In 1945 the French railways (SNCF) were in very poor condition following six years of war. Huge numbers of locomotives had been destroyed. There was a desperate need for a large fleet of new engines to aid the post-war recovery effort. With French industry so badly damaged, it was decided to look to America to provide this new motive power and a team of SNCF engineers visited the United States to agree specifications.

What emerged was the 141R class. Based on an existing American Mikado design but substantially modified for European use, these two cylinder simple expansion locomotives were an immediate success because of their rugged construction, low maintenance and immense power.

Both coal and oil burning versions were produced and it took four American locomotive builders to fulfil the orders. The Lima, Baldwin, Alco and Montreal loco factories all worked flat out and by 1948 the fleet was complete (except for 12, which ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic when the ship carrying them sank).

Only 6 remain in working order and Switzerland is fortunate to have two of them: the magnificent oil-fired 1244 owned by the Mikado Association and its elder brother the coal fired 568. 141R 568 is based in Schaffhausen, north of Zurich.