Sunday 17th June 2018 sees an attractive little railtour featuring the first main line passenger run of an iconic class of locomotive in over a decade.
SNCF CC40100 class loco CC40110 will be making its first passenger train appearance in years on Sunday 17th June 2018, when it hauls a railtour on an 160-mile round trip from Paris Gare du Nord to Amiens and return.
The railtour is being operated by Matériel Ferroviaire, Patrimoine National (MFPN – in English, “Rolling Stock, National Heritage”, a name which I think sums up the ideals of railway preservation nicely) who also own the loco.
I must say that I have found the organisers to be immensely polite and helpful, and although my dealings with them to date have been in French, they assure me that they have members who speak English should you require dialogue. I also have a PDF booking form for the tour, so if you would like a copy of this to fire off to them, please just contact me and I will email it across (this is not yet on their website).
CC40110 is one of three surviving members of this once ten-strong class (technically there were eleven, as the original CC40106 was written off very early in its life in 1969 and was replaced by a new loco with the same number) – and the only one that is operational.
These were instantly-recognisable, visually striking (built to Paul Arzens’ “Nez Cassé” design), powerful four-voltage machines built to haul the “Trans-Europe Express” (TEE) across borders. However, in practice, they only worked to Belgium (both Brussel and Liège). They were withdrawn in the mid-1990s with the onset of the “Thalys” concept, which can be considered a modern-day successor to the “PBA” (Paris-Brussel-Amsterdam) axis of the TEE.
The above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user FTZvideo showing a short documentary on the CC40100s from 1967, by André Périé.
Logistics – Times and Prices
According to indicative timings, the train will depart from Paris Gare du Nord at 07:25, arriving in Amiens at approximately 09:30. Participants then have over seven hours to explore the city, before returning at 16:35 and arriving back at the blocks at roughly 18:35.
Obviously for an 07:25 departure from Paris, you will need to have stayed in or around the French capital on the Saturday night, as there are no overnight trains that arrive early enough to reliably get you there from elsewhere. Perhaps my Paris in a day article from May 2017 might give you some ideas about seeking out loco haulage in the local area – although, sadly, there will no longer be any diesel diagrams around the capital by the time this train runs.
Nevertheless, the indicative timings for the return leg would drop you comfortably enough onto the 20:04 (at a push), 20:34 and 21:13 Eurostars back to London on the Sunday evening (which conveniently enough also depart from Nord, of course), off which you can get back as far north as Wolverhampton, Leeds and Derby, or onto the Down “Night Riviera”, etc…
The return fare for this excursion is only €49 standard class (€74 first class).
Amiens – Enthusiasts
The most obvious activity for enthusiasts in the seven-hour layover at Amiens is to have a look at the BB67400 diesels on the route from there to Boulogne (see brief trip report from 2014 that included covering these turns here). It is possible to make a round trip to Boulogne on one of these (IC2011 10:51 Amiens – Boulogne Ville 12:26 / IC2026 14:45 Boulogne Ville – Amiens 16:09 – but watch out for that estimated +26 onto the tour) but not a lot of other tunes that you can play on that, to be honest.
Amiens – Normals(!)
As you would expect, this tour would also be an ideal one on which to take the family. The whole point of its running is to visit Amiens (tourist website here) on this particular day – the third Sunday of June each year sees “le marché sur l’eau” (“the market on the water”) where market gardeners in traditional dress go along the River Somme in cone-shaped boats, before setting up at the waterside and selling their fruit, vegetables and flowers.
If this does not particularly appeal to you, Amiens itself is a historic city in its own right – and its history is not restricted to that indelibly linked to 20th century wars, although both have left their mark still visible today – and there are guided historical tours offered as an optional extra when you book your railtour ticket. The city’s imposing Gothic cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.