There is a well-established network of local and highspeed intercity trains in France, and of course France is justly proud of its impressive high speed train services – TGV

However there are a number of preserved “tourist” railway lines, which whilst they may at first seem to be for the railway enthusiast, do really offer some great opportunities to view parts of the French landscape from quite a unique (and usually leisurely) perspective.

Some of the best include:-
le Chemin de Fer de la Baie de la Somme in Picardie, running around the bay of the Somme near Abbeville (80 Somme, Hauts de France) on the Channel coast (steam and diesel)

Chemin de Fer de Provence route which runs from Nice up to Digne (04 Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur) in Provence through stunning scenery back from the Mediterranean coast – the full journey takes 3½hours each way but you can get off at numerous intermediate stations – at weekends some journeys may be with a steam engine (Train à Vapeur). The last route to remain of the four historic Train des Pignes railways in southern France, the route takes you through mountain passes and alongside fast-flowing rivers. Opened in the 1890s, the line runs for 150km and includes 27 tunnels including one that’s 3.5km long. The stations are small and quaint affairs, often decked out with flower boxes and vintage clocks.

Chemin de Fer de Vallée de l’Ouche in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, northwest of Beaune (31 Côte d’Or, BFC)

Chemin de Fer de la Mure south of Grenoble, runs from St-Georges-de-Commiers (38 Isèe, ARA) to la Mure using vintage electric engines through some dramatic scenery.

Chemin de Fer du Vivarais (Train de l’Ardeche) in the Ardeche, running from Lamastre (07 Ardeche, ARA) to Tournon along the valley of the River Doux – mainly steam with some vintage diesels. –

Chemin de fer Touristique du Haut-Quercy
“Le Truffadou” – steam and diesel on a stretch of track in and near Martel (46 Lot, Occitanie)

Train Touristique de l’Albret
runs on an old SNCF line from Nerac (47 Lot-et-Garonne, Nouvelle Aquitaine) to Mezin on a tourist train – about 90 minutes running from April to October.

Le Petit Train Jaune (Little Yellow Train) in the foothills of the Pyrenees runs from Villefranche de Conflent, east of Perpignan(66 Pyrenees-Orientales, Occitanie)

TGV est logo
TGV est logo

On a different level altogether, SNCF (French National Railways) is rightly proud of its recent world record for a train at 574.8 kilometres per hour (about 360 mph). However, the new trains which are now running on the TGVEst Europeen to Strasbourg, Luxembourg and all points east will run at a mere 200mph!

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