The Prototype Blanc-Argent
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A snapshot on the Blanc-Argent:

  • One of the last French metre-gauge railway still commercially operating

  • 67km (41.6 miles) of tracks still open

  • One century birthday in 2001 !

  • New fast air-conditioned railcars

The French Blanc-Argent Railway, though declared of public interest in 1882, was officially opened only in 1901.

It was originally designed as a double-track standard-gauge railway, but the economic difficulty encountered lead to build it as a one-track metre-gauge line.

The line linked Le Blanc, situated in the Indre department, to Argent-sur-Sauldre in the Cher department, with an overall length of 191km (118.7 miles). Its location is in the Loire area, in the centre of France.

The BA played a fundamental role during WWI, because it crosses Gièvres, which was from 1917 on the equipment storing centre of the American Army. The equipment was then despatched to the various allied fronts in Europe.

Like all local lines, the BA had to face competition from road transportation between the wars. It managed to react by buying diesel passenger railcars as early as the ‘20s to improve performances and service. It modernised constantly during the years through the purchase of other railcars, both used and new.

In the same way, substitution of steam by diesel for goods traffic at the beginning of the ‘50s allowed to improve profitability. Goods traffic increased regularly until the end of the ‘70s. It was closed in 1989 only.

In 1981, the Centre region of France sign an agreement with the French National Railways (SNCF). This agreement includes the rebuilding of four of the BA’s Verney railcars (40KB) and the purchase of two new CFD-type railcars (177KB). A deep modification of the timetables make connections with SNCF trains easier, and the new cars make travels more comfortable.

In 1987, the BA is integrated into the Regional Express Transportation system (TER) of the Centre region, and from that year on, many other modernising tasks are carried out (tracks, structures, cars painted in the light blue and white regional colour scheme).

All the line portions closures have helped to reduce line length to 67km (41.6 miles). However, its existence does not seem to be in danger, due to the many opportunities offered for tourist purposes. The southern part of the line, closed to commercial traffic, is being renovated by the Société d’Animation du BA (SABA). That association organises periodically trips on the whole line and preserve metre-gauge locomotives and rolling stock.

The BA’s future does not seem to be compromised, because it has received new X74500 air-conditioned railcars built by the CFD company. They have been in service since March 1. 2003.

Before getting on the train, don’t forget to download the schedule...