The Ultimate in Grafitti

A complete graffiti job.  This is the unit that was heavily damaged in a highway accident, the damage is all on the other, non-graffiti, side.

Grafitti is an unfortunate part of the current railway scene.  Although some decals are available, few modeller choose to replicate this despicable form of vandalism on their models.  While making a flying visit to one of my favourite narrow gauge railways in France recently, I came across an extreme example of grafitti.

The chemin de fer du Blanc à Argent runs from Salbris via Romorantin, Gievres and Valençay to Luçay le Mal.  I took an early train from Paris (Austerlitz) and by changing at Les Aubrais I was able to catch the train at Salbris.  The SNCF ticket system won't issue a ticket on this routeing, pointing to a bus connection, but it is possible to fool the computer while the railway ticket agents are more flexible.

At Salbris I walked out of the main line station and into the goods yard where I found the double section, articulated train waiting.  It is painted SNCF blue but with "Blanc à Argent", the name of the independent railway, painted n the side.  The municipality purchased five of these purpose-built metre gauge trains a few years ago at a cost of about C$20 million. They have all the latest SNCF gadgets such as TV cameras at each end on both sides so the driver can observe the station stops.  They are also fitted with a standard SNCF toilet, a first for the BA.

The stationmistress came out and gave us the right away by waving a short stick to which was attached a green metal circle.

We passed over the SNCF electrified main line and on to Le Ferté Imbault where we were met by the stationmistress.  The local stations are a distinctive design and most are staffed even though there are very few passengers.  At Selles St. Denis we met another train and there was a short delay while the stationmistress flirted with both drivers before sending them both on their way. 

The railway has to use extreme transition bars when changing from the normal track (on the left) to the new switches (on the right)

The railway has spent some money replacing many switches and rail on curves.  The worn rail on the straightaways gave a lively ride while the transition rail joint bars to accommodate significant differences in rail section had to be seen to be believed.

Romorantin is the centre of the line from an operations and maintenance point of view.  I walked around the town and enjoyed the Christmas decorations – there were a large number of red clad Santas climbing up ropes over balconies and into the windows of the houses.

A side benefit of the non-availability of the modern units is that I was able to ride one of the older units on to Valençay.  Train time at Romorantin, train to Valençay on right, train to Salbris in centre and train from Gievres on left.

Back at the station, I had time to wander around the yard and see that several of the older railcars were still around and in service.  Turning a corner I found out the reason why.  Two of the almost new articulated sets are out of service.  One had obviously been in a serious crossing accident and it will take a lot of work to get it back in running condition again.  Going around to the other side I was surprised to see the extent to which it had been covered in graffiti. 

They say there is a prototype example for everything, so if graffiti is your thing you can cover the entire side of a train knowing that there is a precedent for this in twelve inches to the foot.

Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders - OVAR, The Interchange, May 2007.

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