2. Europe‎ > ‎

Paris Push-Pull

Whilst British Railways finished with steam in early August 1968, its French equivalent, the SNCF, had 919 steam locos in active service at that date. Steamy areas such as Calais were within easy reach of the UK, as was Paris which had two stations in the centre of the city with busy steam suburban services seven days a week. As various modernisation schemes were nearing fruition, a visit to the French capital became a priority, so I went over with a group for 'le weekend' in March 1969.
We left London by train on the Friday and by the time we got over on the ferry to Calais - no Channel Tunnel in those days - it was dark. Working steam, mainly wartime American 141R 2-8-2s, was glimpsed at Calais, Boulogne, Amiens and Creil en route to Paris Gare Du Nord, where two or three 141TC 2-8-2T were seen.

STEAM FROM GARE DU NORD Saturday 22 March 1969

Next morning, the aim was to experience Gare Du Nord suburban services with the aforementioned 141TCs. They were powerful tanks, 72 having been built in the 1930s - 56 of the class survived at the time of our visit. The locos were fitted for push and pull working for their passenger duties. 

Between 09.10 and 10.00 on this Saturday morning, we observed five 141TCs at work, including 141TC 41, loco for our 25 minute journey to the suburban station of Ermont Eaubonne. It was pretty impressive at Ermont to see not just our train, but four more with 141TCs at the same time, bound for various destinations including Argenteuil. We saw another three of the class before departing at 11.10 behind 141TC 6 for Persan-Beaumont.

141TC 6 was on our train from Ermont, depart 11.10, to Persan, arrive 11.48. With wires overhead, steam age accoutrements such as the water column and pile of coal, as well as the loco, would soon be redundant.

141TC 67 was in propelling mode in this picture.

Arriving at Persan Beaumont at 11.48 we headed to the small shed housing five 141TCs and an out of use Pacific 231E 27, below, which had been a stationary boiler.

A clean 141TC 57 rests at Persan-Beaumont loco depot. We had earlier seen it at Ermont Eaubonne on a train and later in the day, it came onto Joncherolles shed during our visit.

At Persan-Beaumont  station, 141TC 44 was photographed shunting a few trucks in between its usual passenger duties.

While at Persan, 2-8-2 141R 44 was observed shunting in nearby sidings. After lunch, we caught a service to St Denis, a nine carriage train pushed, not pulled, by 141TC 24, quite a novel experience. The attraction at St Denis was Joncherolles, main loco shed for the 141TC fleet. The only covered accomodation was a half roundhouse, so a lot of engines stood in the open. Thirty-one 141TCs were here, no less than 24 of them in steam, with others dead or under repair. Also seen was a dumped Pacific, 231C 71; four out of use USA 0-6-0T, 030TU class on the SNCF; four class 040TG 0-8-0T, with a couple in steam; and two class 050TQ 0-10-0T, one being in steam,

After the visit, we returned to Gare du Nord in a train propelled by 141TC 50.
I reckon we identified no less than 47 141TCs, of which 38 were in steam, a pretty good 'haul' for just one day!
With electrification well underway and some services due to go electric from 1 June 1969, it was a visit in the nick of time.

141TC 20 and 58 were at Gare du Nord when we returned from Joncherolles shed.


Our day wasn't finished yet. Another depot visit followed, at Trappes, 27kms from Paris Montparnasse station. I made a note the shed was expected to be open to steam for another two years - don't know if it was. A variety of locos here, including ones set aside for preservation. In steam was 2-8-2 141C 228, the last of its class active at the depot and apparently being used for filming. The ubiquitous 141R 2-8-2s were represented by three in steam, while 2-8-0 140C 232 from Mantes depot (on the Paris - Le Havre route) was also in steam. Otherwise there were more dead and dumped 140C and 141C, plus 141TC 18 and 19, both dead and both shedded here - perhaps they only worked Monday to Friday. Stored in the works - and nowadays preserved -  was Chapelon compound Pacific 231E 22, familiar as one of the former 'Fleche D'Or/Golden Arrow' locos.

Four preserved locos were present, all painted green. Two were ancient 2-2-2s: No. 33 'Saint Pierre' from maker Buddicom in 1844 and 'L'Aigle' built by Robert Stephenson at Newcastle in 1846. Another 19th century relic was 0-6-0T 030TA628. In complete contrast was the enormous and powerful 4-8-2 241A 1 dating from 1925.


The most common type on the SNCF was the American and Canadian built 141R 2-8-2, which was found just about everywhere on various duties. These two,141R 1278 and 141R 40, were at Trappes shed in steam, with the coaling tower in the background.

Three 2-8-0s stored with chimney tops covered and motion dismantled at Trappes depot - 140C314, 231 and 230. Another, 140C 232, was in steam. Some of the class were built by North British Loco Co and Nasmyth, Wilson in the First World War. The 140Cs were constructed to British loading gauge dimensions.

It was good to get 2-8-2 141C 228 in steam at Trappes.


Sunday morning saw us on the suburban services in and out of the small station of Gare de la Bastille, also known as Gare de Vincennes. This was in its last few months of operation with the intention being to close it completely and have the services become part of the RATP Metro system from late 1969*. 
The current service was worked by 141TB 2-8-2T,125 were built in 1921-22 for the Chemins de Fer Paris a Orleans. At 1 January 1969, 24 of the class survived.
All locos ran bunker-first out of Bastille and propelled trains chimney-first on the return. We boarded the 09.50 for Boissy-St. Leger pulled by 141TB 497 and got off at Nogent-sur-Marne, arriving there at 10.08.

141TB 497 awaits departure at Gare de la Bastille on our train to Nogent.

The 'Depot des Machines' for this system, Nogent Vincennes, was at our destination and featured a roundhouse. Nineteen 141TB were seen, of which eight were in steam, including locos coming on and off shed whilst we were visiting. In addition, the shed pilot 0-8-0T 040TX 43 was being prepared for lighting up.

Though somewhat work-stained, the 141TB carried green unlined livery. 141TB 424 had former depot, Noisy-le-Sec, painted on it; apparently Noisy was now closed.
We were informed that nine locos were used on Sundays - which accords with the number we saw in steam - while the weekday requirement was sixteen. It was good to visit this very active steam depot, with no sign of any dumped engines. But our all too brief visit was soon over.

141TB 446 arrives at Nogent station at 11.08 with another service from Bastille. Members of our enthusiast group take their pictures. Electrification masts are going up.

We returned to Gare de la Bastille with 141TB 497 pushing our four coach train, leaving Nogent at 11.14, arriving at 11.33.

I reckon we identified 20 of the remaining 24 141TB, not bad for a quick visit.

My verdict on steam in Paris - C'est magnifique!

* Per Wikipedia, the last steam passenger from Gare de la Bastille was on 15 December 1969, hauled by 141TB 432, after which the station closed.

This film on YouTube http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xc6lop shows the Bastille line in steam days, well worth viewing.