Military Review

The first appearance of steam tractors (ruthers) in the Russian army

In the late sixties - early seventies of the XIX century, the Russian military command drew attention to the way of transporting heavy loads along the roads with the help of rutiers - steam trailers, to which special wagons and platforms clung to, which became quite common in England. This problem has long been debated in ministerial circles, finding both supporters and opponents. Finally, it was brought up for discussion by the Committee on the Movement of Troops by Railways and Water, and 16 on April 1871 (hereafter, the dates until January 1918 were old style) at one of its meetings, a memorandum of Major General Quist was read. the use of steam engines for the transport of military goods on ordinary roads. " After listening to the note and fully agreeing with it, the members of the committee came to the conclusion that "it is necessary to gather as much information as possible about this and then invite the General Staff and the Main Engineering Directorate to resolve the issue."

The Russian military agent in England (now we call such a person in the French manner - “attache”) was charged with collecting all the necessary information and putting it at the disposal of his superiors in St. Petersburg. By a happy coincidence, it was then that various steam-vehicle systems were tested in London, and the attache — the retinue of His Imperial Majesty, Major-General Novitsky — quickly collected all the necessary materials and sent them to St. Petersburg. This did not require much effort, since the experiments were widely reported in the press, and descriptions of the rutieres could be obtained by contacting the manufacturers.

The debate at the state level would probably last a long time, but in September 1871, the military had a real opportunity to see the road engine in action. Baron Buksgevden, who had a large estate near Riga, purchased for him one rutier of the Thomson system. As soon as the message about this reached St. Petersburg, the military, with the permission of the baron, sent their representatives to try out the novelty in their presence. The tests took place on 19, 20 and 27-29 on September 1871, on the highway between the city of Riga and the village of Olai. In addition to the military, they were attended by representatives of the Ministry of Railways.

The Thomson system locomotive built in England at the Burel plant had a 18-strong steam engine. Its drive wheels were five feet in diameter (1 foot equal to 0,3048 m), and they carried the bulk of the load. In front was the third wheel. It was double, had a diameter of only two and a half feet and served, as stated in the report, to "control the course of the locomotive." This wheel was turned by a special lever, which allowed to set the direction of movement and carry out turns. If it was necessary to lay a steeper turn than the swiveling mechanism allowed, then one of the driving wheels was slowed down or stopped, and the other continued to rotate, turning the whole apparatus. To improve traction with the ground, the drive wheels were equipped with iron rims 15 inches wide (1 inch equals 2,54 cm) with rubber tires 12 wide and 5 inches thick. These devices were also to prevent the destruction of the roadway during the movement of the rutier.

The purpose of the experiments was to ascertain such characteristics of the machine as maneuverability, ability to overcome rises, carrying capacity and maneuverability on various roads (including unpaved), speed with the greatest load, fuel and water consumption. The first tests, scheduled for September 19, were to establish whether the locomotive would be able to tow several guns with a total weight of about 575 pounds. They passed on the Mitavskoye Highway, which on that day was covered with a fair layer of dirt. Despite this, the mechanical tractor accelerated on an even stretch of up to six versts per hour, and when descending from the “three-degree downhill” slide, the speed reached nine versts per hour. True, the car went uphill more slowly - only five miles. The result was so reassuring to all those present that, without thinking twice, they decided at the same time to test the maneuverability of the crew and "sent him through a highway ditch about two and a half feet deep and three and a half feet wide."

But this obstacle has proven difficult. The front wheel successfully overcame a ditch, and a heavy tender, towering above the level of the road just one foot, lay down on the ground and stopped movement. I had to urgently detach the guns and dig up the slopes of the ditch. After that, the lightened ruthier not only got himself out of her, but also pulled both guns, which were hooked to him again. Then there was a flat area with sandy soil slightly overgrown with grass. And then, despite the considerable weight, the locomotive with guns in tow showed the same 6 versts per hour. The wheels “left only footprints behind them, but not rut,” says an entry in the test report. True, on the way back, the car got into an accident - a bridge on the road collapsed under its weight. Locomotive stuck, and the tests had to be interrupted. The next day they were continued, although the rain made the highway difficult to ride.

This time they arranged a “road train” consisting of a locomotive, a platform, large ramps and two city phaetons. The “train,” in which the 50 man was stationed, started off in the direction of Olay station and walked two and a half versts, developing a speed of 9-10 versts per hour. Then the car turned loose on the 6 wide highway and sat down at the same speed to the point of departure. There, the rutier was filled with coal and water, both carts were replaced with a couple of siege weapons and were launched along a “medium hard road”. After passing the 100 fathoms, the locomotive had to turn almost at a right angle on a narrow (only four fathoms wide) road. Although the towed guns did not fit into the turn, the maneuver, in general, was carried out correctly. Then we had to move along a “rather wavy” road, and the gravity of the guns caused “significant machine stresses”, so one had to unhook one gun. "The engine immediately went freer and smoother."

On the same day, the train was “driven out” through a lowland with softened soil, where “it was strongly buried in the soil”. But on the whole, the commission’s conclusions were optimistic: “When driving on dirt roads of medium hardness, it leaves a rut incomparably less deep than a siege gun. The average speed of the movement ... I suppose, five and a half miles per hour. "

Further experiments were interrupted and continued only on September 27. This time the maneuverability of the rutier was tested. Locomotive pulled two product platforms and two wheelchairs with a total weight of up to 150 pounds. The highway had already dried up by that time, and therefore the train, having passed 650 fathoms in 13 minutes, “made a turn for the return movement quite easily and freely,” with a road width of six fathoms. At the same time, the commission considered the turning radius to be equal to three fathoms. On the implementation of the maneuver it took just a half minutes. On the way back, the train went a mile in seven minutes, while the wheels “were pressed into the ground no more than half an inch”. The tests continued until the end of the month. As a result, the authoritative commission, which included Major-General Seyms, Assistant Chief of the Main Engineering Directorate, Major-General Reitninger, Chief of the Second Sapper Brigade, as well as a number of officers and engineers, came to the following conclusions: “The movement throughout the experiments was carried out quite correctly, without much noise, so ... the assumption on the highway of this kind of steam traction does not give reason to fear any constraint for those who are passing when there is a summer path. ” True, attention was paid to the rapidity of such trains and, if necessary, it was prescribed “to reduce the speed of movement, and in extreme cases, to stop at all”. In addition, it was said that every such locomotive must be equipped with an “arresting” device that would reliably protect those around them from sparks flying out of the chimney. Speaking about the possibility of using locomotives in cities, it was noted that they would have to set up bypass roads, “which would completely provide residents from all dangers, and the founders from complaints”. Attention was drawn to a number of design flaws identified in the test conditions, which led to inconvenience in operation. It was especially emphasized that the ruthors do not suffer from the highway, and therefore it is quite possible to allow their use. In short, the commission "for ... the locomotive of the Thomson system recognized the ability to move loads on highways without harm to the latter and inconvenience for passing".

As for the ruthier’s military capabilities, the protocol states: “The tests, although they do not provide grounds for any final conclusions, nevertheless do not deny the possibility of using road steamers and even the benefits that can be drawn in areas that allow this kind of traction , namely: the Thomson locomotive can be of great use in the arming of fortresses, since the force used to raise siege weapons on wagons consists of too many units whose aggregate efforts cannot compete with the power of the locomotive.

He can bring provisions and ammunition supplies on his platforms, directly move various kinds of military vehicles and implements, replacing horses with a 32 load, and 16 with a minimum, whose content is more difficult than supplying locomotives with the necessary amount of fuel and water. Transportation made up of steam engines, with the same load, will take less stretch, can be more easily stopped and grouped and should be less disturbed when attacked by enemy units than mounted, consequently, it will be more convenient for escorting and protecting it than equestrian. ”

These positive assessments were communicated to the members of the Committee on the Movement of Forces and were discussed at its November 11 1871 meeting. At the same meeting, it was said that Baron Buksgevden expressed his willingness to investigate how far the locomotives were from Samara to Orenburg and on to Tashkent. If the roads prove to be suitable, then he is ready to send one locomotive on a test drive along this route in order to finally dot the i's on the suitability of such vehicles for military service.

The Baron informed the head of the committee’s affairs, Major General Anenkov, on whose shoulders he later took care of road locomotives. The proposal seemed to the general worthy of attention - it was very necessary to have regular contact with the troops of the Turkestan Military District, and he allowed the Baron to provide support in this matter. It is not known, however, how this interesting venture ended, but история with ruthers had a long sequel. The experiments and trials lasted for several years, as the rulers were discharged from abroad and arrived in Russia. Only in 1876, the Russian military finally decided to move from words to deeds and acquire their own mechanical tractors. The Minister of War put the following resolution on one of the reports written on this subject: “In the event of hostilities over the Danube, it would be very useful to have several road locomotives of any device attached to the army. You can use them to transport large siege guns and sometimes food supplies where there is a lack of forage. Consider how to get these locomotives as much as possible in greater numbers ... ”The case was given a turn, and ultimately decided that a dozen road locomotives would be quite enough for the first time. Two of them ordered a retired general Sergei Ivanovich Maltsev at the plant near Bryansk, and the rest were discharged from abroad, believing that each car would cost the treasury five thousand rubles.

The first appearance of steam tractors (ruthers) in the Russian army

Locomotive "Thompson"

Locomotive "Fowler"

Steam tractor brand "Evelyn Porter"

By November of the same year, the locomotives ordered from Maltsev were ready. For their testing and acceptance at the factory, they sent a court adviser to Usov. In his report submitted to the Committee for the movement of troops by land and waterways, he noted: “The inspection of locomotives found that their mechanisms were generally satisfactory. The boiler sample with steam showed that it withstands the pressure of 10 atmospheres without any external manifestations of any flaws. As a result, the above-mentioned steam locomotives are taken by me from the plant ... "

Having accepted the ruthers, Usov handed them over to the specially commanded captain of the 11 rifle battalion Kremkov and the second lieutenant of the 3 Saperny battalion Kvalishevsky, who were ordered to deliver one locomotive to Odessa and the other to Sevastopol. However, it was not easy to fulfill this prescription, since Maltsev was unable to give his machinists and stokers to work on the machines. I had to urgently look for specialists from the lower ranks and retrain them to work on ruthiers. To control the Maltsev locomotive, four people were needed: a driver, an assistant driver and two firemen. Their job was not easy, because on the dirt road the wheels of the carriages experienced much more resistance than the locomotive on the rails, and turning a heavy car was not easy.

What was Maltsev's ruthers technically? These were quite cumbersome mechanisms - the weight of each reached 450 pounds. The steam engine in 20-30 horsepower allowed them to move at speeds of two and a half to three and a half versts per hour. The tender placed a supply of water 50 buckets and one cubic arshin of fuel. At the same time, the total weight of the rutier reached 550 pounds and it could work only on the highway or, in extreme cases, on a dense dirt road. For an hour of work, up to two cubic yards of fuel, one pound of oil, two pounds of fat and three pounds of tar were consumed. Cars were attached to the locomotive. On tests, which were carried out on different types of soil, the tractor towed cars with cargo up to 320 pounds even uphill. On level ground, the ruthier's payload was even higher.

Usov, who took the cars, noticed a number of serious flaws in their design, which he reported in his report: “I have the honor to report that, in my opinion ... the design of locomotives, taken as a model for construction at Mr. Maltsev’s plants, should be changed as follows :

- change the design of the transmission shaft;
- change the placement of the tender;
- change the driving wheels;
- change the steering ... "

However, the machines were taken, and there was no time left to eliminate the deficiencies. Both railways safely reached the places of service. In Sevastopol, one of them entered the 3 battery of the 13 artillery brigade. In Odessa, the car was also handed over to the artillerymen, who immediately tried to “attach it to the case” - towing guns. But the power of the locomotive was not enough to carry heavy guns weighing about 700 pounds. The military "insisted" and the car "overstrained". I had to send it for repair to the plant "Bellino-Fenderikk."

Meanwhile, two locomotives from a number of cars built in England and purchased through France arrived in Warsaw. These were the ruthers of the brand "Evelyn Porter". Together with them, the mechanic Smith arrived to train Russian specialists. Under a special order, the 24 of the lower ranks of the artisans were selected for work on the new technology. All of them were successfully trained and were ready to take the cars into their own hands.

But for the beginning it was decided to test the locomotives. Razdolnoye station was chosen for this. From there, both the Maltsev locomotive and one of the English locals, under the guidance of mechanic Smith and second lieutenant Kvalishevsky, would get to Chisinau under their own power, where they should be handed over to the station commander for use in transporting military cargo.

Kvalishevsky decided not to wait until the Englishman arrived, and alone went to Razdolnoye, intending from there to go to Chisinau. Right from the factory, the repaired rutier went four and a half hours five miles to Odessa-Tovarna station and was kept there for some time - in a shed under a tarp that hid it from indiscreet eyes. An attempt to go further failed. The rain washed away the road, and, having passed all 30 sazhen, despite the boards planted under the wheels, the locomotive got stuck at the very tender. The brave second lieutenant telegraphed about the incident to St. Petersburg and stayed with the car, waiting for further orders ... The authorities, although they were dissatisfied with the initiative of the officer, provided him with action to the situation, and eventually everything was safely resolved.

As time went. The war was advancing with Turkey. Ruther, drawn from abroad, arrived in Revel (Tallinn) and were transported by sea to Petersburg, where they were tested. To reduce costs, the military obtained from the Ministry of Finance the right of duty-free import of locomotives into Russian territory. Twelve of the fifteen machines ordered arrived in Russia. According to the original plan, five ruthiers were going to be used on the Transcaucasian front, the remaining ten - on the Danube. But then the War Minister decided to send all the cars to the Danube. Since the three tractors had not yet arrived, 12 ruthers, two of whom were Russian-made, went to war.

At war

The Russian-Turkish war was the first military conflict where Russia used road mechanical transport and gained positive experience in this area. In the fighting, of course, the machines did not participate. They were used mainly for freight.
If you believe the report on the General Staff, compiled in July 1879, where the results of the work of the rutiers during the war were summed up, then it was like that.

According to the Highest order that followed 5 on April 1877 of the year, the 12 Military Office acquired road locomotives: six Evelyn Porter systems, three Claytons, one Fowler, and two Maltsevs were sent to the Chief of Engineers of the current army and first got into the Bender fortress where they were going to be used to transport siege artillery. Having tried the machines in the case, the gunners were convinced that they could "successfully do this work not only on the highway, but also on a dirt road in dry weather." Therefore, the tractors immediately transferred to the railway hubs, where siege weapons, shells and other artillery supplies arrived by train, which had to be delivered to the locations of troops, sometimes 10-12 versts from the station. From 7 to 25 in May, the Ruthers transported 21 500 pounds of military cargo.

Meanwhile, the artillery units were sent to the Danube, after them it was decided to send and tractors. Three of them got to the station of Banyasy, the other nine - to the city of Slatino. But because of the soft dirt roads in Banyas, the locomotives were not used, but in Slatina they were exploited with might and main for the transport of guns, and besides, on dirt roads! For nine days, transported 10 000 pounds of artillery cargo. Having done this work, five tractors on their own pairs went to the city of Turno Magarelles, located 105 versts from Slatino. Sixty versts passed along the highway, the rest along dirt roads. The transition lasted ten days. But work on the new site steam locomotives did not succeed. The batteries were armed at night, and the cars could unmask gunners with their noise and fiery flashes. Only when the arming of the batteries was over, one locomotive was used “when installing an electric lighting apparatus and fixing the material part of the guns”.

This ruther is kept in the Istanbul Technical Museum. Turkey also had similar machines.

The troops, meanwhile, crossed the Danube, and behind them the ruthers. After the crossing, they went under their own power to the city of Zimnitsa, where for them there was a load in the form of a locomobile and an electric illuminator. There, the cars were left without work until 12 in August, and then made their way to the village of Parapan, from where shells were transported to Petrashany. The distance between settlements reached 12 miles, the roads - only unpaved. The conditions, although acceptable, were rather difficult, therefore, as a rule, three or four cars took part in the transportation, and one or two were on maintenance and repair. For a month, the routers transported 26 000 pounds of cargo.

The summer is over, the warm dry season is coming to an end. The rain started threatening to turn the roads into mud puddles. The heavy steam engines, on the orders of the assistant chief of engineers of the active army, were again gathered together at the Frateshty station, where they could work on the Bucharest-Zhuranevskoe highway.

Throughout the autumn and winter, the weather didn’t indulge, the cars could hardly move, and 28 March 1878 of the year participated only occasionally in the traffic - they sent a steam boat and 1200 pounds of coal for Petrashany. The rest of the time, steam locomotives were repaired to meet the new season fully armed, and one of them, from 30 in October 1877 to 1 in July, 1878, worked on a pumping station in Fratesht, powering the pumps. But one machine for such work was not enough, and she had to allocate another one to help her.

With the beginning of spring, most of the rutieers were again thrown into carriage in the vicinity of the Frateshty station, which served as a base, where the “land steamers” were refueled with water, fuel, inspected and repaired. In total, from the end of March to the beginning of June, steam engines delivered 258 025 poods of goods to their destination, with four to six cars leaving the route daily. The rest were either repaired or rested.
Meanwhile, the war, and with it the work on the left bank of the Danube, was coming to an end, the ruthers on the ferry were forwarded to the town of Ruschuk, where they were to take on the transfer of shells, siege guns and other property, going back to Russia. Then they stayed until October.

This is how a modern artist represents the use of ruthiers in the Russian-Turkish war.

For all the time the steam engines were in the active army - from 28 April 1877 to 19 November 1878 - they transported 558 070 pounds of various goods and saved a lot of money to the military. The use of technology turned out to be quite profitable. The machines not only paid for the costs of buying and operating, but also earned about seven thousand rubles in silver — decent money. They ended the war in satisfactory condition and after the repair could still serve. True, the quality of construction, as noted in the reports, the domestic routers somewhat inferior to foreign.

During the campaign, the most optimal operating conditions for the machines were revealed. Thus, it was noted that “road locomotives require a quiet ride from four to six versts per hour, otherwise the tremors and tremors resulting from road irregularities spoil them greatly”.

The range of their applications has also been outlined: “The work carried out by road locomotives while they were in the army has clearly shown that locomotives can be used to transport goods both short and long distances (from 15 or more miles). But in the latter case, it is necessary to have intermediate stations where coal would have been formed and minor repairs could be made, corrections and the necessary water supply made ... "

During the war, with each ruther, there was a driver and two assistants who served the machine. Apparently, this service was not an easy one, since the same report noted: “At the end of the work and cleaning the locomotive, these people should have a rest, at least for 24 hours, as .... riding on locomotives extremely exhausting, and people who did not receive a proper rest, appointed to work the next day, are so exhausted that they have not only the ability to monitor the correct progress of a locomotive, but even to repair it. ” Taking this into account, recommendations were drawn up on the schedule for the use of the personnel of machinists and assistants: “It would seem necessary to introduce an indispensable rule that the locomotive should be assigned to work no sooner than after 24 hours after the work was done, which makes it possible to inspect it and prevent it from occurring defacement. The repair of locomotives should not be carried out by the machinists and assistants, but by the locksmiths who are present when the locomotives are being built, for which it is necessary to increase the number of locksmiths at the locomotive: four locksmiths and one blacksmith. ”

This is how the first experience of using mechanical crews in the army was obtained. By the way, Major Lemlein was in charge of the rutiers during the hostilities, and his assistant was already known to us, who had become by that time a lieutenant, Kvalishevsky.

After the end of the war, the cars stood in Odessa in the open air, as the local military leadership had no money for repairs and even for tarpaulin to cover them from snow in winter. I had to go to Petersburg, but it was not easy to solve this problem, because the budget signed a year in advance. The lower ranks assigned to the ruthers turned out to be without content.

It all ended in a very sad and very Russian way: the team was dismissed, and its head continued to serve in the infantry units.

But to the lieutenant Alexander Kvalishevsky, the fate of another test, because the idea of ​​using machines in remote areas with a dry climate was still in the air. In February, Major General Gurchin, on the orders of one of the great princes, submitted a report on the departure of two road locomotives to the Transcaspian department in the Chikishlyar tract for the carriage of goods. Machines, of course, must be equipped with crews and all necessary accessories. After the corresponding report was made to the emperor, he ordered to send cars to a new duty station. The command entrusted brave lieutenant. Kvalishevsky had to move to the East together with his wife and three children, the oldest of whom was three years old.

Road locomotives repaired, and then through Smolensk and Tsaritsyn they were sent to Baku, where they safely arrived on May 17 of the year 1879. To study the further possibility of their movement to the place of service, an entire expedition was organized, outlining the route by which the rutiers would go on their own to Chikishlyar. On the explored highway they were going to pave the road. It turned out, however, that the places were impassable, there are no warehouses for storing spare parts, water and fuel, there are no facilities for the rest of the crews, there is no money for their organization and construction ...

Ruthery, meanwhile, were converted to fuel oil and tested in the vicinity of Baku. The conditions were rather difficult, and the testing committee came to the conclusion that the test machines did not pass. This was reported to the authorities, which soon soon forgot not only about mechanical crews, but also about the very idea of ​​such shipments.

And the story ended with the ruthers. The question of the use of steam tractors in the army has repeatedly emerged and was safely buried right up to the beginning of the 20th century, when machines with internal combustion engines replaced the steam engines.

But one should not underestimate the role that the epic played with the ruthers, because it was because of this that the army was accumulated at the beginning of the 20th century. positive experience in the use of mechanical transport in military transport. Among the military appeared supporters of mechanical crews, which every year strengthened their positions.

Landboat in the Russian army at the beginning of the 20th century
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  1. AlexMH
    AlexMH 29 March 2013 11: 57
    Very interesting article. But the result is sad. It would seem that after a sufficiently successful use of wheeled steam engines, they should have been introduced into the states of siege artillery and modified, and, as an option, switched to a caterpillar mover. However, the war ended - and the tractors were no longer needed. And in the same Port Arthur, they would be very useful.
  2. wk
    wk 29 March 2013 15: 01
    Yeah interesting! thanks to the author! ...... but I remembered, about 15 years ago, they showed an English exhibition of old equipment on discovery and imagine there are a lot of them, in excellent condition and on the go!
  3. Iraclius
    Iraclius 29 March 2013 16: 53
    Thanks to the author! There is a temptation to speculate what would happen if the rutier were covered with armor and connected to a couple of armored gun and machine gun platforms. The result would be a land armored train. Of course, this would require an increase in the power of the steam engine, but I am sure that the technology at that time was capable of it.
  4. Iraclius
    Iraclius 29 March 2013 19: 18
    Searched and found. It turns out that they thought of booking the rutiers.
    An original forerunner of armored vehicles, armored personnel carriers and, to some extent, tanks of the First World War was the original design that appeared in the Boer War.

    The fighting in southern Africa (the war began on 11 on October 1899 of the year and lasted two and a half years) urgently required the creation of armored vehicles capable of moving on ordinary roads, and not tied to rails, like armored trains. And already during the war, the so-called trackless train.

    They consisted of a armored vehicle-tractor, three armored vehicles and two 150-mm artillery pieces. The tractor was driven by a horsepower 60 steam engine. It had a supply of fuel - about 800 a kilogram of coal and 150 buckets of water. Top speed did not exceed 8 miles per hour.

    The machine was protected on all sides by 6-mm sheets of chrome-nickel steel (armor weight - 4,5 tons), while the total weight of the armored tractor reached 22 tons. The width of the drive wheels was 61 cm to increase cross-country ability. Additional removable teeth or cutters could also be mounted on them. For self-extraction, a steam winch could be used.

    Armored carriages, which had a length of 4,5 m and about 2 m in width, could carry up to six tons of cargo. An artillery gun was installed inside the wagon, the barrel of which was pushed into a special loophole of the end wall.

    For rifle shooting and observation, holes were used in the upper part of all walls, which were closed by blinded shutters. For loading the artillery gun on the wagon, removable supports were used, which had a channel shape for the wheels and were mounted obliquely at the rear end, and a steam winch with a steel cable. The tractor and carts were interlinked by special drawbars, but were equipped with autonomous brakes, which made it possible to ensure safety during a steep descent.

    There was even a variant with a sea gun - a real self-propelled gun!
  5. Ilyukha
    Ilyukha 29 March 2013 22: 46
    Very helpful article, thanks.
    A comment about the first (in fact) steam, either an armored car, or an SPG, is very curious.