‘Ligne de Cevennes’ to open for Christmas?

After months of wrangling between the World Wildlife fund (who own the adjoining land) SNCF and the Department of Haute Loire a multi-party agreement was signed at the beginning of September to stabilise the cliff and clear the railway and road following the rockfall between Alleyras and Monistrol d’Allier on the 27th April. Contracts have been let to clear the road (value €150,000) by mid November and the railway line (value €280,000) by mid December.

From Sunday 27th September the through Clermont Ferrand - Nimes service that had been operated by diesel units from Clermont Ferrand to Langeac and Villefort to Nimes with a bus linking the two sections was scheduled to be replaced by a bus for the whole journey, increasing the journey time by about an hour. The other two return services will continue to be operated by diesel unit from Clermont Ferrand to St Georges d’Aurac or Langeac and from Langogne or Villefort to Nimes with a bus link in between. The revised timetable is available via this link.

Big month for MTVS

Butry-sur-Oise (Valmondois) based MTVS (Musée des tramways à vapeur et des chemins de fer secondaires français) will be holding two major events during October. On 3rd/4th October they will be holding their annual Fete Vapeur at their current base at Butry-sur-Oise on the northern outskirts of Paris. Two weeks later on the 17th/18th October the festivities will move to Crèvecoeur for the inaugural trains on MTVS’s new 12km mainline from Crèvecoeur to St Omer-en-Chaussée (-more info) . Over a kilometre of track has now been laid in the depot area with sufficient to run a shuttle over about half a kilometre of the new mainline. The posters for the two events are displayed below with more information from MTVS

67628 passes the semaphore at Monistrol d’Allier with the northbound ‘Cevenol’. Whether the Corail intercité will be reinstated when the line re-opens remains to be seen.

Nantes - Bordeaux curtailed and slowed

As anticipated in the September News Page the timings for the Nantes - Bordeaux intercité services will be increasd by 50-60 minutes from December with the introduction of a 60km/h speed restriction between La Roche sur Yon and La Rochelle. Journey times between Nantes and Bordeaux will typically be 5 hrs.The additional evening services at weekends will be withdrawn along with the through services to Toulouse and Quimper.

From Sunday 13th December the three southbound departures from Nantes will be at 08:10 (arr. 13.11), 12:17 (arr. 17:11) and 17:05 (arr. 21:59). Northbound departures from Bordeaux will be at 10:00 (arr. 14:58), 14:51 (arr 19:47) and 16:51 (arr. 21:53)

At the beginning of September a 60 km/h restriction was imposed on a lengthy section between La Rochelle and Velluire, with the sidings at Velluire occupied by a locotractuer, wagons of ballast and engineering equipment.

Baie de Somme - Fête de la Vapeur 2016

Planning is well underway for next years CFBS Fête de la Vapeur. As in 2013 this will be a three day event over the weekend of 15-17th April 2016. The line-up will cover both standard and metre gauge stock with a strong international mix. 

Static exhibits will include former Nord 230 D 9 from the Cite de Train at Mulhouse. As in 2013 the ADEMAS former Paris Metro Sprague Thompson unit, this time operating with four coaches, will be plying between Noyelles and St Valery, along with the Kent and East Sussex’s former Norwegian State Railway’s Class 21C 2-6-0 No 376.

Negotiations are in hand with other operators that in particular should see  SCM Maldegem’s Czech  0-6-0 T TKh 5387 "General Maczik and on the metre gauge former Brunigbahn 0-6-0T No 6 from the Blonay Chamby and Harz 2-6-2T No 99-6001 adding to the interest. 

The KESR’s Norwegian State Railway Class 21C should bring the rare site of a tender locomotive between Noyelles and St Valery. Photo Michael Bunn

Collapse of two railway heritage projects

September was not a good month for private tourist railway projects. At Thouars in the Deux Sèvres the local council pulled out of the project to operate a steam service with TVT from Thouars to Loudun along a freight only stretch of track. This would have cost 3 million euros, much of which would have been used to repair Mikado 141 C 100. The council cited reductions in subsidies from central government as a reason for the U turn. TVT which has moved to Thouars from Richelieu will have to move to a plan B (if there is one)

Bad news from Chemin de fer de La Mure.  After the landslip in 2010 which cut the line in two, the local département of Isère has been trying to find a solution to restart the tourist railway. The latest project which seemed promising has just stalled as the recently designated new operator decided to withdraw.

More Drones for SNCF Reseau

SNCF Reseau is increasing its use of remotely piloted drones for examination and security work. Following a successful pilot in 2012 there are now 15 staff trained to operate the fleet of 10 drones comprising three different models. The numbers are expected to increase in 2016 with expenditure budgeted at €10 million over three years. Typical use of drone includes inspection of rock faces, deep cuttings and high station buildings, overhead catenary examination, monitoring of lineside vegetation and security and surveillance for trespassing and metal theft.

We wait to see how the modelers respond!

An SNCF engineer launches a drone. Photo SNCF Agence Capa

Bretigny Accident Report published

Two years after the Bretigny accident on 12th July 2013 (derailment of a Corail Intercité Paris - Limoges at 137 kph, seven fatalities), the official accident report was published in September 2015 by the BEA (Bureau d'enquétes sur les accidents).  It confirmed the cause of the fatal accident which was due to the successive failures of 4 bolts fixing a fish plate to a rail joint within a double slip set of points. These failures (bolt heads shearing off ) resulted in the fish plate rotating and lodging in the throat of the points during the passage of the intercité train and the rear carriages of the train derailed and overturned. The report makes a number of recommendations for changes in management procedures and policies considering that the obvious deterioration of the state of the double slip was not detected by visits for maintenance (including a final inspection a week before the accident). The full report (140 pages) can be viewed via this link

Franco-Swiss cross-border developments

Construction work to rebuild the Belfort-Delle line (Territoire de Belfort) officially started on the 10th of September 2015. It lost its regular passenger service in 1992. The goal is to reopen the 22 km line in December 2017 as part of a cross-border service from Bienne in Switzerland to Belfort Ville via Delémont and Belfort Montbeliard TGV providing better cross-border connections with improved links to Belfort and to its TGV station.

The cost of the project is budgeted to be €110 million, of which €28 million will come from Switzerland. Originally part of a strategic line, that provided France with a link to Switzerland and further south avoiding Germany after France lost Alsace 1870. However later it lost its significance to the more convenient direct link to Basel and traffic disappeared. On the Swiss side the line has been kept running without interruption however and in 2006 the service was extended just over the border to Delle, which has since been only connected to the Swiss rail network.

Further south construction work  started this summer on the 2km French element of the CEVA (Cornavin Eaux-Vives Annemasse) rail link in Annemasse, Haute-Savoie, where the old Annemasse – Genève Eaux-Vives line is being rebuild underground and connected with the rest of the Swiss rail network at Genève Cornavin. The bulk of the project is on the Swiss side with the construction of 14km of line, predominately underground, including two 3.6km tunnels, a number of covered trenches, five new stations and an 84 metre bridge over the River Arve. Costing 1.6 billion Swiss Francs work started in 2011 and is running two years behind schedule, due to problems with the Champel Tunnel. Opening is now scheduled for 2019.

The project has four major elements. The first element is the refurbishment of the SBB (CFF) Line that connects Cornavin Station and Bachet-de-Pesay. The second element is the construction of a new CFF Line crossing River Arve and running below Champel district through a tunnel. The third part is the conversion of a SNCF single track line linking Gare des Eaux-Vives and the Switzerland-France border into an underground double-track line. The last element focuses on upgrading the SNCF Line connecting the border and Annemasse.

To be  branded the Leman Express, the new service will connect Evian, Annecy and Saint-Gervais via Annemasse to Geneva and the north side of Lake Geneva. The plan is to have six trains per hour from Annemasse to Geneva and beyond.. Unlike the old line, the new one will be double track and electrified to Annemasse with the Swiss 15 kV 16.7 Hz system. SNCF Réseau is running the French €234 million  project which includes adding a new island platform with switchable 15/25kV overhead power at Annemasse and upgrading the lines to Evian-les-Bains and La Roche-Sur-Foron. Additionally 18 stations on the French side will see improvements such as platform lengthening or barrier-free-access. Leman Express will use two types of rolling stock, as the Rhône-Alpes Region has ordered 17 Alstom Régiolis EMUs (15kV ac, 25kV ac and 1.5kV dc), while CFF ordered 23 Stadler’s FLIRTs (15kV ac, 25kV ac).

Paris Region season ticket revolution

Ile de France is divided into five tarif zones. Within these zones a season ticket is available for travel on Transilien trains, trams, buses and metro lines. It is a contactless, rechargeable card called Navigo available for a week, a month or a year payable monthly. The tarifs were calculated for each zone or combination of adjacent zones.

From the beginning of September, Navigo has been "de-zoned" and is now valid for the whole of Ile de France on all the transport systems. The cost of a monthly Navigo (all zones) is 70 euros, remarkable value. For your correspondent, who lives 15 km away from the city centre, the price of the new monthly season ticket corresponds to 7 round trips to Paris purchased separately (Transilien + 2 metro tickets + 1 bus).

For those living in zones 3 - 5 there are monthly savings of up to 30 euros. The take up of the new de-zoned Navigo pass has exceeded forecast. The population of Ile de France is 12 million. The transport system is organised and subsidised by the IDF Regional Transport Authority, STIF. Employers in Ile de France reimburse 50% of the cost of season tickets used by their employées. They also pay a transport tax.

Autumn outings for 231 K  8

Having undertaken little work since completion of its overhaul 231 K 8 worked from Gare de l’Est to Epernay and return on September 26th seen here east of Chateau Thierry. Its next outing is on the Railway Touring Company’s ‘Golden Arrow’ from Calais to Paris and return on 9th-11th October that should see it make two return trips from Paris to Calais:

Thursday 8th October  Bourget  - Calais  (empty stock)                         Friday 9th October  Calais (Dep Approx 16:00) - Gare du Nord          Sunday 11th October Gare du Nord (Dep Approx 09:00) - Noyelles to visit CFBS then Noyelles (Dep Approx 15:00) - Calais                                Monday 12th October Calais - Bourget (empty stock)

Pyrennes Revival  -  Oloron - Bedous re-laying underway

During the summer months major work has been undertaken to relay the Oloron - Bedous section of the former Pyrennes cross-border route from Pau to Canfranc.(See November 2014 News) Passenger services should be re-introduced from Pau to Bedous in June 2016.  Pressure Group CRELOC (Comite pour la Reoverture de la Ligne Oloron - Canfranc) is working to see trains running through to Canfranc by 2020.

The newly laid track at Eysus - September 2015. Photo CRÉLOC


Every year thousands of visitors travel to Lyon in December to see the Christmas lights.  This year two special trains have already been announced for Sat Dec 5th.

A steam excursion from Clermont-Ferrand (08.50) to Lyon-Perrache (12.30) with 141 R 420.  Return leg departs at 22.30.An excursion by historic diesel railcars (X 2800) from Nîmes (09:00) to Lyon (12:59).  Return departs at 22:30.

Further details on the Railtours page

Oloron Sainte Marie base depot - September 2015. Photo CRÉLOC

© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The SNCF Society 2015. Many thanks to Illka Huotelin, Julien Rebillard, Francois Rebillard/CRÉLOC and Michael Bunn

Photos by authors unless credited

Works train at Bidus - July 2015. Photo CRÉLOC


At the end of August, No 414 joined No 403 in the shed at Tournon St Jean. On Sept 16th, the two black Mallets double headed a Train des Gorges for the first time.


At the new terminus at Raucoules-Brossettes, progress continues on building a new workshop for VFV.The interior of the BV has been gutted and a new floor for the upper level is being installed.  Buildings in the  hamlet are also receiving attention, the former Hotel de la Gare may re-open and a Cafe de la Gare is likely to open during the season. The original features of single track engine shed, turntable and chateau d'eau are functional.