North African railroads

Discussions on WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean. Hosted by Andy H
JonS
Member
Posts: 3935
Joined: 23 Jul 2004 01:39
Location: New Zealand

Post by JonS » 05 Oct 2006 21:25

Huh. Mersa is quite a lot more substantial than I imagined it to have been.

Thanks
Jon

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Post by Jon G. » 26 Jan 2007 16:31

In a very tentative attempt to set this topic rolling once again, I recently came across a series of very good photos of Tunisian railroads over on the DAK Forum posted by member Nacht.

First pic is for the husars - it shows PAK guns and a half-track at a rail siding in Tunis.

Image

The second image shows a view of Oran harbour:

Image

Both pictures from this thread on the DAK Forum, images posted with Nacht's kind permission. There are more good quality images on the DAK thread, and also a potted history of Tunisia along with an explanation of why the railroads were there in the first place. Unlike Libya, which had no export articles worthy of a rail network, Tunisia has large phosphate deposits, which justified the construction of narrow-gauged railroads in the early 20th century.

Actually, my motive for posting these images is to contrast the more substantial infrastructure of French North Africa compared to Libya - maybe one will get a clearer idea of why the Italians repeatedly tried to get access to the Vichy French ports for their supply convoys...

Edited: 1st photo caption - pic is from Tunis, not Oran.
Last edited by Jon G. on 26 Jan 2007 18:13, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
Bronsky
Member
Posts: 825
Joined: 11 Apr 2003 09:28
Location: Paris

Post by Bronsky » 26 Jan 2007 16:42

Jon G. wrote:Actually, my motive for posting these images is to contrast the more substantial infrastructure of French North Africa compared to Libya - maybe one will get a clearer idea of why the Italians repeatedly tried to get access to the Vichy French ports for their supply convoys...
Tunisian railroad didn't reach all the way to the border with Libya and the French didn't maintain it. The whole point of using Tunisia by the Axis was to evade British convoy interception, which is one reason why most of the traffic took place in the second half of 1941, when Malta was being particularly active.

Some of the cargoes unloaded in Tunis were railed to Sfax and then trucked to Libya, the rest went directly by truck. This was a small railroad net, and it suffered from lack of maintenance during the war. It had also been organized as running in northern Tunisia (the populated part, just like the Tripoli area was where the Italian RR was), as well as from the mines to the port of Gabes farther south. Traffic with Libya was practically nonexistant, hence the lack of a RR connection.

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Post by Jon G. » 26 Jan 2007 17:13

Yes, but the Italians likely would not have been as interested in the Tunisian ports if they had been mere waysteads.Tripolis looks small and sleepy compared to Oran. Gabes to Tripolis is roughly ~300 km, not too much in a North African context, whereas Oran to Tripolis would be 1300+ km, which would have given the Axis the problem of long supply lines (minus air attacks, though) in the other direction. There were no rail lines east of Gabes or west of Tripolis as far as I know.

User avatar
Nacht
Member
Posts: 58
Joined: 26 Jan 2007 16:49
Location: Germantown, TN USA

Photo Magnification and Crop

Post by Nacht » 26 Jan 2007 17:18

Thanks Jon... I hope this helps...

The photo is from this picture actually... not the Oran Harbor pics... see the building signage... but there are several more of the ships unloading directly to rail and more to the discussion of Algerian connections via rail... Tebessa, Algeria was actually a key! Narrow gauge lines versus Standard gauge and the American locomotives shipped to Africa...
Original pic... 70mm AGFA film...
Image

Image

Image

Image

User avatar
Bronsky
Member
Posts: 825
Joined: 11 Apr 2003 09:28
Location: Paris

Post by Bronsky » 26 Jan 2007 17:28

I believe that the port in the picture with the guns is Tunis, not Oran. What makes you think it's Oran? I'm not aware of Axis equipment ever unloading there.

User avatar
Nacht
Member
Posts: 58
Joined: 26 Jan 2007 16:49
Location: Germantown, TN USA

My picture is in Tunis

Post by Nacht » 26 Jan 2007 17:37

Please see the buildings in the picture... my pic is actually from railyard in Tunis... Jon simply mislabeled... we were coresponding via PM... sorry about the confusion... I had told him that the pics were cropped and magnified from the original negative.

Although there actually is a Standard Guage direct rail line into the harbor... crane loads could be directly placed onto flatcars... you might be just able to see it behind the Oil tanks in the Oran picture that Jon presented... there are actually some pics of American Baldwin Locomotive 2-8-0's being offloaded in Oran...

Here is a cropped map showing the Narrow and Standard guage lines in the area... to clear up some confusion about infrastructure... these are pivotal to the discussion of American forces in the northwest and the British in the southeast... effectively trying to move toward each other...

Image
Last edited by Nacht on 26 Jan 2007 19:10, edited 1 time in total.

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Post by Jon G. » 26 Jan 2007 18:20

Sorry for the confusion guys. I've edited the photo captions, above.

Thanks Nacht for joining the forum and posting the pictures. I've always been a sucker for visual aids...:)

User avatar
Nacht
Member
Posts: 58
Joined: 26 Jan 2007 16:49
Location: Germantown, TN USA

NP;;;

Post by Nacht » 26 Jan 2007 19:13

Thanks Jon, I appreciate your efforts!

I was already a member here but with a different "Handle"... just read and do not post... Sorry about that... but will share with you!

You might want to discuss the Tigers in Tunisia as the rail ines are actually the points of pronged attack to slow down and thwart the 'ALLIES' advances...


To find more about the wartime Allied service locomotives...
A nice locomotive source publication... By R. Tourret; ISBN 0-905878-06-X; A4 Hardback; over 300 pages of good quality paper; £29.85 GBP.
During the Second World War, many interesting types of locomotives, both steam and diesel, were built for the British War Department and the United States Army Transportation Corps. These were sent all over the world and many of them remained in service long after the war, sometimes with their exact origin forgotten.

In this book, after some 50 years of research into matters generally held secret at the time, the overall story is presented. It starts in the first Section with general descriptions of the campaigns in the different theatres of war from a railway viewpoint, and then follows in the second and third Sections with Chapters giving the class histories of the various British and American types of locomotives, both Sections starting with a numerical list of the locomotives which give the key to the WD and USA/TC numbering structure. Finally, there are some Chapters dealing with odd topics such as various important military railways.

Contains 372 photographs, 43 drawings and 27 maps as well as many stock lists. See the Table of Contents.

Note that this book includes the content of the out-of-print books United States Army Transportation Corps Locomotives (ISBN 0-905878-01-9) and War Department Locomotives (ISBN 0-905878-00-0).

User avatar
Nacht
Member
Posts: 58
Joined: 26 Jan 2007 16:49
Location: Germantown, TN USA

Post by Nacht » 28 Jan 2007 06:20

Great insight and photographs of the equipment...

USATC Steam Locomotives 1942 - 1947
British government in 1939 formed the Railway Executive Committee (REC) in order to co-ordinate the activities of the various railway companies. Initially, the War Department asked the REC for second-hand locomotives to be used abroad. The following types of locomotive were supplied:

1. Heavy Freight Locomotives.
Heavier locomotives were required for use overseas, so the REC made plans to use the Great Central Railway's design of 2-8-0 which had been built for use in World War One. However, these were old enough to compare unfavourably with types of loco in use at the time. The REC decided that the best was the 2-8-0 (1D) of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (these later became known as Stanier 8Fs, Stanier was the designer and 8F was the power classification). The design was developed as follows:
a. 2-8-0 (1D) Requisitioned from the LMS by the War Department (51 locos). Known as LMS 2-8-0's. Built by LMS Crewe and Vulcan Foundry.
b. 2-8-0 (1D) Small changes, including the fitting of air brakes. Built by North British Locomotive Company, Vulcan Foundry and Beyer Peacock. Delivery began in August 1940. WD numbers 300 to 899 (with gaps). Later renumbered WD 70300 to 70899 (with gaps).
c. 2-8-0 (1D) New design, simpler to build and using available materials. Known as the Austerity 2-8-0 (935 locos). WD numbers 70800 to 70879 and 77000 to 79312 (with gaps). Built by North British Locomotive Company (545 locos) and Vulcan Foundry (390 locos). First engine delivered January 1943.
d. 2-10-0 (1E) Lengthened version of the 2-8-0. Known as the Austerity 2-10-0 (150 locos). WD numbers 73650 to 73799. Built by North British Locomotive Company. First locomotive delivered December 1943.
16 of the 2-10-0 (1E) locomotives which had been used in the Middle East were sold to Greece after the war as class Lb (Lamda - Beta) on Hellenic State Railways (SEK), with running numbers 951 to 966.

2. Shunting Locomotives.
More shunting locomotives, known as switchers in America, needed to be built. The REC looked at two designs: the LMS 0-6-0T (Ct) of the type known as Jinty and the 50550 type of 0-6-0ST made by the Hunslet Engine Company. They decided that something similar to the 50550 class would be best for the job, and so the Austerity 0-6-0ST (Ct) locomotive was born. They were made by: W.G.Bagnall, Andrew Barclay, Hudswell Clarke, Hunslet Engine Company, Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns, and Vulcan Foundry.
The Austerity 0-6-0ST (Ct) locomotives were given WD numbers from 5000 upwards, later having 70000 added, so the number series became 75000 to 75331. There were also internal combustion locos: 0-4-0 ic. (B) Built by Drewery / Vulcan Foundry and 0-6-0 ic. (C) Built for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.

3. American Locomotives (USATC)
Sometimes the WD used locomotives which the United States Army Transportation Corps (USATC) had brought with them. These were of four main types:
a. 2-8-0 (1D). Built by Alco, Lima and Baldwin. After the war some of these became Greek State Railways (SEK) class THg (Theta - Gama), running numbers 521 to 595.
2. 2-8-2 (1D1) Built in the USA. Type known as MacArthur
c. 0-6-0T (Ct) Built by Davenport, Vulcan Iron Works and H.K.Porter. After the war some of these became Greek State Railways (SEK), class Da (Delta - Alfa), running numbers 51 to 70.
d. Bo-Bo Built by Whitcomb.

User avatar
David W
Member
Posts: 3489
Joined: 28 Mar 2004 01:30
Location: Devon, England

Post by David W » 28 Jan 2007 11:03

Hello all.

Slightly off topic, as you are now discussing railroads in Tunisia. But,one thing about the railroad in Egypt/Libya, built by the New Zealanders, that I have never understood, or had satisfactorily explained to me; is how it gets down the escarpment? Maps I have, show the decent as taking place roughly at Baheira.

User avatar
Nacht
Member
Posts: 58
Joined: 26 Jan 2007 16:49
Location: Germantown, TN USA

Locos, Sand & NZ engineers

Post by Nacht » 28 Jan 2007 14:13

My friend "D"...

Loco Engines have sand for the brakes! Just being funny... I think that I have the NZ Engineers geo grading plan for the rail lines constructed by them in NA... did I not already pass that link along to snag them for yourself? These are the maps that I privately reference that I always get coffee on trying to follow your informed discussions!

User avatar
David W
Member
Posts: 3489
Joined: 28 Mar 2004 01:30
Location: Devon, England

Post by David W » 28 Jan 2007 15:38

"N"
I think that I have the NZ Engineers geo grading plan for the rail lines constructed by them in NA... did I not already pass that link along to snag them for yourself?
I don't think so.

If you did, it was amongst a load of other stuff, & Imissed it.

David.

User avatar
Nacht
Member
Posts: 58
Joined: 26 Jan 2007 16:49
Location: Germantown, TN USA

Rail lines... NA

Post by Nacht » 28 Jan 2007 20:49

David...
I have large versions of these maps...
Image

I know that you use these reference books...
New Zealand Engineers, Middle East, Joseph F. Cody, Historical Publications Branch, 1961, Wellington, NZ
http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2Engr-c6-1.html

'Petrol Company' describes rail and transport... or the lack of it and their bulldozers!
Petrol Company, A. L. Kidson, Historical Publications Branch, 1961, Wellington, NZ

http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2Petr-c14.html

What many may not know here about the NZ in the war as combatants...
http://www.teara.govt.nz/1966/W/WarsSec ... TheArmy/en

A historical footnote for FYI... British Empire... building...
http://www.britishempire.co.uk/science/ ... ilways.htm

User avatar
David W
Member
Posts: 3489
Joined: 28 Mar 2004 01:30
Location: Devon, England

Post by David W » 28 Jan 2007 20:56

Looks like the railroad must take one of those 1st class routes marked on your map.

It would be interesting to see what the slope looked like in a photo. A maximumm gradient of 1/10 was the locomotive limit I believe.

Return to “WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean”