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"Employment of Armoured Trains in the Russian Civil War" Topic

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stephen m18 Oct 2018 5:29 p.m. PST

Not rules related exactly but looking for information, links to sites or threads, or books. I am curious about the employment and effectiveness of armoured trains in the Russian Civil War.

I understand the attractiveness, even have one in 6mm myself. The dreadnought of the land or early 20th century O.G.R.E.s. Having watched Lawrence of Arabia many times I wonder how they managed to survive and how they were used. To my mind the primary weakness is the rails, seeming easily to cut or blow a bridge over a river. Time it so the train is still moving at or near the cut or bridge and now the train is off the rails, in the drink or worse. As I see it here are some possible ways armoured trains could survive.

The railroads are so important to both sides no one dares damage them too much. Sure block travel but don't break it so it can't be fixed.

Demolitions and experts to perform such tasks were so rare as to be little concern.

The trains moved so slowly they had time and space to react before they ran off the rails. If this is the case then other than use as slightly mobile pill boxes or 24 hour a day "marches" I see little use for armoured trains. Why not just use regular trains? This option would also allow the use of screening forces, say cavalry scouts riding ahead of the train ready to trot back to the train if opposition is discovered. Again you are reducing the mobility of the trains and now the number of troops, and animals, is a burden on the supplies the train is required to support.

They only worked behind friendly lines. Since the RCW like most 20th century wars were so very fluid I don't see this as a reason. If so what use would they be militarily? Mobile terror platforms keeping the locals under your thumb, much like in Dr. Zhivago? Slaughter a town you suspect of aiding the enemy as a warning to others on the right of way. Sounds suitably communistic but a regular train full of soldiers could do the same job.

They were so big and powerful they were the 1920s incarnation of the O.G.R.E. If they had hundreds to thousand of troops they could be truly mobile divisions. With those numbers of workers and carrying sufficient repair supplies you could fix anything short of a destroyed major river crossing within a week. You could also fight off very concentrated attacks. But then you are putting "all your eggs in one basket" and stripping forces which may be needed elsewhere.

Am I missing something? There seems to have been a number (approaching 100?) built during the RCW so if the idea was not valid or tactics were worked up to counter them I expect to see them die off. Instead every country in Europe seems to have developed them and utilized them in the next big punch up. If you have an answer please tell us. If you have some suggested reading, or web sites or threads which address this please post links. Thank you.

Mark Plant18 Oct 2018 7:36 p.m. PST

Be careful not to lump all "armoured trains" as if they were one thing. They didn't all fulfil the same roles.

Few were very heavily armoured, with most just having some armour around the gun and MG platforms. They rarely ventured very far forward, because they were far too vulnerable, although they did if the situation demanded it.

The reason the RCW is littered with them is that it is an mix of vast spaces, low troop densities, poor communication, worse supply and uncertain rear areas.

Mostly they were artillery platforms. They could carry their own supply in an era when supply was everything.

They could carry elite troops to where they were needed quickly. They could carry the generals to the front where they were needed (senior generals often had their own trains).

They were difficult to ambush (most had dummy carriages up front to trigger mines). Torn up rails could halt them, but they carried their own repair kits.

They were simply transport (for the Czechs, for example). It only makes sense to armour them, whether you expect to see much action or not.

jurgenation Supporting Member of TMP19 Oct 2018 4:00 a.m. PST

I agree with Mark

Barin119 Oct 2018 4:43 a.m. PST

There's a lot of materials in Russian on the subject. Not sure what Google translate will do with the text, but you can try…
Interesting that this article echoes a lot of thoughts from our thread.
AT of White Army:
AT of Red Army link

There's an e-book on White Army AT link

Another informative page:

Legion 419 Oct 2018 1:54 p.m. PST

Yep I too agree with Mark … Transport for troops, i.e. a train can move faster than troops can walk as well as move them in large numbers. And it could move supplies and equipment. Or were weapons platforms …

catavar19 Oct 2018 6:11 p.m. PST

In a large country, with poor roads and few aircraft, trains seem like a logical means of transport to me. They could cover a lot of ground relatively quickly while lugging their own artillery. Group several trains together and you could have quite a bit of firepower I think.

Also, in a country with a cool climate they could carry troops, horses, ammunition and observation balloons while also providing necessary shelter. Even if used only to protect supply lines what commander wouldn't want one?

stephen m20 Oct 2018 7:05 p.m. PST

Here is my best interpretation of the replies I have received so far. I posted the same query on The Miniatures Page, The Wargames Website, The Lead Adventure Forum and Perfect Captain's Yahoo group. This is a distillation with much coming from a reply on TLAF.

Due to the poor roads and vast distances rail was the best and many times only way to move. The heavy trains were used as mobile artillery batteries as artillery was limited, hard to move and had limited ammo available. There were utilized behind the lines and relatively safe as counter battery fire as few and far between and ineffective unless a direct hit could be achieved.

Lighter armoured trains were used at the front. Equipped with fewer guns and proceeded by a number of lighter weight cars ahead of the engine which were intended to take the brunt of any damage to the rails. They also carried supplies and sufficient troops to perform repairs as needed to the railroad. Their use was still primarily fire support and mobile reserve. They moved cautiously and were subject to capture and reuse by their new owners. They carried units of troops as highly mobile shock units.

Sometimes armoured trains on parallel or close tracks engaged in gun duels.

Many unarmored trains existed for transporting troops as mobile reserves.


Armored Trains by Steven Zaloga (Osprey Publications)
Armoured Trains An Illustrated Encyclopedia 1825-2016, by Paul Malmassari
Armoured Train: Its Development and Usage; Balfour, G

A discussion I have yet to get into;


A site with a discussion of the Czech Legion and their use of the trains to escape the RCW;


Finally some sites in Russian. If you can read it great, if not maybe Google translate will not screw it up too much to not be useful.


So mostly it appears my initial thoughts were valid. Now to turn some of this into gameable scenarios. Still very open to more links, thoughts and ideas. Thank you all for your assistance thus far.

Personal logo chicklewis Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2018 5:52 a.m. PST

Very nice summary. Thanks for posting it.

stephen m27 Oct 2018 6:13 p.m. PST

My assumptions are not as valid as I thought. Please see this thread;


Tango0112 Apr 2021 4:11 p.m. PST

Good pictures here….


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