|R304||Centenary of British Light Railways on the Western Front||£20.00||Sold Out|
Issue Date: 21/06/2016
Issue Name: Centenary of British Light Railways on the Western Front
Producer: Buckingham Covers
2016 marks an important moment in railway history as it is 100 years since Britain's formation of the War Department Light Railways during the First World War. This beautiful cover shows one of the finished railway lines in action, carrying soldiers and supplies to the front.
Light Railways at the Western Front
From the early 1900s, Britain had an official policy favouring the use of motor vehicles, over light railways, for the transportation of men and supplies to a War Zone. The vehicles were mechanically unreliable and not up to the task. At the start of the First World War the existing French railway network served to fill the transportation gap until the static nature of trench warfare in the British Sector highlighted the inadequacies of this system.
Consequently, as early as 1915 the British built wooden tramways, or utilised existing steel tramways, to create ad hoc Front Line transportation systems. By 1916 all the problems of transportation of enormous numbers of men and quantities of materials prompted British Minister of Munitions Sir Eric Geddes to recommend the installation of a tactical light railway system - the War Department Light Railways (WDLR).
The first Light Railway Companies (LRCs) were formed in February 1916. The new LRCs had a nominal strength of 200 men, mainly former railway men, commanded by a Captain. In all, 27 LRCs operated on the Western Front, with others dedicated to training, recovery and repair. Some of the LRCs were established, staffed and run by the South Africans, Canadians and Australians.
A consortium put together by the British War Office and the Robert Hudson Company laid down the specification requirements for a suitable locomotive, and designs for a range of railway wagons using the European Standard Light Railway gauge of 60cm.
Three types of locomotive were used: steam driven, internal combustion engine (petrol or gas) and a hybrid using an internal combustion engine and electric motor.
UK manufacturers Hunslet and Hudson, along with the American Companies Baldwin, Barclay and American, were the main suppliers of Steam locomotives for the Western Front. Locomotives of the 4-6-0 wheel arrangement moved large amounts of supplies from the main line marshalling yards to the light railway depots, but nearer the Front Line the internal combustion engine locomotives took over the final stage of delivery. Much of this was done under darkness to avoid observation and shelling.
The principal British network of railways was mainly centred on the Ypres Sector in the North, and the Somme Sector in the South. They were continually evolving to meet the operational needs of the British Army.
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