training school of Quatre-Mares
Life with the daily newspaper
In communes such marked by the presence of the
railroads as "Saint Etienne du Rouvray" and "Sotteville-lès-Rouen", one was
often without wanting it Cheminot of wire father. Buddicom and especially
Quatre-Mares were employment assured for the children outgoing Cheminots of the school
of training or the technical school Marcel Sembat in "Sotteville-lès-Rouen".
If the apprentices who go out of the training
school of QM are integrated directly in workshops, it is not the same thing
for those stemming from technical schools not - S.N.C.F.. To be "hired", it was
indeed necessary to take an examination, under the shape of a part to be
executed (generally a dovetail for the mechanics). If the candidate was
received, he received a training «on the heap " at the side of a former before
merging within workshops. With the conversion in the diesel the recruitment will
be made on title (C.A.P, C.F.P.A, etc.) without entrance examination, after a
training course in school of Network to learn the ABC of the railroad
Beyond the only hereditary aspect, other
motivations could push the young people to enter at the workshops of QM; A
certain job security related to the constancy of the railway activity, the
retirement at 55 years and the free use of the train for the agent and its
family (a quota of license of circulation was allotted for the year). At the
time where the car had not become extensive that one knows to him today, the
gratuitousness of the train was really an advantage of weight.
In addition the agent of QM and its family
profited from the social services reserved for the whole of the agents from
S.N.C.F., free medical hedging, summer camp for the children, residences,
library etc… The agent and its family also had in Saint Etienne of Rouvray a
stewardship located in the middle of the City of Familles like in
Sotteville-the-Rouen close to the passanger station, where they could get food
products and purposes of everyday consumption at reasonable prices. Moreover,
one complete stage, located at Sotteville was at the disposal of Cheminots (the
S.S.C.C. - Stage Sottevillais Railwayman Club).
The training school of Quatre-Mares
The need for training a qualified personnel and
prepared with the very specific work of the repair of the engines with vapor,
pushes the management to create a school of training in QM The establishment is thus supplemented by a school of training arranged in the most modern spirit.
It opens its doors in 1932, a prelude to the closing of that of “Buddicom” in
1935, and initially finishes the instruction of about thirty apprentices of
third year, who spent their the first two years of training to the practical
school of industry Marcel Sembat of Sotteville-the-Rouen.
It is into 1935 that the totality of the training
will be carried out at QM. This school understands a fitter's workshop and
machine tools, against with a pit allowing the repair of a locomotive and a
workshop for the wood and iron work for the repair of the cars travellers. A
classroom, a refectory, a cloakroom and shower cubicles were installed for the
apprentices. Lastly, a court with equipment of gymnastics and a covered
courtyard. They lay out, moreover, with the workshops of “Buddicom”, of a circle
where they can meet. The entrée at this school being done on contest open to the
old teenagers from 14 to 16 years, the new “Arpètes” were to then follow three
years of studies ensured by instructors of technical education like by
instructors specific to the railroad.
The school of training before 1939
The school of training was to train pupils with
the trades of fitter, ironmonger, turner, metal worker, blacksmith, garnissor
and later of electrician. In short as much of profession than the repair of an
locomotive with vapor required. The first 6 months were devoted to the
guideline of the pupils towards one or the other of these branches. This
guideline took shape via varied tests (method CARARD) for flush out of the
ironmonger or the electrician at the teenager. This distribution thus made,
teaching itself could start. The first year, the pupils followed of the cours
of general culture and from technology and they received the first concepts of
their speciality. A small decreasing monthly remuneration is perceived by the
pupil according to his classification and of its year (for example in 1943:100
francs for the 1st year, 200 for the second and 500 for the third year following
the results obtained). The second year, technical education and practical was
Finally the third year of teaching was
supplemented by the complete repair of a standard locomotive 230 by the "Arpètes".
Formed on the practical and theoretical level the pupils passed the examination
of end of study. The received is integrated in the workshops of QM. The best
of them also had the possibility of continuing their formation to integrate the
maistrance- (In 1960,70% of the executives and supervisors of QM were
resulting from the school of training). But in 1956, 80% of promotions 1945 to
1950, will be employed by the new company “Renault” installed in "Cléon".
Thus during these three years of study the pupils
acquired a knowledge of high-quality in their future branch but also the
direction of team work thanks to the practice of collective sports such as
football or the tennis shoe. On the same basis the discipline inside the
training college was inculcated in a strict and rigorous way. Appeal “in row” in
the schoolyard where with the exhortation of the instructor, the watchword of
“Apprentis of the Ouest” those were to answer “Toujours rights” in an impeccable
behavior. In the same way at the time of faults made by the pupil the sanction
was marked before the assembly of the apprentices joined together for the
occasion. But the hardness of this discipline forged the future railwaymen to
face all the proofs of the life. The excellent reputation of the school, in
spite of this strict discipline, imposed by the instructors, will attract a
great number of pupils largely exceeding the borders of the agglomeration, which
leads the management of QM to make build a boarding school.
With the passing of years the contents of teaching
will transform according to into that the technical development of the engine
and the activity of QM Dieselist, electrician…. the blacksmith or the
garnissor replaces. The school thus plays a big role at the time of conversion
by providing a qualified personnel in the novel method of the diesel. However in
the Eighties the existence of the school is called in question. The natural
outlets of the school which the workshops of QM constituted are practically
In 1988 the decision to close the school is made
because the level of recruitment does not justify any more the maintenance of
his own school of training. The school thus closes after having seen passing on
its benches several hundreds of pupils (between 1943 and 1959, an average from
100 to 150 pupils of 1st, 2nd and 3rd year followed the exchange rates of the
school of training of QM). These pupils knew to give its noble letters to this
school of training throughout its existence.
Life with the
In 80 years of existence the repair shops of
Quatre-Mares saw ravelling several thousands of workmen between their walls.
That it is with the service of “Réseau de l’ État” or “S.N.C.F.” several
generations are succeeded to ensure the repair of the diesel-electric
locomotives and with vapour then without never failing in the task. However in
80 years, the work conditions evolved/moved much. Nothing is comparable, indeed,
between the workman of the time of the vapour and that of the diesel, both it is
in the field of the duration of day's work, the work conditions or the
relationship with the hierarchy.
Before 1936, the working week was 46 hours
distributed over 6 days. The job beginning the morning at 6:42 with the sound of
the siren of the workshops of QM. The morning of work was finished at 11:30 to
leave time to the employees to go to eat. Work started again then at 13:00 to
finish at 17:00.
In 1936, the workweek is 40 hours, by the Act of June 21, 1936.
However, the period of occupation and the German grip on Workshops QM causes an
increase in working time by setting it to 10 hours a day.
But the release does not mean the return to normal. On the
contrary. The influx of work related to the reconstruction of France obliges to
maintain 60 hours of the week. The efforts are paying off. This helps to reduce
the workweek to 54 hours in the early 50's.. Since then, the weekly decline
steadily to the 39h. with the order of 17 January 1982 on the working hours.
For the majority of employees of QM, the day has always started
at about 7h.00 am. But some teams have had staggered hours (4:00 / 12.00)
including those responsible for the repair of locomotives rugged. One service 2
/ 8 is even applied to the machine tool business in the fitting shop.
In the 60s the majority of the staff go at the
workshops of QM on foot or to bike. Until this time many workers lived to St
Etienne du Rouvray and to Sotteville Lès Rouen, in only inhabited cities by
Railroad employees such as the "Cité des Families, or the " Cité des Castor".
For the agents living farther, a nicknamed train " the train of
the senators ", and reserved for the railroad employees, were coming to deposit
them in the establishment. ( The locomotive, then uncoupled of the train, serves
as locomotive of laborer in the court of QM). The automobile car was another
luxury. Rare were the railroad employees to possess one.
The return to home
The threshold of QM crossed over under the eye of guardian,
which noted the name of the latecomers (at the end of three delays a written
justification is asked to the person), the workers go to the changing rooms to
get dressed their coveralls.
For those whose works were very dirty, these clothes were
supplied and cleaned free of charge by the establishment. Some, to spare time,
arrived directly in coveralls.
token of presence
The working dress consisted then of a pants and a
jacket in cotton of color blue. For the staffs working on machine tools, clogs
were supplied to protect the feet of shavings of sharp metal. The clogs will be
present until 1960. Once in workwear, the workers were going to remove their
attendance fee (disk of numbered bronze) from the board which was in the
entrance of every workshops and it until 1972 dates in which one it is the team
leader who will note the presences or the absences. Each win then the
workstation, satisfy then the tradition of the handshakes with her colleagues,
then, takes the instructions of his team leader for day. Follows then the daily
visit of the engineer and her assistants in every hall under the ferule of the
foremen. (Nicknamed the "Coach" by the workers)
The morning's work was interrupted by a pause "snacks", "tolerated"
to resume the official vocabulary, of a quarter of an hour in the workshops.
Some, were accompanying this snack a glass of wine, which was not without its
problems of alcoholism. At 11:32 the work stopped to allow staff to eat.
Those which lived close to QM, turned over to eat in their
residence, others were going to the staff canteen within the boundary of
workshops of Buddicom or at "Georgette" within the boundary of the station of
Rouen Gauche, or, were doing heat their lunch boxes prepared by their wives,
with the refectory of QM
At the beginning of the years 1980, a staff canteen opens in the
side south of the workshops. Once the finished meal, each, resumes its work
until 16:59, hour to which this one stopped. These schedules which can appear
strange in fact were justified by the arrivals of the working shuttles according
to the general traffic of the trains. The workers suspendes their attendance fee,
then takes the leadership of the cloakrooms to wash themselves and change
themselves while others without wasting time passes directly from the box to
token to the exit.
The “token box” between the halls B and C
Until the end of the period of the “vapor”, the
work conditions in the workshops are rather hard. Of course, one cannot
generalize with the whole of the workshop. With the workshop of the clockmaking,
where the adjustment of the instruments claims a certain meticulousness, one
cannot say that work is painful. In the other hand concerning the disassembling
of the locomotives, the repair of the large parts and the reassembly, the
situation is quite different.
The dismantling of steam engines, in particular
their boiler and their pipings, is made in the dust and the soot. This one soaks
the coveralls which must be more washed frequently than in the other workshops.
But she also soaks the menin a long-lasting way because on returning to their
place of residence they " still smell the locomotive ".
The dismantling of the patches of asbestoses
around the boilers of 141 R brought as a little of whiteness in this universe.
Some were then engaged in real battles short of patches of asbestos without
knowing then the high toxicity of the product. (It is only 30 years later, that
the lung cancer touches some of these men who had to manipulate the unprotected
asbestos, the unconscious of the incurred dangers).
One of the peculiarities of the work on steam
engines, tiend in the manual character of the operations. For the transport and
the manipulation of the often heavy parts, QM has warehousemen's significant
number loaded with these painful tasks.
The dismantling and the reassembly are made with
very few tools. To tighten a nut we knock with a hammer on a key, excessively.
But what was possible with the mechanics of the steam engine will not be it any
more with that diesel. What will make say sometimes in the vapeuristes that the
diesel, " that is of the locomotive in sheet steel of 2 ".
Indeed the characteristic of the work on the
diesel locomotives will be on the contrary, the cleanliness, the accuracy and
the delicacy, the organs being much more fragile. Contrary to the workers of the
vapor who have to work with an often very rudimentary equipment, we shall use
from now on a better adapted equipment. " Surgeon's box " as will say the former
in the view of the multitude of small tools that she contained, will contain
among others a torque spanner to tighten nuts in moderation.
Finally the another characteristic of the work on
steam engines, it is the noise. It is particularly true to the workshop of
boilermaking where works "Choumacs" (workers boilermakers). The sheet steels of
the boiler are indeed rivetées in an infernal noise. The team of riveting
consisted of a "striker" and of one " content of heap ", became in these
conditions quickly a deaf person.
The work conditions will be a little softened
shortly after the Second World War by the heating of the workshops to the hot
air. Until the war the workers could indeed heat themselves only via braziers.
In these conditions, the implementation of a
compulsory annual medical examination for the entire staff was not of the luxury.
However some will doubt her real efficiency in the field of the screening
because the doctor contented with taking the weight, the tension and with
measuring the visual acuteness. On the other hand every three years a car
equipped with radiographic devices going to QM to make undergo to the staff of
the more detailed examinations in particular lungs. It is besides that after war
that the doctor will be permanent in the establishment, what will facilitate the
interventions during occupational accidents. The work of this doctor will also
be made in the domains of the prevention against the alcoholism and the
addiction to smoking.
One of the moments important of the life for QM was naturally the moment of the pay. This one took place twice a month in every
workshop, the first one for the deposits, the second for the balance. Every
worker, having affixed his signature on a register, receives an envelope
containing tickets and parts of coin, which he hurried immediately to count in
case of a hypothetical complaint.
Gradually from 1975 this "Ceremony" will disappear
with the payment of salaries on a bank account.
If a beginner were touching in 1947, approximately 7000F a month,
what was far from salaries offered in the private, certain number of bonuses
could come to enrich the basic treatment. First of all there was a "bonus" which
consisted of a bonus for the execution in a task in at time lower than that
planned. That was the easiest to drop out and the most spread.
The bonus at the "suggestion" was rarer on the
other hand. She consisted in rewarding a worker or a team for the development of
a new method of work, a new tool, a modification on a machine.
The suggestion is examined by the engineers of the
S.N.C.F which was to determine of it the relevance and there its operational
As against the salary is reduced for the hours lost during the
hours of strikes, which is the subject of negotiation for the staggering of
Contrary to the bonuses which rewarded the " good worker ", there
was certain number of measures to sanction more or less heavily the " bad worker
". Of the warning to the pure and simple redundancy for grave fault. Any
breaches of the regulation, the refusal to execute a work or incident during the
work was the object of a demand of explanation by the hierarchy. The worker
culprit had to draft a note - known under the name of 7 P 1 - to justify his
behavior, what sometimes gave rise to real pieces lyric. The simple delivery of
this last one was already considered by all as a penalty.
The evocation of the current penalties to QM brings us
naturally to bend over the relations which could exist inside the establishment
in particular those between the staff of execution and that of the supervision.
These relations are going to know important upheavals provoked by the passage of
the vapor in the diesel but also in a general context of evolution of the French
society where the notion of austerity tends to become blurred.
At the time of the vapor, the worker is above all a performer.
The place of the supervision is omnipresent. The expert is the symbol of this
period. The work indeed requires expert's presence to determine the part to
repair, and its time of repair. With the diesel this structure, archaic and
heavy, disappears. From now on every worker determines and judges if a part is
to repair or not. Its status thus evolves towards a bigger autonomy and a
recognition of its skills. It is the end of the worker used as simple performer.
To QM the basic unit is the workshop. In the time of the vapor
every workshop has his own organization, its own estate management. However for
the worker, his universe stops in the door of the foreman.To speak with him, it
is necessary to deposit a request at the guichet of its office. But the worker
rarely has to address the foreman, his privileged interlocutor being his team
leader who is for the contact of the realities of the workshop. On the other
hand the foreman, in spite of his title is rarely in workshops, what does not
prevent the discipline from reigning.
With the arrival of the diesel, the things change. The
organization is relieved. There are in the workshops only the services of
production. The hierarchical pyramid grows shorter. Finished the time of the
assistants foreman, second-in-commands of technical teams. From now on the
foreman becomes approachable, and one can approach in the workshop. The
atmosphere in workshops is thus more relaxed, less strict.
An illustration of this change of the rules of life in the
company can be observed in movements within buildings. At the time of the vapor
a worker could be brought to fetch a part in another workshop than his. If he
was surprised in full discussion with another worker it was then asked by the
supervision, to return at once to its workshop.
With the conversion in the diesel is set up in the workshops of
self-service stores for spare parts. Regularly furnished he puts near the posts
of work all the parts necessary for the repairs. It is thought that the movement
will decrease. In the practice, these will always take place with the difference
that the supervision will play less the police. Every worker being responsible
for his acts and especially for his working schedule. The relations between
former and young improve.
If, at the time of the vapor, the “seniors” jealously kept their
knowledge with respect to the young people and played the “caïds”, the arrival
of the diesel puts on the "same equal footing", young people and seniors for the
Environment in the workshops improves. But, the relations between
the staff of the workshops and higher part of the hierarchy do not evolve and
remains cold. This hierarchy is indeed composed of two groups.
The first, is resulting from the “heap”. I.e. of the railwaymen
of QM which climbed the levels of the hierarchy and consequently which is
known and recognized by all.
The second group is composed of technicians resulting from the
universities, therefore not of the world of the railroads, and which are
employed with QM for one relatively short period.
They do not have time to be integrated into the company, and
cannot seize all the characteristics of them. This group is not recognized like
integral part of QM, from where a certain incomprehension on both sides.
It is a tradition with QM, which comes can be
workers' guild which reigned during the construction of the railway lines in
France, which consists so that the agents have a nicknames.
Perceived during a time as a way of depreciating
the notion of head, the practice of the nickname is extended then to the whole
establishment. It is a time at QM where people did not know by their
patronymic but by their nickname. This one, deducted by a physical or behavioral
peculiarity of the individual, accompanies the worker during his career and to
Too bad for the one who had to carry all his life
a little flattering nickname without being able to get loose from it. The list
is long and it would be physically impossible to quote them all here.
Suffice it to mention a nickname, leaving the reader to imagine
- The slug, the dumb, the kiss that kills, pissing everywhere,
spring mouth, nose leather, the gondola, serine, big pussy, pussy, sausage
merchant, sister smile, blink, the "maqueu" of chalk, poustiquet, etc. ..
The description which we have just made would not be complete if
we did not evoke here the world of the offices the staff of which represents
about 20 % of the total staff of the establishment.
The life of the employees of offices is very
different from that from the employees of workshops. Beginning the morning one
half an hour later and in the finishing evening one half an hour later the
staffs never cross themselves. In offices, no boxes with tokens, it is the
office manager who notes the absences and the delays. Each preserves the town
suit, contrary to the workshops where the workwear is compulsory, and settles
down to his desk in the rooms which group together about ten persons. The desks
are arranged in a way that the employees work, the "back turned" at the office
manager who oversees of its place the work of her subordinates men and women.
The specificity of offices is the presence of feminine staff, the presence which
does not find in workshops.
Seen of the workshops, the offices are nicknamed
" the incubator ". This expression symbolizes well the ditch which separates
both worlds. Station then to the one who, worker of base, reached by means of
the promotions the universe of offices. For those stayed in workshops, the
colleague of yesterday becomes a foreigner which in spite of its change of
category stays fundamentally a worker. Within offices he is not totally likened
as "true bureaucrat" and the port of the blouse instead of the civil costume is
not made to facilitate the integration. However offices and workshops are
obliged well to maintain certain links. To fetch a form,
make sign a paper, the worker has to cross the "Rubicond" symbolized by a
"service way" and penetrate into the administration building.
For the agent who enters QM at the age of 20, it is 35 working years that open
to him, and for certain pessimists 35 years of prison.(He is certain that the
position below the city of buildings provokes a certain isolation which can by
certain aspects evoke the idea of prison).
From time immemorial, the new agent, that it is resulting from
the row or outgoing of the school of training, begins its career at the sides
from an experienced blue-collar worker. For one more or less long period the new
railwayman is trained by the observation and the practice of the work for which
it was recruited like with the compliance with the fundamental safety
regulations, into force in the workshops of the railroads. Once he is considered
to be ready to only manage, he becomes autonomous.
Its career can then start. Entered like as
"simple blue-collar worker" that Ci will be able to cross more or less a large
number of hierarchical levels.
At the time of the vapor it is all the more easy as the
hierarchical pyramid is high. The bottom of this hierarchy being made up many
laborers and unskilled workers. The mode of rise is done by the means of written
and oral examinations. Thus each one
has, according to its personal possibilities and its efforts, the means of
reaching the highest stations and in particular for those resulting from the
workshops to finish in the offices (supreme dedication).
Thus apprentices, like Michel BLAVETTE,
Léonard RIZZA, Daniel BARRE, have reached the function of Chief of Establishment
However with the arrival of the diesel the things change . The
company does not need more labourer simple. It needs qualified people. And if it
is not the case, at least people having good concepts of mechanics or
electricity. With conversion, the hierarchical pyramid tends to become lighter.
Many intermediate levels are removed what results in a reduction in the
positions of power, from where less opportunities for climb in a high number of
levels. Finally in 1992 the mode of rise within the company is modified. The
promotion via the equal examinations, where an union delegate and a framework
were present at the oral examination, is removed to be replaced by the selection
criteria and of seniority within the company. .
If the system can be questionable for certain, it however has the
virtue for the new foremen of QM not to more be obliged to become an
expatriate during 2 or 3 years in another establishment of the company to
perfect their knowledge as that was the case with the old system.