Three Great French Trunk Railways
MODERN “MOUNTAIN” EXPRESS LOCOMOTIVE on the French State Railways, this was an experimental engine of exceptional size on which automatic stoking was installed for the first time in Europe; but 4-
THREE great French trunk railways remain to be described in these pages, namely the State Railways, the Eastern Railway, and the Alsace-
Few railways in the world can show such a fine record of steady development, modernization, and improvement of services during the past few years as the French State Railways. One of the lines absorbed in the State Railways was the old Western Railway of France, which ran out from Paris into Brittany, and served the principal Channel ports from Dieppe to the west.
In 1908, the Western Railway was taken over by the French State Railways, which from 1878 on had been working most of the lines lying between the Western and the Paris-
For twenty years after their absorption of the Western Railway, the French State Railways developed but slowly. In 1928, however, the clever and energetic M. Raoul Dautry took over the office of General Manager, and the dark days of the French State Railways were over. Within seven years M. Dautry completely reorganized the system, and the “Etat” has now become one of the best railways in Western Europe.
The French State Railways are well served in the matter of Paris termini. First and foremost is the great St. Lazare Station, which vies with the rebuilt Eastern Station for the distinction of being the greatest terminus in France. The rail approach consists of a wide cutting, containing one of the finest pieces of track-
From Paris to Rouen is a distance of 86.6 miles, the total distance to Havre being 141.5 miles. Until the Dover-
As explained in the chapter, “Speed Trains of Europe”, which begins on page 875, the State Railways have some fast runs, both with Bugatti rail-
The main line from Paris to Cherbourg has a total length of 230½ miles, passing through Mantes (thirty-
Another important main line of the State Railways is that from Paris to Brest. For reasons of operating convenience, the Brest trains do not use the St. Lazare terminus at Paris, but the neighbouring Montparnasse Station. From Montparnasse to Le Mans is a distance of 131 miles, and in the course of the run the train passes through historic Versailles, only ten miles from Paris, and Chartres (fifty-
Going westward, Rennes is reached, 232½ miles from Paris, and here the Brest line crosses the north-
THREE FRENCH RAILWAYS are indicated in this map. They are the State Railways, controlling 5,727 miles of standard gauge track, the Eastern Railway, with 3,189 miles, and the Alsace-
Brest is 387¾ miles from Paris; the best train leaves the capital at 3.25 in the afternoons and is in Brest three-
The express rail-
Though the State Railways have not yet adopted main-
As far back as 1900, a start was made with the line from Paris to Versailles, on the direct current system at 650 volts, third-
There is one long main line of the State Railways which has not yet been considered -
For a while, some neat 4-
AN EARLY “BUDDICOM” ENGINE used for many years on the Western Railway of France. The type closely resembles the “Crewe” design of Alexander Allan, the works manager of the Grand Junction Railway at Liverpool in 1840. The Western Railway of France was absorbed by the State system in 1908.
Since 1928 great strides have been made in the modernization of the French State locomotive stock, and the standard express passenger locomotive of to-
Some of the old coaches of the State Railways were indifferent vehicles. On the most important Paris suburban trains, great use was made of the “Imperial” coach, which was a simple double-
Some time ago an ingenious arrangement was evolved for giving lying-
Centralized Traffic Control
Enormous progress has been made in the signalling and permanent way departments of the French State Railways. “Flyovers” have replaced old-
There are many other fascinating features of the modernized and rejuvenated French State Railways which could be described in a more specialized work, but now we must turn our eyes eastward, and deal with the two great systems which handle the traffic between France and Central Europe, namely the Eastern Railway and the Alsace-
Before the Franco-
The Eastern Railway of France suffered considerably from the devastation caused by the war of 1914-
After such an experience from the beginning of the war, it is not surprising that when the Germans evacuated France in 1918, much of the Eastern system was in a similar state to that of the ruined Belgian railways farther north. Gradually the system was rebuilt, but it was a long and expensive business. As with Belgium, much German rolling stock was transferred as reparations to the Eastern Railway of France after the war.
AN OLD “CRAMPTON” LOCOMOTIVE of the type which formerly ran on the Eastern Railway of France. One of the last of these engines was in service until 1913.
The Eastern Station, or Gare de l’Est, in Paris is an imposing building. Although the original style of architecture has been retained, the terminus has been almost entirely rebuilt during the last few years. The extension of the station has caused the doubling of the existing facade, and its new appearance is fine indeed. From the terminus the main line runs down the Marne Valley through Chalons, thence passing on to Nancy, 219 miles from Paris. Alsace-
A vital branch leaves this line between Meaux and Château-
The third great eastbound main line bears farther south than the two mentioned already, and runs through Troyes (104 miles from Paris), Chaumont (163 miles), and Vesoul (237 miles) to Belfort (275 miles). From Belfort it runs through the extreme south of Alsace to provide a link with Switzerland via Basle. This line brings Basle within 338 miles of Paris. Altogether, the Eastern Railway of France owns and operates about 3,189 miles of route, all built to the standard gauge. One of its best expresses is a morning train from Strasbourg to Paris, which runs non-
A “DECAPOD”, or locomotive with ten-
While the State Railways serve agricultural districts, where the heaviest traffic is a seasonal movement of holiday-
The Eastern Railway provides a vital link between Paris and the cities of Central and Southern Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the nations of Eastern Europe. Travellers from Paris to Munich, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, Sofia, Athens, Bucharest, and Istanbul may with advantage, and often inevitably, begin their journeys over the main lines of the Eastern Railway of France. The Gare de l’Est is veritably a gateway to the East, for beyond Istanbul, the “Taurus Express”, as explained in the chapter beginning on page 1521, runs through Asia Minor, and connects with services to Iraq and Palestine (for Egypt).
AN ALSATIAN “PACIFIC”. Heavy 4-
In the matter of locomotives and rolling stock, the Eastern, in spite of being completely disorganized in two major wars, has always kept abreast of the times, and compares favourably with other French railways. In the old days, the “Crampton” type of locomotive was popular, and these odd-
In Eastern France
In 1925, however, the long series of four-
Even before the war, the Eastern coaches and other rolling stock were good by French standards. Four-
The third great French railway system which remains to be described is that of the Alsace-
In Alsace, a straight main line runs down parallel to the Rhine from Strasbourg to Basle, a distance of eighty-
ON THE EASTERN RAILWAY OF FRANCE. In 1925 “Mountain” type locomotives -
[From part 48, published 27 December 1935]