Off the beaten track: CC14161 at Conflans-en-Jarnisy, France

Across Europe there are a number of locomotives now to be found in quite surprising places; ones you may not “stumble upon” unless you know where to look.

One example that springs quickly to mind in this respect is French centre cab electric loco CC14161.

102 locos of the CC14100 class entered traffic with the SNCF between 1954 and 1957.  One of a number of similar classes built by a variety of different companies and nicknamed “fers à repasser” (“flat irons”), these machines were synonymous with the Grand Est region of France, and particularly Thionville depot, for their entire career.  These were powerful, low-geared machines ideal for the abundance of heavy freight traffic that existed in the area in their day – from the Lorraine coalfields, or the steelworks of Luxembourg, and so on.

Above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user Maurice Testu showing a CC14100 engaged in some shunting operations at Lille-Délivrance marshalling yard in 1989.

The destruction of the French coal mining industry, and the wide-ranging social problems it caused, are well documented elsewhere.  Suffice to say, the late 1980s and early 1990s saw the process of closing all of the country’s mines gather speed (the last one closed in 2004), and France’s industrial focus naturally shifted.  Combine this with the collapse of much of Luxembourg’s steel production in the mid-to-late 1970s (prior to this, the tiny Grand Duchy had been the world’s 9th biggest producer of steel) and these aging locos rapidly lost much of their raison d’être.  The last of the CC14100s was out of traffic by 1997.

The negative impacts of the loss of north-east France’s coal mines will be felt for at least a generation.  However, efforts have been made to commemorate this in a more positive manner, too, and as a part of the bigger picture involved, this has involved CC14100s.

Of the 102 machines, just 2 are thought to remain.  One, CC14183, along with BB12083 was intended from 1998 as an exhibit of the mining museum at Petite-Roselle, however it is reported to have suffered badly from unprotected outdoor storage.  The last I heard, in early 2015, both were for sale – but with the buyer needing to arrange their transport, scrapping was a real prospect at the time.  Disturbingly, there is no longer any reference to either on the museum’s website, and I am not aware of them having moved on – please do contact me if you’re able to provide an update on them!

The other surviving CC14100 is just as “under the radar”, but is at least cared for and is on public view – even if it does seem unlikely that it will ever draw power from overheads again.  CC14161 also has a role as a memorial to the mining industry of the area.  After withdrawal in 1994, SNCF offered it to the town of Conflans-en-Jarnisy, approximately 20 miles west of Metz, as a static exhibit.

CC14161 resides essentially in the car park of the E.Leclerc shopping mall in the west of the town, with whose financial assistance it was repainted by enthusiasts into original livery a few years ago – and if you’d like to see a CC14100, it looks like you may well have to travel there…

The view of CC 14161 in its current resting place, as per Google Maps!

You can find it here – about half an hour’s walk from Conflans-Jarny station, about half way between Nancy and Longwy.

Similar loco BB12114 is also owned by the town, but is currently under restoration at a private location near the station, and is likely to join CC14161 at some point in the future – at which point hopefully some covered accommodation will hopefully have been arranged for these important machines.

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