Vive Le Vivarais!

Right ho, now back at Dookes HQ and to be honest still absolutely knackered!

Last week, when Harley and I passed through Lamastre, I briefly commented on the Chemin de Fer du Vivarais. This 33km long narrow gauge railway is a surviving branch of what what once a much bigger network that bisected the Vivarais Plateau on the Eastern side of the Massif Central. At it’s peak the system carried over 600,000 passengers and 170,000 tonnes of freight per year. Inevitably, two world wars and the growth of cheap road transport took it’s toll and by the 1960’s the system was terminally doomed…. However, the example of preservation schemes in the UK inspired enthusiasts in France to save two sections of the Vivarais.

The longest section is that from Tournon sur Rhône to Lamastre and since 1968 it has been a big tourist attraction in this part of France. Unfortunately in recent years the project has been financially suffering And a couple of years ago services were suspended. Fortunately, the enlightened Regional Government has recognised the value of the railway to the local economy and has been supporting work to reopen the railway. I am delighted to report that the reopening is planned for September this year.

When I looked in at the line’s base in Lamastre it was buzzing with activity. Piles of new sleepers were stacked everywhere; rolling stock was being painted; a works train was shunting the yard; track gangs were busy fettling the rails; the main loco/stock shed had been rebuilt; the smell of new paint was in the air and it was rumoured that one of the steam loco’s was off down the line on a test run! All excellent news…I can’t wait to return for a trip!

Anyway, pics. The works train.

20130704-204252.jpg

20130704-204547.jpgPainting a remorque.

20130704-204718.jpgThere’s only one reason for that much coal!

20130704-204912.jpgEverything looking business like.

Further north is another preserved section of the CFV, running from St Agreve to Tence. This is a separate operation altogether and is mainly operated by historic diesel railcars, though it does see some steam occasionally. Nothing happening at St Agreve when we passed through, but the place was very tidy and the rails polished with use.

20130704-211405.jpg

Railcars in the shed.

20130704-211506.jpg I think that’s a Bugatti at the back.

So there you are. Railway preservation / tourist railways French style; looks like it’s all in safe hands. If I get back when things are in steam, I’ll blog it, promise!

Hear that whistle callin’, all down the line.

Dookes

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