Aircraft / Aviation Vehicles & Artillery Small Arms Warships & Submarines Military Ranks Military Pay Chart (2024) Special Forces
Land Systems / Battlefield

21cm Kanone Eisenbahnlafette (21cm K12(E))

211mm Railway Gun [ 1938 ]

The German Army of World War 2 only took on a stock of two 21cm K12 railway guns.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 08/17/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

Because of the established railroad infrastructure of Europe during World War 1 (1914-1918), the railway gun came into prominence as a viable wartime artillery measure. This class of weapon allowed for extreme-long-range delivery of very-heavy-caliber projectiles which caused massive damage on a target area - while also serving as something of a psychological tool against civilian populations. This sort of weapon was personified in the conflict by the "Paris Gun" fielded by the Germans from March 1918 onwards. The 256-ton weapon held a running length of 111 feet, 7 inches and fielded a barrel of 211mm diameter. While it used much important wartime material, man power, and time in its manufacture and operation, it no doubt forced the Parisian public to keep an ear to the sky as the French capital now lay within reach of this formidable German weapon.

Despite its obvious usefulness, the gun was not a perfected specimen. The firepower required of the system meant that fewer than fifty projectiles could be fired from the single barrel - such was the wear and tear of the action - for subsequent firing stripped some of the barrel lining away. This forced munitions makers to gradually increase the caliber of the projectiles in turn which was not a logistically sound solution. As such, the weapon played only a minor role in the closing months of the war which eventually saw Germany declared the loser and its war-making capabilities extremely limited heading forward.

During the interwar years, the Germans managed to evolve the railway gun idea only slightly but it was not until the Nazi party gained control of the government and its military that serious work on a modern railway weapon began. The charge once again fell to heavy industry specialist Krupp and the new weapon became the 21cm K12(E) (Kanone Model 12 "EIsenbahnlafette"). This gun system was also designed around a 211mm barrel but improvements were brought into its arrangement to help contend with the forces at play. Design work on the system spanned form 1935 to 1938 to which, in 1938, production managed the first of two weapons to be had.

As finalized, the 21cm K12 weighed in the 333-ton range with an overall length of 135 feet, 6 inches. The barrels alone measured 109 feet, 3 inches long. The breech mechanism was a horizontal sliding block arrangement with recoil handled through a hydropneumatic system. The barrel was fitted onto a specially designed structure which held an inherent elevation span of 25- to 55-degrees and 25-degrees of traversal. As a railway gun, the gun support structure was sat upon a special two-piece carriage which included a 10-axle component at front and an 8-axle component at rear to help provide the needed transport functionality while also supporting the massive weight of the gun and mounting hardware. The complex system required multiple crew for maximum performance - several dozen personnel at the very least. A hydraulic jack system was installed to elevate the gun some 3 feet above the ground.©MilitaryFactory.com
The 211mm projectiles used separate-loading cased charges. The gun fired at a muzzle velocity of up to 5,400 feet per second with an effective range out to 49,120 yards. Maximum range was stated as high as 125,765 yards. Each shell weighed 237lbs so a special crane wagon was attached to the train. Due to the breech's location near the ground when the gun barrel was raised for firing, reloading was only possible by lowering the gun, giving the appropriate access to the breech.

In practice, the first received gun proved the concept sound though the Army did not appreciate the length of prep work required of the gun between firing actions. Hydropneumatic balance presses were developed by Krupp to remedy the problem and this produced the second weapon system under the designation of "K12N(E)". With its arrival, the first example became known under the "K12V(E)" designation.

The guns managed a certain level of limited service during World War 2 but weapons like this were generally limited by the established railway network of European countries and this quality and reach varied across the different players falling under German conquest. The weapons could rely on a special turntable emplacement if to be featured as a static defense gun. Regardless, they proved tactically inflexible and ended their days as static fixtures overlooking the English Channel at the French coast. Ultimately, the weapons proved useless once the Allies had made headway into France and German positions were overrun.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Krupp - Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Operators National flag of modern Germany National flag of Nazi Germany
Service Year
Nazi Germany
National Origin

Support allied forces through direct / in-direct fire, assault forward positions, and / or breach fortified areas of the battlefield.
Special purpose design developed to accomplish an equally-special battlefield role or roles.

135.5 ft
(41.3 meters)
665,796 lb
(302,000 kg)
332.9 tons

None. This is a towed artillery system limited to railway networks.
Drive System
71 miles
(115 km)
Road Range

1 x 211mm gun barrel
Dependent on ammunition carrier.

21cm Kanone Eisenbahnlafette - Base Designation
21cm K12(E) - Shortform Designation
21cm K12V
21cm K12N

Military lapel ribbon for the American Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of the Bulge
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Kursk
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Ukranian-Russian War
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental military vehicles


1 / 1
Image of the 21cm Kanone Eisenbahnlafette (21cm K12(E))
Image from the Public Domain.

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

2024 Military Pay Chart Military Ranks DoD Dictionary Conversion Calculators Military Alphabet Code Military Map Symbols

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com. No A.I. was used in the generation of this content; site is 100% curated by humans.

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world, WDMMA.org (World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft), WDMMW.org (World Directory of Modern Military Warships), SR71blackbird.org, detailing the history of the world's most iconic spyplane, and MilitaryRibbons.info, cataloguing military medals and ribbons. Special Interest: RailRoad Junction, the locomotive encyclopedia.

©2023 www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-2023 (20yrs)