A historical overview of the billiard establishments in Tours

A historical overview of the billiard establishments in Tours

by Jean METZ

The following note by Mr. METZ allows us to situate what BILLARD ESTABLISHMENTS were

Access to our range of railcars

The birth of the Billard workshop

It was in January 1920 that Mr. Billard founded the mechanical workshop that bore his name. The considerable development of the combustion engine during the 1914-1918 war had made him think that it was possible to foresee its application in the railway field.

The first Billiard productions

Given the low power of the engines at the time, the Billiard House began to build motorized tractors to pull the luggage carts from the stations. These tractors, with three or four wheels, produced in large numbers, were generally equipped with Ballot engines or Ruby engines, powered by gasoline.

At the same time, as the track department needed equipment for transporting crews and for inspection, the Billard firm created a model of draisines equipped with the same gasoline engines. These first applications quickly became so important that the original workshop established at 21 rue du Rempart was doubled by a second one on rue Robespierre, a workshop where all the manufacturing was grouped together in 1934. These were the former workshops of the State network (primitive network of the Vendée). Currently the site is occupied by the restaurant and the university city of Tours.

The manufacture of billiard railcars

As the combustion engine and diesel engine saw their power increase, as well as their regularity of operation, the Billiard House, developing its products, became interested in the construction of narrow gauge and normal gauge railcars . This manufacture began to leave the factory during the years 1932-33. At the same time, as the market for railcars was already being prospected abroad, the railcars followed the same commercial path. In 1936-37, the Billard company also built Michelines as a subcontractor.

Another narrow-gauge department was created in the 1930s: the 0.60 m track locomotives for the army, industry or quarries. An important series was ordered in 1939 from the Etablissements Billard, by the French military engineers, in the well-known type of the T 75 D tractor. This series was continued under the occupation, the Todt organization having taken over the engineer's orders. Until 1950, more than 200 T 75 tractors came out of the billiard workshops.

At the end of the war, the Etablissements Billard became interested in normal gauge, 2-axle railcars, and it was there that the first F.N.C. and the head of series of C.F.D. railcars No. 900 were built.

After having supplied a number of railcars and a large number of two-axle trailers to the S.N.C.F. (series 9201 to 9240 and 9533 to 9563), Billard delivered, from 1958 to 1961, a very important series of locomotives, again to the S.N.C.F. (series Y 7.101 to 7.230).

From 1950 onwards, the decline of the French secondary networks led to a drop in the manufacture of railcars for France but, on the other hand, Billard built a certain number of these machines for the networks of the various overseas countries or abroad. As a subcontractor with Soulé, he also produced a good series of bogie cars for these same networks, cars whose plans had been studied and developed, around 1955, by the O.F.E.R.O.M.

The Billiard House also proceeded with the modernisation of the Greek rack railway from Diakofto to Kalavrita, in the Peloponnese, by mounting a generator set on a 2-axle chassis, located between two electric passenger railcars. As this line had a low axle load, it was not possible to mount the diesel and electric transmission on the same vehicle.

The resumption of billiard manufacture

Faced with the development of manufacturing, the State workshops proved to be too small, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the urbanisation plans for Tours foresaw their disappearance to make way for a residential area. Around 1960, it was therefore envisaged to transfer the Etablissements Billard to another location , in this case the former foundry of the P.O., then of the S.N.C.F. in Saint-Pierre-des-Corps. This move, planned for 1964, did not take place because of financial difficulties which led to a legal settlement of the firm, when a series of railcars for the Franco-Ethiopian railway were completed. Manufacturing stopped on September 30, 1964.

After this date, Billard's production was resumed:

- On the one hand, by Etablissements Soulé, in Bagnères-de-Bigorre, for normal track vehicles;

- On the other hand, by the SOCOFER Company, in Tours, for narrow or normal track equipment. SOCOFER thus continues in Tours, the railway construction which started more than a century ago with the workshops of the P.O

source : Regional and Urban Railways 108 1971-VI

Related Articles

CFD rolling stock

The composition of the equipment

The general composition of the rolling stock only concerns the equipment orde...

CFD rolling stock

C.F.D.'s Light Railcars

(Departmental Railways)

The term "light railcar" must be associated with a questioning of a number of...

C.F.D.'s Light Railcars

Light railcars for normal, low-traffic lanes

By M. ZENS, Director of the Cie des Chemins de Fer départementaux published in the Industrie des Voies Ferrées et Transports Automobiles - September 1947

"The issue of rural transport is one of the most important problems for our c...

Light railcars for normal, low-traffic lanes
Contact us