Visit to Mulhouse Railway Museum

I took the train to Mulhouse on Thursday 28 December.  It left Paris Est at 0710 and I had to leave the apartment early.  Of course, the subway was much quicker than I had anticipated so I arrived at Paris Est with plenty of time to spare.  The train was posted as leaving 30 minutes late and this changed to 40 minutes and it eventually left an hour late.  Because of the short time available in Mulhouse I was on the point of changing to another day.  The original announcement said there was a problem in the yard while the conductor mentioned mechanical problems.  I surmise that there was a derailment in the yard either to the booked train or which trapped the booked train.  The cars we had seemed to be a make up bunch and the seat reservations and car numbers were messed up.

These were Corail coaches built in the 1970’s, built solid and rode very well.  The toilets dumped on to the track and the seat reservation system was the old manual type where the conductor is given a sheet of tear off strips that are inserted individually in a slot outside the compartment.  This means that seat reservations have to be closed 24 hours before the departure of the train whereas the modern trains (e.g. TGV) are done electronically and the seat reservations are set up when the conductor sets up the train number information at the beginning of the run.

This is a non-electrified cross country route which took us via Troyes, Chaumont, Vesoul, Lure and Belfort (where the TGV cars are made) to Mulhouse.  Langres, home of a famous cheese was on the route but we didn’t stop.  We took 4 hours 45 minutes, which will be reduced to 3 hours when the new high speed line is opened next June through Strasbourg.  The countryside is rolling with much woodland and many pleasant rivers.  There was a heavy hoar frost and some woods were completely covered turning the landscape into a fairyland.  I saw a dog walking purposefully on its own through the woods and a little later on a black cat was out hunting and was leaping on its prey.  Many of the trees had a great number if balls of mistletoe on them.

The new trams run right in front of the station, one line makes a loop around the station forecourt.  I didn’t have much time so I took a taxi to the Railway Museum which is a long way from the station and the tramway even.  I had the phone number of the taxi cabs but just before going in I saw a bus parked at what looked like a bus terminus.  I spoke to the driver who gave me a timetable – yes, indeed, the bus route runs right past the SNCF station and would be convenient to return.  He wished me welcome to Alsace and I went into the museum.

The museum is as impressive as the literature suggests.  The first part tries to set the railway scene.  It is pretty dark but well lit in the right places and there are a series of cameos – railway in wartime, elegant travelling, not so elegant travelling etc..  There are several models appropriately dressed and speaking in clear French.

However, the real exhibit is in the second hall which has lines of equipment, steam, diesel and electric together with some units such as a Picasso car.  The most impressive was a 231 which was jacked up so that the wheels revolved.

I duly caught the bus back to the station.  It took half an hour as it goes around the houses but I had the timetable and the electronic board giving details of the next stop was very helpful.  It must be pretty near impossible to get lost on here.

I walked a little way along the tramway into town and then it was time to board the train for the return to Paris.  Again this was Corail stock, but this time we left precisely on time and arrived back in Paris on the scheduled time.  First class was comfortable and I really enjoyed the compartment stock.  The whole trip, with a seniors’ discount, came to €114 which was pretty good.

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