July 2021 News

141 TD 740 back in service

On 29th May, the nine year restoration of 141 TD 740 was successfully completed with a test run to Aixe sur Vienne to obtain its main line certificate. The same day 140 C 38 also undertook a run to Aixe sur Vienne following winter maintenance.

On Sunday 30th May, 141 TD 740 double headed 140 C 38 on a unique test run from Limoges to Eymoutiers. Above, the pair are seen before departure from Limoges (Photo Georges Turpin) and below at ‎⁨Saint-Denis-des-Murs⁩ in the Vienne Valley en route to Eymoutiers (Photo Didier Delattre). 

Restoration work at CFTLP (Train vapeur en Limousin) will now focus on the restoration of 231 K 82. For more information on this summer's services, and their preservation activities,their website is via this link

Last Corail intercité in Normandie -  Caen-Paris, June 2nd 2021

After the last Corail train from Cherbourg in April, SNCF reported that the last Corail express service on the Paris St Lazare - Caen line was operated on June 2nd, departing from Caen at 19h20 (Train 3362). It was hauled by BB 15036. 

 140 Corail carriages used on the Normandy main line have now been withdrawn,  80 will be scrapped and 60 transferred to the national IC fleet. 22 Sybic locos have been transferred from Normandy to the south west  for use between Bordeaux and Marselles. Of the BB 15000 class, most of the remaining  non push-pull fitted members of the class were withdrawn in May leaving just 15009/022 in service. A number of push-pull 15000s remain in service. We assume that they will be assessed and the better examples retained for Haut de France services from Gare du Nord. A total of 33 X56600 Bombardier Omneo Premium units had been delivered by mid June, sufficient to operate the majority of the current timetable. Seven more units are awaiting delivery

Above. On 16th May non push-pull fitted 15022 heads away from Mantes-la-Jolie with one of the few remaining Corail services. Photo Erwan Quintin.

175 years of train services between Paris and Brussels

On 14th June 1846, the first train (steam hauled, of course !) for Brussels departed from Paris, Gare du Nord. It would take two days, via Lille to reach the Belgian capital. 

 175 years later, on Monday 14th June, 2021, a commemorative service by Thalys high speed train departed from Paris, Gare du Nord with 175 passengers on board. After a non stop journey of 1h 22m, the train arrived at Brussels Midi, for speeches and champagne. The day marked the 25th anniversary of Thalys trains between France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany.  

After many months of restrictions due to the COFID Pandemic, which has reduced Thalys services by 90%, the company announced that 50 % of its services would be operated from 14th June (11 return services Paris - Brussels). On 3rd July, the Brussels - Marseilles service will be re-started.
Some key dates 

In 1846 journey times between Paris and Brussels were quickly improved using the route via St-Quentin and Mons (312 km) which reduced the travel time to one day. By 1900, the journey took 4h 46m. In 1927 a luxury train service "L'Etoile du Nord" started between Paris and Brussels / Amsterdam. Passengers enjoyed the comfort of CIWL Pullman rolling stock in 1st/2nd class with full scale catering on board. The journey time to the Belgian capital from Paris dropped to 3h 30m.

In 1957 the Golden Age of European rail travel began with the creation of the Trans European Express (TEE) network. On the prestigious route Paris - Brussels - Amsterdam, diesel powered TEE train sets were introduced. From 1965, they were replaced by loco hauled trains formed with stainless steel carriages, type Mistral 1956. Ten quadri-voltage electric locomotives (class 40100) were designed to operate in France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. The journey time between Brussels-Midi and Paris Gare du Nord dropped to 2h 20m. The loco hauled TEE trains to Brussels operated until the mid 1990's when the high speed line (LGV Nord) was opened.  

In June 1996, SNCF, SNCB, DB and NS launched the Thalys high speed train service with a fleet of 10 tri-voltage TGV PBA sets, and 17 quadri-voltage TGV PBKA sets. The journey time from Paris to Brussels became 1h 58m. From Dec 14th 1997 the final section of the high speed line (from the French frontier to Brussels) was opened and the journey time was established at 1h 25m. The Thalys trains have a top speed of 300 kph.

 In 2015, Thalys became a limited company owned by SNCF and SNCB. In normal times, 7.8 million passengers annually travel in Thalys trains.

Photos: Above right- Etoile du Nord poster 1927. 
Below - Triangle de Coubert, Seine et Marne (77) 22nd July, 2000. Presles. First generation Thalys TGV sets
Top: A Brussels - Geneva service. 
Bottom: A Perpignan - Marseilles - Brussels service. 

These two services no longer operate.  

Open access and locomotive hauled services

Midnight Trains proposes new cross border night services

Following on the heels of Rail Coop and Le Train new start up company Midnight Trains is proposing a network of long distance overnight trains from Paris starting in 2024. Unlike other start ups who are often seen as competing with coach services, Midnight Trains sees itself offering a more sustainable option to  medium distance air travel, and by travelling overnight saving one of two days that would otherwise be spent travelling.
Pitching itself between the Orient Express and couchettes, Midnight Train will offer a hotel on rails with bar and restaurant facilities and private rooms that you share with family and friends but not strangers. Some illustration of their planned accommodation and further detail is available on their website. They plan to offer services to European cities 800 - 1,500 km from Paris (see diagram below
Interviewed on RTL on June 16th, Adrien Aumont (co-founder of Midnight Trains) indicated that the first service would start in December 2023 for the 2024 timetable. The two trains (one from each end of the line) would link (every night) Paris with a destination in southern Europe either in Spain or Italy. The Talgo Trenhotel train sets would seem to correspond to the vision of Midnight Trains. However, the choice of supplier for the new trains as well as the type of financing is not fixed yet.

This would suggest Edinburgh - Paris will be some years away while rolling stock that meets both the British loading gauge and Channel Tunnel requirements is sourced. 

SNCF "Oslo" Project
Further details have also emerged of SNCF's new loco hauled  "Oslo" services with the proposals having been lodged with the Rail Regulator. Being introduced in December 2022 services would operate from Paris to Lyon and Nantes, with three services each way daily on both routes. Two of the Nantes trains will run via Les Aubrais and the Loire Valley and the other via Chartres and Le Mans. Two of the Lyon trains will start from Bercy  and will call at Villeneuve-Saint-Georges and Melun. The other will start from Austerlitz. The two Nantes trains via Les Aubrais will also call at Juvisy (for Orly), an innovative and useful feature. Rolling stock is expected to come from the surplus Corail stock from Normandie services (see above) that is being retained and will be refurbished.
It is unclear what SNCF's strategy is with the re-introduction of loco hauled services, having passed the majority of the medium distance former InterCite services over to the Regions. The Lyon service in particular will directly compete with the Paris - Lyon loco hauled services operated by Bourgogne TER. Is there really a gap in the market not met by their existing services or are SNCF just trying to discourage  open access operators from introducing competitive services?
THELLO closes Paris - Venice and Marseilles - Nice - Milan
Suspended since spring 2020 due to COVID, the Thello overnight train between Paris and Venice will be permanenty withdrawn from July 1st. It was the first privately operated train to compete with SNCF, starting in December 2011. The Thello day services between Marseilles - Nice - Milan (started in 2014) were also suspended in 2020, and then a daily Nice - Milan servce was re-started. This route will also be permanently closed from July 1st. 
 Thello announced that it will now concentrate on high speed trains, initially with a Paris - Milan day service. Thello has (in the past) announced plans to open new routes but they have never materialised. We should thus be prudent in our expectations. Thello is wholly owned by Trenitalia since 2016. 
 During the 9 years of operations, Thello has never made any profits. From 2012 until the end of 2019 the company lost 66 million euros according to a Wikipedia source. 
CN2 is based at Latour-de-Carol during the winter. On June 22/23, the venerable snow-plough returned to Toulouse depot and is seen crossing the Garonne near Portet Saint-Simon on the Ariège line. CN2 was fabricated on BB 8556 which is 50 years old. It is uncertaiin whether the plough will be scheduled for another season. There is a CN1 also, usually based at Ax-les-Thermes in the winter.Photo Georges Turpin

Alstom prefers Skoda

Among the many factories in the Alstom group, (now merged with Bombardier Transport), the assembly plant at Reichshoffen, Bas Rhin 67, Alsace is of interest. This plant is located 40 km north of Strasbourg, on a single track branch line, between Haguenau and the terminus at Niederbronn-les-Bains. The plant employs 750 staff and it currently assembles the Coradia Polyvalent trains that SNCF calls Regiolis and Coradia Liner. It is reported there is an order backlog for 2 1/2 years production. Additionally, 12 hydrogen powered Regiolis units have been ordered for different French Regions.

One of the conditions set by Brussels for the merger of Bombardier Transport into Alstom was the obligation to sell the Reichshoffen plant. A year later this condition is close to being met by Alstom. The first offer came from CAF and as the Spanish group is a major competitor to Alstom, the offer was set aside, although unions were favorable. SKODA Transportation ( a privately owned company based in the Czech Republic ) has expressed interest. Their range of products is described here. This is more suitable for Alstom as the Czech company has currently no products that compete in France with Alstom.

The two parties have been negotiating and it is reported that they will agree soon. The sale would be concluded in September or October. SKODA Transportation is not linked to SKODA Auto which is in the Volkswagen Group. The Czech constructor has not communicated on plans for the future of the Alsace plant. 

Land slip in the Lot et Garonne

In February 2021, a segment of cliff collapsed on to the single track of the Agen - Périgueux line in the Lot valley at Condezaygues, near Monsempron-Libos, 44 km north of Agen. 3,000 cubic mètres of rubble cover the track. 

 In June, SNCF announced plans to clear the track and re-open the line. Investigations have disclosed that the cliff is stable and the site will be cleared during July and August. It is expected that the line will re-open in September. 

 Planning continues for the regeneration of the line of 152 km between Dordogne and Lot et Garonne. The cost is estimated at 140 million euros.

BB 7600 in decline

The BB 7600 sub class is now in decline.  ‎BB 7605 has been withdrawn  following  a collision at Rambouillet in April 2020 and the remainder of the class are expected to follow over the next few months as they are replaced by BB 27300 and new Regio 2N units.  

The BB 7600s entered service in 2012, being converted from redundant freight BB 7200s, to replace Z5300 units on Paris-Montparnasse to Rambouillet and Plaisir-Grignon services. Equipped for push pull operation with refurbished VB2N sets transferred from Gare du Nord services, the BB7600s only had the push-pull connections at one end. Above BB 7612 is seen passing ⁨Le Perray-en-Yvelines⁩ on the evening of 31st May with a Montparnasse -  Rambouillet service. Photo Erwan Quintin
Not to everyone's taste, but an integral part of the French freight scene for some years EMD 66201 passes  Vauciennes on the 14th of June with  61960/61 from Vaires-Torcy to Villers-Cotterêts. Photo Erwan Quintin

Successful trial for CC 40110

The atmosphere of 1980's international travel returned on the 26th June when MFPN's CC 40110 undertook a successful test run from Le Bourget to Gare du Nord via Dammartin, Ormoy-Villers and Creil. Seen above passing through La Borne Blanche at speed. (Photo Christophe Masse)  and below waiting to depart from Gare du Nord (photo Didier Delattre).

After a number of set-backs, the successful trial should now open the way for rail tours. The first will be on July 14th, Paris Gare du Nord - Amiens, followed by Paris - Deauville on August 14th
And finally a slightly different aspect of CC 40110 passing through Dammartin-Juilly-St Mard. Although this is the first time this locomotive has hauled a train in 25 years the majority of  onlookers are clearly disinterested. (Photo Fabrice Lanoue)


CFBS Fête de la Vapeur 2021 and 50th Anniversary

Despite the uncertainty and many difficulties of the last 18 months it looks as if the Fête de la Vapeur 2021 & 50 ans du CFBS will be another memorable event. From amongst the seven visiting steam locomotives the stars of the show are likely to be the Brohitalbahn Mallet 105 (above), Vicinal Tram HL 303, Velay Corpet Louvet 0-8-0T 22, and standard gauge Schneider N°3 Progrès from Le Train Des Mouettes. (Photo Alain Paillard)

There will be exhibitions and attractions at Le Crotoy, St Valery, Cayeux and Noyelles where locomotive Marc Seguin will be on display. Full details of the event and the special arrangements are available in the programme that can be viewed via this link.

 To mark the event a photographic pdf has been prepared commemorating 50 years of preservation by the CFBS and illiustrating the progress made since 1971. This can be downloaded from the website using the link to the public folder on the Members Page

The Society's Rendezvous & Exhibition August 2021, 
Lenham Community Centre, Lenham, Kent

We are still hoping to hold our annual réunion and exhibition on Sunday 22nd August but with the extension of Step 3 of the Government's Covid Roadmap until 19th July, we must delay our final decision on whether the event goes ahead until mid-July. At that point we will give a further update on the website and through e-mail and io.groups.
On 12th June, the third special of the season for "Le Train Historique de Toulouse" was to Sète. The 7 coach train was hauled outbound by 7338 with 7398 hauling the train on the return leg. Thus both the electric locos which belong to the association got some exercise ! The train was photographed by our correspondent, Georges Turpin at Cornilhac-Cornières, between Carcassonne and Lézignan-Corbières on the outward journey. 

Of interest here is how unobtrusive the single side masts of the overhead catenary are, compared to the heavyweight masts used on the GWML in the UK making lineside photography virtually impossible

A successful test run for 141 R 1126

On June 24th, the Toulouse based steam locomotive, 141 R 1126, performed a successful test run between Saint Jory and Castelnaudary. The loco (an oil burner !) was photographed passing the village of Avignonet-Lauragais with billowing smoke on the return run to Saint Jory yard, chimney first. Tucked in behind was BB 7398 ( just in case) but the electric was not needed. 

 Out of service for many months, the loco has received 175 new tubes in the boiler. The first steam hauled excursion train is scheduled for Sept 5th from Toulouse to the Viaur viaduct, subject to receipt of numerous approvals. 
 Information and photo: Georges Turpin

Vapeur du Trieux in 2021

Transdev Rail Bretagne (ex CFTA Bretagne) operates the Vapeur du Trieux excursion train at Paimpol during the summer with a daily round trip to Pontrieux. But it will not run in 2021.

After a truncated season in 2020 due to the COFID confinement, Transdev decided in October 2020 not to reserve timetable slots or hire staff for the 2021 season due to uncertainty over conditions. At the date of that decision, France was entering a 2nd wave and a new confinement with no visibility into 2021. Six months later, other tourist rail activities are opening, but many operate with volunteers and/or in isolated sites that allow short term decisions to be taken. 
141 TB 424, the steam engine employed on Vapeur du Trieux, is now based at Carhaix in the historic Réseau Breton shed (1891 - 1967), then CFTA. The tank engine will be subject to repairs during 2021. There is a project to convert the workshop at Carhaix to a museum. A dossier for inscription of the building as a Monument Historique is underway. In 2022, metric tracks will be added inside and historic rolling stock brought in.  

Opposite - The well preserved station buildings at Pontrieux

 Heritage Lines  - Waiting for public money !

Spending public money in France is a long and tedious process, guided by numerous legal and administrative steps. It lasts many years. Councils are elected for 5 years. Projects started in mid term will often be suspended due to elections. Opinions can frequently change with new council members, resulting in work in progress being modified, delayed or even abandonned. 
Heritage railways that operate on track owned by public bodies are very vulnerable to huge problems that can threaten their existence. The technical details of a railway line are generally mysterious to most elected officials. Especially if large sums are involved. A cycle path is more familiar and often preferred, in France. The fact that a cycle path is usually no less expensive to create than renewal of a single track railway that will last 30 years is often ignored. 
 This month, NEWS desk reports on 3 heritage lines in trouble waiting for public money or authorisations. The consequences are dramatic.

St-Quentin - Origny-Ste-Bênoite closed to the CFTV tourist train.

Since the beginning of 2020, CFTV has been unable to operate tourist trains along the freight line to Origny. This is not due to COFID. It is the culmination of a series of complications arising from the ownership of the railway line and responsibility for maintaining the infrastructure and operating trains. 

 The 22 km line from St Quentin to Origny was purchased by the département of Aisne (02) in 1953. The line was closed to passenger traffic in 1966. An important sugar refinery at Origny was the source of freight traffic along the line. In 1979, CFTV started tourist trains to Origny on Sundays. The tourist train started from the SNCF central station at St Quentin. SNCF operated and maintained the branch line. Later, RFF maintained the line. Afer a few years, RFF discovered that they did not own the line that they were maintaining. They were very shocked (!) and promptly banned CFTV from entering the main station at St-Quentin. Later RFF disappeared, replaced by SNCF Réseau.  

 In 2015 a law was passed that transferred responsibilty for freight lines from the départements to the Regions. The St Quentin - Origny line landed on a desk at Hauts de France Region, Lille. They reluctantly chose Europorte - Socorail to maintain and operate the line. An audit of infrastructure was carried out. The report was alarming on the state of some bridges. Urgent repairs for a sum of 5 million euros are required. Trains carrying passengers are forbidden since February 2020.

This line carries a significant number of tanker trains. The original sugar refinery at Origny has been developed into a modern plant which processes sugar beet for transformation into alcohol and ethanol as well as sugar. The site is the largest producer of ethanol in France. So the Region has no option except to repair the line. The tanker trains will continue as long as possible, before the temporary closure. A choice of contractor will be made at the end of 2021 and work is to start in 2022, to finish in the second half of 2023. 

 So CFTV is faced with the prospect of no revenue for 3 and 1/2 years ! The CFTV President interviewed in the local press was dismayed, but had no solutions. 

 Below Left. 140 C 314 is pictured at a rare CFTV festival, July 1st 2017, ruined by appalling weather. The steam loco was appearing for the first time after 11 years in the shed being overhauled. Sadly, a few months later, it was discovered that more work had to be done. Currently 314 is dismantled again for boiler work and a new axle for the tender. Right The Society visited the St Quentin - Origny-Ste Benoîte line on May 31st 2008. The special train (seen at Origny terminus) was hauled by a Fives Lille 0-3-0T built in 1933. This loco currently not in service. It awaits boiler work.

Chemin de fer historique de la Voie sacrée (CFHVS) and "La Suzanne"

This summer, members of CFHVS at Bar-le-Duc, Meuse are hoping that their emblematique Corpet tank engine "La Suzanne" (below -photo Jean-Noel Portmann) will be able to start to haul regular trains along a 4 km track through the forest. 
The orignal opening date was to be in 2016, during the events of the centenary of the Battle of Verdun (when "La Suzanne" operated along a supply line to support the French army). However, although the track was laid and the tank engine in steam, none of the buildings and facilities at the CFHVS terminus had been built by the council as required by the joint agreement. So the line could not open as planned. 

 It would be another 4 years, until 2020, before work would start in the forest on the edge of town to create the infrastructure at the terminus. Now that has been completed, the remaining hurdles are administrative; checking conformity of the infrastructure, the rolling stock, the operations along the line and, finally, authorisation from the prefecture. Inspectors are due to visit in June 2021

AATY Toucy, Yonne (89), desperate times !

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.

Additions to FRS Photographic Archive during June 2021

To Folder 1  
- A new folder containing some 140+ photographs donated by our member Jean Willig 

 To Folder 2  
- Scale drawing of Est wagon couvert, type NNf 

 To Folder 4  
- A selection of 45 magazine articles on a variety of subjects. 
- A CdF de l’Ouest official document detailing the composition of trains for Normandie, dated 1873 
- A CdF de l’Ouest official inventory of motive power & rolling stock @ 1 July 1900 
- A CdF du Nord official inventory of motive power in 1924 

 To Folder 7 
 - A selection of articles and booklets on the subject of the CIWL (Irun Workshop, Taurus Express & History of CIWL by George Behrend) 
 -SNCF Locomotives a Vapeur (5 Regions), published in the late 1940’s 

 To Folder 8 
- All missing Fiches Documentaires to complete the collection of the “old” Fiches Documentaires (approx. A5 format), courtesy of our member Jean Willig
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2021. With thanks to Georges Turpin, Didier Delattre, Erwan Quintin, Christophe Masse, Michel Costes, Fabrice Lanoue and Alain Paillard