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Reconstruction des chemins de fer

Railway Age - vol. 67 - 1er août 1919

The Reconstruction Program for French Railways
The Minister of Public Works and Transports Outlines
Work That Will Cost About $1,000,000,000
By Robert E. Thayer,
European Editor of the Railway Age

One of the largest problems the French government had to face after the cessation of hostilities on November 11, 1918, was the reconstruction of the railways in the war zone, the completion of improvements that were started in 1914 but which were not completed on account of the war, and the development of new lines made necessary by the increased traffic and changed geographical conditions.

Destruction of the Station at Beuvaigue

This work is under the jurisdiction of M. Claveille, minister of public works and transports, who in an endeavor to get the work started promptly has eliminated as much of the red tape common to governmental operations as possible. On the day following the armistice he asked the chief engineer of his organization to obtain reports from the services of the liberated regions showing the work necessary for repairing the damages caused to lines of communication of all kinds. He also asked for a list of work started before the war. He also asked for a list of the projects of equal importance which had been approved but not passed upon; and of the projects not yet approved, but sufficiently advanced to be submitted promptly to the Administration, wherever these projects were really of great utility. At the same time, the engineers were requested to get in touch with the contractors for the immediate resumption of the work they had been executing. Where the work had not yet been assigned, the engineers were asked to make arrangements to allot it to private enterprises, contractors, or have it done under state supervision as seemed best.

Destruction at Condien on the Aisne

Destruction of the Station at Lassigny. In the Foreground is Shown the Remains of a Water Tank and at the Left Is What Remains of the Station. The Brick Structure at the Right of the Water Tank Was a Signal Tower

The cost of the reconstruction work is to be borne by the government of France under a law which was passed by the Chamber of Deputies in the latter part of 1917. This includes only the cost of putting the lines back into as good condition as they were before the war, and any expenses for improvements are to be submitted for proper action in each particular case.

Reconstruction in the War Zone

The railroads of France are classified under two heads, viz.: Principal railroads; railroads of local interest. The principal railroads are those such as the Nord, Est, Paris-Orleans, Midi, State, Paris-Lyons-Mediterranean, and Ceinture. The railroads of local interest are narrow gage lines operated with steam locomotives, and correspond somewhat to the electric interurban lines in the United States. They serve local communities and act as feeders to the principal railroads without competing with them for traffic.

Principal Railroads

The brunt of the damage to the principal French railways caused by the war was borne by the Nord and Est railways, the lines of which extended throughout the war zone. The damage sustained by these lines was appalling. On the Nord it can be said, in a general way, that all railway material, including everything that goes to make up a railway, included between the line of the extreme German front of 1918 back to the frontier, was destroyed in a systematic manner. The vastness of this area is well illustrated by the accompanying official maps which show the extreme German advance, the advance line of 1918, the line existing at the signing of the armistice and the Belgian frontier.

The Germans blew up all the bridges and constructions, big and small, using very heavily charged mines which, in most cases, not only destroyed the vaults or metal flooring of the bridges, but also the piers and abutments to their very foundations. They blew up all the switches and even destroyed the running track along distances of tens of kilometers consecutively, either by blowing up every other joint thus making the rails unserviceable, or by tearing away the rail from the ties by using metal plows (These plows consisted of a large triangle yoke of heavy steel, one its of which was placed under the rails) attached to locomotives. This latter method played such havoc with the track that there was nothing left but to completely clear away the wreckage and entirely replace the rail and ties. It should be added that the destruction continued for several weeks after the armistice through the use of delayed mines. In the stations of the invaded region, the electric equipment, furniture, tools and supplies of all kinds were destroyed or entirely removed by the enemy.
On the Est there was the same destruction. All the part of the railroad between the line of the extreme advance of the enemy in July, 1918, and the line held on the day the armistice was signed, was destroyed in battle or by systematic devastation. On the line from Rheims to Laon, between Rheims and Guignicourt, the embankment was completely torn to pieces on account of the fact that it was used for shelters, trenches and barbed wire entanglements. The same was the case with the line from Paris to Strassburg beyond Embermenil, and elsewhere. Part of the line from Bazancourt to Challerange marked the battle front for four years, and it was completely torn up. In other places mines left craters 30 to 60 ft. in diameter. Almost everywhere bridges and other constructions were entirely or partly destroyed by the enemy. Even in the region evacuated after the armistice, some of the most important bridges were destroyed by the Germans, whole piers and abutments being blown completely out of the water, leaving openings more than 60 ft. wide.

Eight tunnels were also entirely blocked up. Four of these near Liart will require a very long time to clear out on account of the unfavorable character of the material through which the tunnel was bored. Two others, one near Perthes, and the other at Manre, near Challerange, although in the chalk, were so completely blown up that the earth has sunk down through the whole thickness from the surface to the vault. At Perthes 2,472,000 cu. ft. of debris had already been removed in March, 1919, without yet reaching the parts of the vault still in place. At Manre it is believed that between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000 cu. ft. of soil will have to be removed before the tunnel can be opened.
The tracks in some places were completely removed by the enemy, notably along a distance of 18.6 miles on the Rheims-Laon line, 12.4 miles on the Rheims-Challerange line, and 12.4 miles on the Bazancourt-Sedan line. Everywhere else the destruction was carried out systematically, generally by blowing up every other rail joint, and occasionally by cutting the middle of each rail. The destruction of the track by using plows, seen so frequently on the Nord, was only employed on the Est along one stretch 2.5 miles long, between Armagne and Charleville. The switches were almost completely destroyed or removed in all the stations of the region, and all apparatus rendered useless.

A Somme Bridge. This Damage Was Done by Dynamite. The Force of the Explosion Was so Great That the End of the Bridge Resting on the Left Bank of the River Was Thrown Completely Across the River and Is Shown Upside Down at the Right of the Illustration

The water pipes also were almost completely destroyed in all places where they were not underground. The metal or reinforced concrete tanks were also pulled down by knocking out their foundations from under them. The water cranes are gone. The stations are either destroyed or so damaged that they cannot be used without making important repairs, and the same is often true of the office buildings.
The signal poles have been removed from the whole region, the enemy having used them for his cross-country lines, destroying them when he retired. The signal interlocking apparatus has been so damaged or changed that they will almost all have to be reconstructed, even in the region liberated after the armistice. The telegraph and telephone lines, which in many cases had been increased in number by the enemy, have been completely wrecked. The poles are usually still standing, but all the copper wires have been replaced by iron. Everywhere the furniture in the stations, the machinery in the terminals, the cranes and track-scales have been removed or destroyed.
The following figures will give an idea of the damages caused to the Nord and Est railroads:
Length ol track destroyed or damaged 1,803 Miles
(Being one-third of the total length operated on the two roads in 1913.)
Length of single track lines out of service 3,480
Bridges destroyed 1,510
Tunnels destroyed 12
Buildings destroyed 590

An Airplane View of a Detour Built to Pass Around Two Bridges Destroyed by Explosion

The illustrations accompanying this article, which are reproduced from official French photographs, give an excellent idea of the damage done and some of the reconstruction work done by the military forces during the war.
In the reconstruction of these devastated portions of the railway advantage is being taken of the circumstances to make improvements correcting faults existing in the lines before the war which will better serve the region through which the railroad passes. That is; stations are being more logically located, grade crossings are eliminated where possible and in some cases the position of the line is altered and grades are changed. Often the reasons which prevented these improvements being made before no longer exist now.
The reconstruction of these lines is being done in two stages. The first stage was the laying of a continuous track by the French and Allied engineer troops in order to re-establish communications. The second stage is the actual reconstruction of the lines which is done by the maintenance of the way department of the railroads and by contractors.

The Rail of a Single Track Line Damaged by Breaking the Middle of Every Rail

Damage Caused by Blowing Up a Tunnel Between Soissons and Laon. The Force of the Explosion Was so Great That It Will Be Noticed the Earthwork Above the Tunnel Has Settled Down in the Vaults

During the war the engineer troops followed up the infantry advances very closely and did excellent work. The figures below are given to show the vast amount of material ordered for these engineer troops during the years 1917 and 1918:
Nature of Orders 1917 1918
Tool equipment $180,000 $222,000
Total equipment for work yards 256,000 596,000
Machinery- and construction equipment 108,000 574,000
Material for construction and repairing of lines 1,590,000 2,646,000
Totals $2,136,000 $4,038,000
Note - the metal bridges are of the Henry type, 98, 115, 131 and 164 feet long, and also of the Marcille and B. S. Types.

An Improvised Lift Bridge That Was Destroyed by Bombardment

The following listed quantities of rail and track material were obtained during the war, by orders or otherwise, as indicated:

Ordered in France During 1917 and 1918 - Isbergues, Pompey, Neuves-Maisons 280 Miles
Ordered in America, end of 1915 to end of 1918 3,523
(On February 20. 1919, there still remained 863 miles of this rail to be delivered.)
By Removal of Tracks Throughout France Where not Absolutely Needed
From Principal Railroads 930
From Railroads of Local Interest 308
The American Army ceded to the French Government 7,200 metric tons of 80-lb. rail on stock at Marseilles, making 56
Total amount of rail 5,097

Ordered in France (1915 to 1919) 14,481
Ordered in America (1917) 500
Ordered in America (end 1918) (and not delivered) 2,500
By removal of rail not needed elsewhere 700
Total number of switches 18,181

Obtained from existing stocks, production and foreign purchases 7,055,000
By removal of 1,239 miles of track, where not absolutely needed at rate of 1,450 ties to the mile 1,795,000
Total 8,850,000

An Example of the Type of Construction Used in Rebuilding Damaged Bridges

The length of the lines occupied by the enemy or reached by his fire in 1918, and evacuated before the armistice, was 1,803 miles. By February 1, 1919, a continuous track had been reconstructed along 1,339 miles of this distance or 75 per cent of its length. The rest of these lines will require very important work on account of the bridges, tunnels, etc. On the Nord the British have done the reconstruction work of about 50 per cent of the lines rebuilt. On the Est the American army has restored 62 miles of single track line. Elsewhere the reconstruction has been done by the French army, which has executed about two-thirds of the total work done.
For the final reconstruction work, by March 1, 1919, 190 projects had been approved by the Ministry of Public Works, 132 for the Nord and 58 for the Est. The contractors doing the work were employing about 30,000 laborers at the end of March, not counting the soldiers and the prisoners. Everything is being done to push the work as methodically and rapidly as possible.
The cost of the reconstruction of the lines and buildings alone on the Nord and Est will reach 250 million dollars, and there will be an expense of 180 million dollars more for rolling stock, furniture, machinery, supplies, and neglected upkeep.

Railroads of Local Interest

The operation of the railroads of local interest was completely stopped in the territory occupied by the enemy and also near the line of fire. Sometimes the Germans used these lines for shipments, but everywhere they prevented the civilian population from using them. Often the enemy relocated these lines and changed their gage. Near the trenches he removed the rail and ties to use them as sheathing or props. In a general way the railroads of local interest and the tramways suffered greatly from the occupation, and in retreating the enemy destroyed the greater part of the lines in the region included between the extreme front and the line which he held at the time of signing the armistice.
About 982 miles of these lines were completely destroyed or damaged, that is to say, 60 per cent of the total length of the lines situated in the invaded region. The probable amount of material damage done to the lines in question amounts to at least 83 million dollars, but this figure comes very far from representing the total damage caused to the railroads of local interest and to the tramways.
The first work of repairing the lines had been begun when the German offensive put a stop to it, but it was taken up again as early as the month of October, 1918. This rebuilding of the lines is being done: (1) By the corporations which own them; (2) by the geographical department of France interested, where the corporations only operate the lines; or (3) by the Service of Bridges and Highways acting at the request of the department or the corporations, or on its own initiative. At the present time contracts have been approved, or are being prepared, in all the interested districts, and important projects are already under wray. The biggest ones concern the reconstruction of the lines, from Albert to Doullens, from Albert to Montdidier, from Albert to Ham and to Peronne in the Somme Department, from Chateau-Thierry to Mareuil-sur-Ourcq and from Soissons to Oulchy-Breny in the Aisne; from Dormans to Rheims and to Fismes, and from Rheims to Ambonney, in the Marne; and from Toul to Thiaucourt in the Department of Meurthe-and-Moselle.
The supply of track material, signals, etc., and of rolling stock needed for the reconstruction of tracks of the railroads of local interest and the tramways will be obtained as follows:
1. By drawing on the resources which the Administration of the Ministry of Public Works has on hand, and on the material obtained by recuperation as well as that abandoned by the enemy.
2. By orders placed with French industries for the rest to complete the amount which is needed to restore the railroads. Up to the present time an order for 20,000 metric tons of 52 lb. rail has been placed with French rolling mills.
An office called the Ordering Office has been created for purchases in the open market. This office has authority to pass on contracts and proceed with all acquisitions of stationary equipment and rolling stock in accordance with the general instructions given it by the Minister to whom the contracts are submitted for approval.

A Closer View of the Lifting Apparatus for the Lift Bridge Shown in Fig. 9

The B. S. Type of Bridge Construction Ready for Assembling at the Scene of Operations. It Will Be Noted That the Spans Are Mounted on Trucks, Having Been Hauled to the Bridge Position from the Erecting Plant


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