Final regular BB 17000 working

Somme Department to fund Noyelles - Le Crotoy re-laying

CFBS Cail 2-6-0T passes Morlay between Le Crotoy and Noyelles in October 2016

In a move that all preserved lines would envy the Department of the Somme have agreed to fund the re-laying of the 8km of track from Le-Crotoy to Noyelles, at a cost of €1.5 miilion. About half the cost will cover materials with track, sleepers, bolts, and chairs being purchased at the end of 2016. Re-laying will be undertaken by specialist contractors with technical assistance from CFBS staff during the first three months of 2018.

Exhibition to mark closure of Charolais Depot

17075 leaves Epluches on the final day of regular Class BB 17000 service between Creil and Pontoise. Photo Michel Costes

Thursday 8th December marked the end of regular Class BB 17000 services with Bombardier Francilien units taking over their final regular turns on Creil-Pontoise services. Between 12-14th December 19 of the remaining locomotives were withdrawn leaving just 11 in traffic. These will be retained at Acheres for another year to cover Class 27300 shortages and ECS working into Gare de L’Est. Attempts are being made to preserve 27016. On the 12th December 8592/8593 were also withdrawn leaving just three Class BB 8500 in service, two are retained at Toulouse for snow-plough duties and the other for shunting pilgrims trains at Lourdes. The only remaining small electric locomotives are Class 25500 with Strasbourg retaining six daily diagrams and a handful of duties at Nantes and Dijon. In the Ile de France the only remaining RIO/RIB workings are the two Class 67400 commuter turns from La Ferte Milon to Paris Gare de L’Est. The introduction of the new timetable also saw the end of regular Class BB 67400 workings from Marsailles along the Cote Bleu.

More Intercité TET routes transfer to Regional TERs

The break-up of the Intercité network continues with a number of further announcements during December.

Hauts de France TER is to take over responsibility for Paris - Amiens - Boulogne and Paris - St Quinten - Cambrai/Maubeuge services from 1st January 2019. The main components of the agreement are that the government will fund the purchase of 10 Alstom Coradia Liners (Regiolis), worth €150 million, fund another €250 million for Bombardier Regio 2Ns and provide an annual subsidy of €15 million.

In a similar move Nouvelle Aquitaine will take over responsibility for three Intercité services from 1st January 2018:

Three daily return services from Bordeaux to Nantes via La Rochelle and one daily return service from Bordeaux to La Rochelle.  The latter being something of a long distance commuter service. There is no comment about the engineering work necessary between La Rochelle and La Roche sur Yon,

with some suggestion that this section will be singled. There is also no mention about whether Pays de la Loire Region will share future responsibility for this route with Nouvelle Aquitaine.

Bordeaux - Limoges, one daily return service; the stub end of the Bordeaux - Lyon via Montluçon which has been limited to Limoges in recent years. Services between Bordeaux and east of the Massif Central took another knock in December when the Bordeaux - Lyon TGV via Montpelier was withdrawn.

Bordeaux - Ussel, two return weekend services of the ex - Ventadour Bordeaux - Clermont Ferrand service limited to Ussel for the last two years since closure of the section to Lacquille.

The State will provide a subsidy (amount not specified), and 5 new trains that have not been specified, but presumably Alstom Coradia Liners (Regiolis)

Over the weekend of 10th/11th December SNCF mounted an exhibition of locomotives at Gare de Lyon to mark the formal closure of Charolais Depot. Once the principal depot for Gare de Lyon with three roundhouses, in recent years the depot has only been used to stable the occasional locomotive and handle mail traffic that has now ceased. The site will be sold for re-development.

The locomotives on display were 2D2 9135, CC 6549, BB 7102, BB 8511, BB 348, BB 9337, CC 6530, BB 67596, CC 72084, BB 22345 with BB 26049 giving cab rides around the station.


Modernisation of signalling

It may surprise readers to learn that all the signals and points at Paris Gare de Lyon are still operated with a system designed by the PLM and installed in 1930. The tall signal box at the end of platform 5 was erected for the extension of the station 86 years ago and creation of the "numbered" platforms on the east side ( 3 - 21). It is soon to be replaced.

During the last five years, SNCF has prepared for the changeover to a brand new signalling centre that will, initially, control all traffic (800 trains a day) at Gare de Lyon, Gare de Bercy and along 10 km of approach tracks. The new centre has been built at Vigneux-sur-Seine (between Villeneuve-St-Georges and Juvisy).

The switch-over will take place during the week end of 18th/19th March, 2017. In 48 hours, round the clock, from midnight 17th March, 400 staff will be deployed to re-connect all the points and signals in the area to the new control centre (CCR*) at Vigneux. The total cost of the project is 200M€. The existing electro-mechanical system is unusual in that the points are operated by cables. It was as a result of incorrect maintenance to the system that an empty Lyria TGV derailed in January 2015. The report into the incident recommends modernisation of the system as soon as possible. More details at:


During that week end, no TGV, intercité, Transilien, or RER  trains will operate to or from Gare de Lyon, Gare de Bercy or between Chatelet and Villeneuve St Georges on RER D. 

TGV services will be diverted as follows:

TGV's to/from Marseilles and Côte d'Azur will start and terminate at Roissy CDG Airport TGV station.

TGV Lyria services to Switzerland (Bâle, Lausanne, Geneva) will use Gare de l'Est.

TGV services to Lyon will use Marne la Vallée, TGV's to Lyon will use Versailles Chantier

TGV's to Languedoc (Occitanie) wlll leave from Gare Montparnasse. 

Intercités and TER services to  Dijon, Bourgogne and Clermont-Ferrand will use Gare d'Austerlitz.

Transilien R to Montargis and RER D services will terminate at Villeneuve-St Georges or Juvisy.

Obviously journey times will be longer and many trains will be cancelled. If you had planned to travel through Gare de Lyon or Bercy on that 

week end .... you have been warned !!.  

* Commande centralisée du Réseau

On 16th December, Centre Val-de-Loire Region announced that it had received a letter from the Transport Minister that confirmed the conclusions of negotiations for some intercité services to be transferred to the Region.

From 1st January 2018, Centre Region will take over all the intercité services between Paris-Austerlitz, Orléans, Blois and Tours (These are approximately 22 return services daily on weekdays) They will take over the 4 or 5 daily intercité services from Paris-Austerlitz to Bourges (Two of these daily return services currently continue from Bourges to Montluçon(Auvergne) but there is no word on their future) 

Centre Region will also take over the 6 daily services from Paris-Bercy non-stop to Montargis, and omnibus on to Nevers (Bourgogne). Only about 25% of this route is in Centre Region.

The State is to subsidise these services that have a total deficit of €49 million annually. For 2018/2019 the State will continue to finance 100% the deficit on these services.This subsidy will then reduce to 90% of the deficit in 2020, 70% in 2021 and 50% thereafter. The State will provide 39 new trains and will finance the cost of a new maintenance depot (presumably at Les Aubrais). 36 of the new trains will be the 200km/h version of the Bombardier Regio2N (see Normandie TER report) and three Alstom Coradia Liners

67436 pauses at Rochefort with the evening Bordeaux - La Rochelle service on the 24th April 2015. Photo Duncan McEvoy.

Normandy Bombardier Regio 2N order confirmed

At last! -  A decision on the TET "Cevenol" and "Aubrac"

On 14th December, Alain Vidalies, Minister of Transport, and Carole Delga, President of Occitanie Pyrénées-Méditerranée Region announced that an agreement had been reached concerning the daily TET services "Cevenol" (Clermont-Ferrand - Nîmes) and "Aubrac" (Clermont-Ferrand - Béziers).

From 1st January 2018, Occitanie Region will become responsible for the "Cévenol" express which will become a TER. (Clermont-Ferrand to Nîmes). The region will therefore, on that date, take over the "Cevenol" express. . As compensation, Occitanie region will receive 3 new Alstom Coradia Liner trains for a value of 30M€. The State will also contribute an unspecified operating subsidy. The State will also jointly finance with Occitanie repairs to the ligne des Cévennes for a total of 43M€ to consolidate the infrastructures. This is stated to be a unique financing arrangement.

In addition, the two parties agreed to jointly manage and finance the daily Clermont-Ferrand - Béziers "Aubrac" express for an experimental period of two years from 1st January 2017. The deficit will be shared equally during this period. At the end of two years, the State will decide what to do. Presumably the "Aubrac" will remain an "intercité" which is a surprise as most observers expected the train to be withdrawn.

Commentary: There remain a number of  uncertainties. The communiqué is silent about any possible future contributions and responsibilities of Auvergne Rhône-Alpes for the "Cevenol" and the "Aubrac". There is no news of any funding to improve the infrastructure between Neussargues and

Béziers. It is uncertain what material will be used for the "Aubrac". The elections for a new President of France and a new government next spring

will no doubt result in a fresh look at these decisions.

Note: TET = Train d'Equilibre du Territoire

Le Train Jaune

In a separate announcement the Occitanie Region confirmed that €14 million was being made available for ‘Le Train Jaune’ over the period 2015-2020 to renovate the rolling stock and renew the infrastructure

Class 36000s return from Morocco

At the end of November SNCF placed the formal order with Bombardier for 40 Regio 2N units to replace Class 15000 and 26000 locomotives and corail stock on Normandy Intercité services from St Lazare. Valued at €585 million, the order is being funded by the French government as part of the deal whereby Normandy TER will take over responsibility for the services.

Based on Bombardier’s OMNEO platform the Normandy units will have a top speed of 200 km/h, and offer a range of amenities for long distance travellers. Passengers can enjoy a spacious, WiFi-equipped interior that features USB charging ports, standard power plugs, and a wider seat equipped with integrated lighting. Each unit will be 135m-long, offer 470 seats, and be able to operate in multiple. Delivery will start at the end of 2019 and when complete increase passenger capacity by 20% on the routes to Le Havre and Cherbourg. The units are reported to be at the maximum limit allowed for the loading gauge on the lines into St Lazare and any future engineering work will be closely monitored. Normandy TER has obtained written confirmation from SNCF Infra that the units will be able to operate. Image Bombardier.

Intercité Regiolis on loan to Alsace TER

BB 36001 on hire to Moroccan Railways working a phosphate train at Sidi Hajjaj in March 2013. Photo Didier Delattre

Three of the Akiem Class 36000s (36004 - 06) operating in Morocco have returned to France after four years. The three locomotives were shipped from Casablanca to Le Havre then to Sotteville Depot en route to Belfort for major overhaul and refurbishment. Four locomotives remain in Morocco. 

Turmoil at Gare du Nord

December was a bad month for Gare du Nord, Europe’s busiest station handling 700,000 passengers a day. On Friday 2nd December a signals failure on RER lines B/D stopped services for the morning. On Tuesday 6th December an automotrice that had been running with a dislodged pantograph for several weeks tore down half a kilometre of overhead line at Aulnay sur Bois on Line B. With no direct access to the airport SNCF laid on a TGV shuttle from Gare du Nord covering some rare track.

Repairs were not completed until mid-day on the 7th December, when at 13:20 as services were returning more overhead catenary came down just outside Gare du Nord due to a missing fixture and pin. This was followed by a third incident with a fault on a section insulator at one of the platforms. All services from the station were then stopped until late evening causing enormous disruption to rail services across northern France.

The extent of the impact was due to all of the overhead power into Gare du Nord being operated through a single rather than separate electrical systems. An SNCF spokesman said that this is an area that they would investigate to mitigate the impact of any future incidents.

Seasons Greetings and best wishes for 2017 to all our readers

The Society’s Winter Rendezvous & Exhibition

Our next members re-union and exhibition will take place on Sunday 22nd January 2017. The venue will be the Lenham Community Centre, Lenham, Kent ME17 2QT. Open 10:00 to 17:00

There will be a wide range of exhibits to hold your interest as well as the chance to catch up with fellow members. Attractions include:

- Layouts and displays in various scales from zero to zed, standard  gauge and narrow gauge

- SNCF Society stand

  1. -Sales stands from Harry Maynard, John Rowcroft and Rob Heron

  2. -Chris Ludlow “Peintre du Rail”

- Other continental society stands

- Full programme of talks and presentations including films from Nick   Lera "Fifty years of French Narrow Gauge Steam"

- Presentation and judging of exhibits in the modelling competition

- Members bring and buy table

As usual breakfast, lunch and light refreshments will be available.

We trust that we will have a good turnout from Society members but as always non-members are very welcome. Please do all you can to encourage friends and fellow enthusiasts to pay a visit.

For any further information contact Roger Allen: roger.allen1@btinternet.com;

On Tuesday 13th December IC 1 02 an Alstom Coradia, the Intercite version of the Regiolis began track testing between Paris and Belfort in preparation for their introduction in 2017. On the same day units IC 1 04 - 1 06 arrived at Strasbourg on loan to Alsace TER to cover a rolling stock shortage. They were put to work on Strasbourg - Metz/Nancy services. !C 1 04 is seen above at Strasbourg waiting to depart with the 17:49 to Metz on the 13th December.

Onboard Wi-fi rollout begins

On the 15th December SNCF began the roll-out of wi-fi on trains with some TGV sets offering the facility between Paris and Lyon. The move is part of a wider roll out to offer wi-fi over 80% of the TGV network by the end of 2017 and follows the rollout of wi-fi at major stations.Data will be limited and is aimed at offering customers access to social networks and emails, as well as following the trains progress on a map and accessing real-time train information

The introduction has been technically challenging. At speeds of 300km’h maintaining continuous contact is difficult on 3G and 4G networks, and many of the lines run through sparsely populated countryside with poor signal coverage. 200 relays have been installed between Paris and Lyon to provide coverage away from built-up areas. Trains are being fitted with an aerial above the buffet and two aerials per deck for each coach. Over the next year 18,000 aerials will be fitted to 300 TGV sets.

© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The SNCF Society 2017. Thanks to Michel Costes, Alain Paillard, Laurent Vandermotte, Didier Delattre, Duncan McEvoy  and Alan Allbuary Photos by authors unless credited. sncfsociety@macmate.me

Quimper - Brest closed for a year

Since the start of the new timetable on 11th December services between Quimper and Brest have been replaced by buses for a year. The section between  Quimper and Landerneau is being completely re-built. Between January and October 2017 70 kilometres of track will be re-laid, the Neiz-Vran tunnel in Quimerc'h and the Douffine viaduct in Lopérec will be renovated and the station building at Dirinon will be demolished. After testing and re-commissioning in November the line will re-open on 10th December 2017.

Railtours Page

The railtours page has been taken down and will be re-populated for 2017 when information becomes available. Only information so far is from MFPN for tours with231 K 8. 6th May 2017 Paris - Reims. 10th June 2017 Paris - Le Treport 30th September 2017 Paris - Noyellles

New narrow gauge railway at Bar-le-Duc, Meuse.

A few weeks ago, an article in a local newspaper “Est Républicain” came to our attention. It described the inauguration of a 4 kilometre narrow gauge railway through the Forest of Massonge on the western outskirts of Bar-le-Duc, prefecture of the département of the Meuse, in Lorraine. The event took place on August 27th 2016 and it was a surprise to learn about the existence of a new heritage railway. We decided to investigate and this is what we discovered.

First a little historical background. (See also Journal 151, via this link)

One hundred years ago.

Suzanne at Remiremont in 1908 then only 18 years old.

2016 was the year of commemoration of the battle of Verdun, the longest single battle of the First World War. It started on February 21st 1916 and lasted 10 months until December 16th. The Germans attacked Verdun on an 8 mile front with 140,000 troops and 168 airplanes. The French defenses were in poor state, Only 30,000 troops were deployed, at first, in defense of the town. 

There were only two possible supply lines into the front lines around Verdun.

One was by road - 57 km from Bar-le-Duc. The other possibility was by metre gauge railway from Bar-le-Duc - 68 km. The railway had been opened in 1895 and was operated by Compagnie Meusienne de Chemins de Fer (CM). The French army commandeered the railway for the whole war, but its capacity was limited. The main supply route to Verdun was the road and every week 90,000 troops and 50,000 tons of supplies were transported  by 3,500 camions. By the end of the battle, approximately 700,000 troops had died, 360,000 were French, and the invader had failed to break through.

After the war, the road from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun was named the “Voie Sacrée”  In 1936, the narrow gauge CM railway lines in the area were closed. Among the steam engines used during the previous 40 years was a Corpet 0-3-1T, No 26 named “Suzanne” built in 1890. No 26 still had work to do for she was used in the construction of coastal defenses in the Somme in 1943-44. Thereafter, the locomotive was sent to a scrap yard in St Valery-en-Somme 

There, the loco was discovererd in 1981 by a member of the Tourist Office of Bar-le-Duc. It seems that the Tourist Office recognised the derelict, rusty engine and arranged for her return to Bar-le-Duc, where she was promptly forgotten for another ten years.  

1990 - 2009

At the beginning of 1990, a local preservation group conceived an ambitious plan to restore No 26 “Suzanne” and to create a replica of the former narrow gauge line that some called the “Voie Sacrée Ferroviaire”. The idea was to create a museum line to demonstrate the role of the Meusien railway during the First World War. 

The first hurdle was to rebuild the steam engine. “Suzanne” was classified Monument Historique in 1992. This would have opened the door to subsidies from the Ministry. An association (“La Suzanne”) was formed to administer a "re-insertion" scheme for the unemployed, subsidised by the State. A total of 50,000 hours was worked over the following 16 years to return the steam engine to working order (1992 - 2008).  The total cost came to 283,000 euros financed by the Ministry of Culture (40%), Brussels (32%), Lorraine (2%), Meuse (8%), Bar-le-Duc (4%) and “La Suzanne” (14%). The association "La Suzanne" sells a book about the details of this project.

In June 2009, the locomotive was ready for testing and it was transferred to CFBS at St Valery where it steamed successfully on the réseau des Bains de Mer. Once No 26 “Suzanne” was ready, it became possible to attack the second stage, the creation of the running line and museum. 

The museum

The status of the buildings to be erected at each end of the line is not clear at present. Undoubtedly the situation is understood locally, but CFHVS does not systematically communicate on Facebook or elsewhere.

The rolling stock

The CFHVS  has No 26 “Suzanne” in working order, several historic carriages and several wagons/fourgons from Switzerland that are to be converted to transport passengers.

Status - summer/autumn 2016

In the summer of 2016, "Suzanne" and various carriages and wagons were transferred to the new terminus from their temporary storage sites in the town.

The video of the transfers is here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNzoCWtGvsM

After the celebration of August 27th, work continued to complete the railway.

On October 15th 2016,  the first train with passengers steamed along the full length of the line and back, presumably with members and donors on board. An 8 minute video of that first train( taken by a passenger) can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcBbMqTT3qc 

Another test run over a shorter distance was conducted on Sunday  November 13th.  It can be assumed that these actitivies were to prepare for the inspection by STRMG whose favorable opinion is essential to obtain the approval of the préfecture to open the line to the public in 2017.


CFHVS communicates now via a Facebook account here: https://www.facebook.com/Cfhvs/?ref=page_internal It was opened in March 2012.

Previously it used this web site: http://www.traintouristique-lasuzanne.fr/ but last updated that site in 2014.


It is 26 years since the président (*) of CFHVS(**) first conceived the project that we have described above. It is a story of determination and convictions that we can admire. We have not visited this new heritage site yet, but when we do so in 2017, we will report further.

This project has obviously been very much a local one that fits into the commemoration of the Verdun battle.  A number of other WW1 museums and sites are located nearby.  

(*) Jean Michel Althuser

(**) Chemin de Fer Historique de la Voie Sacrée,

 55ter, rue de Saint-Mihiel,

55000 BAR-LE-DUC

E-Mail: cfhvs@hotmail.fr

Site internet: http://www.traintouristique-lasuzanne.fr/ 

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Cfhvs

Suzanne at Noyelles in 2009. Note the centre buffer needed to operate with CFBS stock. Photo Laurent Vandermotte

2010 - 2017

A second association was formed in November 2009; Chemin de fer Historique de la Voie Sacrée (CFHVS). There are some 40 members. The purpose of CFHVS is to create a museum with a steam train and historic rolling stock and a reconstruction of the first few km of the original railway from Bar-le-Duc towards Verdun. It is reported that the association has found more than 1,000 donors.  

Feasability and finance

It was decided to persuade the local and regional authorities to support the project (and to finance it !). The association organised an independant market study which apparently concluded that the project was viable. We have not seen this study, but it was reported that it is based on 5,000 visitors in the first year and up to 10,000 visitors annually after five years. With an entrance fee of 10 euros it was expected to break-even. 

The plan was presented to the Lorraine Region, the département