The International Steam Pages

The Tramway de Pithiviers à Toury, France, 1964

John Cosford writes:

7pm Friday 16th October 1964 – it was a dark and stormy night…well, it was certainly dark as I and three other members of the Festiniog Railway Society London Area Group embarked on a weekend expedition to France. Our destination: the 600mm gauge Tramway de Pithiviers à Toury.The TPT was originally a Decauville project that opened in 1892 to link the towns of Pithiviers and Toury with a 32km narrow gauge line. These two towns and their respective sugar refineries are situated on the windswept plateau of the Beauce between Paris and Orleans. A lot of sugar beet is grown in the region and many sidings and branch lines were constructed for the collection of the crop at harvest time. Many of these sidings and branch lines, which brought the total line length to over 80km, were extended or shortened over the years as requirements changed.

At the time of our visit the TPT had a diverse collection of locomotives including a number of ex-military types from both World Wars. The mainstay of the fleet was four Franco-Belge 0-8-0Ts which had been constructed in 1944/45 as 0-8-0 tender engines for the German Army and were referred to as class KDL (Kriegs Dampf Lokomotiven). A number of these were purchased by French sugar beet railways after the war and all were converted to 0-8-0Ts. Also in the TPT roster were three ex-WDLR Alco-Cooke 2-6-2Ts and a Hunslet 4-6-0T of WW1 vintage although the latter was dumped out of use. There was also an assortment of French and German tank engines of 0-6-0, 0-10-0 and 0-4-4-0 wheel arrangements.

We drove down to Dover and caught a late night ferry to Calais followed by a long drive through the small hours (no autoroutes in those days), arriving at Toury sugar refinery sometime around 8am on Saturday 17th October. There we found one of their eight Decauville Type Progrès 0-6-0Ts being prepared for the day’s work.

At the TPT shed we found Franco-Belge 0-8-0Ts 4:12 and 4:13 outside being readied for work. Inside was Blanc-Misseron 0-6-0T 3:5 in steam and Alco-Cooke 2-6-2T 3:20 and O&K 0-6-0T 3:6 which were cold.

From Toury we drove to Pithiviers where the main workshops and engine shed were located. However, when we arrived there we discovered a small film crew from French Television who were making a documentary feature about the TPT. They asked us to re-enact our arrival as the “les fous anglais” would add something a little different to their film. So we duly drove out of sight and then returned at speed, screeched to a halt, leaped out of the car and pointed our cameras at the nearest locomotive. We don’t know if that film was ever shown but if it was it might have caused some light amusement!

Anyway, back at the engine shed, most of the locos were inside but fortunately there was enough light to obtain some reasonable photos. However, the O&K Mallet 0-4-4-0T 22:5 of 1905 vintage was stuck at the back of the shed behind another 0-8-0T which made things a bit difficult. On the other hand, ex-WDLR Alco-Cooke 2-6-2T 3:23 of 1916 was in clear view – it was subsequently purchased by John Ransom of the FRS and can be seen today in modified form as “Mountaineer” on the Festiniog Railway.

Dumped outside the shed in a difficult position for good photos was the last remaining Hunslet 4-6-0T 3:11 of 1917. Regrettably, this loco was later scrapped.

Having covered all the locos in the shed and having missed breakfast, we and two members of the FACS (Fédération des Amis des Chemins de fer Secondaires) together with the film crew all repaired to a local restaurant where we starving lads demolished a large lunch. By the time we had finished, the agreeable weather of the morning had given way to a cold front with low dark clouds and heavy rain showers. The plateau of the Beauce was living up to its reputation!

Our new friends from the FACS had found out where one of the sugar beet trains was working and we eventually tracked it down to the hamlet of Baulay on the branch line from Morville-en-Beauce. There we found Franco-Belge 0-8-0T 4:11 squatting in the mud and puddles with a train of sugar beet.

After a while the train moved off on barely visible rails and we followed it as it ran alongside the road and through villages until it paused near Bitry at the junction with the “main line”. 

Returning to Pithiviers, we found O&K 0-10-0T 5:3 shunting a loaded train past the front of Pithiviers SNCF station and into the sugar refinery.

There we also saw an unidentified 0-6-0 diesel loco from the refinery and managed to photograph this in company with a standard gauge SNCF Y6400 “locotracteur” during the only brief spell of sunshine that afternoon.

We then decided to return to Toury as it was on the route to our overnight stop and there we found Blanc-Misseron 0-6-0T 3:5 shunting near the engine shed.

In the fading light we also investigated some of the other Decauville 0-6-0Ts of the Toury refinery and then ended the day with a couple of shots of Franco-Belge 0-8-0T 4:13 waiting in a loop near Toury in the last of the daylight.

All in all we had a good day, despite the appalling weather in the afternoon, and had seen all of the TPT locomotives. What we did not know then was that the TPT’s days were numbered - the railway closed two-and-a-half months later on 31st December, although some operations did continue into 1965. We were very lucky that we went when we did!

TPT Locomotive List for 17th October 1964

TPT No Wheels Builder Year
3:5 0-6-0T Blanc-Misseron 1902
3:6 0-6-0T O&K 1915
3:11 4-6-0T Hunslet 1916
3:20 2-6-2T Alco-Cooke 1916
3:22 2-6-2T Alco-Cooke 1916
3:23 2-6-2T Alco-Cooke 1916
4:10 0-8-0T Franco-Belge 1944
4:11 0-8-0T Franco-Belge 1944
4:12 0-8-0T Franco-Belge 1944
4:13 0-8-0T Franco-Belge 1944
5:3 0-10-0T O&K 1917
22:5 0-4-4-0T O&K 1905
4:14* 0-8-0T Franco-Belge 1944
4:15* 0-8-0T Franco-Belge 1944
LT1 2-6-0D Renault/CLM ?

*Ex-Sucrerie Ternynck. Used for spares and never carried their TPT numbers.

Rob Dickinson