The original BB9003 before the number was changed to reflect the world record holder BB9004. Note the early non-reversible couplings.
Photo Courtesy of Christian Toursel
Less powerful, but longer than the BB 9001 and 9002 of Swiss design, the BB9003 and 9004 locomotives were built by the MTE group (Matériel de Traction Électrique) in 1952. Their innovative aesthetics emphasised their body with their aerodynamic shaped ends which was desirable for high speed running. In spite of their maximum speed limited of 140 km/h (85 mile/h) when hauling passenger and freight trains on the Paris-Lyon route, one of the two locomotives was destined to propel SNCF to the forefront of the international railway scene. In 1955, the day after CC7107attained the rail world speed record BB9004 took its turn on March 29, on the famous des Landes line and reached the same speed as Alsthom’s CC7100 i.e. 331 km/h.
BB 9003 was the first locomotive in the world to undertake remote-control operation on the line connecting Paris and Le Mans. After the test running, these robust locomotives often appeared in the locomotive roster of Paris Charolais depot and continued to haul passenger and freight trains between Paris and Lyon alongside the CC7100’s, BB8100’s and 2D2 9100’s. Their re-allocation to Montrouge depot was completed in 1958 after which they operated between Paris-Montparnasse and Le Mans. They ended up in the south-east of France following transfer to Villeneuve depot and they hauled slow trains between Laroche and Sens and even some express trains to Dijon or Lyon. Their last depot was Avignon from where they hauled freight transfer trains between the yards at Doors lès Valence and Miramas.
In 1973, their withdrawal was announced, BB 9004 being preserved in its original condition at the Mulhouse Railway Museum (it is actually BB 9003 fitted with the bogies and the plates withBB9004). The life of these two engines was long, they were around when the BB9200’s were built in 1957 and also the BB16000’s in 1958. After this date other locomotives left the factories of MTE in the shape of the BB 9300, BB 25100 and 25200, the last example of a Jacquemin locomotive being delivered in 1977. Obviously, the evolution of technologies made it possible to fit various innovations to the MTE machines in particular the replacement of the Athermos axle boxes by roller bearing boxes, the installation of rheostatic brakes and later the installation of standard driver’s desks inspired by the CC6500’s on the BB 9300, 25100 and 25200. In this third millenium, nearly thirty years after the withdrawal of BB9003 and 9004, the great family of the Jacquemin locos continues to operate on the French railway network.
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