Steam & Railway Image Library - The Alan Ledger Collection

Picture of the Week: 241P 11 At Le Mans depot Western France
Picture of the Week: 241P 11 At Le Mans depot Western France

These are engines a group of us from work went to see in their last year of use on the French railway at Le Mans. What imposing engines they were.

This was French compounding at it’s zenith. The only engines to surpass them were the U and S class 4-8-4s but these were only built singularly as experiments later and not in larger numbers as was the case with the P class, 35 being built between 1948 and 1952. Their job was to take express trains out of Paris to the Mediterranean before electrification and later out of Le Mans to the west coast of France.

This is where we saw them at work on a very wet 24th May 1969 as it turned out, their last year in service at the depot of Le Mans and then after the visit to the depot we were fortunate to be able to ride behind one working a relief train from Paris to Nantes as far as Anger. 241P33 took over from the incoming electric traction from Paris at Le Mans with probably 16 coaches on at 600 to 700 tons.

There were only a few P class left working and this one we had was crewed by 2 firemen as the mechanical stoker was not working, they had very big firebox’s! This picture is of 241P11 at Le Mans. The most striking feature for me is the massive steam operated reverser on the running plate to operate the 4 valve settings.

Along the top of the boiler coming forward after the safety valve is the large sand box I believe and ahead of that the feed water heater to the boiler. Behind the left smoke deflector can be seen the air pump and lastly I love those front bogey brakes. These were Mean Machines! 



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