Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 15 – Locomotives and Rolling Stock – Steam (Chemins de Fer de Provence 79)

This post focusses on the Steam locomotives used on the line between Nice and Digne-le-Bains. It is unlikely to be comprehensive and I’d be grateful of any contributions by others which will add to my knowledge. I am hampered particularly by not having access to the seminal work on the network by Jose Banaudo, “Le Siecle du Train des Pignes.” [25] The text of this book is in french and as it is out of print a good copy will cost well over 50 euros. If anyone has access to this book and is prepared to add to the text of the blog, please feel free to do so, or email me direct and I will update the post.

I would be particularly interested in details of locomotives which ran on the Nice to Digne Line throughout its life and which are nor properly covered within the text below.

As part of studies on the two other main-lines which made up the network of the Chemins de Fer du Sud de la France – the Central Var line and Le Macaron – we covered a lot of ground investigating early traction and steam power on the lines of the whole network and provided as much information as possible about rolling stock on the system.

The relevant posts are:

These posts are as comprehensive as possible for the era of operation of those lines and cover the period up to their closure after the Second World War. However, they are focussed on the two lines which closed. It make sense, therefore to review those posts in the light of a focus on the Nice to Digne Line. This blog sets out to do just that. I need also to acknowledge the support I have received in collating this information from Etienne de Maurepas (Étienne Thilliez). [12]

Steam Locomotives on the Nice to Digne Line

Background information on the companies which built the steam locomotives which served on the Central Var line can be found by reading my post on the locomotives of the Coastal Line  – Le Macaron. [1]

At the height of its powers, between 1888 and 1908, Le Chemins de Fer du Sud de la France network had:

• 23 steam locomotives.
• 42 passenger coaches: 3 in 1st class A series; 21 mixed 1st and 2nd class series AB; 6 in 2nd class B series; 2 mixed 2nd class + van series BD and 10 open coaches called ‘jardiniers’ series AC and C. These were sourced from various manufacturers: the Foundries and Forges of Horme Company, Chantiers de la Buire in Lyon; the Desouche and David workshops in Pantin; the Hanquet factories -Aufort and Company in Vierzon; the establishments De Dietrich in Lunéville; and the ‘jardiniers’ came from a network of steam trams – the Raincy-Montfermeil in the northern suburbs of Paris.
• 12 luggage and post office vans: 10 luggage vans with DD series postal compartment and 2 DS series emergency vans. Their manufacturers were as follows: 6 Buire vans, 4 De Dietrich vans, 2 Hanquet-Aufort vans.
• 219 goods wagons: built by Horme and Buire, Hanquet-Aufort, De Dietrich, and Magnard and Decauville.

Between 1889 and 1894, 19 steam locomotives were put into circulation on the whole network; divided between 3 manufacturers: 8 SACM, 8 Pinguely and 3 Corpet-Louvet.[2] A number of these were used on the Nice to Digne line.

Between 1889 and 1894, 19 steam locomotives were put into circulation on the whole network; divided between 3 manufacturers: 8 SACM, 8 Pinguely and 3 Corpet-Louvet.[5] A number of these were used on the Central Var line.

Later, other locomotives were purchased …..These Locomotives included some from the manufacturer Franco-Belge as well as SFCM, SACM, Pinguely and Corpet-Louvet.

In the first decade of the 20th Century, Pinguely 4-6-0T locomotives were ordered. The close-up shot shown below is taken at Toulon, but these locomotives also served on the Nice to Digne Line.Very similar 4-6-0T locomotives were ordered from SACM. The image below is one used on the Macaron but it is identical in design to ones used on the Nice to Digne line.Details of these locomotives and pictures of them operating on the Nice to Digne line can be found below.

1. Pinguely, SFCM and SACM 4-6-0T Locomotives

Locomotive No. 89 is a 4-6-0T Pinguely (Works No. 192) delivered in November 1905 and remodelled in 1949 (see picture below). Sérié E of Les Chemins de Fer du Sud de la France, it is part of a series of 12 locomotives delivered between August 1905 and December 1907. The whole network including the coastal line had a total of 28 E and F Series 4-6-0T locomotives, supplied by several manufacturers. No. 89 was scrapped in January 1951. According to José Banaudo, these 4-6-0T locomotives were the best steam engines on the network.The picture of SF No. 89 was taken at La Manda Station on the Nice to Digne line. This is the best head-on picture of a Pinguely 4-6-0T engine that I have discovered.

It is difficult to distinguish between the different 4-6-0T locomotives on many of the postcard images available today. For example, there are two images of the La Manda Station near Colomars below. In the first image it appears that the locomotive is a 4-6-0T but the resolution of the image is not good enough to determine whether it was made by Pinguely or SACM. The second image appears in Jose Banaudo’s book [3] and on the CPArama website. [4] Banaudo highlights the fact that the locomotive in that image is a 4-6-0T but does not clarify which manufacturer. He does draw attention to the flat wagon at the left of the picture which he says must have come off the TAM network because of its narrower loading gauge.I have been consulting with 242T66 on “Les Passions Metrique et Etoile!!” Forum [9][12] about some of the photographs in this blog. They comment that it is likely that the locomotive in the second image is an type E 4-6-0T because the type F had an air-compressor fitted to the right-hand side of the smokebox. It is possible that the locomotive is a SACM Series 81-86 rather than a Pinguely locomotive.NICE (AM) – Locomotive No. 102 tows freight train at La Madeleine station – Photo Card. 
The locomotive No. 102, type 4-6-0T, was built in 1908 by the French Society of Mechanical Engineering (SFCM) – Cail in Denain (North). It was delivered on July 6, 1911 to the Railways of Provence – It was part of the series Nos.101 to 105 – After a career of more than 40 years, having traveled 752,362 km. this loco was stabled in 1952 and scrapped on 24th March 1954. [3][10]Another view of the 4-6-0T locomotive No. 102, at the station of La Vésubie in January 1949 – Photo card. (Bernard Roze collection). [10]This picture shows the official reception train headed by 4-6-0T Pinguely No. 94 on 30th September 1907, the trucks on the left belong to the contractor, Entreprise Orizet. The station is La Gare du Pont de Gueydan. [3][5][12]In this view, taken sometime between 1908 and 1911 .an unidentified 4-6-0T (I think) approaches Annot Station from Nice. At this time the middle section of the line between Annot and Saint-Andre-des-Alpes was still under construction. [3][7]A train for Nice headed by 4-6-0T SACM No. 83 at Annot Station. [3][12]What appears to be a 4-6-0T locomotive stands at Thorame-Haute. The picture is not clear enough to identify the locomotive. [6][12]An unidentified 4-6-0T also standing at Thorame-Haute. Although the picture is present in Jose Banuado’s book the locomotive is not identified by him. [3][6][12]

610-11 – Machine 230T (4-6-0T) No. 101 built by SFCM-Cail in 1908, in Digne on April 19, 1949.
Photograph: F. Collardeau – Publisher: BVA in Lausanne (Switzerland). [10]

2. Smaller Steam Locomotives (0-6-0T/2-4-0T)

The line was served by a series of smaller locomotives. However, the first image below was taken before the opening of the line and illustrates an early form of chartered train. The contractor for the line provided a train for access to the special festival at Thorame-Haute on 26th September 1909. The locomotive used was one of its own 0-6-0T locos.An 0-6-0T Pinguely industrial locomotive owned by Entreprise Orizet, on a pilgrims’ special, 26th September 1909, Notre Dame de la Fleur at Thorame-Haute. [3][8][12]Drawing from Corpet-Louvet. [13]A model of one of these locomotives in the livery of the Tramways de l’Aude which I have also been writing about (cf. the series of blog posts which can be found on this site under the category ‘Railways and Tramways of South-Western France’ and which start with This model is No. 54 in the Tramways de l’Aude fleet of these small locomotives. The French company Lucien Corpet built 826 of these metre-gauge 0-6-0T locos for railways across Europe, and you can still see examples in use today. This LGB model offers all the classic LGB technical features: a powerful Bühler motor, weather-resistant gearbox, voltage stabilization, reliable power pick-ups and much more. The prototype was one of many built from 1890 onwards. 0-6-0T locomotives were the mainstay of Corpet’s production with weights ranging from 7 to 22 tons. Railway companies could order these locos from a catalogue. [14]

Corpet-Louvet was a family-size railway manufacturer, which nevertheless managed to find markets and satisfy its customers with simple, well-built and robust machines. Their locomotives came out of the workshops for a hundred years, straddling two centuries, the second half of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth century.

The small Corpet-Louvet locomotives are regularly cited as emblematic of the secondary railways. From 1855 until 1952, the plant produced 1962 locomotives. The majority of them were built to operate on metre-gauge rails and were tank engines. [19]

Three 0-6-0T Corpet-Louvet locomotives numbered 70 to 72 (as below) were ordered by the Chemins de Fer du Sud to operate on the line between Cogolin and St. Tropez. [19] Further examples may have been used throughout the rest of the network including on the Nice to Digne Line. I have not yet been able to identify any. Whether certain locomotives were specifically allocated to the Central-Var or to the Alpes line, I do not know. Allocations may have changed over the years anyway and it is likely that some engines at least were used on both lines.

According to J. Banaudo, [25] very few Corpet-Louvet engines were used on the Alpes network bewteen Nice and Digne, apart from the four class D 031T (0-6-2T) No. 20-23 built 1894/5 with works numbers 619 to 622. I have not yet found a picture of one of these locos at work on the Nice to Digne line. These 031T (0-6-2T) Corpet locos on the Sud-France were large 28-ton steam locomotives. [27] One of these is shown in ex-works condition in the picture below.Corpet-Louvet Works No. 621 – No. 22 on the Sud-France network.

N° 19 L’Arve was a metre-gauge industrial 030T (0-6-0T) locomotive built 1887, acquired second-hand 1893, converted to standard-gauge 1897, withdrawn 1933. Designed for easy conversion from metre to standard-gauge and vice-versa, she was mainly used on the short mixed-gauge link and exchange sidings between Nice PLM (now SNCF) station and la Gare de la Sud de France.

Corpet-Louvet 030T (0-6-0T) Nos. 32 and 33 (1905/1906) from Régie des Chemins de fer du Sud-Ouest were borrowed during the war (1943/1945) (as were much bigger 141s (2-8-2s), also built by Corpet-Louvet) but saw very little use indeed.

No details are given by J. Banaudo [25] of the various industrial engines that were used by contractors when they built the lines. They may have included Corpet-Louvet 020T (0-4-0T) or 030T (0-6-0T) engines. [12]

I have one photograph of a 2-4-0T locomotive on the Nice to Digne line.A 2-4-0T built by SACM stands at Mezel Station. The loco was in the series No. 5 – No. 12. The picture was taken when the line was completed as far as St André-les-Alpes only. [3][12] “The Société Alsacienne de Constructions Mécaniques (SACM) [Alsatian corporation of mechanical engineering] is an engineering company with its headquarters in MulhouseAlsacewhich produced railway locomotives, textile and printing machinery, diesel enginesboilers, lifting equipment, firearms and mining equipment. SACM also produced the first atomic reactor at Marcoule. The company was founded by André Koechlin in 1826 to produce textile machinery. In 1839, he opened a factory to build railway locomotives at Mulhouse in AlsaceThe business grew rapidly but in 1871, the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by Germany, brought about the transfer of some production to Belfort in France. In 1872 the company merged with the Graffenstadencompany of Illkirch-Graffenstaden (a suburb of Strasbourg) to form SACM.” [23]

3. Mallet 0-4-4-0T

Mallets were relatively powerful locomotives for their size, having two sets of driving wheels. Relatively limited use of this type of locomotive was made on the Chemins de Fer du Sud de la France.An example of the class. Two of this type of locomotive were stabled in Toulon at the liberation in 1944. I believe that they were moved to Saint Raphael and loaded onto SNCF wagons for transport to the factory of Corpet-Lovet in 1945 for refurbishment. They could be found in use on the Nice to Digne line in 1946 and 1947.An SACM Mallet 0-4-4-0T at Nice.Mallet 0-4-4-0T drawings. [11]

4. Other forms of Steam Traction on the Line

A. 2-8-2 Tender Locomotives

Locomotive No. 17 was one of a series of 7 locomotives built by the Corpet-Louvet establishments in La Courneuve and delivered in 1943 to the Railways of Provence. These machines were originally intended for the Dakar-Niger railway in Africa, but, because of the war, they were assigned to the Nice-Digne line. In the picture above, we see the loco at Annot (Basses-Alpes). These locomotives were not a success on the line. No. 17 ended its career on 14th May 1947 having travelled only 103,144 km. [3]

Locomotive No. 18 was another of this Class – seen here at Nice Station. [26]

B. 0-6-0 (Class A) and 2-4-0 (Class B) Tender Locomotives

In he early years after the opening of the network a number of 2-4-0 and 0-6-0 Tender locos were in use. Pictures are available of these at work on the Nice to Meyrargues line. I have not been able to find examples on the length between Nice and Colomars. However, it is pretty certain that they did run on the length between Colomars and Nice, and probable that theybran over the length of the line between Nice and Digne-les-Bains.

The Central Var had four 030 (0-6-0) tender locomotives, they were built in 1887 by SACM Belfort: No. 1 “Draguignan”; No. 2 “Flayosc”; No. 3 “Entrecasteaux”; No. 4 “Salernes.” [24]

An early photograph of one of the Class B locomotives on the turntable at Draguignan. [24]

A SACM-Belfort 0-6-0 Tender Locomotive (Class A) at Salernes Station. [24]

Modern Steam on the Nice to Digne Line

In modern times, three steam locomotives have been in use on the Nice of Digne Line. They have been renovated and maintained by the GECP (Groupe d’Etude pour les Chemins de fer de Provience):

A. The Portuguese [16][18] 2-4-6-0T

This steam locomotive was built in 1923 for the Portuguese Railways. It belongs to what was a series of 16 locomotives built by Henschel & Sohn for the Caminhos de Ferro do Estado (Minho e Douro division) in 1911 (CP No. E 201-204, ex MD 451-454), 1913 (CP E 205 / 206, ex MD 455-456) and 1923 (CP E 207-216, ex MD 457-466). Two other similar locomotives were delivered in 1923 to Companhia dos Caminhos from Ferro de Porto to Povoa de Varzim and Famalicao: PPF 16/17, later Norte 41/42 then CP E 181/182. [26]

During the early 1970s it was based in Sernada, used to haul passenger and freight trains on the lines Val de Vouga/Espinho to Sernada and Aveiro to Viseu. In 1975 it was transferred to Lousado, where it provided service on the line from Famalicao to Povoa de Varzim.

After being transferred to the central workshops in Puerto Campanhã it underwent its last revision in service in 1976. Later on it was based in Regua where it pulled mixed trains and work trains on the line from Corgo Regua to Chaves. It was taken out of service in 1981.

Three years later, the Portuguese Railways offered to sell twelve steam locomotives no longer in use. One of them was the E 211.

It was offered to and bought by GECP and in July 1986 towed from Regua to Vila-Real and then transferred onto road transport to be moved to the South of France. At the small station at Mezel-Chateauredon the locomotive was transferred back onto rails and moved to the depot at Puget-Therniers where ultimately it was to be refurbished. For a short period (1988-1992) it pulled the Train des Pignes between Puget and Annot, sometimes even between Nice and Digne-les-Bains.

The locomotive was then restored at the Lucato Termica workshops in Castelletto-Monferrato In the Piedmontaise province of Alessandria in Italy. That restoration took time, and it was not until 2009 that the locomotive was once again available in Puget-Thernier and June 2010 before it pulled its first Train des Pignes.The full specification of the loco can be found on the GECP website. [16]The Portuguese and Corpet-Louvet 0-6-0T.  [15]

B. 0-6-0T Corpet Louvet (CdN No.36)

This small 0-6-0T loco is seen in action in 2008 in the video below: [20]

LGB G-Scale Model of the CdN locomotive No. 36 which was built by Corpet Louvet an which, late in the 20th century, could be found running regularly between Puget-Theniers and Annot. [21]

No.36 (Lulu) is now housed at the Musée des tramways à vapeur et des chemins de fer secondaires français which is located alongside Valmondois railway station, in the small town of Butry-sur-Oise in the departement of Val-d’Oise, 30 kilometres north of Paris.This locomotive was one of a series numbered 30 to 42, They all worked on the CdN from 1925 to the closing of the network in 1956. They developed a power of 375 hp, towed a load of 90 tonnes with a top speed of 50 km/hr. This was the maximum speed allowed on the network.
The last line where they were employed was the St.Brieuc – Paimpol line. At the closure of the network No. 36 (Lulu) remained exposed for a long time in front of the station of St Brieuc. [22]

C. 4-6-0T No. E327 ‘Bretonne’ [19]This locomotive was one of twelve commissioned by the Chemins de fer de l’Ouest for the operation of the metre-gauge lines of the Reseau Breton. It was built by the Compagnie de Fives-Lille, in Lille (Nord). It first saw service in September 1909 as No. E327 and was based at the  Caraix depot (Finistere). It ran for 58 years on that network. It is very similar to a whole range of 4-6-0T locomotives that were used on the Chemins de fer du Sud de la France.

After closure of the Reseau Breton by the SNCF, E327 was declared supernumery in September 196. It was saved from destruction by the Federation des Amis des Chemins de fer Secondaires (FACS). It was transferred in December 1969 to the Chemin de fer du Vivarais (CFV) but was only rarely used on that network. In March 1979, it appeared at ‘Exporail’ in Cannes and was thenmade available to the GECP in Nice to launch its tourist train.After a partial overhaul, the locomotive was used from July 1980 unil the end of the 1987 season. Renovated by l’Arsenal de Toulon, E327 reentered service in 1993 and continued in circulation until 2007. The loco is now waiting full refurbishment once again. Full details of the specification of E327 can be found on the GECP website. [17]


  2. Roland Le Corff; Retrieved 13th December 2017.
  3. José Banaudo; Les Train des Pignes; Les Editions de Cabri, 1999.
  4., accessed 12th February 2018.
  5., accessed on 10th August 2018.
  6., accessed on 10th August 2018.
  7., accessed on 2nd August 2018.
  8., accessed on 14th August 2018.
  10., accessed on 23rd August 2018.
  11., accessed on 23rd February 2018.
  12. A friend who posts on a few French Railway interest forums as 242TE66.
  13., accessed on 31st October 2018.
  14., accessed on 31st October 2018.
  15., accessed on 17th November 2018.
  16., accessed on 17th November 2018.
  17., accessed on 17th November 2018.
  18., accessed on 7th December 2018.
  19., accessed on 7th December 2018.
  20.–trique-corpet-louvet-n–36-sur-les-chemins-de-fer-de-provence-juillet-2008/GdTmwDcLIY0, accessed on 10th December 2018.
  21., accessed on 10th December 2018.
  22., accessed on 10th December 2018.
  23.été_Alsacienne_de_Constructions_Mécaniques, accessed on 11th December 2018.
  25. José Banaudo; Le Siecle du Train des Pignes; Les Editions de Cabri, 1991.
  26., accessed on 16th December 2018.
  27., accessed on 17th December 2018.

4 thoughts on “Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 15 – Locomotives and Rolling Stock – Steam (Chemins de Fer de Provence 79)

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