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

Technology in Service of a Doctrine


Zbigniew Tucholski

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 author 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. The work 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.

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5.1 Military Transports – Typology

5.1.1 Military Rail Transport

The definition of military rail transport comprised the transfer of military units, military plants, subdivisions and groups of soldiers (individual soldiers), and military cargo, all conforming to military transport documents as drafted by the Ministry of National Defence. Military transfers were a process of relocating troops and military cargo, comprising their loading, transport, and unloading, and (in some cases) transhipment.629 Military rail transfers included the following: mobilisation-related transfers; deployment of troops to the war theatre; delivery of material and technical resources and army supplies to the troops in combat; the regrouping of troops and supplies; transports associated with peacetime army training and supplies; and evacuation.630

Nature and purpose pending, transports were classified as follows:631

operational transfers, i.e. the transfer of military units and plants deployed for operational mission purposes to new stationing, military exercises and camp venues;

mobilisation-related transfers, i.e. the transfer of personnel supplementation, armaments, combat equipment, motor vehicles, and material-and-technical supplies intended to staff and secure military divisions and plants throughout the mobilisation period;

transfer of supplies, i.e. of military equipment, material-and-technical supplies, construction materials and other cargo;

evacuation transfers, i.e. the transport of wounded and sick soldiers by special-purpose military hospital trains;

resource evacuation-related transfers, i.e. the transport of military equipment intended for repair or stocking at military bases and depots, and equipment under transfer for national economy purposes.

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Military transports were also classified by planning format, as centrally-planned – by the command of Headquarters of Military Transports of the Ministry of National Defence (carried out on the territory of several military districts or frontlines), and district (frontline)-planned by the Headquarters of Military Transport authorities of the district or frontline; carried out within the boundaries of a single military district (frontline). Depending on the delivery period, military transports were classified as peacetime or wartime transports.

Peacetime operational transports served the following purposes: participation of the military units in military exercises; deployment to military training grounds; changing the dislocation sites, and protection of major strategic objects on domestic territory, appropriately supervised by the National Defence Committee under the conditions of an exacerbated international situation and/or risk of an armed conflict; transfers of groups of soldiers, individual troops, and draft conscripts; transport of supplies; mobilisation transports associated with the initiated armed forces mobilisation – such transports were to continue as a rule in the early days of war.632

The wartime plans included the following: operational transports to support specific operational or strategic missions; transport of supplies; transfers of groups of soldiers or individual soldiers and supplement personnel; evacuation of the wounded; evacuation of materials; and transfers of prisoners of war. Wartime military transfers were classified as: transfers on domestic territory with intent to support the domestic Territorial Defence (military districts), to secure the newly formed divisions and tactical compounds, and to disperse and manoeuvre Territorial Defence resources; or frontline transfers to secure the troops in combat. Depending on the size and volume, military transports were classified as mass transfers requiring the preparation of railway equipment and large volumes of rolling stock; or routine transfers, requiring no special-purpose preparation of significant volumes of rolling stock.633

Due to its inherent nature, military railway transport featured a number of typical and specific properties. Reprogramming the economy and industry for wartime operation involved a complete militarisation of railways. The mass nature and significance of wartime military transports gave rise to the need to abandon all civilian passenger and freight transport on some of the main railway routes. The timeliness of transfer of tactical compounds and the delivery of supplies was of vital importance, operational success often as not determined ←246 | 247→by how quickly personnel and supplies could be transported. The transport of hazardous goods (missiles, ammunition, explosives, rocket fuel, propellants and lubricants, corrosive and poisonous materials) imposed the need to apply special conditions of shipping such materials, in conformity to special-purpose official regulations. The carriage of operational transports was associated with sanitary, medical, veterinary and material supplies (food, cooking and potable water, water for wartime washing and partial facility deactivation, candles and fuel); the necessity to secure the loading devices and rolling stock for the purposes of troops transfer; and the need to secure the transfer of out-of-gauge loads (missile launchers, tanks, aircraft, cutters, etc.). The need to protect information concerning troops deployment against intelligence infiltration enforced strict confidentiality of transport.634

The military railway transport involved the use of military troop trains and military transfers.635 The phrase “military troop train” would apply to a complete train sets of wagons, groups of wagons, or single wagons used to transport military units together with their equipment (military units, subdivisions, groups of soldiers, horse groups). The phrase was also used to describe the transfer of armoured, hospital, bath, and disinfection trains, including crews, equipment and work tools, or of military railway rolling stock (empty or loaded) supervised by the Ministry of National Defence.636 The transfer of the military took place using passenger, freight, or special-purpose wagons owned by the Polish State Railways and/or the Ministry of National Defence.

The term “transport” would apply to complete train sets of wagons, groups of wagons, or single wagons used to carry military supplies of armaments, ammunition, food, fodder, fuels, lubricants, military equipment, etc., and to ship military and civilian property of persons employed in the military institutions, prisoners of war, and bodies of the fallen soldiers.

The use of block trains of refrigerated vans was planned for the purposes of carrying bodies of soldiers from the future wartime battlefields. Polish State Railways were obliged to maintain a large number of such wagons as fully operational.637

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Pursuant to the amendments to the Instructions Concerning the Organisation and Delivery of Military Railway Transports,638 military troop trains and military transports comprising sets no greater than 30 four-wheeled wagons were classified as incomplete train sets; military troop trains and military transports comprising sets greater than 30 wagons (up to 120 axles), including match wagons and guards vans, were classified as complete train sets. Train sets with fewer wagons were also classified as military troop trains and complete train sets, providing their approximate gross weight was between 800 and 1,200 tonnes.

Military waybills were issued as shipment orders for each transfer by a military troop train and/or military transport. When planning transfer operations, military transport authorities assigned individual numbers (and passwords, under specific circumstances) to military troop trains and military transports. A military troop train and transport numbers remained unchanged throughout the journey, from a loading station to an unloading station. Military troop train/ military transport numbers and potential passwords were used by military transport bodies and Polish State Railways employees in the planning and performance of the military rail transfers.

The military rail transports were delivered with the use of the following:

a)  – Scheduled trains, included in the railway timetable, running daily and/or on pre-specified days;

b)  – Non-scheduled trains operated pursuant to special orders; these included:

Additional trains, listed in the train timetable, run as required;

Extraordinary trains, not listed in the train timetable, run strictly as required, operating according to a particular, special-purpose schedule.

Military troop trains and military transports not forming a complete train were operated as scheduled or additional trains; in an effort to use rolling stock in an economical way, if possible these were supplemented with other cargo or empty wagons.

Complete military troop trains and military transports were operated according to a special timetable. Military troop trains and military transports not defined as military trains and operated as freight trains could also be attached to passenger trains, technical-and-operating conditions of the railway line and rolling stock permitting.

Military transports comprising complete trains were operated according to the general transport rules, or (if the train, station of departure, and/or station ←248 | 249→of arrival were classified as strictly confidential) to Kostap password (name derived from the Polish acronym for “next destination”). In the case of a train thus dispatched, the station of departure would only enter the term Kostap in the station of arrival field of all transfer and commercial documentation of the train. Stationmasters of loading stations and stations designated en-route for Kostap trains would use data in sealed envelopes (the exact date of opening marked on the envelope) or issued by the Main Dispatching Service of the Polish State Railways as the basis to notify (in person) the commander of the military troop train or transport of the subsequent Kostap destination, and/or of any connecting inter-operational stations, and of the estimated time of arrival and/or hold at such a station.

Extraordinary precautions were taken for the purposes of carrying military explosives (ammunition, explosives, incendiary agents), poisonous agents (poisonous/venomous liquids and gases), or propellants and lubricants. In an effort to warrant the safety of carrying any such cargo, the Regulations of the Polish State Railways Peacetime Proceedings Regarding Military Transports of Ammunition, Explosives, Incendiary Substances and Poisonous (Venomous) Materials639 were approved in 1950. These regulations applied to the entire Polish State Railways network, for the purposes of Polish Armed Forces and the Soviet Army transports alike.640 Throughout the journey, transports of explosives, ammunition and poisonous materials remained under the protection of armed military escorts. Whenever hazardous or poisonous goods were carried, it was forbidden to specify cargo by name in any documentation or on wagon stickers; Hazardous Cargo or Poison warnings were used. Whenever group of wagons carrying hazardous goods were operated, they would be separated from other wagons with 4 empty match wagons. Furthermore, the simultaneous carriage of hazardous and poisonous goods by a single train was forbidden. Such wagons could only be transported in wagons equipped with 50 tonne- or 65 tonne-reinforced couplings, with a minimum wheelbase of 4.5 m, and axle boxes free of oil leaks.641 The wagons intended for the carriage of hazardous goods were subject to particularly detailed technical inspections by wagon inspectors. Hazardous goods were loaded and unloaded on military sidings or commission-designated station tracks, at a minimum distance of 125 m from residential and production buildings, and 50 m from main tracks, under surveillance by military post ←249 | 250→personnel.642 Steam locomotives without operational spark arresters, with closed firebox doors, ashpans flaps, and closed blowers were prohibited from passing in the vicinity of hazardous goods unloading sites. Explosives and poisonous goods could only be carried in goods or pick-up goods trains. Whenever hazardous goods were carried, locomotive crews were issued firefighting equipment.

Particularly hazardous goods included missiles, warheads, rocket fuel, and missile equipment. Missiles were transported from the bases and central depots to unloading stations of operational and tactical compounds, rocket missile troops, territorial defence forces, naval bases, and (during wartime) to frontline dispatch stations. On the frontline railway network, missiles would be delivered from the frontline dispatch station to unloading stations of rocket squadrons or to frontline technical missile bases. Rail transport of assembled (without warheads) or disassembled missiles was allowed. Maximum train speed of 70 km/h was permitted. Tactical missile squadrons of armoured or mechanised divisions were carried by a single train; rocket missile brigades were carried by 6 trains.643 Missiles (upon disassembly) could be carried in containers, in coal wagons or on flat wagons Missiles were secured and camouflaged with watertight material for rail transfer purposes. Air-to-air missiles were loaded (in 25 unit batches) onto four-wheeled vans, or (in 50 unit batches) into bogie covered wagons. Missile warheads fitted with nuclear charges were transported separately, in special airtight containers. Each missile transport, irrespective of the number of wagons, was issued a special number. Railway cranes (lifting capacity: 5–10 tonnes), or lorry-mounted 5 tonne cranes (K-102, K-112, K-104) were used for loading the missiles (at sidings belonging to material depots or missile units). Hump shunting of wagons carrying missiles at marshalling yards was prohibited. Shunting of missile-carrying trains was handled at pre-junction stations, at a minimum distance of 5–7 km from the major facilities and railway junctions. It was forbidden for military troop trains and trains carrying missiles and/or rockets to be held in one station. In case of destruction to railway facilities and in view of a hindered missile reloading, missile-carrying trains would be routed onto obstacle-bypassing lines; in case of destruction to bridges on major water obstacles, missile-carrying wagons were to be transferred via ferry crossings and railway bridges on floating supports. A standard time of 20–30 ←250 | 251→minutes was approved for the unloading of a single missile from a coal wagon by a team of 5.644

Intermediate stations were designated as loading stations for missile troops; such stations had to meet the following requirements: location at a minimum distance of 5 km from large settlements and locations of potential nuclear weapon impact; 2–3 additional tracks (in addition to the main track) and a loading track with a capacity to accommodate complete train sets; loading yards no less than 200–350 in length and 25–30 m in width. A single station had the capacity to load/unload 3–4 military troop trains per day. One or two reserve loading (unloading) stations were designated for every two or three primary stations.

Units were dispersed at deployment (assembly) locations, individual squadrons dispatched to locations separated by a distance of 3–4 km. Military trains carrying rocket missile units were loaded at stations (or on sidings) at 2–3 locations simultaneously. Launchers and semi-trailers for transporting missiles were loaded and camouflaged separately, the remainder of the unit was loaded at a station. Such military troop trains were as a rule loaded and unloaded during night-time. Shunting was performed by the train locomotive. Actual missile transports were paralleled with mock missile transports planned with intent to confuse the enemy.645

5.1.2 Anti-Aircraft Defence of Military Transports

The threat of wartime enemy air attack required the use of anti-aircraft defence for military transports and for loading (unloading) stations. The main purposes of enemy air strikes and paratrooper landings involved the destruction of railway lines, facilities, and devices, as well as direct attacks on military troop trains and military transports. A permanent state of anti-aircraft defence emergency alert was introduced for all areas under threat of attack by the enemy’s air force. During night-time loading of troops, total blackout was ordered in the event of an anti-aircraft emergency; whenever a military transport was required to cross a danger zone, a total train blackout was ordered as well.646 Armaments carried on flat wagons and coal wagons were camouflaged with canvas tarpaulins or wagon ←251 | 252→tarpaulins.647 Permanent local air defence was planned for larger railway stations and junctions.

Loading (unloading) sites were pre-specified for any divisions loaded or unloaded in danger zones. Anti-aircraft defence commanders were appointed for all sites.

Small-calibre anti-aircraft artillery batteries were assigned to military transports with intent to provide them with proper anti-aircraft defence en-route. Anti-aircraft defence of military transports were supervised by their commanders, charged with the appointment of air defence units comprising surveillance and alert teams, and machine gun fire groups. The following armaments were assigned to military transport air defence units: for divisions issued low volumes of heavy machine guns (no more than 6) – all machine guns; for divisions issued greater volumes of heavy machine guns – ½ to ¾ of armaments issued, and in any case a minimum of 6 heavy machine guns.648

The following air raid alert signalling system was employed at railway stations, and during train travel, pursuant to the Polish State Railways Signalling Regulations: Air raid alarm – long uninterrupted tone (1–2 minutes) emitted by a steam engine whistle or horn; End of alarm – intermittent tone (1–2 minutes) comprising 3–5 second signals at 3–5 second intervals.

In the event of an air attack, enemy aircraft were fought with the use of anti-aircraft artillery and machine guns in firing positions. Anti-aircraft defence units assigned to military transports were deployed before the transport was moved from the loading site to departure tracks. Only low-height equipment was loaded onto flat wagons carrying machine guns, and properly positioned so as not to interfere with machine gun operation. Surveillance and alert teams, each comprising two observers and one telephonist issued a field telephone, were deployed at the head, mid-section, and end of the train, respectively (frontal team – at the engine tender; mid-section team – at the brake box adjacent to the train commander’s van; rear team – at the brake box at the end of the train). In air raid conditions, the train did not stop; it continued to move while the train was being defended.

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Diagram of anti-aircraft defence of a transport. Source: Ministry of National Defence, Tymczasowa instrukcja (1947)

5.1.3 Anti-Tank Defence of Military Transports

Wartime anti-tank defence was also planned for military transport loading (unloading) yards.649 Anti-tank defence armaments unloaded as a priority were to be used for that purpose. In order to defend the individual sites (areas) against tanks, each unit was expected to secure its own anti-tank defence with the use of all measures available. Anti-tank guns, anti-tank heavy machine guns, and light artillery were to be deployed as area defence measures along the predicted enemy attack direction. Instructions further provided for the use of anti-tank mines on the territory surrounding the loading (unloading) sites, along the predicted enemy attack direction.650 Anti-tank defence involved firing continuity – a part of all armaments were to remain in position until the military transport was fully loaded, ensuring immediate firing readiness for all weapons upon loading onto flat wagons.

On a territory under threat by enemy tank attack, plans involved all transports in motion to remain in continuous anti-tank defence readiness. Effective defence involved the use of anti-tank guns, machine guns with anti-tank ammunition, and (in exceptional conditions) light artillery.

Preparations for anti-tank defence of rail transport included the following: anti-tank armaments positioned to allow firing from railway flat wagons ←253 | 254→(adequate field of fire warranted by untethered gun loading and positioning); surveillance and anti-tank emergency posts set up in anti-tank armament positions.

Should a military transport be surprised by an enemy tank attack once moving, the train was not to stop. If a transport had to be stopped for the reasons of damage to railway tracks, the transported unit was expected to repel the attack on site by unloading troops and equipment, or retreat to a location providing natural protection against the enemy tanks. According to instructions, transports carrying no anti-tank weapons were to increase speed to ensure separation from enemy tanks, and seek refuge behind a natural obstacle.

5.1.4 Safeguarding the Confidentiality of Transports

A number of protective measures were taken to safeguard the confidentiality of the military transports, and counteract the intelligence infiltration. Pursuant to regulations concerning state secrets and their safeguarding, the dissemination of military transport-related information carried criminal liability. In wartime conditions, any troops or railwaymen found guilty of violating the rule of military transport confidentiality were to be brought to justice.

Restrictions in access to classified information were applied according to the scope of responsibilities of persons involved in the military transport handling. All ordinances and documentation describing military railway transport were drafted in limited format, to contain information concerning a specific service unit only. Only personnel directly involved in the handling of a specific military transport were notified of the related planning and delivery decisions, and only within such time and scope as was required to perform the respective activities. At service units of the Ministry of Transport and the Polish State Railways, the flow of military transport-related documents was handled between individual military offices and Headquarters of Military Transport, and other military transport authorities. Soldiers were forbidden to send private correspondence during transport.

Whenever additional or special trains were operated, respective telegrams could only specify the necessary data concerning the train (data, train number, schedule). The use of any terms such as “military troop train”, “transport”, “military”, “special”, etc. in telegrams was prohibited, as was any mention of numbers or passwords.

The Ministry of Transport issued guidelines (specifying all abbreviations and the correct order of disseminating data) to secure the proper form and manner of providing relevant railway units with information concerning the situation of military transports.

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If the route of a military troop transport or military transport was classified as strictly confidential, trains were commissioned to Kostap password (name derived from the Polish acronym for “next destination”).

Whenever operational transports requiring strict confidentiality were organised, orders and excerpts from the transfer plans could also be delivered to military transport authorities in person by staff participating in the transport handling (staff members would report to the Headquarters of Military Transport of the Ministry of National Defence); liaison officers or operational groups could also be dispatched from the Headquarters of Military Transport of the Ministry of National Defence to the institutions concerned.651

In an effort to safeguard the confidentiality of explosives and poisonous materials carriage, waybills issued for wagon loads did not specify the actual name of the goods carried – only the terms Explosives or Poisonous Materials were used, always red-bordered in pencil or ink. Specification of explosives and poisonous materials was required in view of the different regulations applying to the carriage of such materials. Furthermore, no documents allowing the identification of goods were attached to the goods shipment waybills. Wagons carrying explosives or poisonous materials were not marked by any stickers typical for commercial shipments allowing cargo identification.

Files regarding the transfer of special military shipments were forwarded to the files storage depot within a term of one month of the transport mission.652

5.1.5 Rolling Stock used for Military transport Purposes

Already in the late 19th century, the Prussian State Railways (KPEV) introduced troops transfer by standard goods vans, appropriately adapted for the purpose of transporting the military by the use of special-purpose standard mobile wagon components (benches, bunks, rifle, and personal equipment stands, etc.).653 As part of the first effort to standardise the wagons used by the Prussian railways (1878), all newly-constructed vans were built in such a way as to enable swift conversion for military purposes. Soon thereafter, railways in other countries also adopted such system of converting goods vans for use by the military.

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While equipment used to furnish troops-carrying goods vans on the Russian railways had been approved as early as 1870,654 it was considered far from suitable:

Freight wagons would usually accommodate 36 people or 8 horses. Wagon furnishings on vehicles used to transport troops consisted of planks and slats, nailed to the van’s walls. There were no solutions to make boarding easier. Whenever horses or artillery were loaded, devices referred to as “bridges” were applied: at too great an incline, too narrow, very inconvenient in use. In wintertime, two iron stoves were assigned to each vans; heat was never distributed evenly. Such heated wagons were called “tyeplushki” (“heated places”). “Tyeplushki” were also used to carry the sick and the lightly wounded, patient headcount 10–15 per van […].655

Between the wars, four-wheel Polish State Railways vans fitted with different wagon furnishings were used for the military transport of people and animals. Specific types of covered vans adapted for the purposes of carrying people or horses were fitted with fixed wagon furnishings. Fixed wagon furnishings included the following: frames with airing flaps to ventilate the van; lantern suspension devices; support slats for sitting/ sleeping boards; support slats to hang personal equipment; stand-fixing clamps; rod-fixing rings used to tie horses and prevent people from falling out of the wagons. Mobile furnishings included the following: boards, rods, lanterns, rifle stands, stand slats, and stoves.656

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A furnished box van. Source: Ministry of Military Affairs, Instrukcja (1932)

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A furnished box van. Source: Ministry of Military Affairs, Instrukcja (1932)

Passenger carriages, covered freight wagons, flat wagons, coal wagons, tank wagons, and special-purpose wagons meeting pre-specified technical conditions were used to carry military equipment and materials on the Polish State Railways network after the war.657 According to a list contained in the Instructions Concerning the Organisation and Delivery of Military Railway Transports,658 the following Polish State Railways rolling stock was used for military transport purposes: bogie carriages – Ahuxz (1st class) and Bhuxz (2nd class); four-wheeled vans: Kddt, Kddet, Kdt, Kdst, Kpt (door aperture width: 699–200 mm), four-wheeled flat wagons: Pd 21, Pdk 31, Pddk 31, Pddk 41, bogie flat wagons: PP ←258 | 259→421, PPuk 511, PPyk 203; six-axle bogie flat wagons: PPPzk 303; four-wheeled coal wagons: Wdo, Wddo, Wddt; bogie coal wagons: WWy; four-wheeled tank wagons: R; bogie tank wagons: RR. Should shipment by a regular flat wagon be impossible for reasons of excessive width of the load to be carried, special-purpose well wagons (PPg) were employed.659

Covered vans and coal wagons were adapted for the purposes of military transfer of soldiers, horses, and field kitchens and as anti-aircraft defence positions. As a rule, passenger carriages on military trains were reserved for officers. Should such wagons be unavailable, or should they preclude the option of heating in the winter season, covered vans were also used to carry officers.

Covered vans were used to carry privates, non-commissioned officers, horses, field kitchens, equipment and supplies. Polish State Railways wagons that were marked with the letter “t” were used to carry people.660 Kpw and Kdsw freight wagons (door aperture width: 2 m) were used to carry operational field kitchens (galleys). Flat wagons were used to carry vehicles, equipment and supplies. Coal wagons were used to carry supplies and to provide anti-aircraft defence positions.

Covered vans were fitted with the following fixed wagon furnishings intended for military transport purposes: hatches with windows to ventilate the vans; upper internal support slats for rifle beds and personal equipment; internal wall rings allowing protective barrier rods to be suspended (for horses) or seat board shackles; overhead guides allowing flashlights or lanterns; wagon boarding steps.661

Special-purpose storage depots supervised by the Polish State Railways Mechanical Services Division were used to store mobile wagon furnishings used in the fitting of wagons intended for troops transfer: seat boards, stands, shackles, rifle beds, horse protective barrier rods, wagon flashlights, stove sets, smoke extractors for operational field kitchens, anti-aircraft defence position equipment, water boilers, potable water tanks, candle lanterns662 and carbide lanterns. German, Soviet, Polish (pre-war) and American UNRRA wagon furnishings were used. The Polish State Railways Mechanical Services Division was charged with the inventory and maintenance of all wagon appliance, loading devices, and lighting equipment stock (intended for ongoing and emergency use). The ←259 | 260→ongoing use stock was managed by traffic services; the emergency-use stock was at the disposal of the Military Offices of Regional State Railway Managements.

Selected assembly and furnishing locations within the Regional State Railway Management in Warsaw663

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Furnishing wagons for army relocation purposes required a large number of personnel to be employed, as well as the upkeep of large mobilisation warehouses containing wagon furnishing sets. The table above indicates the theoretical maximum capacity per train set assembly station.

Wagons earmarked for the transport of soldiers as part of rail military transports were furnished by fitting out box vans and converting them into “people-carrying” wagons allowing passengers to sit or lie down (marked “Kl”), or only to sit (marked “Kls”). The K1 people-carrying box vans were used to carry the soldiers over longer distances.664

The K1s people-carrying box vans were used to carry the military over shorter distances; they were also used to carry convoy escorts of supply transports, distance and time of passage notwithstanding.665

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Kl vans with lying and sitting places. Source: Polish State Railways, Instrukcja o stosowaniu (1949)

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Racks made of locomotive boiler tubes were used to arrange K1 “people-carrying” van as sitting space, reclining space (double-decked), and office space. The wagon stove exhaust was discharged with the use of a pipe system and special-purpose door and window inserts (to avoid damage to the wagon).

A Kl van with sitting places. Source: Polish State Railways, Instrukcja o stosowaniu (1949)

Wdd type coal wagons with high-rise wooden side walls were equipped to allow the fitting of anti-aircraft defence positions. Such wagons were adapted by mounting an indoor platform and outdoor railing.666

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Anti-aircraft wagon converted from a coal wagon. Source: Polish State Railways, Instrukcja o stosowaniu (1949)

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Furnishing of Kl vans. Source: Polish State Railways, Instrukcja o stosowaniu (1949)

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Field kitchens transported in a van. Source: Polish State Railways, Instrukcja o stosowaniu (1949)

Box vans could also be fitted as “Kn” wagons intended to carry horses. A Kn horse-carrying van was fitted with 3 protective BARIERA rods and 1 lantern. “Kdsw” and “Kpw” box van (door opening width: 2 m) were designed to transport of operational field kitchens (galleys). Each wagon could carry two operational field kitchens.

Upon adaptation for field kitchen carrying purposes, Kdsw and Kpw vans were labelled “Kch”.667

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The works to adapt wagons for mass military transport were performed at stations with warehouses stocking the mobile wagon furnishings. Wagon furnishing and train set assembly stations were designated by the given Regional State Railway Management in coordination with the Ministry of Transport. Such stations were fitted with separate tracks for wagon cleaning, washing and furnishing, and for train set assembly. Train sets were assembled according to a diagram presented to the station master by the military commander of the railway section (station).

If necessary, coal wagons could be used as substitute wagons to carry people and horses over short distances during summer season. Coal wagons used as substitute wagons to carry people were not furnished. Should such wagons be used to carry horses, they were fitted with 2 barrier rods nailed to the wagon upon loading, and used as horse ties.

In the case of journeys of a duration greater than 2 days, any military troop train with no less than 10 people-carrying wagons was expanded to include one sick bay wagon (with appropriate furnishings for carrying people) with intent to isolate patients until such time as they could be delivered to a medical centre.

Military troop trains or military transport trains were assembled along the following rules:

a) passenger carriages and box vans (carrying people and operational field kitchens) were placed in the train mid-section, loaded vans and flat wagons coupled on both sides of the wagons transporting people;

b) during the heating season, passenger carriages were placed directly behind the staff car, with intent to use locomotive heating;

c) wagons carrying people were separated from the locomotive by no less than one wagon; they were separated from the train-end by no less than six axles of wagons not occupied by people;

d) wagons carrying ammunition, explosives and incendiary materials, and/or chemical and flammable materials issued to a respective military troop train or military transport, were located in the rear train section;

e) wagons carrying propellants were separated from the wagons carrying people with no less than 6 axles of neutral-load wagons;

f) wagons carrying chemical materials were located in the rear train section, behind the wagons carrying people and animals;

g) wagons with anti-aircraft defence positions were placed in the front and rear train sections.

In general, similar rolling stock continues to be in use for military transport purposes today; the only difference involves the fact that the designated rolling ←267 | 268→stock maintenance depots are charged with the maintenance and repairs of the adapted Kl type vans upon commission by the Ministry of National Defence.

Loading diagram and the use of loading devices. Source: Ministry of National Defence, Tymczasowa instrukcja (1947)

5.1.6 Loading Areas, Stations, and Sites; Loading Devices

Securing the proper loading and unloading of transported units had been among the main responsibilities of the Headquarters of Military Transport from the early days of railway use for military purposes in the 19th century. The introduction of armoured weapons and aviation, development of artillery, and gradual mechanisation of armed forces during the Great War gave rise to the need for ←268 | 269→appropriate loading/unloading appliances designed to load and unload heavy equipment.

Passenger train platforms, Polish State Railways commercial ramps, permanent military ramps and loading sites were used in the inter-war period as permanent stationary facilities serving the purposes of loading and unloading transported units and their equipment.668 Military ramps built between the wars were mostly designed as end-to-end ramps. The following temporary stationary facilities were in use as well: provisional military ramps (constructed in field conditions from wood as side, frontal, or end-to-end ramps), portable ramps669 (used for loading or unloading directly from the ground level), improvised ramps670 (made of any material available, mostly with the use of rails and railway sleepers, if portable ramps were unavailable), horse transfer bridges671 (used to load and unload horses from ramps levelled with wagon floors) and cross-wagon bridges672 (used to shunt rolling stock from platform to platform).673

Also after the war, when the Headquarters of Military Transport was planned and organised, great importance was attached to the proper securing and delivery of military transport. Tymczasowa instrukcja o wosjkowych transportach kolejowych [Temporary Instructions Regarding Military Railway Transports] were published in 1947,674 based largely on the 1931 Instrukcji o wojskowych transportach kolejowych [Instructions Regarding Military Railway Transports].675 In 1958, the Ministry of Transport published Instrukcję o organizacji wykonywania wojskowych przewozów kolejowych [Instructions Concerning the Organisation and Delivery of Military Railway Transports].676

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Pursuant to new regulations, the loading (unloading) area was defined as a site comprising ten to twenty stations simultaneously handling the loading (unloading) of a large number of military troop trains or military transports.677

The approximate number of stations required to load and unload of individual operational and tactical compounds in the primary and supplementary loading areas has been shown in the table below:678

Name of tactical unit or divisionEstimated number of stations required in an area
basic areaauxiliary area

General army

up to 12


Armoured army

up to 8


Mechanised or armoured division

up to 3

up to 2

Artillery brigade



Independent brigades, all types of armed forces

up to 2


Mechanised or armoured regiment



Rocket missile troops

up to 2


Loading (unloading) areas were set up as close as possible to troops location. The phrase “loading (unloading) station” was used in reference to a railway station were troops or military transports were loaded (unloaded).679

The process of selecting and organising loading (unloading) areas involved the following basic requirements: dispersing and doubling of all essential loading and unloading area components (stations, holding and assembly areas, military units) to preserve the area viability and develop reserves; organising combat security and area camouflaging against enemy attack with the use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.680 Main troop loading areas were provided on railway lines of lowest traffic intensity, on parallel and bypass lines, with intent to secure loading continuity and allow one-way railway traffic. Basic military ←270 | 271→unloading areas were set up on approaches to large railway junctions, bridges, tunnels and other important facilities, the destruction of which could cause long-term interruptions to rail traffic.681 The purpose of such areas was to quickly unload troops in case of destruction to an obstacle, and then bypass it.

The railway authorities were obliged to organise and co-ordinate the loading and unloading of military transports. Heads of Traffic and Trade Departments appointed personnel charged with related duties: station masters or loading point managers. Military authorities appointed loading or unloading officers as persons in charge.

Railway employees responsible for the managing of loading and unloading of military railway transports during mass transport and military-and-railway exercises wore red-and-white armbands on the left arm, with a railway emblem and the seal of Branch IV of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces. The officers responsible for loading and unloading, and officers and non-commissioned officers of military units transported by rail, wore white armbands with a red lateral strip on the left arm.682

Whenever required, technical emergency service staff with adequate tools and equipment were appointed from among the infrastructure, mechanical and maintenance service personnel to assist the loading point managers. The loading or unloading of equipment and materials, hammering wedges, and wiring of vehicles were all responsibilities of the troops that were being loaded or unloaded.683

Furthermore, the Polish State Railways maintained a significant number of military loading locations684 (loading yards, permanent military ramps), no less than 8 m wide,685 as well as loading roads designed for military purposes. Whenever new loading yards were constructed, nearby holding (assembly) areas were set up wherever feasible (sheltered, if possible) to accommodate military units awaiting loading.686 Given the strategic use of ramps and loading facilities, ←271 | 272→the Military Transport Board kept updated records of all such facilities available on the domestic railway network.

A loading yard – in the military sense of the term – is a railway station site provided on a siding or railway route, adjacent to the track, enabling the loading or unloading of military transports. Loading yards had to meet specific conditions: location on outer tracks, sidings or protective traps – possibly far from station facilities, such locations allowed camouflage and concealment.687 Notably, due to the wartime threat of bombing or artillery fire, individual loading yards had to be developed at approximate intervals of 1.5–2 km, should several be set up at a single station. In the process of loading yard selection, attention was also paid to the use of natural terrain for camouflage purposes (land undulation, forest cover, weirs, ravines, small settlements, etc.).688 It was also important for loading yards to be placed on tracks allowing trains to be received/dispatched directly to correct routes, without the need to cross complex track systems, particularly vulnerable to wartime destruction.

Depending on their length, loading yards were classified as allowing full or partial train unloading (loading).689 It was also assumed that the approximate length of a loading front allowing the simultaneous loading of an entire military train should be 600 m (minimum length of the track at the loading front: 650 m690).

Loading or unloading of military trains at yards unable to accommodate full trains involved trains having to be divided in sections.

The following loading yards are classified as partial train unloading facilities:691

1) half-train yards, minimum required length: 300 m;

2) 1/3-train yards: minimum required length: 230 m;

3) yards less than 230 m long, used only when necessary.

←272 | 273→

The following loading facilities were used to handle loading activities: improvised ramps, transportable ramps, platform ramps, wagon connecting ramps and loading bridges.

Permanent, provisional and improvised ramps were used for military purposes. Depending on the loading method applied, ramps were classified as side ramps, frontal ramps, or end-to-end ramps; under exceptional circumstances, temporary ramps could be provided directly on the route.

Fixed ramps were made of durable materials (stone, concrete or brick retaining walls), entrances developed along their entire length or at several locations (minimum length: 230 m).

Whenever required, commercial ramps were also used for the purposes of loading (unloading) of tactical compounds, as were passenger train platforms (under exceptional circumstances, and if levelled with wagon floors). Level crossings could also be used for the frontal loading or unloading of military units, with the use of transportable ramps or ramp platforms.

Provisional makeshift ramps were built as a temporary solution (side, front, end-to-end), operated as separate loading yards or extensions of the existing permanent ramps. Furthermore, Polish State Railways stored emergency-use supplies of materials intended for the construction of makeshift military ramps.

Improvised ramps were built with the use of sleepers and rails, as lightweight (maximum capacity: 12 tonnes) or heavy structures (maximum capacity: 60 tonnes) as side perpendicular, side oblique, frontal perpendicular or frontal oblique versions. The improvised side oblique ramps could be constructed on loading platforms at stations, loading points, on sidings, and on railway routes proper. Heavy side oblique and frontal improvised ramps were developed for the purposes of unloading particularly long or heavy vehicles.

Depending on the type of equipment or vehicles intended to be loaded or unloaded and on loading site width, lightweight and heavy improvised ramps could be provided as side perpendicular and double frontal version.

Light improvised perpendicular side ramp, side view. Source: Polish State Railways, Instrukcja o stosowaniu (1949)

←273 | 274→

Improvised frontal double ramp. Source: Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958)

Mobile ramps (side or frontal) of the following two types were used for loading purposes as well: heavy transportable ramp (two iron wheels, load-bearing capacity: 10 tonnes); lightweight transportable ramp (two wooden wheels, load-bearing capacity: 8 tonnes). When loading or unloading vehicles, two or more interconnected mobile ramps of a single type could be used together.

←274 | 275→

Improvised frontal single ramp/ Improvised parallel ramp with a single incline. Source: Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958)

←275 | 276→

Improvised side perpendicular ramp with a horizontal section.

Z-type portable ramps were also used, comprising three girders, several wooden platform sections, and one wedge-shaped section with steel sheet protection and welded iron non-slip hinges.

Already between the wars heavy-duty railway flat wagons (intended for heavy equipment transport) were fitted with special-purpose consoles placed on their buffer beams. They were used to attach safety supports or wagon bridges to the buffers during the frontal loading and unloading procedures, or for the passage of tracked and wheeled vehicles from one flat wagon to another. Such loading bridges were used to secure the space between the side ramp edges and wagon flooring.

In the late 1940s, special bogie flat wagons were introduced: the PPwwp type ramps.692 They were coupled at the end of the train that was to be loaded/unloaded, a special lever was provided in the mid-section of the wagon; upon detaching the outer bogie and elevating the platform with the use of a lift, the bogie was rolled out, the flat wagon lowered to the rail head level. This is how a massive front loading ramp was provided for the purposes of loading heavy ←276 | 277→armoured equipment onto railway flat wagons. Such ramp flat wagons were owned by the military as special-purpose rolling stock.

Improvised side perpendicular ramp without a horizontal section. Source: Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958)

←277 | 278→

Ppwwp ramp flat wagon. Source: Polish State Railways, Instrukcja o stosowaniu (1949)

Location of steel ramps and resources deposited for the purposes of improvised ramp construction in DOKP Warsaw693

←278 | 279→
LocationNumber of improvised rampsNumber of folding ramps

Station Siedlce

1 set

3 sets

Station Skierniewice

1 set

Station Łomża

1 set

Station Ełk

1 set

Station Warszawa Odolany

3 sets

Station Warszawa Praga

2 sets

Station Białystok

2 sets

Station Ostrołęka

2 sets

Station Łódź

3 sets

Station Kutno

3 sets


4 sets

18 sets

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

Temporary Regulations on the Use of the Polish Railways by USSR Trains694 were approved as of October 30th 1946 (with two subsequent amendments).

Russia and Poland entered into the Agreement Regarding Polish-Soviet Direct Railway Communication and the Polish-Soviet Railway Agreement as late as 1950, with intent to formally legalise the extra-territorial transit carriage of Soviet Army military transports, and of travellers, luggage and shipments in both directions between East Germany and USSR, by Soviet trains and with the use of the Polish State Railways network.695

Pursuant to the respective agreements,696 the carriage of goods and luggage by Soviet trains on the Polish State Railways network was free of customs duties, and was exempt from customs clearance and inspections by the Polish Customs Service.697

←279 | 280→

Transit trains travelled across the Polish territory unchecked. In the 1940s and 1950s, they were used to smuggle huge volumes of industrial goods, other materials, and food. Transit was handled by block698 trains assembled pursuant to regulations governing technical operation of Soviet Railways (SZD).

These trains were operated by steam locomotives and train staff of the Soviet or German (East Germany) railways. Russian and East German train crews operating transit trains in Poland were specially selected, also for their loyalty. Nonetheless, German express steam locomotives that hauled transit passenger trains were manned by Russian crews, freight trains handled by Deutsche Reichsbahn/ German National Railways locomotives and crews, which goes to show that Russians did not trust East German citizens. The secret service paid close attention to preventing people from escaping to West Germany in the guise of transit train crewmembers. Every Soviet military train commander was obliged to present a complete list of train crew members at the entry and exit stations of the Polish State Railways, and at the entry stations of the Soviet or East German railways, respectively, to secure the full checks of train crew identities.

The Soviet military train traffic was managed by the appropriate Polish State Railways divisions, under strict supervision by the Soviet military transport authorities, and the plenipotentiary of the Soviet Ministry of Transport at the Polish Ministry of Transport.

Train documentation in the form of special orders, official Russian transit train timetables, and all train traffic charts were drawn up in three languages (Polish, Russian and German). The train crews of the Soviet Railways (SZD) and the Deutsche Reichsbahn/ German National Railways operating transit trains were trained in the use of the Polish railway signalling regulations. However, should a specific crew be not familiar with the Polish signalling or route, Polish State Railways would assign Polish locomotive drivers with the command of the Russian or German language to the transit train locomotives.

Furthermore, the re-forming of train sets, uncoupling or coupling of wagons or carriages or their groups to the USSR block trains on the Polish railway lines was strictly forbidden, unless a damaged vehicle was to be uncoupled.

Should the need arise to reload goods from a damaged wagon, a special-purpose report was drafted whenever such wagon was to be opened, in the ←280 | 281→presence of a representative of the Supreme Board of Military Transport of the Soviet Army.

The composition of USSR block trains was set at 100–120 axles. As a rule, these trains were hauled by Soviet or East German steam locomotives, Polish State Railways locomotives taking over only in case of the original locomotive being damaged. The transit trains were hauled by German railway express locomotives (classes BR 01, 03) and freight locomotives (BR50 and BR52).699 However, an analysis of archival official timetables from the 1950s has shown that BR 01 and BR 52 steam locomotives were assigned to passenger transit trains and freight trains, respectively. The SZD and Deutsche Reichsbahn/ German National Railways locomotives were supplied with fuel and lubricants for a fee, while watering and cleaning on ash pits were free of charge.

Polish State Railways would take over a minimum of 25 transit trains per day from the East German railways, dispatching an identical number in the opposite direction. The following border crossing stations were used as listed below:700

1. Szczecin Gumieńce

– 1 train

2. Kostrzyn

– 6 trains

3. Frankfurt / Oder

– 10 trains

4. Gubin

– 8 trains

These trains would pass between the Polish and Soviet state railway systems using the following border crossing stations:

1. Bagratyonovsk

– 2 trains

2. Zheleznodorozhnyi

– 4 trains

3. Łosośna (auxiliary station)

– 1 train

4. Berestovica

– 3 trains

5. Brest (via Czeremcha)

– 5 trains

6. Brest (via Terespol)

– 7 trains

7. Jagodzin

– 3 trains

8. Mostiska Nizhankovice

– 4 trains

On the Polish territory, the USSR trains would as a rule take the following routes in transit:←281 | 282→

1. Szczecin Gumieńce – Stargard – Krzyż – Piła – Bydgoszcz – Toruń – Iława – Olsztyn – Korsze – Bagratyonovsk – 524 km.

2. Kostrzyn – Bydgoszcz – Toruń – Iława – Olsztyn – Zheleznodorozhnyi – 546 km, or via Bagratyonovsk (524 km).

3. Frankfurt / Oder – Poznań – Warsaw – Berestovica – 724 km, or via Brest (715 km) or Vysokolitovsk (690 km).

4. Frankfurt / Oder – Poznań – Ostrów Wielkopolski – Łódź – Tomaszów Mazowiecki – Radom – Rejowiec – Hrebenne – Rava Ruska – 870 km, or via Jagodzin (771 km).

5. Gubin – Ostrów Wielkopolski – Łódź – Tomaszów Mazowiecki – Radom – Rejowiec – Hrebenne – Rava Ruska – 871 km, or via Jagodzin (772 km).

6. Gubin – Ostrów Wielkopolski – Łódź – Skarżysko Kamienna – Przeworsk – Nizankowice – 730 km, or via Mościska (732 km).

A term of three days was adopted as the time it would take a USSR transit train to cross the Polish territory as of the moment of take-over from the Soviet Railways/ SZD until the hand-over to the Deutsche Reichsbahn/ German National Railways, or in the reverse direction.

A passenger train (Brest – Warsaw – Berlin) connecting with the Moscow – Brest train, requiring train change in Brest, and two trains from Brest to Frankfurt am Oder, were designated to carry passengers and luggage from the USSR to East Germany (and from East Germany to USSR). These trains were assembled with the use of rolling stock (steam locomotives and carriages) provided by the Deutsche Reichsbahn/ German National Railways, and operated by a Russian train and conductor crew jointly with a conductor crew staffed by the Polish State Railways. Passengers and Russian train crews were obliged to remain within the station area whenever the train stopped. The carriage of passengers was subject to the SZD railway regulations and fares.

The USSR Ministry of Transport (Board of International Communications) paid fees to the Ministry of Transport of the Polish People’s Republic for the transit of Soviet trains on the Polish State Railways network, for supplying steam locomotives with fuel and lubricants, and for the repairs of damaged rolling stock. The Polish State Railways Central Bureau for Foreign Clearance in Bydgoszcz handled all financial settlements with the Soviet partner for the Polish side. The extremely low tariff rate of 0.0042 tariff unit per axle-kilometre of rolling stock in transit on the Polish State Railways network was adopted, yet changed to 0.03 roubles in 1951 already.701 Notably, the method of calculating ←282 | 283→fees per axle-kilometre rather than according to the weight of shipments carried also precluded any control of the quantity or type of commodities and military goods transported. The USSR Ministry of Transport began to pay higher fees for the train transit on the Polish State Railways network only in the mid-1980s, and only following tough negotiations by Poland.702 Around 1953, the operation of Soviet trains in transit and of the deliveries to the Soviet Army troops stationed on the Polish People’s Republic territory was transferred to the Polish State Railways.

5.3 Transports for Soviet Army Troops Stationed in Poland

The Soviet military transports were basically operated across the entire Polish State Railways network, depending on the deployment location of the military units.

In light of the high numbers of Soviet troops stationed in Lower Silesia (headquarters of the North Military Group of the Soviet Army stationed in Legnica), the railway line leading from the state border near Przemyśl via Kraków and Katowice to Wrocław was the longest-remaining broad-gauge route on the Polish territory, allowing military troop trains and supply transports to be carried without transhipment at the border. The line was converted to standard gauge only around 1947.703

Upon conversion, military supplies, other cargo and military troop trains were reloaded at the Border Transhipment Bases operated by the USSR Ministry of Defence, or with the use of reloading equipment available at the SZD Russian ←283 | 284→border stations and Polish Military Transhipment Areas, from broad-gauge to standard-gauge wagons, or from standard-gauge to broad-gauge ones.704

Depending on the equipment available at the transhipment areas, military troop trains could be reloaded with the use of the following measures and facilities: an island ramp (loading site), directly from one wagon to another; unloading followed by loading at the same ramp (site); unloading at one ramp (site), followed by a transfer to another ramp (site) and loading. The SZD used bogie vans to carry people, horses and operational field kitchens (galleys). A single bogie van was used to carry 72–80 people; in case of transfers of a maximum daytime duration of 12 hours, such wagons would carry 100 people, or 14 saddle or haulage horses, or 10 artillery horses, or 2 operational field kitchens.705 Since the standard-gauge Polish State Railways vans had a lower carrying capacity, larger numbers of wagons had to be provided for transhipment.

A scheduled passenger train (Legnica – Brest), closed to domestic travellers, was introduced in the early 1950s to carry the Soviet soldiers and their luggage. The train continued running until the early 1990s.

On November 23rd 1945, the Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Poland and the USSR People’s Commissariat of Communication Routes agreed to adopt the Regulations Concerning Military Transfers for the USSR706 (valid as of December 15th 1945). On July 1st 1954, the Ministry of Transport approved the Regulations Concerning Military Transports Operated by Polish Railways for Soviet Army Troops Temporarily Stationed in Poland.707

The transports operated for the Soviet troops stationed in Poland included the following: transports of military troop trains, transports of military materials and supplies, military mail transport (by SZD or Polish State Railways mail carriages, or in separate compartments), transport of passengers, luggage and express consignments, and USSR staff saloon wagons. The organisation and handling of Russian military transports was supervised by the Representation of the Supreme Board of Military Transports of the Red Army at the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, in co-operation with the Military Transports Directorate of the Polish Armed Forces. Delegations of the Supreme Board of Military Transports of the Red Army at the Central Polish State Railways Management and the individual Regional Managements were recognised as line transport management ←284 | 285→units, working closely with the Headquarters of Military Transport and Military Bureaux of the Central and Regional State Railway Managements. The transports of the Red Army soldiers and officers were also operated by Polish State Railways passenger trains, the military carrying military tickets issued by the authorised ticket offices on the Polish territory in exchange for special-purpose military orders.

The following Polish State Railways stations (not included in the Agreement on International Passenger Transport by Rail Tariff) located near major Soviet Army garrisons were designated to carry military personnel and luggage from the Polish People’s Republic to the USSR and East Germany: Białogard, Borne Sulinowo, Brzeg, Chojna, Chojnów, Chocianów, Gorzów, Jawor, Kluczewo Pomorskie, Kołobrzeg, Kutno, Lubin Legnicki, Międzyrzecz, Nowa Sól, Odra Port, Oława, Siedlce, Świdnica, Świętoszów, Szczecinek, Szprotawa, Stargard Szczeciński, Toruń Central, Tarnów Opolski, Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Zbąszynek, and Żagań.708

On the Polish People’s Republic territory, military troop trains were assembled using the standard Polish State Railways rolling stock used in troops transfer – Kl vans to carry soldiers, and passenger carriages for the officers. Bogie flat wagons were used to carry heavy equipment. On the Polish territory, Soviet military troop trains were escorted by the Soviet military security troops. Polish State Railways supplied the military troop trains with fuel, oil lanterns, hot drinking water, and medical assistance if required. Polish State Railways were also obliged to deliver and made available mobile lifting devices, materials to construct portable ramps, official premises to accommodate Delegations of the Supreme Board of Military Transports of the Red Army, means of railway radio communications, and staff saloon carriages for the delegates of the Supreme Board of Military Transports of the Red Army at the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces.

Uncoupling and removal of wagons from the military troop trains and military transports was only allowed in case of their damage.

The following rolling stock was available to the North Military Group of the Soviet Army stationing in Poland: USSR staff saloon cars to carry officers of the command of the Soviet troops in the Polish People’s Republic, USSR mail vans (to carry military mail), and standard-gauge Russian shunting locomotives to operate sidings at the Soviet bases and military units.709 The Polish State Railways ←285 | 286→also operated Soviet railway tank wagon block trains, intended to carry fuels and lubricants for the Soviet troops.

Until December 31st 1946, all block military trains dispatched to the Soviet Union were operated free of charge. In 1945, a tariff rate for the carriage of the Soviet military personnel (and their families) was set at 2.95 zloty per 100 km. Under the regular Polish State Railways tariff (2nd class), a fee of 32.4 zloty was charged for the same distance710 – eleven times higher for Polish citizens than for Soviet soldiers and their families.711 Military transports for the Soviet troops stationed in Poland operated on credit. All financial settlements with the Command of the Soviet Army in Poland were handled by the Polish State Railways Central Bureau for Foreign Clearance in Bydgoszcz. Military transport fees were paid by the Supreme Board of Military Transports of the Red Army in Moscow. Fees for the military transport were calculated at the extremely low rate of 0.29 rouble712 per axle-kilometre of rail carriage.

The passage of empty Soviet tank wagons operated by the Red Army across the Polish territory to loading (transhipment) sites was not subject to any transport charges. In case of oversized loads, the rate was raised by 100 %. Fees for the travel of military passengers, luggage, express consignments, and mail were subject to a special military tariff.

629 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 251.

630 Ibid., 249.

631 Ibid., 250.

632 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 250.

633 Ibid., 250–251.

634 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 249.

635 In earlier days, classification of military operational transports carrying military units / supplies and transports carrying ammunition, equipment and military materials was used. Ministry of National Defence, Tymczasowa instrukcja (1947), 6.

636 Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958), 14.

637 After 1989 and upon modifications to the warfare doctrine, large numbers of these wagons were removed from the Polish State Railways lists and scrapped.

638 Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958), amendments.

639 Polish State Railways, Przepisy o postępowaniu (1950).

640 Polish State Railways, Przepisy o postępowaniu (1950), 5.

641 Polish State Railways, Przepisy o postępowaniu (1950), 9.

642 Polish State Railways, Przepisy o postępowaniu (1950) 12.

643 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 284.

644 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 288–290.

645 Ibid., 284–285.

646 Special-purpose slot diaphragms were in common wartime use as devices to obscure beacons fitted on switches, derailers, and other light signalling appliances.

647 Wagon tarpaulins – special-purpose tarpaulins made to standard size of open freight wagons.

648 Ministry of National Defence, Tymczasowa instrukcja (1947), 89.

649 Ministry of National Defence, Tymczasowa instrukcja (1947), 96.

650 Ministry of National Defence, Tymczasowa instrukcja (1947), 96.

651 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 127.

652 Polish State Railways, R 57, Przepisy o przewozie (1980), 6.

653 It remains unclear whether individual German states carried troops in covered wagons prior to the unification of Germany.

654 Tchaplin (1895), 385.

655 Gawroński (1930), 15.

656 Furnishings designed for vans intended to carry privates comprised the following: 18 boards, 1 lantern, 2 sets of rifle racks (1 set of rails with notches for rifle barrels, slats to secure barrels, and a slat to support rifle butts), 2 rods – untethered BARIERAs preventing people from falling out of the wagon; in the winter season (October 15th until April 15th) – 1 stove. Furnishings for vans intended to carry horses and cattle included 3 rods and 1 lantern.

657 In general, Ministry of National Defence military rolling stock was limited to on-site transport at bases, depots, and military units. Only special-purpose wagons and armoured trains were used on the PKP network.

658 Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958), 186–187.

659 Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958), 137.

660 Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958), 47.

661 Some old-type box vans were fixed with iron stanchions at both doors, normally lifted up and hooked under the roof.

662 Special-purpose candle lanterns (suspended from the wagon’s overhead guide strip) were used to light up provisional troops-carrying wagons.

663 Headquarters of Military Transport at the Regional State Railway Management in Warsaw, Ogólna charakterystyka (1984), 25.

664 A typical Kl “people-carrying” van featured the following: 8 stands, 48 boards, 2 rifle beds, 2 BARIERA rods, 1 candle lantern, and 1 stove set (during the winter season of October 15th until April 15th).

665 A typical Kls “people-carrying” van featured the following: 12 shackles, 14 boards, 2 rifle beds, 2 BARIERA rods, 1 candle lantern, and 1 stove set (during the winter season of October 15th until April 15th).

666 Anti-aircraft defence position sets included the following: 1 set of platform suspension appliances (4 girders with stoppers, 4 handrails, 2 bridge girders), 1 gallery with three wooden sections, fixing wedges included, 2 longitudinal bridging girders, 2 lateral railings, 1 set of platform boarding steps, 1 wagon boarding ladder.

667 The equipment of a wagon with active field kitchens included: a box with a set of smoke extraction devices for 2 field kitchens, 1 door insert, 2 barrier bars, 1 candle lantern.

668 Ministry of Military Affairs, Instrukcja (1932), 17.

669 The Polish Armed Forces was issued a mobile platform, 1931 design, steel and wood structure.

670 Improvised ramps were available in two basic variations: light ramps (up to 1,800 kg) for infantry, cavalry, and light artillery; and heavy ramps (up to 6,000 kg) for heavy artillery and tanks.

671 Horse transfer bridges could also be used to roll cannons from ramps to platforms and vice versa.

672 Bridges used between the two world wars were made of riveted metal sheets.

673 Ministry of Military Affairs, Instrukcja (1932), 19–30.

674 Ministry of National Defence, Tymczasowa instrukcja (1947).

675 Ministry of Military Affairs, Instrukcja (1932).

676 Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958).

677 Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958), 60–61.

678 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 277.

679 Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958), 60–61.

680 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 273.

681 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 274.

682 Ministry of National Defence, Tymczasowa instrukcja (1947), 8.

683 Ministry of National Defence, Tymczasowa instrukcja (1947), 8.

684 According to the definition included in the Polish State Railways, Instrukcja o stosowaniu (1949), 25: In the military sense, the term “loading yard” shall refer to a railway station site developed on a siding or railway route, adjacent to a track, enabling the loading or unloading of military transports.

685 Pursuant to Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958), the width of newly-built loading yards was increased to 10–15 meters, 61

686 Typical examples of military loading yards include loading facilities located near loading tracks of PKP Modlin and Chotomów stations.

687 Ditches (150–600 m long, depending on the headcount of subdivisions transported) were dug at loading (unloading) stations with intent to conceal transported troops.

688 Ministry of National Defence, Transport Command 33/64, Komunikacja wojskowa (1965), 274.

689 It was estimated that a full train loading (unloading) yard shall have the capacity to handle 6–8 military troop trains a day, and that partial loading (unloading) yards shall have the capacity to handle 4 military troop trains a day.

690 Polish State Railways, Instrukcja o stosowaniu (1949), 26, and Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958), 61.

691 Polish State Railways, Instrukcja o stosowaniu (1949), 26.

692 Polish State Railways, Instrukcja o stosowaniu (1949), 45–46.

693 Headquarters of Military Transport at Regional State Railway Management in Warsaw, Ogólna charakterystyka (1984), 13.

694 Ministry of Transport, Przepisy tymczasowe (1946).

695 Polish State Railways, Polsko-Radziecka (1950).

696 Polish State Railways, Polsko-Radziecka (1950), 15.

697 Polish officers were not allowed to board the Soviet military trains; they were only authorised to inspect the carriages of the train crew and steam locomotives.

698 The phrase “block train” references a train set returning in an unchanged composition to its original station of departure. Such solution was intended to prevent any attempts to re-marshal the Soviet trains on the Polish territory.

699 As reported by a retired locomotive driver of the MD Warszawa-Praga depot, Mr. Bogdan Pokropiński.

700 Polish State Railways, Polsko-Radziecka (1950).

701 Polish State Railways, Wykaz zmian (1951), 8.

702 According to accounts by advisor to the Ministry of Transport, the late Jerzy Wasilewski, the USSR Ministry of Transport began paying higher fees for transit operations on the Polish State Railways only in the mid-1980s, following tough negotiations by Poland.

703 As late as a few years ago the Rolling Stock Repair Plant’s Opole workshop was using a boiler originally installed on a broad-gauge FD (Felix Dzerzhynski) steam locomotive – built in Voroshillovgrad with No. 7774/1940, operated at reduced pressure of 10 Atm, the boiler was taken off the frames and positioned on foundations. According to the accounts by employees of the Chief Mechanical Department of the Rolling Stock Repair Plant in Opole, the boiler was set up by the Soviet military authorities after the war as the original boiler room was damaged. It was impossible to identify the number of the steam locomotive originally carrying the boiler. The boiler was carried on a steam locomotive which arrived to Opole at the time when Soviet troops re-gauged the Wrocław – Opole mainline to broad-gauge.

704 At border stations, bogies were replaced on passenger carriages and saloon cars only.

705 Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958), 105.

706 Ministry of Transport, Przepisy o przewozach (1945).

707 Ministry of Transport, Przepisy o wojskowych (1954).

708 Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958), 29.

709 The railway siding of the military unit in Rokitki was the location of the only TGK2 shunting locomotive (Kaluga 7492/86, renumbered as Ls250) left by the Soviet Army on the Polish territory.

710 The Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Poland unsuccessfully tried to introduce a military tariff identical to that applying to the Polish Armed Forces; only as of June 10th 1954 did the USSR government renounce the practically free-of-charge transit between East Germany and USSR. On July 1st 1954, a tariff much more favourable for Poland was eventually introduced.

711 Krogulski (2000), 128.

712 Ministry of Transport, Instrukcja o organizacji (1958), 16.