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There is a romance about French railways, je ne sais quois. Whether it is the romance of the country, the people, the language ... Chemin de Fer and Society Nationale de Chemin de Fer have a Gallic ethos to them that reeks just as much of Les Gaulois as the Marseilles docklands.
I think part of that atmosphere was expressed to me by a friend who had studied, photographed and taped french railways for years, when he pointed out that the French never went for the General Motors diesel propoganda line, prefering to stay steam for many years until they had extensively electrified, in their own inimitiable style, and then, la piece de resistance , the TGV.
Never ones to follow fashion, but always leading it, the French have, in my view at least, set the engineering standards, firstly with the Chapelon revolutions in steam, then with the Alstom high speed trains, and more recently with the latest in software technology, automatically verified signalling software.
Very little `in steam' here, but that should be fixed in the near future. The French did steam so well, and were regarded as the pinnacle of steam development in the post WW2 period. They kept steam on until electrification had largely been completed, mainly because they had amply reserves of steam coal, but very little in the way of oil. Consequently, french steam locomotives are an art form in themselves, very much in the Gallic tradition.
As Stewart Hughes says in one of his captions: ``If that isn't the sexiest railcar you've ever seen, I don't know what is!'' A few sexy railcars.
Try as I might, I have not been able to unearth much information about the classes of locos presented here. If readers can send me details on the loco types, I'd be happy to add those details to these pages.
I knew about TGVs before ever getting to see or ride in one. But that still did not prepare me for the experience. They are just fantastic! So smooth, you hardly realise what speed you are doing, until you try to take photos through the window. You cannot even get the camera to your eye before the scene has flashed past. This must be the coolest transport ride on the planet.
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