Railroad Troops

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Railroad Troops


special troops whose task is to restore, build, and block railroads in theaters of war. Organizationally they are broken down into units of various sizes.

The first railroad troops appeared in Russia in 1851, when military railroad-operations units were formed on the St. Petersburg-Moscow railroad as part of the corps of engineers. The first permanent railroad battalions were formed in 1876–77. In the course of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 they restored, built, and operated railroads in Rumania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. In 1903 railroad troops as special troops were transferred from the Main Engineering Directorate to the Main Headquarters. In the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05 the railroad troops operated the China-Eastern Rail-road and built narrow-gauge railroads in Manchuria. In World War I (1914–18) the role and importance of railroad troops in supporting operations increased sharply, and their number grew severalfold.

In October 1918 railroad troops were formed in the Soviet Army as detached railroad companies, and in 1919 they were reorganized into railroad battalions and combined to form brigades. Soviet railroad troops operated on all fronts in the Civil War of 1918–20. Five railroad battalions were awarded Honorary Red Banners by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee for combat service. In 1921 the railroad battalions were reorganized into regiments, and in 1932 the Special Corps of Railroad Troops was formed. At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 the railroad troops evacuated rolling stock and valuable freight and restored normal operating conditions after enemy air attacks. Operating jointly with special units of the People’s Commissariat of Railroads, the railroad troops restored about 120,000 km of railroads on USSR territory and outside its borders during offensive operations of the Soviet Army. This made it possible to successfully transport troops, weapons, equipment, ammunition, and other matériel. For their service in the Great Patriotic War, 18 units of the railroad troops were awarded orders, and one unit received the honorary designation of Guards. About 40,000 military railroad workers were awarded orders and medals and 27 were given the title of Hero of Socialist Labor. In the postwar period the railroad troops have been equipped with the latest combat, construction, and repair equipment and have continued to develop.


Terekhin, K. P., A. S. Taralov, and A. A. Tomashevskii. Voiny stal’nykh magistralei: Kratkii voennoistoricheskii ocherk o zheleznodorozhnykh voiskakh Sovetskoi Armii za 50 let. Moscow, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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