The Autorails Billard built for the French networks
Below is a particularly detailed and precise study by Mr LE SAULNIER. It is in fact the resumption of a study of billiard railcars which had been started by Mr Bernard Rozé in 1962 in the Secondary Railways n° 51.
The various remarks concerning the factory production of the railcars and trailers
1st - Billiard numbers: these are the manufacturer's numbers written in the book of exits.
2nd - Order dates: this is, in principle, the date of the customer's order.
3rd - Delivery dates: this is the date on which the equipment left the Billiard factory, loaded onto an S.N.C.F. car.
4th - Billiard Designation :
A = Self-propelled or railcar.
Figures (50, 80, 135, etc.) = Engine power in horsepower.
D = Diesel.
E = Gasoline.
The number following the D (from 1 to 8) indicates the successive modifications of the model, modifications due either to a change of engine, a different layout, or a slight difference in the construction of the body.
L = Long.
R = Trailers. Trailers are generally designated according to the type of railcar body to which they correspond. In fact, although all trailers are called R 210, it is an A 80 body that was finally adopted.
To simplify this study, in order to avoid any confusion, we will only indicate the numbers received on user networks.
The first metric railcars
The very first railcars, designed and built by Billard in 1932, were rail coaches, with extended hoods, intended for the Voies Ferrées d'intérêt local, for the Noyon - Guiscard - Lassigny lines. Numbered from 1 to 3, these railcars were ordered on 21-5-1932. They were delivered on the following dates: 16-9-32, 22-9-32 and 8-10-32.
These three railcars, type A 50 D, two-axle, were equipped with a 50 HP CLM diesel engine, and offered 24 seats. They were sold for scrap after the closure of the network.
The 3 following ones, type A 50 DL, n° 10 to 12, were ordered on 5 July 1933 by the V.F.I.L., for the Estrée - Froissy - Crèvecoeur lines, these two-axle railcars were equipped with a 65 HP Unic engine. They were delivered respectively on 01/09/1933, 09/09/1933 and 15/09/1933.
Nos. 10 and 12 were destroyed by the Resistance on 17 April 1944. No. 11 was scrapped when the network closed in 1961.
One of these railcars was tested in 1933 on the northern network of the C.F.D. in Indre-et-Loire.
The six parallel axle railcars above, built on car type chassis with a slightly extended wheelbase, did not have any of the improvements that made the success of the DE DION - particularly light vehicles, with a long wheelbase made possible by the mounting of the front wheels on swivel stub axles allowing good cornering with automatic spring return - or RENAULT SCEMIA - suspension without axle boxes, by long springs equipped with elastic binoculars softening the entry into curves -. It was therefore necessary to seriously improve the manufacturing process and, from that time on, the Maison Billard radically changed its products.
Common features of bogie railcars built from 1935 onwards
In the following enumeration, we will see that, apart from two series of railcars and three trailers ordered by the T.I.V., the C.F.D. were the essential customers of the Etablissements Billard; in fact a constant collaboration united the C.F.D. engineers and the manufacturer's design offices; this is how the courier trailers whose original plans came from the C.F.D. were taken over and modified by Billard and how the first C.F.D. Diesel tractor was built, built in 1939, at the C.F.D. depot workshops in , had a Billard gearbox, with chain drive outputs, of the type used on tractors with 0.60 gauge track.
The new technique, which was decidedly different in design from the first six machines, consisted of bogies with double primary suspension using leaf springs and coil springs and a cross beam supported on long inverted springs that transmit the load by means of inclined arms that ensure progressive return. The lowered body is made remarkably stable by its centre of gravity being lower than the pivots of the trucks and is protected from vibration by the installation of the entire power unit on one of the trucks.
To avoid control difficulties due to the rotation of the bogie, the operation of each of the gearbox joysticks is carried out by means of an individual lever, hence 3 levers plus that of the shuttle for 5-speed gearboxes; these levers operate simultaneously in both driving cabs, which does not present any disadvantages, but the shuttle lever is removable and carried by the driver from one cab to the other to avoid false manoeuvres.
The service brake, which is air-operated and rapid-action, is controlled by a locomotive engineer's valve and is supplemented by a hand brake, the operating wheel of which is located on the console at each driving position; it can be used for descending long slopes to prevent the air brake from being exhausted. An emergency brake, with battery-powered electro-magnetic pads, is installed on the bogies and controlled by a button on each console. This set of brakes is remarkably effective and, when there is nothing to stop them, the railcars can walk at full speed to the station entrance switch and stop for about 100 metres.
A very powerful two-tone air horn is available at each end, controlled by a small 3-position tap lever, but it is also possible to electrically control the horn at the other end.
This original equipment was often modified during the changes; thus, the S.N.C.F. removed the electro-magnetic brakes on the devices purchased for the R.B., the B.A. and the P.O.C.
The non-articulated railcars originally had a radiator only on the engine side; since cooling was sometimes insufficient on certain routes, various modifications were made to the original arrangements, either by installing an additional radiator at the end opposite the engine or by installing an unsightly radiator on the roof.