James Bond films have featured some truly incredible modes of transportation throughout the years. The 1995 film Goldeneye featured villain Alec Trevelyan on board an unbelievable Soviet armoured train.Even though Bond movies are known to dive into fiction, these trains are real and just as incredible in real life as they are on film.
The armoured train was first seen in the American Civil War, according to The Jamestown Foundation. It came to prominence in World War I, when Russia used it as a means of defence during cross-country travel.
The trains were used by a number of nations in World War II: Poland took advantage of them extensively, Nazi Germany reacted and began using them, the Russians kept their fleet up, and even Canada patrolled their west coast with one for a time in case of an invasion, according to Canada’s Virtual Museum.
These trains were not just armoured, they were heavily armed. Cannons, machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons, and even tanks were on board these moving walls of terror.
While the armoured train could transport large amounts of firepower rapidly cross country, they also had quite a few drawbacks.
- They were not stealthy at all (mainly because it was a large, loud train…).
- It obviously had to stay on the tracks to get anywhere, meaning its reach was limited to a country’s rail infrastructure.
- If an enemy were to know what track it was on, sabotage of the rail meant an easy derailment.
After World War II, automotive technology had caught up sufficiently to render the armoured train obsolete. But these insane trains have left an indelible mark on history.
This is one of the Slovakian armoured trains now situated near Zvolen castle. Check out that turret.
This early Polish train, Smialy, is one of the most famous of the era. The rotating turret on the front helped clear out anything that got in the way.
Here is another shot of Smialy. It was captured by Poland in 1919 but was used in both wars by four different nations: Austria, Poland, the USSR, and Germany.
Over time, the compartments for the soldiers became increasingly secure. This one resembles a fortress.
Russia had large armoured trains and even smaller roving turrets to try and be more manoeuvrable and tactile.
Some of the cannons on these locomotives appear to be a size that would be more appropriate for a battleship.
As we said, the main issue with these trains was that they ran on tracks. Derailments and fires were their Achilles' heel.
During WWII, the Germans derailed this Polish train with a bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe. It was deserted next to the tracks as the German soldiers neared.
Here's a classic German news reel of an armoured train in action. This is probably the only time you will ever see a train called in as backup.
More recently, eccentric North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reportedly used an armoured train to tour Russia.
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