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Fort MacArthur: Battery Erwin
Battery Erwin's M1920 14-Inch Railroad Gun at the Army Day Exhibition, 9 April 1941. Click for a larger image. Click image for a more detailed view (California Military Department)
Railroad Batteries Erwin and Eubanks, Harbor Defenses of Los Angeles
by Justin Ruhge

Fort MacArthur was the only fort in California at which railroad guns were stationed. 14-inch and 8-inch guns were sent there to provide added firepower to protect the harbor entrance and also provide protection for the remote parts of the California coast where the guns could be sent on coastal railroads. In October 1925 the first 14-inch railroad gun arrived at Fort MacArthur. In 1926, a single emplacement for the gun and its carriage was constructed on the Lower Reservation that allowed the gun to rest on a permanent surveyed location, which provided 360 degrees traverse. In June 1930, the second 14-inch gun arrived. In 1937, two emplacements were constructed for the guns on the Lower Reservation and the 1926 emplacement abandoned.

The battery formed by both guns was named Battery Erwin. The battery was transferred to the Army in April 1942. The installation cost $28,000. Later canvas buildings were added to cover the guns. These could be moved away quickly when needed.

The two guns were 50-caliber, 715.2 inches long, Model 1920 MII, Nos. 7 and 10, manufactured at Watervliet Arsenal. They were mounted in 1938 on the permanent emplacements on the special railroad carriages Model 1920 MII, Nos. 1 and 4 manufactured by the Watervliet Arsenal.

Each gun and carriage cost $430,000. The gun, carriage and flatcar on which it was mounted weighed 365 tons. The flatcar had 14 axles, 8 in front and 6 in the rear to distribute the loads on the rails. The 14-inch gun could fire a 1,560-pound projectile 27 miles. The guns came with a support train of about 18 cars that were pulled by Sterling engines.

Four of the 14-inch guns and their trains were manufactured. Two went to Fort MacArthur and two were stationed at Fort Grant at the Pacific Ocean end of the Panama Canal.

The 1926 emplacement has been covered over. The 1937 emplacements were destroyed in the early 1980s.

Due to the restrictions on gunfire from the 14-inch guns at Fort MacArthur, the two railroad guns were moved to Point Don south of San Clemente in June 1936 and to Naples near Goleta in September 1940 so that the 3rd Coast Artillery could practice firing these guns without destroying nearby residential property. Rail spurs were built and the guns faced out to sea. Traverse was limited to the 3.5 degrees built into the carriage. In these locations the concussions from firing were so great that the flatcars sometimes jumped right off the tracks.

On December 27, 1941, two 8-inch railroad guns arrived at Fort MacArthur. 29 of these gun trains were built in 1941 to 1942. These two guns were stationed at Manhattan Beach between 18th and 19th Streets (At the present day site of Live Oak Park) on a spur track, which was built along with magazines between February and August 1942. The guns were fired on the flatcars with outrigger supports for stabilization rather than using permanent emplacements as with the 14-inch guns. Two roll away camouflage houses were built to protect each gun. This installation cost $47,000. These 8-inch guns could fire a 260-pound shell 18.7 miles.

This two-gun battery was named Battery Eubanks.

Reference: A detailed description of the 8-inch and 14-inch railway guns is presented in British and American Artillery of World War 2 by Ian V. Hogg, 1978, pgs. 175 to 181.

Battery B, 3rd Coast Artillery Regiment firing the M1920 14-Inch Railroad Gun at Fort MacArthur's Lower Reservation, 12 August 1927. Click image for a more detailed view (California Military Department)

Report of Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications

Report of Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications: Battery Erwin
M1920 14-Inch Railway Gun
The 14-inch M1920 railway gun was the last large caliber railway gun to be deployed by the U.S. Army. It was an upgrade of the Navy 14"/50 caliber railway gun.
History: After the close of World War I, the US Army wanted to incorporate the lessons learned from other railway gun mounts and fulfill coastal artillery requirements for hitting a moving target. An effort to design a more universal mount for the Navy's Mk. IV 14"/50 caliber gun was undertaken.
The primary difference from the earlier Navy versions lies in the M1920 carriage, which could be raised and lowered. Prepositioned fixed mounts were installed at the forts, and the gun's rail trucks could be taken out from under the frame. After the removal of the rail trucks, the gun was lowered and bolted onto a pivot point for 360 degree movement. The M1920 carriage made the gun much more flexible. It allowed for the standard practice of using a curved piece of rail to traverse the gun, and it enabled the gun to be used in a fixed position.
Two guns were deployed to Fort MacArthur. The remaining two guns were deployed to Fort Grant and Fort Randolph in the Panama Canal Zone. The two guns deployed to the Panama Canal Zone could be moved to either coast on the Panama Canal Railway.
Models: The Mk.IV gun was manufactured in two models:
Sighting and fire control equipment: The following sighting equipment was used with the gun:
Support cars:
Fate: All four guns were cut up for scrap in 1946.
Source: Wikipedia

Battery Erwin's northern emplacement 9 July 1941. The gun is under camouflage netting. The five box cars are the support cars described above. Image was taken by the California National Guard's 115th Observation Squadron. (National Archives and Records Administration)
Battery Erwin 9 July 1941. The guns are under camouflage netting. The five box cars at each emplacement are support cars described above. Image was taken by the California National Guard's 115th Observation Squadron. (National Archives and Records Administration)
Color Images
(Courtesy Getty Images)
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