German troops use a Schwellenpflug to destroy rail tracks while withdrawing from Soviet territory, 1944

German troops in the Soviet Union, destroying the railroad during an organized retreat. A railroad plough (also known as a Schienenwolf (‘rail wolf’) or Schwellenpflug (‘sleepers plough’)) is a rail vehicle which supports an immensely strong, hook-shaped ‘plough’. It is used for destruction of rail track in warfare, as part of a scorched earth policy, so that it becomes unusable for the enemy.

Destroyers tracks were produced by Krupp factory in 1942. The platform on which was mounted a giant hook that spearheaded went under the sleepers, hauled by two locomotives to work for him at the speed of 7-10 km/h. This destroyer required to bring into position only 6-8 minutes, served by a team of 10 people. The destroyer carried stock of explosives, anti-aircraft guns and machine guns. Railway tracks were completely destroyed, sleepers by 100%, the rails at 70-93% and bonding of up to 30%. 

The Russians had a different gauge rail network and the Germans operated much heavier trains than the Russians, so when the Germans invaded they had to rebuild or modify the lines everywhere they went. Some of them were converted to standard gauge by moving the rails. The Germans replaced the Russian wooden sleepers with steel sleepers and clearly in the photograph the sleepers are wooden, so the rail track being destroyed must be a Soviet type (but a converted one). German trains were heavier and required stronger supports, hence new steel sleepers.