August 2020 News

Due to the coronavirus pandemic events to mark the 150th anniversary of the Ligne des Cevennes have had to be deferred.  150 years mark the difference between the imposing viaduct of Chamborigaud and the modern Régiolis unit (B84695) operating the  Cevenol service from Clermont-Ferrand to Nîmes on July 16, 2020. Photo Christophe Masse.

Reversible corail stock starts on Paris - Strasbourg

Push-pull BB 26000s and reversible corail 200 stock normally used on Strasbourg - Bale services has started to appear on Strasbourg - Paris services at the weekends. It is expected that once the additional Grand Est BB 26000s have been converted for push-pull working they will take over the Paris - Strasbourg/Marne-la-Vallée services, releasing the BB 22200s currently used to replace the BB25500s operating the local Strasbourg services. 

 On 4 July BB 26159 sporting the new black end livery and reversible stock worked the 08:19 Strasbourg, returning with the following day's 16:36 Paris- Est Photos Christophe Masse

Nanteuil-Saâcy, Ile de France, 7th July 2020

 This country station in the Val de Marne, 74 km from Paris Gare de l'Est, is the last one on this line in Ile de France, valid for the all zones regional Navigo season ticket. Nanteuil has a large car park. The next stop ( 10 km away) along the VdM line towards Chateau-Thierry, at the snappily named Nogent-l'Artaud-Charly, is in Grand Est region and tickets there for destinations in Ile-de-France cost considerably more than the Navigo.

   On 7th July, a loco hauled Corail train was photographed at Nanteuil-Saâcy substituting for a Coradia Liner service (TER 39114). This was the 14.10 from Chalons-en-Champagne to Paris-Est. It was hauled by BB 22263 still in its PACA livery and equipped for "Réversibilté par Cablots", an old system developed in 1959. The system was not active on this Corail train. BB 22263 entered service in February 1978, and its final years will be in Alsace.  Photo; D Michel Costes

Roissy CDG 2 TGV - Picardie. Progress at last !

The project to connect the high speed Interconnection North line around Paris with the historical main line from Paris-Nord to Creil and Amiens was first noted in 1994. It stemmed from the decision to build the LGV Nord on a route which avoided both Amiens and Saint Quentin. 

 In 2000, the priority was perceived to be the connection of Amiens to the TGV network. But years passed and SNCF was seen to be reluctant to add TGV's to Amiens. In 2017, Hauts de France Region and SNCF Mobilités agreed to clarify the project and the principal purpose of the short link became the opportunity to improve access to the Roissy airport zone for commuters from Picardie (Creil and Compiègne). It is estimated that 12,000 - 13,000 passengers daily would use trains from PIcardie to Roissy airport. 66% would travel by the new train service to work in the airport zone. 

 The planned Roissy - Picardie rail link is a 6.5 km double track line that will be connected to the LGV interconnection Nord at the triangle of Vemars and will join the main line from Paris-Nord at Marly-la-Ville just south of Survilliers. The planned link will have a speed limit of 160 kph. It will cross the A1 autoroute and the D317. The TGV station at the airport (CDG 2) will be adapted to provide a terminus for the trains from Picardie. A new platform will be created by suppression of a track. Additional crossovers will be installed. At Survilliers-Fosses (RER D) new platforms and a bridge for passengers will be created. In a second stage, tracks will be adapted at Marly and Chantilly to improve capacity for the Paris-Lille main line. 

 At this stage the cost of stage 1 is 194 million euros and stage 2 is 62 million euros. The specification of signalling on the link has not been decided yet. Initial plans for train services provide for 17 return services daily between Compiègne and Roissy CDG 2 (via Creil), an additional 6 return services from Creil to Roissy CDG 2 and 3 return services from Amiens to Roissy CDG 2. At present, 2 TGV's are planned from Amiens but the destinations are not fixed yet. More work needs to be done on market studies. It is possible that the 6 trains from Creil could start from Amiens, or Saint Just / Clermont.

 It is planned to hold the public enquiry later this year, followed by the Declaration of Public Utility (DUP) in 2021. The target for opening this short rail link is currently 2025, just over 30 years since the project was first discussed !

Volvic - Le Mont-Dore (Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne) 

Funding agreed for urgent repairs to the line.
The local newspaper "La Montagne" reported the substance of a meeting(*) on 10th July at the prefecture of Puy-de-Dôme which examined a report by SNCF Réseau concerning an urgent security risk on the freight only line from Volvic to Laqueille and the branch to La Bourboule and the SMDA (**) production site near Le Mont Dore. This line is 55 km long and it only sees 2 trains a week to the SMDA spring water bottling plant. These are 14 wagon trains making a single, weekly, 28 wagon train to Vaires in the Paris suburbs. This accounts for 40% of the production, the rest is transported by road. 
  SMDA produces 160 million bottles of spring water annually. They are sold under 30 different trade marks in supermarkets across France. The spring water is captured from a source (Grand Barbier) at an altitude of 1200 m in the Massif du Sancy. Since 1989, the water has been bottled at Genestoux, a plant that employs 42 staff. It was connected to the railway in 1995. Originally, a large proportion of the production was transported by rail. Due to a reduction in the activity of a marshalling yard at Clermont-Ferrand and the abandonment of single wagon load traffic in France, the proportion carried by rail has dropped to 40% and only one destination is assured, as described above.    
 Passenger services between Clermont-Ferrand and Le Mont-Dore were withdrawn in 2015. The railway line between Laqueuille and Ussel was closed in July 2014 due to a failure to find 7 million euros to renovate that stretch of line which crosses the border between Auvergne and Limousin. No trains can now operate between Clermont-Ferrand and Brive (or Limoges) via Ussel. Subsequently, the reform of the Regions transferred Limousin to Nouvelle Aquitaine and Auvergne to Rhône-Alpes. Consequently decisions about the future of this line will now taken in Bordeaux and Lyon (600 km apart). It seems unlikely that any action will be taken to restore the line to service. There is not a lot of confidence in the future of Limoges - Ussel either. 
 Regarding the freight line from Volvic to Le Mont-Dore, SNCF Réseau indicates that it costs 1.2 million euros a year to maintain the 55 km single track line which carries two trains a week (!) Income from the train service is reported to be 23,000 euros a year (This would be the toll) SNCF Réseau lists three priorities (the precise nature of the work is not known); 
 - urgent repairs to the track and signals in 2020 for 400,000 euros 
- additional repairs in 2021 for 900,000 euros 
- a ten year programme of renewal to be defined 
SNCF Réseau advised that in the absence of funding they would have to suspend traffic at the end of 2020. That would result in a transfer of the traffic to the road. The funding would have to come from Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Region and the apparent absence of anyone from the Region at this meeting is worrying. However, the sums involved are relatively small. So there is hope that funding will be provided somehow. 
Two weeks later, a new meeting was convened on  24th July. The outcome was that an agreement was reached on contributions to the first phase of work in 2020 for a total of 400,000 euros. (The French State contributed 40%) SNCF Réseau confirmed the line would stay open until the end of 2021 minimum. They were asked to calculate a budget for maintenance over the next 10 years.  A plan was launched to examine options to increase traffic on the line including a possible tourist train !!!
 Photo: At Laqueille, 20th July 2005. The Train des Eaux arrived from Volvic at 08.20, hauled by 67508 and 67552. It was a train of empty wagons bound for SMDA. The locos returned at the end of the morning with 14 loaded wagons. 
 * Those present included the préfète, the regional director of SNCF Réseau, the mayor of Le Mont-Dore, the director of SMDA, but apparently no-one from Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region. 
** SMDA Société des Sources du Mont-Dore en Auvergne.
LGV Est Européenne to re-open in September 

 On March 5th an unexpected land slip derailed a TGV on the LGV Est near Saverne, as we have previously reported. Since that event, the LGV has been closed between Vendenheim (on the outskirts of Stracbourg and Baudrecourt in Lorraine. TGV's have been diverted on to the Metz - Strasbourg main line with an increase of 30 - 50 minutes on the journey time to/from Paris-Est. 

 After work to stabilise the slope in the cutting, a date has been announced for the re-opening of the high speed line. It is the second week of September. The date is subject to receiving instruments from a Scottish supplier to monitor the slope. The delivery of these captors is currently delayed by the disruption due to the COFID virus. 

La Vie du Rail summer sale 

 La Vie du rail have a 50% summer sale until 11th August, more detail via this link 

More government support and sleepers return

Following the shakeup of the Macron administration the new transport minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari has announced that both IDF Mobilities and SNCF will receive several billions euros in financial support for lost revenue due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

 The minister also announced that sleeper services to Nice and Tarbes will be re-introduced from 2022. Initially some of the existing Lunea stock will be refurbished with new rolling stock seen as a long term solution.
GRAND EST to open "petites lignes" to competition

Grand Est has announced its intention to tender for 2 contracts to modernise, and maintain two sets of railway lines in Alsace and Lorraine and to operate train services over related routes. For the first time in France, the regional authority will open the combined responsibility for track and train services, together, to competitive bids. 

 The first contract will be for modernisation and maintenance of the infrastructure of Pont St Vincent - Vittel, a line currently closed since December 2016, and for train services over the route Nancy - Pont St Vincent - Contrexéville. The best bidder will be chosen in 2022 with effect from 2024. The second contract is for the infrastructure of a group of lines: 
- Molsheim - St Dié (open) 
- St Dié - Arche (currently closed under repairs) 
- Barr - Selestat (open) 

The routes for train services under the second contract are; Strasbourg - St Dié, Strasbourg - Selestat, St Dié - Epinal. Grand Est will provide the rolling stock for these services and the stock will be maintained at Strasbourg in a new depot. The best bidder will be chosen in 2023 with effect from 2025. The contracts will last 22 years. 

 The Region is relying on the Mobilization Orientation Law (LOM) of December 2019 to have the management of "regional or local lines of interest with low traffic" transferred from SNCF Reseau to the Region. Unofficial reports suggest that this may be a model for the future of the petites lignes, although there has yet to be an official announcement on the long awaited Philizot report on rural railways.

Summer in the Baie de Somme

The CFBS has now implemented a revised timetable for the remainder of the season, based upon one steam and one diesel hauled train on the Le Crotoy - Noyelles - St Valery section. Services on the Cayeux line had originally been suspended for the year, but have now been restored on Wednesdays during July and August.
Above. Haine St Pierre 2-6-0T No.15 heads away from Morlay with the morning service to St Valery on the 12th July. Lower left. Later on the same day No.15 passes Favieres. Although no trains are scheduled to stop here the mayor felt the village needed a proper station and the commune have erected a waiting shelter. Lower right. Passenger numbers over the extended Fete National weekend were enough to require a supplementaire to the final service of the day from Le Crotoy to St Valery and the Verney autorail is seen between Morlay and Noyelles.

"Le Train des Mouettes - The Seagull Line"

Le Train des Mouettes (The Seagull Line) operates on a former SNCF branch line 21 km long from Saujon to La Tremblade in Charente Maritime. Two private associations have operated tourist trains on this line. The first one from 1984 - 2002. The département of Charente Maritime purchased the infrastructure, stations and depot in 2004. In 2008 the present association started operations. Steam and diesel hauled trains are operated. The line carries over 30,000 visitors a year. 

 Turntables have been installed at each end of the line (Saujon, La Tremblade). These were obtained from Bordeaux where they were no longer in use. Turning the engine is a spectacle for visitors and the locomotive is always chimney first. In the photo above, 030T Schneider (the oldest steam loco in service in France according to the association, built in 1881) is on the turntable at La Tremblade on 14th July 2020. Photo Georges Turpin.
Four restaurant cars have recently been purchased from Swiss railway operator SÜDOSTBAHN. They had been retired from operating on VORALPEN-EXPRESS (Lucerne - St Gallen). The coaches were delivered at the beginning of 2020 to Alstom, La Rochelle for renovation and painting in a specific livery for the Train des Mouettes. 

Each coach has been named after lighthouses in the surrounding area  - Chassiron, Cordouan, La Coubre, Vallières. The new dining train is named "Seudre Océan Express" ("SOE"). The initials remind us of the Simplon Orient Express, as does the livery apparently.

 The heritage association will renovate the interior of the coaches and hopes to use them for the first time at the end of 2020.  
On Monday 20th July, the 4 coaches were transferred from La Rochelle to Saujon via Saintes by BB 67596 (a 46 year old veteran now part of the CMR fleet). From Saujon the coaches were hauled by preserved diesel 040 DE 073 (originally BB 64073) to Chaillevette depot. A fourgon (van) for the generator remains at Alstom for further body work. 

Above right. 64073 is seen near Chaillevente with SOE on the tourist line still equipped with "double mushrooms".
Below: BB 67596 hauls the SOE between Saintes and Saujon where there is a junction with the preserved line to La Tremblade. Both photos Georges Turpin

Hannibal No 8157 finds a new home.

Since January 2018, CFTV at Saint Quentin has had no steam engines in service. An unexpected problem was discovered with 140 C 314 just a few months after an overhaul lasting 11 years had been completed. Repairs require dismantling the locomotive again, with work lasting many more years. Most unfortunate. The two tank engines at the depot also require major overhauls. Although the association has several diesel locomotives in service, the absence of steam is a factor in the number of visitors.
During 2019, CFTV searched for a suitable steam locomotive that was RTR (or nearly so). They were successful in persuading FACS to divert a locomotive from another project. This is 030 T No 8157 (Type Hannibal, designed by Krupp in 1935 and built by SACM in France in 1953). It is one of three locomotives of this type preserved (see below). In December 2019, CFTV signed an agreement with FACS to use the locomotive to haul their tourist trains in the Aisne.
No 8157 (the SACM number) was a shunting engine operated at the Houillères du Bassin des Cevennes (HBC), the coal mines near Alès in the Gard. These coal mines reached a peak of activity in 1958 with an output of 3.3 million tons and they employed 20,000 workers. But decline quickly set in and the last pit closed in 1984. No 8157 (which was originally numbered HBC No 1) was retired in 1974.  
Photo Hannibal at Longueville in 2010. Didier Duforest
Preservation has been quite complicated. The locomotive was purchased by a private individual, J.P.Isnard. In 1984, the loco was at Toulon-Hyères, in 1991 - 2001 at Nîmes. In 2003 the loco was classified Monument Historique. In 2008, it was, briefly, at Train des Mouettes, Charente-Maritimes. 
 In 2009, 8157 arrived at AJECTA Longueville and it was photographed in service at the depot in 2010. The little shunting engine weighs 40 tons empty (50 tons in service) and carries 2 tons of coal and 5.5 cubic mètres of water. The range between water stops is, thus, just 33 km. The top speed is 50 kph. It is therefore not suitable for mainline work. We do not know how often 8157 was steamed in the following 7 - 8 years at Longueville. In 2017, J.P.Isnard gifted 8157 to FACS which transferred it to ATSF at Ambert. There is a photo apparently dated 7th December 2019 that shows 8157 steaming in Longueville depot. At about this time, CFTV and FACS signed their agreement. Probably the loco was brought from Ambert for a test run or repairs. The exact current technical state of the loco has not been reported by CFTV. 
 Prior to receiving 8157, CFTV had to adapt their loco shed/workshop which could hold 3 tracks but only had 2 doors. They were able obtain financing from local authorities to install a third door and the third track inside the shed. This was recently completed. It is anticipated that 8157 will be transported from Ambert to Saint Quentin during the summer of 2020. 
 This report is based principally on communications by CFTV on this forum CFTV news in December 2019 and July 2020. Also on ATSF facebook page. The history of the loco was researched on the web in the usual way.  "Hannibal" is the name given to this series of shunting engines ordered by the invader during WWII but only completed by SACM in 1945. Two other Hannibals (made in France ) are preserved; 8158 (HBC No 2) at CITEV and 8143 (built 1945) currently at CF de la Vendée. 
CFTV = Chemin de fer touristique du Vermandois 
RTR = Ready to Run 
FACS = Federation des amis des chemins de fer secondaires 
SACM = Société alsacienne de constructions mécanique 
ATSF = Association des trains du sud de la France

A dip in the archives 

 Chemin de fer de la Mure

The CF de Mure has been closed since a massive landslide blocked part of the line and a tunnel entrance on 26th October 2010. Following a number of consultations the  Conseil départemental de l'Isère issued a contract in June 2017 to repair the line. The damaged section will remain closed and the line operate as two independant sections, bearing little resemblance to the old railway. Over €30 million has been invested in the upper section with new station buildings, visitor centre, restaurant and museum. The lower section is being developed independantly by a volunteer association initially as a vélo rail.
 The intention had been to re-open it this summer. In view of the Coronavirus pandemic and the need to restore rolling stock  the re-opening has been deferred until the spring of 2021.
Photos. In 2005 Locotracteur No. 7, built by ANF- Sécheron in1933 is seen above and lower right at St Georges de Commiers and lower left at La Motte d’Aveillans. All three photos from the Miscellanous Colour 2 gallery of the Society's Photo Archive

Caen Tram Anniversary

The 27th July marked the first anniversary of the inauguration of Caen's tram system. The new tramway replaced the unsatisfactory TVR guided trolley bus system that was abandoned in December 2017. In 18 months the TVR system was removed and a 16 km tram network laid, replacing the existing two routes and adding a third. 

Photos. Above Left. A TVR trolley bus at the  Jean Vilars terminus in 2012. Above Right. Twelve years later on 23rd July 2020 an Alstom 305 Citadis waits at the same location. The trams will seat 210 passengers compared to 128 on the TVR trolleybus. Both Michael Bunn. 
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2020. Photos by authors unless credited. Thanks to  Michel Costes, Christophe Masse,  Georges Turpin and Michael Bunn
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