No.27 - p144-153

© OCTOBER 1969



    A book could probably be written about the classic Corpet type, but the time has come to move to other subjects. Before resuming the history of the firm, this may be the appropriate point to mention the construction of Mallets. Locomotives of this type were quite popular outside Britain, and as France had a fair share of both narrow and standard gauge types, it is not surprising to find them featuring in the Corpet works list. Three designs were produced, the first and smallest being built in 1897 for Tramways à Vapeur d'Ille et Vilaine where they were numbered and named 101 RENNES, 102 FOUGÈRES, 103 PLÉLAN and 104 CHATEAUGIRON. In general they were not dissimilar from metre gauge 0‑4‑4‑0 side tanks produced by other French locomotive builders at the turn of the century but the second batch, Works Nos.1409 to 1413, delivered in 1913 to the Chemins de Fer du Centre, numbers 101 to 105, were another proposition altogether. 0‑6‑6‑0 side tanks weighing 40 metric tons empty, with high pressure cylinders 350mm by 500mm, low pressure ones 530mm by 500mm and wheels of 1010mm diameter, they were almost certainly the biggest locomotives to be produced for a French metre gauge light railway. Their very size was to prove their undoing. Of the several lines operated by the C.F. du Centre (later taken over by the Société Générale des Chemins de Fer Économiques) they were used only between Roanne and Vichy. Numerous derailments made them unpopular with the crews and by 1931, or earlier, they were lying out of use at Roanne shed. Numbers 101, 102, 104 and 105 were subsequently sold for service on the Chemin de Fer Abidjan-Niger in the Ivory Coast (French West Africa) where they became CFAN class 52. Number 103 (Corpet Louvet 1411 of 1913) embarked on a series of journeys which was to take her in turn to the Tramways de l'Ain in 1932, the Chemin de Fer du Blanc à Argent (owned by the Chemins de fer de Paris-Orléans (PO) and later the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF)) in 1938, the Chemins de Fer de la Corrèze (another PO-SNCF system) in March 1949, and finally the Réseau Breton of the SNCF operated by the Société Générale des Chemins de Fer Économiques, where she arrived in June 1953. Whilst on the Le Blanc - Argent line, her number was changed to 41. The third design of Mallets produced by Corpet Louvet was again unusual - a pair of standard gauge 0‑6‑6‑0 side tanks, simple not compound, with cylinders measuring 460mm by 540mm and wheels of 1200mm diameter. Carrying Works Nos.1690 and 1691, they were despatched on 31st May 1926 and 11th May 1928 respectively to the Société du Gaz de Paris for use at the Cornillon and Landy gasworks (CF 56), in the northern suburb of St Denis, where they were numbered 454 and 455. Principally used for transfer traffic from one works to the other (the two are adjacent), they remained in service until replaced by diesels about 1958. Weighing 62 metric tons empty they were the largest machines built by Corpet Louvet up to that time (though not, however, the only large Mallets to be used by French industry).

    As already mentioned, from the early 1890's until the outbreak of World War 1 production consisted principally of locomotives for light railways, but small numbers of industrial deliveries were interspersed each year, frequently to contractors and occasionally to purchasers abroad, mainly in the French colonies. The outbreak of war led to the cancellation of several large orders from metre gauge light railways and there was a hiatus in production, possibly due to a shortage of materials or to a switch of production to munitions and military equipment. After Works No.1496, despatched on 29th June 1914 as Tramways de l'Aude number 43 (metre gauge 0‑6‑0 side tank) three locomotives were delivered during 1915 and then none until 23rd March 1917 when No.1547, a 630mm gauge 0‑6‑0 side tank, was despatched to Acièries de la Marine et d'Homécourt, St Chamond, Loire. This was the first of fifty-seven successive deliveries to industry, light railway production resuming with Works Nos.1605 to 1607 of 1922 which were metre gauge 0‑6‑0 side tanks delivered to the Chemins de Fer du Morbihan. Much the same occurred during World War 2 except that construction was completed during 1941 to 1943 of a variety of orders which were in hand at the time of the fall of France in June 1940. By 1943 construction of standard gauge 0‑8‑0 side tanks to German order had been commenced and six were despatched between 10th February and 1st August 1944 to various Krupp enterprises engaged directly or indirectly in war production. Their fate is uncertain as I have heard no reports of their being in service in Germany during post-war years, but one hypothesis is that they carried Krupp worksplates and have been regarded as Krupp built. After the liberation of the Paris area by the Allied Armies during late August 1944, the first locomotive to leave Corpet's shops at La Courneuve was Works No.1875. She was a standard gauge 0‑8‑0 side tank of the same design, and production continued, along with other types, until 1949, the majority going to the various Groupes of the Houillères du Bassin du Nord et du Pas-de-Calais (NF 42 to NF 50).

Two typical 1445mm (standard) gauge industrial designs.

Upper - Mines de Blanzy, Saône et Loire, had this 0‑6‑0 side tank, Corpet Louvet 1791 of 1930. Cylinders: 380mm x 460mm. Coupled Wheels: 1000mm.

Lower - Corpet Louvet 1826 of 1934 was built for the Compagnie des Mines de Bruay in the Pas de Calais Département where it was numbered 43. Cylinders: 510mm x 600mm. Coupled Wheels: 1200mm.

Upper - A metre gauge 0‑6‑6‑0 Mallet, Corpet & Louvet 1409 of 1913, built for the Chemins de Fer du Centre, 101. Cylinders: 350mm x 500mm (high pressure) and 530mm x 500mm (low pressure). Coupled Wheels: 1010mm.

Lower - Corpet Louvet 1690 of 1926, a 1445mm (standard) gauge 0‑6‑6‑0 Mallet for the Société du Gaz de Paris, Comillon & Landy Works, St Denis, Paris, No. 454. Cylinders: 460mm x 550mm. Coupled Wheels: 1200mm.

Upper - Corpet Louvet 1866 of 1943, one of three metre gauge 2‑8‑2 side tank locomotives built to the order of the Chemin de Fer Conakry-Niger for service in French Guinea. Cylinders: 420mm x 550mm. Coupled Wheels: 1200mm.

Lower - The last locomotive built by Corpet Louvet for a French light railway was 1926 of 1948 on the Chemins de Fer du Cambrésis. It was similar to No. 1866 above.

(B. J. Hawkesworth)

    Between the two World Wars Corpet production underwent considerable change. As has already been said, the delivery of metre gauge locomotives was resumed in January 1922 and for the next seven years relatively small metre gauge locomotives constituted a fairly large part of Corpet's production. There was a significant increase, however, in demand for larger types, several orders coming from overseas including two for standard gauge types (fourteen locos in all) for the Smyrna-Cassaba Railway in Turkey. From 1925 onwards larger types of metre gauge locomotives built for service in French African possessions began to appear. Since the turn of the century several six-coupled tanks of standard Corpet designs had been delivered to the order of the Ministère des Colonies for service in French possessions abroad, mostly in Africa. The new designs consisted of several types of 2‑8‑2 and 2‑8‑2 side tank, delivery extending until 1950. Construction continued during the early part of the Second World War and machines which had been started when the German occupation took place were completed. They could not be delivered to their intended owners until after the cessation of hostilities and two groups at least were used on French light railways. The first batch comprised an uncertain number of 2‑8‑2's one numbered 17, which were used on the Chemins de Fer de la Provence from about 1943 until after the end of the war. The C.F. de la Provence is the only French light railway known to have used tender locomotives, their original stock consisting of twelve 0‑6‑0 and 2‑4‑0 locos built by Société Alsacienne de Constructions Mécaniques at Belfort between 1888 and 1891. History thus repeated itself over a period of fifty-five years. The second batch comprised Corpet Louvet 1866 to 1868, 2‑8‑2 side tanks intended for the Chemin de Fer Conakry-Niger, French Guinea, running numbers 36.001 to 36.003. They were diverted temporarily to the Chemins de Fer du Cambrésis where they became 40 to 42, and were put into service during August and September 1943. They were returned to the works at La Courneuve in 1947 for overhaul prior to despatch to their original intended destination, Conakry. The Cambrésis were so impressed with the design that they ordered three of the same type; these were Corpet Louvet 1924 to 1926 delivered to the Cambrésis in 1948 where they, too, were numbered 40 to 42. Cambrésis 41 came to a premature end and was withdrawn following a boiler explosion, being cut up on site about 1957-1958. The other two continued in service until the Cambrésis was finally closed to all traffic in December 1960. I do not know their ultimate fate and presume they were all scrapped in due course. These three locomotives were the last of any Corpet type to be delivered to a French metre gauge railway and were the only steam locos delivered, I believe, to such railways by any maker after the end of the Second World War.

Two of Corpet Louvet's smaller designs.

Upper - 7567 of 7920 was an 800mm gauge 0‑4‑0 well tank built for the Mines de Mokta-el-Hadid in French North Africa. Cylinders: 220mm x 320mm. Coupled Wheels: 700mm.

Lower - Another example with Brown valve gear, 7665 of 7925 was an 1167mm gauge 0‑6‑0 well tank built for Monsieur Bougenot, Usine de Galion, Martinique, West Indies. It is almost identical to 536 of 7890, which was delivered to the same firm. Cylinders: 270mm x 300mm. Coupled Wheels 600mm.

Corpet Louvet 1709 of 1926 was a 1435mm(standard) gauge 2‑10‑0 numbered 85 on the Smyrna, Cassaba & Prolongements Railway which became part of the Turkish State Railways in May 1934. Cylinders: 630mm x 610mm. Coupled Wheels: 1350mm.

40.005 of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Niger, Corpet Louvet 1736 of 1927, was typical of a large number of metre gauge 2‑8‑2 tender locomotives built for service with the railways of French West Africa. Cylinders: 450mm x 550mm. Coupled Wheels: 1200mm.

    During the early 1930's the majority of production was standard gauge types for main line companies (0‑8‑0 side tanks for the Nord and 2‑10‑2 side tanks for the Ceinture) interspersed with deliveries to the Colonies and the occasional order for an industrial locomotive, some standard gauge, some narrow, for service in France or abroad. By the mid-1930's work was very slack and only two deliveries were made each year in 1934, 1935, 1936 and 1938 with none at all in 1937 and 1939. With the commencement of the Second World War orders improved and wartime deliveries have already been mentioned. In the immediate post-war era there was a small spate of orders including twelve 2‑10‑2 side tanks for the SNCF (Works Nos.1909 to 1920), four orders for the colonies, and a standard gauge 0‑6‑0 side tank (Works No.1933) for Houillères du Bassin des Cévennes, Groupe du Centre, Grand Combe la Pise, Gard. Two orders were placed by the Indian Government, the first for twelve 762mm gauge 2‑8‑2 locomotives, the second for eight metre gauge 2‑6‑2's, and the final order of all for a standard gauge 0‑4‑0 side tank weighing 13.5 metric tons was placed by the Houillères du Bassin d'Auvergne. This was allotted Works No.1962 but according to the order book it was subsequently cancelled. However, an side tank bearing works plates Corpet Louvet 1962 of 1951 was noted in service in July 1955 with Houillères du Bassin d'Auvergne, Groupe de Brassac, Puy de Dôme. The later entries in the Corpet order book give the impression of having been hurriedly made and they certainly do not give the detail of earlier ones. It is a point of interest nevertheless that there is some doubt about the first locomotives built by the firm, and about the last one ordered. The last machine to leave the shops carried Works No.1920 and was despatched to the SNCF at nearby Bobigny on 30th September 1952. As SNCF 151.TQ.22 she was the last of the order for twelve 2‑10‑2 side tanks mentioned above which were delivered between March 1950 and September 1952.

    These notes would not be complete without referring to one or two unusual locomotives built by the firm. Probably the most exceptional (for Corpet Louvet, that is) and certainly the largest for which they were responsible, was built immediately after World War 2. This was SNCF 232.U.1, a four-cylinder compound capable of developing 4,000hp, which was allotted Works No.1908, weighed 122 metric tons and emerged from the works at La Courneuve on 25th May 1949. It will be recalled that the works had been moved there from the Avenue Philippe-Auguste, Paris, in 1912. Up to that time the only two locomotives built to exceed 30 metric tons in weight were L'YVETTE and L'ORGE for the Compagnie d'Orsay of which something was said in the first chapter. Few exceeded 20 metric tons and when the new works at La Courneuve was planned it was designed for locomotives of up to 40 metric tons weight. For the first ten years in the new building small locomotives dominated production but after this progressively larger designs were built, as can be seen from the table below.

Works numbers



(metric tons)

 Delivered to

1627-1632 1923 2‑6‑2T 45.5 Smyrna-Cassaba & Prolongements, 1-6.
1690-1691 1926/8 0‑6‑6‑0T 62.1 Gaz de Paris, 454-455.
1705-1712 1926/7 2‑10‑0 69.9 Smyrna-Cassaba & Prolongements.
1749 1928 2‑10‑2T 90.0 Ceinture, 5001.
1833-1842 1940-42 2‑10‑2T 91.0 SNCF 151.TQ.1-10.

    This series culminated in the delivery of SNCF 232.U.1, which weighed more than three times the maximum envisaged when the works was opened, an accomplishment of which the builders are justifiably pleased. 232.U.1 was equipped with bar frames, roller-bearing axle-boxes and two sets of valve gear, and worked express trains between Paris and Lille until the line was electrified. It is to be preserved by the SNCF and now awaits restoration and a permanent home. At the moment it is lying with a large group of other locos earmarked for preservation in the closed steam shed at Chalons sur Saône.

    At the other end of the scale were four 620mm gauge 0‑4‑0 side tanks built for industry between 1888 and 1891 which weighed only 1.5 metric tons each, but the two smallest locomotives built seem to have been L. Corpet 242 and 327, four-wheeled machines each weighing but one metric ton. 242 was a 500mm gauge loco despatched on 16th November 1878 to the order of the best known of all light railway builders, Decauville; she was named LILLIPUT. 327 is given in the works list as 500/600mm gauge, despatched on 12th July 1881 to the Jardin d'Acclimatation, LE FURET. Located in the famous Bois de Boulogne on the western fringe of Paris, a 500mm gauge line still exists there using Renault diesel locomotives with steam outline. There is a very strong probability that both went to this miniature railway. Decauville was successful in gaining the original concessions for the construction of many 500mm and 600mm gauge lines. The concession often included operating the line for a short period, until it was subsequently taken over by another Company. This may well have been the case with the line in the Jardin d' Acclimatation, surely one of the earlier miniature railways. Corpet 327 was also unusual in being a geared locomotive and is described in the order book as "rotation d'excentrique par engrenage". I wonder whether in someone's collection of picture postcards there is a photograph of this line showing a train hauled by one of these diminutive machines?

    Even more diminutive were four scale models of different Corpet metre gauge locomotives for which the order book does not give full details, the consignee being shown in each instance as L. Corpet. The models were:

Works No.




393 about 1882    1:5 scale 0‑6‑0 side tank (the original - not the model - weighed 10 metric tons).
415  1883   1:5 scale 0‑6‑0 side tank named LE BIJOU (the original weighed 10 metric tons).
436 1885   1:5 scale 0‑4‑0 side tank with Brown valve gear (the original weighed 10 metric tons).
500 bis about 1889   1:3 scale 0‑6‑2 side tank.

    Works No.500 was duplicated - hence "bis". The original was a metre gauge 0‑6‑2 side tank weighing 16 metric tons built in 1889 for the Compagnie Meusienne de Chemins de Fer (named BERNARD) and exhibited before delivery at the 1889 Exposition Universelle (International Exhibition). I don't know the object of building the models (for example, whether they were for private collection or for advertising purposes) but assume that they were working models and that in the case of Works No.500 it was in some way connected with the showing of the original Exposition Universelle. I have never seen the models but am told that they still existed, in glass showcases, at the La Courneuve works right up until recent times. They may well still be there.

Chapter Two