Leśna, later Jelenia Góra – Lubań Śląski, Jelenia Góra Zachodnia – Szklarska Poręba and Jelenia Góra – Karpacz; after several weeks of work, traffic was also restored to the Jaworzyna Śląska – Zgorzelec line.134

Unfortunately, already after the reopening of electric railways, under the agreement between the governments of the USSR and Poland of July 8th 1945, the rolling stock, machines and equipment of the Lower Silesian electrified railway network were to be shipped to the USSR (with an extraordinarily short period of three weeks allowed for disassembly).135 Consequently, the use of ←52 | 53→electric trains ceased and power was disconnected; the Soviet railway military forces proceeded to disassemble the overhead wires, equipment and sub-stations. Workshops, equipment, overhead wires, sub-stations, high-voltage power lines, power plants, rolling stock and even disassembled second tracks of double track lines, were all sent to the USSR.136 Components of the railway power plant in Ścinawka Średnia, transformer sub-stations, and equipment from electric traction workshops in Lubań Śląski were also disassembled and shipped out. The rogue plundering of electric traction equipment did not even spare thousands of traction poles, cut with torches up to the height of an upright soldier. The following equipment was shipped to the USSR: 2 E17 class electric locomotives, 3 E42 class locomotives, 2 E44 class locomotives, 2 E90 class locomotives, 5 E91 class locomotives, 11 E94 class locomotives, 2 ET31 class EMUs, 3 ET51 class railcars, and 6 ET89 class railcars.137

The rolling stock – and traction substations – were shipped to Soviet military railway equipment depots, where they remained disused for several decades. Some of the electric locomotives captured from the Polish State Railways in 1945 were presented by the Soviet authorities to East Germany after 1956, in a gesture of “brotherly assistance.” Notably, the Soviet Railways used 3,000 V DC and 25,000 V AC – consequently, rolling stock seized in Lower Silesia was totally useless to the Soviet railways.138

Old, run-down steam locomotives and wagons (often dating back to the early 20th century) returned to the previously electrified railway lines of the Regional State Railway Management in Wrocław, the lines were partly re-electrified only in the 1970s and 1980s.

←53 | 54→

The re-electrification of the Wrocław – Wałbrzych – Jelenia Góra line was completed only in the years 1965–1966. This was a line with a particularly difficult mountainous profile. With steam traction, up to three engines were required for a single freight train. Heavy freight trains required the assistance of bankers – locomotives that were pushing the trains, mainly on the particularly difficult sections of the line. The Mysłakowice – Karpacz line, on the other hand, featuring the greatest longitudinal incline on the complete Polish State Railways network (44 ‰ immediately before Karpacz station), was never electrified again.


24 Strózik, Wojska kolejowe 1944–1946, 21.

25 Antipenko (1970), 347.

26 Antipenko (1970), 348.

27 Zamkowska (1982), 65–75.

28 Zamkowska (1982), 41.

29 According to a report of Mr. Bogdan Pokropiński, a retired Warszawa Praga locomotive depot driver, on the Warszawa – Mińsk Maz. – Siedlce only one track was re-gauged, the standard gauge track remained disused.

30 On the Chełm – Dęblin stretch one track was regauged to 1524 mm, traffic was retained on the second, standard-gauge track, Antipenko (1970), 227.

31 The Warsaw – Dęblin line was re-gauged together with the opening of the southern railway route.

32 It is most likely that the author obtained these documents (which were misinterpreted), describing a certain part of the works, because a conversion of the line only as far as Klementowice would not be based on rational reasoning. It is most probable that the entire Lublin-Dęblin section was re-gauged to broad-gauge.

33 Zamkowska (1982), 46.

34 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 303–304.

35 Kuczera (2007), 16.

36 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 303–304.

37 Kuczera (2007), 16.

38 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 297.

39 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 390.

40 This was probably a line bypassing the Lublin junction, connecting the Lublin – Łuków line to the Lublin – Rejowiec one.

41 This was probably the Życzyn – Stawy line, bypassing the Dęblin junction and connecting Dęblin – Pilawa to the Dęblin – Łuków line.

42 This was probably the Treblinka – Prostyń Bug rail link, which made it possible to travel to Małkinia or Tłuszcz, bypassing the destroyed bridge on the Małkinia – Treblinka section. Nonetheless, it cannot be ruled out that a rail link was installed to allow direct transfer from Białystok towards Ostrołęka, bypassing Małkinia.

43 Antipenko (1970), 238–239.

44 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 296–297.

45 Strózik, Wojska kolejowe 1944–1946, 58.

46 The Mińsk Mazowiecki – Pilawa line was built in 1897, it handled also scheduled passenger traffic. In the 1930s official Polish State Railways documents it was described as closed; at that time the line was controlled by the Polish Armed Forces (the first paratrooper landings, destruction and rebuilding of engineering structures exercises were held there). This line was probably dismantled during the German occupation. Most probably, the construction of the strategic avoiding line of the Warszawa Praga junction described by General Antipenko only involved the laying of tracks on existing embankments. This line was most likely dismantled in the post-war period, and reconstructed again in 1970.

47 Strózik, Wojska kolejowe 1944–1946, 62.

48 Strózik, Wojska kolejowe 1944–1946, 62. The junction line was not in use after the war, but it was maintained until the 1980s as a strategic bypass of the Warsaw junction in the event of war. It was dismantled in the mid-nineties.

49 Wojska kolejowe 1944–1946, 62.

50 Live block system – a method of organising rail traffic particularly frequent on Soviet lines, involving people positioned at specified intervals along a railway line, using beacons as train signals. It allowed trains to be dispatched at several-minute intervals.

51 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 394–395.

52 Zamkowska (1982), 67.

53 Former name of the Polish State Railways Stalowa Wola Południe.

54 Zamkowska (1982), 67.

55 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 389.

56 Antipenko (1970), 228.

57 Antipenko (1970), 228.

58 Antipenko (1970), 229–230.

59 The railway forces of the 1st Belorussian Front consisted of four railway brigades: the 1st brigade of the guard rail troops (commander General W. Tisson), the 29th brigade of railway troops (commander Major General W. Rogatko), the 3rd brigade of railway troops (commander D. Vasiliev), two bridge construction trains (No. 13, commander Colonel I Moskalev, No. 7 commander Major Artiemienko) and (militarized) troops of a special formation of the People’s Commissariat of Communications (consisting of Soviet mobilized civil railway workers).

60 Antipenko (1970), 230.

61 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 390.

62 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 390–392.

63 Antipenko (1970), 232.

64 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 392.

65 Antipenko (1970), 261.

66 Antipenko (1970), 262–263.

67 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 392.

68 The bridge was completed 12 days ahead of the date planned.

69 Antipenko (1970), 263; Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 392.

70 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 392.

71 Antipenko (1970), 264.

72 Antipenko (1970), 256.

73 Antipenko (1970), 267.

74 Antipenko (1970), 281.

75 Kroma, Sosiński (2003), 74.

76 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 392.

77 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 392.

78 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 392–393.

79 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 393.

80 Antipenko (1970), 282.

81 Antipenko (1970), 283.

82 Antipenko (1970), 284.

83 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 397.

84 Code name for the General Staff of the Red Army.

85 Antipenko (1970), 286–287.

86 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 399.

87 According to a first-hand account of May 12th 2006 given by a retired locomotive driver of the Warszawa Praga locomotive depot, Mr. Bogdan Pokropiński, one track had been converted to broad gauge, while traffic continued also on the other standard-gauge track; while on the bridge in Modlin a dual gauge track was installed, causing significant restrictions to overall line capacity.

88 No other sources confirm information regarding the temporary reconstruction of the bridges over the River Nogat in Malbork or on the Vistula near Tczew.

89 The locomotive depot in Sochaczew was re-gauged to 1,524 mm, so that it could serve broad-gauge locomotives.

90 There is no absolute certainty as to track conversion on the Łódź – Kutno – Toruń – Krzyż – Kostrzyn line.

91 Paszke, Jerczyński, Koziarski, (1995), 336.

92 According to a first-hand account of given by a retired locomotive driver of the Warszawa Praga depot, Mr. Bogdan Pokropiński, the Russians had set up a field mobile power plant to supply the district of Praga with electricity on the siding leading to the harbour, prior to the capture of Warsaw. The power plant comprised approximately 10 FD and IS locomotives used to power electricity generators.

93 Polish State Railways railway network map (1945); History of the Katowice… (1997), 166.

94 Zamkowska (1984), 68; Odrodzenie (1947), 30 the source specifies that the railway military had converted 3,518 km of lines, 1,159 km of station tracks, and 4,574 points. This discrepancy may be due to the use of incomplete data for different reporting periods.

95 In cases of sustained and long-term damage to railway lines, explosive charges were used to destroy rails as well.

96 Macewicz (2000), 149.

97 Antipenko (1970), 32.

98 Paszke, Jerczyński, Koziarski (1995), 332.

99 Antipenko (1970), 237.

100 In railway terminology, the phrase “compact formation” applies to any train the composition of which cannot be subject to modification.

101 Antipenko (1970), 268.

102 Antipenko (1970), 266.

103 Antipenko (1970), 266–267.

104 Account of October 5th 2005 by a retired traffic controller of the Regional State Railway Management in Warsaw Aleksander Matecki from Mława; thanks to his excellent command of Russian language, he served in 1944 as a Soviet military train dispatcher on the Mława – Konopki section of the Warszawa Gdańska – Gdańsk Główny line.

105 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 311.

106 To allow maximum-intensity of steam locomotive use, each locomotive would be coupled with bogie vans with accommodation for three locomotive crews, three conductor crews, a rolling stock fitter, and an escort. Such steam locomotive crews were self-sufficient enough to perform complex locomotive repairs, even in field conditions. On order by the State Defence Committee, the People’s Commissariat for Railways formed 35 NKPS Special Reserve steam locomotive columns on railway lines at the head and rear of the frontline, operating 750 steam locomotives, with over 11,000 railwaymen troops in service. The work of every column was handled by the head and political commissar (deputy for political affairs) of the unit. Each column comprised a company of up to 5 locomotives. A brigade servicing a single locomotive comprised a platoon under the command of an experienced locomotive driver. Equipment assigned to a column included workshop tools and power generators; a column would be self-sufficient in performing all boilerworks. A standard special-purpose reserve column consisted of 30 locomotives, although occasional ones would comprise 20 or 15.A column service was fully militarised, railwaymen were issued military ranks, uniforms, and weapons. A quick implementation of steam locomotive columns resulted in the NKPS establishing a special-reserve railway column branch.

107 Łaszkiewicz (1959), 58–59.

108 As told by retired locomotive driver of the Warszawa Praga depot, Mr. Bogdan Pokropiński.

109 Antipenko (1970), 231.

110 Antipenko (1970), 233.

111 Antipenko (1970), 233.

112 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 323.

113 Account of May 12th 2003 by a retired driver and mechanical controller at the narrow gauge railway depot Ełk, Leszek Zumbrzycki.

114 The columns included a significant number of Polish locomotives looted by Soviet troops after the Red Army attacked Poland on September 17th 1939, as well as numerous pre-war Polish State Railways steam locomotives and locomotives seized from the Germans.

115 The ring route mode with locomotives coaled and serviced on station tracks without stopping over at locomotive depots was widely used in the USA, where special-purpose appliances were developed, designed to re-stock coal on locomotives and clean their ashpans directly on station tracks. Such servicing method was introduced to the Soviet railways in the 1930s. The ring route method was fundamentally applied on railway sections over 130 km. The method involved locomotive refilling and servicing at the return locomotive depot, and its handover to another locomotive crew who would drive the locomotive on the return journey to its home depot. Once the home locomotive depot was reached, the locomotive would not be driven into the depot, but instead the third locomotive crew would take it over on departure tracks and drive the locomotive to another return locomotive depot. Upon reaching that station, the locomotive would not be driven into the locomotive depot either; upon refuelling and cleaning on the pit, it would be handed over to a fourth crew who would then drive it on the return journey to its home depot – and yet again, the locomotive was not driven into the depot itself, but it would be handed over to another crew tasked with the next trip, directly on station tracks. Once the scheduled distance between two boiler washouts was covered, the engine would be taken to its home locomotive depot to be cleaned and undergo periodic maintenance. While the ring route mode increased the number of active locomotives and improved route capacity, such procedures impacted the overall technical condition of locomotives.

116 Zheleznodorozhniki (1987), 316.

117 Lijewski, Lenk, Piotrowska (1967), 5.

118 Osóbka-Morawski (1981), 49.

119 Zamkowska (1982), 65–75.

120 As Jan Grubecki opposed Russian rogue management methods involving railway equipment, he was summarily dismissed by Edward Osóbka-Morawski.

121 Zamkowska (1984), 70.

122 Paszke, Jerczyński, Koziarski (1995), 335.

123 Gembora, MOHRA, Ref. No. 1138, 117.

124 Kroma, Sosiński (2003), 74.

125 Krogulski (2000), 126.

126 Zamkowska (1984), 74.

127 Zamkowska (1984), 62.

128 Krogulski (2000), 126.

129 History of the Katowice (1997), 166.

130 Szynkiewicz (2004), 32.

131 Line electrification dates quoted from Lijewski, Koziarski (1995), 106.

132 All electrification dates listed in brackets.

133 Szynkiewicz (2004), 37.

134 Szynkiewicz (2004), 38.

135 Szynkiewicz (2004), 38.

136 The overhead catenary on the Jelenia Góra – Jakuszyce section was left intact, probably by omission; yet this section was dismantled soon thereafter and used to rebuild the damaged catenary at the Warsaw Rail Junction.

137 Szynkiewicz (2004), 39.

138 The existence of an electric railway network in Lower Silesia became a censorship-safeguarded secret. Even specialist publications on electric traction from the time of the Polish People’s Republic contain no information concerning the electrification of these lines. It is only in the work by the notable pioneer of Polish State Railways electrification, Stanisław Kuczborski [Kuczborski (1963), 100] that we find the following laconic statement: […] 15 kV AC, 16 2/3 Hz (standard voltage employed by the German railways) electric traction was introduced already between the wars, on the Wrocław – Wałbrzych – Jelenia Góra line. Currently, the 3kV DC system adopted by the Polish State Railways is to be introduced.

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3. RECONSTRUCTING, ORGANISING, AND DEVELOPING THE HEADQUARTERS OF MILITARY TRANSPORT IN THE YEARS 1944–1962

The army’s transition to peacetime operations upon the end of warfare coincided with the re-organisation of the Headquarters of Military Transport and complete liquidation of the railway troops. Once the decision to disband the railway troops was made, the Headquarters of Military Transport was severely reduced, its competencies limited to military transports, reconstruction as well as the operation of sidings and military railways in military areas. The tasks assigned to military transport authorities also included the drafting of military opinions concerning the design of transport facilities and supervision of the efficient railway mobilisation and militarisation during warfare.

In the first quarter of 1945, a process of establishing military transport departments commenced at the chief of staff level of the newly formed military districts (Military District Commands) at the following locations: Warsaw, Łódź, Poznań, Lublin, and Kraków.139 The tasks of the new organisational district staff units included the co-operation with the respective Regional State Railway Management, securing military transport on railway lines within the given district, organising maintenance and reconstruction works on railway lines and facilities with the infrastructure departments of the respective Management standing in as intermediaries, and organising security services for major lines and railway facilities in co-operation with railway authorities. The organisational structure of the military transport departments included a department for military transport, as well as a department for railway maintenance and construction. Notwithstanding the above, the military transport departments were not prepared to deliver tasks under wartime mobilisation conditions, as they owned no line railway units. In practice, their work was basically limited to planning and documentary functions. In co-operation with the infrastructure departments of the Regional State Railway Managements they made records of the lines, bridges and other railway facilities for record purposes. Only under exceptional circumstances – and assisted by military engineering units – they ←55 | 56→repaired or constructed small sections of railway lines and sidings for military purposes.140

On July 18th 1945141 the General Staff was reformed as General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces. The Military Transports Board of the Chief Quartermaster of the Polish Armed Forces was dissolved. All tasks and competences of the liquidated quartermaster unit were taken over by the newly created Branch IV of Military Transport of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces. The purpose of separating the Military Transports bodies from the quartermaster structure and making them subordinate to the General Staff was to set up a closer operational and co-ordination format for transport bodies and operational units of the Staff in terms of planning and handling of all military operational transports.

Colonel Mikołaj Suprynowicz, M.Sc. Eng., the former head of the Military Transports Board of the Polish Armed Forces, was appointed the head of the Branch IV of Military Transport of the General Staff. He was replaced as head of the service by Colonel Michał Terlecki on December 31st 1945.142

The Branch IV of Military Transport of the General Staff included the following departments: management, department of military transport, water transport section, technical department, department of combat training, financial and control section, and secret registry. The scope of Branch IV activities also included issues of using inland waterways for military transport purposes. Branch IV employed 54 full-time soldiers, its management staff composed of the following officers seconded by the Soviet army: head of the Branch Colonel Mikołaj Suprowicz, deputy head of the Branch Colonel Grzegorz Kuźmienko, head of transport department Colonel Anatol Gaponiuk and head of the combat training department, Colonel Sergiusz Osokin.143

The main tasks of Branch IV included the following: collection and preparation of data for the General Staff (with respect to railway transport and means of transport), drafting General Staff decisions in the form of plans to prepare the railway network for army needs, preparation and training of transport officers, issuing opinions concerning the design of reconstructed railway lines and railway facilities and equipment, co-operation with the Ministry of Transport, drafting instructions and regulations with regard to the planning and ←56 | 57→management of military transports, supervising the general military training of the Headquarters of Military Transport, military management of railway rolling stock, managing of military peacetime railway transports, and managing all financial affairs related to troops transport.

Generally, Branch IV of Military Transport of the General Staff did not undertake any work in the field of reconstruction or modernisation of railway lines or facilities. The Branch did, however, engage in intense work involving the collection and processing of data concerning the technical condition of railway lines, bridges and other railway facilities. The Branch also maintained army-purpose records of railway lines and facilities, bridges, viaducts and culverts – destroyed, under reconstruction and reconstructed.

The re-organisation and establishment of Branch IV of Military Transport coincided with the re-organisation of the Departments for Military Transports at the military district headquarters with intent to establish Departments IV of Military Transport.144 Their new organisational structure included the respective sections for transport, technical issues, control and finance, and registry. These Departments reported to the heads of staffs of the respective districts, their former tasks were fundamentally left unchanged. The Departments were also in charge of constructing a number of military sidings with assistance from civilian enterprises supplied with surface materials as required.

On December 16th 1945, the Military Railway Transport Branch Offices were established in all the state railways districts.145 The branch offices employed two-full time officers and six compulsory service soldiers. When re-organising the Headquarters of Military Transport, the Branch Offices were reformed into Local Offices of Branch IV of Military Transport, and set up to include the following sections: transport, technical issues, control and finance, and registry. Heads of Branch IV Local Offices reported directly to the head of Branch IV of Military Transport of the General Staff.

Such a solution did not prove long-standing: in 1948, the former Branch IV of Military Transport of the General Staff was renamed Board IV for Military Transport of the General Staff, Colonel Anatol Zamczyński M.Sc. Eng appointed the head of Board IV.146

Thereafter, on June 17th 1950, the Minister of National Defence Marshal Konstanty Rokossowski instructed the Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General ←57 | 58→Władysław Korczyc to re-organise the military transport bodies.147 Consequently, in the first half of 1951, the Headquarters of Military Transport of the General Staff was established in place of the current Board IV for Military Transport, the new body’s competencies extended to include additional departments.148 Following the re-organisation, railway troops were formed once again to comprise three battalions (3rd, 5th and 7th railway troop’s battalions, respectively).

Thus, the re-organised Headquarters of Military Transport yet again included military transport bodies and railway troops alike. The Headquarters of Military Transport had its own structures: central, line, and field (designed for wartime purposes only).

The central military transport authorities included the following: the Headquarters of Military Transport of the General Staff, the Military Transport Departments of Military District Commands, and the Military Transport Department of the Navy Staff.

The re-organised Headquarters of Military Transport of the General Staff consisted of the following branches and departments: transport department, technical branch, mobilisation department, organisation and supplies department, training department, financial and control department, military railway department, general department, and registry. The individual branches consisted of departments, and individual departments of sections.

In 1951, Colonel Herman Czerwiakow was appointed head of the Headquarters of Military Transport of the General Staff.149 The head of the Headquarters of Military Transport was also head of the Polish Armed Forces transport, reporting directly to the Chief of General Staff. Upon re-organisation, tasks of the Headquarters of Military Transport also included the planning of training and dispatching of railway troops, as well as supplying them with materials and transport equipment as required. As a result of re-organisation, the organisational structure of the Military Transport Departments of Military District Commands was also expanded to include mobilisation sections.

The head of the Military transport Department of a given Military District Command reported directly to the chief of staff of the military district, and – with respect to technical and transport issues – to the chief of transport of the Polish Armed Forces.

←58 | 59→

The main tasks of Military Transport Departments of the Military District Commands included the following: knowledge of the railway network and inland waterways in the district and the possibilities of their use for military purposes, organisation, planning and execution of military transport within a given region, planning and control of training of military units with respect to railway transport, supplying military units of the district with military waybills and the control of their use, supervision over the training and operations of regional military railway units.

The headcount structure of the Military Transport Department of the Navy Staff was identical to that of the Military Transport Departments of military districts. The head of the Navy’s military transport branch reported directly to the chief of staff of the Navy, and – in case of technical and transport issues – to the chief of transport of the Polish Armed Forces. The main tasks of the Navy’s Military Transport Department included the use of ports and vessels for military transport purposes, organisation of military transports in harbours, planning rail and coastal transport for the Navy and supplying the naval units with military waybills and the control of their use.

The headquarters of the military transport line units were intended to manage military railway and inland waterways transport in war- and peacetime. They were deployed on the country’s railway network – Headquarters of Military Transport were placed in Regional State Railway Management buildings, Military Railway Section Commands – at designated operational unit buildings; Military Station Commands – in station buildings.

The line units of railway and inland consisted of the following subdivisions of railway transport: Headquarters of Military Transport (in Regional State Railway Management), Military Railway Section Commands (at designated Operational Departments of the Polish State Railways150), Military Railway Section Commands (at designated Operational Departments of the Polish State Railways151), Military Station Commands (at designated junctions and railway stations, and at border control checkpoints of the People’s Republic of Poland), Military Food Points, Military Agitation Points and Military Stage Points. With respect to the inland water transport, line authorities included the following: the Water Transport Command of the Regional Directorate of Waterways, and Military Commands of Waterway Sections and Ports (formed during wartime only).

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The Headquarters of Military Transport at Regional State Railway Managements were established in the process of re-organising the Military Railway Transport Branch Offices. A Military Transport Command was composed of the following sections: a transport department, a technical section, a mobilisation section, a financial and accounting section, and a registry. The head of military transport at a Regional State Railway Management was a representative of the Ministry of National Defence for the respective railway management area. He reported directly to the chief of military transport of the Polish Armed Forces in matters related to the preparation of railways for army needs and the organisation and delivery of central transport service – in matters of regional transport, he reported to the head of military transport in the military district. The main tasks of a Military Transport Command included the following: knowledge of the organisation, equipment and condition of the railway network in the respective Regional State Railway Management area, control of railway preparation for army needs and of works performed on the railway as commissioned by the Ministry of Defence, drafting opinions concerning the design of railway construction and reconstruction, control of maintenance and repair works on military sidings and rolling stock at the disposal of the Ministry of National Defence, drafting military transport plans and submitting them to the Regional State Railway Management, organising and supervising their delivery, control and handling of financial settlements with the railway management for the transport of troops and military supplies, and the training of military units in the field of railway transport. The responsibilities of the Military Transport Command also included the drafting of and updates to railway network descriptions of all Regional State Railway Managements, said descriptions comprising the following data: railway track infrastructure inventory; specifications of telephone, telegram and selector communication, of train radio communication, of MB and CB service centres and teletypewriter communications; specifications of railway line and junction station capacity; railway network diagram with 3,270 mm loading gauge mapped; specification of railway border crossings; list of stations with rolling stock shunting facilities; list of rolling stock furnishing and assembly stations; list of stations where folding ramp sets and complete Kl wagon equipment kits were deposited; list of stations where military reserves of surface reconstruction materials were deposited; list of junction tracks operational, disused, disassembled and planned over a designated special period; network diagram with steam locomotive depots, locomotive depots, wagon depots, and Railway Rolling Stock Repair Facilities added; diagram of steam, diesel and electric traction sections; list of fuel depots with coal stages specified; network diagram with water station layout; diagram of electrified railway lines, continuous ←60 | 61→welded tracks and types of track infrastructure; list of coal wagon wall removal facilities; network diagram with emergency maintenance and emergency rescue train deployment mapped; network diagram with snowplough and railway crane deployment mapped; list and specification of rolling stock deactivation points on the Polish State Railways network; list of sanitary points; list of Civil Defence facilities (shelters).

Responsibilities of the Military Command of a Railway Section or station included the following: organisation and management of loading, transport and unloading of military railway transports on or at a respective section or station; preparing railway rolling stock and loading accessories for military transport; control of the technical condition of military ramps and sidings and delivering practical training for military units related to railway transport; securing all operational and sanitary services for transported military units; ensuring that the soldiers travelling by trains maintain order and comply with military discipline and railway regulations. During mass wartime transport of troops, food and agitation points were set up at larger stations.152

During wartime, the purpose of Headquarters of Military Transport was to secure the continuity of transport by railways- and waterways – transfers of troops and tactical compounds, as well as material supplies for the troops in combat. The wartime responsibilities of railway troops and militarised railway units also included reconstruction (or destruction) of railway lines.

In order to deliver all tasks as listed in wartime conditions, plans were made to establish a field Headquarters of Military Transport and to militarise the Ministry of Railways and Navigation. Military transport field bodies included the following: Military Frontline Transport Board, Military transport Branch for the Army (for each of the respective general armies), Military Commands of Frontline and Army Distribution Stations, Military Commands of Railway Sections, and Military Commands of Supply Stations.

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The responsibilities of military transport field (frontline) services included the following:153

Planning and performance of military transports domestically, and within the domestic territory-frontline area (to rear frontline bases),

Planning the use of all types of transport,

Securing the delivery of military transit transports for allied countries,

Planning the use, training and supplying of transport units,

Planning and works in areas of use, maintenance, and reconstruction of all relevant elements of transport network on home territory.

With intent to deliver all tasks as listed, the following units were organised as reporting to the head of the field (frontline) Headquarters of Military Transport: railway and road troops (railway troops brigades,154 road troops brigade, bridge brigade, railway military bridge regiment155) – charged with the reconstruction, maintenance, and operation of roads and railways and with the regulation of road traffic; motor vehicle – transport units (transport brigades) – charged with the delivery of material and technical supplies for operational troops; transhipment units; and road and railway troop training units.156

The Head of Frontline Transport was the acting authorised representative of the Frontline command on rail- and waterways transport routes. The following units reported to the Head of Frontline Transport: the military transport bodies and railway troops forming a part of the Frontline (Army), field and line bodies and special (militarised) branches of the Ministry of Railways and Inland Navigation, serving Frontline (Army) railway and waterway sections in terms of organising and handling of military transports and reconstructing (or destroying) of railway lines and rail- and waterway facilities, and directors of Regional State Railway Managements and of Inland Navigation located in the area of Frontline operations – in the scope of military transports and reconstruction ←62 | 63→(or destruction). Under conditions of mobilisation, the Ministry of Railways and Inland Navigation units were to be militarised, the Head of Frontline Transport becoming their immediate official superior. All railwaymen were to be drafted for service in railway transport.157

In the years 1950–1957, the Headquarters of Military Transport underwent practically no re-organisation activities, except an increase to the headcount of the railway troops department and organisation and supplies department in the Headquarters of Military Transport of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces. The increase of officer posts in these departments tied in with the restoration and subsequent development of railway troops units. In 1956, Colonel Jan Pszennik was appointed head of the Headquarters of Military Transport of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces.158

The trends of comprehensive use of all modes of transport (railways, road, air and waterways) on the battlefield – becoming distinctly more profound in the 1950s and tying in with the introduction of nuclear weapons and the development of rocket artillery, transport aviation and other modern weapons and technical measures, resulted in an integration of the military transport and road services.

In November 1962, the Headquarters of Military Transport of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces merged with the 15th Division of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces; the Command of the Military Transport Service of the Ministry of National Defence was formed. In February 1964, this unit was subordinated to the Chief Quartermaster of the Polish Armed Forces. The Command of the Headquarters of Military Transports of the Chief Quartermaster of the Polish Armed Forces was thus formed.159

A unified and centralised military transport system with the capacity to secure the comprehensive use and co-ordination of all modes of transport was formed. The scope of peacetime activities of the Command of the Headquarters of Military Transport of the Ministry of National Defence included the following:160

In addition, the Headquarters of the Military Transport Service of the Ministry of National Defence supervised and directed specialised activities engaged in by the heads of military transport of Military District Commands and by line bodies reporting to them, as well as by motor vehicle and transport units.

3.1 Department of Military transport, Military District Command I Warsaw

In the first quarter of 1945, the organisational structure of the Quartermaster Command of Military District Warsaw was expanded to include a Military Transport Department, its territory spanning the Warsaw and Białystok voivodships.161 The Department was based in Warsaw, in a building at Litewska No. 3.

In July 1945, the process of re-organising the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces and reforming the District Command to peacetime operations as well as the coinciding expansion of its territory to include the Olsztyn voivodship (changing of the name to Military District Commands I) resulted in the establishing of Department IV of Military transport, reporting directly to the chief of staff of the District and based in a building at Solariego No. 4 in Warsaw.162

Major Stefan Ołtarzewski was appointed the first head of Department IV of Military Transport, Military District Commands I. Lieutenant Stanisław Mochnacki (military waybill reporting officer) and Second Lieutenant Adam Muzyczek (military transfer and sidings reporting officer) were in service at the Department. On May 1st 1946, Major Wacław Zydel became the head of Department IV of Military Transport.163 The importance of training in the field of loading and transferring units equipped with heavy equipment increased at the time. The department premises changed again; the unit moved to a building at 6 Sierpnia (Nowowiejska), then to the Warsaw Citadel in October 1947. The Department reported to the Chief of Staff, Military District Commands I, and ←64 | 65→to the quartermaster of District Command I during military exercises. The repair and expansion works on sidings and military ramps at stations Muszaki, Czerwony Bór and Orzysz commenced at the time, in conjunction with the planned training of troops on training grounds, and large numbers of operational transports having been received at all stations listed.

In 1949 the subsequent stage of re-organising the armed forces involved an expansion of the district to include a part of the Regional State Railway Management. In the first half of 1950 a general re-organisation of military transport bodies was held, with Branch IV of Military Transport of District Command I set up as of January 1st 1951.164 A Red Army Colonel Konstanty Romaniuk, M.Sc. Eng. was appointed head of this unit, its headcount comprising thirteen full-time officer and ensign positions, and one civilian. New Branch headquarters were set up at the quartermaster’s building at Krajewskiego. In September 1952 the location of the Branch was changed again and transferred to the Pavilion X building at the Warsaw Citadel. The area of Branch activity comprised 7 voivodships at the time.

As part of practical training of railway troops in the years 1951–1952 works were organised to rebuild a forestry railway in Cisna and Nowy Łupków; while in the period of 1952–1953 railway lines and junctions were rebuilt on the area of the Regional State Railway Management in Olsztyn, Warsaw and Lublin. 1582 kilometres of railway lines were refurbished, numerous stations and railway junctions modernised, 851 metres of railway bridges and culverts were built. The estimated cost for all works listed totalled 2,457,681,000 zloty.165

In 1954 Lieutenant Colonel Alfons Rybałtowski was appointed head of the Transport Branch after a brief period of practical internship. The Branch staff consisted of 17 officers and ensigns and 2 civilians at the time. After 1956 Soviet soldiers were recalled from their positions in the Branch, following a further reduction to the armed forces. In May 1957, Branch IV of the Military Transport shifted to new operational status, its staff reduced to 12 professional soldiers and 2 civilian employees. At that time the Branch was moved yet again to a building at Krajewskiego street. Colonel Aleksander Jaśman, M.Sc. Eng. was appointed head of the Branch in June 1959. In 1962 the Branch – which had been operating independently from 1959 as part of the quartermaster’s structures – was incorporated into the Warsaw Military District Quartermaster. Also in 1962, the Road District operating independently as part of quartermaster services from 1959 ←65 | 66→was made a part of the Military transport Branch. In 1963, Colonel Konstanty Świrski, M.Sc. Eng, was appointed head of the Branch, the unit itself renamed Headquarters of Military Transport Branch of the Military District in 1966.166

3.2 Reconstruction of Railway Units167

The 1945 liquidation of railway troops did not account for the indispensability of these units in terms of securing wartime independence of military supplies. It can well be presumed that the liquidation of railway troops was an element of the Polish Armed Forces unquestioned subordination to the Red Army operation-wise, not least as the decision seemed to have been devoid of any rational premise. Notably, the significant destruction of the country’s transport network and the need to reconstruct it called for the existence of railway troops – damaged to a large extent, Polish railways were rebuilt at a great cost in terms of human and financial resources; in 1946, 8,486 km of reconstructed railway lines and 52,250 m of railway viaducts and bridges were put back to service.168

The activities targeting the formation of railway units began with planning works and securing appropriate human resources. Immediately upon the disbanding of railway troops, an expanded railway battalion was to be formed as a mobilisation unit; the intention had to be abandoned due to staffing difficulties and material and hardware shortage. Only on July 10th 1947 did the Minister of National Defence instruct the chief of General Staff to provide preliminary insights concerning the organisation of a sapper-and-railway battalion in the first half of 1950.169 In February 1948, the head of Transport Branch IV of General Staff Colonel Michał Terlecki instructed the military transport authorities to collect and study materials related to railway troops, while Branch IV analysed the materials concerning their organisation, equipment, and operation. ←66 | 67→The pre-1939 documents related to the role of the Polish Armed Forces’s railway troops were collected alongside the instructions and regulations of the Soviet troops.

On February 15th 1950 the head of Branch IV of the General Staff Colonel Anatol Smaczyński presented the Head of General Staff Lieutenant General Władysław Korczyc with a report, wherein he justified the need to establish railway units, explained their war- and peacetime responsibilities, and laid out a proposition of their organisational and reporting structure.170 On June 6th 1950, he suggested to General Władysław Korczyc that a battalion of railway troops be organised on site of the former navy railway artillery battalion in Darłowo that was disbanded in the same year.171 Darłowo offered convenient technical and personnel support facilities, such as barracks, training grounds, and a number of officer staff. On August 8th 1950, the Minister of National Defence Marshal Konstanty Rokossowski issued a decision to form a battalion of railway troops in Darłowo.172

In the early 1950s, a development programme of the Polish Armed Forces was implemented as a consequence of the escalation of the international conflict in Korea. On October 30th 1950, the Military Commission of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers Party approved the programme of military expansion until 1956.173 The approved plan assumed a significant increase in the number of railway troops, such an increase was intended as the most intense of all types of armed forces. The planned development of railway troops with intent to secure the engineering and logistics support for military operations was a direct derivative of the offensive nature of the contemporaneous Soviet military doctrine. Furthermore, the development of railway units arose from the need to rebuild the railway network which had suffered significant wartime damage: 38 % of railway lines, 46 % of bridge length (including all of the largest bridge facilities), 50 % of tunnels, 37 % of railway buildings, 6,000 steam locomotives and 60,000 wagons had been destroyed.174

The training of qualified specialists was of paramount importance to developing railway troops; consequently, the 30th Training Company of Railway ←67 | 68→Military Reserve Officers was formed in December 1950, secondary school military graduates called to service therein.175

In February 1951, works commenced to organise two training railway companies with intent to train non-commissioned officers for railway units. The subsequent non-commissioned ensign training course began on March 20th 1951,176 with intent to train non-commissioned officers called in from reserve corps to serve in lower command positions in railway units. In December 1951, upon an order of the Ministry of National Defence, a training course was organised for reserve officers of railway troops, reserve officers for new military railway units were trained within this period.177

In 1950, a training curriculum for military transport officers was also introduced at the Officers’ Military Engineering Academy in Wrocław. In 1952 the Academy added a skills improvement curriculum for railway military officers. As of 1951, the process of seconding railway military officers for university studies and training courses to the Military Academy of Rear and Transport Services in the USSR began. During the same period, efforts of the Headquarters of Military Transport resulted in the launching of Higher Academic Curricula and higher-level skills improvement courses for railway and road transport unit officers at the Department of Military transport of the General Staff Academy. In 1953 a faculty of military engineering was introduced at the Military University of Technology with intent to educate highly-qualified officers for railway and road transport units.

Thanks to all the training initiatives listed, a highly qualified staff of officers and non-commissioned officers were trained for the purposes of railway military units.

Two basic concepts of establishing the railway military were forged in the process of analytical and planning works related to the reconstruction of railway troops. One assumed the creation of battalions of rail and road troops trimmed off the Ministry of National Defence resources. Their development would coincide with wartime mobilisation; related activities continued until the mid-fifties. The other plan assumed that railway units would be set up with the use of the resources of the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry would benefit from works carried out by these units as part of their practical training. The latter concept ←68 | 69→was adopted as the basis for developing and training railway troops in the second half of the 1950s.178

The reconstruction programme of railway troops units was completed over the period of 1950–1952. The newly formed railway troops were charged with the main task of wartime use for the purposes of securing engineering and logistics support for the reconstruction and operation of the frontline railway network. In peacetime the use of railway troops involved their participation in works to reconstruct railway lines and facilities, railway equipment, and civil engineering structures. Three railway troops battalions (5th railway troops battalion in Darłowo, 3rd railway troops battalion in Pikulice near Przemyśl, and 7th railway troops battalion in Września) were organised pursuant to a Ministry of Defence directive in the military districts of Warsaw, Pomerania and Silesia. While railway troops battalions were formed centrally, the designated organisational groups encountered numerous staffing, organisational and material difficulties. In terms of operational and training matters, railway troops battalions reported to military district commanders. The Branches IV of Military Transport handled all the planning and organisational affairs associated with the training of railway troop units in military districts. The management, performing of specialist task and supervision of the use of railway troops were all within the competencies of the Headquarters of Military Transport of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces. Upon formation, railway troop units became a mobilisation platform when railway troop brigades were mobilised.

In the years 1955–1959, railway troops underwent a re-organisation, due in the early years to political changes directly associated with the so-called “thaw.” The changes to international and domestic circumstances gave rise to three waves of armed forces headcount reduction. The 5th railway troop’s battalion in Darłowo was disbanded during the first wave of 1955. The third wave of armed forces reduction in March 1957 brought the disassembly of the 7th railway troops battalion. All railway units were consequently trimmed to a bare minimum (only the 3rd railway troops battalion in Pikulice remained). Many officers and non-commissioned officers were discharged and made part of the reserve corps, a part of the staff were retrained and assigned to other forces. The technical equipment and armaments were transferred to other units, the majority of all the barracks and training grounds were handed over to civilian authorities. ←69 | 70→The essence of changes to the Armed Forces of the Polish People’s Republic involved the re-organisation and modernisation of the army as well as its adaptation to the new war doctrine of the Warsaw Pact. The 3rd railway troops battalion was transferred from Pikulice to Bakończyce near Przemyśl. In 1957, the battalion was re-organised, a new 2nd railway regiment ultimately replacing it.

3.2.1 The 5th Railway Troops Battalion in Darłowo

The 5th railway troops battalion was formed in August 1950179 in Darłowo on the basis of the well-developed Navy railway artillery battalion, in conformity to operational status 10/7. Major Konstanty Świrski was made commander of the unit; Second Naval Lieutenant Czesław Rogala was made his deputy for political affairs. This battalion was the first railway troops unit formed upon the end of wartime hostilities. An organisational group consisting of 18 officers and non-commissioned officers and 99 sailors was assigned to the newly formed battalion.180 Many sailors had previously served in the Navy railway artillery battalion, which was disbanded in 1950. The process of assigning officers and non-commissioned officers from other types of armed forces to the battalion began soon thereafter. In October 1950, the organisational group took a barracks facility complex over from the Navy and began expanding and adjusting it to their current requirements. That same month soldiers of the draft were incorporated into the battalion for the first time. By December, the battalion headcount reached 614 soldiers.

In the years 1950–1952, the battalion served as a training unit charged with preparing command staff for the railway troops battalions that were being formed.

On May 21st 1951,181 commander of the PMD (Pomorski Okręg Wojskowy) Major General Bronisław Półturzycki was obliged to designate organisational groups from the 5th railway troops battalion to form new railway troops units in Pikulice and Września.

Over the following years, the battalion was being systematically improved with respect to the railway line and bridge construction and reconstruction skills. During wartime, the battalion’s tasks also included the operation of railway ←70 | 71→lines. Pursuant to the order of the Ministry of National Defence of December 1st 1952,182 the 5th railway troops battalion was expanded and reformed from operational status 10/7 to 10/14. The organisational structure of the battalion was partially changed; a training battalion was formed, comprising two road companies, a bridge company, an operations platoon and a service platoon. Upon reforming the headcount of the battalion, it comprised 60 officers, 146 non-commissioned officers, 655 privates, and 192 non-commissioned officers’ academy cadets, totalling 1,053 soldiers.183

In October 1950, the 30th reserve officers training company was set up at the battalion for the purposes of training officers – platoon commanders for railway troops.184 Lieutenant Edmund Krawiec was appointed commander of the reserve officers training company. 121 graduates of secondary schools (especially railway schools) were assigned to the company for a period of two years. An ensign training ended with practical internship, students assuming the position of platoon commanders in railway units. Once the training was over, final examinations were held, closing with promotion to the most junior officer rank – an ensign. A total of 67 graduates were promoted and remained in the military service, appropriately assigned to the 3rd railway troops battalion in Pikulice, 7th railway troop’s battalion in Września, or to military transport bodies.

In 1952, a Training Curriculum for Reserve Officers of the Railway Military Forces was introduced at the battalion, the purpose of the course being to train railway troop reserves, engineering and technical staff in particular. Captain Aleksander Tarasiewicz was appointed course commander. The training of the first class of 75 reserve officers (including mostly Polish State Railways personnel) began in mid-January 1952. The curriculum covered a three-month course; upon completion all graduates were awarded an officer’s rank. Approximately 360 reserve officers were trained at the 5th railway troop’s battalion in Darłowo.185

On March 10th 1953, the Chief of General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces ordered the Training Curriculum for Reserve Officers of the Railway Military Forces to be transferred to the 7th railway troop’s battalion in Września.186

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In order to improve the anti-aircraft defence of military troop trains and military operational and supplies transports, an Independent Squadron of Anti-Aircraft Defence of Military Transports was formed at the 5th railway troops battalion as of December 31st 1952, to operational status 10/15. The Squadron comprised anti-aircraft defence platoons from the 5th, 3rd and 7th railway troops battalions; the overall headcount comprised 11 officers, 22 non-commissioned officers and 73 privates (including 20 cadets) for a total of 106 soldiers. Lieutenant Stanisław Skurtys was appointed commander of the Squadron.187

The practical training of the battalion was performed while constructing and refurbishing railway lines, belonging to the military or the state railway.

The 5th railway troops battalion was dispatched for its first field camp in Olszanica in 1951. As part of their practical training the soldiers of the battalion worked to support the reconstruction of the Uherce – Olszanica – Ustianowa – Krościenko railway line. In 1952 the companies of the battalion were dispatched for practical training to field camps in Skandawa, Braniewo and Mordy, their training involving construction of sidings, station tracks and fixed ramps. In 1953, the battalion was dispatched to Nurzec, Zielonka, and Słupsk camps, where it built military sidings and refurbished station tracks.188 In 1954, the companies of the battalion were dispatched to Nurzec and Koszalin field camps and performed works associated with the construction of a military railway siding and refurbishment of station tracks. In 1955, the battalion was dispatched to a field camp in Skandawa, where it carried out work associated with the construction of sidings and permanent ramps for army purposes.

In conjunction with a resolution passed by the Polish People’s Republic government with regard to the reductions in the numbers of the Polish People’s Republic Armed Forces, on September 26th 1955, the commander of the PMD ordered the battalion to be disbanded by December 15th 1955.189

Consequently, the 5th Railway Troops Battalion disappeared after 5 years of existence; nonetheless, the personnel trained in the battalion went on to organise new railway units. Twenty-eight officers and 3 professional non-commissioned officers were transferred to the 3rd and 7th railway troop’s battalions and military transport authorities respectively, the remaining part of professional personnel ←72 | 73→assigned to other military units or discharged and included in the reserve corps; the 196 draft privates were released early as reserve troops. Pursuant to an order of October 8th 1955, the Independent Squadron of Anti-Aircraft Defence of Military Transfers190 was relocated to the 7th railway troop’s battalion in Września. The technical and railway equipment was transferred to the 3rd and 7th railway troop’s battalions. Rolling stock – an armoured steam locomotive, armoured wagons and armoured trolleys – were handed over to the 3rd railway troops battalion in Bakończyce. The barracks facility in Darłowo (including all equipment) was re-transferred to the Navy.

3.2.2 3rd Railway Troops Battalion in Pikulice near Przemyśl

On July 17th 1951,191 pursuant to an order by the Minister of National Defence, the 5th railway troops battalion was formed in Pikulice near Przemyśl with a headcount of 632, in conformity to operational status 10/7. The 3rd railway troops battalion was the second military railway unit to be established upon the end of wartime hostilities. In September, the battalion was joined by an organisational group of 6 officers and 120 soldiers from the 5th railway troops battalion. By October 20th 1951, the group took over and adapted the barracks complex in Pikulice to their purposes. In late October, the first draft soldiers were recruited for the battalion. Also that month, a complement of 28 ensigns arrived (mostly graduates of the ensign course in Darłowo), appropriately assuming positions of platoon commanders. In early November, the battalion was joined by personnel from the 5th railway troops battalion, by graduates of the Officers’ Military Engineering Academy in Wrocław, and by officers and non-commissioned officers from other types of armed forces.

Lieutenant Colonel Konstanty Świrski (former commander of the 5th railway troops battalion) was appointed the commander of the battalion, Captain Jan Borowiecki his deputy for political affairs.192

From November 1951, the battalion conducted intensive training and restored the barracks facilities, adapting them for railway troops requirements. On January 18th January 1952, the first military oath ceremony was held at the battalion, battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Konstanty Świrski receiving ←73 | 74→the oath taken by 235 junior troops.193 In October 1952, another complement was added to the battalion: graduates of the 30th Training Company of Railway Military Reserve Officers were appointed platoon commanders. On January 1st 1952, the 3rd railway troops battalion headcount reached 506. The battalion was charged with the construction and reconstruction of railway lines and facilities, culverts and bridges, and with the operation of militarised railway lines.

The battalion comprised two permanent way companies, a bridge company, a technical company and an operations platoon. The permanent way company was charged with the construction of trackbed and tracks. The bridge company’s responsibilities included the construction and reconstruction of wooden bridges and temporary culverts. The tasks assigned to soldiers of the operations company included the handling of heavy equipment: S-100 bulldozers, KU 1201 excavators, standard-gauge Tw1-98 locomotive and PS-15 generator (15 kVa) with the devices it powered: cross-cut saws, drills, saws, lathes, column drilling machine, and spotlight masts used as construction site lighting. The tasks of the operations platoon included the operation of the permanent-way maintenance train during tracks overhaul and securing telegraph and telephone communication.194

The Tw1-98 locomotive was leased in the 1950s from the Regional State Railway Management in Warsaw, and used to haul work trains. Shortly after the battalion had been reformed as the 2nd railway regiment, the locomotive was returned to the Polish State Railways (in March 1958).195

On December 3rd 1952,196 the battalion’s operational status was changed from 10/7 to 10/14. In order to continue the training in the field of anti-aircraft defence, on December 3rd 1952, 3 anti-aircraft defence platoons were dispatched from the 3rd railway troops battalion to the Independent Squadron of Anti-Aircraft Defence of Military Transfers at the 5th railway troops battalion in Darłowo.197

In order to add to the full-time personnel of the 3rd railway troops battalion, a further 180 soldiers were recruited for the permanent-way companies on February 12th 1953.198 They took the military oath in late March 1953, upon completion of the basic training.

←74 | 75→

In the autumn of 1953, once all subdivisions returned from their practical training, the 3rd railway troops battalion was relocated from Pikulice to the barracks in Przemyśl-Bakończyce. The facility was a much larger one, with a railway siding with capacity for further expansion on site.

On November 11th 1955, upon order by the commander of the Warsaw Military District, the battalion’s operational status was changed from 10/14 to 10/16, with a headcount of 655 soldiers.199

In April 1956, the 3rd railway troops battalion was relocated again, from Bakończyce to the new barracks facility of Przemyśl Zasanie. The barracks in Bakończyce remained at the disposal of the battalion, for use as a reserve troops training facility. This was also where the Railway Equipment Depot was organised at the time, reporting directly to the Headquarters of Military Transport of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces.

From 1952, the battalion also provided military and railway training for the students of the Warsaw, Cracow and Silesian Universities of Technology for military railway purposes. The technical skills of the battalion upon the completion of training were tested during works performed for the purposes of both the army and the national economy, organised annually at field camps (during the period of May to September).

The battalion was dispatched to its first field camp in Ustrzyki Dolne in 1952. The 3rd railway troops battalion engaged in works associated with the reconstruction of the Ustrzyki Dolne – Krościenko railway line,200 12 km long. The line was converted from 1,524 mm broad gauge to 1,435 mm standard gauge. The reconstruction of the line also involved full length rail and track replacement as well as bridge and culvert reconstruction. Apart from delivering the aforementioned tasks, the battalion (assisted by reserve troops) completed an intermediate-level repair project on a 20 km section of the Zagórz – Komańcza – Łupków railway line at a field camp in Zagórz. Additionally, the battalion was involved in the construction of a railway siding leading to the military barracks at the Pikulice garrison – the project had to be discontinued as a result of the battalion having been relocated from Pikulice to Bakończyce in 1953.

In 1953, the battalion left for a field camp in Bezwola near Łuków, a military railway siding had been constructed during its term. The works involved the construction of a 9 km section of a siding access track, branching off from Polish State Railways station in Bezwola. Due to on-site difficulties the development ←75 | 76→of the access track embankment required extensive earthworks (half of the 9 kilometre access track ran upon a 1,5m high embankment, the other half routed in a 2m deep cutting). Furthermore, the siding construction project involved the construction of 7 side tracks (each 6 km long); trees were felled and stumps grubbed on site as well. During the same year, the battalion performed railway station expansion works at a field camp in Tarnobrzeg.

At the Polish State Railways station in Żurawica, the battalion carried out track repairs, and engaged in the practical training of non-commissioned officer cadets in the field of railway operation.

In 1954, the battalion was dispatched to another field camp in Bezwola for the purpose of continued siding development. The investment was completed 12 days ahead of time, in conformity to the commitment to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Polish People’s Republic. That same year the battalion subdivisions engaged in bridge construction works at a field camp in Wyszków, the project coinciding with the battalion’s bridge company having joined forces with the 63rd road troops battalion to reconstruct and refurbish road bridges across the River Vistula in Wyszogród and Płock.

In 1955, upon an order by the head of the Headquarters of Military Transport of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, the battalion was engaged in works at the Hurko-Medyka field camp, to expand the Dry Transhipment Port in Medyka and local sidings for army purposes.

In the same year, the battalion (having joined forces with the permanent-way company) also worked on an intermediate-level repair project of the Siedlce – Czeremcha railway line, at a field camp in Mordy. The non-commissioned officers academy, in turn, worked together with the permanent-way company to expand the Dry Transhipment Port in Medyka. The operations company of the non-commissioned officers academy provided training in the field of handling rail traffic signalling devices at the Polish State Railways station Żurawica.

In February 1955, the bridge company of the battalion commanded by Second Lieutenant Zygmunt Leciak – having joined forces at a field camp in Iskań with the 83rd road troops battalion – completed the construction of a high-water road bridge (187 m long) across the River San.

On April 3rd 1956, by order of the Chief of General Staff,201 the battalion began constructing the Cisna – Przysłup – Kalnica – Wetlina narrow-gauge forestry railway line, during a field camp in Przysłup near Cisna. The purpose ←76 | 77→of extending the existing Nowy Łupków – Cisna narrow-gauge line towards Wetlina was to foster economic recovery of the Bieszczady Mountains and increase timber shipments. While constructing the narrow-gauge railway in 1956 at the field camp in Przysłup the battalion constructed 13.5 km of railway embankments (as an undeveloped structure) and 32 culverts. All works were performed in difficult technical conditions in a mountainous area. The value of all works carried out totalled 9 million zloty. The 3rd railway troops battalion was joined by subdivisions of the 7th railway troops battalion from Września for the purposes of works to construct the narrow-gauge railway line in the Bieszczady Mountains. The 3rd railway troops battalion (thereafter the 2nd railway regiment) continued working on the narrow-gauge railway line until 1959.

In 1957 the battalion continued (together with the 7th railway troops battalion) works associated with the construction of a narrow-gauge railway in the Bieszczady Mountains – the actual railway line was developed on previously prepared embankments. At the same time the battalion subdivisions engaged in works associated with the modernisation of the Polish State Railways station in Szczakowa202 and the electrification of the Trzebinia – Szczakowa railway line.

Pursuant to the resolution of the Council of Ministers of the Polish People’s Republic of March 25th 1957203 and the Order of the Minister of National Defence of April 19th 1957204 concerning the reductions to army numbers, on April 26th 1957 the commander of the Warsaw Military District ordered the operational status of the battalion to be changed from 10/16 to 10/19, the battalion itself renamed the 2nd railway regiment. The battalion was to be reformed by June 15th 1957.205

3.2.3 7th Railway Troops Battalion in Września

Upon the order of the Minister of National Defence of July 17th 1951,206 the 7th railway troops battalion was formed in Września to operational status 10/7 with ←77 | 78→an overall headcount of 632 soldiers. The battalion was the third railway unit to be formed upon the end of wartime hostilities in Poland.

An organisational group of 12 officers and non-commissioned officers and 90 privates from the 5th railway troops battalion arrived to the newly formed battalion on August 18th 1951.207 Major Eugeniusz Majer was appointed commander of the 7th railway troops battalion with Lieutenant Antoni Piszczyk as his deputy for political affairs. By October 20th 1951, the group had taken over and developed the barracks facility complex. In November 1951, the battalion began training and adapting the barracks facility to meet the purposes of railway troops. In late October, the first group of draft junior troops was incorporated into the battalion. In early November, the battalion was joined by a supplement from the 5th railway troops battalion (command personnel) and by graduates of the Officers’ Military Engineering Academy in Wrocław. The officers and non-commissioned officers dispatched from other types of armed forces of the Silesian Military District arrived to the battalion as well. In October 1952, graduates of the 30th Training Company of Railway Military Reserve Officers in Darłowo joined the battalion, appropriately appointed platoon commanders or assigned as bridge technicians to the Technical Section, for example.208

On January 1st 1952, the headcount of the 7th railway troops battalion reached 538 soldiers;209 on January 10th, the first military oath ceremony was held at the battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Włodzimierz Godek receiving the oath taken by 448 junior troops.210

To secure anti-aircraft defence training, two full-time anti-aircraft defence platoons were dispatched from the 7th railway troops battalion to the 5th railway troops battalion in Darłowo on December 3rd 1952.211 Both platoons were incorporated in the Independent Squadron of Anti-Aircraft Defence of Military Transports.

On December 3rd 1952,212 the operational status of the battalion was changed from 10/7 to 10/14. Upon the order by the Chief of General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, the Training Curriculum for Reserve Officers of the Railway Military Forces was relocated from the 5th railway troops battalion in ←78 | 79→Darłowo to the 7th railway troops battalion on April 30th 1953,213 All Training Curriculum personnel were quartered in the barracks of the non-commissioned officers academy.214

Following the disbandment of the 5th railway troops battalion upon the order by the commander of the PMD of October 8th 1955,215 the Independent Squadron of Anti-Aircraft Defence of Military Transports was relocated to the 7th railway troops battalion. In October 1956, the Squadron was dispatched out of railway troops structures to Zgorzelec.216 On November 8th 1955,217 the operational status of the 7th railway troops battalion was changed again from 10/14 to 10/16, with a headcount of 655 soldiers.

The 7th railway troops battalion was dispatched to its first field camps in Mordy and Platerów in 1952; the practical training of the battalion subdivisions involved works associated with full-length railway surface replacement on the Mordy – Siemiatycze section. That same year, the battalion was dispatched to a field camp in Zielonka, where the troops engaged in works to construct seven temporary wooden bridges for the purposes of the narrow-gauge railway line being built at that time at the Centre for Ballistic Research.218 In 1954, battalion subdivisions continued working on the line. The battalion was dispatched to a field camp in Nurzec in the same year with intent to join the 5th railway troops battalion from Darłowo in constructing a military railway siding.

The battalion also engaged in the construction of a railway siding to the barracks in Września for in-house purposes. The siding (approximate length: 5 km) was enlarged to form a small railway station at battalion barracks. It was fitted with rail traffic signalling devices (including manual semaphores). A 25-metre long bridge and two culverts were built as part of the construction project; the siding was to be used in the training of operation subdivisions and for in-house service purposes.

In 1954, the battalion was dispatched to field camps in Nurzec, Śrem and Poznań. At the training camp in Nurzec – having joined forces with the 5th ←79 | 80→railway troops battalion from Darłowo – it continued works to construct a military siding. At the field camp in Śrem, assisted by bridge companies and jointly with the 78th road troops battalion from Toruń, the battalion constructed a 150-metre long road bridge across the River Warta in Śrem. The bridge was commissioned for traffic on July 22nd for propaganda-related reasons. At the field camp in Poznań, supported by its permanent-way company, the battalion refurbished tracks at the Polish State Railways station in Poznań. The battalion also provided practical training for non-commissioned officer academy cadets in the field of railway operations at PKP stations in Września and Poznań. In 1954 the battalion continued to expand and modernise its own siding in Września; the works were performed by the subdivisions that remained in the garrison.

In 1955, the battalion was dispatched to field camps in Waliły, Chwalibogowo and Kuryłówka. At the Waliły camp a military siding was constructed; 7 kilometres of track were constructed and 53,000 m3 of soil were displaced; local works also included felling trees and grubbing up stumps.

In August, at the Chwalibogowo field camp, the battalion constructed two road bridges (15 and 22 m in length, respectively), for purposes of the Września county. At the camp in Kuryłówka, supported by two bridge companies and together with the 63rd road troops battalion from Płock, the battalion constructed a 252-metre long road bridge over the River San in Kuryłówka.

In 1956, the battalion was dispatched to field camps in Skandawa, Przysłup near Cisna, and Poznań.

At the Skandawa camp, assisted by two permanent-way companies and three reserve troops companies, together with the 5th railway troops battalion from Darłowo, the battalion engaged in works to construct a military siding, and the second track of the Sątopy Samulewo – Korsze railway line (length: 15 km).

At the camp in Przysłup, upon the order by the Chief of General Staff,219 the battalion engaged in works to construct the Cisna – Przysłup – Kalnica – Wetlina narrow-gauge forestry railway line, jointly with the 3rd railway troops battalion from Bakończyce. The battalion constructed 8 kilometres of tracks and 4 small bridges (total length: 100 m). The earthworks in difficult mountainous terrain involved moving of 54,000 m3 of soil. At the field camp in Poznań, the battalion renovated 17 kilometres of station tracks at the Polish State Railways station in Poznań.

←80 | 81→

In 1957, the battalion was dispatched to their subsequent field camp in Przysłup; using first-year junior troops, together with the 3rd railway troops battalion from Bakończyce, the battalion continued to construct the narrow-gauge Cisna – Przysłup – Kalnica – Wetlina railway. On June 15th 1957, the subdivisions of these battalions220 were incorporated into the 2nd railway regiment.

Furthermore, the battalion participated in combating the effects of natural disasters, soldiers protecting bridges from ice floes, taking part in flood prevention action, and clearing snow from railway lines, stations and roads.

The 7th railway troops battalion completed its training on April 24th 1957. On May 2nd 1957, first-year troops were dispatched to field camps in Przysłup and Szczakowa to modernise and expand the marshalling yard.221

Acting upon the Resolution of the Council of Ministers of March 25th 1957 and the order of the Ministry of National Defence of April 19th 1957 concerning the reductions to army numbers, and pursuant to the order of the commander of the Silesian Military District of April 30th 1957, the 7th railway troops battalion was disbanded, the disbandment period set for May 1st until July 20th 1957. All the technical and railway equipment owned by the battalion was transferred to the 2nd railway regiment that was being formed in Przemyśl.222

All the officers and non-commissioned officers were reassigned to military transport authorities and to other Silesian Military District units; some were released as part of the reserve corps. Some personnel (24 officers and 15 non-commissioned officers) were transferred to the 2nd railway regiment under formation. Once the battalion had been disbanded, the second-year draft troops were granted early release into the reserve corps. The barracks were handed over to the Municipal National Council in Września, some facilities placed at the disposal of the Soviet Army (transport battalion of the Soviet Army).223

←81 | 82→

139 Order of the GC of the PA, No. 23/org. of February 1st 1945, in: Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 93.

140 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 93.

141 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 93, Order of the General Command of the Polish Armed Forces, No. 177/org. of July 18th 1945.

142 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 93.

143 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 100.

144 Later renamed Branches IV for MC.

145 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 102.

146 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 102.

147 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 102.

148 Head of the Headquarters of Military Transport, Chief Quartermaster Polish Armed Forces, 8.

149 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 104.

150 Head of the Headquarters of Military Transport, Chief Quartermaster Polish Armed Forces, 10.

151 Ibid.

152 The staff of a 1st Class Railway Section Military Headquarters consisted of a commander of the railway section, one senior assistant to the commander, three assistants to the commander, three dispatchers and a clerk. The staff of a 2nd CRS Military Transport consisted of a commander of the section and railway station, three dispatchers, and a clerk. The railway section military commander reported directly to the head of military transport. For all members of the military in the railway section, the railway section military commander was the acting garrison commander. A railway station commander had similar authority over his troops.

153 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 27.

154 The brigade of railway troops consisted of 6 road battalions.

155 The railway military bridge regiment was charged with the protection of railway bridges. The regiment comprised the following: a pontoon bridge battalion, a folding bridge battalion and a technical battalion. The regiment’s equipment included machinery and equipment for bridge works and bridge construction (1/2 of the NZM-56 park and ¼ of the TMP park).

156 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 27–30.

157 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 130.

158 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 130.

159 Headquarters of the Military Transport Service, Chief Quartermaster Polish Armed Forces, 11.

160 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 25–27.

161 Traction Central Management– Co-ordination CfMM, 1.

162 Traction Central Management– Co-ordination CfMM, 1.

163 Traction Central Management– Co-ordination CfMM, 1.

164 Traction Central Management– Co-ordination CfMM, 2.

165 Traction Central Management– Co-ordination CfMM, 3.

166 Traction Central Management– Co-ordination CfMM, 3.

167 A work by the late Colonel Marian Gembora (Military Office of Historical Research Archive, Ref. No. 1138), was the main reference source for this chapter. The work contains detailed information on railway and road-and-railway units of the Polish Armed Forces. This work, written in the early 1980s, was classified. Declassified in the mid-1980s, it was published in three copies, in all probability just a single copy has been preserved until this day and now forms a part of the special collection of the Military Office of Historical Research Archive. Historically speaking, the material is of huge interest, the author referencing multiple documents destroyed or missing today (such as railway unit chronicles).

168 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 2.

169 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 119.

170 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 125.

171 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 125.

172 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 126.

173 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 126.

174 In the early 1950s, a large part of railway lines, facilities and rolling stock has still not been restored.

175 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 126.

176 Regulation of the Ministry of National Defence No. 018/org. of March 20th 1951.

177 Course graduates were promoted to officer rank, and dispatched to the railway troops battalion as platoon commanders.

178 This concept was extremely useful to the national economy: already in the 19th century, most railway troops in European countries constructed and repaired state railway lines as part of their military exercise.

179 Order of the Ministry of National Defence No. 084/org. of August 8th 1950, in: Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 135.

180 Order of the Navy Commander No. 022/50 of August 24th 1950, in: Gembora, Ref.No. 1138, 36.

181 Directive of the Ministry of National Defence No. 00020 of February 21st 1951, in: Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 140.

182 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 140.

183 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 141.

184 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 141.

185 A special-purpose mobilisation course was also organised, graduates assigned to positions of responsibility in the army and Polish State Railways.

186 Order of the Co General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces No. 0125/org, in: Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 149.

187 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 150.

188 The construction of the military siding at Nurzec was handled jointly with the 7th railway troops battalion.

189 Order of the Headquarters of the Pomeranian Military District of September 26th 1955; in: Gembora, Ref. No. 1138.

190 Order of the Headquarters of the Pomeranian Military District No. 00573/oper of October 8th 1955.

191 Order of the Ministry of National Defence No. 063/org. of July 17th 1951 (10/7), in: Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 155.

192 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 156.

193 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 159.

194 Pociągi pancerne (1999), 107.

195 Polish State Railways General Management, Central Traction Management, Księga inwentarzowa parowozów.

196 Order of the Ministry of National Defence No. 00415/org. of December 3rd 1952, in: Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 160.

197 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 162.

198 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 162.

199 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 164.

200 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 169.

201 Order by the Co-General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces No. 00592 of April 3rd 1956, in: Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 173.

202 As of July 1957, 7th railway troops battalion subdivisions were working to modernise station Szczakowa; they were replaced with 2nd railway troops regiment subdivisions at a later time.

203 Regulation of the Council of Ministers No. 109/57 of March 25th 1957.

204 Order of the Ministry of National Defence No. 031/org. of April 19th 1957.

205 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 178.

206 Order of the Ministry of National Defence No. 063/org. of July 17th 1951, in: Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 178.

207 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 179.

208 Lieutenant Colonel Kazimierz Balog’s account of December 10th 2006.

209 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 179.

210 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 185.

211 Order of the Ministry of National Defence No. 00415/org. of December 3rd 1952, in: Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 185.

212 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 187.

213 Order of the Chief of General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces No. 0125/org. of March 10th 1953, in: Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 187.

214 The full-time variable headcount at the course totalled 100 students.

215 Order by the Commander of the PMD No. 00537/oper of October 8th 1955, in: Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 188.

216 Gembora, Ref. No. 1138, 188.

Details

Pages
448
ISBN (PDF)
9783631829653
ISBN (ePUB)
9783631829660
ISBN (MOBI)
9783631829677
ISBN (Book)
9783631818299
Open Access
CC-BY-NC-ND
Language
English
Publication date
2020 (September)
Tags
developing the concept of military railway use military transport Polish state railways network Warsaw Pact Red Army military transport military narrow-gauge railways
Published
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 448 pp., 65 fig. b/w, 58 tables.

Biographical notes

Zbigniew Tucholski (Author) Barbara Bienias (Revision)

Zbigniew Tucholski Ph. D. is a professor at the Institute of History of Science of the Polish Academy of Science, a technical historian, specialised in the history of railways, transportation, industry and military technology, and the preservation of transport infrastructure and architecture heritage.

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Title: Polish State Railways as a Mode of Transport for Troops of the Warsaw Pact