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The War Path Of The Serbian Krajina Express

The War Path Of The Serbian Krajina Express

This is the tale of a heavily armed train equipped with a variety of deadly weapons, a war beast that was used with great efficiency during the terror and carnage that was the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. War trains were used by multiple sides in different conflicts; from Nazi Germany, over Soviet Russia to the United States

The Krajina Express armored train was created during the summer of 1991 at the railway depot in Knin, on the initiative of Knin railway employees as a contribution to the protection of the Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina, during the Yugoslav civil war


The War Path Of The Serbian Krajina Express


The American-built General Motors JZ 664-013 diesel locomotive was determined to tow the deadly machine. With 25 mm thick armor and sandbags, the entire train was secured from enemy fire. The initial configuration included two wagons armed with anti-aircraft cannons, one with a German 20 mm Flak 38 cannon and the other with a 40 mm Bofors M-12 cannon. The Territorial Defense arsenal that was consisted of trophy guns was loaded on the train.


The armored train was part of the SAO Krajina Militia at the start of the war (precursor of the Serbian army of Krajina). In Lika, near Štikada, the Krajina Express had its first combat encounter against the Croatian National Guard Corps. In the Dalmatia area near Drniš, the armored train also participated in the battle. The train returned to Lika in September 1991, to assist in the unblocking of the weapons depot in Sveti Rok, where the train crew engaged in a skirmish against the Croatian infantry forces, protecting itself with an M53 machine gun against the assaulting Croatians, returning fire through loopholes in the armor. As part of the Krajina MUP, the armored train crew had combat roles and took part in the battle even when the train was not engaged, such as during the "Corridor" campaign in the summer and autumn of 1992. The armored train is thought to have earned its nickname Krajina Express, during its several-week stay in Lika.  Krajina Express was involved in the defense of the Zemunik military airport near Zadar prior to the armistice in January 1992.


During 1992, the train was reinforced for another combat wagon armed with single-barrel and three-barrel anti-aircraft guns 20 mm M-75 and M-55, as well as a platform for a 120 mm mortar. The German Flak 38 cannon was replaced by a stronger Soviet 76 mm ZIS-3 cannon. The third car of “Krajina Express”. 12.7mm M2 heavy machine gun and two rocket launchers are visible.

As part of the Krajina MUP, the armored train crew had combat roles and took part in the battle even when the train was not engaged, such as during the "Corridor" campaign in the summer and autumn of 1992. Local trucks would sometimes arrive with hot soup and fresh bread to feed the workers.

After the formation of the Serbian Army of Krajina in the end of November 1992, with the armored train was reassigned to the 75th Motorized Brigade of the 7th North Dalmatian Corps as the Railway Company of the 75th Motorized Brigade, designated as the 7th Armored Train

Following the Croatian assault on Velebit as part of Operation Maslenica 93, the train crew was once again involved in combat, providing artillery support from the train as well as infantry taking and holding positions while fighting outside the train.


During this time, the armored train's most famous operation took place, when a wagon carrying 3 and a half tons of explosives and 5 tons of metal waste was released from the Serbian-controlled town of Benkovac towards the Croatian-controlled town of Zadar. The Krajina Express train pushed this wagon all the way to Nadin, from where the wagon was disconnected from the composition and it moved independently along the railway through a natural fall into the railway tunnel near Zadar, which was used as a warehouse for artillery ammunition by Croatian forces. The wagon was equipped with anti-tank mines on the bumpers which were designated as detonators. The precise impact of this mission is unknown, but the subsequent powerful explosion inflicted widespread fear among Zadar's residents.


Bosanska Krajina Operations

The train's steel armor was strengthened with reinforced rubber during the summer of 1993, which proved to be effective protection against anti-armor missiles on armored vehicles at the time. In the same year, the train was rearmed, and instead of the ZIS-3 cannon, an American-made 76 mm M18 Hellcat self-propelled howitzer was mounted into the war wagon.

In 1994, the 7th armored train, in collaboration with the Army of the Republika Srpska and the National Defense of the AP of Western Bosnia, was deployed to the Bihać battlefield across the Una railway where, for the previous two years, this North-Western Bosnian town has suffered under a siege. The merciless combat that had raged during the horrific siege of Bihac had cost the lives of almost 5,000 people.

The train was faced against the Muslim forces of 5th Corps from Bihać, equipped with anti-aircraft launchers of 57 mm missiles and a self-propelled M18 Howitzer.
The train encountered numerous diversions, mines, and broken rails along the way, and it proceeded slowly with a unit of engineers acting as a precursor, demining and repairing the damaged line.

The second combat car was struck by an enemy 9M14 Malyutka anti-tank missile during the fighting on the Bihać battlefield. On that occasion, the additional rubber defense proved effective in reducing the rocket's accumulated jet, with only one member of the Krajina armored train crew being injured as a result.

Battle in the vicinity of Bihać lasted until late 1994 when the Krajina Express retreated to Knin.

What Happened To The Serbian Krajina Express

The train was less engaged in 1995 due to the complicated situation on the battlefield, where Croatian forces went on the offensive and took hold of key points along the Dinara. Although the train in Knin was on standby with the reserve crew, the crew actively engaged in the battle as an infantry unit.

The armored train Krajina Express was ordered to travel from Knin to Lika after the Croatians began an assault on the Republic of Serbian Krajina with heavy artillery attacks on Knin and other Serbian cities in the early morning hours of August 4.

The train crew agrees to wreck the train and begin evacuating citizens as the result of the general chaos that erupted in the Republic of Serbian Krajina. The armored train was launched at full speed on the slope of the Lika railway and then derailed into a ravine. Some of its parts were recovered, converted into a monument, and is now displayed to the public for viewing.

The locomotive JŽ 664-013, which towed the Krajina Express train, was repaired in
Gredelj after the war and recycled to begin a new role with the Croatian Railways under the new name of HŽ 2062-055.

It is hard to believe that, the 20-man train crew of the Serbian Krajina Express suffered only two causalities during the entire war. Two crewmen that were killed were the commander of the 7th armored train and its train driver, and they lost their lives due to enemy artillery fire.

The Weapons Of The Serbian Krajina Express

In addition to copious amounts of heavily effective armor, this war train managed to survive the brunt of extreme combat through the height of the Yugoslav Wars thanks to a lethal array of Soviet, Yugoslav, and U.S. weapon systems fitted. Let’s take a look at what it was packing!


Self-Propelled 76 mm Howitzer From an M18 Hellcat

Between 1993 and 1995, the armored train was fitted with 76 mm Howitzers from American M18 Hellcats. An iconic Allied tank destroyer of WW2, may were sold to other countries after the war. Yugoslavia, in particular, received over 250 Hellcats and kept most of them in reserve until the outbreak of the Yugoslav Wars 1990s.


ZIS-3 76 mm Anti-Tank Gun

Between 1992 and 1993, the armored train was fitted with Soviet-made ZIS-3 76 mm Anti-Tank Guns. This artillery weapon was first used by the Soviets in WW2. Following the Second World War, the Soviets exported it to their allies in the former Yugoslavia where it eventually fell into the hands of different forces in the Yugoslav Wars.


40 mm Bofors M-12

Originally designed in Sweden by the AB Bofors arms factory back in the 1930s, this is an anti-aircraft autocannon heavily used by the allies in WW2. The weapon saw action in multiple conflicts after WW2 up to the first Gulf War and of course, the Yugoslav Wars. The Krajina Express utilized this weapon very well.


20 mm Flak 38

Up until 1992, the Krajina Express was armed with PA cannon 20 mm Flak 38 until it was replaced by the ZIS-3. The Flak 38 was an anti-aircraft weapon created by the Nazis, it was used by multiple German units in WW2. A massively popular weapon, it was the most mass-produced German artillery weapon of WW2.


57 mm UB-32 Unguided Rocket Launchers

The armored train was also fitted with a weapon heavily featured on improvised fighting vehicles: The UB-32. This is a Soviet-made 57 mm rocket pod designed for aerial use in close air support and ground attack situations. It’s often featured on technicals, especially in the Middle East and North Africa.


9M14 Maljutka / AT-3 Sagger

The train was fitted with two Soviet-made 9M14 Malyutka wire-guided anti-tank guided missiles. Also known by the NATO reporting name of AT-3 Sagger, this was the first man-portable anti-tank guided missile in the USSR and considered as one of the most widely produced ATGM of all time.


20 mm Zastava M-55

The train was equipped with three Yugoslavian-made M55 20mm anti-aircraft guns. Designed back in 1955, thousands were produced. In the Yugoslav Wars, the weapons were used by almost every warring faction from the Military of Serb Krajina and the Army of Republika Srpska to the Slovenian Territorial Defence and the Croatian National Guard.


M-74 120 mm Mortar

The train was equipped with an M74 120mm mortar. This smoothbore, muzzle-loading, high-angle-of-fire weapon was originally created in Yugoslavia to provide the Yugoslav People’s Army with long-range indirect fire support. Upon the collapse of Yugoslavia, the weapon was used by various different factions and military forces.


12.7 mm M2 Browning

Originally designed by John Browning in the latter phases of WW1, the M2 Browning fires the powerful .50 BGM / 12.7 mm round. This iconic weapon has featured in countless conflicts from the Korean and Vietnam Wars to the Falklands conflict and the Soviet-Afghan War. The Krajina train was packing these .50 caliber machine guns too.


M53 machine guns

Strikingly similar to the Nazi MG42, the Yugoslavian M53 was created after WW2 using equipment, machinery, and ammunition the Germans left behind. Apart from a slower fire rate, the M53 was almost identical to the original German MG-42. This general-purpose machine gun was heavily utilized onboard the Krajina armored train.