The Little Yellow Train of the Pyrenees / Le Petit Train Jaune
Here is a chance to experience a different kind of train ride.
You will enjoy this fascinating trip taking you to changing landscapes from luxurious greenery to climbing up the steep valleys and sliding down steep slopes passing through Canigou, Cambre d'Aze, Carlit, Puigmal and the Serra del Cadí.
This is in fact an invitation to contemplate and discover the sumptuous scenic beauty of this region of France : a part of the national heritage.
The Cerdagne railway is an extension of the regular Perpignan railway linking Villefranche Vernets les Bains Fuilla to Latour de Carol.
On June 9, 1883, a convention called "la convention des Bouillouses" set up the building project of this line.
A few months later, on November, 20th, the project was agreed.
The building started in 1903. The fist section of the line, from Villefranche to Mont Louis, was opened on July, 2nd, 1910.
At the end of June 1911, the train climbed to Bourg Madame.
The last part, until La Tour, was inaugurated in August 1927 establishing a link with the Transpyrénéen.
The 63 km metric railway is the highest in France.
Bolquère Eune is the highest station with an altitude of 1592 metres.
Gradients of 60 mm/m (approximately 2 feet per yard).
It required the construction of 650 civil engineering works of all kinds, like the driving of 19 tunnels and the erection of 2 bridges in the pure railway architecture style of the 1900's.
The Séjourné Viaduct which is entirely in granite, is 65m high, 230m long and is composed of a main arch of 30m wide, supporting 16 smaller arches in the Gothic style, above the Têt River.
The Gisclard bridge, built between 1905 and 1908, was considered at the time as a real technical revolution.
It has a central span of 156m between the axis of the piers and two half spans of 39m. Its deck has a slope of 6% and stands at 80m height. The 32m high piers support pylons of 30m. At the top of the pylons some guys and retaining cables are fixed to the dilatation fitting. These cables are fixed in the mountain.
It is the first bridge of a new generation resolving the load bearing problem the railways were having.
Albert GISCLARD, the inventor of this new concept, was a mathematician and engineer born in Nîmes.
Unfortunately he was killed on October 31, 1909 during the official test ride. His train left earlier than scheduled and was not yet equipped with the electric braking system chosen by the service. The train plunged down 450m, crashing on the rocky mountains
Since this tragedy, no other incident never occurred.
Mr Arnodin was the constructor of the bridge. He also built the transporter bridges of Marseille, Nantes and Rouen.
Specially conceived rolling stock of railcars and slip coaches are used to adapt the relief obstacles.
These trains can climb slopes of 15 to 60 mm/m and their 300 horse power self propelled locomotive (it represents four engines) can navigate bends of 80 m radius.
They are equipped with three different brake systems which are: rheostat brakes, Westinghouse automatic brakes and mechanical ones.
Security chains complete the double automatic coupling called the Leduc Lambert system.
The coaches can accommodate 44 seats for the Midi carriages (Southern carriages), 46 for the Nord (Northern) carriages , and 59 seats in open summer carriages.
These carriages were built in local workshops as they were specific to this special railway.
Except these particular coaches, the regular ones (Nord and Sud ones), were given two facelifts.
From 1963 to 1966 the trains were painted with the Catalan colours : "gold and blood" in the Marseilles Prado workshops.
Later the Béziers workshops did a complete overhaul of the undercarriages and driver's posts. At the same time a new coat of paint was given to represent the actual symbol of the train : all yellow enhanced by a red stripe, thus corresponding to the name "Train Jaune" (Yellow Train)
In order to cope with snowfalls, there are two snowploughs with blades and one with a turbine to clear the snow between the rails.
The 850 volts direct currents supplied by a lateral contact rail, set up on top of ceramic supports and totally insulated in public areas. The electricity is produced by an hydroelectric power station located in the Têt Valley.
The Bouillouses dam, situated at an altitude of 2000m, was built in 1910. Its capacity is 17.500.000 m3 and a 160 ha (395.360 acres) lack. The 20.000 Volts current supplies seven sub-power-stations for the train traction.
These sub-stations are operated by remote control from Montpellier. They are located in Villefranche, Thuès-les-Bains, Fontpédrouse, Mont-Louis, Font-Romeu, Sainte-Léocadie and in Bourg-Madame.
The authorised speed limit is 55 km/h. Speed limits are indicated on black square signs with a yellow triangle.
The composition of coaches cannot exceed six units. Each self-propelling-coach can pull one carriage. The maximum tonnage corresponds to the formula : 52 tons multiplied by the number of railcars in service.
The "Chef de Ligne" is based in Villefranche. His responsibility is to organise the running of the service.
Overtaking and crossings are only possible in the following stations : Olette, Fontpédrouse, Mont-Louis, Font-Romeu, Saillagouse, Bourg-Madame and Latour de Carol, the terminus.
In summer time the traffic is the highest and is less in winter. Most of the time the trains are replaced by buses.
As the line does not link with any other, flexibility can be introduced in the timetables.
Special trains can be organised for a groups and special expeditions.
This feature makes part of its charm.
The enthusiasm for the Yellow Train is huge.
Tourists enjoy especially the quiet and smooth ride on the unique yellow train cutting through the breathtaking view of the Têt Valley.
In the list below, you will find the different towns linked by Le Train Jaune with the main tourist sites.
VILLEFRANCHE DE CONFLENT / The pink marble city: 427m altitude
- the fortress town and the architectural works of VAUBAN.
- Liberia Fort built to enhance the ramparts' defence.
- The subway and stair of the "one thousand steps" that used to link the fort to the city.
- The Canalettes caves.
- The Cova Bastera cave.
- The Mount Canigou, mythic mountain for the Catalans.
- Rafting on the Cady and Lech River.
SERDINYA : 520m altitude
- Roman church of the XII century.
- Another feature of this town is that the river divides the town.
OLETTE/CANAVEILLES-LES-BAINS : 607m altitude
- On top of the ancient fortress stand the twin towers of the Middle-Age castle.
- Mature village on the side of the mountain.
- Suspended houses overhanging the Têt Valley.
THUES-LES-BAINS : 747m altitude
- Europe's warmest hot spring with water temperature over 80°C set in a charming spa.
THUES-CARANCA : 789m altitude
- Carança Gorges
FONTPEDROUSE – SAINT THOMAS LES BAINS / 1050m altitude
Saint Thomas' sulphurous water baths.
PLANES : 1373m altitude
- Special church with triangular shape at about one km from the station.
MONT LOUIS / LA CABANASSE : 1510m altitude
- City with Vauban architectural works.
- The first solar oven created by the Professor Trombe.
- The "puits des Forçats" – the convicts well – guided tours from July to August.
BOLQUERE-EYNE : 1592m altitude
- The highest railway station in France.
FONT ROMEU : 1533m altitude
- The IX century church of Odeillo.
- The Solar Oven.
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