Day Trip to Ride the Chemin de fer du Blanc à Argent

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On Friday 5 January, 2007, I took a trip to Romorantin and Gievres which involved an early trip on the Metro to Austerlitz.  The Metro is very clean and they have cleared away those annoying beggars with accordions who “entertained” for money.  All, that is, except for the mad Russian lady who works line three from Sentier.  She gets on and harangues everyone in Russian - if she doesn’t get anything she gives the finger to departing passengers from the platform.  The Metro trains seem to be more frequent than in previous years.

At Austerlitz I caught the 0706 to Les Aubrais, Orleans.  This was hauled by 126072 with a huge train of Corail stock, the train was going to Limoges with a portion splitting for Bourges at Vierzon.

0810 Les Aubrais to Salbris was modern electric stock which rode well and made for a comfortable ride.  We stopped at Lamotte Beuvron where I could just glimpse the Hotel Tatin where the tarte tatin originated.

The control cab of the new trains, complete with comuter ad TV monitor.

The flat car in the yard at Selles St. Denis is a sign that there has been track work.


Transition joints between the old, light rail (left) and heavier rail used on the new switches - Romorantin.

0853 Salbris to Romorantin. 
I walked out into the yard at Salbris and could hear the train before I picked it out.  The new cars make a lot of noise outside but are relatively quiet inside.  La Ferté Imbaute and Selles St. Denis were both staffed and the stationmistresses came out to give us authority to proceed.  We passed a train at Selles St. Denis where there were a couple of flat cars in the siding.  This was evidence of a lot of work that is going on with the track.  They have relaid many of the curves and replaced most of the switches.  There were no staff at Loreux or Villeherviers which had received a complete new lot of switches.  The crossing protection is activated by axle counters.  La Faubourg d’Orleans had a stationmistress although this is heavily used by the schoolchildren.

I went into the waiting room at Romorantin to buy my onward tickets to Valencay and return to Gievres.  There were two positions at the counter and the lady agent opened the second one and called me forward as someone else was making a complicated transaction at the other spot.  I told her what I wanted to do to which she replied:

“Yes, you have got the timetable right, how can I help you?”

“I would like to buy the tickets”

“I am only information, you will have to go to the other line to buy a ticket.”

It took ages to make the actual transaction.  There were an incredible number of key strokes to get these two simple tickets out of the machine.

Romorantin has not changed much although the sports bar has a new window front.  Gallettes du Roi are big here at this time of year.  The streets are very clean, it looks as if there have been some improvements to the sidewalks.  I had a coffee and a croissant in town and purchased a chocolate sapin and some Romorantin “paving stones” (Paves de Romorantin) which are chocolate with praline which look like paving stones.

Click here to see pictures of Romorantin.

Collision damage

Collision damage

Heavy duty graffiti

Heavy duty graffiti

The locomotive, built on the frame of a steam locomotive, is ready to take out a work train.

Several of the older railcars have been relegated to the scrap road.  The second locomotive can be seen through the windows.

Old and new at Romorantin

Train from Valençay on left, to Salbris in centre.  My train to Valençay on right.
1225 Romorantin to Valençay
Back at the station, I had a little time to wander around the yard and was surprised to see that one of the new units had been involved in a major crossing accident and would require extensive work to put it back into service.  The other side of it had been completely covered in graffiti.  Another of the new cars was also without trucks and so they are down to only three of the five new cars in service.  The end result was that they used an old car on the trip to Valençay and back to Gievres.  I have never understood the diagrams for the Blanc á Argent.  The train from Valençay, which had gone down on my earlier train from Salbris, was replaced by a fresh unit for the trip on to Salbris.  If they had one unit spare they could have used this on the train I took to Valençay and sent the other one through.  Fuel capacity surely cannot be a problem.

There is still standard gauge trackage at Romorantin even though the last standard gauge freight train left there in the 1980’s.

There was a BA train lady on my train to Valençay who carefully checked the tickets of the five travellers.  The engineer didn’t get on very well with her particularly as she had to give him the authority to proceed from each unstaffed station.  Chabris and Valençay still have stationmistresses – amazing.  One wonders if this is a make work program.

At Valençay the train lady got off to have a five-minute smoke, the engineer loped off into the bushes to have a pee, while the stationmistress looked on.

Click here to see pictures of Valençay.

Five minute layover at Valençay
1305 Valençay to Gievres.
The BA train lady was disappointed that I had validated my ticket in the machine at Valençay.  Maybe she wanted to write out a fine!

The crossing gate at Chabris has had a bang and is bent right up in the middle.

I received my first setback at Gievres where lunch was finished at La Raboliere.  However, I went along to the Café de la Gare where they served a delightful four course meal.

Pichet of red wine.
Beet, egg and onion salad.

Great slab of roast beef with pasta cooked with cinnamon
Fromage – Saint Maure, local factory chevre (very good), brie, Bleu d’Auvergne, a washed rind cheese. Excellent.

Custard and meringue (it was put on my place so I had to eat it)

With coffee and a calvados the total was €13 which must be the deal of the vacation.

1530 Gievres to Vierzon.  
This was a one car modern diesel with a driver under instruction.  He was a little hesitant on his braking and we finished up a minute late.  The signs of the imminent electrification between Tours and Vierzon were evident.

1633 Vierzon to Paris Austerlitz 
This was a train of Corail stock from Brive.  The engineer came into the station like a bat out of hell.  He must have been doing 60 mph at the platform end yet he stopped smoothly without juggling the passengers and he stopped at the precise location.  That take a bit of skill.  It was dark by the time we stopped at Les Aubrais and we arrived at Austerlitz on time.  In fact, apart from the one minute late arrival at Vierzon, all my trains were precisely on time.

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