I am very pleased to announce a modest charter train featuring interesting locomotive haulage on the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin (CFTR) in north-east France.
Sunday 9th September 2018 – 62029 – 10:15 Volgelsheim to Sans-Soucis and return on the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin, France
The locomotive hauling our charter will be ex-SNCF A1AA1A 62000 class locomotive no.62029.
This diesel-electric machine was built in 1946 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, and has a six-cylinder, 660hp Baldwin 606NA power unit.
106 locomotives of model DRS-6-4-660 (Diesel Road Switcher, 6 axles, 4 powered, 660hp) were built by Baldwin between 1946 and 1948, all for the French Supply Council under Marshall Aid. 100 went to SNCF and the other six to Morocco, as class DB-400. Only seven of the French machines remain extant – in various states of repair – but 62029 according to my research at the beginning of this year, although two others have worked recently, is the only one that is currently operational. I am not sure whether any of the Moroccan machines survive, but check out a selection of Phil Wormald’s excellent photos here to see some shots of DB-405 in a deplorable state, long withdrawn at Taza.
Under normal circumstances, the steam-oriented CFTR use 62029 only to move empty stock between the depot and the operating base at Volgelsheim, and its passenger-carrying appearances are usually ad-hoc and restricted to the occasional short-distance shunt release. For now at least, this would appear to be your only opportunity to ride behind a locomotive of this type under any real load and for a worthwhile distance.
The above is a link to an excellent 9-minute video uploaded to YouTube by user PATOU5844 showing 62029 in action light engine on its home line, with some excellent thrash to be heard.
The railway is 11km long and runs from Volgelsheim north to Sans-Soucis, adjacent to the bank of the River Rhein, across which is Germany. This track is jointly-owned by the local port authority and is used by commercial freight traffic during the week. We will make a round trip along it with 62029.
We are constrained both by the railway’s existing traffic requirements (including freights) and also the fact that there is only one man who can drive it for us, and therefore we can only be accommodated on a Sunday morning circa 10:15, and only one round trip can be fitted in.
It is also possible that our train carriages may get shunted a short distance by ex-SNCF Decauville-built diesel “locotracteur” Y2402, recently re-engined with a Deutz power unit and fitted with train brakes. This is the only other nominally operational ex-SNCF diesel on site (all other diesels owned by the CFTR being of industrial parentage). However, at the time of writing (February 2018) this machine is suffering from serious power unit issues and is not usable, although it is being worked on.
If it is able to work for us, this must be viewed as an extra bonus and it may be subject to a small additional charge for those that partake, as its current unavailability means it has not been factored into the costing of the event.
The railway’s operating base at Volgelsheim is situated 10 miles east of Colmar in France (on the main Basel/Mulhouse to Strasbourg main line) and 2 miles west of Breisach in Germany (the terminus of a branch from Freiburg), but cannot be reached by public train services.
I have a dilemma here, in that the necessary departure time of our train is earlier than the arrival in Volgelsheim of the first public bus on a Sunday (no.1076, at 11:08, and even then only from the Breisach direction – although the stop is a 15-minute walk from the CFTR station), so it cannot be reached by public transport. (NB: I am aware that there is a timetable online dated 2014 that shows an earlier departure, I have confirmed with the operator that this no longer runs, and this is corroborated by “Hafas”). I will therefore be hiring a coach which will meet service trains at Colmar both before and after our event.
There are benefits to hiring a coach in any case, as it does not run the risk of members of our party being unable to travel on a public bus due to passenger volume or the risk of the bus not even turning up at all. It also negates the 900 metre walk from the nearest public bus stop to the station.
I am aware that travelling on a coach is not everybody’s cup of tea, however I stress that the timing of the run with the Baldwin is fixed and we need to work around this somehow. You are of course more than free to make your own travel arrangements to get to Volgelsheim.
The bus will pick up from Colmar station at 09:30, making connections out of the 09:07 arrival (the 08:21 loco-hauled train from Basel, which again provides day train connections from Zürich, Interlaken and Luzern, as well as the overnights from Hamburg and Berlin), the 09:23 arrival (08:51 loco-hauled ex Strasbourg, which connects out of a TGV from Paris).
It will then pick up at Breisach station at 10:00, connecting out of the 08:24 from Freiburg Hbf – in theory the 09:24 makes it too but I would not recommend catching that as we will not be able to wait if it is delayed.
The coach also sets down at Breisach in time to catch the 13:39 back to Freiburg.
It is also easy to get back to the UK by rail from this event the same day.
The coach will drop you at Colmar in good time to catch the 14:07 loco-hauled service to Strasbourg, which gives you a +29 onto the 15:08 TGV to Lille Europe, for a fairly tight or remarkably relaxed connection onto the 18:35 or 19:30 Eurostars respectively back to St Pancras, the latter of which getting into London at 20:03. Connections from this include to Liverpool, Manchester, Wolverhampton, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Norwich, Exeter, Bristol, Swansea, Worcester and all across the Southern Region – as well, of course, as the overnights from both Euston and Paddington.
If you are heading south from Colmar, using multiple units you can be back in Basel before 15:30 which gives you opportunities to head into or through Switzerland or beyond.
What you can combine it with
The vast array of long-distance connections both into and out of the event as outlined above mean that your weekend can take many forms – conceivably you could spend a worthwhile Saturday in at least eight or nine countries that I can think of, and still comfortably get here. As such, I have not organised any additional haulage opportunities this time, as I feel that that would be counterproductive when there are already events going on that are very deserving of your attendance.
In terms of special events on the Saturday, the standout has to be the “Mega Bernina Festival” at the Chemin de fer-musée Blonay-Chamby in Switzerland, featuring a number of interesting electric locomotives, and including the return to service after a long restoration of RhB 181. Our visit to Volgelsheim would form an easy and interesting stop-off on an overland trip back to the UK from that event.
(Update 22/06/18) I expect many people to spend the Saturday night in Basel prior to travelling up to Colmar. Some may wish to look at the open day of the Basel tram network, which is expected to include special trips with heritage vehicles.
By heading south from Breisach or Colmar directly after our event, you can reach Belp or Bern respectively in ample time to enjoy a short main line run with 1939-built BLS class Ae6/8 electric loco no.205 on an additional service train, which will depart from Bern at 17:08, stop at Zollkofen at 17:15 and terminate at Burgdorf at 17:26 (see Erlebniszug Lötschberg website).
Do of course keep an eye on the Haulage Calendar on the main site for updates on other unusual haulage-based events going on around this.
Fares and how to book
This does not come as cheaply as I might have liked to offer, but this is linked entirely to the amounts that I am being charged to put the event on for you. I would very much like to think that it still represents excellent value for what is a very rare opportunity.
Train only – £25
Train and connecting coach –
(Please also consider as above, that it may be possible to also travel behind Y2402, but that as this has not been factored into the event’s costing, it may be subject to a small additional charge).
In the first instance, please email me on email@example.com to confirm your place on this tour, listing the names of all participants, and if you will be joining us on the coach as well as the train. I will then email you directly at around the beginning of March, where we can jointly decide on a payment method that works for both sides.
Places are strictly limited to 100.
I do need to emphasise that 62029 is over 70 years old and is the only currently operational example of its class, and a failure before or during the event is always a possibility. I will provide you directly with more detailed booking information at the time that payment is being arranged.