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Railroads and War
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   Author  Topic: Railroads and War  (Read 129 times)
Les_Shepherd
Historian
Posts: 424
Railroads and War
 
« on: Jan 14th, 2015, 12:22am »
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The first occasion when railroads featured in warfare was during the American Civil War. They featured again during the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902), although little has been written about this. Railroads were vital in supplying the front lines in Flanders during the 1st World War. There has been only spasmodic writings about this also.
 
The first train to come under attack during the 1st World War occurred on New Year's Day 1915. Surprisingly, and amazingly, this did not occur in Europe, but as far away and in as remote a location as could be imagined. It was on the outskirts of the city of Broken Hill in western New South Wales.
 
Broken Hill is a mining city some 700 miles west from Sydney and near to the state border with South Australia. On New Year's Day 1915 the usual community picnic had been arranged to occur at Silverton, another mining community some 20  miles west of Broken Hill. Two special trains were organised to carry participants there and back. The 2nd train departed Broken Hill at 10.00am. It carried some 1200 people, (men, women & children), loaded into 40 open waggons normally used to carry ore. Temporary bench seats had been installed. On the outskirts of the city the train came under attack from 2 Afghans. They were lying in ambush; were armed with rifles; and flying a Turkish national flag. They claimed they were defending the Sultan.
 
When the shooting started the passengers had no cover other than to lay down in the waggons. Three hours later it was all over. There were 3 dead passengers plus the 2 Afghans and 8 wounded including  a Police officer.
 
It must be remembered that the season was mid-summer and in very dry desert country. A cloudless sky and temperatures in the mid 90's made for a difficult time for the passengers. Subsequently there were social repercussions in the city including a crowd burning down the German Social Club. Police prevented the crowd from attacking the Afghan village.
 
There is varying evidence that the 2 Afghans had felt discriminated against both socially and officially for some of their islamic practices. At that time racial expressions and discriminations were widespread and some were institutionalised in Australia.
 
The sites of the events are marked at Broken Hill and can be easily visited. The train locomotive has survived and is at the National Railway Museum at Port Adelaide. There are also photographs in existence of the events and aftermath.
 
FOOTNOTE:
The practice of seeking to avenge perceived wrongs against the person; or causing offence against islam and the prophet; are not a recent phenomenon. They clearly existed 100 years ago and I would expect that research would show that they existed 1000 years ago also.


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HwyHaulier
Historian
Posts: 3433
Re: Railroads and War
 
« Reply #1 on: Jan 14th, 2015, 10:58am »
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Les - Lodge Members -  
 
Fascinating insights! Long view of today's headlines...
 
In US History, perhaps it had much to do with national immigration policies, and recall of the Steamship Liner services.  
Many of the schedules, calling New York and other US Ports, were between North Europe and Med Ports; linking New  
York, East Coast range, and Texas. On the US West Coast, established routes between Pacific Basin; and US Ports.  
Or, likely few services between Middle East and US.
 
Here, you recall a long ago time. It still remains the same. These days, any airline will write a ticket between any two  
points in the World...
 
................................Vern.............................
 


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George_Harris
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Posts: 3802
Re: Railroads and War
 
« Reply #2 on: Jan 14th, 2015, 9:01pm »
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You mention the American Civil War, or the War Between the States as quite a few of us prefer to call it:  The significant disparity mileage of railroad in addition to the 3 to 1 advantage in manpower, major advantages in industrial capacity and the virtually complete freedom of the northern railroads from military action damage had a lot to do with the ultimate outcome of the war.  An railroad movement worth mentioning:  The submarine Hunley was originally supposed to go in the water in Mobile.  After Yankee action made that inadvisable, the sub was hauled by rail from Mobile to Virginia and put in the water there to become the first submarine to sink a ship.

« Last Edit: Jan 14th, 2015, 9:03pm by George_Harris » Logged
HwyHaulier
Historian
Posts: 3433
Re: Railroads and War
 
« Reply #3 on: Jan 15th, 2015, 9:02am »
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George - Les - Lodge Members -  
 
Sad history is: And, then the Hunley itself went down with all hands!
 
Your writer's work at SOUTHERN (SRS) recalled. There, it was better referred to as, "Lincoln's War Of Northern Aggression".  
Around its HQ Building, the "Corporate Culture" with a maxim it had never received any Notice of cessation of hostilities.  
The charade at Appomatox was beyond any justification...
 
Also, Revenue Accounting folks were unhappy. They had a pile of bills for transportation for services on the old Richmond &  
Danville line. The Railroad should have sent them to a Collection Agency?
 
............................Vern..........................


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ClydeDET
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Posts: 4783
Re: Railroads and War
 
« Reply #4 on: Jan 16th, 2015, 8:30pm »
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on Jan 15th, 2015, 9:02am, HwyHaulier wrote:       (Click here for original message)
George - Les - Lodge Members -  
 
Sad history is: And, then the Hunley itself went down with all hands!
 
Your writer's work at SOUTHERN (SRS) recalled. There, it was better referred to as, "Lincoln's War Of Northern Aggression".  
Around its HQ Building, the "Corporate Culture" with a maxim it had never received any Notice of cessation of hostilities.  
The charade at Appomatox was beyond any justification...
 
Also, Revenue Accounting folks were unhappy. They had a pile of bills for transportation for services on the old Richmond &  
Danville line. The Railroad should have sent them to a Collection Agency?
 
............................Vern..........................

 
Actuallyt, the Hunley sank three times, twice under test and finally after its first operation when it sank USS Housatonic. Total crew losses 9including the inventor0 each time.
 
I believe the actual first military use of railroads was the Crimean War. Movement of troops and supplies to ports of embarkation in Britain and France, and then a railroad in theater from the harbor used by the British to the siege lines at Sevastopol.


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Les_Shepherd
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Posts: 424
Re: Railroads and War
 
« Reply #5 on: Jan 17th, 2015, 6:40am »
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In my reading I have found very little about railroads in UK and the Crimean War. Certainly I recall seeing reference to the Great Western Railway keeping a locomotive and carriage on standby at Paddington to carry despatches to Plymouth.
 
Crimea was 1853/1855. UK railroads were still in early development. Certainly mainlines were in operation between London and Southampton, Plymouth and Dover but so far as I know they were not used extensively for troop or supply movements. In France the railroads had not yet reached Calais or Bolougne.  Compared to later years travel times were long and speeds were slow. The direct lines between London & Scotland were not completed until 1858 & 1862 for the west coast & east coast routes respectively. When racing broke out in 1888 it was taking over 10 hours for the through journeys. On this basis, the railroads would not have been a speedy and efficient transport means in 1853.
 
That railroads can be a handicap in war was shown in Australia during the 2nd World War. The breaks of gauge alone were enough to almost bring about a military defeat. The problems of transhipping were horrendous.
 


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ClydeDET
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Re: Railroads and War
 
« Reply #6 on: Jan 17th, 2015, 2:57pm »
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on Jan 17th, 2015, 6:40am, Les_Shepherd wrote:       (Click here for original message)
In my reading I have found very little about railroads in UK and the Crimean War. Certainly I recall seeing reference to the Great Western Railway keeping a locomotive and carriage on standby at Paddington to carry despatches to Plymouth.
 
Crimea was 1853/1855. UK railroads were still in early development. Certainly mainlines were in operation between London and Southampton, Plymouth and Dover but so far as I know they were not used extensively for troop or supply movements. In France the railroads had not yet reached Calais or Bolougne.  Compared to later years travel times were long and speeds were slow. The direct lines between London & Scotland were not completed until 1858 & 1862 for the west coast & east coast routes respectively. When racing broke out in 1888 it was taking over 10 hours for the through journeys. On this basis, the railroads would not have been a speedy and efficient transport means in 1853.
 
That railroads can be a handicap in war was shown in Australia during the 2nd World War. The breaks of gauge alone were enough to almost bring about a military defeat. The problems of transhipping were horrendous.
 

 
I don't think there was a highly organized effort for the Crimean War in Britain or France, but it is my understanding they saw use in getting things where needed.
 
The gauge-break thing was a problem, and a serious one, for the South in the ACW. A bigger one was refusal to interchange cars between roads even where there wasn't a gauge break. Something the Russians recognized, which had a lot of impact on their choice of 5 foot gauge instead of standard gauge. Never occurred to me to think of its impact in Australia in War Two, even though i know most of the States made different choices and had to either change trucks or transload at borders.


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