Eisenbahntruppen – Railway troops

Railway models in most wargames are restricted to a role as objectives, or perhaps the appearance of an armoured train tortuously worked into the scenario because the owner bought one of those nice Peter Pig models. Strategically and operationally though, railways came into their own in the east over distances of 200 miles or so, where their ability to move tonnages of stores were in the order of :

1600 lorries were needed to equal the capacity of just one double tracked railway line“.

van Crefeld (1976) Supplying war – Chapter 5 – Russian Roulette p.143, (which chapter  is the source for most of the following post.)

Grosstransportraum, the German body of trucks operating between railheads and the rear echelons of the fighting formations’ own organic transport (Kleinkollonenraum), would allow the army groups to penetrate 300 miles into the Soviet Union. The Germans planned to advance 500 miles into the Soviet Union, bridging the gap with handkoffer, or containerised fuel carried by the army groups themselves. To make up for a shortfall in motor transport for the Kleinkollonen, captured French and Allied transport was used until it became unservicable.

The Wehrmacht’s problems were compounded by poor or absent roads and Soviet railways that were of lighter gauge and had trains that thrived on poorer coal than the German ones, so it was not just a simple matter of resetting the rails and using captured Russian coal. To add insult to injury, when the freezing weather came, the heavier German trains had exposed steam pipes that ruptured if left standing

So in NQM terms, every army group has at least one railhead with a Grosstransport column linking it to the rear area of the army group. Due to the usual space constraints these usually only ever appear in big multiplayer games. You can see one here behind Moscow :

The railhead can be seen at the far left end of the railway, on the table edge

The flow of ammunition (combat units, or CUs) and fuel (POL) between the railhead and fighting formations is usually only modelled in solo games or larger multiplayer games, where a willing participant can be found.

The logistic game either interests you, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t then there is no pleasure to be had from slogging through a book-keeping exercise that slows down the game and adds no enjoyment to the gaming experience. If you are prepared to foray into the black art of logistics, however, then it gives a deeper understanding of why so often armies appeared to stop when any fool could see that a few more miles would have given a victory.



Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Logistics, Modelling, Orbats, Trucks, WWII

5 responses to “Eisenbahntruppen – Railway troops

  1. Mike

    While I agree with you about logistics, I’m normally pretty guilty about including them in my games. I hope to correct that when I begin my Eastern front gaming with Pico miniatures, they are so tiny I plan on getting brigades, divisions, maybe even two corps on my tabletop.

    I got a question about some of those advancing German troops in the photo you include, is that one HQ car flying the black flag of no quarter? It might suit some German formations in that war (SS, etc).


    • Hi Mike,

      The car is a divisional commander flying a black electrician’s tape flag of “I really ought to paint it some day” :O)

      At one stage, I was painting the undersides of bases of all the troops in one box with the same colour base. Tim Gow still does I think, mostly because he’s better organised than I am. That division all had black bases and a black flag. I stopped painting bases when I realised that nothing ever stayed in the same box for long enough to make it worthwhile. The big advantage of painted bases is that, after a multiplayer game when all the stuff is being packed away again, most of it goes into the right box.

      Regards, Chris.


  2. As the old sayings goes : amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics…this is probably why I enjoy campaign games over the one off tactical fights. There is so much more to them that I find personally enjoyable.


  3. Mike

    Ahhh, I wondered why the bases are several colors, I figured you had bought the stuff from various folks over the years and didn’t feel you needed to rebase or repaint.

    Interesting way to organize though.

    I’m doing unit labels on the bases themselves.

    Oh, and Happy Holidays!


    • Half right Mike :O),

      They have been acquired over several years, But moved around numerous times between boxes and campaigns, so they look a bit like your sock drawer after a drunken night out – disorganised. Unit labels on the bases is definitely the way to go, and I salute anyone who is disciplined enough to do it that way.

      I rather enjoy the way that a unit starts off homogenous when I paint it , but acquires attachments and loses detachments over the years. The veterans in my armies are identifiable by the several layers of paint that encrust them as time goes by. I keep telling myself that I will rebase when the lead mountain is painted :O)

      Merry Christmas, Chris


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