All aboard Le Truffadou

John Hannavy takes a trip on one of France’s few preserved steam railways – and discovered it has a very interesting history.

This photo stop location between the tunnels provides views of the Dordogne valley. Inset: The railway’s logo features the Mirandol tunnel.
This photo stop location between the tunnels provides views of the Dordogne valley. Inset: The railway’s logo features the Mirandol tunnel.

WHEN the Metropolitan Railway carried its first passengers underground in London in 1863, they travelled in open carriages – more like cattle trucks – and were hauled through the tunnels by steam locomotives.
To mark the 150th anniversary of that first journey, steam-hauled trains worked the line again over two weekends in January 2013. This time, however, the passengers were carried in closed carriages dating from the closing years of the 19th century.

If you missed either – or both – of these events as I did, you might wonder what it is like to travel in a confined space in open carriages pulled by a steam locomotive. Well, make your way to the Lot Département of France and climb aboard the little steam train known as
‘Le Truffadou’ where you can experience just that, and I can assure you it is both interesting and challenging as the train makes it way through long smoke-filled tunnels. Phrases like ‘it would never be allowed in Britain’ immediately come to mind, given our perceived obsession with health and safety.

Read more in September’s issue of The RM

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