Battery Erwin

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Battery Erwin (1925-1946) - Fort MacArthur's Battery Erwin was actually a series of three reinforced concrete gun emplacements designed to support 14" moveable guns mounted on flatbed rail cars. The first 14" gun arrived 19 Oct 1925 and the first emplacement was started 15 Oct 1925 and was completed 20 Feb 1926 on the middle reservation at a total cost of $9,344. A second 14" gun arrived 28 Jun 1930 and two additional emplacements were begun on the lower reservation in Mar 1937 and completed in Jun 1937. The first emplacement was abandoned and the two new emplacements became the primary emplacements for the two 14" guns. Guns were scrapped in 1946.

14" Railway Gun Drill, 1935, image courtesy Fort MacArthur Museum
14" Railway Gun in Place with Ammunition Train July 1941


Part of the Harbor Defense of Los Angeles.

Two 14" M1920 MII Railway guns mounted on M1920 MII railway carriages were delivered to Fort MacArthur, the first one in 1925 and the second one on 28 Jun 1930. Each of the guns & carriages arrived on a 40' railroad flat car.

The guns and carriages were normally kept in storage and transported to the emplacements for drills and test firings. Early test firings of the first gun caused severe damage to local windows and homes even though advance warnings and precautions were given. By the time the second gun arrived in 1930 test firings on the Fort MacArthur reservation were banned. Test firings were then conducted at remote locations so as to minimize damage and public aggravation. Both guns were test fired in 1937 from a remote location at Don, California which was just 40 miles north of San Diego (now on Camp Pendleton). In 1938 the guns were again test fired in Goleta, California, just north of Santa Barbara.

A single emplacement was constructed for the first gun in 1925. Because each gun could only traverse 7 degrees on the rail car itself, the emplacement was designed to rotate the entire rail car much like an engine roundtable, giving a 360 degree capability. The first emplacement was located on the lower reservation on a rail spur. Construction on it began 15 Oct 1925 and it was complete on 20 Feb 1926 at a cost of $9,344 it was accepted for service 10 May 1926. In 1937, after the delivery of the second gun 30 Jun 1930, two new emplacements were constructed on the lower reservation and the original emplacement was abandoned. Construction for the two new emplacements began in Mar 1937, was complete in Jun 1937 and was accepted for service 21 Apr 1942 at a cost of $27,884.

Both of the 14" guns were in service through World War II but were processed for salvage 19 Jun 1946 and cut up for scrap.

The 14" Railway guns had a range of up to 27 miles with a 1,450 pound shell.

Battery Erwin Armament (edit list)
Model Serial
Manufacturer Carriage Service
1 14" Rifle 715.2" M1920MII 7 Watervliet Railway, M1920MII, #1,
1926-1946 Gun mounted 1938
2 14" Rifle 715.2" M1920MII 10 Watervliet Railway, M1920MII, #4,
1917-1944 Gun mounted 20 Feb 1926
Source: CDSG, RCW Form 1 10 May 1926, 23 Jul 1942, Berhow, Mark A. ed, American Seacoast Defenses: A Reference Guide, 2nd Edition, CDSG Press, McLean, VA, 2004, ISBN 0-9748167-0-1, pages 164-165, CDSG Gun Card Collection from NARA
14" Railway Battery Plan 1926
14" Railway Battery Plan 1942

Current Status

No period guns or carriages in place.

Location: On the former lower Reservation of Fort MacArthur, California. Map point is approximate.

Maps & Images

Lat: 33.723751 Long: -118.277543

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: #1 76', #2 29', #3 29'

Sources: Links:

Visited: 31 Jan-1 Feb 2009

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