Armored Train 1861

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
Rufus A. Wilder (1817-1907) was an inventory who worked for the Mine Hill Railroad in Pennsylvania from 1848-1865. Wilder was in Philadelphia when Isaac R. Trimble, Superintendent of the Philadelphia Wilmington & Baltimore RR (connecting Washington to Baltimore) began destroying track and bridges on his own road, April 19, 1861. Rebel sharpshooters prevented the immediate repair of the damaged road.

Wilder sketched out a plan to build an iron battery on wheels, a rolling fortress to stand guard while the road was repaired. He showed his plan to local officials, then went to the Baldwin Locomotive Works where the car was approved and President Samuel M. Felton of the PW&B ordered a copy.

The works were placed on the running gear of a baggage car. A howitzer was mounted on a swivel base at one end and walls were constructed of 2 ½ inch thick oak planks with ½ inch boiler plate on the outside. The walls were penetrated with slots for riflemen to fire through. The finished car was 65 feet long by 9 feet wide. The 24-pdr cannon was raised and lowered at will and manned by 6 men. The car was intended to carry 60 men total.

The car saw some service on the PW&B and the B&O, but was never in action. USMRR’s Herman Haupt ordered the “elephant” to Alexandria, Va. for use on lines in that area, but it appears the it was put on a siding and forgotten.

Trimble took his rebellion south and became a Confederate general.

Frank_Leslie's_Illustrated_Newspaper_-_18610518_-_p1_-_Railroad_Battery.png
 
Rufus A. Wilder (1817-1907) was an inventory who worked for the Mine Hill Railroad in Pennsylvania from 1848-1865. Wilder was in Philadelphia when Isaac R. Trimble, Superintendent of the Philadelphia Wilmington & Baltimore RR (connecting Washington to Baltimore) began destroying track and bridges on his own road, April 19, 1861. Rebel sharpshooters prevented the immediate repair of the damaged road.

Wilder sketched out a plan to build an iron battery on wheels, a rolling fortress to stand guard while the road was repaired. He showed his plan to local officials, then went to the Baldwin Locomotive Works where the car was approved and President Samuel M. Felton of the PW&B ordered a copy.

The works were placed on the running gear of a baggage car. A howitzer was mounted on a swivel base at one end and walls were constructed of 2 ½ inch thick oak planks with ½ inch boiler plate on the outside. The walls were penetrated with slots for riflemen to fire through. The finished car was 65 feet long by 9 feet wide. The 24-pdr cannon was raised and lowered at will and manned by 6 men. The car was intended to carry 60 men total.

The car saw some service on the PW&B and the B&O, but was never in action. USMRR’s Herman Haupt ordered the “elephant” to Alexandria, Va. for use on lines in that area, but it appears the it was put on a siding and forgotten.

Trimble took his rebellion south and became a Confederate general.
It looks like something from an episode of Wild Wild West. :D
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
Rufus A. Wilder (1817-1907) was an inventory who worked for the Mine Hill Railroad in Pennsylvania from 1848-1865. Wilder was in Philadelphia when Isaac R. Trimble, Superintendent of the Philadelphia Wilmington & Baltimore RR (connecting Washington to Baltimore) began destroying track and bridges on his own road, April 19, 1861. Rebel sharpshooters prevented the immediate repair of the damaged road.

Wilder sketched out a plan to build an iron battery on wheels, a rolling fortress to stand guard while the road was repaired. He showed his plan to local officials, then went to the Baldwin Locomotive Works where the car was approved and President Samuel M. Felton of the PW&B ordered a copy.

The works were placed on the running gear of a baggage car. A howitzer was mounted on a swivel base at one end and walls were constructed of 2 ½ inch thick oak planks with ½ inch boiler plate on the outside. The walls were penetrated with slots for riflemen to fire through. The finished car was 65 feet long by 9 feet wide. The 24-pdr cannon was raised and lowered at will and manned by 6 men. The car was intended to carry 60 men total.

The car saw some service on the PW&B and the B&O, but was never in action. USMRR’s Herman Haupt ordered the “elephant” to Alexandria, Va. for use on lines in that area, but it appears the it was put on a siding and forgotten.

Trimble took his rebellion south and became a Confederate general.

View attachment 408580
That resembles armoured wagons used by British troops in both Boer wars.
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
The car saw some service on the PW&B and the B&O, but was never in action. USMRR’s Herman Haupt ordered the “elephant” to Alexandria, Va. for use on lines in that area, but it appears the it was put on a siding and forgotten.

I'm not surprised it was set aside and forgotten. I suppose you could park it some distance off and let it supervise track repair as you described the inventor's intention, but I can't imagine it being all that effective in stopping a cavalry raid. I suppose it gives the riflemen better protection than having a company or whatever standing guard on foot, though, and perhaps would allow a smaller force to protect the railroad.

It really wouldn't do anything to stop a sharpshooter creeping up, taking a shot, and then retreating into the woods. It's a very passive defensive system.

The idea of armored cars on trains makes sense in theory but, in my eyes, requires lighter and faster firing weaponry to really be effective.

Even modern tanks require infantry support to protect them from people creeping around the side and back out of view.

That bit at the top - is that ventilation or a firing slit?
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
I'm not surprised it was set aside and forgotten. I suppose you could park it some distance off and let it supervise track repair as you described the inventor's intention, but I can't imagine it being all that effective in stopping a cavalry raid. I suppose it gives the riflemen better protection than having a company or whatever standing guard on foot, though, and perhaps would allow a smaller force to protect the railroad.

It really wouldn't do anything to stop a sharpshooter creeping up, taking a shot, and then retreating into the woods. It's a very passive defensive system.

The idea of armored cars on trains makes sense in theory but, in my eyes, requires lighter and faster firing weaponry to really be effective.

Even modern tanks require infantry support to protect them from people creeping around the side and back out of view.

That bit at the top - is that ventilation or a firing slit?
It could possibly be a double ceiling, and maybe vented beneath. It could also be a platform to carry something.
Lubliner.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi

toot

Corporal
Joined
Jan 21, 2021
I'm not surprised it was set aside and forgotten. I suppose you could park it some distance off and let it supervise track repair as you described the inventor's intention, but I can't imagine it being all that effective in stopping a cavalry raid. I suppose it gives the riflemen better protection than having a company or whatever standing guard on foot, though, and perhaps would allow a smaller force to protect the railroad.

It really wouldn't do anything to stop a sharpshooter creeping up, taking a shot, and then retreating into the woods. It's a very passive defensive system.

The idea of armored cars on trains makes sense in theory but, in my eyes, requires lighter and faster firing weaponry to really be effective.

Even modern tanks require infantry support to protect them from people creeping around the side and back out of view.

That bit at the top - is that ventilation or a firing slit?
also the battle would have to take place in and around a RAIL ROAD FACILITY!! just what are the chances of that??
 

toot

Corporal
Joined
Jan 21, 2021
yes, but a front my be in a constant movement? then what do you do? move a railroad facility to the front every time it changes? I don't think so. jmho.
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
also the battle would have to take place in and around a RAIL ROAD FACILITY!! just what are the chances of that??

I don’t think it was ever intended for battlefield use. Raids were conducted all throughout the war to cut rail lines. This is going off what the OP said. It’s pretty hard to protect really long rail lines, so it often became necessary to rebuild destroyed stretches of track. That also required the allocation of troops to protect the work crews who could be deep in territory that was not fully secured. The idea is you park this rail car near the destroyed section of track and it would deter or defeat any sharpshooters or cavalry trying to attack the work crew.

Herman Haupt used a similar-ish principle in reopening rail lines during the Second Battle of Bull Run although without the fancy armored car. Troops and cannons on flat bed cars to deal with whatever they ran into on the way. The story is detailed in chapter 1 of Mr. Lincoln’s Army.

Nonetheless, it’s a passive defense. If you really want to secure the rail lines you’d need to have patrols out in the woods flushing out any guerrillas. But that requires a commitment of resources that isn’t always feasible. The rail car would mostly be a deterrent - you can try attacking the work crew, but you have to be prepared to fight this armored beast.

On the Mississippi River, Confederate guerrilla often took potshots at Union vessels as they made their way north and south with troops, supplies, wounded, etc. Gunboats would then fire a few rounds into the woods and disperse the guerrillas. Swap a river for rail lines and a gunboat for this armored car and you get the idea they were going for.

Overall, I’d say it was a neat solution to a difficult problem, though perhaps a little ahead of its time.
 
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