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September 1, 2022

Historical Pictures of Railway Guns From the American Civil War to World War II

From the days of catapults and trebuchets, military men have dreamed of the ultimate weapon that could smash an enemy’s wall, castle, or defensive stronghold. For a span of eighty-five years, that weapon was the railroad gun, large enough to do substantial damage but also movable to wherever railroad tracks could go.

Railroad guns had a shorter life span than other practical military technologies spawned during the American Civil War, such as submarines, repeating rifles, and machine guns. Yet from 1862 to 1945, they earned a reputation as a bunker buster without equal and terrorized civilians by firing on cities from afar, without warning.

A 274-millimeter railway gun used in France in World War I, 1916.

Mounting heavy artillery on mobile railroad cars was first proposed by Russian Gustav Kori in 1847, and was first used in combat in the American Civil War. 

During World War II, Germany was the premier builder and user of super-heavy railroad guns. Allied intelligence identified some twelve different types of German-made railway artillery, ranging from 150mm to 800mm, by 1945. Captured Czech and French pieces were also widely used.

A 32-pound rail-mounted Brooke naval rifle used by Robert E. Lee’s forces at the siege of Petersburg in the American Civil War, 1862.

These photographs span the history of railway guns, from the very first used by Confederate forces in the American Civil War, to Autochrome photos of guns on the western front of World War I, to then near-obsolete behemoths of World War II.

A Krupp 42 cannon on a flat wagon, 1916.

An eight-inch Mk. VI railway gun in use during World War I at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in England, 1916.

A 12-inch railway gun in action at the Somme, France, 1916.

French soldiers camouflage a 370-millimeter railway gun on the western front in World War I, 1917.

French soldiers camouflage a 370-millimeter railway gun on the western front in World War I, 1917.

An artillery unit poses on a massive railway gun in France, 1918.

A 16-inch gun which was used on the Hindenburg Line in France, 1918.

An Italian soldier fires a 194-millimeter railway gun during the battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, 1940.

A German railway gun in action in France, 1940.

German railway guns used in World War II, 1940.

A railway gun painted for use in desert combat, 1940.

An American soldier examines a German 10-inch railway gun on the Cherbourg Peninsula in France, 1944.

American soldiers pose on a captured German railway gun, 1944.

(via Library of Congress, Quarterly Journal of Military History)




1 comment:

  1. No gallery of railway guns is complete without including Gustav and Dora. You have failed miserably once again, vintag.

    ReplyDelete



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