Going Back In Time
In southeastern France in the Rhone valley you’ll find the Tournon Lamastre Steam Railroad line. It features open-air cars (in the warm months), beautifully restored old steam engines and incredible scenery.
About 125 miles north of the city of Avignon along the Rhône River in southern France is Doux Gorges, located in Saint-Jean-de-Muzols, a commune (community) in the Ardèche department. The area features some of the most beautiful and remote wilderness in France and attracts tourists, hikers and bikers from all over.
A network of railway lines was constructed around Vivarais between 1898 and 1903 to provide access to markets for farms and vineyards in the remote areas of the region. When the Vivarais railway network closed in 1968, a group of enthusiasts decided to acquire it and some of its’ rolling stock. In June, 1969 a tourist operation started between Saint-Jean-de-Muzols and Lamastre. The Meyzieu Tourist Railway Company (CFTM) was created, supported by a group of volunteers who restore and maintain the railroad’s rolling stock. In February, 1970 access was restored to the railway station at Tournon, and the new Tournon – Lamastre line, 21 miles long, was officially opened for service in April 1970
Pulled by restored and beautifully maintained steam engines over one hundred years old, today’s train cars carry passengers into the most beautiful and inaccessible part of the Doux Gorges with views of this untouched and rugged landscape. At the station of Colombier le Vieux – Saint-Barthélémy le Plain, the locomotive has to be turned round on a turntable and placed at the front of the train for the return trip. Watching the two men push the turntable is a sight worth seeing.
Offering full day or half day excursions, the Train of Ardèche travels through the mountainsides overlooking the gorges. The train is particularly popular with hikers and bicyclists (who can load their bicycles aboard) for the trip uphill to Lamastre and then walk or ride back downhill through the gorge. The trains do not run everyday so it is important to check the schedule when planning the trip The official web site can be found HERE.