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    Overlord Military train modelled in 7mm

    Good Afternoon,

    This is my military train of British vehicles being transported down the south coast ports in 1944 for loading onto the D-Day ships. My other model is a 12inch railway gun, and my interest is modeling railways in the First and Second World Wars. Hope that you enjoy the models and will be happy to answer any questions, the original article can be found here >> Overlord Military Train

    David.

    overlord train jun06 top 5.jpgoverlord train jun06 detail 7.jpgoverlord train jun06 detail 2.jpgoverlord train jun06 9.jpg


    The Overlord Military Train: David Austin.


    Concept and Realisation.
    The idea of the Overlord train was conceived as just a small train of military vehicles on my freelance model of the Southern Railway in the pre-war years. The Southern Railway in the late 1930’s had three main types of traffic; mainline and branch passenger trains, which included the Pullman trains for the boat and airways travellers, big freight trains from the South Coast docks with perishable and bulk goods, and the military trains which conveyed the expeditionary forces to continental Europe.

    With this operational scenario in mind the military train was going to be key feature of running the layout as the South of England had been the kicking off point for all of the military expeditions to leave these shores. As far back as the time of the Spanish Armada in the 1588 the major ports of Southampton and Portsmouth have bid farewell to the warriors of the British Isles, and early in 1944 the largest ever invasion fleet was assembled in the ports of the South Coast and despatched to France. After the recent 60th anniversary of the Overlord landings there has been renewed interest in the D-Day invasion as it was probably the last big celebration of this momentous event in the history of warfare. This renewed awareness has heightened my interest in the landings, and the logistics of moving five divisions of men and material, mainly by railway, to the assembly areas on the South Coast for embarkation onto the invasion fleet was a huge undertaking of organisation and improvisation.

    At the start of the project there was little expectation of the outcome of this little modelling acorn, as in fact, it was only meant to be a little train of tanks on flat-wagons. But the internet is such a fantastic source of information, and after much research on the web and in the library produced photographs by the dozen, mostly with human stories of courage and derring-do. There are not many photographs of military railway trains in the war as the concerns of security have curtailed general access and restricted need, and those which are available are of troop carrying passenger trains, casualty ambulance trains, wagon freights with ammunition and stores, and long bulk trains with US made Sherman tanks or British made Cromwell type tanks on flat wagons. As the troop and freight trains are easily catered for by standard stock the tank carrying train is the subject of this model. However, the only photographs which feature military vehicles on the railway are shipments of new build tanks from the factories of the North to army units in the South.

    It was a great disappointment to find that the main model manufacturers such as Tamiya and Corgi, have only produced some soft skinned vehicles in the scale of 1:43, but no armoured tanks. The military modelling world usually uses scales of 1:35 and 1:50 but this scale will turn out models which are too far out of size to be practical. The closest popular scale for military vehicles is 1:48, but the range of availability in this scale is also limited.

    So idea of bulk trains with one vehicle type was looking un-achievable. It seemed that there was no consistent source of vehicles in the correct size or scale at a reasonable cost. However, the internet has produced many types of soft skinned military vehicles at very reasonable prices. There were jeeps and trucks exactly the right scale and size from Corgi, Shucco, Solido, and Cararama, with many variations on colour and army unit markings. Further, these mass produced models have been used by smaller firms to produce upgraded variations. The amount of information on the subject from the internet and books really started to hurt the grey matter, so all of this data was collated in a reference database to track and analyse the availability of suitable models. The key to finding the right vehicles was the size of the actual model, and not its scale, as it become clear that some models were incorrectly sized with some out-of-scale models being more suitable than others. It was a matter of trail and error to find the models which had a ‘best fit’. The database has been developed to contain details, for each vehicle type and manufacturers, with model numbers, and scale sizes, and this information allowed the selection of the vehicle which were correct for size and period, regardless of scale.

    Daring-Do and Great Deeds in Normandy
    Back to the real world and notwithstanding the dearth of photographs of railways carrying military vehicles, the coverage of the armed forces in the D-Day landings is much more prolific and interesting from the modellers point of view. The troops and vehicles of the invasion force were loaded into ships in the South Coast ports of Plymouth, Weymouth, Poole, Chichester, Southampton Railway docks, Portsmouth, and Newhaven. The hardware included all types and sizes of tanks, trucks, armoured carriers, jeeps, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles. The warriors were going into the unknown on defended beach in enemy territory and were unlikely to be supported during the first days of the landing. It was very noticeable that the main feature of the vehicles in the invasion force was that each and every one is loaded up to the hilt with personal gear, and covered with tent rolls, packs, helmets, oil cans, jerry cans, spare track links, spare wheels and other personal items. For the recent Overlord anniversary Corgi, Solido and Cararama have produced updates of the jeeps and small trucks, some with interesting details of personal packs and weapons. As most of these ranges are limited editions, individual vehicles can be quite scarce, but fortunately eBay is an excellent source of models, and many a happy hour has been whiled away in the search for the exclusive find. In something close to an obsession and a frenzy of plastic card abuse, the model military vehicle train started to take shape, and thirteen vehicles were delivered and loaded onto ten flat wagons. Each vehicle was detailed with personal packs and loads, and secured to the wagon with either chain or rope.

    The Overlord Military train made its first public appearance at the club in late 2005, and to critical acclaim as it was pronounced the winner of the Interesting Trains day, and with a mention in the Gauge O Guild newsletter. Not quite the Despatches but recognition enough

    But even though the military train was now a reality it was really galling that there were no armoured vehicles in my army, and particularly notable, there were no British military vehicles. So plans were drawn up to scratch build a suitable tank from plastic card with components from a Tamiya kit providing the detail. The chosen model was the Centaur Close Support tank, used by the Royal Marines, and an example of the Corgi model was used as a template. The Corgi model is highly detailed, with wading equipment, packs, tarpaulins, and markings on the turret for artillery observers. But in 1:50 scale is clearly too small in size to be used. However, it wasn’t too long into this little exercise of scratch building a tank from plastic sheet, that the construction of a whole train worth of tanks was going to be very long, very tedious process. As the Corgi model looked so realistic it was a shame to scrap it so the Centaur was paired with a Corgi model of a Cromwell tank, loaded onto a warflat wagon and marshalled with the military train for its next outing. In the context of a train running on tracks, and without the benefit of a figure in 1:43 to provide a measure of size, the train of out-of-scale tanks was a great success. But there was more, much much more to come.

    British Inventions and the Funnies.
    In the preparation for the assault the British were by far the most adventurous with specialised armoured vehicles in support of the assault troops on the beaches. The American Sherman tank and the jeep may be the enduring image of warriors going to war, but the lessons learnt in previous amphibious operations were fully acted on by the staff of the English military. The attempts of seaborne invasions of Gallipoli (1915), Norway (1940) and Dieppe (1942), were all lacking in vital equipment and detailed planning, and failed to achieve their objectives. To ensure success in 1944, the British army produced solutions of fantastic imagination and great success. The 79th Armoured Division was lead by Major-General Hobart and he was tasked by Churchill to support the attacking infantry forces with specialised armoured vehicles. The intention was to prevent a bloodbath on the beaches of Normandy and a repeat of the disaster at Dieppe where many Canadian soldiers were killed or captured. These machines were known as Hobart’s Funnies and included pragmatic solutions to the problems of overcoming defended shorelines, with modified tanks for mine clearing, demolition, bridging, anti-aircraft, swimming, and road building. The approach taken by Hobart's team was to identify specific problems in landing troops during the assault phase of the landings. A party of swimmers were sent in under the cover of darkness, and the eyes of the German defences, to bring back samples of the beach and other geological information. This was added to the vast amount of intelligence which had been gleaned from photographs and holiday postcards of the beaches. The problems of how to get vehicles and troops from the sea onto the beaches with enough equipment to assault the defences of the Atlantic Wall were quickly identified. On one beach a layer of clay was found on the beach which would have bogged down the assault tanks. The solution was the Bobbin carpet layer. A Churchill tank was fitted with a roll of flexible roadway carried on a rotating drum. As the tank proceeded up the beach the carpet unrolled under its track and the tank created its own roadway in the process of moving forward. As a part of the defences the German defenders had laid many millions of mines so the Crab tank was born. This version had a rotating drum carried on arms projecting from the front and turned by an engine. The drum had lengths of chain with heavy weights on the ends. As the drum rotated the weights hit the ground and detonated any mines. But the most amazing invention surely must have been the swimming or Duplex Drive tank. In this novel approach the assault troops were assured of leaving the landing craft with armoured Sherman tanks in support. The tanks were fitted with skirts of canvas and propellers. The skirts were raised by compressed air rams and formed a bath shaped hull whilst the prop drive allowed the tanks to swim through the sea at 5 knots. At sea the bulk of the tank was below the waterline and only a few inches of the hull was visible above the waves. The sight of these sea monsters arising from the surf into the beach left some of the defenders aghast with amazement. The swimming had been developed in between the wars and even the German army had experimented with the concept of Operation Sealion, the invasion of England. The army used any tanks which were available to create this veritable zoo of mongrels but the British Churchill tank proved to be the most versatile vehicle for adaptation into a 'funny'. These tanks were also used for bridging holes in the roads with deployable bridges, or for laying demolition charges against seawalls. Where a seawall on a beach was ten feet high or so, a Churchill tank was modified to be a ramp with trackways on its top in place of the turret. The tank was then driven up the side of the seawall to rest like a ladder against a wall. Other tanks could climb the first tank and gain the top of the seawall.

    As a reflection of the interest in these crazy inventions the military modelling world has taken the die-cast basic toy tanks which have been produced by Corgi and Solido and modified them to create these specialist vehicles. The box of worms was now and truly open, and there are now many more opportunities to increase the variation of Armoured Fighting Vehicles, AFV, on the military train.

    Wagons and More Wagons.
    The growing collection of suitable military vehicles for the model train was a step into the unknown. The escalation of the number of wagon loads meant that the train had become too heavy for a simple SECR C Class 0-6-0 tender loco, and further, heavier armoured tanks needed to be carried on specialised bogie flat wagons for transportation. In an attempt to keep the escalating costs under some measure of control a programme of mass wagon building was undertaken. Using styrene card and cast WD bogies a fleet of warflat, warwell and rectank wagons was constructed. The motive power also followed the evolution of the railways with big 2-8-0 and 2-10-0 locomotives being developed from existing freight engines.

    Genesis of the Wagons
    The Rectank originated in the WW1 and was the first purpose built railway wagon specifically designed to carrying AFV's weighing up to 35 tons. In the early days of the British tank the loading of the vehicles was by crane, but the Rectank flat wagon allowed tanks to be driven onto the train of wagons from a loading platform, moving from one wagon to another until it was parked. For those situations where a loading platform was not available a ramp wagon was provided to load tanks from ground level. These 4 wheel flat wagons were designed to have one axle set removed and the end to rest on the rails. Tanks were able to use the wagon as a ramp to drive up onto the train of wagons. The Warflat was next development of the wagons and was the answer to the increase in size and weight of tanks. This wagon was approved for Churchill tanks and other vehicles up to 50 tons. However, when the American built Sherman tank started to arrive in large numbers their size on the warflats caused problems with the restricted loading gauge on Southern railways. These tanks were the mainstay of the Allied armoured forces and stood very tall. The Warwell wagon was designed to carry the tanks in a well as its name suggests. These wagons came in two capacities of 50 and 80 tons. The load floor of the smaller wagon was 2 ft 6 in above rail height compared with 3ft 3 ¼ in for the higher capacity wagon.

    Models in the Train
    The method of construction of the models is very straightforward. The top deck is 0.6 mm sheet and is laid over the frame of sole-bars and headstocks made from 1mm sheet. Lateral members between the solebars form the framework of the chassis. To give some rigidity a lower sheet is added over the central part of the wagon leaving the bogie centres as an open frame. The bogie mounts are boxes of 1mm sheet of 20 x 10 x 10 mm with the long length transverse at the bogie centre. The buffers are made from tubular styrene, with 5mm outside diameter rams inside the next size tube acting as the buffer bodies, and sprung with thin piano wire. The buffers ends are circles cut-out from 0.7mm sheet of 10 mm diameter and cemented to a 1mm pad before being glued to the end of the ram. The bogies are cast white metal and fully sprung from ABS and are fitted with Slaters 3ft 1in diameter 3 hole wagon wheels. The Rectank wagons use 2ft 9in spoked wheels. The brake vans were converted from standard Parkside SR 25t brake vans, and following the prototypical modifications to the originals the end windows and side planking were altered, and a pair of large vacuum cylinders added to the end platforms. The ramp wagons were scratch built from styrene in the same manner as the flat wagons. Some of the wagons were planked and coffee stirring sticks were used for this purpose. The loads are secured by chains for tanks and AFV's, rope for trucks and jeeps. The chains are very fine, being 1mm links from Quarter Kit, and use container securing shackles from Slaters. The chain assembly is attached by 03mm nickel silver wire. The lower edges of the tyres of the wheeled vehicles are flatted to represent a loaded truck and tracked vehicles are scotched with lengths of railway sleeper in accordance with prototypical practice. Some of the vehicles are relatively heavy and the chain is very light so of necessity the heavy vehicles are glued to the wagons.

    Army Trainloads of Vehicles
    From research of the archives the typical AFV train was two or three passenger coaches, two brake vans, two ramp wagons and 5 or 9 flat bogie wagons. These were, in fact, trains which had been assembled and positioned in strategic locations ready for the immediate movement of tank formations in 1939. This precaution was taken to move armoured forces quickly to the coast in case our enemies desired to invade the shores of Britain. With the co-operation of the railways the military produced the Guide Manual for AFV Movements which prescribes the wagon load combinations to comply with the railway loading gauge.

    AFV
    Loading
    Wagon
    Comments
    Matilda, Covenanter
    Crusader, Valentine, Light tanks, Light Armoured cars
    pair
    Warflat

    Churchill, Cavalier, Centaur, Cromwell, OP Tanks
    single

    Challenger
    Comet
    na
    Not rail carried

    US Grant, Lee , Sherman, SP 25pdr Ram
    single
    Warwell

    Churchill AVRE
    single
    Warflat
    All attachments removed
    Churchill Bridge Layer
    na
    Not by rail

    Valentine / Covenanter Bridge Layer
    See comments
    x3 rectanks or x3 Warflats
    Two tanks on one wagon, their bridges on another 2 wagons
    Crocodile trailers
    See comments
    warflat
    Loose chocked on one wagon and connected to tank on next wagon,
    17pdr Valentine SP
    pair
    Low well
    Floor less than 2’2”
    M7 SP 105mm, M10 3”,
    M10 17pdr,
    na
    Not by rail
    M10’s were carried as exceptional loads, on well wagons with 2’2” height from rail.
    Medium Armoured car, Armoured Command Vehicle
    pair
    Warflat or Rectank


    Special Loads and Likely Projects
    In the build-up to Overlord a number of movements with exceptional loads and special trains were recorded and these are described in Appendix A: Weekly Movement Report 1944. The interesting trains loads which merit consideration as a modelling project include, loads of naval ammunition, 42 foot long steam derricks, a 30 foot motor launch, 52 foot cargo lighter boats, 30 foot Landing Craft, 3.7 inch anti aircraft guns and equipment, Bailey bridges, Terrapin amphibious trucks on Warwells, and Crocodile flame-thrower tanks complete with trailers. These tanks were based on the ubiquitous Churchill with an armoured trailer to carry the inflammable mixture. The trailer units weighed 4 tons and were permanently coupled to the tank. The largest warflat wagon was only qualified for a single Churchill. It is not difficult to imagine the men of the railway and the Royal Engineers pondering the problem of safely loading the pair of steel monsters onto the wagons. The pragmatism and ingenuity of the British engineer soon arrived at workable solution. The tank was secured onto one end of a warflat and its trailer sat on the end of the next wagon in the train, still coupled to its parent like an unruly child. It was lateral thinking at its best. This pragmatic approach was hardly going to win a health and safety award but there was a war on. The remaining space on the two wagons was taken up by a light tank or small truck, or the next trailer of the Crocodile.

    As the tanks were developed to meet the demands of war there were limitations on the vehicles which could be carried. And for the movement of vehicles by rail it was determined that wheeled vehicles for 200 miles, tracked carriers could be conveyed for distances of 150 miles, tracked AFV's for 100 miles, and tanks for 50 miles. The vehicles were permitted to be fully fuelled and armed with ammunition but the speed of the train was limited to 30 mph. On the Southern Railway with its smaller clearances the permitted top speed was reduced to 25 mph.

    Vehicle
    Issue
    Comment
    Crusader AA 1+2, 95mm SP, 17pdr SP,
    Loading gauge,

    25pdr Mark 3A, M3 75mm MGC, M7 105mm MGC,
    M10 3“ SP
    Loading gauge,
    Can be loaded to wagons with height of well floor 2’ 2“ from rail;
    Challenger, Crab, Baron, Scorpion, Comet, Churchill Bridgelayer, Sherman DD, Valentine DD,
    Not to be moved by rail
    The smaller bridge layer tanks could be carried on several wagons; see table above;
    AFV with wading equipped, ARVE, Crocodiles, AFV with Y security, AFV with experimental fittings
    To be sheeted.

    Cromwell VII and Challenger with 15 ½ “ tracks
    .Loading gauge
    Can be transported when fitted with 14 ½” tracks if absolutely essential

    At the height of the build-up to the Overlord operation there were 511 train movements in February 1944 of AFV, 54 of which were for the US army.

    Number of Vehicles
    Description
    Owner
    Comment
    170
    35t Rectank
    Railways

    210
    50t Warflat
    War Department

    250
    50t Warwell
    War Department

    64
    80t Warwell
    War Department

    50
    50 t Warwell
    Ministry of Supply

    25
    20t Deep case
    Ministry of Air


    Oopps!.
    During an exhibition of the Overlord model train an old railwayman related a story of how the army demonstrated the loading of tanks onto the new warwell wagons. The driver of a tank was instructed to carefully drive along the row of wagons from the loading platform, climbing out of and falling into the wells of each wagon in turn, keeping the heavy vehicle on the narrow pathway of the wagons. The visibility from the tank is very limited and normally the tank commander or a marshaller provides guidance instructions. The demonstration was proceeding smoothly and the whole of the train or several wagons was traversed without problem. When the train ended at the last wagon the tank driver didn’t see that it had and the tank promptly fell off the wagon buffers onto the track with an almighty crash. The reaction of the officer in charge or the watching senior officers wasn’t recorded but I would image that the tank driver was shaken somewhat but not stirred.

    Big Trains and Heavy Loads
    The history of the No 5 Movement Control Royal Engineers, (RE) describes huge trains and worn out locomotives in Continental France in 1944. The unit of 45 officers and 190 men controlled the movement of many thousand trains in France in 1944. The usual load for French locos was 750 tons, but sometimes 1,400 tons was loaded behind a 4-6-0 Pacific. These were fairly worn out from a lack of maintenance and the poor crews must have worked hard to get the thing to move at all. There were two main train types: trains with 10 flat wagons, 2 coaches, and a number of vans. These were mainly for mainly for transport personnel and was designated P. The other type was for trains with vehicles, coded V, and carrying lorries, armoured vehicles, cars, and guns on 46 flat wagons , with 1 coach, and 4 to 6 vans. It was reckoned that 35 flat wagons took 2 hours to load and could run for 120 miles on most days. In the chaos of war which was raging at the time the equivalent road journey took twice as long. The capacity of the loading terminal was the main limiting factor for big train loads provided that enough motive power was available to move the end result. The RE worked to the criteria of train loading that determined how many wagons were needed to transport an army unit of 4000 men and 500 vehicles. This movement required a total load of 450 flat wagons (to include contingency of 15%) and 115 vans (at 40 men per van) in 13 trains. Twenty-six years on from the last Great War and horse wagons bearing the infamous legend '8 chevaux or 40 hommes' was still a familiar sight for the fighting soldiers of the Allied armies in 1944.

    It’s the Wrong Wagon, Sarge!
    The observant reader would notice some anomalies in the pictures of the Overlord Military Train. There are vehicles which have been loaded onto the wrong wagons and contravene the regulations described above. And there is nothing worse to hurt ones pride than when a more knowledgeable 'expert' points out the discrepancies. In the next revamp of the model there will be changes made to the loading arrangements. The locomotive is a War Department Austerity 2-8-0 built from a Snowhill model. This loco was a development of the Stanier 2-8-0 goods loco and was re-designed by Mr RA Riddles to make it more suitable for production in years of war when most materials were of limited availability. The loco type has just one example in preservation at Keighley and Worth Railway, (number 90773). The type was developed onto the 2-10-0 and there are three examples at the Seven Valley Railway (600 Gordon), North York Moors, (3672 Dame Vera Lynn) and North Norfolk Railway (90775).

    References:
    1. IWM: PP/MCR/65: Captain AH Hastie; Movement Control RE:
    2. IWM: BM QM 01/41/01 to 03: Col SO Screen: Record of AFV Movements:
    3. IWM: BMQM 5/275 01/41/1 1944: Col SO Screen: Weekly Movement Reports;
    4. IWM: 01/41/3: AQMG mins: 14Mar44

  2. The Following 12 Users Say Thank You to CommanderChuff For This Useful Post:

    archmoco (2nd May 2012), bacarnal (24th April 2012), beihan62 (22nd April 2012), Bockscar (22nd April 2012), Darren (7th September 2016), navyman (22nd April 2012), pzgr40 (22nd April 2012), RichardB (2nd May 2012), Slick (22nd April 2012), smle2009 (3rd May 2012), usa1918 (20th June 2012), Weasel (22nd April 2012)

  3. #2
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    Hello Commander,
    I love the layout, could we see some more pictures please? How long did the project take to build. When I was railway modeler I found that it was never actually finished, just ongoing, a bit like collecting I suppose?
    Best regards,
    navyman.

  4. #3
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    Hallo Navyman,

    Thanks for the thanks, and the Overlord train took 24 months to build, and upgrades are ongoing. The garden layout is my Fathers and has taken 25 years to build. As you say these projects are very infinite but generally I find that there are many sub projects within the main target. I like to make small steps to the railway, and will build little bits of it whenever I can. The railway artillery gun is one of those sideshows, but will be building my own garden layout shortly.

    David.

 

 

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