MTVS Special Report - Part 2



Musée des Tramways à Vapeur et des chemins de fer Secondaires français (MTVS)

PROJECT – Crèvecoeur-le-Grand, Oise

Le Train Vapeur du Beauvaisis ( T.V.B.)

2013 / 2014

Twenty kilometres north of Beauvais, Oise, lies the small market town of Crèvecoeur-le-Grand (pop. 3,500) with its 16th century chateau.

Crèvecoeur-le-Grand and MTVS are in partnership to build a railway. In France, this objective is somewhat surprising, for the reverse is usually the case, preference being given almost invariably to replacing a disused railway with a voie verte. But Picardie is different, due to the presence of several tourist railways (notably in the Baie de Somme) which have demonstrated their positive contribution to the economy of the Region over the last 40 years.

In 1876, Crèvecoeur was linked by rail to Amiens and to Beauvais by a double track, standard gauge, line of 43 km, built by the Compagnie du Nord, between Vers (on the Abancourt – Amiens line) and St. Omer en Chaussée (on the Le Tréport – Abancourt – Beauvais line).

A local, narrow gauge, line from Saint-Just-en-Chaussée and Froissy reached Crèvecoeur-le-Grand in 1911.

Between 1914 and 1918 the railway from St Omer to Amiens was used intensively for troop movements to the front and it was doubled in 1916. The line was closed to passengers in 1939 but remained open for freight until 1979. Thereafter, just the southern section of 12 km from Crèvecoeur to St Omer was kept open. This section was finally closed in 1992, but the standard gauge track has remained in place since then.

As for the metre gauge line from Crèvecoeur to Saint-Just, this remained open until 1953 for passenger services (operated by Billard railcar) and until 1958 for steam hauled goods trains, principally, for the annual sugar beet harvest for the sucrerie at Froissy.

There is little trace of the former station at Crèvecoeur except for some tracks buried in the jungle of vegetation which has grown up in the last twenty years. All the buildings constructed by the Compagnie du Nord have been demolished, except for the small gatekeeper's cottage at the former level crossing on the D 930.

La coulée verte at Crèvecoeur-le-Grand looking to the north towards Amiens in 2011

In 2011, the Communauté des Communes de Crèvecoeur purchased from RFF a 4 km stretch of track bed south from Crèvecoeur to the hamlet of Rotangy. At the same time, the Communauté des Communes de la Picardie Verte purchased the track bed from Rotangy to St Omer-en-Chaussée (8 km).  

At Crèvecoeur, on the site of the former station, there is a vast empty enclosure created by walls of brick and concrete that was once covered by a roof and was used to store fertilizer. The floor area is 2,000 square metres. Although the damaged roof has been removed, the local council agreed to replace it with a new structure in the event that it could be used as a depot/workshop for MTVS. Agreement was reached in the summer of 2013. The commune of Crèvecoeur made the station site available to MTVS and is providing assistance to clear the vegetation. Over the following months, different parties and authorities gave their approval to the overall project which is to build, in stages, a metre gauge line over the 12 km from Crèvecoeur to St Omer-en-Chaussée.

In October 2011, MTVS staged a demonstration on 300 m of temporary track laid at St Omer-en-Chaussée. It received 2,000 visitors. It was to be the start of the new project.

The future MTVS line to St Omer will run along the track bed here near Oudeuil

The first stage of the project has been underway since the autumn of 2013. It consists of clearance of bushes and trees from the site, recovering rails from the old track and removing the sleepers, laying the first metre gauge tracks in front of the future depot and construction of an ash pit. MTVS members are doing all the work at present. An appeal for funds to buy new sleepers was launched (*) and a first load of 540 new sleepers was delivered in October 2014. A second load will be delivered in the spring of 2015. The rails from the standard gauge line are being re-used. By January 2015, approximately 300 metres of track and three sets of points, including a double slip had been laid (see diagram). A further 150 metres of track and a fourth set of points should be laid by the spring of 2015.

The second stage of the project is to extend the line for 1,6 km from Crèvecoeur terminus to the D 151. This is being accomplished over two years taking into account the administrative steps required to open the new line to passenger carrying trains. In 2015 the first stretch of about 400 metres was completed and an inauguration was held in October 2015 with steam shuttles up and down the new line.  

The Corpet Louvet TIV tank engine No 75 was transported to Crèvecoeur along with 3 carriages. Over the week end, approximately 2 000 visitors came to the site and travelled on the train. There was a very strong interest and support expressed by the public and the officials in the plans to develop the tourist train towards its ultimate destination, St Omer en Chaussée. (12 km)

The objective for 2016 is to complete the second stage by the autumn, making a useable length of single track "main line" of 1,6 km.  The extra track will be laid during the winter 2015/2016 and several months will be required to obtain the administrative clearances to operate the passenger services along the new stretch.  It is expected that the new roof over the depot/workshop will be installed during the winter of 2015/2016. At present, two new steel doors have been erected and a single track has been extended into the enclosure. 

The third stage is to reach the hamlet of Rotangy during 2017. An automatic level crossing will have to be installed across the D 151. The remaining section is 800 metres making 2,4 km from Crèvecoeur.  A temporary run-around loop will be laid at Rotangy so that the engine can haul the carriages in both directions. The remainder of the line, from Rotangy to St Omer, belongs to the Communauté des Communes de la Picardie Verte. Progress along the track bed will depend upon resources available.

Long term prospects.  Between 2018 and 2020 it is likely that additional track will be laid into the workshop from the north end and the transfer of stock from Butry will no doubt accelerate. After 2020, it seems probable that the move will have been largely accomplished. Future objectives include the construction of a small museum and visitor centre. The remainder of this report illustrates the amazing work accomplished by the MTVS team during the first 2 years of this project. (*) appeal for funds to buy sleepers (“traverses”) :

The Crèvecoeur station site in December 2013 after the first two months of clearance

The future workshop in December 2013.  Two tracks will enter the structure from this end and, in the medium term, other tracks will enter from the Amiens end.

Dec 2013.  On the left, the pair of standard gauge tracks to be removed and replaced by metre gauge tracks. This was underway in January 2015.

The "platform" that will be the first point of departure for visitors.

Creation of the ash pit that will also be used to inspect the engines.

View in May 2014


Summer 2014, inside the future Workshop / depot

Delivery of 540 new sleepers in October 2014. These sleepers were entirely paid for by donations and they will be used on the main running line.  1,200 sleepers per km will be needed. Each sleeper costs 20 euros and one lorry load of 540 costs €10,800 including delivery. For the donators who pay income tax in France 66% of the donation is tax deductable.

Looking towards Rotangy at the end of December 2014.  On the left is the depot and in the centre is the newly laid metre gauge run-round line.  On the right is the main running line that will be laid in metre gauge after removing the standard gauge track. The rails will be re-used and the old sleepers discarded.

Preparing and installing the double slip at the exit from the tracks in front of the depot.  This layout will give access to a head-shunt and to the main line.  It will also receive the loco "run round" line from the terminus. (Nov - Dec 2014)

The stage 1 and 2 track diagram of the Crèvecoeur station site. There is space to extend the tracks around the Amiens side of the depot.