Railroad cars in the East

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Carto's Cutlass Supreme
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Railroad cars in the East

Postby Carto's Cutlass Supreme » 1 decade 3 years ago (Wed Apr 19, 2006 10:57 am)

We know that the railroad rail width changed in Eastern Europe, and so passengers going East would have to detrain in places like Malkinia. But the question I have is this: When Germany occupied the East, did they modify their own railway cars? Surely the Soviets would have taken all their cars with them ahead of advancing German forces. So I'm wondering how the Germans got cars for those rails.

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Postby grapple » 1 decade 3 years ago (Wed Apr 19, 2006 11:22 am)

I don’t know the details about what was done but here is some basic information. Two methods were used

One; conversion of the 5 foot gauge track to 4 foot 8 ½ inch gauge. This is not that difficult and at its most basic is just pulling up the spikes on one rail moving the rail over and spiking it down again. An extreme version of this is when the ST Louis, Arkansas and Texas narrow gauge (3’ 6”) railroad converted a large section to standard (4’ 8 ½ “) gauge in one day converting 418 miles using 2000 men. There was several months prep work needed but much of it was putting in longer railroad ties which would not have been needed when converting from Russian gauge to standard gauge.

The second is converting standard gauge equipment to Russian gauge. Rail cars are not that difficult since you can replace the bogies though brake equipment might be a problem. Converting Steam locomotives is more difficult since you probably would have to replace the frame. However Germany had a lot of experience in producing locomotives and cars for export in various gauges so they would have no problem with producing Russian gauge locomotives, cars and parts.

One big problem operating in the East would be communication and signaling equipment since that limits the capability of any rail line.

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Postby Carto's Cutlass Supreme » 1 decade 3 years ago (Wed Apr 19, 2006 12:38 pm)

Thanks Grapple,

That's amazing someone here knew about that.

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Postby Reinhard » 1 decade 3 years ago (Wed Apr 19, 2006 12:41 pm)

The Russian gauge (1524 mm) was converted to the standard gauge of 1435 mm whereever and as soon as possible, at least for the main lines. The Sovjets left behind only very few locomotives and cars (most of them damaged), so the original gauge was operated only in the territories behind the fighting line and for side-lines. Hitler mentioned in his speech of 3 October 1941 that so far already 15.000 km of the Sovjet railways had been converted, the total length of railway-lines taken over by the Germans being 25.000 km. So there was no need to change trains at the former Sovjet-Polish border.

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Postby Carto's Cutlass Supreme » 1 decade 3 years ago (Wed Apr 19, 2006 1:52 pm)

I can't believe how much you guys know about this!

I'd really like Reinhard and Grapple to watch Claude Lanzmann's Shoah, DVD disk 3 chapter 11 as Raul Hilberg tries to interpret a German railway document. I would love to hear what you guys think about it. But for me, the empty train he mentions, I thought, might be due to changing cars due to railway width change.

It's an important issue because there is the theory that the reason that Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec are where they are, is that that was where the rail changed, and thus that's where the delousing camps were.

It was where the Otto line was, and the Soviet-German Pact border was, so there still might be reasons for the camps being there.

Sobibor and Belzec never made great sense for railway change anyway, because they weren't on major lines (Malkinia-Siedlice?)

Malkinia did make sense for that though, and I think I read an account of someone changing trains there as late as 1941, but I don't remember where.

But it might be that the "train car change" is not a particularly strong argument for the location of Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec, as delousing camps and/or labor camps.

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Postby Reinhard » 1 decade 3 years ago (Wed Apr 19, 2006 2:56 pm)

Until the end of June, 1941 it's quite possible that trains were changed at Malkinia. After the Sovjet-German agreement had been signed, German communists, who had fled to Moscow, were handed over to the German authorities by the Sovjets (one of these, Margarete Buber-Neumann, wrote a book "Als Gefangene bei Stalin und Hitler" ("As a prisoner of Stalin and Hitler"), in which she describes her experiences in the Gulag and in the German concentration camps - she was in Ravensbrück). Perhaps you have read something like this?

Malkinia was on the major railway-line from Warsaw to Bialystok.
Belzec was on the line from Lublin to Lemberg (Lvov), near Rawa Ruska.
Sobibor was on the line from Brest-Litowsk to Chelm.

Raul Hilberg wrote a book, entitled "The Role of the German Railroads in the Destruction of the Jews" (German title: "Sonderzüge nach Auschwitz", Dumjahn, Mainz 1981). Probably the document he tries to interpret in Lanzman's film is taken from this book.


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