Makeshift shelters in the hall "D"
It was made
easier by the fact that the electricity sub-station had suffered little: the
transformers, compressors, and the oxygen and acetylene plants were practically
The Paris side
of building F and the brake workshop, having suffered the least from the April
19th bombing, were back in action on May 24th 1944, at least for
pumping station next to the building housing the “trommels” used for cleaning
and de-scaling boiler tubes, which was designed in 1939 to stand up to anything,
was also re-commissioned on May 24th.
This made it
possible to supply water to the Niclausse boiler in the fitting shop which was
used for testing pumps and compressors, and then later, for cooling the shop’s
electricity substation in the "Paris end" works yard had not been hit either so
the machine tools in the brake shop were back in service at the beginning of
compressors were back in service on June 28th and after a month spent clearing
rubble, work resumed in the central machine shop. From June 1944, the elements
indispensable for the reconstruction already existed.
from July 1st to the Liberation.
From the beginning of July until the Liberation on August 30th, in view of the
frequency of air raid warnings, practically no work was done. In fact there was
a total shutdown from August 24th until September 4th 1944.
The "Paris" end of the main buildings
from the Liberation to spring 1945.
From September 4th, the 691 employees who had stayed in the Rouen region
returned to work with a will and the regional department "Matériel et
Traction Ouest" made the reconstruction of QM a top priority, at the same
level of importance as the MPDs. The electricity supply was restored on
September 13th but only up to a total capacity of 500 kWh a day, which
corresponded to approximately 1/40th of the normal requirements.
it was just a question of backfilling bomb craters, clearing rubble, demolishing
damaged roof sections, repairing the various ducts and pipe runs, and getting
the overhead travelling cranes back into service.
The 3.5 tonne
crane in Building F was restored to service on September 14th followed by the 60
tonne erecting shop crane just one week later. With the completion of this work,
all was more or less ready for a resumption of activities.
The "Rouen" end of Building "A"
The forge shop
was at work five days later, and the steel boiler shop on the Paris side was
soon back in action under almost normal conditions, housing part of the staff of
the erecting shop who were engaged on accident repairs.
But from a
railway point of view, Sotteville was completely isolated and there could be no
question of taking on work which required large volumes of materials. It was
necessary to wait for the restoration of the Longs-Vallons viaduct on the
Rouen – Serquigny line and of the Melville connection by the Canadians so
that the first wagons could reach QM in December 1944.
train from Rouen to Saint-Pierre-du-Vauvray via Louviers did not run until
November 28th. Before then, all supplies depended on road transport.
words, the winter of 1944-45 saw only a partial reconstruction of QM. Only one
building had been made weatherproof and so with the snow, working conditions
were very difficult.
Building "C" under the snow
On May 31st
1945, to celebrate the railway employees’ National Day, QM was honoured with a
visit by a hundred-strong delegation from Alsace and Lorraine accompanied by the
Strasbourg railway band. This organisation, noted for its resistance to the
Germans, had been relentlessly pursued and harried by the occupying forces in an
attempt to break it. Along the route of the procession organized for the
occasion and consisting of the band preceded by Alsatian women in traditional
costume, amongst the serried ranks of the workers in their overalls, there was
more than one who was moved to tears at the sight of their large silk
headdresses symbolising the victory.
from the spring to autumn 1945.
In the spring of 1945, the shortage of materials was less acute and the end of
hostilities in Europe allowed the return to commercial use of lots of trucks and
wagons. Because of the scale of the destruction, the needs were enormous. 1500
tons of bricks, 750 tons of cement, 130 tons of steel frames, 1,600 cubic metres
of wood and 35 tons of mastic would be used in the reconstruction of QM.
The "Rouen" end of the main buildings
In spite of
the extent of the work required, confident that everyone would make an effort
and considering that by the start of winter 1945-1946, the repairs would be well
enough advanced to permit work in acceptable conditions, the workshop management
took the decision to bring back the evacuated staff: so the spring and summer of
1945 saw a rapid increase in the number of personnel.
1946-1947. The resumption of activities at Quatre-Mares.
On January 1st
1946, the walls and roofs, as expected, were finished. This success required
60,000 working days. German POWs made their contribution to the resumption of
activities in the workshops until 1948. But the fitters shop had only half of
its pre-war facilities: it appeared to be empty of machine tools. In fact most
were still in individual shelters. They were old, worn out prematurely by
intensive use and exposure to the weather. Only the presence of new shapers and
drilling machines indicated that the re-equipment of QM was in progress.
241-A4 repaired and ready to re-enter service
May 1st 1946
was the opportunity to celebrate the out-shopping of the 100th locomotive to be
repaired after the Liberation. “Mountain” 241-A4, fresh from the paint shop and
decorated for the occasion was the star of the show. The event marked the end of
the pioneering days of repairs depending on sheer willpower and ushered in a
regime of high productivity. In December of the same year, the scene was very
different. 150 modern machine tools, for the most part of British or American
origin, put QM among the best equipped workshops with a production capacity well
surpassing that of 1938.
The rebuilding of the main offices
of a large building for the new administrative offices and methods engineering
office, as well as the doctor's surgery, began in February 1946 and was
completed in July 1947. Following the destruction of the original building, they
had been housed in wooden huts in the Rouen end yard. During this same period,
the training school was rebuilt, along with new accommodation for the boarders.
The rebuilding of the training school
The years 1946
and 1947 also saw the removal of over 11,000 tons of rubble and 8,000 tons of
scrap metal from the workshop site.
1947 would be
a year of continued re-equipment and the rational use of the means of
autumn of 1944, the state of the steam locomotive fleet had become catastrophic.
Out of 17,259 machines on the stock list of the newly created SNCF in 1938, two
thirds had been destroyed or put out of action by air attack, sabotage, wear and
tear in the service of the occupying forces, or else deliberately put out of
action by railway workers in order to hinder the retreat of the enemy. For want
of the necessary materials and manpower, others were immobilized awaiting
repair. French industry had been forced to work for the German war effort and
had hardly made any contribution to the modernisation of the traction
department’s fleet. The result was that many locomotives due for the scrap yard
had had to be maintained in service.
of the activities at QM was thus marked, after the war, by an influx of
locomotives in a very bad state of repair from all over network.
An example of this was the "Pacific" from Mantes which was pierced with 365
holes, one for every day of the year.
Some "Mountains" used by the German railways as mobile steam plants in Berlin
returned to QM in 1945 and 1946 in a seriously damaged condition and still in
their German camouflage livery.
Faced with the
impossibility of rapidly repairing the enormous quantity of damaged material,
and with a grievously weakened French industry unable satisfy the urgent demand
for a thousand machines, the government turned to the United States whose
industrial base was well tuned to meet the enormous needs of the war machine.
Contacts had been made in 1944 which enabled the setting-up of a mission to
study the needs of a post-Liberation France. A vast manufacturing programme was
born of the many negotiations that had resulted from it.
fell on "Mikado" type machines and France would order 1340, all carrying the
class number "141 R". These locomotives, built in the United States and Canada
and known as "Americaines", were delivered between 1945 and 1947.
Together with the repair of the existing material, they considerably aided the
resumption of railway activity.
by sea of these machines from the American continent to France was a success.
1340 locomotives and their tenders as well as a stock of spare parts were loaded
for the 6000 kilometre trip. However, not all the machines made it. On April
13th 1947, Norwegian heavy-lift ship M/S Belpamela foundered off
Newfoundland with its cargo of 16 141-Rs, numbered 1220 to 1235.
machines originally equipped for coal burning, several were subsequently fitted
to burn oil fuel.
Coal fired 141-R
Oil fired 141-R
141 R 1 à 700 141 R 821 à 860
701 à 820 961 à 1020
960 1121 à 1200
1021 à 1120
1221 à 1340
1201 à 1219
Europe in the grip of a coal crisis, French collieries were obliged to give
priority to supplies to the iron and steel industry, essential for the nation’s
reconstruction. So in 1947, except for 141-R 1 to 700 and 1201 to 1219, the coal
burning locomotives were converted to oil. The work was carried out at the
Nevers workshops and at the "Ouest" running shed in Niort.
translation by John Salter