Sunday 9th September 2018: Charter with ex-SNCF Baldwin A1AA1A 62029, Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin, France

Sunday 9th September 2018 saw the third European Traction haulage event, and probably the most complex to date: a visit to the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin (CFTR), not far from Colmar in north-east France.


62029 during the pre-event shunting at Volgelsheim, 09/09/18 (JW)

The idea was simple: to visit the CFTR to ride behind ex-SNCF A1AA1A 62000 class locomotive no.62029.  This diesel-electric machine was built in 1946 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, and has a six-cylinder, 660hp Baldwin 606NA power unit.

106 locomotives of model DRS-6-4-660 (Diesel Road Switcher, 6 axles, 4 powered, 660hp) were built by Baldwin between 1946 and 1948, all for the French Supply Council under Marshall Aid.  100 went to SNCF and the other six to Morocco, as class DB-400.  Only seven of the French machines remain extant – in various states of repair – but 62029 according to my research at the beginning of this year, although two others have worked recently, is the only one that is currently operational.  I am not sure whether any of the Moroccan machines survive, but check out a selection of Phil Wormald’s excellent photos here to see some shots of DB-405 in a deplorable state, long withdrawn at Taza.

Although the Baldwin was the draw, I also asked for ex-SNCF Decauville-built diesel “locotracteur” Y2402, recently re-engined with a Deutz power unit and fitted with train brakes, to power us for a short distance – although it was not operational at the time the event was conceived.

The actual event, however, was complicated by the fact that the CFTR is not rail connected, and public road transport is scarce (and, indeed, non-existent early on a Sunday morning) and not conducive to moving parties of our size in any case – so I arranged a connecting road coach to and from the main line railway stations at Colmar (France) and Breisach (Germany).

On the Day

43 people from four countries participated in the event.  I am pleased to report that the arrangements went perfectly.  I am very grateful indeed to the railway’s volunteers firstly for returning Y2402 to traffic in time to work for us, but also in working through the night to repair a serious defect on 62029 shortly before our event which could have precluded its use.

DSC04263 (2).JPG

The now-traditional seminar photo…

I recorded the movements on the day as follows:-

Y2402 – 10:20 shunt from Volgelsheim station into siding
62029 top & (Y2402) tail – 10:29 shunt from siding back to station
62029 top & (Y2402) tail – 10:38 Volgelsheim to Volgelsheim Depot
62029 top & (Y2402) tail – 11:11 Volgelsheim Depot to Embarcadere de Sans-Soucis
Y2402 – 11:43 shunt from station clear of points (propel)
62029 + (Y2402) DIT – 11:51 shunt back into platform
62029 + (Y2402) DIT – 11:54 Embarcadere de Sans-Soucis to Volgelsheim

A GPS measurement of the route between the two stations came out at 12.04 km (7.48 miles) and another of the shunt at Sans-Soucis recorded it as 165 m.  A (potentially less reliable!) walked measurement of the shunt at Volgelsheim using an exercise app came out at 93 m, but if you recorded this by more solid means, please let me know!

We were treated to a visit to the depot, during which we saw all of their rolling stock.  The highlight for most of us was 1944-built ex-USATC General Electric “dropcab” no.4036, currently undergoing restoration.  Please have a look at my article here to read a bit more about this noteworthy locomotive and how you can help its restoration.


The hire fee for the train part of the event was €1,000, to which can be added the proceeds from the bar car that the railway had kindly provided for us.  This means that my three European Traction events to date have resulted in a total just in excess of €5,000 reaching the hands of continental railway preservation organisations – so thank you very much for your support.

On that note, I would like to thank Sebastien, Mani, Carine, Nathalie and Claude for their hospitality and assistance in providing what was a fantastic morning at a lovely little railway.  If you have not visited the CFTR, they are not empty words when I implore you to make the effort to go.

Future Events

Having delivered two complicated haulage events within the space of a month (the other being at Saint-Ghislain in Belgium on 12th August), I’m now having a bit of a rest!  However, I have a number of projects on the anvil for 2019 and I look forward to presenting you with the details soon.

General Electric 4036 – under restoration in France

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)

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.

Eurotunnel Car Trains

Although not strictly within the remit of this website, I thought I would also cover the Eurotunnel car trains under the Channel, as they do provide an element of loco haulage to and from the Continent.

From its opening in 1994, the Channel Tunnel gave two new ways for passengers to travel between the UK and the Continent – by Eurostar between London and Paris and Brussels, and on the car-carrying “Le Shuttle” between Cheriton (Folkestone) and Coquelles (Calais).  This article looks briefly at the latter.


The view from a car boarding a train at Coquelles of 9810 on the rear of a car train to Cheriton.  Taken by my lovely fiancee Nic as I was driving at the time!

The car shuttle service

The car-carrying shuttle is operated by Eurotunnel and operates to a fixed timetable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with up to four departures an hour in each direction.  There is no provision for foot passengers – all passengers need to be in cars or coaches.  Certain commercial coach services do use the shuttle (whereas others use the Dover to Calais ferry).  The journeys take approximately 35 minutes.

Access to both terminals is directly from each country’s motorway network – the M20 in England and the A16 in France.  As such, it’s probably best considered not so much as a train service at all but as a tolled section of motorway on which vehicles happen to be conveyed on board trains and pre-booking of a slot gives a cheaper fare.

The traction

The trains are worked in top-and-tail fashion by Bo’Bo’Bo single-cabbed electric locos assembled by Brush Traction in Loughborough from the early 1990s.  The initial batch dating from 1992 were numbered 9001 to 9038.  One of these – 9030 – was destroyed in a catastrophic fire in the Channel Tunnel on 18th November 1996, and was replaced by a new-build loco, 9040.  Since 2004, these locos have been going through a comprehensive upgrade programme, from which the locos so treated are emerging as 7 MW (9,400hp) machines and renumbered in the 98xx series (with the last two digits remaining the same).

There are also 20 similar locos dedicated to the freight shuttles (9101 to 9113, and 9701 to 9707), but these are outside the scope of this article.


Such a service is inherently “unbashable” in that you cannot wait for a “winner”, in fact not only do you not see the identity of one of the locomotives at all until you are driving down the ramp towards the train, but you never actually see the other locomotive at all.

However, the on-board staff are invariably very helpful in advising you of what its number is.  They walk through after departure and as long as you are sensible and polite about how and when you ask them if they could find out for you and above all explain why you want to know, they tend to ask the question and come back with the answer and a smile.

Do also note that (in my experience) if you travel out and back from the UK on the same day in your car – even if the outward was by ferry – you are likely to get pulled by UK Customs back at Coquelles for a thorough interrogation and search of your vehicle.

Amtrak X995 and X996 – European locos in 1970s America

The remit of this site allows me to write about many of my great interests, but I might not have expected American railroads to be among them!

The flow of locomotives across the North Atlantic has always been much more from America to Europe than vice versa.  However the 1970s did see two particular European locomotives make a brief sojourn to the USA (and I’m not talking about “Flying Scotsman”!).

The 100mph streamlined Art Deco 2-Co-Co-2 “GG1” electric locos built for the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1930s were, by all accounts, highly impressive machines, but by the time of the creation of Amtrak on 1st May 1971, they were showing their age.  Consequently, the nascent organisation quickly sought to replace them with new traction.  At the time, there was nothing appropriate “off the shelf” in the States, but procurement of a suitable fleet from Europe would have taken years.  Amtrak therefore looked to General Electric to rapidly develop an express (120mph) passenger version of its brutal-looking “E60” locos – 6,000hp machines under construction at that time for heavy freight work on the Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad.  The initial E60 order was placed by Amtrak in early 1973.

The E60s were not a success.  Their fate was largely sealed on Monday 24th February 1975 when loco no.950 derailed at 102mph in Elkton, Maryland whilst on test, and the cause was traced to fundamental wheelset issues.  The fleet were restricted to 85mph.  Behind the scenes, steps were made almost immediately to pursue the European route after all…

The 1976/1977 Trials

Amtrak therefore selected two modern electric locomotive designs from Europe to test on its famed Northeast Corridor: one from Sweden (which they numbered X995) and one from France (X996).  These plans were formalised in October 1975 with both locos to arrive roughly a year later.

The “Swedish Meatball” – X995

The first to arrive, in August 1976, was brand-new SJ Rc4 electric loco, Rc4 1166, built by Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget (ASEA).  This was painted in Amtrak livery and numbered X995.  Until April 1977, it was tested on the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington DC at up to 200km/h.

Upon return to Sweden, it was painted into SJ’s red livery and entered service.  As a reminder of its early travels, it obtained a cabside plaque (photo here), although this is understood to have been stolen.  Rc4 1166 remains in service to this day with Green Cargo (see photo here).

The “French Fry” – X996

By comparison, although the nominated French machine was relatively new, it was not fresh off the production line.  CC21003 was one of a fleet of four dual-voltage machines built to the classic Paul Arzens “nez cassé” (“broken nose”) design; it had entered service with SNCF in June 1974.  During 1976, the loco was lent back from SNCF to its builders – Alsthom, in Belfort – from where it was turned into an American demonstrator (no mean feat considering the significant modifications involved – not least a new transformer for the different voltage of 11kV a.c. used over there).  CC21003 – by now X996 – was ready by the end of the year and was shipped to the States from Le Havre in January 1977 (see photo here).

X996 was put to work being tested under the same conditions as the Swedish machine.  However, these tests were not as successful.  Following the debacle with the E60s, Amtrak were understandably tetchy about locomotive suspension, ride quality and wheelsets, and X996 did not shape up in this respect.  The Americans concluded that the loco’s design did not pass muster for their needs; the French maintained that the loco was fine but the condition of the track was the issue.  The loco was only used in anger over there for a month, between March and April 1977; the testing was then terminated and the loco was returned to Belfort in the June.

It was promptly converted back to the dual-voltage loco it had been when SNCF had returned it there in 1976.  CC21003 returned to French metals.  In the mid-1990s, along with its three sisters, it lost its a.c. capability and was reclassified accordingly as a CC6500; it became CC6577.  It was withdrawn in 2005 and then quietly scrapped.

The Verdict

Predictably, given the issues identified with X996, the lightweight Swedish machine won out with the Americans – and indeed an order for a fleet was forthcoming.  These were manufactured under licence by General Motors’s Electro-Motive Division (EMD) in La Grange, Illinois, with bodyshells from Budd and bogies and electricals from Sweden.  This fleet, which was delivered to Amtrak from 1980, was designated AEM-7 (ASEA Electro-Motive – 7,000 hp) and eventually numbered 54 machines.  Commuter rail operators MARC and SEPTA also purchased small fleets.

Amtrak’s AEM-7s gave sterling service up until the withdrawal of their last examples in Summer 2016.  MARC’s followed suit in 2017 and SEPTA’s examples are expected to be gone by the end of this year; ending over four decades of Rc4 technology on American metals.

Sunday 9th September 2018: SNCF Baldwin A1AA1A 62029 private charter train

I am very pleased to announce a modest charter train featuring interesting locomotive haulage on the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin (CFTR) in north-east France.

Sunday 9th September 2018 – 62029 – 10:15 Volgelsheim to Sans-Soucis and return on the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin, France

The locomotive

The locomotive hauling our charter will be ex-SNCF A1AA1A 62000 class locomotive no.62029.

This diesel-electric machine was built in 1946 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, and has a six-cylinder, 660hp Baldwin 606NA power unit.

106 locomotives of model DRS-6-4-660 (Diesel Road Switcher, 6 axles, 4 powered, 660hp) were built by Baldwin between 1946 and 1948, all for the French Supply Council under Marshall Aid.  100 went to SNCF and the other six to Morocco, as class DB-400.  Only seven of the French machines remain extant – in various states of repair – but 62029 according to my research at the beginning of this year, although two others have worked recently, is the only one that is currently operational.  I am not sure whether any of the Moroccan machines survive, but check out a selection of Phil Wormald’s excellent photos here to see some shots of DB-405 in a deplorable state, long withdrawn at Taza.

Under normal circumstances, the steam-oriented CFTR use 62029 only to move empty stock between the depot and the operating base at Volgelsheim, and its passenger-carrying appearances are usually ad-hoc and restricted to the occasional short-distance shunt release.  For now at least, this would appear to be your only opportunity to ride behind a locomotive of this type under any real load and for a worthwhile distance.


The above is a link to an excellent 9-minute video uploaded to YouTube by user PATOU5844 showing 62029 in action light engine on its home line, with some excellent thrash to be heard.

The charter

The railway is 11km long and runs from Volgelsheim north to Sans-Soucis, adjacent to the bank of the River Rhein, across which is Germany.  This track is jointly-owned by the local port authority and is used by commercial freight traffic during the week.  We will make a round trip along it with 62029.

We are constrained both by the railway’s existing traffic requirements (including freights) and also the fact that there is only one man who can drive it for us, and therefore we can only be accommodated on a Sunday morning circa 10:15, and only one round trip can be fitted in.

It is expected that there will be at least one photo stop during the round trip, and also hopefully a visit to the depot on the outskirts of Volgelsheim.  62029 will power the train in both directions; the shunt release at Sans Soucis being performed by ex-SNCF Decauville-built diesel “locotracteur” Y2402, recently re-engined with a Deutz power unit and fitted with train brakes.  This is the only other nominally operational ex-SNCF diesel on site (all other diesels owned by the CFTR being of industrial parentage).

Getting there

The railway’s operating base at Volgelsheim is situated 10 miles east of Colmar in France (on the main Basel/Mulhouse to Strasbourg main line) and 2 miles west of Breisach in Germany (the terminus of a branch from Freiburg), but cannot be reached by public train services.

I have a dilemma here, in that the necessary departure time of our train is earlier than the arrival in Volgelsheim of the first public bus on a Sunday (no.1076, at 11:08, and even then only from the Breisach direction – although the stop is a 15-minute walk from the CFTR station), so it cannot be reached by public transport.  (NB: I am aware that there is a timetable online dated 2014 that shows an earlier departure, I have confirmed with the operator that this no longer runs, and this is corroborated by “Hafas”).  I will therefore be hiring a coach which will meet service trains at Colmar both before and after our event.

There are benefits to hiring a coach in any case, as it does not run the risk of members of our party being unable to travel on a public bus due to passenger volume or the risk of the bus not even turning up at all.  It also negates the 900 metre walk from the nearest public bus stop to the station.

I am aware that travelling on a coach is not everybody’s cup of tea, however I stress that the timing of the run with the Baldwin is fixed and we need to work around this somehow.  You are of course more than free to make your own travel arrangements to get to Volgelsheim.

Connections in

The bus will pick up from Colmar station at 09:30, making connections out of the 09:07 arrival (the 08:21 loco-hauled train from Basel, which again provides day train connections from Zürich, Interlaken and Luzern, as well as the overnights from Hamburg and Berlin), the 09:23 arrival (08:51 loco-hauled ex Strasbourg, which connects out of a TGV from Paris).

It will then pick up at Breisach station at 10:00, connecting out of the 08:24 from Freiburg Hbf – in theory the 09:24 makes it too but I would not recommend catching that as we will not be able to wait if it is delayed.

Connections out

The coach also sets down at Breisach in time to catch the 13:39 back to Freiburg.

It is also easy to get back to the UK by rail from this event the same day.

The coach will drop you at Colmar in good time to catch the 14:07 loco-hauled service to Strasbourg, which gives you a +29 onto the 15:08 TGV to Lille Europe, for a fairly tight or remarkably relaxed connection onto the 18:35 or 19:30 Eurostars respectively back to St Pancras, the latter of which getting into London at 20:03.  Connections from this include to Liverpool, Manchester, Wolverhampton, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Norwich, Exeter, Bristol, Swansea, Worcester and all across the Southern Region – as well, of course, as the overnights from both Euston and Paddington.

If you are heading south from Colmar, using multiple units you can be back in Basel before 15:30 which gives you opportunities to head into or through Switzerland or beyond.

What you can combine it with

The vast array of long-distance connections both into and out of the event as outlined above mean that your weekend can take many forms – conceivably you could spend a worthwhile Saturday in at least eight or nine countries that I can think of, and still comfortably get here.  As such, I have not organised any additional haulage opportunities this time, as I feel that that would be counterproductive when there are already events going on that are very deserving of your attendance.

In terms of special events on the Saturday, the standout has to be the “Mega Bernina Festival” at the Chemin de fer-musée Blonay-Chamby in Switzerland, featuring a number of interesting electric locomotives, and including the return to service after a long restoration of RhB 181.  Our visit to Volgelsheim would form an easy and interesting stop-off on an overland trip back to the UK from that event.

(Update 22/06/18) I expect many people to spend the Saturday night in Basel prior to travelling up to Colmar.  Some may wish to look at the open day of the Basel tram network, which is expected to include special trips with heritage vehicles.

By heading south from Breisach or Colmar directly after our event, you can reach Belp or Bern respectively in ample time to enjoy a short main line run with 1939-built BLS class Ae6/8 electric loco no.205 on an additional service train, which will depart from Bern at 17:08, stop at Zollkofen at 17:15 and terminate at Burgdorf at 17:26 (see Erlebniszug Lötschberg website).

Do of course keep an eye on the Haulage Calendar on the main site for updates on other unusual haulage-based events going on around this.

Fares and how to book

This does not come as cheaply as I might have liked to offer, but this is linked entirely to the amounts that I am being charged to put the event on for you.  I would very much like to think that it still represents excellent value for what is a very rare opportunity.

Train only – £25

Train and connecting coach – €40  £35

In the first instance, please email me on to confirm your place on this tour, listing the names of all participants, and if you will be joining us on the coach as well as the train.


I do need to emphasise that 62029 is over 70 years old and is the only currently operational example of its class, and a failure before or during the event is always a possibility.  I will provide you directly with more detailed booking information at the time that payment is being arranged.

Sunday 17th June 2018: CC40110 on tour in France

Sunday 17th June 2018 sees an attractive little railtour featuring the first main line passenger run of an iconic class of locomotive in over a decade.

SNCF CC40100 class loco CC40110 will be making its first passenger train appearance in years on Sunday 17th June 2018, when it hauls a railtour on an 160-mile round trip from Paris Gare du Nord to Amiens and return.

The railtour is being operated by Matériel Ferroviaire, Patrimoine National (MFPN – in English, “Rolling Stock, National Heritage”, a name which I think sums up the ideals of railway preservation nicely) who also own the loco.

I must say that I have found the organisers to be immensely polite and helpful, and although my dealings with them to date have been in French, they assure me that they have members who speak English should you require dialogue.  I also have a PDF booking form for the tour, so if you would like a copy of this to fire off to them, please just contact me and I will email it across (this is not yet on their website).

The Loco

CC40110 is one of three surviving members of this once ten-strong class (technically there were eleven, as the original CC40106 was written off very early in its life in 1969 and was replaced by a new loco with the same number) – and the only one that is operational.

These were instantly-recognisable, visually striking (built to Paul Arzens’ “Nez Cassé” design), powerful four-voltage machines built to haul the “Trans-Europe Express” (TEE) across borders.  However, in practice, they only worked to Belgium (both Brussel and Liège).  They were withdrawn in the mid-1990s with the onset of the “Thalys” concept, which can be considered a modern-day successor to the “PBA” (Paris-Brussel-Amsterdam) axis of the TEE.

The above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user FTZvideo showing a short documentary on the CC40100s from 1967, by André Périé.

Logistics – Times and Prices

According to indicative timings, the train will depart from Paris Gare du Nord at 07:25, arriving in Amiens at approximately 09:30.  Participants then have over seven hours to explore the city, before returning at 16:35 and arriving back at the blocks at roughly 18:35.

Obviously for an 07:25 departure from Paris, you will need to have stayed in or around the French capital on the Saturday night, as there are no overnight trains that arrive early enough to reliably get you there from elsewhere.  Perhaps my Paris in a day article from May 2017 might give you some ideas about seeking out loco haulage in the local area – although, sadly, there will no longer be any diesel diagrams around the capital by the time this train runs.

Nevertheless, the indicative timings for the return leg would drop you comfortably enough onto the 20:04 (at a push), 20:34 and 21:13 Eurostars back to London on the Sunday evening (which conveniently enough also depart from Nord, of course), off which you can get back as far north as Wolverhampton, Leeds and Derby, or onto the Down “Night Riviera”, etc…

The return fare for this excursion is only €49 standard class (€74 first class).

Amiens – Enthusiasts

The most obvious activity for enthusiasts in the seven-hour layover at Amiens is to have a look at the BB67400 diesels on the route from there to Boulogne (see brief trip report from 2014 that included covering these turns here).  It is possible to make a round trip to Boulogne on one of these (IC2011 10:51 Amiens – Boulogne Ville 12:26 / IC2026 14:45 Boulogne Ville – Amiens 16:09 – but watch out for that estimated +26 onto the tour) but not a lot of other tunes that you can play on that, to be honest.

Amiens – Normals(!)

As you would expect, this tour would also be an ideal one on which to take the family.  The whole point of its running is to visit Amiens (tourist website here) on this particular day – the third Sunday of June each year sees “le marché sur l’eau” (“the market on the water”) where market gardeners in traditional dress go along the River Somme in cone-shaped boats, before setting up at the waterside and selling their fruit, vegetables and flowers.

If this does not particularly appeal to you, Amiens itself is a historic city in its own right – and its history is not restricted to that indelibly linked to 20th century wars, although both have left their mark still visible today – and there are guided historical tours offered as an optional extra when you book your railtour ticket.  The city’s imposing Gothic cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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.

Saturday 9th December 2017 – Two CC6500s on railtour duty in France

Among the most popular French locomotive types are the class CC6500 express electrics.  Retired from main line use for over a decade, there are currently two in working order, and Saturday 9th December 2017 sees both in use on the same day.

This class of 200km/h 1.5kV dc electrics were the crack express locos of their day in pre-TGV France, and are one of several types built to Paul Arzens’s classic “broken nose” styling.  74 were built – with a further 4 converted in the 1990s from CC21000 class locos (one of which, CC21003, had been tested between Washington DC and New York by Amtrak in 1977) – but only 2 remain in occasional service on the main line; CC6558 and CC6570.

CC6558 is painted in green livery, and is notable as one of the 21 machines that were actually built as dual voltage, to also operate on the 1.5kV dc third rail system on the Maurienne route from Chambéry to Modane, which was converted to overheads in 1976.  It is perhaps a little odd to see photos of these machines hauling trains with no catenary in sight!

CC6570, meanwhile, is painted in the attractive burgundy and orange “coup de soleil” (sunburn) livery.


CC6558 is working a short-but-sweet railtour from Chambéry (where it is based) to Lyon and return, in connection with the Festival of Lights and the Christmas market there.  Lyon is France’s second-biggest city and is a UNESCO World Heritage site so is surely worth a visit!

The tour departs Chambéry at 13:59 and returns from Lyon Perrache at 23:40, with a journey time in each direction of appoximately two hours.  The fare for the round trip is a bargain €23.

The tour is operated by the APMFS (l’Association pour la Préservation du Matériel Ferroviaire Savoyard) and more details can be found on their site here.

The above is a link to a YouTube video by user Paul Mollard showing CC6558 on the same working five years ago.


CC6570’s duty is from Avignon-Centre to Arles and return and is essentially a Santa Special, with treats and entertainments for children on board.  The route is circular, travelling out via Cavaillon, Salon and Miramas, and back via Tarascon, and the train performs this loop twice – at 15:00 and 17:00 from Avignon.  The second of these can even be easily reached from the 07:52 Eurostar from London to Paris that morning.

The fare for a round trip is a supremely reasonable €12, and there is an option to travel outwards on the first, have a break of two hours in Arles, then return on the second.

This tour is operated by APCC6570, and more details can be found on their site hereUpdate 25/11/17: this tour is now fully booked.

The above is a link to a YouTube video by appropriately-named user Nez Cassés showing CC6570 on the main line in 2016.

Cranks’ Itinerary

Whilst the clash is perhaps unfortunate in some respects, you may be interested to know that you can comfortably travel behind both during the day – and given the very cheap prices involved, missing part of a tour is not necessarily the end of the world.

Following the arrival of the second round trip from Avignon to Arles with CC6570 (departs approx 17:00 and returns approx 19:00), you can travel on the 20:27 local train to Avignon TGV, a TGV to Lyon Part-Dieu, and then another local train into Lyon Perrache, arriving at 22:43 and giving you a nice +57 onto CC6558’s return working (of course, what you then do at 01:42 at Chambéry is up to you!).

An advance through ticket from Avignon-Centre to Lyon Perrache on these service trains is currently available on the SNCF website (at the time of writing) at €14.50, meaning that the entire itinerary including both CC6500s and transport between them is theoretically available for less than €50.

10 years ago…

Switzerland 07 283

BB15024, Paris Nord, 02/09/17 (JW)

This relatively unremarkable photo of BB15024 on the blocks at Paris Gare du Nord was taken 10 years ago this week – Saturday 2nd September 2007.

What makes it noteworthy is that I didn’t intend to be there. In fact, I didn’t even intend to be in France. This train was the Hamburg-Paris overnight, which after five consecutive overnights mainly chasing 218s in Germany, I was using as my taxi from Hamburg to Brussels, for my pre-booked Eurostar back to Waterloo, home for a de-rance and then a ticket for Aston Villa v Chelsea… What could go wrong?

Anyway, a DB class 101 powered us south from Hamburg to Dortmund, where I ensured I was awake to see 363 128 shunt our portion onto the coaches from Berlin. We were then 120-powered via Mönchengladbach to Aachen. I again ensured I was awake to see not only our relieving Belgian loco (2705) but also our banker, which was the big Ludmilla 241 805 (ex-232 284) and to walk to the far end of the train to enjoy the Kolomna sounds as it gave us a good shove up to Aachen West. After grabbing a bit of a cat nap, I again made sure I was awake at Liège to see 1954-built 2229 buffer up to the rear of the train to bank us away. I then got my reading book out as we sped west through the darkness, to make sure I was awake to get off at Brussels…

…I woke up to the sound of a loud “clunk”. My book was was on the floor, broad daylight illuminated the compartment and the word “Quévy” was sitting outside the window… Bowled!! The clunk had been the shackle as 2705 was removed at the Belgian/French border – I’d slept completely through Brussels and out the other side. Not stopped at a platform, I was unable to get off, and was then trapped seething on board the train as BB15024 backed on, to take us non-stop the last 150-odd miles to the French capital. My move was in tatters and it was only through the booking office staff taking pity on such gormlessness that I got home via Eurostar with minimal issues.

I missed the Villa win 2-0 though!

In retrospect, it saddens me most that such traction variety that we took entirely for granted is now a thing of the past. In one seat, over the course of only a few hours, I was powered by 7 different locos – from modern high speed electrics, to elderly post-war machines, to 4000hp freight diesels, to shunters. Even some of the route that my overnight traversed is no longer used by passenger trains. Banking and shunting locos remarshalling passenger trains are virtually unheard-of in Western Europe these days.

1st and 2nd July 2017: CFTV gala at Saint-Quentin

1st and 2nd July 2017 sees a special event at a heritage line in northern France which will be of interest to British enthusiasts.

The Chemin de Fer Touristique du Vermandois (CFTV) is based at Saint-Quentin, roughly a third of the way between Lille and Paris, and about two hours’ drive from Calais.

The event

The event on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd July 2017 celebrates the CFTV’s 40th anniversary, and of the most interest to the British haulage enthusiast will be the steam and diesel shuttle trains that will run between St-Quentin-Gauchy and Mézières-sur-Oise, and between Mézières-sur-Oise and Ribemont.

The first departure from St-Quentin-Gauchy will be at 10:00 and the last from Ribemont at 17:00.  A day ticket costs €15 and a weekend ticket €25; discounts available for online purchase here.


Trains will be handled by North British 2-8-0 steam loco 140-C-314, built in Glasgow in 1917 and celebrating its centenary, and BB66252, a 1,100hp single-cab diesel-electric built by Alsthom in 1967.

Originally it had been hoped and advertised that BB64066 and BB67456 of the Cellule de Matériel Radié (CMR) of SNCF (effectively its “heritage fleet”), but these machines cannot now attend.

The timetable is here.

Other activities

Mézières-sur-Oise station will also see a display by the Association 14-18 en Somme, and 11:00 on the Sunday will see a commemoration of the war dead with flag bearers.  This area of France, of course, has World War 1 history everywhere you look, and it is great that this is remembered 100 years on.

More prosaically, but still of interest, Ribemont will host a model railway exhibition and a display of classic cars.

Getting there

Very helpfully, the CFTV have an English-language “how to get here” section on their website, telling you everything you need to know.  Link here.

It sounds like a really interesting event!