The International Steam Pages

Le Tacot des Lacs, September 2013 

A late addition to this page is a picture of the railway's 'rare breed' Neumeyer locomotive (13th December 2013).

James Waite reports on a visit to another French narrow gauge railway

Felin Hen was one (46828/1917) of 250 Baldwin 2-6-2T's built for the US Army for service on the western front towards the end of WW1. Many of them were stored in northern France after the end of the war. Three, including Felin Hen, were bought for the Penrhyn Quarry Railway in about 1924 and were named after villages along the railway's main line between the quarry and Port Penrhyn. They were unpopular there and supposedly prone to derailment. After about 1927 they were set aside, leaving its three Main Line class Hunslet 0-4-0ST's Charles, Linda and Blanche, which date from between 1882 and 1893, to soldier on until the railway closed in 1962. Today Charles is a star exhibit at the railway museum at Penrhyn Castle while Linda and Blanche work for their living on the Ffestiniog Railway.

The Baldwins had more chequered careers. One of them, Llandegai, was converted for use as a stationary engine and fell victim to the WW2 scrap metal drive in 1940 along with its sister Tregarth. Felin Hen was sold the same year to the Fairymead sugar factory near Bundaberg in Queensland. Here it resumed its tendency to derail. It was rebuilt as a 0-6-2T in 1956 in an attempt to cure it and at the same time it was fitted with a new boiler and new side tanks flanking the main part of the boiler. (Click here  or here or here or here or here for pictures.) It was withdrawn in 1965, displayed in a park at Bundaberg for some years and then acquired by the Bundaberg Steam Tramway Preservation Society.

Patrick Mourot, who runs the Tacot des Lacs, has had a lifelong interest in WW1 Baldwins, both steam and i/c. He was put onto this loco by the late Dave Brewer after he'd visited Queensland in the late 90's and eventually bought the loco from the society after they'd concluded that the immense amount of restoration required was beyond their resources. It arrived at the Tacot des Lacs in 2002.

Patrick, members of his family and friends spent nine years restoring the loco to its original US Army condition and it first ran in May 2011. He doesn't operate it very often. This visit on Tuesday was arranged by Thomas Kautzor. Although the loco is now back in its original condition and US Army livery if you look closely at the cab sides you'll see that the Felin Hen name hasn't quite disappeared!

The Tacot des Lacs is a 600mm gauge line which runs for around 3km on the trackbed of an old sandpit railway originally built in 1905. The Sablières de Bourron railway closed in 1969, the last such railway to close in Seine-et-Marne (both Sablières de Nemours systems closed in 1966). It was dismantled after closure and was rebuilt as a heritage line in 1985. Patrick has assembled a huge collection of locos, both steam and diesel (see for more details. Some of them look a little tired though several of the steam locos are in working order. The railway now runs public trains twice daily during July/August. On Sundays and holidays it operates three trains. It has a thriving business with coach parties  almost daily in Spring and Autumn, less so during the Summer, mostly diesel hauled. These photos show only around one half of the steam locos and a small fraction of the diesels.

Patrick and his colleagues were immensely helpful during our visit and we were most grateful for their hospitality.

The selection of photos can only begin to cover what is present. Follow the link above or search Google Images for "Tacot des Lacs" for (many) more:

Felin Hen standing near the level crossing outside the depot.

Crossing the Chemin de Montcourt aux Chapelottes, near the depot.

At the southern end of the line alongside the Canal du Loing. The wagon is a French Péchôt Artillerie wagon designed in the late 1880s.

This VBT - very de Winton-like - is in working order. Apparently it is based on a Motor Rail diesel frame!

Two WW1 Baldwin petrol locos. There are a total of nine Baldwin i/c locos, three narrow gauge (two of which are operational) and six standard. The two operational narrow gauge ones have been converted to Diesel, as well as most of the standard gauge ones. Only two of the s.g. ones retain their original petrol engines. This is a narrow gauge loco

... and this is one of the standard gauge locos.

This is a Decauville Progres-type 8t 0-6-0T (works number 1707/1917). The Progres locos were designed in 1910 and consisted initially of a 5t 0-4-0T type and these 0-6-0T's. Decauville's records as translated state that they "happily combine the advantages of the French machines with the simplicity of the German locomotives." This is one of many of these locos bought by the French military during WW1. Decauville were unble to meet all their requirements, leading to the purchase of the Joffre-type 0-6-0T's from Kerr Stuart which followed the design of the Progres 0-6-0T's in many respects. Many of the locos found their way into French industry in the 1920's. This one went to the Sucreries du Nord-Est and was still painted in their livery when it was rescued for preservation from Toury sugar factory in 1965. Comparison with photos from that time suggests that it still carries the same coat of paint now.

A Brigadelok with an added rear bunker, which apparently is one of many of these locos which worked in the sand industry in France. 

This loco with Bagnall like qualities was actually designed by Trevor Barber in the 1970s and has since had a succession of homes including one in Belgium. First known as 'Trixie' and subsequently 'Paula' it now appears nameless.

A late addition to this page is the following picture which shows a rare Neumeyer (19/1922), one of only three known survivors worldwide. Another is at Indare in Uruguay. It's on the left, the other locomotive being an unidentified Krauss.

Rob Dickinson