Railways in the First World War

Use our interactive slider to find out more about the pivotal role that railways played in the First World War.

Executing the Schlieffen Plan

Germany’s strategy for avoiding a war on two fronts, the Schlieffen plan relied on trains transporting troops through Belgium and deep into France within 6 weeks. They then had to catch trains back east to fight the poorly prepared Russian Army.

Transporting Troops

Before WW1, war moved at the speed of horses. The use of trains meant that troops and ammunition could be delivered to the front much faster. This let the Allied Forces move quickly to where they needed to be to confront the advancing German army.

Feeding the War machine

After the trenches were dug, the railways shifted from moving forces to feeding the war machine, both literally and metaphorically. The railways supplied vast numbers of soldiers to bolster numbers in the bloodiest war in British history, as well as the supplies needed to feed and arm the troops.

Weaponising the Railways

During WW1, the railways were weaponised in a way previously unseen, as the tracks were used to transport the enormous coastal and naval cannons and guns to the front. This development was pioneered by the Germans, but American forces also brought 5 railway guns when they joined the war in 1917.

Women playing their part at home

We all know that women took on a lot of jobs during the Second World War, but did you know that 100,000 railways workers signed up to fight in WW1? After they left, women filled their roles, working a range of jobs to keep Britain moving.

The Signing of the Armistice

The Armistice of 11 November 1918 ended fighting on all fronts and was signed by the Allies (France, Britain and Russia) and Germany ceremonially at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It marked the beginning of the end of the war and was signed in the personal railway carriage of Ferdinand Foch, the leader of the French Army, in the Forest of Compiegne.