It comes up a lot in scenarios about an earlier Soviet-japanese war. Many believe that the supply line could easily be cut by air attack. Others say not so much, what do you think?
It’s not electrified but the line is long and the area sparsely populated. It’s vulnerable in the same way Turk railways were vulnerable to TE Lawrence and his raids.Imagine having 100 men taking each a 10 foot piece of wire with them, that equal 1000 feet of wire that would have to be restrung not to mention if they destroy the poles alongside the rr line that carry the overhead wire and the feeder wires.
With luck, a train from Europe would take fifteen days to cover the 5,000 miles but forty days was not unusual. It took, by rule of thumb, a month to deploy a battalion from Moscow to Mukden (Shenyang). Added to the difficulties was the high-handedness of nobility and generals claiming priority over their army who were relegated to sidings while the VIPs swept by. The sidings were used by returning engines, but not the rolling stock. It was not cost effective to return the empty wagons, which were destined to become either fuel or living accommodation.
Russia’s strategic lifeline, the railway, was also hugely manpower intensive. Any threat to the railway was a direct threat to the Russian ability to continue with the war. This fact served to maintain General Kuropatkin in a continuous state of nervous energy; 55,000 men were deployed to defend the line between the Ural Mountains and the Manchurian frontier. Within Manchuria, a force of 25,000 men was assigned to protect the railway. Every bridge had a guard. Japanese agents directed the Hunhutze brigands against targets on the railway. The Chinese division posted in the area to control these outlaws had little effect, and in one month ninety attempts to disrupt the railway had occurred between Mukden and Tiehling.
In February of 1904, the need dictated that rails were laid across the ice of the lake and by 28 March over sixty military trains had made the laborious crossing. By September the Circum-Baikal link was completed, and by the end of the year the system ran nine to ten trains daily each way and had carried 410,000 soldiers, 93,000 horses and 1,000 guns. To put that in perspective, a European Russian army corps needed 267 railway trains with which to move.
Not so much air attack, but ground. The TSRR ran very close to the Chinese border from Khabarovsk to Vladivostok, coming within artillery range at Iman (Dal'nerechensk). If Japanese (or Chinese) ground forces occupied this area they could turn the flank of the Soviet forces defending Vladivostok and all territory north of it, creating a siege. The terrain here is favorable for defense: from the attacker's standpoint, in order to capture the town they would first have to get through marshland (unsuitable for tanks) and then cross the Ussuri River.
I have no idea when/if the Soviet had introduced Centralized Traffic Control on the TSR. Timetable routing with Telegraph updates for Train Orders on block status wasn't nearly as efficient as CTC to Radio dispatch to the Train itself30s-50s
I think it would have been hard for the Chinese to pull it off; first, any plot would probably have been detected early, second, the resources the KMT had for that sort of thing were quite small, and third, the Soviets had a high tolerance for Japanese provocation at that time since they were desperate to avoid a two front war.I've always questioned whether the KMT couldn't have prompted a war between Soviets and Japanese during the Barbarossa timeframe, that such a conflict could have drained Japan, while the Soviets were occupied with the European war and wouldn't, had they defeated Japan, advance into China.
guess all three parties had intelligence operations and such Chinese interference would/might be detected?
Not particularly. Late 60's into the 1970's was perhaps the point of greatest disparity in Soviet and Chinese forces between 1949 to now that favors the Soviets. The Chinese had not come even close to Soviet industry, their equipment was either Soviet leased or (poorly-made) copies, with a few exceptions. Now of course partisans/agents bombing the railway was always a danger, but the PLA would not have been able to cut the railway except when it was in artillery range of it's own borders. It does cross into that range a few times, along the Ussuri River, but the Soviets would have known that and also created routes around it, built up forces, and defended the railway in those sections even more fiercely.Forgive me since this is slightly off-topic but in the 1960s and 70s how vulnerable was this railway to attacks by the Chinese communist army?
Good analysis but I thought the greatest parity might be by early 80s atleast in terms of AirPowerNot particularly. Late 60's into the 1970's was perhaps the point of greatest disparity in Soviet and Chinese forces between 1949 to now that favors the Soviets. The Chinese had not come even close to Soviet industry, their equipment was either Soviet leased or (poorly-made) copies, with a few exceptions. Now of course partisans/agents bombing the railway was always a danger, but the PLA would not have been able to cut the railway except when it was in artillery range of it's own borders. It does cross into that range a few times, along the Ussuri River, but the Soviets would have known that and also created routes around it, built up forces, and defended the railway in those sections even more fiercely.