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Thursday, January 04, 2007

History: Gas Mech & W.W.I. Trench Warfare

For the first time in history, million-man armies faced each other across a front encompassing multiple countries. This huge endeavor had an insatiable appetite for ammunition, food, and material. A heavy duty road network was years in the future, and cargo trucks were just beginning to be developed. Military planners of the late 19th century turned to lightly laid narrow gauge railroads similar to those used so successfully on plantations in colonial areas of the world. This technology was quickly adapted to the requirements of the Western Front. More than 10,000 diminutive locomotives and uncounted cars moved millions of tons of material forward to the trenches and returned with tens of thousands of wounded soldiers. All the major combatants - The United States, Great Britain, France, and Germany - used very similar equipment and shared the same 60cm (23-5/8") gauge. Many U.S. companies such as Baldwin, Alco, Davenport, Vulcan, Magor, Kilbourne&Jacobs, etc. produced 60cm equipment for all the allied countries in addition to a significant amount of 75cm for Russia. At the end of the conflict, most of this equipment quickly disappeared. Much was scrapped, sold as surplus, or shipped to remote locations.

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