At the end of April, Denis McCabe and I were on our way to the Basel Airport on the airport bus (image omitted). On the way, we spotted an over bridge on the double-track line that connects Basel with France.
Arriving at the airport, we concluded that we were too early to check in for our flight, so rather than waste time milling around the airport, we doubled back to the bridge, a mere 10 minutes away.
Among the photos I made in the interval at the bridge was this trailing view of an SNCF freight heading to France from Switzerland.
Société National de Chemin de Fer’s Trains à Grande Vitesse is 35 years old.
Last month (April 2016) I made a series of trips across France on SNCF’s TGV, a means of flying by rail.
And, yes the speed is impressive: it makes the Acela Express seem like it’s coasting.
Here are just a sampling of my Lumix LX7 images from and of SNCF’s TGV and its stations.
I wrote about the TGV in my book Bullet Trains published by MBI in 2001.
Here’s an excerpt of the text on TGV:
In conjunction with the construction of the new high speed railway called the Lignes à Grande Vitesse (LGV), SNCF developed of the Trains à Grande Vitesse (TGV), an entirely new high speed train. When discussing the French system the LGV refers to the new high speed infrastructure, including the tracks, while TGV refers to the high speed railway technology, including the trains themselves.
Last October (2015), I visited Valenciennes in northern France. I stopped by again a few weeks ago during my April 2016 wanderings in France and Belgium.
In these views I focused on the old Chemin de fer du Nord Station (SNCF’s Gare de Valencienes) and the surrounding environment.
Using my FujiFilm X-T1, I made images that feature the old station as both subject and background. Notice how selective focus and use of light shifts the central interest from the old building to the tram.
Outback of the station, there are, of course, SNCF trains and an impressive array of trackage that make interesting subjects in their own right.
Together, the building, trams, SNCF trains and trackage make for a scene, but one not possible to adequately represent in one image. Thus this myriad collection of images. This is a work in progress.
Tracking the Light posts every day! (Have you noticed?)
On 21 April 2016, I had my First Class France Rail Pass Flexi validated at Basel, Switzerland.
My goal was by the first evening to reach Valenciennes (a city in northern France near the Belgian border) using only regional trains, rather than the TGV (plenty of opportunity for high speed travel later in my trip).
I found the challenge as in making local connections since these days SNCF focuses long-distance passengers onto high-speed routes. All very well, unless you want to experience secondary lines and ride trains off-the well-beaten path.
Thanks to Stephen Hirsch and Denis McCabe who helped with my planning, I traveled on a series of TER trains.
After four train-changes reached my destination 15 hours after I boarded the first train on the French side of Basel’s main station.
October 1, 2015 was a beautifully clear autumn day in northern France. Following my talk to the European Railway Agency, my host Mauno Pajunen gave me a guided tour of the Gare de Valenciennes.
Historically this region had been rich with coal, and this made for a busy railway. Today, the coal business is all but extinct, and SNCF appeared to be largely focused on passengers, although we saw a unit grain train, and a Vossloh diesel shunting the goods yard.
The station was built in 1906 by Chemin de fer du Nord (the northern railway of France) and has a handsome period exterior. Inside the station has been stripped of much of its traditional décor.
I was pleased to find one of the original TGV PSE high-speed sets outside. These trains defined France’s innovative high-speed rail in the early 1980s, but the design is now 35 years old, and the train itself was exhibiting the signs of heavy use.
In addition to these digital photos, I also exposed several 35mm colour slides. Although, I’ve visited France on various occasions, I have comparatively few images of SNCF.