Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday 7 December - The Blanc a Argent Railway

The routing that the SNCF ticket agent described yesterday as bizarre worked very well.  We were actually 5 minutes late departing Salbris on the outward part but were on time arriving at Romorantin.

Paris Austerlitz dep. 0708  Salbris arr. 0833
Salbris dep. 0841  Romorantin arr. 0919
Romorantin dep. 0947  Valençay arr. 1024
Valençay dep. 1035  Romorantin arr. 1120
Romorantin dep. 1245 Salbris arr. 1331
Salbris dep. 1331 Orleans Centre arr. 1410
Orleans Centre dep. 1528 Paris Austerlitz arr. 1633.

Six o'clock on a Saturday morning on the Paris metro was pretty busy, mainly with Friday night party goers going home.  Some were quiet, some were drunk, some were working off a hangover but most were boisterous and having fun.  The metro platforms were spotless and fairly shone. The new trains on line 5 are much better than the now dowdy ones on line 3.  I am always intrigued by the fact that line five gets into the gare d'Austerlitz through a hole in the roof.
Gare d'Austerlitz
Austerlitz was not particularly busy at this time in the morning and the empty concourse allowed the SNCF staff to race their segways around with gay abandon.  There was a near collision at one point.  Those on a segway would zoom around until they met a colleague when they would put on the brakes to shake hands then race away again.
The main line train was composed of Corail stock, old, heavy, reliable and very, very smooth riding.  We stopped at Les Aubrais before Salbris.
The sun was just coming up as my train left Salbris
I think this area, La Sologne, is my favorite in France - forest, lagoon, hawk, heron, wild boar, mushrooms, pheasant, magpie, mistletoe.  At Salbris the sun was just coming up and there were a number of people waiting in the cold still air for the Blanc a Argent driver to turn up, start the train and let us in. For the first few minutes it was blowing cold air.  The line was closed for most of last year while new rail, ballast and ties were laid over most of its length.  This is a definite improvement and there is good rail on the main line right through to Romorantin and Valencay with the exception of a few short lengths at Salbris, Selles St. Denis, Romorantin and Chabris. The riding is much better and speeds are higher.  Unfortunately the trains took a beating over the original track and need some work on their trucks which do not ride as well as they should.
Waiting for the driver to open up the train at Salbris
Romorantin now has color light signals with crocodiles.
Romorantin, train for Valençay
A Romorantin there are now SNCF-style color light track signals complete with crocodiles.  Surely a first for the BA. There was also a Colas diesel on a work train in the yard and the old diesel, which was built on the frames of a steam locomotive, was nowhere to be seen.  An employee told me that it had gone.
At Chabris the station mistress lowered the crossing gates using a hand crank
There was only a short pause at Romorantin and I had to continue on to Valençay where there was only nine minutes before the return.  The line looks to be embargoed towards Luçay le Mal so they may be running buses at the moment.  On the way back to Romorantin there was a booked ten minute halt at Gievres to make connections with the SNCF trains in both direction between Vierzon and Tours.  This line was electrified a few years ago.
Near Varennes
There is now only one box car at Pruniers
Mistletoe is very much in evidence as here at Romorantin.
At Romorantin I received permission from the fellow who appeared to be in charge to take some pictures of the work train, he suggested I go and take pictures of the rest of the equipment in the sidings as well so I was able to record everything.
Colas diesel for the work train
Old freight cars at Romorantin

Repainted blazons on X242 (left) and X241 (right)
The older units X241 and X242 are well painted and would appear to be in regular use.
This compromise joint is still in use at Romorantin.
A relic from steam locomotive days at Romorantin
Click here to see all pictures taken of the Blanc a Argent Railway:
Short pause for a coffee and quiche before catching the train back to Salbris where there was a good connection to Orléans Centre.  I had an hour at Orléans to observe the trams before catching another SNCF train with Corail stock back to Paris.  It was still light so I could follow the concrete guideway of the Bertin Aerotrain experiment and observe the shattered platform at Bretigny which was the location of the rail disaster last summer.

I first rode the Blanc à Argent in 1974.  It is good to see that it is still going strong.  As usual the passengers could be counted on the fingers of one hand.  Arriving at Romorantin from Valençay I was the only one on board after two people got out at Gievres.

This evening we ate at Le Pe'tit Canon just down the street on the corner.  We were warmly greeted and had fun.  We were sitting next to a German couple and there was a Spanish couple next to them.  Both the waiter and the waitress were speaking Spanish to explain the chalkboard menu.  The waiter spoke passable German but had to rush into the kitchen occasionally to ask the chef for some words.  A little later we heard him talking to another couple in Italian.  Being Saturday night the restaurant was fully booked.  Mary enjoyed the Sancerre while I was delighted to find the house red was Fitou which comes from the sam,e area as Corbieres and Minervois.  We had foie gras to start (canard and feuilleté) then a medley of seafood and rognons.  It was all very good.

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