You won't believe the incredible armored trains of World War I and World War II

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Trains may seem pretty mundane in the 21st century when compared with jet aircraft.

These days, trains play a small role in transporting Americans. Things are a bit flashier in Europe and Asia, where they're used for high-speed, comfortable travel.

This contrasts vividly with the previous century, when not just trains but armored trains were a vital piece of machinery in the two largest military conflicts of the era.

The armored train was first seen in the American Civil War , according to The Jamestown Foundation. But the battle-ready form of transportation came to prominence in World War I, when Russia used it as a means of defense during cross-country travel.

The trains were employed by most of the European nations fighting in World War II: Poland took advantage of them extensively; Nazi Germany reacted and began using them; and the Russians kept their fleet up. Even Canada patrolled its west coast with one for a time in case of an invasion , according to Canada's Virtual Museum.

These trains were not just armored - they were heavily armed. Cannons, machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons, and even tanks were on board these rolling walls of terror.

While the armored train could transport large amounts of firepower rapidly cross country, it also had quite a few drawbacks.

They were hardly stealthy. Their reliance on tracks not only limited where they could go, but it provided the enemy with an easy target: Sabotage the tracks, and you disable the train.

After World War II, automotive technology had caught up sufficiently to render the armored train obsolete. But these insane trains have left an indelible mark on history.

[An earlier version of this feature was written by Alex Davies and Travis Okulski.]

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This early Polish train, Smialy, is one of the most famous of the era. The rotating turret on the front helped clear out anything that got in the way.

This early Polish train, Smialy, is one of the most famous of the era. The rotating turret on the front helped clear out anything that got in the way.

Here is another shot of Smialy. It was captured by Poland in 1919 but was used in both wars by four different nations: Austria, Poland, the USSR, and Germany.

Here is another shot of Smialy. It was captured by Poland in 1919 but was used in both wars by four different nations: Austria, Poland, the USSR, and Germany.

Source: fsu.edu

Extensive armor plating could withstand a lot of punishment.

Extensive armor plating could withstand a lot of punishment.

Each nation's trains were an imposing force.

Each nation's trains were an imposing force.

Over time, the compartments for the soldiers became increasingly secure. This one resembles a fortress.

Over time, the compartments for the soldiers became increasingly secure. This one resembles a fortress.

There was no job too big or too small. Anti-aircraft weaponry was common on many of these trains.

There was no job too big or too small. Anti-aircraft weaponry was common on many of these trains.

Some of the cannons on these locomotives appear to be a size that would be more appropriate for a battleship.

Some of the cannons on these locomotives appear to be a size that would be more appropriate for a battleship.

As we said, the main issue with these trains was that they ran on tracks. Derailments and fires were their Achilles' heel.

As we said, the main issue with these trains was that they ran on tracks. Derailments and fires were their Achilles' heel.

During WWII, the Germans derailed this Polish train with a bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe. It was deserted next to the tracks as the German soldiers neared.

During WWII, the Germans derailed this Polish train with a bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe. It was deserted next to the tracks as the German soldiers neared.

Source: derela.republika.pl

Here's another shot of the carnage.

Here's another shot of the carnage.

The wartime role of trains has not been totally forgotten. This Russian train, now decommissioned, is part of an installation in its home country.

The wartime role of trains has not been totally forgotten. This Russian train, now decommissioned, is part of an installation in its home country.

This is is a replica of a Slovakian armored train, now situated near Zvolen, Slovakia.

This is is a replica of a Slovakian armored train, now situated near Zvolen, Slovakia.

Some of the trains are still on display, in Poland.

Some of the trains are still on display, in Poland.

Battles, and time, have taken their toll.

Battles, and time, have taken their toll.

Here's a classic German news reel of an armored train in action. This is probably the only time you will ever see a train called in as backup.

Here's a classic German news reel of an armored train in action. This is probably the only time you will ever see a train called in as backup.

Trains weren't the only way to get around before World War II

Trains weren't the only way to get around before World War II

DON'T MISS: These Amazing Color Photos Of The Hindenburg Zeppelin Show What Luxury Air Travel Was Like 80 Years Ago

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