Chemin de Fer touristique du Tarn
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A page of history …

The Chemin de Fer Touristique du Tarn (CFTT) is located at St. Lieux-lès-Lavaur, not far from Toulouse, in the département du Tarn. This railway line has recovered almost four kilometres from an old steam tramway line that ran through the county. In fact, in order to link the most important villages of the Tarn and at the same time to reach the main railway lines in the area, the Tramways à Vapeur du Tarn (TVT) company was launched in 1895 and the lines Graulhet to Laboutarié, Graulhet to Lavaur and La Ramière to Saint-Sulpice were opened in 1895, 1903 and 1925 respectively. TVT used the 60 centimetre gauge made popular by Decauville.

Every day, three regular trains ran in each line. There were also frequent “market” trains and also a noticeable goods traffic. Trains were pulled by three 0-6-2T engines and one 2-6-0T delivered by Decauville and three other locomotives from Weidknecht. In 1925 the Company bought a petrol powered railcar built by Berliet. On the other hand, carriages and wagons were provided by Decauville as well.

From 1928 onwards the decline both of tonnage and of profitability (even with all the subsidies received) was irreversible. Although TVT tried to improve the service, most passengers trains were replaced by buses in 1931. The loss of goods traffic followed the same pattern. World-wide recession could not be entirely blamed but the impossibility for the tramway to cope with fast bus services or lorries flexibility led the company to close the system on 11th May 1937. map of the TVT lines

As a curiosity, we can say that the section now owned by CFTT was in the La Ramière to Saint-Sulpice line. It had been opened on 11th April 1925 but it closed prematurely on 20th June 1931.

After the railway closure, locomotives and rolling stock were sold or scrapped, track was taken up and even some sections of the track bed were sold to farmers or absorbed by engineering improvements.

The Chemin de Fer Touristique du Tarn opens!

Almost all the remains from the TVT had disappeared but there were still some interesting ones such as the viaduct above the Agout river or the derelict station of Saint Lieux-lès-Lavaur. That encouraged some railway enthusiasts that, by the beginning of the 1970s, they were looking for a system to restore. They created a preservation society: ACOVA (Association pour la Conservation Occitane de Véhicules Anciens ) and they looked for 60 centimetre material, but there was nothing available, either new or second-hand that ACOVA could afford. But in the autumn of 1974, the Salins du Midi (salt factories) were just abandoning its narrow gauge system. ACOVA bought rails, locomotives and rolling stock. But the locomotives and rolling stock were a 50 centimetre gauge, so it was decided to abandon plans for 60 centimetre. The CFTT could start!

On 6th July, 1975 ran the first train between St. Lieux station and the Viaduct.

Volunteers continued the job of restoration and tracklaying in what was a relatively short period. By 1976 the line crossed the Viaduct and two years later, tracks reached Giroussens. By 1989 the terminus was Les Martels, where the trip ends today.

All the job has been carried out by members of the ACOVA. Today members of the society have to keep the line in order but also to run the railway when the line operates. This is hard work, but the effort has been rewarded!

Locomotives and rolling stock

The stock consists of purchases from industrial concerns that were closing down or modernising. There is also an important number of carriages built by the Association’s own workshops, staffed by volunteers. Visitors will admire the CFTT important collection as there are now five steam locomotives, 22 locotractors, a bicycle on rails, a pantograph electric locomotive and two powered by battery. The total of passenger coaches now stands at twelve and there are more than 70 wagons. see locomotives list.

Steam locomotives
- CFTT 1 0-6-0 T Couillet (ex Sugar Factory de Maizy) built in 1910 (maker’s No. 1576). .

- CFTT 2 0-4-0 T Decauville (ex Forges d’Audincourt) built in 1930 (maker’s No. 1087).

- CFTT 3 0-4-0 T Decauville (ex Forges d’Audincourt) built in 1947 (maker’s No. 1132). In working order

- CFTT 4 0-4-0 T Decauville (ex Forges d’Audincourt) built in 1931 (maker’s No. 1111). In working order

Numbers 2 to 4 are “type Progrès” locomotives and their weight is 5 tonnes. All the locomotives except for number 1 were originally 50 cm. gauge. Numbers 1 and 3 were classed Monument Historique by the French Government.

Maybe the most interesting steam locomotive is 0-4-0T CFTT 5. It’s a Decauville, type 1 (maker’s No 288) from 1898 and weight 3,250 t. She spent all her life in New Caledonia and was also originally 50 cm. gauge.

Diesel, petrol and locotractor engines

CFTT has a very important collection of tiny diesel, petrol and locotractor engines. Many engines are in working order! We could point out the enormous Schöma engine , built by the Association using a colliery engine found in North Catalonia (Spain). But the most peculiar locomotive are the “boîte à sel” Crochat. These locomotives were designed by the Établissements Henri Crochat during the World War I. The type 14L 4-60 was developed. A modified version of this design was sold to the Salins du Midi in 1919. Six survived to be inherited by the CFTT. Among these, nº 8 is in working order, two have withdrawn from service, two await restoration and one has been used for spares. These locomotives were the first diesel-electric engines in France.

As you can see in the lists, the CFTT has also engines built by Ruston (see below), Campagne, Decauville, Raco, Weitz, Heim, Yvon Genty, Patry, Duro Felguera, Whitcomb, etc.

Electric locomotives

CFTT has some electric locomotives, for instance, a pantograph locomotive built in Spain has also been restored, even some catenary system was also saved!

Rolling stock

The CFTT has a range of two and four axles passenger coaches. The boggie cars are toast rack type, based on the Decauville KE type coaches. But there are two enclosed boggie coaches built by GIRAGR. They are replica of Carde coaches as used on TVT. It is now possible for CFTT to offer an authentique tramway à vapeur featuring Decauville and Carde material, close to the original TVT atmosphere!

There are also four enclosed 4 wheel coaches (different classes!) built by the CFTT.

There is a big collection of wagons welcomed for their historic interest. They work in coal collieries, factories, etc. Some were built by Decauville for the Tramway Pithiviers Toury. Go to the material pages to have a look!

British & American locomotives & rolling stock

CFTT has an important collection of railway material, not only from France builders but also from Germany, Switzerland, Spain, USA, etc. British locomotives and rolling stock are represented by these pieces:

- A Ruston LFT 50 hp diesel supplied in 1965 to Usines Von Roll in Gerlafingen, a steelwork in Switzerland. It can reach 19 km/h and has been one of the most used engines on the railway since it came to St. Lieux-lès-Lavaur in 1981.

- Coaches numbers 41 and 43 were built by Baguely ( builder number 3238 & 3237) in 1947. They were originally toast rack coaches for service at Butlin’s Holiday Camps. They ran first on the two foot gauge railway at Clacton-on-Sea, Essex and then at Meirion Hill, North Wales. Both were adapted for 50 centimetre gauge by Alan Keef Ltd. One was transported to Toulouse in 1977, the other in 1981, and both were delivered by air !. They offer thirty-two seats.

- There is also a wagon coming from Faïencerie de Sarreguemines that was constructed for British War Department.

- One "Clayton" bogie wagon from the first world war is preserved.

- American rolling stock is represented by one Whitcomb locomotive delivered in France in 1945 by the Plan Marshall, and one Pershing box car from the first world war.

The line

The station and headquarters of the train are at St. Lieux-lès-Lavaur. The former station ex T.V.T. is still recognisable but a big job has been carried out in the area. The old goods halle now allocates a small shed and there are some sidings.

When the train leaves the station, it crosses a road and carries on in the middle of the street (like a tramway!), goes past the houses at the crossroads. Less than 200 metres from the station, the line turns left before leaving the street. Passengers can see on their left the premises of CFTT depots and workshops and more sidings (there is a noticeable 50/60 cm. gauge point!). The train runs now in open country, parallel to the road down to the river. The line reaches the hamlet of Le Port and immediately we reach the viaduct (132 metres long and 20 metres over river Agout) that is now shared by cars and trains! The pretty village of Giroussens dominates the hill and the view is really splendorous! As on the west side, the train takes a reserved lane for a few metres; we again cross the road and start climbing steadily, as the T.V.T. once did. Roughly half a kilometre further on, the train crosses the Chemin de Giroussens, one hundred metres later we find the passing place of Giroussens (the original T.V.T. station was besides the crossing with Chemin de Giroussens). The line reaches La Garrigole woodland, the gradient is 1.5 per cent overall. At Lascazes (another former halte) the trains stops and the guard gives visitors a technical and historical briefing. Again “en route” we reach the top of the hill after a section with a terrible gradient! The railway crosses a new road before arriving at the present terminus at les Martels. There is a lovely garden here that can be visited between two trains! The line will be extended in the future to reach the hamlet and chapel of St. Cyriaque. visit the line

How to get the CFTT

Coming by car or by coach, St. Lieux-lès-Lavaur is 30 kilometres north-east from Toulouse on A68 or Nationale 88. On the motorway, you must take “sortie” nº 6. Then, you only have to follow the inn until St. Lieux. The station is at the end of the High Street. information

Railway passengers can take the SNCF to St. Sulpice station and walk or cycle to St. Lieux (there is not public transportation link except taxis).

To get more information
Important : the bridge is in need of repairs. Waiting this, it is forbidden to go across the bridge.
For this season we offer :
- from St Lieux station, visit of the collections and the museum
- from Jardins des Martels, train trips, duration 30 minutes approx.
We apologise, but we have no steam traction this year.

CFTT’s secretary speaks some English!. It’s also worth visiting Tarn department as it offers some interesting places to visit as Albi, Lavaur or Cordes. Toulouse is only 30’ far from CFTT line and there’s plenty of small hotels & restaurants in the region !.  At last, not far from the railway, there are Gaillac wine yards that offer the visitor the opportunity of tasting one delightful wine.

Berenice Tolosa Suarez & Carlos Urkiola Casas

Le CFTT est membre de l'UNECTO
(UNion des Exploitants de Chemins de fer TOuristiques et de musées)

Communauté de Communes TARN-AGOUT Département du Tarn Région Midi-Pyrénées


© Chemin de Fer Touristique du Tarn - Association pour la Conservation Occitane de Véhicules Anciens
Association reconnue d'Intérêt Général - Association à but non lucratif déclarée au J.O. du 31.01.1975
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