Molotov Line, Osowiec Fortified Region, Poland
This is not supposed to be a landscape shot.
In fact, this is not supposed to show you what you would normally expect from my Molotov Line Journals. What you can barely see on the photo is something pretty elusive - at least it became so after 75 years. No pillboxes this time.
A massive construction effort - building a defense line running all across Europe - required unbelievable amounts of raw materials. Those thousands of tons of stone, sand, conrete, wood - you name it - needed to be hauled into place and then moved around and delivered to hundreds of smaller construction sites, all in areas where there were very few roads or no roads at all. How do you go about it?
The answer is: narrow-gauge railway.
Soviets constructed (often employing forced labor) rail embankments and laid hundreds of kilometers of tracks. The railway snaked its way around dozens of soon-to-be-built strongpoints where hundreds of concrete pillboxes were erected. This simple transportation system became a lifeblood of the Molotov Line.
Where is it now? Can it be traced and mapped? Along with our research of the purely military side of the fortifications we also trace the elusive remnants of the Soviet narrow-gauge railway and draw it on the maps. Most of it is long gone: embankments had been levelled ages ago and only small traces of the railway can be found, usually in the forests, where nobody bothered to disturb them.
When you look at the photo the old embankment is visible right at the edge of the forest to the right. Then it goes across the field towards the forest on the left. Interestingly, there's actually almost no trace of it on the field (which must've been ploughed a thousand times) and even a satellite photo does not reveal much. But at certain hours, when light is favorable something like a shadow sneaking across the field can be seen. The embankment pops up again in the forest on the left side of the photo (well, you won't see it!). This is where massive, concrete foundations of stone-crushing machines still idle, all covered with moss. Once, the crushed stone was loaded there into the wagons and then hauled towards distant building sites where it was to be mixed with concrete.
What about the rails, wagons and locomotives? Well... the rails evaporated just hours after the Soviets fled. Bigger stuff took longer but still disappeared without a trace shortly after. Not far from the place where I stood taking the shot a friendly old farmer told a fascinating tale how it all happened. I am not a farmer and I find it hard to comprehend what use can be found for a pile of narrow-gauge railways in your average homestead. But his father and all his neighbours probably knew better. The most courageous ones, happily assuming the Soviet occupants won't come back, started to dismantle the track hours after the Bolsheviks were gone. The old man could still recall the desperation and disappointment of the more cowardly ones who, coming with their tools two days after, found nothing to scavenge!
War is hell, but life must go on in the meantime, and there MUST be some usage for a piece of rusty railway after all!