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Old 07-07-2009, 01:24 PM
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Default 305mm Mle 1906 Railroad Gun

When the static Trench War set in, it soon became obvious that there was a great need for really heavy artillery, capable of demolishing the more and more sophisticated fortifications that were thrown up on all fronts. In few armies was this need felt more deeply than in the French, that started the war grossly underestimating the need for heavier calibres (instead being overreliant on their undoubtedly efficient field gun, the famous "75"). As in most warring nation, there was really heavy guns to be found, but these were in the navy or the coast artillery. The problem with these guns was that they lacked modern recoil systems, and they were very cumbersome. One solution to this can be seen in the French 305mm Mle 1906 Railroad Gun.
Putting what was originally a heavy naval gun on a railway carriage of course made it mobile enough to be of use in land warfare. The problem with the recoil was solved in a very simple, cheap and unsophisticated way by the firm of Schneider, who designed a sort of standard non-recoil sliding railway mount, that was actually used for a number of different large calibre gun tubes, of which the 305mm was just one. The design consisted of a steel box with the gun was secured onto reinforced trunnion bearings. There was no system to take up the recoil: the gun mount was rigid. The box itself was supported at the ends by boggies with as many wheels as were necessary to take the weight. After being pulled to the site chosen for the gun, the track bed was reinforced by girders laid parallel to the track, whereafter the cross-beams beneath the mounting were lowered by jacks until the weight was transferred from the wheels. When the gun was discharged friction between the girders and the cross-beams simply absorbed the recoil, save for a small movement back a meter or so. It was a pretty crude system, but it worked, and it allowed the French to field a whole array of heavy railway guns, that originally started out in a naval role.
The 305mm Mle 1906 was one of these guns, using the Schneider system. The gun was 45.9 calibres long was originally a ship gun. (There was another 305mm gun using the Schneider design, the Mle 1893/96, but that was a Coastal Defense piece: notice that the Model number designates the model year of the gun.) It had - like all the guns of this design - no traverse at all, but an elevation of +2˚to +40. It could hurl a 348kg grenade with a muzzle velocity of 795 m/sec up to a maximum range of 27.5km. It weighed a total of 178 tons when deployed for fire. Click here for a detail photo of the breech area.

Notice: not all pics show the actual 305mm Mle1906, but show other gun tubes, using the identical designed mount.
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