General Information

History of French Railways

A brief history of France's railways is available via this link

Locomotive & rolling stock data

The Platform 5 European Handbook No. 4 ‘French Railways - Locomotives and & Multiple Units’ by David Haydock provides detailed technical and fleet information on the current SNCF and private operator fleets, along with data on preserved locomotives. The monthly Platform 5 journal ‘Todays Railways - Europe’ contains details of fleet changes and other news. The ‘Espace Material’ section of the website Trains du Sud-Ouest contains details of the current and former SNCF diesel and electric fleet, private operators fleets and data on the SNCF passenger coach fleet.

Current operations

There is no equivalent of Real Time Trains in France. The nearest is the SNCF Connect app. This shows how passenger trains are running by using the train number or the Arrivals and Departure boards of stations on route. This will also show the type of rolling stock being used.

SNCFRailGen and European Rail Gen are two Yahoo Groups where members report sightings (and other interesting information) of locomotive workings across France (mainly diesels and the older electrics). Information on current locomotive diagrams are also available to members of the groups for personal use.

Timetables (domestic services)

SNCF currently operate all domestic services in France. The Intercite medium distance services are sponsored by the government, and the local TER services by the regions. SNCF is keen for customers to do everything on-line from train enquiries to ticket purchase, with tickets downloaded onto a smart-phone. There are fewer guichets, where you can buy tickets over the counter and most have a long wait. Some cheaper services Ouigo and Intercite Eco can only be booked on-line. The once common paper timetables for each route have now largely been discontinued, although still produced by a few TERs. 

The SNCF journey planner is far from user-friendly. Drawbacks include time of day parameters that are too narrow, and the refusal of the system to accept a journey with more than two changes. It has a strong preference for SNCF TGV services, even if this involves a circuitous route. 

The best point-to-point on-line 'journey planner' timetable is the Deutsche Bahn HAFAS Europe-wide timetable database. It can be accessed in English or French, although the original German is fairly self-explanatory.

 Traditional timetables can be downloaded from the ‘Horaires & Trafic and Fiches Horaires’ section of individual TER sites.  There is normally a drop down box in the ‘Ligne’ section showing the tables available in pdf format. These also normally show Inter-cites services operating over TER routes. Given SNCF’s practice of suspending train services for engineering work it is is prudent to also check via a journey planner or the relevant ‘Travaux’ section. The link below is to the main TER site from which individual regions can be selected. If the required table is not available it might be found by selecting an individual station site (put SNCF and station name into google) as these also have links to relevant pdf tables. 

For Paris RER services the SNCF Transilien site at the link below allows the PDF timetables for RER lines A - U to be downloaded. Stay on the French language site as selecting English will move you to information about travel cards (that may also be useful)


France's heritage and tourist railway association UNECTO (Union des Exploitants de Chemins de Fer et touristiques et de Musees) operates the https://en.lafrancevuedurail.frwebsite that lists all of France's preservation sites, including railtour operators. There is also a list of forthcoming events although this is not particularly comprehensive.