COASTAL ARTILLERY 4:

 

Railway Guns

 

 

By definition railway gun is a large caliber artillery piece installed on railway car. While railway guns are now considered obsolete, in their time they were quite common because for quite some time railway was basically the only way to effectively transport super-heavy artillery pieces on land. First improvised railway guns were introduced during US Civil War, but the railway guns only really got popular during World War 1, when western front with its trench warfare created need for super-heavy artillery. The countries involved possessed existing heavy and super-heavy coastal cannons on fixed mounts, which were now installed on railway cars to make them mobile – resulting design which de facto became the standard for railway guns since. Success of railway guns continued until end of World War 2, although development of aircraft and rocket artillery were rapidly turning them obsolete already at that time.

World War 2 was also the heyday of railway artillery in use of Finnish military. Like in many other countries, Finnish railway artillery units were officially part of coastal artillery, which in turn was belonged to Navy. Such as Finnish coastal artillery in general, during World War 2 also Finnish railway artillery batteries actually fired much larger number of shells to land targets than towards ships. Three Finnish railway artillery batteries existed during World War 2 – one of them both during Winter War (11/1939 – 3/1940) and Continuation War (6/1941 – 9/1944) and the other two only during Continuation War. The most long-lived of three railway artillery batteries operated Finnish-built 152/45 CRaut railway guns, while the other two batteries were equipped with captured Soviet 180/57 NRaut and 305/52 ORaut railway guns. The three railway guns represented three completely separate size groups of railway guns and technical solutions. One of these railway artillery batteries saw extensive combat use, the second notably less and the third one basically not at all. The reasons for this are more or less evident and told below.

Finnish railway artillery units of World War 2:

Railway gun

Military unit to which the guns were issued:

model:

Winter War:

Continuation War:

152/45 Craut

Railway Artillery Battery

2nd Railway Artillery Battery (*)

180/57 Nraut

-

1st Railway Artillery Battery

305/52 Oraut

-

3rd Railway Artillery Battery

(*) This unit entered Continuation War as Railway Artillery Battery. 21st of July 1941 it was renamed as 2nd Railway Artillery Battery and used that name for rest of the war.

 

 

152/45 CRaut

PICTURE: 152/45 CRaut railway gun in Uuksu in July of 1943. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 134444). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (151 KB).

Caliber:

 

152.4 mm x ? (*)

Barrel length:

 

685.8 cm aka L/45.1

Rate of fire:

 

depending source either: (**)

 

 

- 8 shots/min (max theoretical) / 6 shots/min (practical)

 

 

- 5 shots/min (maximum) / 4 shots/min (practical)

Weight in action:

 

46 tons or 52.7 tons or 53 tons (***)

Muzzle velocity:

 

607 - 830 m/sec

Traverse:

 

360 degrees

Elevation:

 

- 2 (or -3) degrees, + 39 (or +40 or +50) degrees (****)

Max. range:

 

20 km

Gun crew:

 

10 - 12 men

Ammunition weight:

 

41.5 kg (HE)

Ammunition types:

 

HE, APHE, shrapnel, (star shell)

Country of origin:

 

Russia + Finland (*****)

(*) There were three existing ammunition chamber versions for 152/45 C gun and no info which version was used in those guns that were used for 152/45 CRaut railway guns. 152.4 x 1090 R, 152.4 x 1116 R and 152.4 mm x 965 R. What is known is that the ammunition used in these railway guns was of fixed type.

(**) Depending source.

(***)Weight seems to be have depended on how individual 152/45 CRaut railway gun was equipped at that time. Weight of just the gun and its gun shield depending source either 17.7 tons or 19.4 tons.

(****) Three possible options from three sources. Could have again varied slightly from one individual gun another, which seems highly likely considering gun mounts use on all four 152/45 CRaut were not identical, or could (also) suggest that the guns went through improvements in this regard during the war.

(*****) French-designed naval/coastal gun manufactured in Russia used to equip Finnish-designed railway gun. The gun was installed on Finnish-designed and built flatcar.

Finnish use: Finnish-designed railway gun equipped with 152/45 C coastal gun. Single railway gun was built in 1920’s and three additional guns around 1940 – 1941. The four guns saw extensive use with Finnish military during World War 2.

The idea behind Finnish military acquiring its first railway gun originated from two military officers who had been sent to study in Italy. Those two officers who studied in Turin Military Academy of Artillery (Accademia Militare d’Artigleria e Genio) were Eino Iisakki Järvinen and Johan "Jussi" Lambert Rikama (originally: Johan Lambert Rikman). Rikama, who had been transferred to coastal artillery in 1920 studied there in 1923 – 1926, while Järvinen’s studies took place in 1921 – 1925. During their stay in Italy they got familiar with Italian railway guns and their use as mobile coastal artillery. It did not probably harm that during their stay in Italy Järvinen and Rikama also met Colonel Aarne Sihvo. Sihvo was studying in Italian Military Academy (Scuola di Guerra) in 1923 – 1925, was promoted as Major-General right after it (at age 36) and became Commander of Finnish Armed Forces for 1926 – 1933.

Until that time Finnish military had no experience about railway guns. Järvinen’s and Rikama’s ideas resulted into constructing of first 152/45 CRaut railway gun, building of which was apparently completed in year 1924. This railway gun had 152/45 C coastal gun installed with top carriage traversing gun mount on flatcar specifically designed and built for the purpose. The exact version of gun mount use for the gun was naval gun mount with additional structure added below it to allow larger maximum elevation. There seems to have been more than one exact structural design used for this additional structure – feature likely explained by these railway guns being built one or two at the time over long period of time. Some of the period photos also show that at most of the war two of these four railway guns were equipped with gun shields and they also show other obvious structural differences. It is also possible that they were further modified in some degree during overhauls performed during Continuation War. The flatcar had folding side platforms, which when folded down provided spacious working space for gun crew and when folded up provided some protection for the gun’s breech area and instruments in there. Railway cars built for these guns also seem to have existed in two distinct versions - one of which had four axles and another one which had eight. The gun had 360-degree sector of fire and since it had had its own recoil system it utilized cradle recoil system and track platform anchorage system with four outriggers, which allowed setting up the gun in almost any part of railway lines with only minimum need to prepare the site in beforehand. Although the anchorage system required a track section to have enough solid ground on side of tracks for the side platforms to work as intended. The railway gun was test-fired in March of 1924 and proved so successful, that one committee suggested acquiring as many as seven additional railway guns of this type. But ultimately due to limited finances the number of additional 152/45 CRaut railway guns was first reduced to just one gun and ultimately even its acquisition was cancelled. Hence in 1920’s and 1930’s Finnish Army had only one railway gun, which had been introduced in year 1924. Even then the single railway gun succeeded to make far-reaching impact and play key role in technical development of Finnish coastal artillery in 1920’s and 1930’s. That was because at that time 152/45 CRaut railway gun served as a test-bed on which improvements intended for 152/45 C coastal guns were first tested, among other things testing done with it resulted all 152/45 C guns in Finnish use being inverted on their gun carriages, which considerably increased their maximum range.

 

RAILWAY ARTILLERY BATTERY OF WINTER WAR

Hence when Finnish – Soviet Winter War started in November of 1939, single 152/45 CRaut railway gun was the only piece of railway artillery in Finnish inventory. Being they only unit of its type in Finnish Armed Forces the unit operating the gun was simply named as Railway Artillery Battery (Rautatiepatteri), while its codename (introduced 26th of January 1940) was "Akseli". During Winter War the unit fought in region of Pitkäranta near northern shore of Lake Laatokka part of front for which Finnish Army had basically no heavy artillery to spare. When Winter War started in 30th of November 1939 the unit had 3 officers, 23 NCO, 77 rank-and-file soldiers and 6 men belonging to railway personnel. Besides the single 152/45 CRaut railway gun early on its heavy weapons included only two machineguns, which were used as anti-aircraft machineguns. Quite soon it became clear that just two rifle-caliber anti-aircraft machineguns and time-fused 152-mm high explosive shells were insufficient to provide it effective defense from Soviet aircraft. Hence 9th of December the unit received anti-aircraft gun and gun crew for it, but war journal suggests that the gun (presumably 37-mm Maxim automatic cannon) proved unreliable and did not see any actual later use, which left Railway Artillery Battery with only machineguns for air-defense for rest of the war.

PICTURE: Map showing area of operations and locations mentioned in this page for Railway Artillery Battery during Winter War. Islands of Mantsi and Valamo each had coastal artillery battery equipped with 152/45 C coastal guns. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (189 KB).

Railway Artillery Battery fired its first 152-mm shells in combat from Pitkäranta Railway Station 5th of December 1939, which was also the day it was first time targeted by Soviet aircraft and suffered its first losses. During the war besides being target of countless air raids it was also shelled by Soviet artillery a few times, but suffered no losses from artillery fire. This unit operate on section of railway north of Lake Ladoga repeatedly changing its base of operations from place to another to avoid becoming easy target. Early on it had bases in Koirinoja, Läskelä, Impilä and Kytösyrjä railway stations, from which Läskelä was at that time often used as support base. By early February of 1940 it had no less than nine alternative fire positions, which its railway gun used for shelling targets and separate base where the railway returned after completing its fire missions, while its camouflaged train remained further back. The unit used fire positions 1 – 4 were first to support Finnish troops in battles of Pitkäranta – Kitelä area from starting of war to until 23rd of January. Then Railway Artillery Battery was transferred to another section of railway on which it had fire positions 5 – 8, from which it supported Finnish troops in Kollaa front until being transferred back to its earlier area of operations in 31st of January, after which the unit returned in using of its old fire positions.

Those nine alternative fire positions were:

(Notice: Number of fire position indicates the succession in which these positions were originally first employed).

For whole duration of Winter War the Soviets enjoyed obvious air supremacy and had far more artillery firepower than the Finns, so Railway Artillery Battery adjusted to that by usually firing only few shells at the time and repeatedly changed its fire position. Even if this unit belonged to coastal artillery (which was part of Navy) during Winter War it was quite exclusively used against land targets only. Typical targets that Railway Artillery Battery shelled with its 152-mm railway gun included spotted enemy troops, tank units, supply columns, artillery batteries, buildings which enemy was suspected to be using, suspected command posts, suspected forward observation posts etc. Starting from end of December Railway Artillery Battery in addition of its usual fire missions also routinely shot harassing fire on early hours of the day to pre-selected targets, for which it had a prepared list. Typical targets for harassing fire were enemy supply roads and suspected areas of accommodation. In general early in the war the artillery battery usually shelled enemy targets located in the frontlines in mainland, enemy supply roads and mottis, to which enemy units had been encircled. After its return to earlier area of operations in end of January railway artillery battery ever more frequently found itself shelling islands of northern Lake Ladoga, which the enemy was trying to capture to open a supply road over ice to great motti of Kitelä, which was the largest motti in the region.

Due to being only mobile long range artillery piece of Finnish military in Pitkäranta region lone 152/45 CRaut railway gun saw so much use, that forward observation units had to be ordered when possible to use other artillery resources, since there was real danger of Railway Artillery Battery running out of ammunition. Yet the heavy use of railway gun took its toll. 7th of January 1940 gun barrel of 152/45 CRaut ruptured. The manner in which it ruptured suggested that the worn gun barrel was too worn out to survive stress caused by cold weather combined with somewhat overly powerful propellant charges that Finnish artillery was at that time using with its 152-mm Canet guns. By the time this happened the gun had fired total 410 shells. Luckily for the gun crew rupturing of barrel did not cause any casualties. The railway gun was sent to Helsinki for repairs and was returned to Railway Artillery Battery in 11th of January 1940. During Winter War decision was made to build 2nd 152/45 CRaut railway gun, but long waited 2nd railway gun did not arrive until 11th of March - only two days before ending of Winter War.

In addition of enemy air raids during the war Railway Artillery Battery had problems with signal equipment (telephone connections), ammunition and on two occasions railway tracks being covered by heavy snowfall. Clearing of snow-covered railway tracks required equipment, which was not always easy to find in time. In theory the unit was equipped with radio set, but in practice the radio issued to it either did not work or was not used in proper manner. Hence communications of Railway Artillery during Winter War were based on telephone connections, with telephone lines proving vulnerable, even if several telephone lines were built especially for it and regardless of this unit never operating in immediate proximity of frontline. Finnish artillery suffered from ammunition shortage during Winter War and Railway Artillery Battery was an exception to this. During Winter War Railway Artillery Battery used variety of 152-mm high explosive (HE) shells for its railway gun. Early on the artillery battery did yet have rather adequately working ammunition supply and it used (mkr) concussion-shell type HE-shells and (skr) fragmentation- shell type HE-shells. But by mid-January the situation had changed with it spending more shells and especially fuses than what the ever smaller deliveries of new shells could replenish. Partly due to this use of its railway gun had to be restricted for rest of the war. Apparently as an attempt to save the situation starting 23rd – 24th of January it received 152-mm Hkr-shells and month later also Mkr-shells, it seems likely that both of these shell types had originally been developed for other 152mm artillery weapons, although they were also considered suitable for 152/45 C guns. From these two new shell types howitzer shells worked without a hitch in 152/45 CRaut railway gun and early on Mkr-type shells seemed to be both accurate and effective on target. But 6th of March serious problems started appearing with reports of shells this type falling even several kilometers short of their intended target. The reasons behind this problem seem to have been related to ballistic caps, which had been added to these when they had been modernized. Apparently the ballistic caps were failing by either breaking or getting separated from the shell mid-air, the problem proved so serious that regardless of ammunition shortage Mkr-shells were removed from active use before ending of the war, which took place in 13th of March 1940.

Ammunition expenditure of Railway Artillery Battery in Winter War was 1,181 artillery shells, from which 1,157 shells were fired towards various ground targets. Regardless of the unit officially being coastal artillery, it did not fire a single shell in naval targets. 24 shells equipped with time fuses were spent against overflying enemy bomber formations. According the unit’s war journal its ammunition expenditure divided to shell-types was:

total spent:

shell type:

specifics:

846

mkr

presumably concussion-optimized HE-shell

155

skr

presumably fragementation-optimized HE-shell

85

Hkr

HE-shell, possibly originally intened for howitzers.

71

Mkr

HE-shell, possibly originally intened 152/35 Mk.

24

"AA"

shells fired towards overflying aircraft

1181

 

total

(Notice: Unit’s war journal used non-standard marking method for ammunition types, so unfortunately they cannot be verified for sure. Above is best educated guess).

Even if it had just one gun for practically whole duration of Winter War, Railway Artillery Battery had proved highly useful and apparently gained excellent reputation as highly accurate and hard-hitting artillery support among the units that it had supported during the war. In addition, if the report that it received from Finnish Radio Intelligence is to be trusted, in January one its shells hit command post for one of the Soviet divisions killing division commander and wounding several other high-ranking officers, which could have larger effect to battles in the area. In addition in December its anti-aircraft machineguns damaged enemy fighter aircraft which presumably crashed to Lake Laatokka/Ladoga near Pusu Island and 12th of January they damaged 4-engine bomber that then did an emergency landing near Vuoratsu Island and was abandoned by its crew. While its anti-aircraft machineguns used useful, only impact that the time-fused equipped HE-shells it fired towards bomber formations had for certain was frequent scattering of those said formations, even though the unit considered possible that they may have damaged bomber or two.

8th of May 1940 both 152/45 CRaut railway guns existing at that time were officially transferred to fortification artillery which had been established to provide artillery support for Salpa-line, which was new fortified defense line built near eastern border at that time, but it is not known if they saw any actual use fortification artillery. Anyway, this proved to be a temporary transfer, since already the next year these railway guns again went to action with coastal artillery.

 

CONTINUATION WAR

Also during Continuation War (6/1941 – 9/1944) Finnish military had only one railway artillery battery equipped with 152/45 CRaut railway guns and while still officially part of coastal artillery, the unit fired grand majority its artillery shells to targets operating on solid ground. Railway Artillery Battery (Rautatietykkipatteri) was re-established in 16th of June 1941 as part of mobilization for Continuation War. 6th of July 1941 it got a new code-name – "Iivari". According some sources the code name was changed as "Alanko" in November of 1942. Originally this unit had 3 officers, 17 NCO, 76 rank-and-file soldiers, 7 men railway repair crew, 5 locomotive crew and 3 other railroad personnel – total of 110 men. The unit received more men during the next few weeks and by 18th of July had reached total number of 143 men. Railway Artillery Battery entered the war with two 152/45 CRaut railway guns.

Equipment that Railway Artillery Battery had when it left to combat in July of 1941:

(*) Later on as the train of this unit longer and heavier this was replaced with larger and more powerful K3 (Tv1) steam locomotive. By end of Continuation the unit received numerous railway guns built for it. Among them two anti-aircraft railway carriages, which were a boxcars modified for the purpose and equipped with 40-mm Bofors antiaircraft-guns.

PICTURE: 152/45 CRaut railway gun photograhed in Tohmajärvi in July of 1941. Platforms attached to side of the railway car were folded down to provide working space for gun crew operating the gun and folded up for transport, in which mode it also provided some protection. French 164 mm modèle 1893-96 sur affût tous-azimuts Schneider had somewhat similar arrangement, but it wasstill different enough that this design detail may have been a Finnish invention. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 22472). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (175 KB).

During Continuation War Railway Artillery Battery operated all over Soviet Carelia in area reaching from northern shore of Lake Laatokka/Ladoga to River Syväri/Svir and Maaselkä Isthmus. The first time that its railway guns saw combat in Continuation War was when its guns opened fire 9th of July from their fire positions in Värtsilä. In beginning of the war in July – August of 1941 it took part battles of Tohmajärvi and Värtsilä before continuing in Jänisjärvi – Suojärvi and Jänisjärvi – Uuksu railway lines. In other words during late part of these battles it fought in the same geographic area as during Winter War. During these battles the artillery battery fired total 339 shells. In July of 1941 the artillery battery received additional 152/45 CRaut railway guns with its third gun arriving 21st of July and fourth railway gun in 31st of July 1944. Unlike during Winter War now its ammunition supply was working properly, which combined with four guns on it disposal made it capable for much powerful artillery barrages. In addition of normal artillery barrages called on variety of targets, when needed its railway guns also provided harassing fire.

PICTURE: Map showing area of operations and locations mentioned in this page for Railway Artillery Battery / 2nd Railway Artillery Battery during Continuation War (1941 - 1944). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (183 KB).

Railway Artillery Battery (Rautatiepatteri) was renamed as 2nd Railway Artillery Battery (2. Rautatiepatteri) in 21st of July 1941. The reason behind this name-change was creation of newly established 1st Railway Artillery Battery (1. Rautatiepatteri), which had been equipped with captured Soviet 180/57 NRaut railway guns. Soviet troops had demolished railway during their retreat, so 2nd Railway Artillery Battery was unable to follow advancing Finnish troops until the railway leading to east from its area of operations had been repaired. Since repairing the railway took several months, 8th of October 1941 2nd Railway Artillery Battery was sent to Karelian Isthmus and subordinated to IV Army Corps, but it found no possibility for any real use in there either. Hence when repairs for the demolished railway line had been completed, it was again subordinated to Army of Carelia (Karjalan Armeija) returned to its usual area of operations in East Carelia and moved to city of Äänislinna in turn of October – November 1941. By that time Finnish offensive that had started in beginning of Continuation War was already on its late stages and ended in December with Finnish troops shifting to defense.

10th of November 1941 - 9th of January 1942 this railway artillery battery was subordinated to 17th (Infantry) Division (17. Divisioona), which was in front of River Syväri. At that time the artillery battery saw little action - firing just 86 shells and even from those 50 shells were test-fire, mostly for testing batch of fuses, which had been found unreliable. After this the unit moved from River Syväri via city of Äänislinna to Karhumäki in 9th – 11th of January, where it was subordinated to II Army Corps (II Armeijakunta), which it supported with 193 shells in that January. Counter-attack made by Soviet 367th Division had in January of 1942 re-captured area of Krivi railway station. Maaselkä Army Group (Maaselän Ryhmä) of Finnish Army launched its own counter-attack that recaptured the train station and area around it in early February. 2nd Railway Artillery Battery supported this successful Finnish counter-attack with its four railway guns, firing total 106 artillery shells.

PICTURE: 152/45 CRaut railway guns of 2nd Railway Artillery Battery in photograhed in Krivi in January of 1942. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 70383). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (98 KB).

Starting 4th of April 1942 "Iivari" was subordinated to Aunus Army Group. In night of 5th – 6th of April it moved to city of Äänislinna. By that time its railway guns had seen a lot of action and were starting to be in rather poor shape, hence now they were sent for extensive overhaul. This was the first time of 152/45 CRaut railway guns going through the overhaul process during Continuation War. For duration of their absence 2nd Railway Artillery Battery was temporarily transformed as field artillery battery, which was equipped with captured 152 H/37 heavy howitzers. Temporary field artillery battery created in this way was stationed to front of River Syväri, existed 15th of April – 30th of May 1942 and fired 217 shells during its brief existence. 1st of June 1942 the unit handed over 152 H/37 howitzers to Syväri Fortification Artillery Battalion 2 (Syvärin Linnoituspatteristo 2). Overhaul of the railway guns had been completed and they had arrived to Syväri railway station day before. Hence the unit returned to its earlier role as railway artillery battery.

25th of August 1942 2nd Railway Artillery Battery was again sent from River Syväri to Karhumäki region, where it was subordinated to 3rd (Infantry) Brigade (3. Prikaati). This time the pre-selected fire position ordered for it proved to be exceptionally poorly chosen and proved quite hazardous. Particular fire position was on top of large open topped hill very close to frontline in area of Krivi railway station whose ownership had already been disputed several times, making location of the railway gun battery highly visible to the enemy and in area already known for repeated counter-attacks. 15th of September 1942 Soviet 289th Division launched its attack to area of Krivi station. Railway artillery battery fired 308 shells during the resulting battle and as a consequence almost run out of ammunition. Early on Soviet attack gained success pushing back Finnish frontlines about 1.4 kilometers reaching terrain mere 800 meters from fire position of railway guns, but failed to breech the lines. In first day of the battle forward observation team of the battery also found itself in hand-to-hand combat with enemy infantry and only succeeded surviving by clearing an escape route with sub machinegun. Soviet artillery shelled the fire position with field artillery and its fighter aircraft attacked it several times. Soviet attack was contained in just a few hours and the next day troops of 3rd (Infanty) Brigade recaptured with counterstrokes the trenches that they had lost day before.

26th – 27th September 1942 2nd Railway Artillery Battery moved again from Karhumäki region via Malu, Karhumäki and Äänislinna to front of River Syväri. There it took fire positions near Syväri train station with its supply train being hidden in sidetrack leading to gravel pit. By that time particular part of frontline had fallen deep into trench-war mode with battles more extensive then occasional small raids or patrol action being rare. Hence rest of the year 1942 the railway battery saw very little action – it fired 23 shells in October, 15 shells in November and not a single shell in December. Also early part of year 1943 proved to be relatively quiet for it and this did not change until in May.

12th – 13th of May 1943 railway artillery battery returned from Syväri railway station to Karhumäki region. New fire positions had been prepared for it to sidetrack of leather factory. This new fire position was named "Kaisa". Also front of Maaselkä isthmus, where this region was located, had now been reduced to trench-war mode. In May and June of 1943 railway guns of this unit fired only total 74 shells, from which 22 shells were used for muzzle velocity measurements, which provided bases for calculating more accurate fire solution values.

11th – 12th of June 1943 the battery moved from Karhumäki region to Pitkäranta on northern shore of Lake Laatokka. At that time 2nd Railway Artillery Battery was subordinated to Coastal Artillery Regiment 13 (Rannikkotykistörykmentti 13), which defended northern and north-east shores of Lake Laatokka. The intention was to use the artillery battery on newly constructed Railway line of Aunus Carelia (Aunuksen rata), but since the railway had not settled railway authorities considered taking railway artillery battery with its heavy and inflexible railway stock on it quite risky and barred its entrance to the railway line. Railway line of Aunus Carelia was 110 kilometers long railway line leading from Finnish town of Uuksu to town of Mäkriä in Soviet Carelia and had been built by the Finns in 1942 - 1943. For example K3 type steam locomotive that the battery was using was still considered to be too heavy for this railway line and its use considered to be risky for structural integrity of the rails on this recently completed railway line. Regardless this disappointing problem unit remained subordinated to Coastal Artillery Regiment 13. Finally 7th of July 1943 test-drive was organized on railway line of Aunus Carelia and positive results resulted railway authorities to change their mind. They now allowed 2nd Railway Artillery Battery to use it, but only in very cautious manner. While subordinated to Coastal Artillery Regiment 2 the railway artillery battery prepared itself fire position to Lintujärvi, upgraded its training by rehearsing new firing methods developed for coastal artillery during the war and completed training with live-fire rehearsal of 12 shells.

PICTURE: Partially snow covered 152/45 CRaut railway guns somewhere out there during Continuation War. (Photo: Jaeger Platoon Website photo collection). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (141 KB).

17th of September 1943 the railway artillery battery received new orders for immediate transfer to front of Maaselkä Isthmus and being again subordinated to Maaselkä Army Group (Maaselän Ryhmä). But this was impossible, because all its railway guns had been sent for their 2nd extensive overhaul for the war earlier that month. Hence 2nd Railway Artillery Battery had no railway guns until they would return from overhaul. As a result it was ordered to remain in Pitkäranta area and wait return of its guns. They arrived in 24th of September at which time the unit moved first to city of Äänislinna and from there to Karhumäki.

13th - 15th of December 1943 2nd Railway Artillery Battery returned from Maaselkä Isthmus to Pitkäranta area and was subordinated to Coastal Brigade of Lake Laatokka (Laatokan Rannikkoprikaati, coastal defense unit which had replaced Coastal Artillery Regiment 13). The battery took its old fire positions in Lintujärvi. 18th of January 1944 building of new fire position near train bridge of Vitele was started. Unlike all other fire positions previously prepared for this railway battery during the war they seem to have been intended for permanent use and contained rails laid partially underground with concrete shelters from which the railway guns could operate. 2nd Railway Artillery Battery remained in that location until June of 1944 and while building of the fire position near train bridge of Vitele continued all that time, it remains uncertain which stage the building project reached before it was stopped by change of military situation.

Soviet Red Army started its offensive in Karelian Isthmus 9th of June 1944 and the trench war period that had started in late 1941 ended. The next day 2nd Railway Artillery Battery moved to Lintuvaara and from there it 14th – 16th of June moved via Vitele, Antrea and Viipuri to area of Johannes in Karelian Isthmus, which was area of operations for 1st Railway Artillery Battery. But its stay on Karelian Isthmus proved very brief, since already the next day it received orders for transfer to area westwards from bridges of Viipuri, from where it could provide artillery support to western part of VKT-line and Bay of Viipurinlahti. Following the order the artillery battery moved to first to Nurmi railway station and from there Somerharju in 16th – 17th of June. Soviet offensive captured Viipuri in 20th of June and continued its offensive already the next day.

21st of June 1944 Soviet Red Army launched its offensive if front of River Syväri. Due to troop transfers made from Syväri front to Karelian Isthmus Finnish troops in this sector of front had been notably weakened. Due to this Finnish troops fell back from River Syväri to PPS defense line. 23rd of June Soviet 70th Marine Brigade landed behind PPS-line in Tuullos and weak Finnish forces guarding the coast failed to stop them from reaching the main road and sole railway line. Before being transferred to Karelian Isthmus 2nd Railway Artillery Battery had defended that very section of coast. Also in Karelian Isthmus situation was developing at alarming rate, with Soviet 108th Army Corps attacking from Viipuri to Tienhaara area defended by Infantry Regiment 61 of Finnish Army. Hence 2nd Railway Artillery Battery received in a single day two sets of orders which first demanded it to head Pitkäranta where it was to be subordinated to Laatokka Coastal Brigade and another set according which it was to move into station of Nurmi and prepare to shell island of Viipuri castle. Following the latest order the unit headed to Nurmi railway station, only to find out that the station was already so full of military transport trains that the battery was not able to operate from there. Hence the unit returned to Railway line of Aunus Carelia moving to Vitele, from where it fired 44 shells 25th of June to Soviet bridgehead in Tuullos and the next day 68 shells towards Soviet vessels that were delivering troops and supplies to bridgehead and providing it fire support. According artillery spotters its gunfire sunk at least one of the enemy vessels in 26th of June. During this battle Soviet aircraft attacked the artillery battery several times with air attack that happened around 18:00 that day against two railway guns and three railway cars proving especially destructive. During that air attack one of the railway cars carrying ammunition for the railway guns was set ablaze and as a result 163 high explosive shells stored in it exploded. Besides destroying the railway car the explosion damaged two of the 152/45 CRaut railway guns and wreck blocked the rails. Fortunately for the railway artillery battery there were no loss of life and another two railway guns remained operational.

PICTURE: 152/45 CRaut railway gun photograhed in Uuksu in July of 1944. Pieces of cardboard have apparently been attached to railway gun and spread on both over and around as means of camouflage. The railway gun has also been painted with camo pattern. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 157135). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (196 KB).

27th of June 1944 2nd Railway Artillery Battery moved from Vitele to Rajakontu. Guns that been near the explosion were now inspected. From the four 152/45 CRaut railway guns two (1st and 4th) remained in good shape and 2nd gun was in usable condition, but 3rd gun was in dire need of repairs. 3rd gun that had suffered most damage was sent for repairs and returned 1st of July. 29th of June the artillery battery used its remaining guns and fired 29 shells towards Soviet vessels. The next day the unit moved to Rajakorpi, where it took fire positions in railway station and suffered further losses. This time one of the bombs dropped by Soviet aircraft hit one of the tents used for accommodation killing five soldiers and wounding one. 1st of July the railway artillery battery fired only single fire mission of 12 artillery shells. Due to numerous military transport trains that were moving troops and supplies, the battery had problems finding itself new suitable fire position. Finally the unit found itself fire positions in Leppäsilta railway station, from which it fired no less than respectable 452 shells in 11th – 28th of July 1944, although these include 22 shells fired for muzzle velocity testing and nine Mkr-type shells test-fired to confirm that these shells already once delivered during Winter War remained to sub-standard and useless.

Continuation War ended to Finnish - Soviet Cease Fire Treaty in 5th of September 1944. 2nd Railway Artillery Battery remained in its positions until 19th of September, when it moved via city of Savonlinna to Haapakoski and from there in end of October via Lohja to Hanko. The ultimate destination for this long journey was side track in Bröntorp’s gravel pit in Hanko. Demobilizing of the unit’s soldiers started 28th of October 1944.

During Continuation War this railway artillery battery had travelled 10,500 kilometers and fired 2,010 artillery shells with its 152-mm railway guns. At end of the war its train had total 80 axles and its total length was about 230 meters. Soon after the war guns of 152/45 CRaut railway guns were moved to Depot of Coastal Artillery in Parola, while their railway cars were returned to State Railways (Valtion Rautatiet). It is quite likely that success of this particular railway artillery battery was a major factor due to which Finnish military still apparently even in post-war era continued to consider railway guns to be useful. Hence in 1950’s and 1960’s first 152/46 E and later 130/50 N coastal guns were equipped as railway guns and some 152/45 C coastal guns also remained reserved for that very use even in early 1960’s. Due to 152/45 CRaut railway guns being dismantled soon after World War 2, there are no Finnish railway guns that would have survived to this day.

Finnish 152/45 CRaut railway gun proved effective, structurally simple, reliable, flexible and easy to operate, although not particularly modern design. Due to its structural design it had 360-degree sector of fire and it required very little preparations for its new fire positions. Although rail profile needed to be suitable (good solid track, both rails on the same level, terrain had be flat and sides of the rail had to be such that outriggers of truck platform anchorage could be used). It was relatively small caliber compared to other World War 2 era railway guns, but on Finnish conditions it proved to be remarkably handy and useful weapon. Even if it was in the same caliber-range as heavy field artillery pieces, it also had far longer range than pretty much anything in inventory of Finnish field artillery. Hence 152/45 CRaut railway guns proved their worth as long-range artillery (*). Unlike other railway guns in Finnish inventory these guns were laid and loaded manually. While manually loading these 152-mm guns was heavy work, it allowed them to be loaded at any elevation and therefore speeded up maximum rate of fire considerably. For some reason fixed ammunition was apparently favored with 152/45 CRaut railway guns. This ammunition was so large and heavy that handling it required two strong men per shell at all times, making it rather difficult to handle. It seems likely that the ammunition type was favored because using it still allowed faster rate of fire for the first few shells.

(*) The longest reaching field artillery pieces at same caliber range in Finnish inventory were 155 K/17 and 152 H/37, which had maximum range of about 17.2 – 17.3 kilometers. Most common heavy artillery pieces in this caliber range had maximum range around 10 – 11 kilometers.

At some point 2nd Railway Artillery Battery named each of its four guns with popular Finnish female first names, although it is not known if there was some specific reason why the particular names were chosen. Names given for the 152/45 CRaut railway guns were:

As noted aircraft proved the most dangerous for this railway artillery battery and Finnish railway artillery units in general. During Continuation War its anti-aircraft guns reportedly downed four enemy aircraft, but not without own losses. Another thing also proved be problems that the unit had with 20-mm Madsen anti-aircraft guns originally issued to it – in less than six months one of the three Madsen suffered ammunition cook off and another two had their barrels blown up by HE-shells exploding inside them. While nobody apparently died in these accidents they left the battery with only 7.62-mm caliber machineguns as only working anti-aircraft weapons and finding repair for the Madsen-guns proved problematic. But ultimately they were repaired and at some point were installed on boxcars that belonged to this unit.

PICTURE: 152/45 CRaut railway gun photograhed in Nurmi in June of 1944. Notice flatcar equipped with 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun and how whole train has been painted with camo pattern. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 153691). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (162 KB).

January of 1942 2nd Railway Artillery Battery received two 40-mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns to boost its defenses. In September - October of 1942 large-scale weapons repair shop created by Finnish military to Onega Factories in city of Äänislinna installed those two 40-mm Bofors guns on old train cars, which were modified for the purpose. Period photos indicate that one of the guns was installed in a boxcar and another one in a flatcar. These railway cars armed with 40-mm Bofors were unique to 2nd Railway Artillery Battery in that sense, that no other Finnish military unit had such train cars. Finnish armored trains had also 40-mm Bofors guns installed in them, but their train cars were armored and purpose-built artillery wagons, while issued to 2nd Railway Artillery were unarmored modifications of normal boxcar. The railway artillery battery received these two anti-aircraft railway cars in 3rd and 23rd of October 1942. During the war this unit also had several close calls, in which quick reaction and moving the unit to new location after spotting recon aircraft saved it from large-scale air raids.

 

 

180/57 NRaut

(TM-1-180)

PICTURE: 180/57 NRaut railway gun. This may or may not have been one of the railway guns that once was in Finnish use. (Photo taken in Victory Park, Moscow). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (110 KB).

Caliber:

 

180 mm (separately loaded) (*)

Barrel length:

 

1034.5 cm aka L/57.5

Rate of fire:

 

3.5 - 5 shots/min (**)

Weight in action:

 

about 160 tons (when ready for transport)

Muzzle velocity:

 

600 - 900 m/sec (***)

Traverse:

 

360 degrees

Elevation:

 

0 degrees, + 50 degrees

Max. range:

 

34.5 km / 37.7 km (depending source) (****)

Gun crew:

 

23 men

Ammunition weight:

 

97.5 kg (HE)

Ammunition types:

 

HE, APHE, (SAPHE)

Country of origin:

 

Soviet Union

(*) Shell and two propellant charges loaded separately, no cartridge case existed.

(**) Practical range of fire depended duration of fire mission. To avoid over-heating the gun required pause in firing, higher the rate of fire, more frequent requirement for the pause.

(***) Muzzle velocity of 600 m/sec was for HE-shell with reduced propellant charge while 920m/sec was for APHE shell with full propellant charge.

(****) Finnish sources suggest 34.5 km maximum range while Soviet ones suggest 37.7 km. These might be due to differences in propellant charges and possibly also shells used.

Finnish use: Finish military captured seven of their railway guns from which five guns were repaired and four of them saw combat use with Finnish military. These railway guns were issued to 1st Railway Artillery Battery that operated mainly in Karelian Isthmus in 1941 – 1944.

Also the Soviets built railway guns for their coastal artillery in 1920’s and 1930’s. Year 1932 Soviet Soviet Navy introduced 180-mm B-1-P naval gun, which was intended as main guns for new Maxim Gorky and Kirov class cruisers built in 1933 – 1944. Soviet coastal also used similar guns until 1960’s or 1970’s. Year 1933 design Bureau of Leningrad Metallurgical Factory (LMZ) designed new railway gun based TM-1-180. It had upper part of gun carriage similar to one already used in MO-1-180 coastal gun, with also gun shield being a lightened version of the gun shield design used with MO-1-180. Manufacturers of the gun were Leningrad Metallurgical Factory (LMZ), Nikolajevskij Shipyard and Bolshevik Factory (former Obuhov factory). In total 20 railway guns TM-1-180 were manufactured in Soviet Union in 1930’s, which made it the most common railway gun in Soviet arsenal. Those 20 railway guns were issued to five railway artillery batteries, which each got four TM-1-180 railway guns. Those five units were:

Just before German invasion to Soviet Union 1941 all of these five railway artillery batteries were stationed on shores of Baltic Sea or areas nearby. As part of peace treaty that ended Finnish – Soviet Winter War in March of 1940, the Soviets demanded themselves a military base in Hanko Peninsula with lease treaty for 30 years. One of the units that stationed there was 17th Separate Railway Artillery Battery, while they also had another similar unit Railway Artillery Battery 16 and/or 18 stationed in Karelian Isthmus. Year 1941 railway guns belonging to these railway artillery batteries fell into Finnish hands. 17th Railway Artillery battery was equipped with four TM-1-180 railway guns and had been stationed on separate railway yard located in between Hanko and Lappohja. Once Continuation War started in June of 1941 from that base Soviet 17th Separate Railway Artillery Battery took part in battles of Hanko Peninsula. Both Finnish and Soviet troops and dug in well fortified positions and lacked resources needed for large-scale offensive. Hence the frontline there stagnated into daily artillery fire and numerous patrol actions with handful of small battles fought in the surrounding islands. TM-1-180 railway guns of 17th Separate Railway Artillery Battery took part in the battles with 393 fire missions in which it fired total 2,265 shells – grand majority of them to land targets. During first few months of the war Finnish – Soviet and Soviet – German frontline moved to east, leaving Soviet military base in Hanko Peninsula deep behind enemy lines, until it became too costly to be useful and finally forced the Soviets to evacuate the base. The Soviets had no way for evacuating their railway guns from the base. 17th Separate Railway Artillery fired last of its shells in 2nd of December 1941 and then exploded their gun barrels with demolition charges. Just two days later the Soviets evacuated last of their troops from the base. The Soviets formed 401st Railway Artillery Battalion from their remaining three railway artillery batteries equipped with TM-1-180 guns and used it in Leningrad region until 1944. Some of the TM-1-180 railway guns remained in Soviet use until year 1961.

PICTURE: Finnish captured 180/57 NRaut railway gun showing signs of Soviet demolition attempt - gun barrel has been destroyed otherwise but the railway gun seems to have suffered surprisingly little damage. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 79400). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (129 KB).

 

TM-1-180 / 180/57 NRAUT IN FINNISH USE

As mentioned year 1941 Finnish Army captured two artillery batteries of these guns – seven railway guns total - four railway guns in Hanko Peninsula and three railway guns in Karelian Isthmus. What is known suggests that all three three TM-1-180 railway guns captured in Karelian Isthmus were captured in August of 1941 with one railway gun captured in Säiniö near city of Viipuri and other two in Metsäkylä. The guns captured in Hanko Peninsula had been thoroughly demolished and proved time-consuming and difficult to repair, while from the ones captured in Karelian Isthmus one was basically undamaged and the other two had suffered only smaller damage. In total the Finns repaired five of the seven captured TM-1-180 railway guns, but only four of them saw actual combat use with Finnish military. New railway artillery unit called 1st Railway Artillery Battery (1. Rautatiepatteri) was established to operate with them already in September of 1941. The unit started with only one gun (number 68) – only receiving more 180/57 NRaut railway guns one by one, as their repairs were completed. After first two guns these repairs apparently proved more time-consuming - suggesting that the 3rd and 4th may have required far more extensive repairs. The second railway gun (number 102) was delivered to 1st Railway Artillery Battery in 25th of December 1941, 3rd gun in 9th of July 1943 and 4th gun not until 28th of October 1943. As mentioned repairs of 5th gun were completed in 1944, but this happened too late for it to see actual combat use with Finnish military and it was only issued to 1st Railway Artillery Battery when Continuation War had already ended. From these guns 2nd gun was apparently repaired in State Artillery Factory (Valtion Tykkitehdas – VTT), while rest of the gun were repaired in repair shop of 3rd Railway Artillery Battery in Hanko, where they were also test-fired before being sent to Karelian Isthmus. Even if 1st Railway Artillery Battery operated four guns in 1944, in reality usually it only had two of the guns in real use for any given time, with the other two guns used as spare guns.

PICTURE: 180/57 NRaut railway gun taken to Finnish use photograhed in April of 1942 - which makes it either 1st or 2nd railway gun of this type introduced to Finnish use. Notice camo nets and that the railway gun has been painted with camo pattern. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 84510). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (125 KB).

Finnish Armed Forces named TM-1-180 as 180/57 NRaut – 180mm gun with L/57 gun barrel, railway gun. N in NRaut may have been referring to Nikolajevskij Shipyard or simply neuvostoliittolainen (Soviet) - the exact meaning for it is no longer known with certainty. Unlike Finnish 152/45 CRaut above, 180/57 NRaut was true long-range artillery by standards of any army in World War 2. Its maximum range was about 35 – 38 kilometers. From technical viewpoint it was also much more modern design than 152/45 CRaut, but also far more complex and complicated to operate. For systems of this railway gun to function as intended for shooting, it required two separate special-purpose railway cars to be hooked into it – one of these railway cars contained combustion engine and electric generator, while another car had air compressor. The 180-mm gun had screw breech that was normally operated electrically, but in emergency it could also be used manually. Systems used for gun laying were electric with hydraulic speed adjustment, but also had a manual back-up. In addition the gun had optical systems for elevation and direct fire purposes. Elevation settings for each railway gun could also be remotely adjusted from centralized fire control post. Operations needed for loading and shooting with the gun were all either electric, used air-pressure or pressurized liquid. One of the very few still totally manual parts of operating the guns was transferring shells from purpose-built railway cars used for transporting ammunition to the breech area of the gun on live roller conveyer. Once shell arrived to breech area, it was loaded to breech a rammer that was operated with pressurized air. Loading shell to gun’s breech was only possible when the gun was in 10 degree elevation, which slowed down re-loading the gun, largely effecting its maximum rate of fire.

PICTURE: Breech area of 180/57 NRaut railway gun and soldiers of gun crew photograhed Karelian Isthmus in April of 1942. Notice loading systems and other instruments. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 84511). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (138 KB).

Just like 152/45 CRaut also 180/57 NRaut railway guns had top carriage traversing gun mount with 360-degree sector of fire. But they also required much more preparations to be made for their fire position in beforehand. It require a good suitable solid track which often had to be reinforced for the purpose and places for their eight large outriggers. The gun carriage had a modern recoil system, which took care of recoil. When equipped with generator the railway gun could travel on rails on its own, although only quite slowly, but this still allowed 180/57 NRaut railway guns to move short distances without steam locomotive.

Finnish ammunition manuals list four shell designs for this gun. These include armor piercing high explosive (APHE), semi-armor piercing (SAPHE) and high explosive (HE) shells, which all had similar weight (97.5 kg). APHE, SAPHE and one of HE-shells listed were apparently of Soviet origin, while two HE-shells were Finnish-made. Propellant charges used with this gun were two-part – presumably to keep their bulk and weight with-in manageable limits. There were four optional two-part propellant options listed – with total weight of propellant charges available varying from 17 kg to 37 kg. May of 1943 fuses used with Finnish-made "concussion shell" type high explosive shells, which were the preferred shell type against ships other than heavily armored warships, proved unreliable. Due to this the railway artillery battery temporarily used first APHE and later HE shells against naval targets.

PICTURE: Map showing area of operations and locations mentioned in this page for 1st Railway Artillery Battery during its existence in 1941 - 1944. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (216 KB).

1st Railway Artillery Battery first saw action with its only 180/57 NRaut railway gun already in 30th of November 1941, in other words only about three months after establishing of the unit. The target for this first fire mission fired in combat was Soviet icebreaker Jermak and distance to target 26,300 meters. Later the railway artillery battery fired its first shells towards ground target – four shells towards coastal fort Krasnaja Gorka, which returned fire by firing five shells, closest of which hit about 250 meters from fire position used at that time. The third and final fire mission of that year was in 5th of December with railway battery firing towards icebreaker Jermak and convoy of ships 13 shells total.

All fire missions of 1st Railway Artillery Battery in years 1942 – 1943 were against Soviet coastal fort of Fort Rif in Kronstadt and either coming from Kronstandt naval base or heading there. Admittedly besides 254-mm coastal artillery battery built to Kellomäki (which was never really used that much) 1st Railway Artillery Battery with its 180/57 NRaut railway guns was the only Finnish artillery unit stationed in Carelian Isthmus capable reaching southern shore of Gulf of Finland – and therefore being range-wise capable shelling any ships coming or going to/from Leningrad from side of Baltic Sea. Yet the number of artillery shells it spent for in those two years was rather modest, only 51 shells per year, and its achievements very modest. Its railway guns bombarded Fort Rif twice – with 27 shells in 1st of May 1942 and 11 shells in 7th of October 1942. Observations made during first of these bombardments indicate that the accuracy of fire was quite good, from the 27 shells total, 23 shells hit the fort and 6 of them area of its artillery battery. But on the whole actions of 1st Railway Artillery Battery against Soviet shipping in those years were far less successful. This was at least partly due to conditions and lacking equipment, which would have been needed to use its railway guns in more effective, but admittedly probably also in riskier, manner. Shooting distances at that time were were always very long and ships moving targets, hence measuring location of target correctly and spotting of landing shells for correcting fire would have been vitally important, but this proved difficult. Measuring and fire control points had optical rangefinders, but lacked radar for measuring exact location of target or aircraft made available for spotting splashes produced by falling shells. As a result poor visibility and Soviet use of artificial smoke repeatedly reduced effectiveness against Soviet shipping to near zero.

Also retaining this unit only for traditional roles of coastal artillery limited its possible potential. It is easy to understand that Finnish military saw need for mobile super-heavy coastal artillery battery on southern shore of Karelian Isthmus at that time, but if used in more versatile manner this resource could have been utilized in more effective manner. 180/57 NRaut railway guns had the makings of long-range artillery that could have been used against targets such as air bases, key bridges, ammunition & fuel dumps and command posts, but they not used for such purposes. There was precious little enemy shipping to target once Gulf of Finland froze over, which happens every winter, so the unit did not see much use in winter-time. The first time that 1st Railway Artillery Battery was used for shooting fire mission to land front was 14th of June 1944 – several days into Soviet offensive in Karelian Isthmus and incidentally also the day for the last fire mission against Soviet shipping, with all fire missions performed after that date being used against ground targets.

PICTURE: 180/57 NRaut railway gun taken to Finnish use photograhed Hanko in September of 1943. Gun barrel seems to show structural differences, which are likely related to Finnish made repairs. Consering when photo was taken and original photo caption mentioning that the event in which the photo was taken was its test-firing, this is probably the 4th gun taken to Finnish use. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 137886). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (151 KB).

The area of operations for this railway artillery battery from autumn of 1941 to summer of 1944 was Karelian Isthmus with several blind tracks were built for it in Viipuri – Koivisto – Terijoki area. Its main base was built to Anttonala, but it also had fire positions elsewhere (Ino, Mustajärvi, Toikino and Mesterjärvi). When established the unit received enough manpower for operating two 180/57 NRaut railway guns, but needed more men for 3rd and 4th railway guns. Additional soldiers transferred for the unit for the 3rd railway gun were mostly from 3rd Railway Artillery Battery, which apparently used the opportunity to get rid of its poorest manpower material, hence many of these transferred soldiers proved less than useful. Additional soldiers transferred for the 4th railway gun arrived only 24th of March 1944, which left little time for properly training them to before the trench-war period ended with Soviet offensive in June. These might at least partially explain why 1st Railway Artillery Battery in year 1944 actively used no more than two of its four guns at any given time.

With their massive size and highly sophisticated technical equipment captured 180/57 NRaut railway guns proved to be highly popular attraction, which Finnish Navy liked to exhibit to visiting high ranking officers and other dignitaries. Hence occasionally this unit had frequent visits, the densest of these clusters of visits happened in autumn of 1943, when with-in two month period the unit was visited by Swedish military attaché with two Swedish naval officers, Commander of Finnish Navy Lieutenant General Väinö Valve with German naval attaché Admiral Reimar von Bonin, Civil Guard officers from Helsinki Civil Guard District, four members of parliament from committee that made decisions about military spending plus Vice-Admiral and Commander from Japanese Navy.

Early on the railway artillery battery was plagued by technical problems. By standards of that day TM-1-180 railway guns were highly modern and the Soviets had been not been kind enough to leave behind any of their manuals. Hence learning the guns and figuring out small but important details took its time and in some cases happened by trial and error. For example seals used in the breech system proved to be such, that in cold weather they needed to be warmed before shooting the gun, or gases would leak through them and could damage gun barrel – discovery of this feature happened with first railway gun of the artillery battery (number 68) spending January of 1942 in State Artillery Factory (VTT, Valtion Tykkitehdas) in town of Jyväskylä for the repairs resulting from it. State Artillery Factory also took care of basic repairs of 180/57 NRaut railway guns for Finnish military, being the place where they were one-by-one sent for repairs when needed.

 

SUMMER OF 1944

9th of June 1944, the day in which Soviet offensive in Karelian Isthmus started, two of the 180/57 NRaut railway guns (1st and 2nd gun) had been decided to be moved to fire position built to gravel pit in Ino for the purpose of bombarding Soviet artillery batteries that were in Kronstandt. But when locomotive was pushing 2nd gun with its ammunition and accommodation railway cars to its fire position in Ino, the rail under them gave away. Rails scattered with three railway sleepers breaking down and railway gun falling from rails. This could not have happened with worse timing – Finnish main defense line in Karelian Isthmus was breached in Valkeasaari the next day and due to advancing Soviet troops nearby Ino was soon being in danger of being overrun with even safety of Anttonala base becoming questionable. After some hard work 2nd gun was back on rail in early hours of 11th of June, after which it was sent to Anttonala, where the 1st gun had already been transported soon after the accident.

PICTURE: 180/57 NRaut railway gun taken to Finnish use photograhed in Jäppilä in Carelian Isthmus March of 1944. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 147451). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (150 KB).

14th of June 1944 was the busiest day of the war for 1st Railway Artillery Battery. During that day its railway guns operating from fire positions in Mesterjärvi train station fired four fire missions towards enemy shipping and two fire missions to land front. The total ammunition expenditure for that day was at least 55 artillery shells, from which about 40 shells were fired to land front. Be reminded that in two previous years the artillery battery had spent 51 artillery shells per year. The next day 180/57 NRaut railway guns targeted strategically important bridges of Kammelsuu with seven shells – to which the Soviet artillery responded with about 100 artillery shells.

Morning 15th of June 1944 1st Railway Artillery Battery was ordered to leave its fire positions in Mesterjärvi train station and head to Kuolemanjärvi railway station. Around noon the units main base in Anttonala became target of Soviet air raid that lasted several hours, in addition to which Soviet artillery bombarded it with about 2,000 shells. Considering scale of Soviet actions losses of 1st Railway Artillery were surprisingly moderate – only one soldier killed in action, another one wounded in action, two of the railway cars lost in fire and several other railway cars & steam locomotive damaged. To ill fortune for the research of military history, the two railway cars lost in fire that day were battery commander’s car and office car – which at least partially explain why the archives have very little documents from this particular railway artillery unit. Soldiers of Anttonala base took cover in forest before heading to Seivästö and Kuolemajärvi, where 1st and 2nd gun had moved earlier that day. With the locomotive damaged, evacuating of 3rd and 4th railway gun that had been in Anttonala base now became problematic and dangerous. After the Soviets had broken through main defense line Finnish troops had been ordered to retreat with delay action to the next defense line – VT-line. But the Soviets broke through VT-line already the next day (15th of June) in Kuuterselkä and Sahakylä and the next defense line, VKT-line, was west from Kuolemajärvi. 180/57 NRaut railway guns were capable of independent travel on rail, but only slowly and damage that the railway had suffered further slowed their movement. After driving through night the two railway guns safely arrived to Kuolemajärvi in morning of 16th of June.

At afternoon 16th of June 1944 the railway artillery battery received orders to move in western side of railway bridges of Viipuri and moved via Viipuri to Simola in 16th – 17th of June. While in Simola the unit found itself in middle of several air raids in 19th and 20th of June. Several railway cars belonging to it damaged in explosion of ammunition train in raid first air raid of 20th of June. The railway artillery battery had been fortunately to move its accommodation further away from Simola train station already the previous day, so its total losses in these air raids were only five soldiers wounded. After these air raids also train of the railway artillery battery was moved to more secure location. New fire positions were prepared for 180/57 NRaut railway guns first to Tani (from which it shot its first fire mission in 28th of June – bombarding Viipuri rail yard, which was now in Soviet hands) and later also to Nurmi railway station and near Hämee. From these new fire positions its railway guns performed numerous fire missions in end of June and July of 1944. Ammunition expenditure of the railway artillery battery was at least 87 artillery shells in June and 36 artillery shells in July of 1944.

14th of July 1944 1st Railway Artillery Battery was subordinated directly to artillery commander of V Army Corps. Its total strength that day was 5 officers, 25 non-commissioned officers and 85 men, while unit’s ammunition inventory contained 32 SAP-shells and 91 (concussion shell type) HE-shells. 22nd of July 1944 decision was made according which it could only shoot fire missions to targets of highest priority and only if ordered by artillery commander of V Army Corps. After this the unit received only one fire mission with six artillery shells fired towards Soviet vessels spotted in Tapolanlahti Gulf (part of Viipurinlahti Gulf) in 26th of July 1944. In end of July 1944 1st Railway Artillery Battery was transferred to artillery reserved of Finnish Armed Forces GHQ. Damaged 180/57 NRaut railway guns and 5th not yet delivered railway gun were undergoing repairs in repair shop of 3rd Railway Artillery Battery (in city of Hanko) and in Pasila Engineering Works (in Helsinki). Continuation War ended to Finnish – Soviet armistice treaty in September of 1944. Finnish – German Lapland War followed, but railway guns did not take part into it. 1st Railway Artillery Battery had spent at least 259 artillery shells in Continuation War, from which at least 131 shells had been used in year 1944.

Probably the most dangerous enemy for railway artillery units proved to be enemy aircraft, which is why Finnish railway artillery batteries routinely had some anti-aircraft weapons attached to them. What is known 1st Railway Artillery Battery apparently had at least one anti-aircraft machinegun from the start and 8th of March 1942 it received two 20-mm weapons, which may have been L-39 antitank-rifles with anti-aircraft mounts, although at least one document lists them as L-34 automatic cannons. This still provided only rather modest capability, so in 25th – 26th of June 1944 the unit's anti-aircraft defences were reinforced with two 20 ItK/40 VKT anti-aircraft guns.

In late October of 1944 all five 180/57 NRaut railway guns were moved to blind track of Brödtorp gravel pit in town of Raasepori. Demobilization of unit’s personnel started in 29th of October. Soviet officers of Allied Control Commission (Valvontakomissio) inspected its railway guns and other special railway cars used with them twice, demanding technical documentation about them already for the next day. Soviet military wanted their 180mm and 305 mm railway guns back and offered to buy them with price being reduced war reparations, which Finland was to pay to Soviet Union. Finland decided to sell the railway guns 12th of December and they were handed over in Vainikkala in 25th of December 1944. Along five 180/57 NRaut railway guns Finland sold to Soviet Union special-purpose railway cars for each railway gun, five ammunition railway cars, calculation centre railway car used for calculating fire solutions and two motor coaches. The total price for five 180/57 NRaut railway guns, special railway cars and other equipment that 1st Railway Artillery Battery had used with them was 136,122,000 Finnish Marks. 1st Railway Artillery Battery had been disbanded in 10th of December 1944 by attaching it to Russarö Coastal Fort with its remaining soldiers being transferred to units of Coastal Artillery Regiment 1 (Rannikkotykistörykmentti 1) and V Mine Sweeper Detachment (V Raivaajaosasto). The Soviets issued TM-1-180 railway guns bought from Finland to their 292th Railway Artillery Battery and they seemed to have remained in Soviet use at least until late 1950’s. Nowadays there are at least two railway guns of this type in Russian museums – one in Krasnaja Gorka and another one in Victory Park in Moscow.

 

 

305/52 Oraut

(TM-3-12)

PICTURE: 305/52 ORaut railway gun taken to Finnish use photographed in Hanko in October of 1942. This photo shows the railway gun on concrete anchor slab. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 112915). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (127 KB).

Caliber:

 

304.8 mm (separately loaded) (*)

Barrel length:

 

1585 cm aka L/52

Rate of fire:

 

- theoretical: 2 shots/min

 

 

- practical: 0.5 - 1 shots/minute (**)

Weight in action:

 

- Gun only on anchor concrete slab: 250 tons

 

 

- Ready for transport: 358 tons (with railway mountings)

Muzzle velocity:

 

723 - 920 m/sec (***)

Traverse:

 

360 degrees (on concrete slab only)

Elevation:

 

0 degrees, about + 50 degrees

Max. range:

 

50 km (****)

Gun crew:

 

51 men

Ammunition weight:

 

355 - 470 kg (HE + APHE), 435 kg (SAPHE)

Ammunition types:

 

HE, APHE, (SAPHE)

Country of origin:

 

Soviet Union

(*) Shell, two propellant charges and primer were all loaded separately.

(**) Depending how many shells were fired and well-practiced a gunnery crew was.

(***) Muzzle velocity varied depending shell type and type of propellant charges.

(****) This was the artillery piece with longest range in Finnish arsenal due to all other 305/52 O guns in Finnish use having lower maximum elevation.

Finnish use: Three railway guns captured in Hanko Peninsula in year 1941 had been demolished by the Soviets, but in 1942 – 1943 the Finns succeeded repairing all of them one by one. While 3rd Railway Artillery Battery was created to operate these railway guns, Finnish military never used them in combat.

History of Soviet railway guns started with two 254-mm railway guns which Russian military ordered during World War 1 from Petrograd Metal Works, who also developed purpose-built railway cars for them with assistance of French experts. While it remains somewhat unclear if building of these two railway guns equipped with 254-mm model 1891 naval guns intended for pre-dreadnought battleship Rostislav was actually ever completed in year 1917, in 1920’s the Soviets used their railway cars to create their first two proper railway guns by equipping them with 203mm naval guns model 1905, with the resulting railway gun being named TM-8 (8-inch naval transporter). During Russian Civil War (1917 – 1922) it was quite common to install naval guns on railway cars to create improvised railway guns, but they were no longer in use during World War 2. In 1920’s the Soviets started acquiring railway guns for their coastal artillery. They railway guns were manufactured by Leningrad Metal Works (LMZ), while Central Design Bureau of Ship Building lead by A.G. Dukelskiy was responsible of planning them. TM-8 provided the starting point for further development of their railway guns with their three following railway guns all being based to its design and being equipped with earlier manufactured super-heavy naval guns. The main reason why the Soviets used old naval gun for the purpose is that they were apparently no longer unable to build new super-heavy long range guns after Russian Civil War and did not re-acquire the capability until in 1930’s. First of these three railway gun designs was TM-1-14 (naval transporter, project 1, 14-inch gun) equipped with 356-mm naval gun model 1913, only few of which had been built. Planning of TM-1-14 railway was started in year 1927 with six railways guns being built and used to equip two Soviet railway artillery batteries. The second railway gun design was TM-2-12 (naval transporter, project 2, 12-inch guns) exceptionally planned by Marti Plant in Nikolayev and equipped with 305mm naval guns model 1895 left over from old battleships. Third railway gun design was TM-3-12 (naval transporter, project 3, 12-inch gun) which was equipped with 305mm model 1907 naval guns originating from battleship Imperitsa Mariya, which had sunk in harbor of Sevastopol in year 1916 and scrapped starting year 1926. The Soviets built only three TM-3-12 railway guns, apparently all of them around year 1938 and used them to built TM-3-12 railway guns. The Soviets issued all three TM-3-12 railway guns to 9th Separate Railway Artillery Battery.

PICTURE: Map showing locations of fire positions that the Soviets built for railway guns to their military base in Hanko Peninsula in 1940 - 1941. Finnish 3rd Railway Artillery Battery used Täktom fire position with captured 305mm railway guns until 1944. Shown is also Finnish fortified defence lines. The Soviets had four field-fortiried defence lines built inside the base in addition to which its beaches had also defences. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (144 KB).

As mentioned in foreword of this page Finnish – Soviet Moscow Peace Treaty of March 1940 that ended Winter War contained Soviet demand about military base in Hanko Peninsula. From this new base Soviet coastal artillery with Soviet coastal artillery units operating in Estonia (mainly 305-mm coastal artillery battery in Aegna) would be able to block Gulf of Finland from surface vessels of any hostile navy. Their long term plan was to built super-heavy 305-mm on Russarö Island that was with-in boundaries of the military base with two MK-3-12 triple gun turrets originating from battleship Poltava, but as a short-term replacement in October of 1940 they brought to Hanko military base two railway artillery batteries. One of these two railway artillery batteries was 9th Separate Railway Artillery Battery equipped with three TM-3-12 railway guns, for which they built inside the base two optional fire positions with massive concrete anchor slabs and about 10 kilometers of railway line. The fire positions with their anchor concrete slabs were located in Täktöm and Tvärminne, from these two Täktöm fire position was their primary base, while Tvärminne fire position was a secondary base.

PICTURE: Railway mountings of 305/52 ORaut railway gun. Photo taken in September of 1943. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 139101). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (132 KB).

The gun platform used for TM-3-12 railway gun was very similar to those already earlier used for TM-1-14 and TM-2-12. The gun had been installed on gun platform, which was peaking outwards from its both ends and installed on top of two removable railway mounting. Each gun was equipped with electric motor, which allowed the gun to be hydraulically lowered from the railway mounting to concrete anchor slab or to be lifted back from the slab on top of the railway mounting. The whole process of moving gun from hydraulic mounting to concrete anchor slab or vice versa took about 40 minutes. Railway mountings used with the gun were purpose-built, weight about 93 tons each and had eight axles. While this railway gun had outriggers and could be fired when on top of railway mountings on rails, in such mode shooting a mobile target (such as a ship) would have been close to impossible, since could not be rotated on its platform and could have only been laid towards target by moving the whole gun back or forth in a specially built curved section of railway. When combined with the fact that due to slow rate of fire the gun had actually be aimed in such situation not where the targeted ship was, but had to be aimed towards the point where the ship was heading, the whole thing gets really complicated. Hence usually the gun lowered on top of massive concrete anchor pad on top of which it could be rotated and had proper 360 degree sector of fire. Size of the concrete slab was 16 meters x 16 meters and about 3 meters thick, with circular steel rail circling on top of it and steel centre piece in the middle.

As to be expected from railway gun of this size, they were rather complicated. Each of them carried an electric motor, which allowed the gun be moved (slowly) on rails when needed. It also had two optional gun laying systems – electrical gun laying system with hydraulic speed adjustment and manual laying system as a backup. Loading of the gun happened with pneumatic loading system. Each gun was also accompanied by its own armored ammunition and generation railway cars. Generator railway car was equipped with 10 hp gasoline engine and auxiliary engine of about 10 – 12 hp along DC-current generator. In addition to these special purpose railway cars issued to the railway artillery battery included calculation/signals railway carriage, which had signaling equipment had took care of calculating fire solutions for the guns. Signal equipment of the calculation/signals railway carriage contained both telephone centre and radio station. Its system allowed providing correct fire solution settings for each gun electronically. Mechanical computer used for calculating fire solution values was very highly developed design which took in account not only range, meteorological data, ballistics of shells used and proper advantage to moving target, but even coriolis effect and registered fire solution values used for each shot.

PICTURE: 305/52 ORaut railway gun taken to Finnish use photographed in Hanko in August of 1942. This photo shows the railway gun on railway mountings. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 105732). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (178 KB).

When Continuation War started in June of 1941, Soviet military base found itself without any land connection to Soviet Union and Finnish troops around it. The base could be only supplied by sea and even that proved quite risky. Both Finnish and Soviet troops had dug in and after considering offensive early on, Finnish military decided to rather siege the base and allow time to sort it out. There were no large battles fought in part of front, but daily artillery fire was a norm and also Soviet 9th Separate Railway Artillery Battery took part in them with its three TM-3-12 railway guns firing 591 shells total in 105 fire missions – all of them either to mainland or Finnish-held islands. During first few months of the war frontlines moved to east, with Hanko base becoming more and more isolated, until the Soviets finally decided to evacuate it. Railway guns had been brought to the base via Finnish railways and evacuating them was obviously impossible. Hence before the Soviets evacuated last of their troops in 4th of December 1941 they took considerable effort to destroy their railway guns and all equipment used with them. While the demolition process seems to have been quite systematic and thorough with only railway guns being destroyed, but also special railway cars being used with them being dumped in basin of Hanko harbor, it still failed to keep Finnish military from repairing and re-issuing these railway guns.

Once the Soviets had evacuated rest of their troops from Hanko military base in 4th of December 1941, Finnish troops took the heavy mined base. Apparently 305/52 ORaut railway guns had been left on their anchor concrete slabs. Their gun barrels had been destroyed with demolition charges and last shot had been fired after all liquid had been drained from recoil system, in addition of which their instruments and other more delicate equipment had been smashed with sledge hammers. Also instruments and machinery used in calculator/signals car, ammunition cars and generator cars had been smashed before many of them had been dumped to the basin. All railway mountings used with the guns had all been dumped in to the basin as well. Regardless Finnish military decided to repair all three captured guns and equipment used with them. Destroyed gun barrels were replaced with "Bizerte guns" originating from Russian battleship "Imperator Alexander III" acquired from France in year 1940. Also recoil systems used for the repair originated from earlier Russian-built guns. Destroyed instruments were either repaired or replaced, with Finnish company Oy Strömberg doing most of the work related to them. Gun hall was built in Täktom for repairing of these railway guns and was later also used for repairs of 180/57 NRaut railway guns.

10th of May 1943 Finnish coastal artillery established a new railway artillery unit responsible for operating these railway guns. The unit was 3rd Railway Artillery Battery (3. Rautatiepatteri) lead by Captain Kyröhonka and early on when the unit only operational railway gun it contained only 2 officers, 23 NCO and 48 men, but already in July of 1943 it was reinforced for the 2nd gun additional 2 NCO and 28 men. Its non-commissioned officers and rank-and-file soldiers originated mostly from coastal fort of Russarö Island, but lot of additional soldiers were also transferred to this unit from Coastal Artillery Regiment 11 (Rannikkotykistörykmentti 11).

By Finnish standards of that time 305/52 ORaut railway guns were technically quite complicated and especially early on it was not that uncommon for gun crews to found in them damages, which had not yet been spotted. Since the Soviets had been not been kind enough to leave behind any instructors or manuals behind, Finnish troops had to start learning their use by getting familiar and testing systems of the guns. The first of countless gunnery exercises were held in 14th of May 1943 and four days later 18th of May Finnish soldiers started for the first time practicing moving a gun from its anchor concrete slab on railway mountings. While starting of training was not exactly easy, there was progress and already 15th of June training regulations had been created for this railway gun to provide proper guidelines for the training. When also the first ballistic charts had been drawn up for the first two repaired railway guns, all the basics needed for shooting with the guns had been covered, even if 3rd Railway Artillery Battery was still far from reaching status of operational combat unit. 18th - 19th of 1943 3rd repaired 305/52 ORaut was used for testing ballistics of these guns, with 212-kg HE-shell reaching muzzle velocity of about 935 meters/second and with elevation of 49 degrees 53 minutes range of about 48 kilometers.

PICTURE: Part of ammunition delivery system for 305/52 ORaut. Photo taken in September of 1943. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 139104). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (154 KB).

Not only was repair and introduction of these captured massive railway guns to Finnish use an impressive feat and large investment from Finnish coastal artillery, but it also sparked interest among high ranking officers and when needed served as good propaganda piece. Already in June of 1943 Commander of Finnish Navy Lieutenant General Väinö Valve visited 3rd Railway Artillery Battery with German Colonel General and Japanese Admiral. But this just a preview if compared to first live-fire training organized with 305/52 ORaut railway guns in 21st of September 1943 – the event was visited by Minister of Defence Walden, Commander of Navy Valve plus Lieutenant Generals Grandell and Svanström. In that live-fire exercise 10 shells were fired towards rock of Storgadden with two railway guns. The training exercise went otherwise fine, except shells fired by number 1 gun landed on side of the target, for which the reason was later discovered to be an human error – traverse adjustment had been accidentally turned the wrong way. Later that autumn also Commander of Swedish Hemvärnet with entourage, Marshal Mannerheim, General Tuompo, numerous colonels and head of Railway Administration (Rautatiehallitus) Major General Roos separately visited the unit.

Autumn of 1943 canopies were built on these railway guns to provide their gun crews some protection against rain and snow. February of 1944 nearby city of Hanko has several air raid alarms with few small-scale bomber raids and anti-aircraft guns protecting the city returning fire. As a consequence bases of 3rd Railway Artillery Battery were camouflaged with camo nets and trenches were dug in its base to provide shelter against possible air raid. 4th of March 1943 the unit also received two 20-mm Madsen anti-aircraft guns to provide it some anti-aircraft capability.

Manpower of 3rd Railway Artillery Battery increased only slightly summer of 1943. 1st of January 1944 it had 4 officers, 27 NCO and 82 men. In addition the unit contained at that time 3 Lotta Svärd (women’s auxiliary volunteer organization) members and a horse. 13th of January 1944 Major Aarva replaced captain Kyröhonka as battery commander, but Kyröhonka returned the unit as battery commader’s assistant already in 6th of July and once Major Aarva was transferred to head of 2nd Office in Uudenmaa Coastal Brigade HQ in 8th of July 1944, was again re-instated as battery commander. Summer of 1944 Finnish military re-mobilized some of its older reservists, which had already been transferred from active duty in year 1942. 19th of June 1944 3rd Railway Artillery Battery was reinforced with 3 NCO and 40 men belonging to these reservists born in 1903 – 1906.

3rd Railway Artillery Battery never left Hanko Peninsula and served its war in quite peaceful conditions in 1943 – 1944. Unit’s accommodation and offices were in villas of Öhlblom and Sundblom. Officers and older non-commissioned officers had their living quarters in nearby city of Hanko. Railway guns were normally in fire positions that the Soviets had built in Täktom – number 1 gun usually on its anchor concrete slab with its canopy, number 2 gun also on its anchor concrete anchor slab with its canopy and number 3 gun inside the gun hall. The unit did very little shooting with its 305-mm railway guns, it did live-fire exercises with field guns on two occasions and test-fired repaired 180/57 NRaut railway guns before their delivery to 1st Railway Artillery Battery, but the number of shells it fired with 305/52 ORaut railway seems to have been very small. This may have been due to rather limited service life of 305/52 O gun barrels and/or to conserve ammunition. As mentioned 3rd Railway Artillery Battery played part in repairing of captured 180/57 NRaut railway guns, in addition of test-firing them the unit also took part in repairing its computing railway car and building of its repairs workshop railway car even in repairing of 180-mm railway guns in summer of 1944. Year 1943 the unit spent considerable time and effort in restoring captured 305-mm artillery shells.

WHY?

The big question concerning these railway guns is why Finnish military never sent them to combat. One should consider how 305/52 ORaut could have actually been effectively used. Traditional uses for coastal artillery were coastal defense, bunker-busting and use as long-range artillery. In 1943 Soviet Navy was still tied in providing fire support for defense of Leningrad and even then only somewhat operational capital ships in Soviet inventory at Baltic included just one battleship and two cruisers. Considering state of Soviet navy, massive minefields blocking its warships from Gulf of Finland and operational Finnish super-heavy coastal batteries in Mäkiluoto, Russarö and Örö, there seems to have been quite little immediate need for 305-mm railway artillery battery in Hanko Peninsula. If compared to super-heavy howitzers, super-heavy cannons with their low trajectory fire were inherently less accurate and therefore less suited for taking out heavily fortified small targets such as bunkers – hence 305/52 ORaut could have been used against bunkers or Soviet coastal forts, it would have been rather poorly suited for the purpose. What it could have been used was as long-range artillery for shooting larger targets such as military airfields, naval bases or even cities, but its massive slow-moving guns would have also been difficult to hide, easy target for air raids and Finnish military did not target civilian population. One should take in consideration that:

  • Repairs made for the 305/52 ORaut railway guns were so time-consuming that 3rd Railway Artillery Battery does not seem to have been fit for battle until perhaps spring - summer of 1944 – by which time the Soviets usually had air-superiority.
  • By Finnish standards 305/52 ORaut was very heavy and difficult to operate. Large majority of Finnish railway network had built for much lighter railway stock in mind. Hence due to their massive weight these railway guns could have operated only in very limited part of railway network and their effective use would have required building few fire positions with anchor concrete slabs in beforehand. They could have operated main railway line in Karelian Isthmus, but not that many other areas.
  • The only railway route from Hanko Peninsula was via railway-bridge in Karjaa. It was the same route which the Soviets had used to bring their railway gun to Hanko Peninsula, but the bridge had been damaged in year 1941 and nobody knew for sure if the bridge with its repairs was still strong enough for these massive railway guns.
  • The service life of 305/52 O guns used in these railway guns was quite limited (Soviet estimate 300 shells, Finnish estimate only 150 – 200 shells) and ammunition inventory somewhat limited. Finnish military had few spare gun barrels, but once they would be spent, there would have been no replacement.
  • Operating railway guns of this size would have required multiple heavy locomotives – which were also in limited supply.
  • PICTURE: 305/52 ORaut railway gun photographed in Hanko in October of 1942. Notice the rotation mechanism used on concrete anchor slab. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 112913). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (142 KB).

    4th of September 1944 Continuation War ended in Finnish – Soviet armistice. As stipulated in armistice treaty Finnish military started demobilizing its units. 3rd Railway Artillery Battery started discharging its personnel in 4th of October 1944. Soviet officers belonging to Allied Control Commission (Valvontakomissio) visited the unit first in 15th of November 1944. What is known suggests that the Soviets were not even aware that the Finns had repaired and taken these railway guns to their own use before November of 1944. Soviet military wanted their guns back, but could not just grab them, so after Finnish - Soviet negogiations ultimately Soviet Union bought them back. The price for all all three 305/52 ORaut railway guns, special railway cars and other equipment that 3rd Railway Artillery Battery had used with them was 161,425,000 Finnish Marks. What is known suggests that their price was subtracted from war compensations, which Finland was required to pay to Soviet Union. Equipment of this railway battery with all its three 305/52 ORaut railway guns were handed to the Soviets in border station of Vainikkala in 25th of December 1944. Special railway cars handed over to the Soviets including three ammunition railway cars, two of which contained 50 artillery shells each, while third one had 49 shells. All three railway guns remained in Soviet use long after World War 2 and have survived to this day. Nowadays these museum guns are located in Victory Park in Moscow, Central Museum of Railway Transport in St. Petersburg and area of Krasnaja Gorka.

     

     

    OTHER RAILWAY GUNS:

    Finnish military considered that railway guns might be useful until 1960's. Hence in 1950's 152/46 E coastal guns were overhauled and reserved for railway artillery battery until early 1960's. In 1960's they were stricken from that reservation and replaced with captured 130/50 N coastal guns. Very little is known about the type of railway guns they were reserved for, but it is seems quite likely that the intended railway gun designs were probably based to 152/45 CRaut design.

     

     

    PLACE NAMES:

    Due to high number of place names on this page and the same place names getting mentioned repeatedly I decided to go with only their Finnish versions to make the text bit more compact and hopefully easier to read. Some of these places have different names depending language used, hence here is a list for those who might need it:


    SOURCES:

    Ove Enqvist: Itsenäisen Suomen rannikkotykit 1918 – 1998.

    Jyri Paulaharju: Rautatietykit, menneisyyden jättiläiset

    Ove Enqvist: Suomen rannikkotykit, Coastal Guns in Finland.

    Steven J. Zaloga: Railway Guns of World War 2.

    Suomen rannikkotykistö 1918 – 1958.

    Teuvo Rönkkönen: Suomen linnoitustykistö 1940 – 1944.

    War Journals of Railway Artillery Battery from Winter War.

    War Journals of Railway Artillery Battery / 2nd Railway Artillery Battery from Continuation War.

    War Journals of 1st Railway Artillery Battery from Continuation War.

    War Journals of 3rd Railway Artillery Battery from Continuation War.


    Last updated 19th of November 2016
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