Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Trip Start Aug 02, 2012
Trip End Aug 02, 2013

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Flag of France  , Alsace,
Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No, this entry isn't about the movie…and it actually isn’t about planes or automobiles either. Today was all about the trains. We visited the "Cité du Train" in Mulhouse, a veritable paradise for any train lover. There is also a “Cité de l’Automobile” but we didn’t have time for it this time around and Meghan and I prefer trains over automobiles. We aren’t obsessed with trains but do enjoy riding them and think that it is a convenient, more eco-friendly mode of transport that is often overlooked. It was a weekday so it wasn’t very crowded and we essentially had the whole museum to ourselves. With our audio guide in hand, we began our tour with some of the first trains in France, the Michelins, which actually had rubber wheels like an automobile. The displays were very well done and we learned about various types of train used throughout the history of France’s rail system, leading up to the present day, high-speed TGVs.

All the trains in the museum were once in active service and have been relocated and refurbished. We saw a variety of trains including those used to plow snow and clear tracks, carry supplies, transport army goods and even one that was used as a mobile hospital to carry injured soldiers from the front. One of the trains that was particularly interesting was a double-decker train where access to the top level was gained by climbing a ladder on the outside of the train – we didn’t think that was very practical in the winter or if you had a lot of luggage and I guess that’s probably why we don’t see too many of those around anymore. The majority of the trains were passenger trains and on some of them, we were allowed to walk inside or stick our heads in to see how they would have been furnished. Once we were done wandering around in the first hangar, we moved on to see trains from the early 1900s to modern day trains, organized chronologically . They had an amazing, display with moving lights that visually explained how steam was used to power trains. We were then able to walk underneath the engine car of another train, similar to how a mechanic would under a car. From then on, we wandered past tens of carriages and engines, each with an associated audio explanation. We would have been there the whole day and we had to carry on driving towards Royan so we only stopped at the ones that looked particularly interesting. One of my favourites was the kitchen car of a royal train with all its copper pots and utensils on display.

About three hours later, we were near the exit and came across the most impressive model train set I have ever seen. It must have been about seven or eight meters long by about two meters. We unfortunately didn’t have a coin on hand to operate it and there was no one around to get one from so we just had to imagine what it would have been like – hopefully the pictures do it some justice. The final exhibit gave a glimpse of the future of trains, showing some high-speed TGVs which have broken 800 km/h! It was interesting to note that the French government had decided, sometime after WWII, to invest more heavily in building out the rail network and associated technology than in automobiles.

Before leaving the museum entirely, we decided to stop in at the on-site restaurant, named the “Mistral” after one of the iconic French trains. We had a tasty lunch before setting out on our drive towards Beaune, our next stop en-route to Royan. 
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Mike J on

Anoop - I really did not train you right - you went right through Stuttgart and did not see the Porsche museum or factory --- ?? Geeze ....

:-) At least you looked at some trains. Cool pictures!



Mom on

Wish I could have been with you. I love trains. Great pics.

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