Selected Work: Plates of the 141 R Locomotives

Whether it is mundane or a true masterpiece, each object is the result of craftsmanship and those who master it. They are part of our culture and contribute to both the small and grand narratives of history. Regularly, the Service Archives Documentation (SARDO) highlights an object or a series of objects from its collections. Our objects bear witness to the state of society and human and technological progress at key moments in our history.

Let’s discover a set of photogravure bronze plates for 141 R locomotives

Plates and History of the 141 R 789

The 141 R locomotives arrived from the United States equipped with plates that were quite similar to the standardized model, initially cast in cast iron for the very first units, and later in bronze with a weight of over 15 kg. These plates had a window for indicating the depot assignment. On the back of these plates were the initials of the manufacturer and the production number. The plates on their tenders, also made of bronze, did not have depot assignment windows.

These plates were typically painted with a red background, but this could vary from one depot to another. There was also yellow on a dark green or red background with the outer frame in green or black, matching the locomotive. It’s worth noting that the Mans depot had the unique practice of painting the background of all its standardized plates in light blue.

A manufacturer’s plate, also made of bronze and featuring the factory serial number and the year of construction, was attached to each smoke deflector screen.

The 141 R 789 is part of the second batch of 160 locomotives built by Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLW) in Chester, Pennsylvania, United States.

Originally designed for coal-fired operation, it was converted to oil-fired operation at the Nevers-Machines Workshops. It was equipped with a large 13.3 m3 fuel tank in place of the coal bunker on its tender with rivets. These modifications were also applied to 320 of its sister locomotives to address the coal shortage in the post-war period.

Assigned to the East region at the Mulhouse Nord depot in May 1947, it was still listed in the inventory of that depot on January 1, 1949. Transferred to the Southeast region, it was found in the inventory of the Vénissieux depot on January 1, 1958, and then at the Annemasse depot on January 1, 1963.

It was one of the 56 ‘R’ locomotives retired in 1967.

At the end of World War II, the deficit in locomotives and the inability of the French industry, which was in the process of reconstruction, to quickly deliver a large number of new machines, led to various orders placed with American and Canadian manufacturers. It was the Baldwin Locomotive Works that, in the urgency of the time, designed the plans for these machines, modifying a locomotive that had been in operation for several years in the United States, the lightweight USRA Mikado. This technological choice, which challenged the conservative French railway industry of the time, would prove to be wise.

The various manufacturers of 141 R locomotives

Manufacturers Construction numbers Number of locomotives SNCF registrations
Lima Locomotive Works 8867–9046 180 141.R.1 – 141.R.180
American Locomotive Company 74054–74313 260 141.R.181 – 141.R.440
Baldwin Locomotive Works 72254–72513 260 141.R.441 – 141.R.700
Baldwin Locomotive Works 72699–72763 65 141.R.701 – 141.R.765
72857–72897 41 141.R.766 – 141.R.806
72928–72981 54 141.R.807 – 141.R.860
American Locomotive Company 73934–74053 120 141.R.861 – 141.R.980
74833–74872 40 141.R.981 – 141.R.1020
Lima Locomotive Works 9112–9211 100 141.R.1021 – 141.R.1120
American Locomotive Company 74916–74955 40 141.R.1121 – 141.R.1160
Baldwin Locomotive Works 72982–73017 36 141.R.1161 – 141.R.1196
73046–73049 4 141.R.1197 – 141.R.1200
Montreal Locomotive Works 75010–75109 100 141.R.1201 – 141.R.1300
Canadian Locomotive Company 2368–2407 40 141.R.1301 – 141.R.1340

Delivery of the first 141 R locomotive in Marseille on November 16, 1945. You can see the plaque in the photo.