FRENCH COMPOUND LOCOMOTIVES' HOME PAGE
French engines numbering systems
This topic is somewhat twisted.... Here, we must consider
two periods: The private companies period where each company used its own
system (before 1938), and the later S.N.C.F. era. Those wishing some information
about the geographical location of the lines operated by the various pre-S.N.C.F.
private companies can reach the Short history and
description of railroad companies in France, also available from the
... I hope you haven't got any headache!
Pre 1938 systems (era of the private companies):
S.N.C.F.'s system (post '38): Thus, they have recycled
the system introduced in 1925 by the P.L.M. with the following variations:
Chemins de fer de l'Est: This RailRoad used a system
where engines' numbers consisted of six digits, two pairs of three figures
separated by a dash; The first pair indicate the wheel arrangement of the
engine using the "old continent" method (wheels counted on ONE SIDE of
the engine only even though english system counts all the wheels), the
second pair giving the serial number AND the type for that wheel arrangement.
For a given series, serial number always starts on a tenth boundary value
plus 1, 001, 041, 101, etc. Of course (?), the higher is the first serial
number, the later is the engine series.
Examples: 231-001 to 231-040, 1921 PACIFICS; 231-051
to 231-073, P.O. Chapelon PACIFICs
delivered in 1935.
Chemins de fer de l'Ouest then Etat (meaning
it was the very first nationalized R.R., in 1909):
Ouest era: The locomotives were only given a chronological
serial number, regardless of their type or wheel arrangement.
Etat: Renumbered the engines using the system used
by Chemins de fer de l'Est.
Compagnie du MIDI: Same system as "Compagnie du
Nord", except that the dot is omitted.
Compagnie du Nord: This company numbered its engines
with an indefinite number of digits; The first figure, always followed
by a dot, gives the number of driving axles of the engine. It means
that a locomotive numbered for example 4.xxx can be anything between a
0 8 0, a 2 8 0, a 2 8 2, etc.; The digits following that dot are,
as for the Chemins de fer de l'Est, the serial number AND the type, assigned
(often but not always, see bellow) chronologically. But here, serial numbers
for a given type can start using the first "free" value. Thus, you need
to have a table or a drawing to identify an engine of this company with
its number. Worst, "Le Nord" reused numbers from scrapped series..........
Numbers "du Nord" must be pronounced as follow:
3.550: Three five hundred fifty, and not three thousand
4.1220: Four one thousand and two hundred twenty
P.L.M.: This company was, as I say on another page,
the first employer of Chapelon but never gave any credit to his ideas (he
left the P.L.M. after only less of two years to work in an electrical equipment
company, but not very far from the railway scene as they built, among other,
signals and telephone systems used by many french railroads). It's said
ironically that the only valuable contributions of the P.L.M. Co. to the
french railroads was their toilets and trash cans and that the flexibility
of the chassis of its engines was intentional, helping track holding in
the curves! But to be honest, the P.L.M. also created the numbering system
used as the basis of the system used later when the S.N.C.F. was created,
system introduced in 1925. Before this date, they have used an incredible
variety of systems, changed every 20 years or so, so much complicated that
I left the task of their description to others braves.
The locomotives of this company were designated
by a first series of three digits giving the wheel arrangement of the engine
(the continental way), followed by a letter giving the type for that wheel
arrangement whose rank was allocated according to the period of manufacture
of the considered series (A types are oldest), followed by a number
being the serial number, allocated upon reception. The letter T was placed
before AFTER (thanks, Claude B.!) the series designating
letter for the Tank locomotives. Smart.
Example: 241 A Mountain (1925), 241 C Montain (1930),
232 AT series, 4-6-4 tank locomotives of 19 .. Damned, can't
P.O. then P.O. - MIDI (the P.O. company bought
the MIDI Co. in 1936):
P.O. era: A system identical to the one used by
"La compagnie du Nord" was used, except that the dot was omitted.
P.O. - MIDI: Used a system identical to the one
of "Chemins de fer de l'Est".
As the S.N.C.F. had to renumber all the locomotives
from the old private companies, there was not enough letters in the alphabet
to use the numbering system of the P.L.M. directly. The following tricks
An engine coming from the old companies always carry a
letter of rank inferior to P. The letters O and I are omitted to avoid
confusion with figures 0 and 1;
Again, as there is not enough letters, the S.N.C.F. added
a figure, separated from the number of the engine and painted on the front
buffer beam and on the sides of the cab indicating on which geographical
area - the S.N.C.F. having created 6 areas - the machine was used. Very
blur system for foreigners, as the engines have often been passed from
a region to another where already existed a (different) serie of engine
carrying the same numbers...
For example, in the fifties some of the numerous
ex-P.L.M. R.R. PACIFICs, numbered
5 - 231 G 4xx were transfered on the Ex-P.O. area thus becaming 4 - 231
G 4xx, but there was already an ex-P.O. serie numbered 4 - 231 G
4xx!! In that case, the serial number of ex-P.O. machines had been shifted
to 8xx to avoid confusions.
Sometime a very hard task to track down the exact history
of a specific engine.
The "area code" are as follow:
1: Ex- Est Co. area;
2: Ex-Nord Co. area;
3: Ex-Etat (Ouest) area;
4: Ex-P.O.-Midi Co. area;
5: Ex-P.L.M. Co. area;
6: New area called Méditéranée
(and located around the sea of the same name).
The letter T was used as in the P.L.M.'s numbers to
indicate a tank engine but placed
after before the type
letter (two times thanks again Claude!), ex. the 232 AT of the P.L.M. already
mentionned became 5 - 232 TA. For renumbered engines coming from old companies,
the original serial numbers have been kept as much as possible, but have
sometimes been changed when machines changed of area to avoid confusion
with machines already belonging to the new area and carrying the same type
letter. Locomotives built for the S.N.C.F. (i.e. after january 1st, 1938)
are indexed starting with the letter P (141 P, 240 P, 151 TQ, 232 R, ...).
Copyright 1997 - 2002 by T. Stora. All rights reserved. Reproduction,
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