A unique record of British 60cm gauge railways on the Western Front, March 1918
Compiled by Roy C Link
Published by RCL Publications
256 pages, hard cover, landscape format 280mm x 215mm, over 212 photographs, 12 modellers’ scale drawings, 71 drawings, diagrams and plans
THE 60cm GAUGE LIGHT RAILWAYS of the Great War (1914-1918) continue to exercise a fascination almost a century after their creation. Both the Allies (Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy and later the USA) and the Central Powers (Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire) employed narrow gauge railways for the tactical re-supply of troops in forward areas. Whilst the French and to an extent the Germans sometimes used existing light railways, the lightly built 60cm gauge lines of the British forces were unique in their concept, origins and execution.
The development of the ‘War Department Light Railways’ (WDLR) – their official collective title was different from anything which happened before or since their inception. Never previously had any group, business or government department organised a new railway network (of any gauge) on such a grand scale and at such short notice. A most important point about the concept of the WDLR is that its birth came about during a brief ‘window of opportunity’, following the successful development of small internal combustion powered locomotives but before the perfection of the robust ‘cross-country’ pneumatic tyre. Within a decade, the all-wheel-drive, pneumatic tyred, i/c engined road truck would enter military service, at a stroke rendering the light railways obsolete whilst tracked armoured fighting vehicles (both tanks and self-propelled artillery) would restore mobility to the wider battlefield.
This is a remarkable book, with numerous full page photographs, which have been reproduced beautifully. The contents list is:
Introduction – Military background: The Munitions Crisis of 1916: Development of the WDLR: Origins of this Album
1. Making Tracks – Development: Track: Types used: Tracklaying: Construction & Maintenance
2. Supplying the Front – Development: Traffic Volume: Operating: Description of Traffic: Light Railways Left Behind
3. Feeding & Moving the Guns – Ammunition Railheads & Dumps: Systems Connected: Carriage of Guns
4. Rescuing the Wounded – Royal Army Medical Corps: Stretcher Cases & Transport by Rail
5. Maintaining the System – Central Light Railway Workshops: Vox Vrie Yard: Workshop Train: 60cm Cranes
6. Locomotives & Tractors – Steam Locomotives: Internal Combustions: Petrol Electrics: Crewe Tractor
7. Rolling Stock – Four-Wheel and Bogie Wagons: Ambulance Vans: Workshop Train
Appendices: Diagrams & Tables: Processing the Album Photographs: A Train of Events – WW1 timeline