FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme

Posted in France, Noyelles-sur-Mer, Saint-Valery-sur-Somme by folkestonejack on August 30, 2011

A cross-country drive westwards towards the coast took us first to Noyelles-sur-Mer on the Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme, a preserved railway which runs across a beautiful coastal landscape. Today it was only operating between Le Crotoy and St-Valery-sur-Somme – with three trains in each direction over the course of the day.

Steam locomotive no 1 'Aisne' approaches Noyelles-sur-Mer

Steam locomotive no 1 'Aisne' takes on water at Noyelles-sur-Mer

One side of the railway station at Noyelles-sur-Mer faces onto the SNCF mainline whilst the other looks out over the small metal turntable of the preserved railway. We were lucky enough to be able to watch the arrival of veteran steam locomotive no 1 ‘Aisne’ (a 2-6-0T from 1906) from Le Crotoy. At this location the locomotive is turned (a matter of physical exertion – the crew literally push the locomotive round) ready for the run into St Valery sur Somme.

Steam locomotive no 1 'Aisne' is turned at Noyelles-sur-Mer

A steady drive into St-Valery-sur-Somme allowed us to leapfrog the train and watch it cross the Somme canal before making its way up to St-Valery Port where a much larger crowd was awaiting its arrival.

Steam locomotive no 1 'Aisne' crosses the Somme

The passengers today have it much easier than their predecessors a century earlier. The line originally crossed the bay by means of a long wooden trestle bridge which at some stage in its history could no longer support the weight of the train and its passengers. The passengers were required to disembark on one side of the bay and make their way across to the other side, following the train under the bridge, before re-boarding on the other side. The walk was apparently usually more of a wade, leaving the passengers with wet feet! I’m glad that isn’t a feature of my commute, even if sometimes it might appear that I have been wading through the Thames after a particularly wet British Summer’s day…

Steam locomotive no 1 'Aisne' at St Valery Port

At St-Valery Port there is a small electric turntable which spares the crew from the need to manhandle the locomotive so soon after Noyelles. Once again we watched the locomotive being turned before continuing to walk along the canal towards the sea. As we strode away the steam locomotive departed for Le Crotoy.

Our stop at the Baie de Somme was not really intended as a photographic expedition, so I only grabbed a few shots in the obvious places. However, having seen the beautiful landscape that the train crosses I am sure I will come back some day to explore the line in its entirety.