The International Steam Pages

The ‘Traction de l’Est’ (TE) - Canal Haulage Railways, 2014

Thomas Kautzor continues his report on the canal railways of eastern France. Click here for the first part which covers CGTVN (Canal Towing) railways and locomotives around Toul. 

In Alsace and those parts of Lorraine which were part of the German Empire after 1871, 600 mm gauge electrified haulage railways were installed along the canals. After WWI these were operated by the ‘Traction de l’Est’ (TE). Included was the section of the Canal de la Marne au Rhin (CMR) from Niderviller (Moselle), where the metre gauge CGTVN network ended on the other side of the canal, to Strasbourg, along the Grand Canal d’Alsace linking Strasbourg with Colmar, Mulhouse and Huningue on the Swiss border parallel to the Rhine, as well as along part of the Canal du Rhône au Rhin, which branches off at Mulhouse. TE was also at first in charge of traction along the Canal des houillères de la Sarre, which branches off the CMR at Gondrexange to Sarreguemine (and Saarbrücken), but was later replaced by CGTVN.

A number of TE electric locos survive, many in the along the CMR in the area just north of Abreschviller, others further afield. Again, the photos are arranged from West to East:

On the section of the CMR operated by TE there were two tunnels at Niderviller (475 m.) and Arzviller (2306 m.), both only separated by a short outside section where the SNCF Paris – Strasbourg line runs parallel to the canal on the other side of the haulage railway.

In order to facilitate maintenance work inside the two tunnels, the narrow gauge railway was kept in place even after TE ceased its activities and two diesel locos were acquired by ‘Voies Navigables de France’ (VNF). One was a Jung which lost its original appearance after it was completely rebuilt, the other a rather rare Diema DS90 obtained second-hand from the German Navy. Both were sold in 2006 and are now at Uxegney Fort.

The photos show:

Niderviller, with the CMR coming from the West. The metre gauge CGTVN run along the right side of the canal and ended at the bridge from where the photo was taken. The 600 mm gauge TE track ended inside the large building on the left side, which might have been a workshops.

The 3-track TE loco shed at Niderviller, in use with VNF as a garage.

On 25th May 2003, TE 92 (Schneider-Westinghouse type HEV20 1939/44, 6 tonnes, 13 h.p.) could still be found inside the port of Niderviller, it is now gone.

The CMR east of the port of Niderviller. The TE track on the right has been lifted.

Very close to the port of Niderviller, the local tile works used a 600 mm gauge railway to transport clay over a distance of 900 metres to the factory until the late 1990s. When I visited in 2002, only the cable-worked incline at the factory was left in use, but both diesel locos were still in the shed: center-cab URSULA (Gmeinder, rebuilt COMESSA No. 52 N22-532) and BUFFALO (OK 1925). This time, two of the level crossings had been tarred over and the two locos were gone, but the incline was still in use. At, under the heading “Briqueterie de l’Est de la France”, there are seven pictures by Bernard Junk of the line still in loco operation.

The western and eastern entrances of Niderviller tunnel.

The western entrance of Arzviller tunnel, with a Paris – Strasbourg TGV. The TE track is on the far left.

The eastern entrance of Arzviller tunnel.

The two-track TE loco shed at Arzviller port.

Just east of Arzviller, a ladder of 17 locks allowed the canal a descent of 44.45 metres over a distance of 4 km. In 1969, these locks were replaced by the Saint-Louis-Arzviller inclined plane (

The Arzviller inclined plane is a major tourist attraction for the area. TE 93 (SW type HEV20 1939/44, 6 tonnes, 13 h.p.) is on display inside museum-barge “Marie-Sophie” at the top of the incline (photo 23rd May 2005).

TE 203 (SW 1934, 15 kW) is plinthed in the port of Lutzelbourg.

TE 202 (SW 1934, 15 kW) is plinthed next to a lock in the center of Saverne, together with a four-wheel wagon.

TE 2 (AEG 1929) is plinthed in the port of Saverne (PK 269).

At Monswiler, just east of Saverne, the track is still in place for some distance next to the lock.

TE loco shed at Hochfelden.

TE 13 (AEG 1939) is plinthed at the top of the road bridge in the port of Hochfelden.

TE 1 (AEG 1929) is plinthed at the river navigation museum (Musée de la Batellerie) in Offendorf, 30 km northeast of Strasbourg.

TE 64 (Alsthom 1933) is preserved at the C.F. Touristique du Rhin (CFTR), in Volgelsheim near Colmar (photo 6th June 2002).

Since this picture was taken it was moved in 2008 and is now plinthed next to the level crossing west of the station (together with a sawmill log truck). This picture was taken on 2nd January 2016.

TE 201 (Alsthome/Thomson-Houston) is plinthed in the port of Valdieu, on the Canal du Rhône au Rhin (photo 21st September, 2003).

TE 91 (SW type HEV20 1939/44, 6 tonnes, 13 h.p.) is also preserved, plinthed next to the port at Bissert in Harskirchen, on the Canal de houillères de la Sarre. Standing next to TE 91 is one of the original concrete catenary masts. (photo not available).

Rob Dickinson