Armored trains have existed since at least the time of the American Civil War. The broad range of this lesser-known subject is covered by the Osprey book reviewed here
. The use of armored trains by Germany in World War II is the subject of the two books reviewed here. I came across these books while hunting for research material to use with the Trumpeter series of kits that represent the BP42/44 armored train. Interestingly, these were both published almost a decade before Trumpeter began releasing their kits.
However, the trains appear to have been a popular model railroad subject in Europe for many years.
Volume 1 German Armored Trains in World War I
I was originally published in 1986 in German. It was translated into English by Schiffer Publishing in 1989. Volume 2 covers the years 1939-1945 in detail. Both are available from popular online booksellers for about $10-11 each. The author, Wolfgang Sawodny, has just released a new book, German Armored Trains 1904 – 1945
, which retails for a cool $100, but is discounted to about $63 (not in my budget).
Volume 1 is 52 pages long in a soft cover format with each page standard paper size. The only color is on the front and back covers. The front cover has a nice painting of a BP44 train in action. This is distinguished by the Panzerjägerwagen
at the front (the Trumpeter kit is reviewed here
). It begins with a general introduction of the history of armored trains, primarily in Europe, then follows chronologically through WWII with an introduction for each period, and including several pictures of the subject. All of the photographs are black and white, and are very well-captioned. The periods covered are:
• From the outbreak of the war to the summer of 1941
• Summer of 1941 to the end of 1942
• Armored train units BP42 and BP44, and armored scout cars and railcars
• 1943 to war’s end
Volume 2 is also 52 pages long, and in the same format. The cover art is just bad: very tall skinny people apparently manned this train. The author indicates he published Volume 2 as a result of a “sellout” of the first volume. That may have been true of the German edition, however the English edition of both volumes are readily available. He also makes a plea in both for contributions to a larger “work in progress.” I assume this became the tome mentioned above.
The second volume has a similar, but longer introduction than the previous book. It then follows pretty much the same sequence, but concentrates on the years up to 1945 (most of the war). It’s difficult to be certain, but I think all the pictures in this volume are different from the earlier one.
For the price, these books provide an excellent overview of the use of armored trains by Germany in WWII. If you are planning to build any of the Trumpeter armored train kits, then at least one of these would be a great reference. In my opinion, Volume 2 provides better coverage of the BP42 and BP44 trains, which are available in kit form. My only disappointment was a lack of clear pictures of the locomotive (the recent BR57 kit). I plan on doing an in-box/partial build review of that kit soon.
Since the Trumpeter kits led me to these books, I think it’s fair to say a brief word or two about them. It looks to me like they are doing an excellent job of representing this unique subject. My only gripe is the cost– especially for an entire train (or half-train, since each car was used twice). All cars of the 42/44 trains have been released or announced, except for the tank-carrying car, and the “pusher” (could be just the gondola kit). I also think the company will release the tender as a stand-alone kit, since two of these were part of a complete train. The clue is that this is the only part of the BR57 kit that has any detail where the tender and locomotive meet.
If you’re building any of the Trumpeter armored train kits, or are just interested in the subject, then these books are a must (at least one of them). I learned a tremendous amount about a subject I knew little or nothing about by reviewing these (pun intended).