French Railways numbering scheme

SNCF does not have a clear, uniform numbering scheme such as the German scheme, but nevertheless some information can be gained from a vehicle's number.

Electric Locomotives

Electric locomotives are usually numbered according to which type of voltage they can run from.

The first two (or sometimes three) numbers identify the particular type of locomotive. The last two (or sometimes three) numbers identify the number of the locomotive within the series. There is no precise set of rules for determining the type of locomotive from the number, other than which voltages it can run from. You have to remember which is which! Some examples:
This locomotive is the 43rd from the 15000 series. In this case, the first digit (10000's) tells you this locomotive can run from 25 kV 50 Hz only, but otherwise you have to remember which type of locomotive this is, and where the numbering starts.

This locomotive is the 13th from the 25000 series, and is also bivoltage.

This locomotive also is bivoltage... but not from the 25000 series. It is from the 25500 series, which is completely different. There is no way to know this other than learning it.

TGV trains

The TGV numbering scheme is just as confusing as for the electric locomotives. There are two layers for the numbering scheme. One number is assigned to each trainset, which consists of two power units and 8 to 10 trailers. The trainset number is found on the side of the nose.

Within each trainset, each vehicle has its own number. The power units are numbered in the electric locomotive scheme described above, with the prefix TGV. PSE units are numbered in the 23000 series, Atlantique units in the 24000 series, bivoltage Réseau units in the 28000 series, and trivoltage Réseau units in the 38000 series.

Trailers are prefixed TGVR, where the R stands for "remorque", or trailer. The first two digits are the same as for the power units. The third digit identifies the number of the trailer in the trainset. The last three (or four) digits repeat the trainset number.

On the TGV PSE trainsets, the trailers immediately adjacent to the power units also have one powered bogie. Because of this, they are numbered like EMU's, with a Z. The prefix is thus TGVZR. Some examples:

TGV 28014: Power unit number 2 of bivoltage Réseau trainset number 507.
TGVR 244325: The fourth trailer of Atlantique trainset 325.
TGVZR 338117: The 8th trailer (powered) of trivoltage PSE trainset number 117.

Diesel locomotives

Diesels fall into the 60000 and 70000 series.

Shunters, EMUs, DMUs

Shunters (all diesel) have the 'Y' prefix.
EMUs have the 'Z' prefix.
DMUs have the 'X' prefix.

The specific numbering is confusing, and detailed knowledge of the numbers is necessary to identify the different types. Recent EMU numbers tend to resemble the electric locomotive numbering scheme.


Vehicles not owned by SNCF, but of a type similar to an SNCF series, are numbered according to SNCF practices, but prefixed with a 9. Example: the postal TGV power units, numbered in the 923000 series.

For electric and diesel locomotives, numbers used to be preceded by a letter prefix corresponding to the wheel arrangement. In the late 1980's, this practice was discontinued. For example, BB 22200 became 22200, and A1AA1A 68000 became 68000. The prefix was discontinued because it was redundant, and also because it made locomotive numbers more difficult to handle on computer systems. (Strangely enough, TGV's kept their prefix, which serves no purpose since their numbers identify them unambiguously.)

Clem Tillier ( - February 1995