“ Narrow Gauge Railways of World War One “ - Phil Robinson ZOOM
Narrow Gauge Railways of World War One
The story of the light railways used in WW1 does not start in 1914, it starts with the inception of railways in Europe, and its seeds were in the Franco Prussian war of 1870-71 in which France saw the loss of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. The rise of the German Empire from the middle of the 19th Century to 1918 saw military reliance on light railways increase, albeit only with France and Germany of the three main protagonists from the Western Front. One key player in France was Captain Prosper Péchot, who played a pivotal role in the French adoption of military light railways as a result of his personal experiences during the Franco Prussian War. He developed the technology for military purposes to a high degree, with light railways proliferating in the French eastern border fortresses, military depots, and military strategic planning, with expansion in Morocco in the early years of the 20th Century. The French use of light railways reached a peak usage during WW1, tailing off through the middle 20th Century as road transport became more sophisticated. The British Army was quite late in its adoption of light railways, starting only in late 1915, prompted partly by the Shell Scandal of mid-1915, but ultimately saw some thousands of miles of light railway put into use for supplies to the Western Front until the Armistice of November 1918. Thereafter, the British Army moved its thinking firmly towards road transport, disposing of virtually all of its reserve of light railways, retaining such lines only in fixed installations such as armaments depots and artillery ranges.
This talk charts the rise of light railways from the 1870s to 1918, and looks at some of the uses in the post-war Britain and France.