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231 Classes
4-6-2/ 2-3-1 Wheel Arrangement Steam Locomotives.
Super 231
Above: SACM 4-6-2 'Super Pacific' no 231-531 prepares to leave Hà Nội Depot on 15 February 1977 to take one of several special trains laid on for Tết (Vietnamese New Year) This locomotive is not listed in Trains 1968 southern list so must have been in the north. It also does not appear on the 1980's lists so is either in Saigon or has gone to the great locomotive shed in the sky.
There appear to have been four classes of 4-6-2 Pacific type steam locomotives used in Vietnam.

 The photo below was apparently taken in 1993 of 231-534 in Hanoi Yard. There is a  family resemblance to the 141 and 230 classes (particularly the 141/ZL class) The 231-501's and the French 141's were both built by SACM and some parts including the boiler were common to both classes.

J.D.H. Smith on his website 'Main Street' lists 3 different 4-6-2 steam locomotives in Vietnamese service: 231-301, 231-401, and 231-501 (first member of class listed) and lists them as in service with Chemin de Fer l'Indochine.  Mister Smith also lists the 231-A-001 class. These seem to have been simply a further order of 231-501's.

231-301 Class
The German document lists the following locomotives as still on the scrap road in Hanoi in the late 1980's. All built by SACM:
231-302, 309.

The source document for this information describes a class 231.3 built by SACM in 1932. This seems odd as CFI numbering seems to be in chronological order, so one would imagine 231-301 class coming before 231-401 class.

No 231-301 class machines are listed on the Trains Magazine listing so either all the ones on the south  had been scrapped by 1968 or the only ones surviving (302 and 309?) were in the north.

231-401 Class
According to Trains Magazine, these locomotives were built by Hanomag (Hannoversche Maschinenfabrik) in Hanover, Germany, and were delivered as part of WWI war reparations in 1930. According to the book "The Railways of Thailand" by R. Raemart they were very similar to a number of 3 cylinder 4-6-2's supplied to the Royal Siam Railway (RSR) in 1928-29 from the same manufacturer, though they only had 2 cylinders. They have the same size driving wheels for example (1370 mm).

By the late 1960's only 3 survived in the south, 402, 403 and 405, and of these 402 and 403 were located at Di An and described as "junk" while 405 was located at Muong Man and "servicable". They weighed 124,400 lbs and developed 17,270 lbs of tractive effort.

231-501 Class

It would appear that locomotives of this type were built between 1938 and 1939 by SACM ( Société Alsacienne de Construction Mecaniques in France)  The last operating locomotive was 231-524 which was spotted doing some shunting in Hanoi yard in 1987.  There were also two machines on the scrap road at Nha Trang spotted in October of the same year. There is also a very fuzzy photo of 231-534 working around Hanoi station on 14 January 1989 (is the 231-524 number a mistake? Maybe 524 and 534 are actually the same locomotive?) The large photo above is of 534 on the scrap road in 1993, so maybe it was the last operating machine.I have translated a document which appeared on the Vietnam Railways Forum and was in German.(I used Google translate)

These locomotives were delivered as oil burners and weighed in at 132,440 lbs while developing 20,856 lbs of tractive effort.

The document also suggests that the SACM builder's number for 534 could be 7771 but isn't completely sure.

The German document lists the following locomotives as still on the scrap road in Hanoi in the late 1980's. All built by SACM:

231-302, 309, 524, 525,527,528,529,530,533 and 534.

Trains Magazine lists the following locomotives in the south in 1968:

501, 505, 506, 507, 525, 534, 537 and 545 so it would seem that there were at least 45 members of this class..

In the fuzzy colour screen grabs below we see 231-515 as part of national celebrations in the north, presumably in 1954. I have a copy of this interesting video which initially shows what appears to be 141-A-102  starting on a journey covered with people celebrating. Somehow it changes into 231-515 yet the people standing on the front appear to remain the same!

The photo above shows 231-538 with a French soldier balanced on the buffer beam. Presumably taken some time in the late 40's or early 50's.

Above: This fuzzy screen grab seems to be showing an unknown 231 class (note smaller tender than 141 class) in French service paerhaps in the early 1950's. The film depicts various steam hauled trains some with military style protection.

These locomotives were built by SACM in 1948/49 and appear to be identical to the 231-501 locomotives listed above.
231-A-003, 231-A-006 at Nha Trang Depot October 1987.

During some 'Net Surfing' I came across these three fascinating photos of 231 class in "knocked down" condition being off loaded at Saigon port. The photos are dated 1947. They are being unloaded from the ship "MV Bir-Hakeim" in May 1947.A close look at the frame in the first photo seems to show "Loc. 536 Saigon". So it would appear that at least some of the 231-501 class where delivered after the war. Perhaps the war interrupted delivery of the 1938-39 order?

231 class offloaded231 offloaded2
231 offloaded3

Thap Cham Images

The following images appear to be of 231 class 4-6-2 locomotives taken at Thap Cham north of Saigon in the 1960's, so under southern system control.
231 classThapCham01



Cambodian 231 Class

There is also a suggestion that similar if not identical locomotives were delivered to the metre gauge system in Cambodia. Two machines were noted in Phnom Penh in the 1970's numbered 231-502 and 509 and there are photos of 501 (see below) which seem to fit into the same number series. As the French viewed the area as Indochina it may be that the locomotives were purchased in one batch then allocated to different parts of the Indochina network.

These are some  photos of some of the Cambodian Machines. There are minor detail differences and different placement of some air tanks etc but there is a definite similarity.




Locomotive Classifications
Steam Locomotives generally used the traditional French classification system. A steam locomotive with a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement is classified as 141 class, a locomotive with  4-6-2 wheel arrangement is classified as 231 class etc. Pretty straight forward, except what did  if two classes had a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement I'm not sure. It didn't happen so wasn't a problem?

Diesel locomotives have a completely dfferent clasification system.

All diesel classes start with the letter 'D'  (for diesel?) then a number which I believe is related to the locomotives  power output. The third character defines  Electric' (E) or hydraulic  (H).

e.g. D5H class = Diesel + 500 hp + hydraulic.

Again, what happens if two classes are the same I don't know.

I am still investigating pre 1975 classifications. Some are the same e.g. 141 steam class, and some are different e.g. 'BB' class instead of D9E.

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