Tag Archives: SNCF

French Outtakes—Part 1

Perusing my photos of France and French railways for my up-coming book on European Railway Travel, I was surprised  to find how many excellent images I had in my collection.

I’ve made about a half dozen trips through France over the years, and I’ve generally had good weather.

In reviewing my selection I’ve decided to cull these two images from consideration for the book.

This train photo is of an SNCF train but it’s not in France, and rather in Basel, Switzerland. More to the point, the lighting isn’t wonderful, and the setting is awkward.

I chose it because it’s a contemporary photo of an SNCF locomotive-hauled passenger train (which are becoming increasingly rare in France.) I have better SNCF photos than this one for the book.

Exposed on Fujichrome using a Canon EOS3.

I liked this Eiffel Tower image because it shows the scale of the structure. However, I have some really stunning views of this Parisian icon that better capture its majesty. This one gets the axe.

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Catching Rail Freight on the Way to the Airport.

Opportunity is the operative.

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.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

 

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Geneva Station—one week ago.

Last week I visited Geneva, Switzerland where I made these photographs.

For the station building, I worked with my Lumix LX7. While the SNCF train was photographed using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Geneva, April 2017. Exposed on a cold morning using a Lumix LX7. Here I’ve tired to integrate the station with the street environment around it. Compare this view with the one below that focuses more on the building.
The great length of Geneva’s station makes it difficult to capture in one image. In this view I’ve cropped much of the building and my use of a wide angle lens has led to some dramatic distortion.
Here I’ve oriented my Lumix vertically to capture the interior of the concourse and ticket area. My purchase of Swiss passes at the offices at the right cost me more than my Lumix did three years ago. Yet the passes were well worth the cost, as the Swiss railway network is one of the finest in the world.
The tracks at Geneva are elevated. This platform view of an SNCF train was made using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. Although the locomotive is back lit, its silver and lavender paint photographed well.

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Paris Gare de Lyon

For my money Paris Gare de Lyon is the coolest station in France.

Here’s just a few views from my brief visit earlier this month.

All were exposed using my Lumix LX7. Film enthusiasts fear not! I also made some colour slides of this iconic railway terminal.

Read more about railway stations, buy my book Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals published by Voyageur Press.

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SNCF’s TGV; Brussels to Milan

A couple of weeks ago, I found good deal on-line for a 1st Class SNCF ticket from Brussels Midi to Milan via Paris.

It was an early start from Brussels. I enjoyed some fast running, a quick change at Lille Europe, and an hour and half to navigate my way across Paris.

I made these photos of the train journey with my Lumix LX7.

Brussels Midi just before sunrise.
Gliding along at speed near the Belgian-French frontier.
Lille Europe high-speed station.
I traveled on this TGV Duplex between Lille and Paris Gare du Nord.
Upstairs on the TGV Duplex.
Paris Gare du Nord.
The longest and final leg of my TGV journey was between Gare de Lyon and Milan on this multi voltage TGV set.

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Tracking the Light Visualizes Speed: Traveling by SNCF’s TGV—a dozen new photos.

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.

TGV arriving at Brussels Midi. Today, TGV operated to a variety of countries across Europe including Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain.
TGV arriving at Brussels Midi. Today, TGV operates to a variety of countries across Europe including Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain.
Room with a view.
Room with a view.
TGV map.
TGV map.

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.

Lounge on a TGV Duplex set (a double-deck TGV train).
Lounge on a TGV Duplex set (a double-deck TGV train).
Upstairs/Downstairs at 186 mph.
Upstairs/Downstairs at 186 mph. (And no one to yap at you about moving between cars at speed, let alone descending stairs).
View from the train.
View from the train.
TGV Lyria at the Charles de Gaulle airport station.
TGV Lyria at the Charles de Gaulle airport station.
TGV pauses at Charles de Gaulle airport. Take the plane to the train! It works, just ask Pop.
TGV pauses at Charles de Gaulle airport. Take the plane to the train! It works, just ask Pop.
TGV Duplex after arrival at Bordeaux in southern France.
TGV Duplex after arrival at Bordeaux in southern France.
Typical Frist class seating on the TGV Duplex.
Typical Frist class seating on the TGV Duplex.
Lille Europe, TGV/Eurostar Station.
Lille Europe, TGV/Eurostar Station.

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SNCF Valenciennes‑Revisited (April 2016). Six NEW photos.

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.

Valenciences_station_DSCF6244

Valenciences_Station_w_tram_DSCF6240

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.

SNCF_Gare_Valenciences_DSCF6278

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.

SNCF_Valenciences_DSCF6269

An SNCF train approaches Gare de Valenciennes.
An SNCF train approaches Gare de Valenciennes.

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News Flash! Metz Station is really cool! (Seven previously unpublished photos)

Located in the north of France, Metz is an industrial city with a long history.

I’ll admit, I’d never given the place much thought until I had to change trains there in late April (2016).

Not only was the old city centre visually fascinating, but the railway station is a real gem!

That’s the great part about exploring without an agenda; you find wonderful things you really didn’t expect to see!

I made these images over the course of my brief visit using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera (fitted with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens).

Interior architecture at SNCF's Metz station. Lumix LX7 photo.
Interior architecture at SNCF’s Metz station. Lumix LX7 photo.
Not an exhibit at the British Museum in London; no, this a bit of architectural detail at the Metz station.
Not an exhibit at the British Museum in London; no, this a bit of architectural detail at the Metz station.
Metz Station exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm lens.
Metz Station exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm lens.
Main concourse of the Metz Station.
Main concourse of the Metz Station.
Exterior detail: Metz Station exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm lens.
Exterior detail: Metz Station exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm lens.
Luxembourg Railways railcar at Metz Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
Luxembourg Railways railcar at Metz Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
Here's the next leg of my journey in France; a colorfully painted railcar.
Here’s the next leg of my journey in France; a colorfully painted railcar.

Take a Ride on SNCF.

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.

My first SNCF train was a loco-hauled push-pull service from Basel to Strasbourg. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
My first SNCF train was a loco-hauled push-pull service from Basel to Strasbourg. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Among the benefits of SNCF's secondary trains are large windows, ample space for luggage, and no requirement for advanced reservations which allows for spontaneous travel.
Among the benefits of SNCF’s secondary trains are large windows, ample space for luggage, and no requirement for advanced reservations which allows for spontaneous travel.
I made good use of my pass, and proved a much better value than buying single tickets.
I made good use of my pass, and proved a much better value than buying single tickets.
Old school comfort. Proper 1st class railway travel. Lumix LX7 photo.
Old school comfort. Proper 1st class railway travel. Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo; focus setting on 'manual'.
Lumix LX7 photo; focus setting on ‘manual’.
A rolling panorama of the French landscape.
A rolling panorama of the French landscape.
Plenty of locomotives and trains to be viewed from the window of the train.
Plenty of locomotives and trains to be viewed from the window of the train.

SNCF_View_from_train_at_Strasbourg_P1440869

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SNCF Gare de Valenciennes, France.

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.

SNCF's Gare de Valenciennes. Exposed with mu Lumix LX7, contrast adjusted globally in post processing.
SNCF’s Gare de Valenciennes. Exposed with my Lumix LX7, contrast adjusted globally in post processing.
SNCF's Gare de Valenciennes. Lumix LX7 photo.
SNCF’s Gare de Valenciennes. Lumix LX7 photo.
SNCF's Gare de Valenciennes. Lumix LX7 photo.
SNCF’s Gare de Valenciennes. Lumix LX7 photo.
An old TGV PSE set at SNCF's Gare de Valenciennes. Lumix LX7 photo.
An old TGV PSE set at SNCF’s Gare de Valenciennes. Lumix LX7 photo.

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.

Local SNCF railcar at Gare de Valenciennes. Lumix LX7 photo.
Local SNCF railcar at Gare de Valenciennes. Lumix LX7 photo.
I was set my Lumix LX7 in HDR mode to reduce contrast and improve shadow detail. HDR stands for 'high dynamic range' and effectively blends three photographs exposed at different settings. These images are made in rapid succession and combined in-camera. It is useful for static scenes such as these standing SNCF diesels, but not much help for photos of moving trains.
I  set my Lumix LX7 in HDR mode to reduce contrast and improve shadow detail. HDR stands for ‘high dynamic range’ and effectively blends three photographs exposed at different settings. These images are made in rapid succession and combined in-camera. It is useful for static scenes such as these standing SNCF diesels, but not much help for photos of moving trains.
Another HDR view of the SNCF grain train. The diesels were build by Alstom and Siemens.
Another HDR view of the SNCF grain train. The diesels were built by Alstom and Siemens.

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Modern-1980s Style.

Exposed on March 31, 2015 using a Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera.
Exposed on March 31, 2015 using a Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera.

This juxtaposition of a French high-speed TGV against Lego-block architecture fulfills a vision of 1980s modern style. After three decades how well does it hold up?

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