Le Petit Train Jaune? Spectaculaire!
This marvelous, quirky little train only travels 10-15 miles-an-hour over most of it’s entire route, which is not quite 40 miles long beginning to end. The rail line dates back some 110 years and is still a marvel of engineering. Operated by SNCF, the French national railroad, it’s a narrow gauge, electric powered train that creeps and crawls along rocky ridges hundreds of feet high through the magnificent Pyrenees mountain range that runs along the French-Spanish border.
I started from the station in the town of Villefranche. Small town. Small station. Big crowd. Most were tourists, of course, but there was more than a smattering of locals.
When they say “narrow gauge”, they ain’t kidding! There were five enclosed coaches (a power car at each end) and one open car for people who had thought to bring an extra sweater.
Several times, the train criss-crossed from one side of the narrow, rugged canyons to the other, running along narrow ledges and passing over a much more modern highway.
I was standing in an open vestibule facing towards the rear and grabbed this shot after we had crossed a railroad suspension bridge.
The Pyrenees are magnificent. I would love to return and spend more time there.
Because of track work, the train terminated at Font-Romeu instead of Latour de Carol, its usual terminus on the French-Spanish border. Here it’s getting ready for the return trip to Villefranche. And because of the rail workers strike, my train to Toulouse turned out to be a bus. N’importe! It was a wonderful day.