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Remembered Today:

Railway Gun and Railway Howitzer Trains


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green_acorn

G'day All,

 

Does anyone have any documents, images, or information on the composition of the various British railway gun and howitzer trains? Type and number of wagons, order of "march" for the trains and so on. The locomotive used to push/pull the guns around? I once saw an image of a British steam locomotive, used for gun work, with a modified chimney to draw of the smoke and feed it through the water tanks, has anyone seen and have a copy of this image?

 

 

Cheers,

Chris

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4thGordons

THIS THREAD might be of interest?

Chris

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green_acorn

Thank you guys, I will read both now

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green_acorn

Ian and Chris,

 

That material is fascinating, and certainly answered the question for Boche Buster. Two trains per gun, one with the gun, ammunition and essential stores, the other for the officers and men.

 

The six wheel chassis of the 14" gun ammunition wagon was obviously to reduce the axle load over the very lightweight track of the gun spurs.  

 

The open 7 plank wagons and 12/20 ton vans on board are probably part of the gun trains, as they all appear to be fairly new and empty. All other images of loaded train ferries shows wagons with loads.

 

Looking at the three images of the guns on board Train Ferry No:1 in the image where you can see the central wheelhouse over the deck you can see a large covered van with a different roof profile, most probably one of the ammunition wagons. Also these images clearly show the tray and rail the ammunition wagon loaded the shell onto and the track to the breach. A really good shove by the gun numbers would certainly bed the shell in the breach properly.

 

Now not being a gunner, I can't imagine they kept the charge bags with the shells in the ammunition wagon, or am I wrong? 

 

Now I just need to find information about the other gun and howitzer trains, though, as we know these guns and howitzers spent more time in area and generally had the ammunition taken to them, often by light railway and tramways, so no ammunition wagons.

 

One of my Great Grandfathers, Major J Piper RE (IWT), was one of the civil engineers who built Richborough and managed to get back to France a month or so after the guns were moved to France. 

 

Again, thank you for the very prompt replies and help.

 

 

Cheers,

Chris

 

 

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ianjonesncl
26 minutes ago, green_acorn said:

Now not being a gunner, I can't imagine they kept the charge bags with the shells in the ammunition wagon, or am I wrong? 

 

Chris

 

This diagram of an ammunition car from  381mm Italian Railway Gun. It shows the shells being transported with the charge bags. Being a Gunner this makes sense as at the point of firing you want both shell and charge bag co-located.

 

Ian

PowderCar.JPG

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green_acorn
On 31/07/2020 at 03:08, ianjonesncl said:

 

Chris

 

This diagram of an ammunition car from  381mm Italian Railway Gun. It shows the shells being transported with the charge bags. Being a Gunner this makes sense as at the point of firing you want both shell and charge bag co-located.

 

Ian

PowderCar.JPG

Ian,

 

You are right, I am mistaking logistics moves and storage of ammunition where the fuze, shells and charge are where possible separated. Nice drawing of the Italian ammunition wagon, I wonder whether such drawings reside in the Ministry of Munition or makers files for the British equivalent wagon. I imagine that Firepower would have something buried in their archives.

 

 

Cheers,

Chris

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On 30/07/2020 at 17:37, green_acorn said:

...

A really good shove by the gun numbers would certainly bed the shell in the breach properly.

 

....

 

I've sometimes wondered about that - was manual ramming generally used then? Maybe it worked OK, but these rounds must've weighed in the order of 700kg/1500 lb

 

It was important to 'ring' the shell properly into the rifling leed, so that it didn't fall back into the chamber and crush the propellant when you elevated the gun.

This had been found to be an issue on the QE class of battleships, which were originally intended to be able to load their guns at any elevation, to increase rate of fire. However, demand on hydraulic power in action could starve the powered rammers, leading to the worst-case scenario of shells dropping back into loading trays as the rammer withdrew. In practice they found it necessary to load at reduced elevations, though they still had much more flexibility than previous systems.

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ianjonesncl
2 hours ago, MikB said:

 

I've sometimes wondered about that - was manual ramming generally used then? Maybe it worked OK, but these rounds must've weighed in the order of 700kg/1500 lb

 

Mike

 

The ramming was by hand. 

 

Railway Artillery: A Report on the Characteristics, Scope of Utility, Etc., of Railway Artillery Vol 2 - section 286

As soon as the projectile is placed on the shell tray the track is moved forward until it touches the breech of the gun and the shell tray is run forward by hand, acquiring sufficient momentum to launch the projectile into the powder chamber which is rammed by hand.

 

Ian

 

 

 

 

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ianjonesncl
7 hours ago, green_acorn said:

I wonder whether such drawings reside in the Ministry of Munition or makers files for the British equivalent wagon. I imagine that Firepower would have something buried in their archives.

 Chris

 

The Imperial War Museum holds HANDBOOK OF THE 14-INCH (45 CAL.) B.L. GUN. MARK III ON RAILWAY TRUCK MOUNTING [2 VOLUMES]

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1500086465

 

The object description outlines  "Accompanied by volume of 51 folding plates with one loose folding diagram of 14 inch gun on railway bogie truck 52971". 

 

I have searched online to see if this has ever been digitised, but unfortunately this had drawn a blank. 

 

Ian

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ianjonesncl
On 30/07/2020 at 17:37, green_acorn said:

A really good shove by the gun numbers would certainly bed the shell in the breach properly.

 

Picture showing  the detachment of  the 14 inch railway gun Boche Buster ramming the shell during King George V visit. It looks like half a dozen men on the hand rammer. 

 

Source: Imperial War Museum

 

BocheBusterRammingtheShell.jpg

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7 hours ago, ianjonesncl said:

 

Mike

 

The ramming was by hand. 

 

Railway Artillery: A Report on the Characteristics, Scope of Utility, Etc., of Railway Artillery Vol 2 - section 286

As soon as the projectile is placed on the shell tray the track is moved forward until it touches the breech of the gun and the shell tray is run forward by hand, acquiring sufficient momentum to launch the projectile into the powder chamber which is rammed by hand.

 

Ian

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks. I came across the pic of hand-ramming in front of KGV shortly after I'd posted. Of course it raises the question of whether it was possible - and routine practice - to hand-ram the round so that the driving band stuck in the leed with a tapered interference fit, like taper-sleeves in a machine tool, or whether it didn't really matter if you didn't, and the cordite bags in the chamber could withstand the proportion of the projectile weight that was applied to them when you elevated.

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ianjonesncl
6 minutes ago, MikB said:

 

Thanks. I came across the pic of hand-ramming in front of KGV shortly after I'd posted. Of course it raises the question of whether it was possible - and routine practice - to hand-ram the round so that the driving band stuck in the leed with a tapered interference fit, like taper-sleeves in a machine tool, or whether it didn't really matter if you didn't, and the cordite bags in the chamber could withstand the proportion of the projectile weight that was applied to them when you elevated.

 

Mike

 

The concept of a 'bad ram' is something that continued into modern times. I seem to recollect that the technical term was forward obturation. The explanation that was given was; If the driving band was not rammed into the rifling then gasses pass through the gap and therefore affecting the muzzle velocity.

 

I am sure there are more knowledgeable members who may be able to confirm if the ram mattered.

 

Ian

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2 minutes ago, ianjonesncl said:

 

Mike

 

The concept of a 'bad ram' is something that continued into modern times. I seem to recollect that the technical term was forward obturation. The explanation that was given was; If the driving band was not rammed into the rifling then gasses pass through the gap and therefore affecting the muzzle velocity.

 

I am sure there are more knowledgeable members who may be able to confirm if the ram mattered.

 

Ian

 

Theoretically there's also risk of gas-cutting, where high pressure propellant gases blow by the driving band and erode the leed, possibly damaging the prospect of subsequent good rams. But I don't know how serious that was in this case. It would probably have been a real issue in battleships, where barrel life was often not very many outfits of shells, ships spent long periods thousands of miles from base and relining guns meant months in refit.

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Chasemuseum

With the Paris Gun, one of the guns was destroyed in an accident believed to have been caused by the shell falling out of position due to bad ramming and not being detected before the attempt to fire the gun.

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2 hours ago, Chasemuseum said:

With the Paris Gun, one of the guns was destroyed in an accident believed to have been caused by the shell falling out of position due to bad ramming and not being detected before the attempt to fire the gun.

 

Ian V. Hogg in 'The Guns 1914-18' (1971) thought it was a high-numbered shell fired out of sequence. The severe pressure, rotation and acceleration generated in the Paris Gun were exceptional, and required shells of gradually-increasing diameter to compensate for erosion, with driving bands pre-cut with rifling grooves to mitigate engraving stresses. Effective chamber length was measured after each shell was rammed, and the volume and charge weight recalculated to obtain consistent MV. Getting the shells out of strict numerical order would clearly be dangerous.

I guess either explanation could be valid and (AFAIK) the incident was never officially admitted and therefore not documented.

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Chasemuseum

My Paris Gun comments were based on the book "Paris Gun" by H W Miller (1930). Although Miller does not give references for much of his data, this is common for books of this period. He was writing very close to the events, from a perspective that the Paris Gun was still a technical marvel that the German Government had tried to hide from the Allied intelligence commissions.  His sources implicitly include USA technical members of the commission. I have great respect for Ian Hogg, in particular his extensive use of original, contemporary source material such as training pamphlets and original range tables. 

 

I agree with your point. Frankly unless a copy of the original German Army inquiry can be located, either cause is possible and the cause will remain a matter of conjecture.  Given the politics of the gun immediately after the war, I will not be holding my breath for that document to be located.  

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ianjonesncl

Apologies as it is British but an interesting composition of US Navy Railway Gun 14"/50 Train. 

This photo looks like a full train including gun stores. The third rail car appears to be a crane, and  next to the 14"/50 railway gun an ammunition car. 

large.full-train-sm1.jpg.c7cc900bb91743109f0835a9dad184c6.jpg

Edited by ianjonesncl
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green_acorn
On 07/08/2020 at 01:19, ianjonesncl said:

Apologies as it is British but an interesting composition of US Navy Railway Gun 14"/50 Train. 

This photo looks like a full train including gun stores. The third rail car appears to be a crane, and  next to the 14"/50 railway gun an ammunition car. 

 

The train is being hauled by a Pershing locomotive, which is a superheated version of the Baldwin the British purchased for the ROD. The train appears to be in reverse order ready to move into a firing spur; as the gun is the last wagon load and the first wagon looks like a brake/baggage van; then a bogie gondola wagon (possibly with stores like camouflage nets and canvas tarpaulins for covering the gun); flat car with crane (in the style commonly used by US railroads for breakdown trains); two staked flat wagons with what appears to be dunnage (wood beams and blocks), probably for reinforcing the track where the gun fires from; ammunition wagon; and gun.

 

I have the special edition of the French railway history circle which deals with the US Army railways of WW1, I will have a look to see if there is any more information about the US gun and howitzer trains.

 

Cheers,

Chris

Edited by green_acorn
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green_acorn

There is a film from 1941 of Boche Buster firing on Youtube that was posted elsewhere on the GWF. The Youtube link is 

 

I note that the same ammunition wagons were used for the guns in WW2. I have now seen three different colour schemes for these, WW1 camouflage pattern, WW2 Khaki Green and one in this film of the wagon painted probably Grey, with large letters on the side LNER. It also appeared that the tarpaulins covering the gun a few seconds before this also had lettering on them, possibly also LNER. Useful aids to deception.

 

Cheers,

Chris 

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