Did you know...? #17

Did you know that Cockerill took part in major civil engineering projects, today part of the Unesco heritage? (part 1: the Semmering locomotive)



The Semmering (Austria) railway line, constructed between 1848 and 1854 to enable 41 km of high mountains to be crossed, is considered one of the great feats of civil engineering during the early days of the railways. It is the first mountain route with normal rails to be constructed in Europe. It forms part of the Austrian route from Vienna to Graz. This cultural site has been recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1998.


With a total level change of 459 meters, and sometimes very tight corners, the railway had to be equipped with a totally new type of locomotive. It was engineer Wilhelm von Engerth who conceived the first type of articulated locomotives capable of taking on this challenge. Following an international competition, the construction of these locomotives was mandated to the Cockerill company in 1853.


The Cockerill factories constructed the locomotives made up of two distinct chassis linked by an articulation. The Engerth locomotive comprised a forward chassis with three linked axles, carrying the front part of the boiler along with the engine cylinders, and a rear chassis with two linked axles, carrying the rear of the boiler, the water and fuel containers. Engine power was transmitted to the axles by three gearing units. An ingenious device ensured good gearing whatever the displacement between the chassis.


For work on the flat, it was very easily possible to disengage the rear axle control. During trials on the slopes of Ans, combustion reached, without difficulty, the incredible figure of 1110 kg per square meter of grill, per hour. Many of these locomotives, later transformed for shunting use, were in service for more than 80 years.