The International Steam Pages

Narrow Gauge Hand Cranes in France

This is just one of a series of pages covering surviving Railway Cranes across the world. Click here for the Index or click here for information on standard gauge cranes in France. The following notes and pictures have been supplied by Thomas Kautzor.

Latest addition is the crane at Butry-sur-Oise (13th August 2013).

Metre Gauge

On French metre gauge railways, breakdown hand cranes were standard equipment and due to their sturdy all-steel nature many survived into preservation.

SNCF’s electrified “Ligne de Cerdagne” between Villefranche-Vernet-ls-Bains and La Tour-de-Carol-Enveigt, near the Spanish border, only obtained its first breakdown crane in 1958. Four-wheel 6T crane G22-1 with match wagon ZRJ-2 (later renumbered ZRJ-20304) were obtained second-hand in 1958 from SNCF’s Orange – Buis-les-Baronnies line in southeastern France, which closed in 1952.

On SNCF’s “Réseau Breton”, four-wheel crane S3000 ex GZ-1 with match wagon S3001 ex HM 713 were part of the breakdown train. To my knowledge they did not survive into preservation.

On SNCF’s Blanc-Argent meter gauge line, four-wheel crane Z-1 (Baume-&-Marpent 1902, 4T) is now out-of-use at Romorantin depot.

The SNCF also operated the “P.O. Corrèze” network in south-central France. Initially it had three four-wheel cranes (Ets. Weitz 1910/11), of which one survived at Ussel, where it was used to transfer logs from the meter to the standard gauge until closure in 1960. Restoration of the abandoned crane started in 1997 and in 2000 it was put on display at the restored Chirac station (photographs March.2007).

This is metre gauge PLM/SNCF 6-ton crane G-22 6 To No. 1 (Baume-et-Marpent? 1907) and match wagon ZRJ 20304 at the MTVS in Butry-sur-Oise. It started its career on the PLM /SNCF line from Orange to Buis-les-Baronnies. After closure in 1958 it was transferred to the SNCF Cerdagne line between Villefranche and Vernets-les-Bains. It was bought by the MTVS in 2002 and transferred to Butry in 2007. Match wagon ZRJ 20304 is a former ore wagon of the SNCF Cerdagne line. The crane was not used as a breakdown crane, but most often for loading/unloading goods at smaller stations which did not have fixed cranes, or to lift small items at the workshops.

The “Chemins de Fer Départementaux (CFD)”, which operated various meter gauge networks across France, bought a total of 19 four-wheel four-ton cranes from De Dietrich. Three of those were assigned to the Vivarais network (No. 10-12), later joined by a fourth (No. 16) from the Charentes. Of these four, three have survived into preservation: No. 11 (De Dietrich 1891), formerly assigned to Lamastre, has been restored and is in use on the “Voies Ferrées du Velay (VFV)” tourist line (upper left at Dunières in July 2002); No. 12 (De Dietrich 1903), formerly based at Le Cheylard, is derelict at Raucoulles station together with its match wagon 6191, also on the VFV (upper right March 2002); No. 16 (De Dietrich 1896, 1952 ex CFD Charentes), is operational on the “C.F. du Vivarais (CFV)” (lower photographs at Tournon May 2007).

The CFD also initially operated the “C.F. de la Corse (CFC)”, now operated by SNCF, and three of its cranes were allocated here, of which one has survived to date.

The “Chemins de fer de Provence (CP)” between Nice and Digne in southeastern France had at least two six-wheel hand cranes, of which No. 2 (Fournier & Cornu No. 161) survives in preservation with the GECP steam club at Puget-Theniers (photographs July 2009).

The electrified “C.F. de La Mure (SGLM)”, between St-Georges-de-Commiers and La Mure, near Grenoble, has had a number of cranes over the years. Initial six-wheel crane GR 1 (Fives-Lille 1888, 4T) was replaced by bogie crane GR 2 (Maubeuge 1931, 10T). A small transfer crane formerly used at St-Georges station is plinthed next to the depot/workshops (photographs left May 2002 and right September 2007). 

The first picture below is a scan of a post card by the late J.-L. Rochaix, 1962 (should we have infringed copyright, do please let us know, we will withdraw it) shows GR 2; behind it is electric railcar A1. GR 2, together with its six-wheel match wagon G 67 (Fives-Lille 1890), are classified as “National Monuments”, however this doesn’t prevent them from being abandoned to the elements at St-Georges-de-Commiers (photographs May 2002). In front, a smaller four-wheel crane can be seen. 

600mm Gauge

Rail hand cranes were also present on smaller gauges, as illustrated by the two 600mm gauge examples.

The first is an early example (builder: Ets. Aberlem, Noyon) is preserved by APPEVA on the “C.F. Froissy-Cappy-Dompierre (CFCD)” museum in Froissy (Somme) (photographs October 2006)

The second, a more modern one was used to build the “C.F. des Combes (CFC)” in Le Creusot (Creuse) (photographs July 2007).

Rob Dickinson