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Railway artillery

By Sakhal

Max E

Railway artillery

The Schiffskanone L/35 Max Eisenbahn und Bettungs Gerust of caliber 380 millimeters was a naval cannon adaptable to any railroad or to a barbette, as the ones used for coastal defense, and the Max E was the Eisenbahn or railway version. When only few shots were required, it could be emplaced easily, passing it from a main railroad to a branch line, but it was preferable to properly cover it in an excavated pit, in which it was mounted a steel and cement pivot on which the cannon would descend by means of two rails that were later retired. During the night, occasionally, when it was required to enter action, the cannon was brought out of the hideout; this would take quite long time, so the Max E used to be emplaced far behind the own lines. It was used in 1916 to bombard the enemy forts in Verdun and it was emplaced also near Dunkerque to bombard the British and Belgian lines.

Country: Germany

Caliber: 380 millimeters

Length of the barrel: 17.05 meters

Total length: 31.61 meters

Weight in battery: 274.3 tonnes

Elevation sector: From -5 to +55 degrees on pivot; from -5 to +18.5 degrees on wheels

Horizontal sector: 4 degrees

Type of the grenade: High explosive

Weight of the grenade: 400 kilograms

Muzzle speed: 800 meters/second

Maximum range: 47.5 kilometers

Howitzer Mk 5

Railway artillery

During the First World War, the British developed three 305 millimeters railway howitzers. The Mark 1 had 12 calibers in length and the Army requested one of higher range. The Mark 2, of 17 calibers, brought an increase in range: from 10177 meters to 13715 meters. However, it could be fired only from an elevation angle of 40 degrees onwards, otherwise the recoil would cause the derailment of the artillery piece. The Army was satisifed with this increase in range, but wanted to solve the inconvenience, so the Vickers company made a third attempt, developing the howitzer Mark 5, which could fire in every direction and be stabilized by means of jacks and seesaws. The Mark 3 and Mark 5 survived the war: in 1939 they were brough out of their storages to be reaconditioned and deployed as counterinvasion defense weapons along the eastern coast of England.

Country: Great Britain

Caliber: 305 millimeters

Length of the barrel: 5.71 meters

Total length: 12.19 meters

Weight in battery: 77.2 tonnes

Elevation sector: From 0 to +45 degrees

Horizontal sector: 240 degrees

Type of the grenade: High explosive

Weight of the grenade: 340 kilograms

Muzzle speed: 447.4 meters/second

Maximum range: 13121 meters


Railway artillery

During the First World War, Great Britain developed, built and deployed in France four 356 millimeters railway cannons. During the 1920s, the barrels were scrapped, but the carriages were stored. In 1940, the Admiralty delivered to the Army three barrels of caliber 343 millimeters (13.5 inches). Being their caliber close to the former barrels (14 inches), the carriage of those was used to install the new barrels. The three reconstructed artillery pieces were deployed in the area of Dover and used in counterbattery actions against the German cannons deployed in the region of Calais. The three cannons held the names of the original pieces from the First World War: "Sceneshifter", "Piecemaker" and "Gladiator". The fourth piece, "Boche-buster", was reconverted into a 457 millimeters howitzer, also used near Dover, but only for defense of the beaches.

Country: Great Britain

Caliber: 343 millimeters

Length of the barrel: 15.90 meters

Total length: 26.62 meters

Weight in battery: 243.9 tonnes

Elevation sector: From 0 to +40 degrees

Horizontal sector: 4 degrees

Type of the grenade: High explosive

Weight of the grenade: 567 kilograms

Muzzle speed: 777 meters/second

Maximum range: 36.6 kilometers

Mle 93/96 on St. Chamond carriage

Railway artillery

This cannon came from the dismantlement of the coastal artillery in several French colonies. In France the company St. Chamond installed the retrieved cannons on railway carriages. More specifically, the cannons were mounted in a rotatory carriage that allowed 360 degrees of rotation in the horizontal sector. To allow the cannon to fire transversally to the direction of the railroad, the rotatory carriage had to be stabilized with supports in the rear and barrel sides. When firing in the direction of the railroad, the elevation sector was limited to 29 degrees, to prevent the breechblock from hitting the wheeled trucks when recoiling. The rear truck had installed on it a storage for ammunition and a feeding system with rails delivered the projectiles directly to the load platform behind the breech.

Country: France

Caliber: 240 millimeters

Length of the barrel: 10.05 meters

Total length: 19.50 meters

Weight in battery: 140 tonnes

Elevation sector: From +15 to +35 degrees

Horizontal sector: 360 degrees

Type of the grenade: High explosive

Weight of the grenade: 162 kilograms

Muzzle speed: 840 meters/second

Maximum range: 23 kilometers

Mle 1870/93 on Schneider carriage

Railway artillery

The 320-millimeter cannon was one of the coastal or fortress cannons put into service in the Western Front due to the lack of heavy field artillery. To save time, it was not fitted with a recoil system, but the trunnion bearings were bound to the carriage by means of reinforced bearings. To absorb the recoil, were lowered onto the railroad six transversal steel beams located beneath the carriage and to these was loaded the weight of the mounting by means of jacks. When firing, the entire artillery piece slided backwards along the railroad, and the bogies in which it was supported kept the direction. After firing several times, the jacks were lowered and the mounting rested onto its wheels, operation needed to return the cannon to its original firing position, so this one could start to fire again. There was no horizontal firing sector and to aim in the desired direction the cannon was moved along a curved railroad until having it pointing towards the exact direction.

Country: France

Caliber: 320 millimeters

Length of the barrel: 10.44 meters

Total length: 25.90 meters

Weight in battery: 162 tonnes

Elevation sector: From +22 to +40 degrees

Horizontal sector: 0 degrees

Type of the grenade: High explosive

Weight of the grenade: 388 kilograms

Muzzle speed: 675 meters/second

Maximum range: 24.8 kilometers

K 12 (E)

Railway artillery

The German Navy's cannon from the First World War known as "Paris Gun" reached the record of highest range when it bombarded Paris from a distance of about 110 kilometers. The German Army decided, in 1930, to beat this record with a new cannon: the K 12 (E). This one fired a grenade with curved ribs that fitted into the deep striations of the bore; the projectile was separated from the powerful propellant charge by a special sealing ring. To allow the artillery piece to recoil without hitting the railroad when firing with a great elevation angle, the platform of the cannon was raised from the wheeled trucks by means of jacks. In the late 1940, this cannon fired from a railroad in France and its grenades fell in Rainham Marshes (England), at 88.5 kilometers from the nearest point in the French coast.

Country: Germany

Caliber: 210 millimeters

Length of the barrel: 33.3 meters

Total length: 41.3 meters

Weight in battery: 302 tonnes

Elevation sector: From +25 to +55 degrees

Horizontal sector: 1 degree

Type of the grenade: High explosive

Weight of the grenade: 107.5 kilograms

Muzzle speed: 1500 meters/second

Maximum range: 115 kilometers

K 5 (E)

Railway artillery

The K 5 (E) was probably the best railway cannon ever made and it was the base of the German railway artillery, entering action in many occasions. Projected at the same time than the K 12, it had many characteristics in commom with that one, particularly the bore with deep striations and the grenade with curved ribs. It was developed a grenade impulsed by rocket engine to reach a maximum range of 86.5 kilometers, but this was possible only at the expense of precision. After this the caliber of the barrel was increased to 310 millimeters and its bore made smooth, to fire a dart-like projectile stabilized by fins - known as "Peenemunde Arrow Shell" - with a special propellant charge that granted a maximum range of 151 kilometers. Two exemplars have been preserved of this cannon: one in Cape Gris Nez, in France, and the other in the Aberdeen Proving Ground, in United States.

Country: Germany

Caliber: 280 millimeters

Length of the barrel: 21.53 meters

Total length: 41.24 meters

Weight in battery: 218 tonnes

Elevation sector: From 0 to +50 degrees

Horizontal sector: 2 degrees

Type of the grenade: High explosive

Weight of the grenade: 255.5 kilograms

Muzzle speed: 1128 meters/second

Maximum range: 62.18 kilometers with conventional projectiles


Railway artillery

This is the largest cannon of all times: something that had never been seen and that most likely will not be seen again. This monstrous cannon was transported disassembled into its constituent parts and it required a special set of four railroads installed in the firing emplacement: two for the carriage of the cannon and another two for the assembling cranes. The assembly and disassembly required weeks and the work of about 1200 persons, apart from an anti-aircraft regiment to protect the artillery piece. Originally projected to demolish the fortifications of the Maginot Line, it could not perform this mission because its development and construction were longer than expected, so it was used only in the Eastern Front, against Sevastopol and other fortresses. Two cannons were built, "Gustav" and "Dora", and a third one was being built when the war ended. Since it was not possible to gather the pieces required to assembly a complete cannon, the remains of the three cannons were scrapped.

Country: Germany

Caliber: 800 millimeters

Length of the barrel: 32.48 meters

Total length: 42.97 meters

Weight in battery: 1350 tonnes

Elevation sector: From +10 to +65 degrees

Horizontal sector: 0 degrees

Type of the grenade: High explosive and piercing

Weight of the grenade: 4800 and 7100 kilograms, respectively

Muzzle speed: 820 and 710 meters/second, respectively

Maximum range: 47 and 38 kilometers, respectively

Categories: Artillery - Engineering - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-06-23

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