[Railway reconstruction Italy 1943-1946 published by Royal Engineers, 1946]

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Chapter II

Section II.
Railway construction in relation to the campaign as a whole

4. - The Allied Offensive, May, 1944, and the Fall of Rome.

The offensive resulted in the greatest period of activity which had up to then been experienced in Railway Construction in the theatre. As the advance proceeded towards Rome, units took over sections of line and put repairs in hand immediately. When N.º 1 Group had taken over as much of Line 90 as it could over (from Mignano to Ferentino), 1212 Group was moved from the Heel area with all remaining British units and took over the remainder of the line to Rome. The advance went on far beyond Rome, and in view of the paramount necessity to press the rail L of C forward behind the main axis of the advance, reconstruction of Line 86 beyond Ortona was abandoned and the South African Group was moved across to Rome, to carry out repairs to the North on the main Rome-Florence line (Line 65), and to repair the rail link between Rome and the port of Civitavecchia (Line 50).

Demolitions were complete in the areas of the main fighting, particularly near Cassino (line 90) and near Minturno (Line 89), but in the area through which the advance had been rapid, damage was confined to bomb damage, which however was most through at all important structures.

Figure 5. - The heavy black lines in the Allied occupied part of Italy indicate the railway lines in operation and railheads in use at 13 August 1944. The heavy broken line shows the front line position.

Railhead was opened at Roccasecca on Line 90, on 17 June, and to Civita Castellana 120 miles North of Roccasecca, on 7 July. The first train entered Rome from Naples via Line 90 on 2 July, and the Coast route from Naples (Line 89) was opened on 26 July, using a deviation from Campoleone to Rome via Ciampino.

After Rome had been linked with the South, the whole railway construction force was used on extending rail communications out of Rome to the North. The Americans followed the 5th Army up the Coast, repairing Line 50 towards Grosseto and Leghorn from Civitavecchia. Grosseto was opened as a railhead on August 1st. Nos. 1 and 1212 Railway Construction & Maintenance Groups R.E., were placed together on Line 65, to open the line out to Arezzo. They met considerable bomb damage at all main structures, but little enemy demolition until the area near Arezzo was reached. Here the enemy resistance stiffened, demolitions occurred with increasing frequency, and the section between Arezzo and Florence, which was full of high viaducts and tunnels, was so throughly demolished, that its repair as a military proposition was abandoned. Railhead at Arezzo was opened on 10 August, providing another jump forward of 100 miles from the previous railhead at Civita Castellana.

Meanwhile the South African Group, having opened Line 65 from Rome to Orte, were ordered to open the Orte-Falconara link (Line 87). This did not at first figure high in the A.F.H.Q. Priority Lists, but from a Railway planning point of view it was an obvious and essential link. Without it the port of Ancona could not have been rail-served, and the nearest cross country link to the South was the Naples-Foggia line. The line was opened to Foligno on 24 July, and railhead was established at Bastia, 12 miles North West of Foligno on a stretch of almost undamaged branch line. The line to Ancona was opened on 3rd September and the South African Group simultaneously put in hand repairs to the rail facilities in Ancona Port and Station, and the development of rail service in the Ancona Base Area.

Leghorn was opened on 17 September by the American units.

At this point, a complete change came over the general situation. The front had become static, near the Arno Valley to the West, and was slowly moving North of Ancona, and the momentum of the advance which had begun in May at Cassino had been lost.

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[Railway reconstruction Italy 1943-1946 published by Royal Engineers, 1946]

Alessandro Tuzza