Among the most popular French locomotive types are the class CC6500 express electrics. Retired from main line use for over a decade, there are currently two in working order, and Saturday 9th December 2017 sees both in use on the same day.
This class of 200km/h 1.5kV dc electrics were the crack express locos of their day in pre-TGV France, and are one of several types built to Paul Arzens’s classic “broken nose” styling. 74 were built – with a further 4 converted in the 1990s from CC21000 class locos (one of which, CC21003, had been tested between Washington DC and New York by Amtrak in 1977) – but only 2 remain in occasional service on the main line; CC6558 and CC6570.
CC6558 is painted in green livery, and is notable as one of the 21 machines that were actually built as dual voltage, to also operate on the 1.5kV dc third rail system on the Maurienne route from Chambéry to Modane, which was converted to overheads in 1976. It is perhaps a little odd to see photos of these machines hauling trains with no catenary in sight!
CC6570, meanwhile, is painted in the attractive burgundy and orange “coup de soleil” (sunburn) livery.
CC6558 is working a short-but-sweet railtour from Chambéry (where it is based) to Lyon and return, in connection with the Festival of Lights and the Christmas market there. Lyon is France’s second-biggest city and is a UNESCO World Heritage site so is surely worth a visit!
The tour departs Chambéry at 13:59 and returns from Lyon Perrache at 23:40, with a journey time in each direction of appoximately two hours. The fare for the round trip is a bargain €23.
The tour is operated by the APMFS (l’Association pour la Préservation du Matériel Ferroviaire Savoyard) and more details can be found on their site here.
The above is a link to a YouTube video by user Paul Mollard showing CC6558 on the same working five years ago.
CC6570’s duty is from Avignon-Centre to Arles and return and is essentially a Santa Special, with treats and entertainments for children on board. The route is circular, travelling out via Cavaillon, Salon and Miramas, and back via Tarascon, and the train performs this loop twice – at 15:00 and 17:00 from Avignon. The second of these can even be easily reached from the 07:52 Eurostar from London to Paris that morning.
The fare for a round trip is a supremely reasonable €12, and there is an option to travel outwards on the first, have a break of two hours in Arles, then return on the second.
This tour is operated by APCC6570, and more details can be found on their site here. Update 25/11/17: this tour is now fully booked.
The above is a link to a YouTube video by appropriately-named user Nez Cassés showing CC6570 on the main line in 2016.
Whilst the clash is perhaps unfortunate in some respects, you may be interested to know that you can comfortably travel behind both during the day – and given the very cheap prices involved, missing part of a tour is not necessarily the end of the world.
Following the arrival of the second round trip from Avignon to Arles with CC6570 (departs approx 17:00 and returns approx 19:00), you can travel on the 20:27 local train to Avignon TGV, a TGV to Lyon Part-Dieu, and then another local train into Lyon Perrache, arriving at 22:43 and giving you a nice +57 onto CC6558’s return working (of course, what you then do at 01:42 at Chambéry is up to you!).
An advance through ticket from Avignon-Centre to Lyon Perrache on these service trains is currently available on the SNCF website (at the time of writing) at €14.50, meaning that the entire itinerary including both CC6500s and transport between them is theoretically available for less than €50.