May 2019 News

Off to the Carnaval at Limoux,

The Train Historique de Toulouse organised its first special train of the 2019 season on March 31st. Hauled by BB 66304 this took place along the branch line from Carcassonne to Limoux for the carnaval.

This was followed on the 20th April with a special to Souillac (for Martel) hauled by BB 7338. Seen opposite crossing the 800 hundred metre Viaduc du Calamane north of Cahors, opened in 1891. The wagon lits carriage behind the locomotive is owned by the association. Both photos Georges Turpin

BELFORT - DELLE - empty trains on the new line

We reported on this new cross border service in DECEMBER NEWS last year. 

 The inauguration of the new line on Dec 8th 2018 attracted 3,500 visitors. The trains, that day, were free ! Unfortunately, that interest has not been replicated during the following 4 months. Bourgogne Franche-Comté Region announced an average of only 200 passengers a day in the first month, and, later, only 150 passengers a day during the first 3 months. The Region announced that their target was 1,600 passengers a day at the end of 3 years For the record, approx 2,300 "frontaliers" are resident in Territoire de Belfort and work in the Swiss Jura (statistics of 2016)

It is apparent that potential travellers have not yet adopted the new line. Local press, union representatives and correspondents to the NEWS page have indicated that the new train service does not correspond to the needs of the population on both sides of the border. There are concerns about the timetable, the tarifs, the accuracy and scope of travel information provided, cancelations, replacements of trains by buses, the connections between trains at the TGV station, the service reductions at week ends and during school holidays. 
The TER platform (where the Swiss train terminates) on a bridge above the TGV station of Belfort-Montbeliard, has been named Meroux-Belfort-Montbéliard TGV. In the SBB CFF timetables and brochures, the terminus of the Swiss trains is referred to as Meroux TGV. Meroux is the commune in which the TGV station is situated. There is perceived to be a possible confusion for international travellers unfamiliar with the physical configuration of the new interchange. 

 So far the BFC Region has not made any changes to the service. 

New regional livery for the "tsunami" of Z 50000 "Francilien" emu's

Orders for the highly successful class of Bombardier suburban electric train sets originally known as NAT (Nouvelle Automotrice Transilien) have reached 360 units. By 5th April 2019, 245 Z 50000 emu's had been delivered. Currently the shorter version for Saint Lazare is being produced. Since April 2018, 20 such units were delivered (226L - 247L ) all of them in the Ile de France Mobilité livery. 209 + 211 are also in this livery. The original livery known as "Carmillon" has been kept for the first 219 train sets. 

 The NAT (Francilien) was introduced in 2009 and after a precarious period during the first years, while debugging, the class is now believed to be the most reliable at SNCF. 

Right upper. On 6th April, Francilien emu 163 L (April 2015) in Carmillon livery was photographed leaving Meulan tunnel near the unexpectedly named "Thun le Paradis" station with a service to Saint Lazare. 

 Right Lower. On 13th April, the service was operated by Francilien emu 245 L (March 2019) in IDF Mobilities livery.

Both photos - D Michel Costes

Last summer for "danseuses"?

The summer of 2019 is likely to be the last for the remaining SNCF small electric locomotives, often referred to as "danseuses" due to the motion of their short wheelbase bogies at high speed. Two more Class BB 17000, 17054 and 17077 were withdrawn during April after 52 years service leaving 17053, 17055, 17068, 17071, 17075 to cover for unavailable BB 27300s. In recent months one or two BB 17000s have been in traffic from St Lazare most days normally 17053, 17071 or 17075. Above on Saturday April 20th BB 17053 is seen passing Thun le Paradis with a failed BB 27000 + VB2N. Photo D Michel Costes.

In Grand Est former PACA push-pull BB22200s are to replace the last BB 25500s employed on the Selestat - Strasbourg - Saverne rush hour services. BB 22263 was reported at Strasbourg in March for crew training, but by April had moved onto Metz. Initially the BB 22200s will be deployed on the Marne Valley hauled services from Paris Est replacing BB 15000s, while the recently transferred batch of BB 26000s are receiving their push-pull conversion.


The single track line from Clisson to Cholet was closed in July 2018 for renewal with a budget of 47 million euros. The scope of the work included; 

- replacement of the track (30km) with long welded rails, 50,000 sleepers and 60,000 tons of ballast. 
 - installation of two additional sets of points, 
- adaptation of several halts for wheel chair access 
- replacement of the mechanical signals with a modern block automatique system. 

 The objective is to increase the speed limit to 130 kph on certain sections and to increase the capacity of the line from 4 return services to 10 return services, daily. The line re-opened on 13th April 2019 and 4 return services resumed between Nantes and Cholet via the junction at Clisson. The work to replace the signalling will be in progress until the end of 2019. 

 Cholet is the second largest town in the Maine et Loire (49) with a population of 56,000 (106,000 including suburbs). The town is connected by rail to Angers, as well as to Nantes. 

Photos. Turning the clock back to August 2005. We see the overall roof of Cholet station, a single X 73500 waiting with a service to Angers, and, at Clisson, a Cholet - Nantes service operated by two X 73500's. The line at Clisson has since been electrified ( Nantes - La Roche-sur-Yon) and a giant footbridge has drastically changed the scene. 

Locomotive shortages on Paris - Boulogne services

Poor availability at the beginning of the month of the Longeau BB 67400s employed on the Paris - Boulogne services north of Amiens saw locomotives hired in from other sectors and some services terminating at Amiens with passengers transferred to AGCs for the onward journey to Boulogne. The position was so bad over the first weekend in April that all services were operated by corail stock between Paris and Amiens and AGC units between Amiens and Boulogne. The position had improved by 26th April  with a grubby 67626 (last works overhaul in March 1997) seen above approaching Rue with the 07:28 Paris - Boulogne.

Bi-mode Regiolis units are scheduled to take over during the summer with ten six car units on order. The first unit B84703/04 arrived at Le Landy during March with B84701/02 and B84705/06 delivered by the end of April.

 Ligne des Cevennes

Langeac - Langogne closed for maintenance until June 15th.
This is the job that nearly did not happen according to various reports. No group was more surprised than the Collectif des Usagers des Transports du Haut-Allier when it was learned that SNCF had announced suddenly at the end of March, that the middle section of the Cevennes line would be closed from 7th April - 15th June for various engineering works. These are planned 3 years in advance. However observers had discovered that the budgeted funding had not been released for the 2019 work. Even the Prefet agreed that the work would probably be delayed, putting the future of the line in jeopardy.

However, in the end, this situation has been resolved, no doubt in part due to the relentless presssure of the dynamic user groups along the line, and possibly to the yellow-jacket brigades. 

It is reported that the main work this year includes renewal of signalling at Langeac, inspection of 7 tunnels and 4 bridges, and additional ballasting.
There is now hope that the line will be in good shape for 
the150th birthday celebrations planned for August 2020. Vigilance is key.

Photo above : Viaduc des Bras near Langogne,
CMR in Action! On 24th April CMR (Cellule des Matériels Radiés) the division of SNCF responsible for handling withdrawn stock, moved a rake of nine corails from Le Landy to Le Mans for breaking up. Hauled by BB 67613, recently repainted in  red "Capitole" livery inspired by the model produced by Jouef in the 1970s and 67615, the convoy is seen just after passing Dammartin-en-Goële (77) Photo Christophe Masse

News in brief


 The new tramway network at Caen, Normandie, will open on Saturday 27th July, just over a month earlier than the original target date. Regular operating with no passengers will begin in mid June. It is reported that four trams have been delivered by the end of March. A total of 23 Alstom Citadis 305 trams were ordered. 

Readers will recall that this network replaces the TVR guided trolley bus system that was abandonned in December 2017. 

Competitive Tendering for HdF TER

Hauts de France TER is to commence putting its services up for competitive tendering. A six week public consultation is planned to seek views on how future services should be shaped. It is likely that the first package will cover about 20% of services based on the Paris - Creil - Amiens and Paris - Creil - St Quentin Y. Tenders will be sought by April 2020 with the successful operator announced in October 2021 and new contracts commencing in December 2022.

HdF launches new Cartes de Reduction

Hauts de France TER has launched new Cartes de Reduction replacing the former Picardie and NPdC cards. The new cards offer a 50% reduction on normal HdF TER fares (including travel to Paris) and cardholders may take up to three accompanying passengers. Annual cost is €30 or €15 if under 26.
Belgian HL 303 to visit Baie de la Somme

Belgian tram engine HL 303 built in 1888 and preserved by ASVI was fully restored in 2018. It will be visiting the CFBS for the weekend of 15/16th June and operating over the Le Crotoy - Noyelles section. This is to avoid any problems with the running gear fouling the standard gauge points on the dual gauge section between Noyelles and St Valery.

Bombardier awarded Guaranteed French Origin

Along with wine and cheese Bombardier's Francilien and Regio 2N units have been awarded 'Guaranteed French Origin' status. Certification requires the majority of the cost price must be expended in France, and the product must take its ‘essential characteristics’ from France, with all processing steps  carried out there. The units are assembled in Crespin where Bombardier employ over 2,000 staff.

Third Caravelle for CFTSA

On the 18th April CFTSA (Chemin de Fer Touristique du Sud des Ardennes) took delivery of their third modified Caravelle (X4630 / XR8641). Seen above arriving at Amagne–Lucquy from Sotteville hauled by CMR's BB 67596 Photo. Pascal Dumont.

CFTSA received their first Caravelle (X4719 / XR8716) from SNCF in 2009 and this has been used extensively on rail-tours from Amagne–Lucquy (between Reims and Charville Meziers) across Northern France  travelling as far afield as Le Treport and Strasbourg. As this only had capacity for 100 passengers a second Caravelle (X4647 / XR 8442) was acquired in 2017 from Autorail Bourgogne Franche Comté (ABFC). They had also received it in 2009 but had not used it. 

Faced with the difficulties encountered in the perpetuation of historical equipment and the opportunity to save the last Caravelle operating on SNCF, CFTSA welcomed  X4630 / XR8641 on April 18 under the accord agreed between UNECTO and CMR. It had recently been used for measuring the GSMR network on behalf of SNCF Réseau. 

CFTSA is based at Attigny , where they also have four preserved Picasso autorails that they operate over part of the freight-only Amagne–Lucquy - Challerange line. Visit the CFTSA website via this link

CFBS Haine St Pierre back in service

The CFBS's former VFIL Haine St Pierre    2-6-0T No. 15 has returned to service after a three year overhaul with extensive repairs to the boiler and firebox.

Seen opposite on a loaded test run leaving Morlay on Monday 28th April with the 17:30 from Le Crotoy, before entering normal service on the 1st May

 Le Train du Bas Berry announces timetable to Valençay

The SABA heritage association based at Ecueillé (Indre) has at last received authorisation to operate from Luçay-le-Mâle to Valençay. (See April News)

 Trains  will operate  from Ecueillé to Valençay on Sundays in July - September plus August 15th. Departure will be at 11h15 and arrival at Valençay at 12h20. Return to Ecueillé will be at 17h30, arrival 18h30. During the afternoon, there will be two return trips from Valençay to Luçay le Mâle departing 14h00 and 15h30. Round trip 70 minutes.  On the above mentioned Sundays, the steam train will leave Ecueillé at 15h00 for Argy at the other end of the preserved section of the former Blanc-Argent narrow gauge line. Photo: SABA autorails at Ecueillé 

Additions to FRS Photographic Archive during April 2019

 MTVS 6 - CdF de la Mayenne 

 MTVS 13 - CFD Vivarais 

 MTVS 42 - CdF du Doubs (1) 

 MTVS 43 - CdF du Doubs (2) 

 Deghilage 1882 - drawings 

 C.H. Couche 1868 - drawings 

 Nord - drawings (SLS) 

 Nord publicity - drawings & photographs 

 Bourbonnais 1859 (Museon di Rodo) 

 SACM works list 

 LVDR Traction Electrique (Issued 1951) 

No additions to the FRS Yahoo site during April 2019 
General comments 

For those of you that have tried to access the Photo Archive recently I apologise if you have found this somewhat cumbersome as the recent events of unauthorised access have forced me to introduce some changes of which the most important is the creation of an access password to secure the site against unwanted visitors. This work has now been completed and the archive is accessible to any member with a password, which latter can be obtained by emailing me ( 


Seine Valley freights in springtime 

We return to Meulan Hardricourt (pk42) on the right bank line along the Seine to Mantes-la-Jolie. This view point is becoming familiar to regular viewers. Our correspondent has named the view " Falcon's Nest ". It is situated in the churchyard above the western entrance to Meulan Tunnel (469 m) 

 Above On April 13th, Europorte E4023 hauled the Le Havre - St Germain au Mont d'Or train of new Renault vans, a train so long that its tail is out of sight around the curve.   Below left -  On April 5th, the ECR train of empty wagons was hauled by CC 66211 en route from Limay (near Mantes) to the quarry at Caffiers in the Nord Pas de Calais. Below right - On the 13th April the same train was seen at the Conflans triangle with 66249, heading towards Pontoise, Persan Beaumont and the north. The green shoots of spring are apparent ! Photos by D Michel Costes.

Bondy - Aulnay - Montfermeil (Ile de France) 
Extension of SNCF Tram-train T4, - a succession of problems !

In November 2006, SNCF opened a "tram-train" line (8km) between Bondy and Aulnay-sous-Bois. This is T4, operated with 15 Siemens Avanto dual voltage light rail vehicles. SNCF converted a former branch line (Ligne des Coquetiers 1875) and electrified it at 25 kV. The level crossing barriers were removed and priority is for the tram-train when red lights flash but there are often collisions. 

 Ten years later, in 2016, work began to build an urban tramway (7 km) from Gargan to Montfermeil. The project was long delayed by local opposition in some of the communes. This new line is to be electrified at 750 volts DC and it joins T4 at Gargan. Future tram-trains (new Alstom Dualis units) will operate from Montfermeil to Bondy. The section from Gargan to Bondy will have a 3 minute service with tram-trams alternately serving each branch (The Avanto's to Aulnay and the new Dualis units to Montfermeil). The 15 new Alstom Dualis units, previously delivered, but not used, were all released for service on April 19th. They are the same type as used on T11, but with a separate series of numbers.

A number of more or less unforseen problems have had to be solved during construction. It was realised that the two track terminus at Bondy (RER E) could not handle a 3 minute service and the tracks have to be 
adapted to create two sidings at the rear of the passenger terminus.  At Gargan, the junction with the urban tramway required the creation of a short section at 750 volts in the station between the 25 kV sections. SNCF decided also to introduce a new signalling system. 

T4 was closed for two months from the beginning of March 2019 for tests. But in April, SNCF advised that there were problems with the new signalling system and has extended the closure until September. The new tram-train service with two branches is still scheduled to open in December 2019.   
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2019. Photos by authors unless credited. Thanks to D Michel Costes, Georges Turpin, Christophe Masse, Pascal Dumont and Nicolas Retel
© The French Railways Society 2018, - 2019 All Rights Reserved
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