17cm S.K. L/40 ‘Samuel’ in Raderlafette auf Eisenbahnwagen (wheeled carriage on railway wagon)

The 17cm S.K. L/40 ‘Samuel’ in Raderlafette auf Eisenbahnwagen (wheeled carriage on railway wagon) was a fairly simple railway mounting for 17cm fast loading guns taken from German naval stocks.

This was the third attempt to make use of 17cm fast loading naval guns. Earlier in the war some had been used from fixed foundations, but it took up to two and a half days to emplace the guns. Others were installed on a wheeled carriage, entering service in this form in March 1917. However this was a very heavy gun, weighing 10 tons, and couldn’t easily be moved.

The basic idea of the ‘Samual’ railway gun was to simply install the 17cm gun on its wheeled carriage on a purpose build flat bed carriage. The gun could be fired from the railway carriage, although that limited the range of traverse, or removed and placed on a firing platform.

The US post-war survey of railway guns described the 17cm gun used on ‘Samuel’ as a standard Navy gun, a 17cm L/40 rifled gun, model 1915. The rifling consisted of 52 grooves, twisting to the right. It had a Krupp sliding wedge breechblock, and fired semi-fixed ammunition. The recoil mechanism was carried below the barrel, in its cradle. There was a single hydraulic brake cylinder in the centre, and two spring recuperator cylinders, one on each side of the brake cylinder. Elevation was controlled using a rack and pinion system, with two control wheels. One provided 0.4 degrees of elevation per complete turn, the other 1.25 degrees per turn.

The carriage was mounted on a central pivot, and could rotate on its own wheels. The traverse mechanism used a curved rail at the rear of the trail, connected to the carriage by a star wheel. This was turned by a handwheel, and the gun rotated 0.167 degrees per full turn of the wheel. In theory this allowed for up to 26 degrees of total traverse, but when the gun was on the carriage this appears to have been limited to around 10 degrees.

The gun was carried on a railway car with a dropped centre, constructed of heavy plate girders on the sides, linked by a 0.625in steel plate deck. Cast steel wedges could be installed under the carriage to secure it when the gun was fired from the carriage.

The gun could also be moved onto a field platform, which allowed for a much wider range of traverse. This was built around four box girders, with a plate extending from end. Small pits were dug, and these girders placed into them, forming a cross, with the four plates overlapping at the centre. Each plate had a hole, and the gun’s pivot was dropped into this hole.

When the Germans pulled out of Belgium in 1918, they left behind several Samuels, which were taken over by the Belgium army. Some were still in use in 1939-40, when the 2.Battalion, 5e Regiment d’artillerie operated four.


17cm S.K. L/40 ‘Samuel’ in Raderlafette auf Eisenbahnwagen



Barrel Length

5.90m (L/40)

Weight for transport


Weight in action



To 47.5 degrees


10 degrees

Shell Weight


Muzzle Velocity

815 m/sec

Maximum Range


Rate of Fire

One round per minute

German Artillery 1914-1918, Wolfgang Fleischer. Covers over 100 guns used by the German Army and shore detachments of the Navy during the First World War, a conflict largely dominated by artillery. Each one gets a brief description, a set of technical stats and a good picture. Shows the wide range of gun types and sizes used by the Germans during the First World War, and the way in which they evolved to deal with the unexpected challenges of trench warfare. [read full review]
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Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 August 2018), 17cm S.K. L/40 ‘Samuel’ in Raderlafette auf Eisenbahnwagen (wheeled carriage on railway wagon) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_17cm_sKL40_samuel.html

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