Tuesday 2 August 2022

France, Forts and a Forest Railway

Not much new to communicate from my modelling activities due to my summer vacation. At the start of the vacation I managed to get started on the wooden relief building that is being built on a core structure from foam board clad in wood. I'm almost ready to start staining the coffee stirrers that will make up the cladding after having finished the foam board work. 

Having not been vacationing abroad for several years due to the corona virus, this year I have been touring northeastern France visiting forts in the Maginot Line. I have a soft spot for fortifications and the Maginot Line has long been on the list of attractions I had to visit. I tried to visit the fortress of Hackenberg i 2013. 9 years later I got over the defensive ditch and through the armoured doors!

The guided tour of Ouvrage du Hackenberg includes travelling the 600 mm gauge, 600 V fortress line. Here with SW electric locomotive no. 2.

All major galleries are equipped with tracks. The railway in the Hackenberg fort transported munitions, food and general supplies to the crew of 1100 men.

I also visited the Ouvrage du Simserhof. Here is the munitions and supplies entrance protected by 3,5 m of concrete, two armed steel cupolas and four casemate mounted guns. Placed in a narrow valley, the lighting wasn't the best at the time of my visit. The wagons are (from left): Decauville bogie, Pechot-wagon and Decauville-wagon. All of French Army design.

While the concrete structures of the Maginot Line were the main attractions on my trip to France, the Chemin de Fer Forestiere Abreschviller had been a tempting railway for many years. With a gauge of 700 mm (the same as on 'my' vintage line in Denmark) it is built with a rather seldom seen gauge outside Denmark and the Netherlands. With a a little route planning I managed to fit in a visit to Abreschviller as well.

Abreschviller loco no. 3 (Coferna 27517/1953) shunting the railway's 'orient express wagon' built by a group of young apprentices at a nearby technical school. I wouldn't hesitate to call it a masterpiece on narrow gauge!

I visited the railway on a hot summer day. I came early as I like to sneak about to see if I can find volunteers/employees to talk to. I wasn't succesful and soon other guests started to arrive. So many in fact, that the train of 4 carriages and the orient express carriage was quite overwhelmed. It's good to see that the line is well known and the number of passengers must provide a welcome income for the line after two covid-years. 

Loco 3 resting in front of the shed. Barely visible in the right track is Heilbron 476/1906 looking like it had been recently operated.

Behind the large diesel was Jung 10120/1944. By recent photos this looks like the railways regularly used steam locomotive. 

The railway's two charming railcars. The cabriolet was built by the forest railway in 1925 on the basis of a Renault NN car. The railcar in the background was also built by the railway for transport of workers to and from the forest. It holds 12 passengers and was built in 1930 around a Hotchkiss-engine. To the left the end of a HF50B-locomotive built by Gmeinder is just visible.

With all carriages well filled the train took off and began to climb into the hills surrounding Abreschviller town. Some of the gradients sounded as if they severely challenged the diesel locomotive's Perkins engine. The line twist and turn around rock formations, over streams and between gardens and hedges. The terminus 'Grand Soldat' is fitted with a single loop and placed on a gradient. All carriages are fitted with air brakes.

Even before the loco runs around its train at 'Grand Soldat' the first passengers scramble for their seats in the carriages. 

The line follow the contours of the landscape, giving frequent views to the locomotive from the rear carriages.

I can recommend a visit to the railway that is charming and with an interesting collection of rolling stock. More information can be found on the web site of the railway.

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