Main characteristics of CC 6500 electric locomotives

Symbol of elegance, thanks to talented designer Paul Arzens, speed and power, CC6500 series locomotives have been put in service from the late sixties. They mark the culmination of classic electromechanical technology applied to high speed electric locomotives.

Due to their imposing look (more than 20 m / 66 ft long), their duties on most prestigious French trains (Capitole, Aquitaine, Mistral, ….), their technical characteristics (200 km/h / 125 mph maximum speed, 8000 BHP, 115 to 118 metric tons…), these locomotives have carried French National Railway image before TGV high speed train took over this role. In 1999, when all locomotives were redistributed by activities, all CC6500 were transferred to freight activity, in which they gave excellent service thanks to their power and their lower gear ratio for lower speeds.

The 74 CC 6500 locomotives were put into service between 1969 and 1975, and are divided in three sub-series.

They were joined in 1995/96 by 4 CC21000 transformed into CC6500, becoming CC6575 to 6578.

CC 6501 à 6538

Often named as « South-West », they have particularly illustrated themselves on the « Capitole » train from Paris to Toulouse, as well as the « Aquitaine » from Paris to Bordeaux. These locomotives were operated at 200 Km/h / 125 mph. They can be easily recognized to their horizontal ventilation louvers.

CC 6534 is seen here at Marseille-Saint Charles station.

(Photo Pierre Chavernac)

CC 6539 à 6559

Known as « Maurienne », they were destined to replace ageing former PLM electric locomotives used in the Maurienne valley of French Alps. Their power as well as their gear box blocked on the 100 km/h ratio made them very performing for such kind of mission. On the first years of their career, they were equipped with shoes to pick-up 1500 V DC current on a third rail. Their austere aspect was made of dark green with white strips. When Maurienne valley line was equipped with overhead wires, their operation was aligned with other CC6500 subseries.

(Photo Pierre Chavernac)

CC 6560 à 6574

Often named as « South-East », these locomotives were mainly used on South-East region and have hauled all express trains of this area and also the « Rhodanien », the « Mistral » or the « Lyonnais » until TGV took over. Also wearing the red and orange livery, they can be recognized to their vertical stainless steel ventilation louvers.

Preserved CC 6570 is part of this subseries.

(Photo Pierre Chavernac)

Former CC 21000
CC 6575 à 6578

In 1995/96, the four CC 21000 able to operate on both 1500V DC and 25000V AC currents, and attributed to Dijon depot have been transformed in CC6500 by Oullins overhaul works to be used only on 1500V DC and attributed to Venissieux depot. :
- CC 21001 became 6575 in December 1996 ;
- CC 21002 became 6576 in December 1995 ;
- CC 21003 became 6577 in July 1995 ;
- CC 21004 became 6578 in October 1996.

(Photo Pierre Chavernac)




Manufacturers :

Alsthom : Body, electric motors, electric equipments
MTE : bogies, central block of equipments and  transformer

Years of manufacturing :

1969 to 1975

Overall length:
20,19 meters / 66.24 ft
115 metric tons
Continuous power :
5 900 Kw / 8000 BHP
Maximum operating speed :

100 Km/h / 62 mph (lower gear ratio) 200 Km/h / 125 mph (higher gear ratio)

Voltage :
1 500 volts DC




In order to standardize and simplify studies, CC6500 body is very similar to class CC72000 diesel locomotives, showing a power of 2650 kW and put into service from 1968. Body is made of two trusses linked by cross bars at the bottom and roof beams on top. Both ends are equipped with shield to protect the staff in the event of a collision.

Both driving cabs are soundproof and equipped with functional control panel and heating systems. Their depth is reduced which did not allow fitting a more comfortable fix and adjustable seat like on more recent BB7236 and following for instance.

Front windows are inclined to reduce glare. Glasses are 23 mm thick and equipped with washers.


Excellent results obtained on class CC40100 locomotives in terms of stability at high speeds since 1964, have encourage CC6500 designers to go further ahead in this direction. As a consequence, the CC6500 have received three axles single motor bogies (C type) derived from those of the 4 currents CC40100 in service on Northern lines. Each bogie is equipped with a TTB665 self-ventilated motor with double armature.

Bogie consists in a tubular frame in thick steel sheet with crossbars, which carries motor and transmission casing. Transversally mounted motor drives a gear system which transmits the effort to the reducer via a Citroën flexible coupling. Reducer transmits the effort to axles via a cardan transmission.
Each bogie is linked to the body by two traction bars.


1°) Primary suspension

Primary suspension between axles and bogie is made by coil springs resting upon bracketson each side of axles bearings boxes. Movements of this suspension are dampened by shock absorbers.

Vertical dampening of the suspension is made by 6 friction shock absorbers mounted between  axles bearings boxes and bogie frame.

2°) Secondary suspension

Body rests on bogie frame via 4 « sandwich » rubber blocks.These blocks meets the 3 functions of a pendular suspension :
- Vertical support ;
- Transversal link ;
- Rotation control.

In addition two anti-yaw dampers link the bogie with the body.

Below is a picture of a CC 6500 bogie. It is freshly painted which allows observing all suspension elements.
(Photo Fabrice Douhet).


Transmission of motor effort to the axles is made through 14 gears allowing use of the locomotive at two different maximum speed thanks to the two different ratios of the reducer.

Lubrication of this transmission requires 6 oil pumps driven by intermediate gears. Pumps take the oil in the bogie side frame and direct it to parts needing lubrication via a piping system.

Oil pumps PH1, PH3 et PH5 correspond to bogie 1.
Oil pumps PH2, PH4 et PH6 correspond to bogie 2.

Their operation is controlled by 6 luminescent pictograms (PH) which must turn off soon after locomotive starts. Two pictograms are red, other four are yellow (See panel picture below).

Reducer :

Each bogie includes a 2 ratios reducer. Shift is done manually while locomotive is stopped with brakes on and main circuit breaker open.

Reducers shift is done in the inside corridor by opening a door giving access to their control.

Locking device is acted by a crank. Index on V (Locked) is taken to D (Unlocked). The same crank is used to act on the reducer changing ration system to bring it on wanted position PV (low speed) or GV (high speed):
- 23 teeth gear on PV which gives a ratio of 2.864 for 100 km/h / 62 mph max speed ;
- 39 teeth gear on GVwhich gives a ratio of 1,314 for 220 km/h / 137 mph max speed.

A neutral position (PM) exists and is used is some cases mentioned in the instruction manual.

A large lever wrench is used to rotate motor rotor to position gears.

Transmission from reducer to bogie :

This transmission is "CARDAN" type with hollow shaft. While “Jacquemin” transmission transmits the effort to the driving gear with a single hollow shaft, on CC6500 locomotives, transmission uses two hollow shafts thus giving great transmission of the effort and traction flexibility.


CC 6500 have one piece wheels, external bearing boxes which requires well visible shunts on bogie side for current return.Axles boxes are equipped with overheat sensors (vigithermes) ;In case of overheating, a red pictogram lights up on the panel.

Bogie of a CC 6500 equipped with its TTB 665 motor.
The two « sandwich » blocks are well visible
as well as the reducer shifting lever and,
in the background, the transmission casing.

CC 6558 control panel.

6 pictograms PH1 to PH6 informing driver on correct oil pumps operation can be seen. 

On top part from left to right:
- KVB system (speed control by track sensors)
- Pictograms screen
- Voltmeters and intensity meters
- Electric equipment position repeater
- Speed meter
- Radio equipment.

Lower part:
- Brake system controls and gauges
- Traction control wheel and levers panel.



TTB 665 motor includes 2 inductors and 2 armatures on a single shaft with individual commutators in the midle of the shaft. These motors are self cooled.

CC 6500 have 2 power variators driven by a single actuator. 28 positions are used.

The two J.20 and J.21 inverters as well as the two traction/braking switches may be driven manually by a lever located under lock box.

1°) Series coupling

Series coupling is obtained by a lever located on the control panel. At the end of series coupling, power variators are in position 28. Series coupling is optional. It is used to limit intensity when locomotive starts on service tracks equipped with limited section overhead wire.

To switch from series to series-parallel coupling, driver must put back traction control wheel at « zero » position and put series coupling lever on off.

2°) Series-parallel coupling

If series coupling lever is on off position, start occurs on series-parallel coupling. At the end of series coupling, power variators are in position 28.

3°) Parallel coupling

Variators in position 28 series-parallelthen switch to position 29, coupling motors in parallel resistances being inserted again. Resistances elimination takes place between variators positions 29 to 48.

Control panel includes a variator position indicator with 2 windows:
The first one allows reading variators positions for series and series-parallel couplings (1 to 28).
The second one indicates positions for parallel coupling (29 to 48).

Starting rheostatis cooled by two groups of three fans each. These fans start once resistances are crossed by current. They stop when all resistances are eliminated from traction circuit.

Anti-spin :

Spin detection is made by comparing traction motors respective speeds with "ROCHAR" relays. When a spinning occurs, a pictogram appears on control panel, variators actuator stops progressing and sanding starts. In addition on series and series parallel couplings, contactors switch to the shunt motor rotor affected by spinning. This reinserts resistances that had been previously eliminated.


Batteries charging is done by a static converter. This converter produces a chopped current from 1500V DC current coming from overhead wires. This current provides power supply to a transformer primary which itself provides power to :

  • Batteries charging in 72V, windscreen heating, and dish heater ;
  • Auxiliary batteries charging in 30V which will be used for emergency dynamic braking ;
  • Power supply for dynamic braking alone or combined with pneumatic braking.


CC6500 are equipped with dynamic braking. It is used alone manually for slowing down or put on automatically during pneumatic braking.
25 positions can be used :
From position 1 to 8, resistance value is constant, excitation current increases.
From position 9 to 25, excitation is maximum, resistance value progressively decreases.


CC 6500 are equipped with :

  • A  JRP 66 P 5000 electro pneumatic circuit breaker requiring a minimum operating pressure of 5 bar ;
  • Two AM 18 B pantographs driven by a solenoid valve ;
  • One compressor with a main reservoir under the chassis ;
  • A PBL braking unit with electro pneumatic control. 




CC6500 maintenance has been shared between depots of Lyon-Mouche, Paris Sud-Ouest and Vénissieux,in charge of regular maintenance, and Oullins maintenance center, in charge of heavy operations.

In the eighties, during CC6500 heydays on South West lines, maintenance cycles were as follows:
VOR (Running gear and axles control) every 18 days
ATS "dépôt" every 36 days. This opération is equivalent to the« VOR »with the addition of following controls : metallic brush for signals repetition, lubrications and battery checking :

- VL (Limited maintenance) every 3 months ;
- VG (General maintenance) every 6 months ;
- GVG (Major general maintenance) every 12 months.

At this time, Oullins maintenance center was proceeding to:
- “ATS every 1.300.000 km, including bogies renovation, painting and control of actuator, variators and electric devices ;
- RG (General maintenance) every 2.600.000 km.

Impressive picture of CC6569 body being lifted in Venissieux depot workshop.

(Photos Fabrice Douhet)

CC 6500 career
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