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  © Michal Derela, 2002-2021 Updated: 17. 11. 2021

Polish armoured train Nr. 13 ("Generał Sosnkowski")

HistoryCombat use in 1939Description   /   Part II: Damaged train walkaround gallery

"Generał Sosnkowski" armoured train around 1937. The wagons remain in earlier non-standard camouflage, while the locomotive Ti3-8 in new camouflage was borrowed from the "Paderewski". Aerials of the assault wagon are inconspicuous.

The armoured train Nr. 13, better known uder its original name "Generał Sosnkowski", became in a way the most famous of Polish armoured trains used in the Polish September 1939 Campaign of World War II. This train, bombed by the German aircraft, and then examined by Hitler himself, was probably the most often photographed armoured train ever. Its photographs are sometimes treated as one of symbols of Polish obsolete armament – while it was the only Polish regular armoured train destroyed by the aircraft – and the Germans themselves used a number of armoured trains until the end of World War II. Moreover, the "Generał Sosnkowski" was more modern, than German armoured trains in 1939...

Note: links marked this way lead to relevant Wikipedia articles.


Construction and the Polish-Soviet war

During the Soviet counter offensive in summer of 1920, which was a part of Polish-Soviet war 1919-1921, the Polish Army lost twelve armoured trains, which were mostly cut off and could not withdraw[note 1]. Since the armoured trains were very useful in combat on eastern territories, it was decided to undertake quick construction of new units. There were several half-improvised trains created in existing centres, with adapted freight wagons, like „Śmierć” and „Bartosz Głowacki” in Kraków. Apart from these, the War Ministry ordered in July four, then fifteen new trains at Cegielski Works in Poznań, which were not engaged in military production by that moment. In order to supervise designing and construction, a new Armoured Trains Construction Management (KBPP) was created in Poznań on 1 August 1920, headed by Cpt. Stanisław Czerepiński, sent there from Warsaw.

Early photograph of both Cegielski type I artillery wagons together. It is noteworthy, that only one had an observation (or MG) turret (no. 699054?).
Unique newspaper photograph of the „Generał Sosnkowski” shortly after entering service, in 1920-1921, with Ti3-2 locomotive and two type I wagons, armed with German 7.7 cm FK 16 guns.

The first design of the new KBPP was the artillery wagon 'type I'. The new trains were generally patterned upon Soviet armoured trains, which were the most modern ones in the world at that time. They introduced all the features of Soviet trains, like: four-axle bogie construction, twin artillery turrets with field guns, and sophisticated armour protection, not based upon existing walls. Type I artillery wagons were in fact designed with a help of captured drawings of Soviet armoured trains built at Kamianske, although were not their copy[note 2]. The first newly-built in Poznań armoured train had two such modern artillery wagons, at first armed with German 7.7 cm FK 16 cannons. Steel plates came from Kulczyński's Iron Works in Sosnowiec. It was planned, that the first train should be ready by 24 August, but there were delays and only on 14 October 1920 it was given to the Army, and accepted by the end of that month, after adjustments[1]. During the construction period, the train was known as "Generał Veygand" (written this way)[1], for French General Maxime Weygand, who was a military advisor during the battle of Warsaw. It entered service however with a name "Generał Sosnkowski", in a honour of General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, and was assigned a number P.P. 26 (Pociąg Pancerny = armoured train).

It is not clear if the train had also any assault (infantry) wagon attached from the beginning, or only two artillery wagons, like Soviet trains – there is no infantry wagon visible on early photographs anyway. It might be noted, that earlier Polish trains had 2–3 weaker semi-improvised artillery wagons and 2–3 infantry and machine gun wagons. In the 1920s the train's composition was changing, and only from 1930 its fate was eventually combined with both type I artillery wagons. There has been some confusion about the origin of "Generał Sosnkowski", because some older foreign and Polish publications called it a captured Soviet train (its photograph was even mistakenly published in Soviet book from 1933 as Russian WWI armoured train!).

The "Generał Sosnkowski" did not manage to take part in combat in 1920 and remained the only example of type I armoured train. When the Polish Army won the great battle of Warsaw in August 1920 and repelled the Soviets, what led to a truce on 18 October, the construction of new trains was not considered necessary anymore. It was decided to build only several modern armoured wagons in order to modernize some of existing trains. When "Generał Sosnkowski" entered service, there were revealed several faults, like limited angle of artillery fire, and average firepower, due to lack of a howitzer (although it is not clear, why one was not fitted). It may be assumed, that also turret entry was impractical, and sticking out barrels demanded cautious turning of turrets, especially with long 77 mm cannons. Therefore, better indigenous designs of twin-turret artillery wagons were developed at Cegielski: type II, used in armoured trains "Danuta" and "Poznańczyk", and type III, used in "Śmiały" and "Piłsudczyk".

Interwar training service – configuration changes

"Generał Sosnkowski" wagons after a crash on 9 October 1924

After the Polish-Soviet war, the train was assigned for further service by the order of 2 June 1921, among 12 most modern trains, grouped in six units, while 12 other trains were disbanded. Soon it was assigned a number P.P. 12 (which it bore in 1923), and its cannons were changed to more typical Russian 76 mm wz. 1902 (M.1902). It must be pointed out in this place, that in interwar period Polish armoured trains underwent several organization changes, and their wagons were often exchanged, rebuilt and renumbered, and not all details are certain.

During winter of 1923/1924, all the Polish armoured trains were demobilized and stored, including "Generał Sosnkowski". However, in the same 1924 year, armoured stock of "Generał Sosnkowski" and "Danuta" was assigned to newly created Armoured Trains' Practice Unit in Legionowo near Warsaw (sometimes described as basing in nearby Jabłonna). In case of a mobilization, the "Generał Sosnkowski", bearing a new number P.P. 2, would create the 1st Armoured Train Unit, basing in Legionowo, together with the "Danuta". The most significant event at that time was a railway crash on 9 September 1924, behind Olkienniki station (now Valkininkai, Lithuania). At around 4 AM, both armoured trains, coupled together, along with their auxiliary wagons, running on high speed, entered a blind track and derailed before a bridge on the Merkys. Three men were killed, including two officers, over 20 were injured, and the wagons were damaged. In April 1925 the Practice Unit (Dywizjon Ćwiczebny) was renamed as the Training Unit (Dywizjon Szkolny) and completed with the third armoured train "Paderewski".

In October 1927 the Armoured Trains' Training Unit was reformed as the 1st Armoured Train Unit (1 Dywizjon Pociągów Pancernych) in Legionowo, which included six armoured trains – the remaining three being in a reserve. Shortly thereafter, the other six trains created the 2nd Armoured Train Unit, and such organization lasted until 1939 (only with two trains disbanded in a meantime).

The training train around mid-1920s. From left: Ti3-2 armoured locomotive (with "Generał Sosnkowski" name), a "half-barrel" assault wagon from "Generał Sosnkowski", another assault wagon (from "Danuta" train), and ex-Soviet artillery wagon from "Paderewski" (eventually used in the "Groźny"). This locomotive had an armour shape chosen as a standard for Polish trains.
The training train around mid-1920s. From left: the artillery wagon from "Paderewski", and the type I artillery wagon with the assault wagon from "Generał Sosnkowski". The locomotive has early non standard armour – probably Ti3-12 (ex G5³-4021 Münster) from "Paderewski".
The training train, reportedly in July 1925, with a composition as above. The locomotive is probably the same as well.

As we have mentioned, a composition of Polish armoured trains underwent many changes in the 1920s and 1930s, and unfortunately, little documentation remained. It became a subject of research only in the 21st century (mostly by Adam Jońca and Artur Przeczek), but there is an error risk. An interpretation of photographs is made difficult by the fact, that training trains were usually composed of the stock of different trains (in Legionowo: "Sosnkowski", "Danuta", "Paderewski"). As a matter of fact, it is not clear, if the training trains acted officially under their names in that period, even if they used locomotives bearing names of peculiar trains. Therefore, a composition on photographs would have no effect on a composition of mobilized trains. According to the newest research by A. Jońca, P.P. 2 "Generał Sosnkowski" in 1925 was formally composed of:[3]

The photographs show, that in the 1920s the training train often used one type I artillery wagon of "Generał Sosnkowski" and one ex-Soviet artillery wagon, armed with Russian 76 mm M.1902 cannon and Russian 122 mm M.1909 howitzer, ultimately assigned to the train "Groźny" (probable number 450012). According to A. Jońca, in the 1920s this wagon was assigned to the train "Paderewski" in the training unit. There also exist photographs with one type I wagon and one type II wagon from the "Danuta". The second type I artillery wagon (699053) was assigned in 1920s to the train "Śmierć" and apparently remained in a reserve (it was repaired after the crash by 1925).

At that time, the "Generał Sosnkowski" had assigned an assault wagon of the "half-barrel" type, constructed in the KBPP in Warsaw, numer 02019 (later 620651, used from 1930 in the "Danuta", and from late 1930s in the "Poznańczyk"). There was also used an assault wagon of more conventional design – number 430046 from the "Danuta" (its final assignment is not known). It had a significant tower on a roof, which housed a searchlight in early 1920s.

The final composition of Polish trains was established in January 1930, with few subsequent changes. "Generał Sosnkowski" returned to its original composition of two type I artillery wagons (699053 and 699054), and its "half-barrel" assault wagon was replaced with a new wagon, of classic design (number 423502). From 1933, the train was simply designated as the "armoured train of the 1st Armoured Train Unit", while the crew of the "Danuta" became the "cadre armoured train". The third train was withdrawn to reserve, probably by 1928. There were however still used training trains of mixed composition, or even composed of two type II artillery wagons (possibly even more frequently). Among others, there exists a photograph from late 1920s or early 1930s of the train with a locomotive of "Generał Sosnkowski", two type II artillery wagons and the "half-barrel" assault wagon. It seems however, that the names were not used anymore, and the training train actually had more in common with "Danuta" or its twin "Poznańczyk".

In late 1920s or early 1930s the train's stock underwent some modernization. There was assigned a new locomotive Ti3-3 of the same class, which was improved in a standard way, among others, receiving a short-range radio (more on Ti3 page). The train's armament was standardized (75mm wz.02/26 guns and wz.08 MG's), and AAMG turrets were added. The train also received radio and signal equipment.

In the end of August 1939, former "Generał Sosnkowski", with its original two type I artillery wagons, was mobilized in a "black" group of alarm mobilization, as the pociąg pancerny nr 13armoured train Nr. 13 (the names were not used officially). The armament was four 75 mm cannons wz. 02/26 and 16 Maxim wz. 08 machine guns, including two anti-aircraft ones.

Armoured trains of the 1st Armoured Train Unit: Nos. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Combat use in 1939:

( a general map )

The armoured train Nr. 13 was commanded by Cpt. (kapitan) Stanisław Młodzianowski, the 2nd in command was Cpt. Mieczysław Wnukowski. The train had non-standard armoured draisines platoon, weaker than most other Polish trains, for it had two draisines R (FT tanks on rail chassis) and two older Tatras, instead of two R draisines and five TK tankettes (its original platoon had been dispatched to defend a bridge in Tczew before the war).

The type I artillery wagon of "Generał Sosnkowski" in mid-1920s, firing a salvo. A barrel of the second 76 mm gun is apparently withdrawn in full recoil. This wagon's look was similar in 1939, although the rest of the train had changed. There is also the "half-barrel" assault wagon, a locomotive with a non-standard armour (probably Ti3-12), and the second artillery wagon of "Groźny" type. An enlarged, unretouched photograph comes from the other source.
Armoured train nr 13 after its destruction on 10 September 1939.

On 1 September 1939 the train, assigned to Army "Modlin", was moved to Nasielsk, remaining in the Army's reserve. On 3 September Nasielsk station was bombed by He 111 bombers of II/LG 1 – the train did not suffer, but the crew had to repair tracks. In the evening the train was sent towards Mława for a reconnaissance, but it only reached as far as Ciechanów. Cpt. Wnukowski rode the armoured draisine R for a reconnaissance, only to learn, that the station had been already captured by the Germans. The train alone could not be useful in street fighting, so it withdrew. On the next day 4 September, the commander proposed to embark two or three infantry companies and assault the town, but this idea was declined due to a lack of available forces. That day the draisine was sent towards German-captured Ciechanów again, and it brought a captive from German outpost. The train came back to Modlin then, and on 5 September patrolled between Nasielsk and Płońsk, along with train Nr. 15 ("Smierc"), which was subordinated to Cpt. Młodzianowski at that time, creating an armoured train group. The train Nr. 13 was attacked by the aircraft that day, and it reportedly shot down two of them near Pomiechówek[note 4]. Both trains were patrolling the area, providing the Army's staff with information about enemy positions, as well as own positions.

Next, the train Nr. 13 was sent to Zegrze on 6 September, to support a group of Col. J. Sas-Hoszowski, defending the Narew river. It protected a crossing in Zegrze, then it returned to its base Legionowo. At night on 7/8 September, in the lack of other means of communication, the train was employed to localize a headquarters of the Operational Group "Wyszków" in Wyszków town, and deliver it the Army orders. After that, the train strengthened a defence of the south bank of the Bug in that area. Its auxiliary part was remaining in Tłuszcz then. Only on 9 September the train got a combat assignment to bombard scheduled map points with indirect not observed fire. According to some sources, it supported the III battalion of the 5th Infantry Regiment, defending the bridges at Wyszków, and also helped to repell an attempt of crossing the Bug at Rybno, and fought against the German artillery in a forest of Puszcza Biała[2]. Cpt. Młodzianowski in his account only mentioned, that the train fired some 40 shells at roads towards Pułtusk and Serock, but he might have been unaware of targets of his scheduled fire.

On 10 September, the train received an order about a withdrawal of "Modlin" Army units from the Bug River line, and left from Wyszków to Tłuszcz. To avoid being bombed, the auxiliary train was then sent to Mińsk Mazowiecki, while the armored part around noon arrived at Łochów in a search of further orders. The armoured section had a water tank wagon and a guardhouse wagon attached. The draisine R was sent to recognize if the route through Tłuszcz was clear, while the commander of the train, in the conditions of general chaos, went on a motorcycle sidecar to search for staffs of the surrounding units. As a result, the commander lost contact with the armored train. Meanwhile, its crew repaired the bombed track near Łochów station. At about 2 pm the train, commanded by the 2nd in command Cpt. Wnukowski, tried to move to the left bank of the Liwiec. When the train was passing Łochów station, there was a raid of German bombers at the station. One bomb – most probably 500 kg, exploded between the tracks, and the armoured train traveling at high speed was derailed, and a fire broke out in the assault wagon. The train could not be quickly repaired, and the crew abandoned it.

It is not clear who exactly was responsible for the bombing, as there are no German reports about the attack on the armored train on that day, despite there are numerous aerial photos of the bombed train. It has been widely accepted in the literature (e.g. W. Sawodny), that it was the target of famed Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers. However, according to J. Ledwoch, basing on M. Emmerling's research, dive bomber units did not operate in this area on that day. The station could have been the target of Heinkel He 111 horizontal bombers from the KG 27 regiment instead. However, Ledwoch's thesis that the raid took place earlier and the train fell into the bomb crater, is illogical[note 5].

The armoured train Nr.13 derailed due to the bombardment (move direction: to the left). A bomb crater is well seen more photos in a gallery
Artillery wagons of the Nr.13 train recovered and stored by the Germans (we are searching for a bigger photo)
Wagon no 699054 towed away, stuck between the locomotive and its tender.
Wagon no 699054 stored by the Germans (note a lack of bogie side covers and buffers).

Contrary to the impression made by the wrecked train, it was not destroyed, except for the burned assault wagon, but it was rather derailed as a result of the explosion (chassis elements and connections of individual armor plates could have been damaged though). One unit of draisines (R and Tatra) was abandoned on the tracks between Łochów and Małkinia; there is no information about the other one. Unfortunately, there is no firm information about the further fate of "Generał Sosnkowski". The train remained in place for at least a month until snowfall, after which the Germans put the wagons and locomotive on the wheels and towed away, as evidenced by photos. There is anecdotal evidence based on newspaper reproduction that the Germans put the train into service and used in an attack on Denmark in 1940 – allegedly it was transported by rail ferry to Gedser. Still, the lack of evidence of this unit's existence in documents and publications devoted to German armored trains, the lack of German number assigned to it, and the lack of any known reporter or private photographs from the service, make its German service highly questionable. German researcher Wolfgang Sawodny does not exclude that the train could have been used for occupation service in Denmark – however, not in the first wave of the attack (railroad protection trains carried only names, without Panzerzug numbers assigned). In his opinion the photograph underlying this hypothesis was forged, perhaps for propaganda purposes. On the other hand, it is somewhat surprising to refrain from using "Sosnkowski" artillery wagons, in the absence of visible major damage or fire, when Germany, suffering from a shortage of armored rolling stock in the first period of the war, impressed into service less powerful and smaller Czechoslovak and Polish single-turret wagons...

* * *

In spite of the destruction of the armoured section, the crew of the armoured train No. 13 continued to fight. After leaving the train, its crew moved to Mińsk Mazowiecki area and went eastwards with a transport of railway sappers, encountering their auxiliary section near Mrozy. The last combat episode of the armoured train Nr. 13 took place on September 11-16, when its auxiliary section stuck in a large railway jam caused by bombed evacuation trains and destroyed tracks, a couple kilometers east of Mińsk Mazowiecki, in the area of Mrozy – Rudka. The crew, under the command of Cpt. Młodzianowski, created an improvised battery from four field cannons found in immobilized evacuation trains (two of them were placed on platforms as "railway artillery"), while Cpt. Wnukowski took command of the improvised infantry battalion. The crew, with railway sappers and other soldiers from the trains, took part in a subsequent defence of the Polish group stuck in the jam until 16 September. They were also blocking a road from Siedlce, next to the track. It is worth to note, that the part of this group near Mrozy, gathered around armoured train Nr. 52 "Piłsudczyk", defended itself in an encirclement until 20 September.

Surprisingly, and contrary to common belief, "Generał Sosnkowski" was the only one of ten Polish regular armoured trains, knocked out by the German Luftwaffe, in spite of several air attacks on armoured trains. Apart from it, only an improvised Coast Defence armoured train "Smok Kaszubski" was destroyed by the German aircraft.

Armoured trains of the 1st Armoured Train Unit: Nos. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Composition in 1939:

The armoured train, as a military unit, consisted of: an armoured section, a platoon of armoured draisines and an unarmoured auxiliary section. The armoured section and armoured draisines were the combat section of the armoured train, while the auxiliary section was supporting the operation of the combat section in respect of logistics and accommodation, and did not take part in combat.

In late 1930s, combat parts of Polish armoured trains were painted in standard three-color camouflage of Polish vehicles, consisting of irregular airbrushed dark brown, olive green (or brown-green) and greyish sand patches. The patches were oblong, mainly horizontal. Earlier – from early 1930s, there was used a scheme of three unknown colours (probably dark yellow, olive green and light blue gray, like in armoured vehicles), separated with angular black lines. However, in "Generał Sosnkowski" case, only the locomotive is known to wear such camouflage. It is not clear, what was the camouflage of wagons in mid-30s, in spite of being captured on the title photograph and wagons' documentary photographs. Probably it was some transitional non-standard camouflage, possibly experimental. It seems to consist of two dark, little contrasting colours, and light colour, without borders. The light colour covers another darker one and seems partially wiped out. The title photograph indicate, that the wagons of "General Sosnkowski" remained longer in this scheme – possibly until 1937 or 1938. There is not known a camouflage in 1920s – probably the train was painted in uniform colour then, possibly gray.

The crew of the train's armoured section was about 120-130 men – the whole armoured train's crew in 1939 (with an auxiliary section and draisines) was 191, including 9 officers.

Locomotive Ti3-2
TI3-2 locomotive, used by "Generał Sosnkowski" in 1920s.
Locomotive Ti3-3
Ti3-3 locomotive of "General Sosnkowski" in mid-1930s, with its early non-standard four-axle tender 16D1 nr. 201, in old camouflage.


The standard locomotive of Polish armoured trains in 1939 was the armoured steam locomotive PKP Ti3 class - former Prussian G5³ class, produced between 1903 and 1906 and armoured in Poland. From 1930 "General Sosnkowski" used locomotive Ti3-3, former G53-4016 Münster, built in 1904 by Hanomag (serial number 4125).

"Generał Sosnkowski" used Ti3 locomotives from the beginning of its service – initially it was Ti3-2 (ex G53-4024 Danzig), being one of first two locomotives of this class armoured in Poland. Its armour pattern was later accepted as the standard, and all other Ti3 locomotives were armoured in similar way, although with different division of sheets on the boiler. In 1930 this locomotive was assigned to "Pierwszy Marszałek" armoured train (later Nr. 51), while "General Sosnkowski" received Ti3-3. This locomotive, in turn, was fitted with armour, that had been previously used on similar Ti2-73 (former G52-4197) locomotive of the "Danuta" train. By early 1930s its armour and equipment were modified according to new standard. In late 1930s it was modified: its not typical inspection hatches over wheels, opening upwards, with suspending chains, were replaced with lower two-part doors. Its unique feature was, that it was first coupled with a four-axle 16D1 nr. 201 tender, but by 1939 it was fitted with a typical three-axle tender 12C1 (number 483 according to J. Ledwoch). The four-axle tender was next coupled with Ti3-16 of the train "Poznańczyk" (Nr. 12). The photograph on the right shows the locomotive in mid-1930s, with four-axle tender, old camouflage with angular borders, original inspection hatches, but already equipped with a radio and modified commander's turret.

Upon the tender, there was a commander's turret. From the outbreak of 1920s and 1930s it was modified, enlarged and equipped with short-range radio RKB/C to contact the draisines, and an intercom to contact the wagons. It also had optical and sonic means of internal communication (color lights, bells and horns). Maximum speed of the locomotive with wagons was about 45 km/h (28 mph). The armoured part was equipped with Westinghouse brakes by 1930s.

Artillery wagons:

Artillery wagon 699053 in transitional camouflage from mid-1930s, like on title photograph.
Artillery wagon 699054, as above. On both photographs, the doors are partially visible in right turrets.

Armoured train Nr. 13, former "Generał Sosnkowski", had two twin-turret artillery wagons of the same type I, built in Cegielski Works in Poznan in 1920. According to new research, they were built upon 13-metre Prussian four-axle flatcars PPkss series[3]. A span between bogies' centers was 8 m. Their numbers were 699053 and 699054. The armament of each wagon was two cannons in high cyllindrical turrets at both ends, with some 270° of horizontal angle of fire. One turret was placed higher, upon a barbette, while the other was placed directly upon a floor. Initially their armament was two German 77 mm FK 16 cannons, quickly replaced with more typical in Polish service Russian 76.2 mm wz. 02 (M.1902) cannons. From early 1930s until the end the armament was two 75 mm wz. 02/26 cannons (re-bored Russian cannons).

Further armament of the wagon was four German machine guns 7.92 mm wz. 08 Maxim (MG 08) in drum mountings in side walls, and the fifth such anti-aircraft machine gun in central turret on the roof, added in late 1920s or early 1930s (maximum elevation was 90°). Earlier there was a high observation turret in this place (apparently in no. 699054 wagon only). In each turret there could have been mounted one machine gun to the right of the cannon, but they were dismounted by 1939, for unknown reason. The ammunition was probably 120 artillery rounds per gun and 3,750 rounds per each MG (in 250-round belts) – typical for Polish trains.

The armour was riveted of two layers of steel rolled plates. There is no information on armour thickness in peculiar wagons – the military manual only gives a general description, that armoured trains have double layer armour of 12–25 mm thickness. It is peculiar, that the turrets of the wagon 699053 were welded, and of the wagon 699054 – riveted (in 1930s at least)[3]. The turrets had sliding doors in right rear walls to enter from the wagon (in case of high turret it was actually small hatch). Initially both wagons had round holes in turret sides, apparently for passing ammunitiont, then in the wagon 699054 they were modified to oblong shape. Just as doors, these holes were placed asymmetrically (in rear left and middle right). There were probably also hatches in turret roofs, but the details are not visible. Typically for Polish trains, the inside was covered with oak planks, painted light gray. There were single central doors in side walls. The wagons were fitted among others with steam heaters, ammunition boxes, rifle racks, electric fans, internal telephone, three colour signal lights and 15-litre coffee tank. The wagon's crew was about 35 men.

Left: artillery wagon of "Generał Sosnkowski" in 1925 or before, with PPkss 699054 number visible, and type II wagon of "Danuta" (PPkss 699050). Visible is an observation turret and entrance hatch for the turret. This photograph was often published with retouched numbers and crewmen.
   Right: machine gun wz. 08 in the turret (not mounted by 1939)

The final assault wagon 423 502 in mid-1930s, already fitted with a radio (on the title photograph, taken on the same occasion, the aerial is inconspicuous)
The assault wagon from the other side, after bombing of the train.

Assault wagon:

The assault wagon (Polish nomenclature, "wagon szturmowy") was intended for the transportation of an assault platoon. Initial assault wagons of the "Generał Sosnkowski" were changing, but from 1930 until the end it used the wagon number 423 502. According to new research, it was built in Poland in 1920 or earlier upon a chassis of German typical two-axle freight wagon, with a frame length 8 m and axle interval 4.5 m. It initially served as an artillery wagon of the train "Stefan Czarniecki", with one turret on a roof with 8 cm Austrian, later 76 mm Russian cannon, but it was next rebuilt as the assault wagon[3]. Older sources claimed, that it was built in early 1930s in State Sapper Works (PWSap.), but it might concern a reconstruction[8]. The wagon had a two-leaf hatch in each side (in ⅓ of length, placed symmetrically). It might have had doors in end walls as well. There was a small observation turret on the roof, near one wall, with a two-part hatch. It was armed with four 7.92mm wz. 08 machine guns in drum mountings in the sides. The ammunition was 3,750 per MG. The armour was generally similar to artillery wagons. The assault platoon consisted of 32 men (1 officer, 7 NCOs, 24 soldiers, with 2 LMGs). The total wagon's crew was about 40 (with signalmen and stretcher-bearers).

By 1930s, the assault wagon was equipped with Polish long-range radio RKD/P, placed in a separate radio cab in the middle of the wagon. The radio had maximum range 50–80 km with telegraphy (probably well below 20 km with voice transmission). The wagon was also fitted with a power generator, batteries, and a large clothesline aerial on the roof (its distinguishing feature were masts in three rows, of equal height – five masts in middle row and four masts in side rows).

Combat flatcars:

On both ends of the armoured section there were two two-axle flatcars. Their primary function was to carry engineering materials for track repairing (tools, rails and sleepers, logs, explosives, etc). The second purpose was to protect the train against mines or a derailment. There could also be carried eg. bicycles and scout motorcycles (part of them was carried on the auxiliary train's flatcars). During march, there could be an observer upon the flatcar, operating braking valve.

The standard flatcar was series Pdkz, type C VIII (described also as Pdks series). Its weight was about 10 t, load capacity – 17.5 t, frame length – 13 m, wheelbase – 8 m. Special flatcars for armoured trains were modified by fitting three full-width boxes for tools underneath a chassis and 22 lockers for small parts in the chassis, but there were not enough of them, and Nr.13 train had only one modified flatcar and the second standard one, delivered by the Polish State Railways (PKP) during the mobilization (according to A. Jońca, it remained in a red-brown colour)[3].

Armoured draisines platoon:

An abandoned unit of Tatra and R draisines from Nr. 13 train.

Each mobilized armoured train had a platoon of armoured draisines (scout rail vehicles). The standard armoured draisines platoon consisted of two armoured draisines R (tanks Renault FT on a rail chassis) and four armoured draisines TK (tankettes on rail chassis) with the fifth reserve tankette. However, a couple of months before the outbreak of the war in 1939, all armoured draisines of the train Nr. 13 were given to the Army "Pomorze", to strengthen the defense of the bridge on the Vistula in Tczew, on a border between Poland and Free City of Danzig. This platoon fought in a defense of the bridge from a dawn of 1 September, helping to stop German forces, which were aiming to capture the bridge. Polish sappers managed to blow up the bridge, and then the platoon started withdrawal towards Warsaw. It finally stuck in a railway jam near Toruń (see photographs in the gallery).

The mobilized train received two other armoured draisines R, and two older armoured draisines Tatra instead.

Administrative section:

Each armoured train, considered as a military unit, also included an unarmoured administrative or auxiliary section. The auxiliary section accompanied the combat section in operational movements and provided it with an accommodation and logistics support. It was manned by a platoon consisting of 1 officer, 21 NCO's and 26 soldiers. The length of the auxiliary section of the train was about 250 m (820 ft).

The auxiliary train consisted of: a locomotive, coaches for officers (2), wagons for NCOs (2) and soldiers (8), bureau wagon, ammunition wagons (2), fuel store wagon, technical store wagon, ambulance wagon, kitchen wagon, workshop wagon, open coal wagon, water tanker and flatcars (5) - some 27 carriages in all[2]. According to other sources there were only 3 flatcars, but also non-regulation food store wagon and sometimes guard wagon[3]. The coaches were three-axle Dy series, the wagons were by default two-axle adapted boxcars Kd series.

The auxiliary train also should have two wz.34 half-tracked trucks, one truck and four heavy motorcycles with sidecars CWS M-111 – carried upon three flatcars, although actual composition differed and might have contained other cars, like Polski FIAT 508/III field cars and pick-ups. Typical Polish truck was 2.5t Polski FIAT 621L (4x2). Wz.34 half-tracks were in the repair patrol, and they could be equipped with a rail-riding device, although they seem rather rare. One such rail-riding truck (number W10-961) was sent with a draisine platoon to Tczew, and it is doubtful, if the train had another one.

Armoured trains of the 1st Armoured Train Unit: Nos. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Damaged Nr. 13 train walkaround gallery

All corrections and additional informations or pictures are welcome!

Our thanks to Jarkko Vihavainen, Jerzy S. Prajzner, Arthur Przeczek, Adam Jońca and Krzysztof Margasiński.


1. In summer of 1920 there were lost the following armoured trains: in June „Generał Dowbor”, „Pionier-szeroki”, „Generał Sikorski”, in July „Generał Dąbrowski” (aka „Grot”), „Hallerczyk”, „Wilk”, „Generał Iwaszkiewicz”, „Generał Konarzewski”, „Kaniów”, „Piłsudczyk-szeroki”, „Boruta”, in August „Generał Listowski”. Some were later recreated with a new stock. Suffix "–szeroki" (wide) meant wide-gauge trains manned by crews of standard-gauge trains.

2. According to J. Magnuski [1], type I wagons were designed using captured Soviet plans of an artillery wagon of South-Western Railway design, with only some technological changes. Indeed, in June 1919 Polish intelligence captured plans of Soviet trains BP nr. 98 "Sovyetskaya Rossiya" and BP nr. 24 "Sovyetskaya Ukraina", constructed in Dnieper Metallurgical Combine in Kamianske, Ukraine, according to N. Chlebnikov design. There might have been a decision to adapt these plans in Polish designs. However, apart from copying unique arrangement of two external cyllindrical turrets at both end of an armoured casemate, the silhoutees, proportions and detailed technical solutions in both wagons are very different (Polish wagons have lower and longer armoured casemate, with more rounded roof, and one turret is elevated). It is worth to add, that the only train completed according to original design: "Sovyetskaya Rossiya", had wagons armed with 107 mm M.1910 cannon and 76 mm M.1902 cannon, and three MGs, one of them in a turret.

3. There is an information quoted by A. Jońca [3], basing upon some documents, that the wagons type I 699053 and 699054 were armed in 1925 with Russian 76.2 mm M.1902 cannon and Russian 122 mm M.1909 howitzer, but a source of this information is almost certainly wrong. The photographs from mid-1920s show the wagon 699054 armed with cannons only, and no photograph confirms howitzer armament. As a sidenote, it is not clear, why these wagons were not armed with a howitzer in lower turret, like some other Polish wagons (there were used 122 mm M.1909, later exchanged to 100 mm wz.14/19 howitzers in Polish trains, even in same turrets, like 75 mm guns).

4. According to the commander Cpt. Młodzianowski [5], when he was in Modlin Army HQ on 5 September 1939, he was informed, that the train had already shot down the second aircraft near Pomiechówek(W). According to J. Ledwoch, there are no confirmed losses in that area that day, but shooting down or damaging at least one aircraft can't be excluded, since the documents are not exhaustive. It may be assumed, that at least one fight was witnessed and confirmed, although a smoke might have been taken for a shot down plane.

5. J. Ledwoch came up with a theory, that He 111 bomber from 2./KG 27 bombed the station in early afternoon, and only later the train, moving at low speed of 10-15 km/h, fell into a crater and derailed [10]. This is completely illogical, or even absurd, because apart from possible railway signals indicating a threat, the huge crater and warped track in front of the train, must have been visible from enough distance. At such low speed the train would have been able to brake before an obstacle, or one or two wagons could derail eventually. Meanwhile, the derailed train passed the crater with almost all its length, in spite of heavy ploughing into the ground (it would have to travel through the station at express speed, without braking before the crater, what is unbelievable and rather impossible, especially, that maximum permitted speed on main tracks for armoured trains was 45 km/h). In our opinion, the nature of the derailment corresponds well to the bomb explosion next to the front artillery wagon or the locomotive of a moving train – especially that the front bogie of this wagon remained on the track.

In addition, the premise of Ledwoch's reasoning – a report by the squadron commander about dropping only one 250-kilogram bomb, without even mentioning a station as a target – is wrong, because this author is not aware of the existence of a second crater of the same size. In our opinion, the sand from the explosion could fly to the other side of the train under the chassis or between the wagons, especially, that it created a "tongue" there, and was not evenly scattered around. The argument that the photos do not show the train powdered with sand, seems not serious, given the quality of black and white photographs (apart from the possibility of washing the sand from the inclined walls by rain). J. Ledwoch's text also shows that contrary to his interpretation, 2./KG 27 bombers did not even report the bombing of the railway station, but it is not clear why the raid could not have been performed by He 111 of 3./KG 27, mentioned by him, which "attacked trains and army columns" later that day.

The theory about He 111 horizontal bombers explains, why the effect was not immediately observed and recorded, but it raises some doubts due to the fact, that they used 250 kg and smaller bombs. In German wartime publication, the train photo was used to illustrate an effect of SC 500 kg bomb, with a fuse with a delay (see enlarged photo on the right). Indeed, a crater diamater, which may be estimated at 12–13 m, seems more appropriate for German 500 kg bomb, although 250 kg bomb can't be excluded completely (it caused only slightly smaller crater, up to some 11 m diameter). You can see more photos in the gallery.

1. Janusz Magnuski: Pociąg pancerny „Śmiały” w trzech wojnach; Warsaw: Pelta, 1996
2. Rajmund Szubański Polska broń pancerna 1939; Warsaw 1989
3. Adam Jońca: Pociągi pancerne z Legionowa, Wielki Leksykon Uzbrojenia Wrzesień 1939 nr. 24, Warsaw: Edipresse Polska, 2013
4. Adam Jacek Ostrówka: Pociągi pancerne Wojska Polskiego 1918-1939, Toruń 2004, ISBN 83-7322-673-7
5. report of Cpt. Stanisław Młodzianowski in: Pociągi pancerne 1918-1943, Białystok 1999
6. Wolfgang Sawodny: Die Panzerzüge des Deutschen Reiches; Freiburg: EK Verlag, 1996
7. Janusz Magnuski: 50 lat września - Broń pancerna; "Wojskowy Przegląd Techniczny" nr. 9/1989
8. Regulamin broni pancernej. Opis i wskazówki obsługi pociągu pancernego. Projekt, Warsaw 1938
9. Janusz Magnuski: Pociąg pancerny „Danuta”, Typy Broni i Uzbrojenia (TBiU) nr. 18; Warsaw: Wyd. MON, 1972
10. Janusz Ledwoch: Polskie pociągi pancerne 1939, Tank Power vol. CXLVIII (407); Warsaw: Militaria, 2015
11. Paul Malmassari: Armoured Trains: An Illustrated Encyclopedia 1825-2016; 2016
12. Adam Jońca: Polskie Pociągi Pancerne 1921-1939, Warsaw: Vesper, 2020

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