Those of us who attended my haulage event at the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin (CFTR) in north-east France on Sunday 9th September 2018 did so primarily to enjoy haulage from ex-SNCF loco A1AA1A 62029, built at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania in 1946.
However, this was not the only American-built diesel on the site. During the visit, we were treated to a tour of their depot, in which we were shown and told about another very interesting locomotive from the USA. I would like to share its story with a wider audience here.
4036 under restoration at Volgelsheim, 09/09/18 (JW)
To give a bit of historical background, the Second World War was in full swing when the decision to undertake an invasion across the English Channel was taken by the Allies at the Trident Conference in Washington DC in May 1943. This invasion was to be the largest by sea that the world had ever seen, and would occur via the northern coast of France, in the region of Normandy. Of course, we are familiar today with the D-Day Landings of 6th June 1944.
The year between conception and realisation of the plans allowed an enormous deal of planning to occur. Railways were to form an integral part of the invasion, initially in terms of transportation of troops and equipment, and indeed since 1942 the USA had been shipping rolling stock to the UK for such an eventuality; this was stepped up a gear after the Trident Conference. However the focus was not so much on the invasion itself but what came after; in an attempt to disrupt the invasion, the Germans rendered much of the French railway network entirely unusable, both in terms of infrastructure and rolling stock. It was clear that whatever was provided to work in France after the invasion would need to be durable and able to operate in harsh conditions.
Among the American rolling stock was a fleet of 10 twin-engined diesel-electric “dropcab” switching locomotives manufactured by General Electric between March and May 1944, with works numbers 27528 to 27537, and given the running numbers 7228 to 7237 by the USATC. As built, the locos had two 6-cylinder Cummins power units; these were later replaced by 8-cylinder veeform Baudouin DP8s.
The locos passed in 1947 to the SE (Société générale des chemins de fer économiques) for use on their Gironde network as 4028 to 4037.
Preservation of 4036
4036 was retired by the Chemin de Fer de Blaise et Der (CFBD) in 2011, when the operation was ended the locomotive was redundant. It was saved by a member of the CFTR in 2014 who transported it to its new home shortly afterwards.
The future and how you can help
4036 is in the midst of a comprehensive restoration, and has already been started and moved under its own power. However, there is plenty of work left to do before it can once again haul trains and form a mobile memorial to the events of 1944.
As with any other restoration project, the speed of its progress is dictated by the volunteers and funds available. Although I am fairly sure that most reading this will be UK or USA-based and therefore unable to help with the former problem, we are able to help financially by making a donation into the project’s PayPal account at sebastien.kieffer(AT)evolutive.org.
If you do choose to do this, please select the “send to friends and family” option and ensure that “4036” is included as a note/reference so that he can identify the transfer. If you do not “do” PayPal, but would still like to help out, please get in touch with me and I can try to assist.
Additionally, as I know we have some supremely knowledgeable and well-connected people here – does anyone happen to know of any sources from where we might be able to obtain some (any) GE documentation about these machines for the team – particularly regarding, but not limited to, electrical wiring? The lack of this is another thing that is hampering the progress of the restoration. If so, please do let me know – I don’t mind following up even the most tenuous of leads myself.