[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

7. - The Spring Offensive and the German Surrender.

Plans were formulated in March, to cover the anticipated capture of the whole of Northern Italy within a few weeks of the opening of the offensive. They aimed firstly at the completion of the two lines, 65 and 86 into Bologna, as soon as possible after Bologna was captured. Following this, an endeavour was to be made to provide a skeleton rail service to the whole of Northern Italy:
i by concentrating on one crossing of the Po river, to provide a link between Bologna and Verona, and to continue repairs towards Brenner and Innsbruck, to Serve the 5th Army;
ii to repair the Trieste-Udine-Tarvisio link to serve the 8th Army from a base at Trieste;
iii to provide rail access to the North West and to unite the railway system by repairing the links Genoa-Turin-Milan, Milan-Verona-Venice-Udine and Turin-Piacenza-Bologna;
iv to provide outlet to Southern France by repairing either the Turin-Modane route, the Genoa-Nice route, or both.

It was assumed that there would be little or no enemy demolition once Bologna had been passed, and that damage would be principally confined to that caused by Allied bombing of the principal structures and yards. This assumption proved to be correct.

When the breakthrough and the German surrender occurred, the plans as formulated were put into operation. Nº. 1 and the South African Group pressed on to complete Lines 86 and 65 into Bologna. The American Units moved forward to take over repairs of the Bologna-Verona-Brenner line, and 1212 Group moved into N.W. Italy. 1 Group sent recce parties to the Trieste area to reconnoitre the Trieste-Udine-Tarvisio line, their next task. Similarly the South African Group reconnoitred the Verona-Venice-Udine line. Nº.4 Indian Group moved to Bologna to rebuild the marshalling yards, from which every sleeper had been removed during the German occupation. The railways in the Milan-Turin-Genoa area were found to be comparatively lightly damaged and the I.S.R. repaired the line from Genoa through Turin to Milan with no military assistance.

In the Brenner pass, the complete German railway organization surrendered intact, and they were put back to work immediately to repair the Verona-Brenner section under American supervision. The American units, with 5 Army Engineers working with them, went straight to work on the direct Bologna-Verona line (Line 69) with the construction of a new piled bridge over the Po at Ostiglia as their main task.

The unstable political situation at Trieste necessitated the use of Venice as an alternative port for 8th Army supply, hence the Venice-Udine link suddenly became of major importance. R.C.E. (S.A.E.C.) at once put work in hand using small detachments from the work still going of South of Bologna on Line 65, and using mainly I.S.R. personnel but with some assistance from 8th Army R.E. opened the line, with river bed deviations at the main river crossing, by 28th May.

1212 Group moved complete into N.W. Italy, to open out the Turin-Milan-Verona-Vicenza and Turin-Alessandria-Bologna sections, and as soon as men could be spared, 1 Group and the South African Group sent units from the Bologna area to the Trieste-Tarvisio and Venice-Udine sections respectively. By Mid-August, the whole of the skeleton network of railways had been opened to traffic, and the plans formulated in March, and put into operation in April had been carried out to the letter in three months of work.

Bologna was open to traffic from both Lines 65 and 86 by 3 June, Venice was linked to Udine by 28 May, Milan and Venice were connected by 15 June, Bologna-Verona and Brenner by 8 July and Bologna through Piacenza to Genoa, Turin and Milan by 12 August.

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

Alessandro Tuzza