Louis Armand

1955-1958: Innovation lifts off

An Ecole Polytechnique graduate and an iconic figure in Résistance-Fer, a network of French rail workers that fought the German occupation, Louis Armand became SNCF’s managing director in 1949 and was appointed chairman in 1955.  He kicked off the effort to electrify lines serving northern and eastern France, adopting the new commercial-frequency single-phase current system (25,000 volts, 50 Hz). Under his leadership, two SNCF locomotives set a new world speed record of 331 km/h, and the company launched the Trans Europe Express service and eliminated 3rd class travel. Mr Armand stepped down in 1958.