Armored trains were to become a formidable weapon of the Spanish militia in the Civil War. Dozens of them were made, sometimes they were converted vehicles and even tractors. However, the expected crushing victory did not come, and the armored trains turned out to be more a horror story than a real force.
In Spain, before the start of the civil war in 1936, armored trains were used mainly on the territory of its colonies, for example, in Cuba and Santiago. And although after the end of the First World War, two railway regiments were founded in the metropolis, they were engaged in the operation and maintenance of railway lines.
The first real armored train is now considered to be the composition that appeared during the revolution in Asturias in October 1934. The armored train consisted of a steam locomotive and two hastily armored carriages with steel sheets. This composition took an active part in the 20-thousand-strong workers' militia of the "Asturian Commune", but its path was short-lived: it was destroyed by government forces that suppressed the uprising.
A new military uprising on July 18, 1936, which split Spain into two warring camps - nationalist rebels led by General Francisco Franco and loyalist Republicans supporting the Spanish Popular Front government initiated a bloody civil war. It was these terrible events that became a powerful impetus for the creation of a large number of armored vehicles, primarily trains.
At first, the increase in the volume of "armored trains" was spontaneous and consisted, in fact, in the re-equipment of existing steam locomotives: the trains were covered with armor and armed with machine guns. The trend was picked up on both sides: all railway workers were mobilized and sent to fulfill military "orders".
A fairly well-known "alteration" for an armored train was an armored Landesa tractor mounted on a platform. The first real armored train from the Republicans appeared by the workers of the workshops of the Northern Railway (Principe Pio) under the leadership of an engineer with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Valcarsel. At first it was named as armored train "A", later - armored train number 1. The crew of the train included about 100 people.
Another famous armored train was a train consisting of a steam locomotive, a tender and two cars. The locomotive was protected by armor with flat iron sheets of the boiler and the driver's booth. The locomotive bore the inscription "LIBERTAD", under this name it went down in history.
The armored cars had an established form: they resembled iron sheds with gable roofs, set on wheels. Embrasures were often located in the walls, for firing forward and on the sides. It is interesting that the cars could be placed not only after the locomotive, but also in front of it.
The idea of creating armored trains did not lose popularity over the course of hostilities.
So, in October 1936, two armored trains were built in Madrid, designated respectively "H" and "K". The first to be completed was the "N" armored train. On October 19, armored train "N" left Madrid and headed towards Illescas, despite the fact that its armament was almost three times less than originally intended. The armored train traveled for only a week, after which the locomotive was damaged in the next battle.
The armored train "K" was completed on October 27, 1936. It consisted of a steam locomotive and two armored cars. The total length of the "K" armored train reached 80 meters. In total, as of the end of October of the same year, nine armored trains were operating in the Madrid area.
Over time, the letter designation of armored trains was replaced by numbering. One of the most famous trains with a figure was the republican armored train number 12, which is considered the most perfect. Construction of the new train began in January 1937. "Twelfth" was modernized in comparison with its predecessors and had better technical characteristics and weapons. The weight of the new train reached more than 300 tons, and the length was about 50 meters. The armored train was equipped with a perfect power supply system and internal communication. The construction itself was completed only a year later.
The history of the battles of this armored train does not shine with serious victories: after several major clashes, where No. 12 mostly covered the waste or pulling back the damaged equipment, it was no longer released to the front line.
The fate of most armored trains was not successful: some of them died on the battlefield, some were evacuated abroad and their further trace is lost. And some trains were to be destroyed by order of the command. Armored trains proved to be an effective means of protecting the approaches to the capital in the hands of the Republicans only in the first period of hostilities. Later, they became more a tool of psychological pressure on the enemy than a truly formidable force.
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