A shortened Flèche d’Or by AS
(Photo courtesy of Fred van der Lubbe)
Introduced in September 1926 the Flèche d’Or was the “French connection” between Calais and Paris of the Southern Railway’s luxury boat train service (the Golden Arrow) from London to Paris. Eventually powered by the famous Chapelon Pacifics of the Chemin de Fer du Nord (the Nord Railway) the train originally consisted of ten first-class chocolate and cream colored Pullmans and a “luggage-brake” wagon. This train, with a total length, including the eleven vehicles and the engine with tender, of nearly one-fifth of a mile long and carrying 300 passengers would charge the 184 miles to Paris at an average speed of just under 60 miles an hour!
The photo above of a NORD 231 Chapelon Pacific speeding along with a short, three car Fleche d’Or train (a baggage car, a Pullman car and a Pullman car with kitchen), is not of the detailed, diecast, MTH model of the Chapelon 231 introduced in 2008. Rather the tinplate coaches were produced in 1981 and the tinplate locomotive in 1987 by the French toy train business “AS.”
French 0 gauge trains are not that well known here in the US. But France has a rich history of toy trains that dates back decades and marques such as JEP, Jouef, CR, French Hornby, Fournereau, and LR are familiar to us. There is little reference material available on AS trains and they are almost unheard of in the US. Yet in its 10 + year history the company produced models of six classes of steam locomotives, over 80 different two and four axle passenger/baggage/postal coaches, and six motor car and subway units (Ref. 1). Their later locomotives achieved a degree of coarse scale realism found in today’s ready to run 3-rail trains.
My purpose with this article, the fifth on modern European 3-rail 0 gauge trains, is to introduce these unique French AS trains to the European train enthusiast, highlighting the realistic looking tinplate locomotives produced. This article is not a catalog. The production of AS was too extensive for me to provide photos of all their locomotives and passenger and freight wagons. However I am partial to models of steam locomotives and I do present here examples of most of what AS produced. I can only provide a sample of the passenger equipment produced. There is an outstanding book, “AS une lègende en images,” combining the history of AS trains as well as a comprehensive catalog of the trains available as discussed in the section on references.
Two reminders about French railways. First, today’s state-owned railway, the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français; "French National Railway Company") was formed in 1938 with the nationalization of France's five main railway companies of the period (Note – “Chemin de Fer” translates to English as “railway”) including:
- Chemin de Fer de l'Est (Eastern Railway) - EST
- Chemin de Fer de l'État (State Railway) - ETAT
- Chemin de Fer du Nord (Northern Railway) - NORD
- Chemin de Fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée - (Paris, Lyon and Mediterranean Railway) – PLM and the:
. Chemin de Fer de Paris à Orléans et du Midi (Paris, Orléans, and Central Railway) - commonly written as the “PO”
AS trains included locomotives, coaches, and freight wagons from these five railroads and the SNCF.
Second, in the US we use the “Whyte” notation for classifying steam locomotives by their wheel arrangement. In this arrangement a “Pacific” locomotive with four leading wheels, six driving wheels, and two trailing wheels is classified as a 4-6-2 locomotive. However the French count axles instead of wheels and a Pacific is classified as a 231 (no spaces between the numbers) locomotive. A 2-8-0 “Consolidation” is shown as a 140 locomotive. In this article, this French numbering system will be reflected in all the descriptions of the French prototypes and toy trains as well.
Click on the links below to view the individual sections of the article:
- The AS Trains Business
- The AS 222T Tank Locomotives
- The AS Pacifics Chapelon
- The AS Pacifics PO
- The AS Pacifics K8
- The AS 140C and 040TA Locomotives
- The AS Passenger Cars
- La Rotonde and ETR
- Summary, Resources, and Acknowledgements
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