Gallery N°31 : BB Alsthom (C.F.E. period)

In 1954 the C.F.E. took delivery of 6 Bo-Bo type diesel locomotives rated at 925 hp, built by Alsthom and assembled in Tarbes. Designated BB 01 to 06, they were built to the specifications of OFERFOM, an agency responsible for cooperation between the French African Railway Systems.

Using the same design as the BB 500 delivered to Madagascar in 1953 it was a simple but robust model, weighing 44 tons and equipped with a new and ultimately very successful engine. This engine, the MGO V12 ASHR, produced 925 hp and was to be very long lived. Because of the hilly terrain, however, and the low weight ratio in relation to the power of the engines, the output was reduced to 660 hp by the technicians of the workshop in Dire-Dawa.

These locomotives were not equipped for multiple unit operation. They only acquired this capability in 1969, after extensive research, tests and trials led by the Dire Dawa workshop team of technicians. In order to improve traction, ballast was attached under the chassis to increase the weight.

A complementary series of 3 heavier (48 t) and more powerful locomotives (engine MGO V12 BSHR of 1050 hp, 770 kw) were delivered in 1962. Designated BB11 to 13 they were typical f the French diesel engines used throughout the Railway networks of Africa and Asia at the time.

In 1968 Alsthom's model BB locomotive was updated to incorporate all technical improvements, to brakes, electrical equipment and bogie construction, made across the various networks. This standardised locomotive would become model AD 12 B and was rated at 1200 hp. It paved the way for even bigger changes (AD 16 B, AD 20 B of 2000 hp etc….) with lengthened chassis.

Put into service for the first time on the railway networks of Benin in 1970, the AD 12 B appeared shortly thereafter on the Ethiopian network: powerful, reliable and capable of working as multiple units, four locomotives designated BB1201 to 1204 were delivered in 1972, followed by five locomotives designated BB 1205 to 1209 delivered from 1978 to 1980.


Gallery N°32 : BB Alsthom (C.D.E. period)

Put into service for the first time on the railway networks of Benin in 1970, the AD 12 B appeared shortly thereafter on the Ethiopian network: powerful, reliable and capable of working as multiple units, 6 locomotives designated BB1210 to BB1215 were delivered in 1984.
They would become the main spearhead of the Djibouto-Ethiopian network. But unfortunately they would also become a favourite target in the dark years that followed when Ethiopia was engulfed in wars and attacks. Several engines disappeared. In February 1989, locomotive BB1202 was rebuilt from three damaged ones, thanks to the ingenuity and expertise of the resourceful personnel of the Dire-Dawa workshops.

In 1997 a final purchase was made of 4 second-hand locomotives, 1050, 1055, 1058 and 1060. They were of the "Union Française" type and had been built in 1965 to a metric gauge FEVE for the Spanish Railway, where they were no longer required. This purchase was made by the CFD-Bagnères (65) workshops. They were completely refurbished acquiring a modernised cab, modelled on the AD12, and a Finnish Wärstillä engine, rated at 1050 hp (770 Kw) under licence SACM-MGO UD30V12R4D. These locomotives were designated nos BB1216 to BB1219 and in 2010, stood abandoned in a siding.

BB 1202, 1203, 1204, 1207, 1208, 1211 and 1214 were out of commission. BB 1212 was repaired using the cab of 1203 and BB 1206 was renovated using the cab of 1214. Lack of funds required the ingenuity and goodwill of the technicians of the Dire-Dawa workshops. They scavenged spare parts from damaged machines, and swapped chassis, cabs and engines. Taking into consideration the lack of information, maintenance of locomotives was also rather difficult to undertake.

In 2010, it was still possible to see BB05 and BB06. These locomotives, of 660 hp, were consigned to shunting at Djibouti station and harbour. BB 04, BB 11 and BB13, locomotives of 1050 hp, still pursue their careers shunting at Dire-Dawa station. Their 50 years of service is testimony of their perfect construction: old soldiers never die….

Bibliography about the BB Alsthom :

- James Leray « Autres types récents de machines diesel à voie étroite construites par la société Alsthom » in Revue Chemins de fer n° 209 année 1958
- Robert Fléty « évolution de la traction sur les réseaux d'outre mer … la génèse des BB Alsthom » in Revue d'Histoire des Chemins de Fer n° 7 automne 1992
- La vie du rail Outre Mer notamment n° 136 de Juillet 1965, 210 d'Octobre 1971, 276 de Février 1978 …
- Lluis Prieto Tur « Las Francesas de via estrecha (2a parte) » Monographias del ferrocarril
- Barcelona 2007 ISBN 978-84-931318-4-5 , in spanish but indispensable …
- Martin Van Oostrom "diesel-Elektrishe locomotieven NS-serie 2400" in Dutch.