Toucy is a small town (2 600 inhabitants) in the Yonne, near Auxerre, in an area of woods and fields called Puisaye. The residents of the Puisaye area are called Poyaudins. Once, Toucy had four stations and five destinations by rail. Toucy-Ville was opened in 1884 and Toucy-Moulins in 1885. PLM provided train services at these two stations between Montargis and Clamecy, and between Auxerre and Gien. From 1912 - 1947, there was a narrow gauge line from Toucy-Ville to Joigny with a halt at Toucy-le-Haut, near the post-office.
L'Association des Autorails Touristiques de l'Yonne (AATY) was formed in 1985 and is based at the Toucy-Ville station. Initially, AATY operated their RGP 2, No 2716 from Montargis to Toucy-Ville and St Sauveur on Sundays from June 1987 to 1991. It was the longest tourist line in France and a joyful ride it was through the rural countryside of the Yonne, this writer remembers. It took most of the day with a good selection of food and beverages served by a happy crew.
Then SNCF closed the freight line. After 7 years of negotiations, a local Syndicat was formed to purchase 33 km of the single track line and the tourist trains could restart in 1998. Two Picasso railcars were used in support of the RGP 2 No 2716 which in recent years has been used to provide "lunch on board" events. The association has a small museum at Toucy including two Post office vans fully equipped.
Maintaining the track has always been a problem. The Syndicat has entirely inadequate funding to repair and renew the track. Income is reported to be, currently, 35 000 euros a year. Most of the annual income has been used to repay the loan to buy the line. Currently only 9 km of the line out of 33 km is open. The Syndicat has recently tried to transfer the job to the Communauté des Communes which has more resources. But the President of the C of C has categorically refused to support the tourist train. It is believed some personal animosity between the two presidents is blocking the dossier.
AATY is naturally upset by the lack of support from the community. The outlook is bleak because the line is in such poor state. it needs to be regenerated and it may well be closed in a matter of months. The speed limit is 10 kph. The most attractive part of the line for visitors is not open at present.
Our photo (left) shows gallant Picasso X 3871, 20 years ago, when the outlook was brighter.