MTH Electric EST/SNCF Class 241A Locomotives
In the pre-war years the largest locomotives regularly built in France was the 4-8-2 EST Class 241 engine – known as a 1-4-1 axel arrangement in French parlance. Whilst this class could not match the higher profile of the more powerful Chapelon Pacifics as used on the NORD and Paris-Orleans Railways, it nonetheless had many supporters. The original batch of 41 locomotives were built in 1925 for the Eastern Railway (Chemins de Fer de L’Est) but following a series of trials some seven years later they were rebuilt along the Chapelon lines resulting in a considerable increase in power but also matched by a decrease in coal consumption. The extra power was required because express passenger services became heavier. In 1918 French authorities had begun a programme to replace wooden coach panels with new all-steel chassis carriage construction. With improved performance the 241A had improved hill-climbing capabilities for heavy loads on undulating terrain. The locomotive class saw extensive service on EST and ETAT metals and also later in to the SNCF nationalised period. The 241As were robust and lasted into 1960s.
In earlier years, the 241A was an exemplary locomotive and was used for fast passenger express duties in the eastern part of France to the cities of Nancy, Strasbourg and further afield along the main routes into Germany, Switzerland and beyond. The many pan-European luxury train services emerging in the 1920s and 30s required different motive power for the various journey legs; the Class 241A was ideal for this purpose. It could be seen heading the French portion of the Paris – Istanbul Orient Express and also the equally important ‘Edelweiss’, an express train Pullman type service or (Trains de-luxe Pullman) on the heavily used axis route between the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Our MTH Class 241A looks perfect at the head of the Edelweiss that linked Amsterdam to Basel via Antwerp, Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. The Edelweiss was established by CIWL as a direct competitor service to the German run Mitropa ‘Rheingold Express’ which had commenced in May 1928. The competitive spirit between these two high quality express train operators – CIWL Wagon Lits and Mitropa – lasted up until dark clouds blackened Europe in 1939. Some of these continental services were revived after World War II but somehow, they never quite regained the magic and mystery of the inter-war years as the drabness of corporate colours gave way to the uniformity of European nationalised railways. The one exception was in Britain where many new Pullman services were introduced by Southern Railway, LNER and later British Railways.
The MTH Class 241A is a high quality all metal die-cast construction that is superbly engineered covering the French Era II and III periods. Five models ranging from 1931 to post war 1945 cover the time when steam powered locomotives were at their peak of efficiency. In a few short years the era of steam-hauled express train services in France would be a thing of the past as the electrification of SNCF rails took sway. The MTH Class 241A is an extremely detailed 4-8-2 heavy-weight locomotive that almost takes you into the province of fine-scale model engineering but never quite loses its vintage style appeal. This superb locomotive really captures the spirit of inter-war European steam engines and incorporates the following specifications: