Posts Tagged ‘Vivarais’

Vivarais Railway – some progress

Sunday, 15 March 2009


Billiards railcar 213 (A150D type built 1938) Monday 9 March 2009,
Photo Ph. Ricaud, SGVA

(Click to see this picture and others of the service train on the SGVA website.)

Hard news regarding the long-term future of what was once France’s premier tourist and museum railway, the C.F. du Vivarais, remains in short supply. Meanwhile the Vivarais Railway’s supporters association, the SGVA, has posted some photographs on their website of a service train consisting of a vintage Billiards railcar. The photos also show some recent work carried out by a three man track gang who are now directly employed by the provincial council, the Conseil Général de l’Ardèche. Here is a translation of the accompanying article.

Billiards railcar on the line!

published  Tuesday 10 March 2009
by Vincent Piotti

On Monday 09 March 2009, the railcar 213 Billiards (A150D type 1938) went for a run on the line.

After a movement from Saint Jean de Muzols with CFD X permanent way train January 27 (see 1st traffic movement of the year!), 3 employees of the Conseil Général de l’Ardèche (formerly employed by the SAEML) have cleared a 10km section of track from Lamastre.

Although less affected by the weather, the top section of the line still needed some care: we had to identify in advance areas where the track needed attention such as the flangeways of level crossing and places where earth had buried the rails to achieve this ‘partial re-opening of the line’.

Of course, no passengers were carried on board the railcar. On this occasion it was employed only as a service train.

The railcar ran as far as marker post PN 36 (near the viaduct at Garnier) before returning to Lamastre.

We hope that this partial reopening heralds similar activity in the other direction BOUCIEU-le-Roi, Colombier-le-Vieux and the Doux Gorge… and also the return of tourists in the near future.

Meanwhile, walkers take heed: it is forbidden and dangerous to walk on the track, for your spring outings, stick to footpaths!

We have received many queries about developments on the Vivarais and would encourage all who care about the future of this wonderful railway to join the SGVA or to make a donation.

Sauvegarde et Gestion de Véhicules Anciens

Membership application form

pdf download

Contact details

Association SGVA
Gare de Boucieu-le-Roi
07270 Boucieu-le-Roi

Vivarais rolling stock to be sold!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Mallet 403 runs round at Lamastre. Photo Ian Britton,

(click for photo in original context and more Vivarais pictures)

Further to our reports on the Vivarais closure, this short note was posted on the Welsh Highland Railway discussion group (WARNING registration required.) by John Dobson, the Editor of the Ffestiniog Railway Magazine. It is re-published here in its entirety.

The following message, written on 30 June, has been received from Fabien Mottet, a fireman on the Vivarais. The future looks very bleak, although the SGVA (see below) is trying to mount a rescue operation.

>I just read the editorial of FR magazine.

I have very bad news. The line will close, locomotives and wagons will be sold, firemen
(like me) are all fired… No reopening in 2010, as written.…

Please, HELP US! Rapidly…!

You can write to:

Hotel du Département
Quartier de Chaumette – BP 737

Or if you want give money for the CFV through the SGVA Association please contact:

51. La Vieille route

John L Dobson
FR Magazine

‘Do not let the Vivarais die’

Sunday, 29 June 2008

PO-Correze Mallet was overhauled by the CFV and returned to service on the Vivarias in 2003. (Click for story. Translation available.) But can the the Vivarais Railway, which itself was closed down again in April 2008, be resurrected a second time?

April 2008 was a bad month for European narrow gauge. Two weeks after the Mayor of Krosniewice closed the Krosniewice Railway in central Poland, we were shocked to hear of the closure of the Vivarais Railway in the Ardeche in France. Both railways are absolutely central to the railway heritage of each country. The Krosniewice Railway is a surviving fragment of a 1,500 km regional network of public and private narrow gauge railways that included the Kujawskie Koleje Dojazdowe lines and many hundreds of kilometres of narrow gauge private sugar beet railways. The Vivarais Railway, the flagship ‘preserved’ narrow gauge railway in France, is a wonderful example of the many narrow gauge light railways that once wended their way through rural France.

Just like the Krosniewice Railway, the Vivarais is fighting back. A letter writing campaign has being organised, targeted at the chairman of the local authority, and a ‘buy a sleeper’ fighting fund appeal has been launched. BTWT is a campaigning blog, we don’t charge you for accessing our pages or bombard you with irritating ‘pop-up’ ads, but we do ask you from time to time to put pen to paper to defend railways in distress. If you have not already done so, why not write a similar letter to the President of the Ardeche Regional Council and the Mayor of Krosniewice and help rescue both railways?

The following appeal has been published by the SGVA, the Vivarais Railway – or as it is known by its friends, the Mastrou – supporters’ association website (Translation available.)

Do not let the Vivarais die

by Christian Périllon

On 10 April, the Ardeche Regional Council, the majority shareholder of the Vivarais Railway took the decision to suspend the operation of the ‘Mastrou’.

How did we get here?

Following the closure of the CFD network in 1968, a handful of enthusiasts decided to rescue the 33 km section of line between Tournon and Lamastre. Without any outside assistance, we managed to save a unique heritage: 9 steam engines, and a hundred items of rolling stock. Over the years, we created one of France’s leading tourist railways. This museum railway also became one of the last bastions of steam in France and one of the last representatives of the light railways that once criss-crossed our country.

In 1968, there was no statutory basis for a tourist railway. The Vivarais Railway had to purchase its rolling stock, track, stations… The CFV is today one of the few railways that also owns its infrastructure and its equipment, with sole responsibility for carrying out all maintenance and repairs.

While the operation of the CFV generated a positive cash flow, our meagre profits only sufficed to pay for the routine maintenance of equipment. They were insufficient to cover some of the capital investment needed by 100 year old equipment and rolling stock and the increasing financial burden of more and more regulation.

After operating without any assistance from government or local authorities for 35 years, the department of Ardeche became a shareholder of the CFV in 2004. However, this did not bring about any change to the operation of the ‘Mastrou’. Some investments were made, but these were mostly financed by loans secured on the on the capital of the railway company, thus creating an operating deficit. In any case these were insufficient to secure the railway’s future. While 7km of track were relaid, the steam locomotives are not in a state to start operating this season and the rolling stock is in urgent need of overhaul.

For 40 years, volunteers of the SGVA association have bravely fought to keep the railway arrive. They cannot bear to see this magnificent museum railway disappear. It is, after all, the principal tourist attraction in the Ardeche attracting 60,000 visitors to the region each year.

The Chemin de Fer du Vivarais is viable economically. But, for the railway’s operation to be sustainable, the railway should operate on an identical basis to that of other tourist railways; namely:

  • that the infrastructure and its maintenance becomes the responsibility of local governments;
  • that the operation of trains and maintenance of locomotives and rolling stock is entrusted to a competent operating company.

We now have reached the stage whereby only if we mobilize everybody (local elected officials, and railway enthusiasts) will we be able to rescue the ‘Mastrou’. It is still not too late.

That is why we invite you to write to the president of the Regional Council:

Monsieur le Président du Conseil Général
Hôtel du département
Quartier la Chaumette – BP 737
07007 PRIVAS cedex

For BTWT readers who still remember their school French, the SGVA provide a model letter (pdf download) here. For those who haven’t yet written to the Mayor of Krosniewice with a copy to the Minister of Infrastructure, our whole Krosniewice file, complete with relevant addresses, can be read by clicking here.

More on Vivarais closure

Monday, 23 June 2008

Trailer coach and 1937-built Billard railcar behind at Boucieu-le-Roi (© James Waite, Steam in Europe)

(Click on picture for many more pictures of the final weekend of operation and the original article, Sudden closure of the CF du Vivarais.)

Behind The Water Tower had the sad distinction of being the first English language web source to report the closure of the Vivarais in our post of 18 April. Now we reprint part of a longer article from International Steam Locomotives based on a report by James Waite which fills in many of the missing details.

The metre gauge CF du Vivarais, long regarded as the doyen of French preserved railways, closed suddenly on Sunday 13th April 2008 for at least one year and possibly much longer.

The railway had been struggling to maintain an effective service during the past few years. In 2007 Mallet 0-6-6-0T no. 414 maintained the steam service almost singlehanded. The railway’s other four 0-6-6-0T’s, all of which were built new for the railway, were all out of use as were its three other steam locos. No. 414 required major overhaul which started as soon as the 2007 season had ended. It has taken longer than expected and the 2008 season began on 21st March with all services being worked by railcar no. 213, the only available vehicle.

From its rescue after the closure of the system in 1968 until 2003 the line had been run by the CFTM, an enthusiast society. It was handed over to a company in which the Conseil General de l’Ardèche, the regional government, has a majority stake on the basis that it would provide much needed funds to renew the permanent way and to upgrade the railway’s infrastructure. The Conseil General convened an emergency meeting last Thursday 10th April at which it decided to suspend services indefinitely, ostensibly on safety grounds. The last train ran the following Sunday 13th April.

The need for major investment is clear for all to see. The SNCF has given notice to terminate from 2012 the railway’s use of the 2.5kms of mixed gauge track, the “tronc commun”, which lead to Tournon station and depot. Replacement facilities would be needed for which land has been acquired but no construction work has yet started. The Conseil General estimates that between 8 million and 10 million euros are required to put the permanent way back into first class condition, to refurbish the steam locos and to build the new station and depot. There is currently no commitment to provide any of this money. The railway has 15 employees whose work prospects are, at best, uncertain. The tourist industry in the region is heavily dependant on the railway which often ran trains as long as 10 coaches during the summer. The local press has described the closure as a catastrophe.

More on Vivarais closure

Friday, 25 April 2008

Vivarais ‘large’ mallet pulls a mixed train through Clauzel Station

Further to our post about the Vivarais closure, we’ve found this rather nice photo. Click on pic for full size photo and scroll down to the comments section for some more information about the suspension of services.

Vivarais closure shock

Friday, 18 April 2008

Happier times – Chemin de fer du Vivarais in the 1960s

The Chemin de fer du Vivarais, arguably France’s premier narrow gauge railway, has announced that it is suspending operations. It seems that the line and its steam locomotives have failed to pass strict railway safety criteria. An attempt to keep services going during 2008 by importing a diesel locomotive from Poland came to nothing, because of the costs involved. The line is in deep financial difficulties. A translation of the official press release posted on the Vivarais website appears below.

PRESS RELEASE – April 10, 2008

The fate of the Vivarais Railway – a discussion with all partners.

The Vivarais Railway, a key element of the identity and heritage of the Ardeche region, is currently in real difficulties. Bearing in mind the importance of the railway in the economy of the region and the possible impact of any decision on the railway’s employees, the General Council – the majority shareholder of this private-public partnership company – invited all concerned stakeholders (local and other shareholders) to discuss the fate of the Vivarais Railway during a round table this April 10 at Privas.

Created in 2003, the Chemin de Fer du Vivarais management board faces a difficult situation:

– a recurring annual deficit because of the investment necessary to maintain the track and infrastructure,

– a considerable quantity of equipment under repair or awaiting movement,

– a new station must be built in the medium term in order to free up the aligment owned Reseau Ferre de France, between Tournon Saint-Jean-de-Muzols, that the SEM must return by 2011.

The General Council, a majority shareholder, has invested more than 2 million euros in the structure.

Despite all these efforts, the Vivarais is experiencing a real crisis.

Taking into account the elements of context and the history of the Vivarais, the chairman of the General Council, Pascal Terrace, wanted to analyse the situation along with the other players involved in the Mastrou (mayors of municipalities in Tournon, Saint-Jean – Muzols, Lamastre and Boucieu-le-Roi and other shareholders). Those present at the meeting reached a number of conclusions. These included:

– That safety is not negotiable and that the state of infrastructure and rolling stock is such that we cannot authorise operations,

– That it is technically impossible to resume the season with steam locomotives (which are the attraction of Vivarais). Operating without steam would be inconsistent with the information provided to customers, undermining the attractiveness, identity and the credibility of the Chemin de Fer du Vivarais,

– The 2008 season is heavily compromised.

It was these observations that lead the the partners who me ton April 10 to conclude that it would be impossibile to run the railway safety and, at the same time, meet customer expectations in full.

They agreed that there should be a pause in the railway’s operations. They also pledged to engage in a process of reflection, study and construction to define the conditions suitable for a subsequent resumption. This should be part of a project involving the various public and private stakeholders of the area so that the railway’s long-term viability and sustainability would be secure.

Vivarais Railway website.