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Published by membersonly, 2018-05-13 01:28:13


22nd August 2015

Special supplement to e-BLN 1239 BLN Pictorial 22 August 2015

Welcome to BLN Pictorial's first venture to the European mainland. A member of the growing band of 'Eurogricers' who are also BLS members had come up
with the idea of a cost sharing trip on the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Sud des Ardennes (CFTSA or South Ardennes Tourist Railway), which operates tourist
passenger services on an SNCF freight line situated in the north east of France between Reims and Sedan. The project soon gained enough momentum to
become not only a 'runner' but also a BLS fixture and on a hot and sunny 8 August, a party of 50 gathered at the CFTSA station at Attigny. Your Sub-Editor would
very much have liked there to be 52, but family commitments unfortunately intervened. You can't win 'em all. A full report appears in BLN 1239.

The tour started at Attigny station, the CFTSA's base 9.9km from the branch A map of the area surrounding the CFTSA. The nearest city is Reims, to the
junction at Amagne-Luquy, where the party can be seen assembling at the far west, and the dotted orange line (right) is the Belgian border. [Reproduced
end of the platform. [Photo : Julian Morgan] from Mike Ball's European Railway Atlas with thanks]

Next page : The tour train approaching the bridge over the Canal des Ardennes at Rilly-sur-Aisne. [Photo : Julian Morgan]

Previous page :
Despite the reflections, this view from the end compartment of the 'Picasso' unit near Voncq demonstrates the excellent visibility from the passenger
compartments. The driver's cab is located high up and away from the end of the unit, protruding from the roof, so that the passenger section doesn't have the
usual obstructed view. The state of the track at this point is fairly typical and is cause for some concern over the line's future. [Photo : Ian Mortimer]
Below :
This view of the train awaiting departure from Attigny shows the comfortable First Class section seating in the ends of the autorails, facilitated by the cab

[Photo : Angus McDougall]
Next page :
The train standing at Vrizy-Vandy station. This hyphenated name follows the widespread Continental practice of running together the names of two nearby
smaller villages (in this case Vrizy and Vandy, 2.2 km apart) where in the UK we would use a conjunction, as in 'Abergele and Pensarn'. [Photo : Ian Mortimer]

Previous page :
This shot over the roof of the Picasso shows the view from the driver's cab approaching grain silos at Vouziers-Port. These are no longer used for their original
purpose, having been declared to be too close to residential buildings, and some of the associated track work has been removed. [Photo : Ian Mortimer]
Below :
A close up view of the elevated driver's cab on Picasso X4042 at the mine museum at Petite-Rosselle, not part of the BLS trip. It's a very peculiar arrangement to
a British eye unused to the more generous European loading gauges. The cab is incidentally very noisy for the driver (right above the engine) and also extremely
hot on a warm day, like a greenhouse on wheels!

[Photo : Alf van Beem, via Wikimedia Commons, made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication]
Next page :
The train pauses at a particularly picturesquely located level crossing near Vouziers. [Photo : Ian Mortimer]

Previous page :
Let there be no doubt! The arrow on the sign 'PN 51' indicates which track the sign applies to, despite there being only one. Once again participants are able to
leave the train for a look around, this time at Savigny (strictly Savigny-sur-Aisne) with its low platform typical of French stations.
[Photo : Ian Mortimer]
Below :
The carriage side destination plate slightly understated the case, as the train went past both Attigny (a further 9.5km to a point just short of the main line) and
Challerange, though not far in the latter case.

[Photo : Angus McDougall]
Next page :
A photographic stop was arranged in open country near St. Morel – again a fairly common practice on special workings 'on the mainland'. This picture was
taken from one of the very few overbridges (for a road) on the line and is near the site of the former St. Morel station which, unusually, has completely gone.
[Photo : Ian Mortimer]

Previous page :

Another view of the photo stop, from the other side of the line. The surrounding landscape is well suited to arable farming, with the major crops being cereals
(wheat and corn), which provide the branch with its freight traffic, and sugar beet. For over a century the Ardennes department was more industrial but in
recent times much of the industry has been in decline and agriculture has become a more important part of the local economy. [Photo : Julian Morgan]

Below :

Two pictures of the trackwork near the ends of the line show very clearly the very poor state of the track on parts of the line. The track is quite lightly
constructed and deterioration of the wooden sleepers has meant that, in places, rail fixings and rails are only loosely in touch, if at all!

Decaying sleepers at Attigny – at least one rail fixing has parted company with its rail. A similar situation at
[Photos : Angus McDougall] Challerange.

Next page :

Challerange, some 40 km from the main line at Amagne-Lucquy, is the last CFTSA station. The line continues for a short distance beyond the station, and this
being the BLS, our intrepid explorers continued to the permitted limit where this view, looking south-east, once again draws attention to the state of the track
[Photo : Julian Morgan]

Previous page :
Here the train is standing at the permitted limit, south of Challerange. The photograph is taken looking north west, back towards Challerange and Attigny. It is
the site of the former junction beyond Challerange (where once 4 lines met, one with a triangular junction). The track headed off left to a
former powdered milk factory, Autry and eventually Revigny; the trackbed towards Grandpré, and many other places, went off behind the photographer (see
map in BLN 1234). The other former line to Challerange with a triangular junction went to Ardeuil-Marvaux and some 50km on to Bazancourt where there was
once a flying junction. [Photo : Julian Morgan]
Below :
The BLS is renowned for going to the end of the line – and according to one participant's GPS system, slightly beyond!

[Photo : Julian Morgan]
Next page :
Following the return from Challerange to the CFTSA's northern limit within sight of the electrified main line from Reims to Charleville-Mézières, most of the
party were escorted to Amagne-Lucquy station on foot (with permission) so that they could take the EMU service train back to Reims – and what a contrast it
was! [Photo : Ian Mortimer]

Previous page :
This photo shows the unusual configuration of the Picasso units. 251 units (X3801 to X4051) were built by Renault between 1950 and 1961. The unusual
configuration of a centre mounted, one sided driver's cab protruding above roof level gave rise to the railwaymens' 'Picasso' nickname because of the colours
on some of the cabs and the asymmetric appearance. The space beneath the cab is occupied by the engine and transmission. In service the units were
sufficiently reliable and robust that they lasted for around 40 years and they have proved popular after withdrawal by SNCF with some 40 examples in
preservation. [Photo : Howard Everitt]
Right :
The railway has not always been the peaceful
backwater that it is today. The photo shows Vouziers
station in the aftermath of the First World War, when
there was heavy fighting around the river Aisne
following the German invasion. The area remained
under occupation until October 1918.
[Photo : Anonymous photographer; public domain
image obtained from Wikimedia Commons]

Next page :
The group photo has become a regular feature of BLS fixtures, and Challerange was no exception with this group of happy campers formed up in front of the
Picassos at Attigny. This was a truly international event, with the group including several Germans, an Austrian and 3 Czechs. [Photo : Sally Morgan]

Previous page :

Continuing on our French theme, a correspondent has contacted us to warn of the threatened closure of the impressive Ligne des Causses, from Béziers to
Neussargues in south west France, which, to quote the correspondent's own words "I liken to a French equivalent of the Settle & Carlisle - but bigger. The Settle
& Carlisle is 73 miles (117 km) long and Ribblehead viaduct 104 ft (32 m) high and 440 yards (402 metres) long. The Ligne des Causses is 277 km long and the
Garabit viaduct 565 m long and 122 m high, almost 4 times the height of Ribblehead. At the time of its construction it was the highest viaduct in the world. One
of its engineers was a certain M. Eifel, who went on to design a rather more famous structure in Paris." If you look at the arched overhead line equipment in
the photo, and bear in mind that loco, pantograph, power cables and insulators have to fit beneath the arch, you'll get an idea of just how big the Viaduc de
Garabit is! [Photo : J. Thurion, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence]

Our correspondent continues : "Béziers is on the Mediterranean coast, not far from the border with Spain. Neussargues (a sort of Aviemore) lies 808 m (about
2600 ft) above sea level, more or less due north of Béziers. Sadly, this splendid line is under threat of closure at the end of this year, so anybody who feels like
venturing abroad should make the effort soon. Two connecting lines off this line are also likely to close: Marvejols - Mende to the east and Sévérac-le-Château -
Rodez to the west."

More information on the line (in French), including
map and gradient profile, can be found at is an English language
page, which has (near the
bottom of the page) a link to the writer's slideshow
of his visit to the Ligne des Causses in 2011.

[Drawing : Dr. Victor Freiherr v. Röll (1852-1922) in
'Enzyklopädie des Eisenbahnwesens'. Public domain
image obtained from Wikimedia Commons]

Next page :

Floodlit by night, the Garabit viaduct makes a spectacular sight.

[Photo : Photographer unknown, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic licence.]

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