Heilmann locomotive

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The Heilmann locomotives were a series of three experimental Electric-steam locomotives produced in the 1890s for the French Chemins de Fer de l'Ouest (CF de l'Ouest). A prototype was built in 1894 and two larger locomotives were built in 1897. These locomotives can be considered the ancestors of diesel-electric locomotives, and other self powered locomotives which use an electric transmission.

La Fusée Electrique[edit]

La Fusée Electrique
Type and origin
Power type Steam-electric
Designer Jean Jacques Heilmann (fr)
Builder Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée
Build date 1892-1893
Total produced 1
UIC class Do'Do'
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)*
Wheel diameter 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in)
Length 16.5 m (54 ft 2 in) (frame)
Loco weight 100 t (98 long tons) (empty)
Fuel type coal
Fuel capacity 6 t (5.9 long tons)
Water cap 12,000 l (2,600 imp gal)
Traction motors Eight axle mounted motors of 80 to 100 CV (59 to 74 kW)
 • Firegrate area
2.25 m2 (24.2 sq ft)
Boiler pressure 12.6 atm (185 lbf/in2)
Heating surface:
 • Tubes
145 m2 (1,560 sq ft)
Cylinders 2
High-pressure cylinder 425 mm × 300 mm (16.7 in × 11.8 in)
Low-pressure cylinder 650 mm × 300 mm (26 in × 12 in)
Loco brake Air, disc brakes on wheels
Performance figures
Maximum speed 107 km/h (66 mph)*
Sources :[1][2][3] except *

In 1890 Jean Jacques Heilmann (fr) registered a patent (France №. 207055) for a self powered electric vehicle; the design was intended to eliminate the unbalanced oscillatory moments and "hammer blow" caused by the cranked action of a conventional mechanical steam locomotive.[4] His design used a balanced steam engine to drive the locomotive via an electrical transmission (an electrical generator driving electric motors via controlling rheostats and switches).[5] Heilmann wished to create a machine specifically suited for high-speed trains without the high costs of an electrified infrastructure. His earliest design was of a trainset consisting of a vehicle with a triple expansion steam engine (of 600 hp.[n 1]) and generator (providing 480 hp @ 80% expected efficiency), a tender and three carriages. The entire train was to run on bogies, and use a distributed traction system provided by 12 axle-mounted electric motors in the three carriages.[6]

The first real locomotive built to Heilmann's design was a prototype steam-electric locomotive, with boiler, steam engine, generator and motors built into a single locomotive; construction began in 1892 and was complete in August 1893,[1] and named Fusée (also known as La Fusée Électrique;[4] English: The Electric Rocket),[7] a reference to the 1830 Stephenson locomotive "Rocket".[8]

The steam engine (designed by Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works (SLM) at Winterthur, Switzerland.[7]) and boiler were built at the Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée in Le Havre, the electrical equipment was designed and built at Brown, Boveri & Compagnie of Baden, Switzerland, whilst the locomotive frame and bogies were built at the Compagnie de Materiel de Chemins de Fer.[9]

The locomotive had a 600 to 800 metric horsepower (440 to 590 kW)[n 1] (@ 300 to 400 rpm) two-cylinder horizontal compound steam engine with transversely mounted cylinders of 425 millimetres (16.7 in) and 650 millimetres (26 in) diameter by 300 mm (1145 in) stroke. It was supplied with steam by a Lentz-type boiler, operating at a pressure of 12.6 standard atmospheres (185 lbf/in2).[1] The engine had a fixed cutoff with no reversing mechanism, and no speed governor excluding a centrifugal overspeed safety device.[2] The firebox was of a stayless corrugated type.[7] It had a grate area of 2.25 square metres (24.2 sq ft). The boiler had a total surface area of 145 square metres (1,560 sq ft).[1]

The steam engine drove directly a direct current dynamo,[7] rated at approximately 500 kW (1200A @ 400V); it was a six pole machine with the armature constructed on the Gramme dynamo principle with six brushes.[10] The generator's field coils were energised by a separate bipolar dynamo capable of generating 100A at 100V (10 kilowatts (13 hp)), which was directly driven at approximately 300rpm by a 20 CV two cylinder vertical compound steam engine of similar design to the main engine. This secondary generator's output was also used to provide a supply for electric lighting in carriages.[10]

Electric speed and load control was obtained by reducing the main generator's field excitation current coming from the 10 kilowatts (13 hp) dynamo using a twelve step drum rheostat.[n 2] The eight traction motors were connected in parallel; for low speed control the motors could be series connected in two sets of four connected in parallel.[10][n 3]

The motors were located in two four-axle bogies,[7] with wheelset having a sealed axle mounted 80 to 100 metric horsepower (59 to 74 kW) electric motor;[3] giving a Do-Do wheel arrangement. Braking was by Westinghouse air brakes, with disc brakes fitted on all wheels.[7] The locomotive was a cab forward design.[5]

The first official tests of the locomotive began on 2 February 1894; performing a return working from Le Havre to Bréauté-Beuzeville (on the Paris–Le Havre railway), chosen for its difficult gradients including a 8 per mille (1 in 125) gradient over more than 10 kilometres (6.2 mi). The test train consisted of the locomotive (fully fueled to 118 tonnes), four new first class carriages, a dynamometer car, and two vans containing one tonne of batteries between them; the total train weight was 173 to 183 tonnes, depending on passenger levels. Speeds were increased over subsequent runs: the first run average 51.5 kilometres per hour (32.0 mph), on the fourth run the average speed was 59.4 kilometres per hour (36.9 mph), with speeds of 55 kilometres per hour (34 mph) on the 8‰ slopes, and 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph) on level track.[11]

On 9 May 1894, La Fusée Electrique made a trial run from Saint-Lazare station, Paris to Mantes-la-Jolie, hauling a train consisting eight carriages.[12] The 53 kilometres (33 mi) journey took 55 minutes.[13] A speed of 107 kilometres per hour (66 mph) was reported to have been achieved.[5] Following the test run, the locomotive hauled a regular service train back to Paris.[13] Trials showed that the engine used 15% less coal than a conventional steam engine. The locomotive was said to ride "like a Pullman carriage." Criticisms of the locomotive were that it was "too complicated, too costly, too heavy". These same arguments would be repeated with the introduction of main-line diesel-electric locomotives some half a century later.[7] The locomotive completed around 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) of test runs. Two larger locomotives were ordered for further trials on the CF de l'Ouest.[5] La Fusée Electrique had been dismantled by 1897, with the bogies being used for two 0-8-0 electric locomotives which were employed on the 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) underground railway between Saint-Germain Ouest and Grande-Ceinture.[7][14]

A 110 scale model of the prototype locomotive made in 1903 is in the collection of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris, donated by Heilmann.[5][15]

CF de l'Ouest 8001 and 8002[edit]

CF de l'Ouest Nos 8001 and 8002
Type and origin
Power type Steam-electric
Designer Jean Jacques Heilmann
Builder Société Industriel de Moteurs Electrique et à Vapeur
Serial number 8001, 8002
Build date 1897
Total produced 2
UIC class Do'Do'
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Driver dia. 1,160 mm (3 ft 10 in)
Length 28.35 m (93 ft 0 in)
Width 2.74 m (9 ft 0 in)
Height 4.19 m (13 ft 9 in)
Loco weight 124 t (122 long tons)
Water cap 20,000 l (4,400 imp gal)
Boiler pressure 14 atm (210 lbf/in2)
Heating surface 185.50 m2 (1,996.7 sq ft)
 • Firebox 3.34 m2 (36.0 sq ft)
Number in class 2

In 1897, two larger locomotives were built. They were numbered 8001 and 8002. The locomotives had standard Belpaire fireboxes,[7] with a grate area of 3.34 square metres (36.0 sq ft).[5] The steam engines were built by Willans & Robinson, Rugby, Warwickshire, United Kingdom.[7] The boiler had a heating area of 185.50 square metres (1,996.7 sq ft) and worked at a pressure of 14 standard atmospheres (210 lbf/in2). The locomotive weighed 124 tonnes (122 long tons). The driving wheels were arranged in two four-axle bogies as per La Fusée. They had a diameter of 1,160 millimetres (3 ft 10 in).[5] The locomotives were 28.35 metres (93 ft 0 in) long, 2.74 metres (9 ft 0 in) wide and 4.19 metres (13 ft 9 in) high.[16] Water capacity was 20,000 litres (4,400 imp gal).[5]

On 12 November 1897, a test run was made between the Saint-Lazare, Paris and Mantes-la-Jolie and return.[17] On 18 November 1897, a 115-kilometre (71 mi) test run was made with speeds kept down to 30 kilometres per hour (19 mph) hauling a 50-tonne (49-long-ton) load. On a later run hauling a 250-tonne (250-long-ton) load, a speed of 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) was attained.[5]

Although other railway companies, such as the Ohio River, Madison & Southern Railway in the United States and the Southern Railway in Russia, as well as at least one from Germany, showed interest in steam-electric locomotives,[5] the two locomotives suffered the same fate as their predecessor. They were the ancestors of diesel-electric, and those gas turbine and steam turbine locomotives which use an electric transmission.[7] When one of the first diesel-electric locomotives was reported in 1905, the Automotor Journal stated it appears to be something on the Heilmann principle, that is to say the engine is employed to operate a dynamo which in turn supplies electric current to motors geared to the driving wheels.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The horsepower figure is given as chevaux and likely to be metric horsepower, which is ~736W, and not the figure for mechanical horsepower of 746W.
  2. ^ The method of speed control by controlling the generator field excitation (magnetic field in the main generator) is also used in the Ward Leonard motor control system
  3. ^ Ch. Jacquin (1894), "La locomotive électrique Heilmann", p.366, "On se contente de coupler, suivant les besoins, les 8 moteurs electriques soit tous en tension, soit en quantité en 2 groupes de 4 en tension".


  1. ^ a b c d Ch. Jacquin (1894), "La locomotive électrique Heilmann", pp.361-364
  2. ^ a b Ch. Jacquin (1894), "La locomotive électrique Heilmann", pp.364-365
  3. ^ a b Ch. Jacquin (1894), "La locomotive électrique Heilmann", pp.367-368
  4. ^ a b "Locomotive thermo-électrique dite la fusée électrique, in the inventory of railway heritage". www.culture.gouv.fr (in French). Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The Heilmann Locomotive". Douglas Self. Retrieved 22 August 2011. 
  6. ^ J.-J. Heilmann (1891), "Un nouveau chemin de fer électrique", Séance du 20 Février 1891 p.105-106
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Rutherford, Michael. "Export or Die! British Diesel-Electric Manufacturers and Modernisation. Part One: Roots" (PDF). Backtrack. Easingwold: Pendragon Publishing (January 2008): 52–60. 
  8. ^ E. Hospitalier (1897), "Nouvelle locomotive électrique de M. J.-J. Heilmann", p.19
  9. ^ Michael C. Duffy (2003), p.43
  10. ^ a b c Ch. Jacquin (1894), "La locomotive électrique Heilmann", pp.365-367
  11. ^ Ch. Jacquin (1894), "La locomotive électrique Heilmann", 470-471, see also M.F. Drouin (1896), Les Locomotives Électriques (Système J.-J. Heilmann), Plate 170, Fig. 5 : line gradients
  12. ^ Sources:
  13. ^ a b "Our London Correspondence". Glasgow Herald (112). 10 May 1894. p. 3. 
  14. ^ "The Locomotive of the Future". The Pall Mall Gazette (9928). 20 January 1897. p. 3. 
  15. ^ Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (1905), "Locomotion et Transports : Locomotives", Catalogue des collections : Premier fascicule : Mécanique, E. Bernard, p. 392  , (alternative link)
  16. ^ "Shipbuilding and Engineering". Glasgow Herald (247). 15 October 1897. p. 7. 
  17. ^ "France". The Morning Post (39138). 13 November 1897. p. 5. 
  18. ^ "The Diesel Engine in a New Sphere", The Automotor and Horseless Carriage Journal, 4 March 1905, p275


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