The History of the Kerr Stuart Joffre Locomotive
The French Government had some 320 narrow gauge steam locomotives built to their standard design by the French locomotive builder Decauville, for use on the military trench railways in the First World War. The French government required an additional 70 of such locomotives, which Decauville were unable to fulfill and so the order was placed with Kerr Stuart & Company, locomotive builders of Stoke-on-Trent to build a batch of 70 locomotives.
The resulting 'Joffre' class locomotives had some minor design differences from the Decauville locomotives, the most obvious being the Spark Arresting Chimney, but were built to all the main dimensions of the Decauville locomotives.
The Joffre locomotives were built in three small batches by Kerr Stuart, being Works No 2402 - 2416 (incl) - Built in 1915, Works No 2428-2457 (Incl) - Built in 1915 and Woks Nos 2995-3019 (Incl) - Built in 1916. All delivered to Nantes (France), shipped via Manchester.
The locomotives were 0-6-0 Locomotives, with flangeless centre driving wheels, and had both a Centre Well Tank between the frames, and two side tanks, giving a combined water capacity of 264 gallons. The two cylinders were 8½" diameter x 11" stroke, and produced a tractive effort of some 3862 Lbs. The locomotives weighed 10tons 8cwt in working order, and had a coal capacity of 5 Cwts.
Whilst in production, Kerr Stuart were asked to carry out modifications to several items to improve the locomotives ability to stay on the track, these being mainly alterations to the tyre profile, modifications to the springing arrangements, and the addition of 6cwt weight to the front buffer beam, to equalise the axle loading. It is of interest that the correspondence regarding these modifications were from Colonel Pechot who was considered to be the French Narrow Gauge Military Railway Supremo.
The locomotives were delivered to the French Government and there is little documentation as to how they fared on the trench railways during the First World War, however on cessation of hostilities the remaining locomotives were put up for sale, and known records only appear to account for some thirteen locomotives at this stage. Several of the locomotives were purchased by French locomotive dealers- Brunner and Marchand of Bouray.
Some Five 'Joffre' locomotives were sold to Carriers de la Vallee Heureuse, Marquise Rinxent, Pas de Calais, a limestone quarry who had a 600mm line that ran between the quarry face and the processing plant. These five locomotive remained here until the end of their working life, being noted out of use in August 1956.
In the early 1970's these locomotives were noted by three narrow gauge enthusiasts from Surrey, who negotiated with the quarry and were sucessful in purchasing all five locos for preservation in the UK. Following the completion of the necessary permits and other necessities, all five locomotives were loaded onto three low loading lorries, and crossed the channel on 11th October 1974 aboard the Towsend Car Ferry "Free Enterprise VII".
On arrival in the UK , one of the locomotives -Works No 2405 - proceeded to the West Lancashire Light Railway at Hesketh Bank, Near Preston, having exchanged hands prior to the locomotive leaving France, this locomotive was placed in store and restoration was to recommence in 1995 - please see the story of this restoration later in this website.
The remaining four locomotives continued to North Wales, being placed into temporary store, prior to being placed on display at the Narrow Gauge Railway Centre, Gloddfa Ganol in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Following changes at Gloddfa Ganol three of the locomotives changed hands, being sold to the quarry owner, the fourth loco being sold to the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway.
However in 1997 Gloddfa Ganol closed, as the quarry was sold to Alfred McAlpine to re-open as a slate quarry again,, and the collection of locomotives were put up for sale. The Joffre locomotives were all sold into preservation and details of the five locos are given later in these webpages.
The next page shows some photographs of some six survivors, (the whereabouts of the sixth having been discovered fairly recently - Identity still to be determined) the eight other locomotives which are recorded as surviving the War, but no other information has come to light since are:
Works No 2413 of 1915 - Purchased by Brunner & Marchand (dealer) in Spincourt in May 1923, sold to Odinet, Le Havre in June 1924.
Works No 2428 of 1915 - Purchased by Brunner & Marchand (dealer) in Verdun in June 1923, sold to Charbonnage de Tonkin, French Indo-China in June 1924.
Works No 2433 of 1915 - Later owned by the Societe des Minerais et Products Chimiques de Pontpeau, Ile et Vilaine.
Works No 2457 of 1915 - Later owned by Companie de Fives Lille. Then Purchased by Brunner & Marchand (dealer) in August 1921, sold to Carriers de Corgnac, Corgnac sur Ile in May 1922.
Works No 3004 of 1916 - Spares sent by Kerr Stuart in December 1930 to Lourches Station, Nord, to the order of the contracting firm Vandervalle et Cie, Gagheraud Pere et Fils.
Works No 3007 of 1916 - Spares sent by Kerr Stuart in November 1929 to the Societe des Pierres Artificielles. Later in use as 93 - LA TAMISE of Enterprise Drouard Freres.
Works No 3015 of 1916 - Later purchased by Brunner & Marchand (dealers) in August 1920, and resold to Enterprises Trouillier & Legrand in June 1922.
Works No 3018 of 1916 - Later purchased by Brunner & Marchand (dealers) at Spincourt in June 1923. Resold to Ets J Couthon, La Corneuve in January 1928.