Dog-powered railways

Gallery opened: 14 July 2016

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The vast majority of locomotives in the Museum are steam-powered, though diesels, compressed-air propulsion, and even the use of sails is represented. In the early days of railways, trains were commonly hauled by horses, and this survived for small-scale shunting well in to the 20th century. Other animals are much rarer...


The Decauville railway system used light rails at a narrow gauge (usually 500 mm or 600 mm) fastened to steel sleepers. This track could be quickly laid and then taken up again. It was used extensively in the 600 mm gauge in the First World War.

Left: Decauville railway truck drawn by six dogs

This photograph was taken in the Vosges at some point during the First World War. Most of the Decauville traffic was hauled by suitably small steam locomotives, but both horses and donkeys were also used. Apparently dogs were used in the more mountainous areas; they were described as "chiens d'Alaska" which presumably means Huskies.

Bibliography: Les Decauville: Au service de la Grande Guerre. Sylvia Rhodier, 2014

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