Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Around Town ~ Steam Locomotives

I recently posted a (growing) list of fun things to do in and around Paris and started this series of blog entries by talking about la traversee de Paris that involved 600+ voitures anciennes.

For this entry, I want to talk about steam locomotives.  It's a topic likely not covered in the traditional Paris guidebooks.

Years ago I worked for a software start-up.  The offices were in an old building that backed up to Union Pacific's freight tracks.

One day an engineer came running into my office and said "Come with me.  You NEED to see this."  Out the back door we dove as he gestured to the railway an said "There!"

Sure enough, "there" it was.  SP4449 was running hard up the tracks.  It was just the steam locomotive and it's tender.  That was it.  But that was enough to get me interested.

As we stood there, I could hear SP4449 coming back.  There she went, in reverse, back down the tracks.

It took me a year or two to figure out where the locomotive lived.  Once it found her, I spent the following decade making images in and around the roundhouse, getting to know two other engines that lived in the same shed, and enjoying old railroads around the western US.

Moving to France, I was eager to find European steam.

After a year, I discovered that Mulhouse is in France, not Germany.  A little more digging revealed not only one of the world's finest automobile museums, but a vast rail museum as well.  Alas, we have yet to visit eastern France.  While I feel my high school German rising from deep memory, I remain uncomfortable with the proximity to... um... nevermind.

A bit more searching revealed a privately held rotonde located somewhere east in the vasty fields of Paris.  It's called AJECTA.

Jumping the metro to Gare l'Est and taking the Translien to Longueville was an easy hour and a quarter spent riding modern rail.  A ten minute walk from the modern station led to the early 1900's roundhouse and it's 14 steamlocomotives.

On the day I visited they were firing up one of the three working steam engines to ready it for un tournage that was to take place the next day.  I was thrilled as it had been a very long two years since I witnessed working steam like this.

I  am eager to take a look at two additional train depots as well as feeling the need to visit Mulhouse (no matter it's proximity to Germany (LOL!!!)). One is located north of Paris and is called the Musée des tramways à vapeur et des chemins de fer secondaires français.

The second is not exactly a museum, but does have at least one working steam locomotive.  It's located out in Britaigne in une petite ville qui s'appelle Paimpol.  Our first landlords live out in the Cotes d'Armor and the steam locomotive would be a good excuse to stick around Britaigne for a few days.

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