Sauver the 3.628

Posted in SNCF, Trains by Deputy city editor on November 6, 2007

© Chris Ludlow

Normally I would forbear from mentioning it, but Chris Ludlow, French based train painter, leading Anglo-European train spotter, proud geek, anorak owner, tells me that for two decades, a treasure of French national significance has been stored in England, and is now in danger of going to the scrapheap. His picture of this exact engine is above. Ex-Nord Railway steam locomotive of SNCF class 230D was once owned by the Science Museum in London – even the British considered it a significant example of steam locomotive engineering – but was sold to an individual in the 1980’s. For some time, it was kept in working order at the Nene Valley Railway, a tourist line in the middle of England, but has recently languished in the open air, and is literally rusting away.

Now, its owner has put it up for sale – on Ebay! Quelle horreur! Quelle honte! Mr Ludlow notes that another example of this class exists in the French railway museum at Mulhouse, but this is never likely to operate again. The hope for no.3.628, which once hauled expresses from Paris Nord to Beauvais, Calais and Lille, is that it could be repatriated to France and restored to working order. Indeed, it should be classified as a national treasure and be supported in the manner of other patrimoine.

However, while it languishes in England and its condition rapidly deteriorates, this hope seems distant. So far, no support seems to be forthcoming in France, other than expressions of regret. There will be many more expressions of regret if we allow this beautiful and significant example of French engineering patrimoine to rot away in a foreign country.

Will Ludlow and his friends save the 3.628? My views on trains are plain. I am for tearing up the rails. But of course, it is my secret shame that I have a soft spot for steam trains. Apparently everybody does. I would buy it myself and put it in the garden but Mrs Miller is bound to notice. So an effort is going to be made to repatriate the engine and restore it to working condition, if a hospitable French railway association can be found.

I throw in my lot with Ludlow. No jokes about Germinal. Sauvez le loco!*

My normal hatred for trains is expressed here.

A version of this story in French is at Sauve Qui Peut.

* Ceci n’est pas un jeu des mots.


6 Responses

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  1. […] that the train geeks can play with old train sets. This blog strongly supports the effort to rescue 3.628, a French built Paris-Calais locomotive rusting in Britain, that surely deserving a grander […]

  2. Chris Randall said, on February 1, 2008 at 1:19 pm


    As the owner of the Nord Compound Locomotive 230D116 (Nord 3,628) I would like to put the record straight. I bought the loco from the NRM in 1994. Prvious to this it was owned by a group of individuals who were responsible for saving it from ascrapping in France. The last time it sateamed was in 1988 at the NVR. I have tried for many years to find the resources to repair and run the loco in the UK and latterly, an effort was made, in association with the SNCF Society, to have it repatriated. Sadly this project failed as we could not raise the necessary finance for transport to France. The thinking behind the Ebay entry was to highlight the plight of the loco and to find someone to help with its restoration. I was astonished at the response and I have never seen sop many hits for an Ebay item and so many reistered watchers. I never really intended to sell the engine but thankfully I have received many enquiries from both sides of the channel and I am in negotions with several parties regarding its future.

  3. Jonathan Miller said, on February 14, 2008 at 10:09 am

    I thank Mr Randall for this valuable comment.

  4. Mike Watts said, on July 22, 2008 at 11:08 am

    As a working member of the Nene Valley Railway, I am really happy that progress is being made to get the Old Lady back to her own running grounds in France.
    I am a Fireman on the Railway and learnt how to fire a steam engine on the footplate of this engine.
    She ran like a sewing machine and sounded fantastic.
    She also polished up well in the brown livery that we ran her in. The Brown is much better than the Black.
    Best wishes to all of you who are getting her back to working order.

  5. Kevin said, on May 14, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I saw this loco at Poole docks on 13 May 2009 on the back of a low-loader, minus its tender. It boarded the ferry to Cherbourg that afternoon.

  6. mike rennie said, on July 4, 2010 at 10:19 am

    so pleased this loco is in safe hands..its an absolute gem..cant wait to get to see it run again.

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