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Railroad Engineers, World War 1

Started by egreis , Mar 10 2011 08:33 AM

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#1 egreis

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 08:33 AM

I am curious to learn more about Railroad Engineer Units in World War 1. My great uncle Elmer E. Gurth served as a Master Engineer duirng the war. He later served as a Civil Defense Warden in World War II. Attached below is his World War 1 picture.

#2 egreis

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 08:34 AM

Army_Picture.jpg

#3 Camp_Kearny

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 04:06 PM

Three types of engineer regiments operated railroads during WWI. There are standard gauge regiments, narrow gauge regiments, and the forestry regiment. The history of the forestry and narrow gauge are documented in the book, "Narrow Gauge to No Man's Land" by Richard Dunn. It is an okay book but it is geared toward model railroad enthusiasts rather than militaria collectors. I'm sure it is out of print but it is probably easy to pick up on Abe.com.

#4 egreis

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 08:43 AM

Very interesting information. I wonder what type my great uncle was. Is there a way to track the rosters of those units?

#5 Camp_Kearny

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 08:41 PM

Not that I am aware of, but perhaps this could help you narrow down your search. The 12th Engineers, Narrow Gauge, were formed near St Louis, MO and served in England, France, and Belgium. The 12th was one of the few American units that fought in the Cambrai Offensive in 1917. The 14th Engineers, Narrow Gauge, was formed near Salem, NH and served in England and France. The 21st Engineers, Narrow Gauge, was formed near Camp Grant, Illionois and was involved in operations in France near the Sorcy railhead. The 20th Engineers, Forestry, was involved in lumber cutting in the Vosges Mountains, France and operated narrow gauge railroads supporting that operation. I also believe that the 20th Engineers was one of the largest regiments in the US Army during WWI.

During the first part of the 20 Century, narrow gauge and short line railroads were extremely important to industry and the Army just adopted this equipment from industry for the World War. Sadly, industrial use of short lines and narrow gauge have nearly ceased with only one narrow gauge railroad left in the US used for industrial work. If you are interested, that last narrow gauge railroad is in Imperial Valley, CA and is owned by United States Gypsum. With the rise in diesel fuel, some of the short lines may come back but I think the era of narrow gauge railroads for anything other than excursion lines are finished.


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