The early development of railways in Algeria was somewhat disorganised. The PLM, a dominant player from the start, steadily expanded its network. The four other principal concessionaires had by 1921 coalesced into the state-run Chemins de Fer Algériens de l'Etat. To rationalise matters, the latter exchanged some of its lines with the PLM Algérien. Then in 1933, the CFAE and PLM-A came under joint management (Chemins de Fer Algériens - CFA), in part as common measure to combat the recession. As the economy improved, it became possible to think of modernisation, although electrification was ruled out. When the railways of France itself were nationalised in 1938, there was even a proposal to make those of Algeria a region of SNCF (!). The Algerian authorities resisted, instead establishing the SNCF Algériens (still known as CFA), effective from 1 January 1939. We are here concerned with the PLM-A, whose principal routes extended from Algiers west to Oran and the Moroccan frontier, and East to Constantine and the Tunisian border. These were standard gauge. From Blida - not far from Algiers on the line to Oran - south to Djelfa the line was to 1055 mm gauge, originally built by the Ouest Algérien. This gauge was used on several lines in Algeria. It may have been considered compatible with 3 ft 6 in, being only
The 1055 mm gauge Garratts.
The chief engineer of the PLM-A, Ducluzeau, no doubt aware of the success of the Garratt type on railways farther south in Africa, felt that they could be a solution to traction problems on both his standard-gauge and narrow-gauge routes which had similar heavy gradients and sharp curves. From Franco-Belge at Raismes, who already held a licence from Beyer, Peacock, to build Garratts in France, he first ordered four of the
The standard gauge prototype. 231-132 AT 1.
The standard-gauge Algiers - Oran trunk line had gradients of 22 ‰
It was felt that better performance should be possible, and in 1934, it was modified with Cossart valve gear, new cast steel cylinders and a PLM exhaust double à croisillons - which had to be fitted transversally due to the short, fat smokebox1 - and smoke deflectors. The steam-servo reversing gear was replaced by an electrically-operated mechanism. Although its performance was deemed 'average' by French standards, given the size of the loco, it was still way ahead of anything that had hitherto been achieved in Algeria and was sufficient to warrant the production of more Garratts. In order to allow the engines to be stabled in the roundhouse at Algiers, a huge 35-metre turntable was installed.
The production series, 231-132 BT 1-29.
Two official views of
The new requirement included speeds of 120 km/h on level track with curves of 750 m radius and 50 km/h on 200 m radius; haulage of 450 t. at 100 km/h on gradients of 3.5‰ and 45 km/h on 20‰. Henschel is reported to have offered a Garratt with four-cylinder compound propulsion on each engine unit, an enormous boiler of 2.5 m diameter with an 8 m2 grate. This was considered a loco too far, and CFA went back to Franco-Belge for a design based on the improved
The feature causing most comment, and which possibly contributed to the locos' downfall, was the electrically-operated reversing gear. On the left-hand mainframe girder was a contactor box, linked by long universally-jointed shafts to the cam boxes on each engine (the modified
The most visible change was in the styling. The fore and aft tanks were given a similar profile to the boiler and the ends streamlined, giving a uniform outline, disguising the Garratt look of a barrel between two boxes. Smoke deflectors were fitted to both the front tank and the smokebox and the boiler had a 'skyline' casing. The headlights were buried in the downswept running plate; the right-hand one in each direction of travel was a powerful searchlight. The result was striking, and from some angles even elegant.
The first of the class was delivered in early 1936 to the joint management and carried the initials CFA. By September 1936 enough were available to provide much-accelerated schedules. The timing of Algiers - Oran expresses was cut from some nine hours to just under 7 hours with 19 stops, averaging 62.5 km/h over 422 km; Algiers - Constantine was reduced by four hours to 8½ (464 km). In combination with the comfort of new coaches2 this wooed back passengers: from a trough of 5¾ million in 1932, journeys reached a peak of over 11 million in 1936.
Other 'records' claimed for the class (not all easily verifiable) are: largest driving wheels and highest boiler pressure applied to any Garratt; heaviest weight of any French (-built) locomotive; highest tractive effort of any express passenger steam locomotive outside the USA (30,000 kg/66,000 lb).
Some variations in the driving mechanism of the Cossart3 gear are noticeable: there seem to have been problems with the balancing. A prominent component, familiar from the Nord 141 TCs4 , is the saumon weighted eccentric rod, counterbalancing the reciprocating masses. The modified
Three more batches of the BTs followed: Nos 13-16 in 1937, 17-22 in 1939 and 23-29 in 1940. The last two batches were fitted with mechanical stokers.
In the small hours of 17 April 1938,
The heyday of these imposing locomotives was short-lived. On 8 November 1942 the Allies landed in North Africa and the railways, although still under Algerian management, had to meet the demands of the military and accept drafted-in personnel. The sophisticated Garratts may have been fine when manned by titular crews and serviced by staff trained in the French tradition, but the 'rough soldiery' was more attuned to Dean Goods and USATC
Ducluzeau, now Deputy Director of the CFA, was one of a mission which went to the USA in early 1944 to seek equipment to keep the North African lines running. Whilst there he was asked to discuss requirements for the post-war recovery of France itself, which was then still under Nazi occupation - studies that ultimately led, among other things, to the 141R. During his 5 months in America and Canada Ducluzeau was impressed by US practice. On his return to Algeria, he initiated a crash programme of dieselisation on the American model, using ready-to-run road-switchers from Baldwin and Alco (the Alsthom 060 DBs came later). Along with other steam power, the Garratts were laid aside, the last of the standard-gauge engines being withdrawn in 1951. The
Note on liveries
As is frequently the case, sources are silent as to liveries, and the orthochromatic film of the time makes interpretation of black-and-white images difficult. Pictures of
1Chapelon rejected the transverse double-chimney as a nonsense since the exhaust must be concentrated as close to the boiler centre line as possible (see note in Journal 114 p. 19).
2These were designed by the OCEM and closely based on the corresponding vehicles on SNCF. However, they were of welded instead of riveted construction, saving 12-13% of weight. For insulation they had double-skinned roofs and an outer layer of timber matchboarding on the sides.
3It is stated that the valve gear was manufactured by Corpet-Louvet.
4See Ian Jowett's article in Journal 97.
Beyer-Garratt Express Locomotive, P.L..M. Ry. (Algeria) in The Locomotive, August 15, 1932.
Beyer, Peacock & Co Ltd: New Express Passenger Beyer-Garratt Locomotives for Algeria (Offprint from Railway Gazette , March 27, 1936)
P. Béjui, L. Raynaud & J-P Vergez-Larrouy: Les Chemins de Fer de la France d'Outre-Mer Tome 2 (La Régordane, 1992)
A.E. Durrant: Garratt Locomotives of the World (David & Charles, 1981)
A.E. Durrant, C.P. Lewis & A. Jorgensen: Steam in Africa (Hamlyn, 1981)
B. Hollingsworth: Encyclopaedia of the World's Steam Passenger Locomotives (Salamander, 1982)
P.M. Kalla-Bishop: Locomotives at War (Bradford Barton paperback, undated)
Baron Vuillet: Railway Reminiscences of Three Continents (Nelson, 1968)
A. Chapelon: La Locomotive à Vapeur (English Edition, Camden 2000)
E.D. Brant: Railways of North Africa (David & Charles, 1971)
Loco-Revue: Fiche Documentaire No 373/4, 1972
1055 mm gauge
|Length over buffers||24.273 m||29.380 m||29.432 m|
|Driving wheel diameter||1.092 m (3'7")*||1.800 m||1.800 m|
|Bogie wheel diameter||0.723 m (2'4½")*||1.00 m||1.00 m|
|Trailing wheel diameter||0.723 m (2'4½")*||1.20 m||1.20 m|
|Boiler pressure||14 hpz/bar (200 psi)*||16 hpz/bar||20 hpz/bar|
|Grate area||4.06 m2||5.07 m2||5.40 m2|
|Total heating surface||225.01 m2||348.37 m2||350.26 m2 **|
|Cylinders (bore x stroke)||419 x 559 mm
(16½ x 22")*
|490 x 660 mm||490 x 660 mm|
|Weight in working order||144.0 tonnes||211.6 tonnes||216.0 tonnes|
|Adhesion weight||87.1 tonnes||111.0 tonnes||111.0 tonnes|
|Maximum axle loading||11.5 tonnes||18.5 tonnes||18.5 tonnes|
|Coal||6 tonnes||9 tonnes||11 tonnes|
|Water||28.50 m3||28.75 m3||30.00 m3|
*Imperial measures inherited from KUR class EC1
**Sources give different figures according to how measurements are taken. These figures include firebox, tubes and superheater and are taken from the gas side.