The following article is posted on Trains e-Newswire..... Restored French 4-8-2 to make inaugural runs Print | Email | Contact Us September 6, 2006 (Philippe Morel) (Philippe Morel) (Philippe Morel) CREUSOT, France - While steam fans in the U.S. will be focusing on the operation of two Chinese 2-10-2s in the Midwest later this month, European steam enthusiasts will be celebrating the return to service of French National Railways 4-8-2 241 P 17. One of the largest French steam locomotives, the engine is owned by the town of Creusot and is returning to main line operation this year after 12 years of restoration. In 1944, just before the end of World War II, the French railways launched a study concerning the resumption of rail traffic after the war ended. The study revealed that locomotives would be needed to pull passenger trains of 800 tons at about 75 mph, which would require the construction of larger steam locomotives. The engines were intended to handle heavy trains on the non-electrified sections of the Paris-Lyon-Marseilles line. On July 6, 1945, the Ministry of Labor authorized the construction of 35 engines and the order was placed on October 3, 1945. The construction of the engines by the Schneider Company in Creusot was delayed until May 1946 because of difficulties related to the end of the war including finding supplies of raw materials. The delivery of the 35 machines was spread out between 1948 and 1952. The P 17 was brought into service on May 10, 1950. They were gradually removed from service between 1965 and 1973. The P 17 was retired in 1969 and moved to Creusot for preservation in 1971. Restoration work began more than a decade ago by the volunteers of the Railroad Association of Creusot. The engine weighs 120 tons and has six-foot diameter driving wheels. The locomotive was successively steamed in November 2005. On April 22-24, 2006, it was steamed for the second time and pulled a trial run along the line to Montchanin and Chagny. After this trial the P 17 received an unrestricted main line operating certificate. A third test run was made as a passenger-carrying trip between Creusot and Nevers on Aug. 27. The train included four passenger cars plus a gondola with extra coal carrying about 400 passengers. It is now the most powerful steam locomotive in operation in Europe. An official inaugural trip is scheduled on Friday, Sept. 15, with P 17 making a Creusot-Dijon round trip. The next day the locomotive will pull a Creusot to Nevers round trip, and on Sunday, September 17 the engine will make three round trips out of Creusot to Chagny, Pond on Arroux, and to Montchanin. Three other 241s are preserved: P 9 at Guîtres in the Gironde, P 16 at the French National Railway Museum in Mulhouse, and P 30 at St. Sulpice, Switzerland.