Every Saturday morning, Objectif Gard takes you to the four corners of Gard to discover emblematic or, on the contrary, little-known activities. But always original and authentic. This week, head to the Cévennes for a journey through time with the steam train that connects Anduze with Saint-Jean-du-Gard.
It is a secular story, closely associated with this area, as beautiful as it was industrial, especially with silk. That of a fourteen-kilometer railway line, completed in 1909, for which at that time no less than seven viaducts were built over the Gardon and a metal bridge, and four tunnels were dug. A line that will not be used as long as the SNCF stops passenger transport between Anduze and Saint-Jean-du-Gard in 1940, then freight in the early 1970s.
So the line is abandoned, and even risks being dismantled. Except that an association of enthusiasts from Alsace, CITEV, launched a tourist train project forty years ago. The public responds present, the line is saved. After becoming a company, CITEV still runs Cévennes steam train today.
So much for the quick history of the place. We arrive at Anduze station as the locomotive, a Krupp from 1937, is being filled with water. This grandmother consumes a lot: 100 liters per kilometer! “The full tank is 3,000 liters, over a day we will consume 10 to 15,000 liters and one and a half tons of coal”, says Cyril, the controller. To this must be added 20 liters of oil for the essential lubrication. The locomotive is not the only one that consumes a lot of water: the driver drinks four to five liters a day, which is important considering the heat inside the locomotive, namely well over 50 ° C.
Outside that day, we were already close to 40. So we decided to take a seat in an open carriage, standing, just to take advantage of some air, and in the back to have a complete view of the train in turns and overpasses. The train starts, and the approximately 300 people it goes on board, with. The route begins with a long and narrow tunnel that quickly fills with coal smoke. With not even 30 kilometers per hour, there is no risk!
A breathtaking panorama
At the end of the tunnel, the train crosses the metal bridge over the Gardon d’Anduze and offers a first breathtaking view. Not the last … After two shorter viaducts, we stop at Bambouseraie. The steam train is an original way to get there, some go down, others go up. Then the train passes the Viaduct Mescladou, Corbès and Thoiras Lasalle plain. The view is ready for the river and the bathers greeting on our passage.
On board many families, some of whom come from far away: we hear German behind us. On this day of great weather, the panorama is unique and very quickly we forget the noise from the roll, also the time. After a good half hour we are here in Saint-Jean-du-Gard. The twenty minute long stop is not too much to cool off with an ice cream or a drink and buy souvenirs in the shop.
The trip home is just as spectacular, and on arrival in Anduze we take the time to wash our face: the coal has put some marks on our faces. To escape it, it is better to take a seat in the closed carriages, even though they are also part of the story …
Cévennes steam train costs 17 euros for an adult round trip, 11.50 euros for children aged 4 to 12 and 3 euros per dog or bike. Family packages are available. During the high season, four departures are planned every day, three departures from 26 August. Please note that an escape game is offered every Thursday evening in the summer. Information and ticket office here.