March 2019 News

The last diesel hauled suburban train in Ile de France 

The 18.05 from Gare de l'Est arrives at Lizy-sur-Ourcq on February 15th, 2019
A winter Friday evening in the Seine & Marne as BB 67446 slows to stop at Lizy with the 18.05 from Paris, Gare de l'Est. The sky is clear and the afternoon was unseasonably warm (15°C) on that February 15th, 2019. Due to stock shortages, and capacity requirements, there are no particular indicatiions that this loco hauled service will be replaced any time soon. Photograph. D Michel Costes

From Russia with love

Traction for the French section of the RZD Moscow - Paris sleeper is now provided by Bombardier TRAXX Class 185s leased from MRCE, rather than Class BB 26000 Sybics. Three locomotives have been fitted with both the French safety system KVB/ATESS and the German national safety system LZB, enabling SNCF to work the train through to Offenburg, rather than changing locomotives at Strasbourg. On Thursday 14th February, 185 556 running two hours late passes Isles-les-Villenoy (77)  with the Paris bound train a journey scheduled to take 38hrs for the 3,200 km journey. Photo Christophe Masse
EU blocks planned merger of Alstom and Siemens Mobility 

At the beginning of February the EU Competition Commission announced that it was blocking the proposed merger of Siemens and Alstom's rail divisions. The merger would have created a European giant in the fields of signalling and high speed train manufacture. The Commission stated that the companies were not prepared to offer sufficient remedies to address the deep concerns the merger would have on the signalling and high speed train market and consequent higher prices.

Numerous objections to the merger were receivedfrom customers, train operators, trade unions and national competition authorities.

The decision received a hostile response from the German and French governments, who accused the Commission of being 'obsolete' in their approach and failing to take sufficient account of the threat from Asian manufacturers, in particular the Chinese. The need to change EU competition law were also mooted.The Commission's view was that the Chinese were not seeking to participate in the European market and would not represent a competitive constraint  in a foreseeable future.

The decision was welcomed by the trade unions at Alstom's Belfort plant who said that the order book at the once threatened plant now had 4-5 years work, and even if the merger took place they would not be able to comete with the Chinese on price.
SNCF blames Bombardier for late deliveries and inadequate quality control 

SNCF and Bombardier had a "spat" at the end of January. SNCF complained about the number of faults on delivery of the new Regio 2N emu's for Transilien line R. They stated that no less than 14 new emu's were out of service awaiting repair. SNCF cited, particularly, doors that did not work properly, loose screws, electric cables improperly connected. 

Bombardier responded in a statement to say that their team of mechanics based at Villeneuve St Georges had repaired all the units where problems had been detected. Bombardier said it was not responsible for all the equipment on board notably the pantographs and control screens. Overall, they said, only 1.25% of the Regio 2N units were out of service due to faults for which Bombardier was responsible. 

 42 Regio 2N's were ordered for Transilien line R. 30 new emu's have been delivered and accepted by SNCF by the end of December, 2019 Units 31 + 32 were accepted in early January but units 33 + 34 were refused. On February 19th, the Director of Transilien stated that the dispute had been resolved and Bombardier had modified procedures so that all faults would be corrected at the factory before delivery. The 8 remaining trains for line R will be delivered by April.

On Monday evening, February 11th, at about 21.00, two trams collided on the same track of RATP tramway T2 in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux. The 1st tram (a single unit) was operating a service towards La Défense and was stopped at a signal between stations. The following service ( a pair of trams) collided with the rear of the stationary Ist tram and derailed. Ten passengers were slightly injured and one passenger was critically injured. One of the drivers sustained concusion and was kept in hospital for some days.
Substantial damage was caused to the 3 trams. The rear section of the 1st tram and the front cabin of the second tram were destroyed. The 3rd tram in "multiple unit" with the 2nd tram broke the coupling and derailed. All the trams remained upright and the 1st tram, stationary with brakes on, did not derail. This kind of accident is rare and was the first on the tram lines in Ile de France since 1992.
The tramway is operated generally without signals, but the accident took place next to the tram depot which is on the north side of the line. Access from the double track line to each end of the depot is controlled here by signals. It is believed that the first tram was stopped to allow another tram to cross in front and enter the depot. The enquiry will determine the exact circumstances and whether a signal failure or human error was the cause. It is apparent that visibility was reduced by a curve, approaching the point at which the 1st tram was stopped. Both drivers tested negative for drugs and alcohol.

Noah's Train visits Gare de l'Est

On the move since 14th December Noah's Train has been sponsored by freight companies to raise awareness of the impact of climate change with the aim of doubling railfreight by 2030. The train has visting a number of cities including Katowice (Poland), Vienna and Berlin. At each location local artists paint on the containers of the train species threatened by climate change, in reference to Noah's Ark. Photo Christophe Masse

Tunnel collapse on C F de Provence

On February 20th, part of the roof of the 1.2 km Tunnel des Robines, between St André les Alpes and Moriezon, on the Chemin de fer de Provence (Nice - Digne)  collapsed while under repair. Three workers were inside the tunnel at the time. Two managed to escape, but the third was buried by debris and was later found deceased. 
 Major renovations to the line are underway and the section between St André and Digne has been closed since last summer. Opposite St André in December 2018 with newly ballasted track and  platform under renovation

Auvergne industriel change

The cover photo on Society Journal 172 showed BB66467 shunting at Giroux in October 2014 when Agrivap ran the paper re-cycling trains

Move on to the 15th January and the goods shed has gone along with AGRIVAP's A1A 68500 and 65000. Services are now operated by  Combrail using a former SNCF 'Pedalo' believed to be 71018 formerly owned by Patry and used at the Port of Rouen. Both photos Roger Allen

Infrastructure update

Rennes - Retiers - Chateaubriant 

 Rennes - Retiers (32 km), a single track line in Bretagne, will be closed from March 4th - Aug 31st for renovation and renewal at a cost of 23.6 million euros. The State will pay 25% and the remainder will be provided by Bretagne Region and the département of Ile-et-Vilaine. 

 The section from Retiers to Chateaubriant that crosses into Pays de la Loire Region is in very poor condition and no trains run since October 2017. But, good news, at the beginning of February, the Regions and the State agreed to finance the renovation of this stretch.
Tours - Loches (47 km) 

 This line is in poor condition but only minimum maintenance is currently planned (changing some sleepers) to keep it open with speed restrictions. In August 2013, a special with CC 72160 and CIWL carriages carried writers and journalists from Paris to a Literary festival at Loches. The train is seen here at Reignac on rails of "double mushrooms".

Text and photos by Georges Turpin 
Figeac after the fire 

 After the fire which destroyed the station building and equipment the Brive - Rodez train services stop again at Figeac from February 4th, and temporary facilities for passengers will be installed. However no trains from Aurillac to Toulouse can pass through this junction station. SNCF suggests that this may be possible later in the year. 

Meanwhile the line from Brive to Rodez will close again from March 25th to June 3rd for maintenance. It is expected that the Figeac station building will be reconstructed but there is no timeline yet or details.
Turntables at Toulouse Matabiau 

 The larger of the two turntables at Toulouse-Matabiau, 27m, has been removed. It has not been used since December 2017. The pit will be filled and a new access track to the diesel depot will use the space. 

The other turntable, 24m, is not in use as no locomotives remain in the shed except for  241 P 9. 
When the loco and the tender recover their wheels, P9 will be transferred to a new home via the remaining turntable and the site will thereafter be redeveloped. 

Between Cerbère and Port Bou, more trains but who knows ?

Squashed into the southern corner of the Pyrénées-Orientales, Cerbère is the last village in France on the Mediterranean coast. Next stop; Port Bou, Spain, just 4 minutes away through a railway tunnel. By road it is more complicated, a winding 7 km route up a pass at 165 m and down again into Spain. 

 So the railway would seem to have all the advantages, but for many years only a few trains a day have carried visitors back and forth through the tunnel across the border. For what has been happening is that French trains that terminated at Port Bou and Spanish trains that terminated at Cerbère have been returning empty across the border 

 That changed on February 11th this year, when SNCF and RENFE finally agreed to allow passengers to board their  empty trains when these returned to their respective countries. So since Feb 11th there are about 11 trains a day each way for travellors to use between Cerbère (F) and Port Bou (E). 7 trains each way (every two hours) are operated by RENFE. These are regional trains to and from Barcelona. They stop for 8 minutes at Cerbère before returning to Port Bou.The other 8 trains are TER Occitanie, 4 from Avignon and Narbonne to Port Bou and 4 from Port Bou back to Cerbère. 

 At the date this report was prepared (Feb 20th), the Occitanie TER timetables had not been modified to show the new cross border services. It is not even certain that they will show the Spanish trains which account for the majority of the new services. Neither SBB nor DB is aware of the new trains. SNCF knows. It has no less than two on-line displays of train arrivals and departures (for 24 hours). These are at Gare et Connections Cerbère departures and arrivals and another version here departs and arrives at Cerbère. They are currently the only place that shows details of the new services. But only for the current date. 

 The photo was taken by Georges Turpin on April 14th 2012. It shows a Spanish emu departing from Cerbère on track E which is the only wide gauge track under the station roof. For in Spain the  gauge is 5ft 5 1/2 " (1668 mm) compared to the standard gauge in Europe of 4ft 81/2" (1435 mm). In 2012 this train was returning empty to Port Bou. Today it can carry passengers.

French main-line steam and other events in 2019

The forthcoming year does not look particularly rosy for main-line steam in France. None of the 141 Rs are currently available. 141 R 1126 was originally scheduled to work ACPR's tour from Toulouse to Martel in April but this will now be diesel or electric hauled due to on-going problems with lubrication of the coupling rod bearing. AAATV at Orleans hope to have 141 R 840 ready for a trip to Vierzon on 7th September.  Only Picasso X4039 is currently advertised as visiting Montlucon Festirail in June.

PVC's 231 G 558 is likely to be one of the brighter stars of 2019, although apart from a trip to Paris in June other trips are only likely to be between Sotteville and Dieppe.  

The Railtour and Events page is now available and will be updated as information becomes available from the various operators.  The Gorges de l'Allier tourist train will be operating again this year with the possibility of a red CMR BB 67400 although it is unclear if the Train a Vapeur d'Auvergne rake of historic coaches will be available. Autorail Limousin will be operating tours from Gueret to Aubusson and Felletin in July and August although no dates are available yet

Below is a resume of the main-line locomotive fleet.

140 C 38 (Limoges) Likely to be the mainstay of CFTLP's tour programme for 2019. 8 trips are scheduled between Limoges and Eymoutiers, between June 26th and Aug 28th inclusive. 

 140 C 231 (Longueville) In service following 12 yr overhaul and construction of new boiler. Likely to haul specials between Provins and Villiers-Saint-Georges.
  140 C 314 (St Quentin) Operates on CFTV (Chemin de Fer Touristique Vermandois). Main-line certification reported to be still a long term objective. A problem was discovered in the firebox in March 2018. The loco was withdrawn from service and it was decided to plan a general overhaul of the boiler. Two axles of the tender were identified as problematic during 2018 and the tender was raised in Dec 2018 to extract them. Official tests have determined that one axle is OK and the other will have to be replaced. It is very costly to machine a new axle. In February 2019, work started to prepare to lift out the boiler/firebox for examination to obtain offers for the work. These two jobs will require major funding. No 314 will be out of service for several years, most probably. 

 141 TB 407 (Longueville) One of AJECTA's two steam locomotives currently under repair. Boiler removed in November 2018 and in December it was sent to CITEV for repairs and certification. It is expected back at Longueville in the summer of 2019. We have no provisional date for completion of the overhaul.  

141 TB 424 (Mulhouse) Operated the Vapeur du Trieux in 2018. Expected to operate the Vapeur du Trieux between Pontrieux and Paimpol again in 2019. 

141 TD 740 (Limoges) One of CFTLP's two steam locomotives. Axle repairs largely complete. Probably no hurry to return to service while 140 C 38 is operating. 

 141 R 420 (Clermont Ferrand) A lengthy overhaul was largely complete when problems were detected with the firebox stays. These are currently being worked on with the boiler in-situ. Hopefully the work will be completed later this year. An inspection of the Society’s rake of historic coaches revealed €100,000 worth of work required. A search for funding is underway. 

 141 R 840 (Les Aubrais) Returned to service at the end of 2017 after overhaul, but boiler certificate expired in early 2018 with €65,000 of work required to obtain new certificate. Advertised to be operating in September, other tours likely to be hauled by A1A 68540 

 141 R 1126 (Toulouse) Overhaul completed during 2018. In August 2018, during its first commercial tour, part of the greasing mechanism broke. The locomotive was withdrawn. The association hopes to complete repairs to 1126 by 2020. Meanwhile the 2019 programme will be operated with electric or diesel locomotives. 
141 R 1199 (Le Mans, formerly Nantes) A major overhaul was largely complete when operators Loco Vapeur 1199 entered into a dispute with SNCF in 2017 and their operating agreement was cancelled. The rake of coaches (property of SNCF) was vandalised and have been scrapped or distributed to other preservation societies. The locomotive was moved to Le Mans depot and it is being managed there by a small group of SNCF staff. It is believed the intention is to operate 1199 rather than keep it as a museum exhibit. It last appeared at Le Mans during the Patrimoine weekend in September 2018. 

 141 R 1298 (Nimes) Overhaul believed to be largely complete, but little information available.    

230 G 353 (Gièvres) Currently being restored by APPMF association at Gièvres, Sologne. New boiler being built in Italy and it is expected to be delivered to Gièvres later in 2019. Work has currently started on the tender and restoring some coaches. It is hoped that the locomotive will be operational in 2022. 

 231 E 41 (St Pierre des Corps) A long term restoration project by AAATV-SPDC. The boiler and frames had been separated, and wheels removed. Facebook page shows good progress on this major project 

 231 G 558 (PVC Sotteville) Likely to be one of the more active locomotives in 2019. First tour to Dieppe on March 23rd with VSOE stock. Later tours from Rouen to Dieppe planned for Aug 10th, Aug 24th and Nov 11th. A tour to Paris is planned for June 22nd. All tours subject to approval by SNCF.
231 K 8 (Paris) MFPN has so far advertised one tour from Paris to Reims in May with 231 K 8,  and tours to Amiens and Bar le Duc in June and July with CC40110. These will be the first tours for the veteran four voltage electric since it gained main-line certification two years ago.

 241 P 09 Long term restoration project at Toulouse by AAATV Midi-Pyrénées. A progress update appeared in the November 2018 News

241 P 17 (Le Creusot) Operational. No information currently available on programme of tours for 2019. Will be shown  on Tours Page when available. 

Additions to FRS Photographic Archive during Febuary 2019

- Previously unknown B&W images by Eric Russell from 1945 covering Belgian, Dutch & German railways plus June 1950   covering Belgian & Luxembourg railways & tramways (some 180 images) 

 - Additional colour images by Eric Russell during the period 1962 to 1968 of French mainline railways (some 145 images) 

 - Bruce Coleman gallery - 58 images (colour and B&W) of French railways (mainline & secondary) and tramways 

 Additions to the FRS Yahoo site during February 2019 

 - Updated Eric Russell B&W gallery index 

 - Alex Swain colour photographs Index 

 - Bruce Coleman photo gallery index

Preservation News

X 2403 - General overhaul completed after three and a half years

On February 12th, the announcement that many had been patiently awaiting appeared on the Facebook page of CFHA *. X 2403 is ready to return to service after a lengthy absence since October 2015. 

 2403 is the oldest preserved railcar that operates on the SNCF network. It was constructed in 1951 by Decauville, 3rd in a class of 79. This railcar is equiped with two Renault V12 motors each of 300 hp. The top speed was 120 kph, now in preservation it is limited to 100 kph. The capacity is 80 including 12 strapontins. There are several compartments; 1st class, 2nd class, a compartment for the postal service and a luggage compartment for up to 2.5 tons. There is a WC. The vehicle weighs 43 tons and is very long; 27.7 metres. 

 The autorail was withdrawn by SNCF in 1987. After a period at Nîmes, 2403 was acquired by CFHA in 1998 and it operated the "Gentiane Express" at Riom-ès-Montagnes(Cantal) for a few years. In 2005, the autorail was cleared to run on the main line network and thereafter it was chartered for "phototrains" all over France. Ten years later, it was time for a serious overhaul. So 2403 is now ready, with 8 new wheels, to return to service. It is expected to operate an official test run for certification in the second half of 2019. 

 The photo above was taken at Luxeuil-les-Bains on June 20th 2010 during a phototrain in the East of France. 
 * CFHA - Chemin de fer de Haute Auvergne 
AMTP Pithiviers

In December 2018, the association AMTP* at Pithiviers signed a 10 years convention with the département of Loiret to continue to operate the 600 mm museum line (3 km) from Pithiviers to Bellebat alongside the RD 22. The département owns the roadside line and financed work to replace 2 400 sleepers and 500 tons of ballast during the winter 2018/19. This concerns 60% of the line. COLAS were responsible for the work. 
AMTP is the oldest railway preservation society in France. It was created in 1966. 5 884 visitors travelled on the little train in 2018 along tracks that were originally part of the narrow gauge network that was used to transport sugar beet every autumn to the sugar refineries at Pithiviers and Toury. 

* AMTP Association du musée de transport de Pithiviers.
MTVS winter works 

 It is five years since MTVS started to develop a second base in the Oise at Crèvecoeur-le-Grand. Regular readers will be familiar with progress (reported by the NEWS page) on the project to build a 12 km metre gauge tourist line to St Omer-en-Chaussée. Two major achievements this winter can be announced.

The extension from the level crossing to Rotangy village was completed in February. This adds nearly 2 km to the line which is now 3.5 km from Crèvecoeur. A loop with low, island platform has been constructed at Rotangy. Ballasting was in progress during the second half of February. (see photos opposite courtesy of MTVS)
The second achievement was at the level crossing over the road to Beauvais. The automatic barriers have been installed and the crossing now functions. The barriers and lights are activated by the train. Road signs are in place.
In the 4th season at Crèvecoeur the line will be open, afternoons, on the first and third Sundays of the month from May to September. The steam train will start to operate along the new section once the certificate is received form the prefecture, after the official inspection. We will let you know when that occurs. There will be festival days for the inauguration and the traditional end of season week end. Those dates are not fixed yet.
Consult the MTVS web site and Facebook page for the latest information. MTVS web site 
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2019. Photos by authors unless credited. Thanks to D Michel Costes, Roger Allen, Christophe Masse and Georges Turpin
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