Caravelle Inaugurates Line Extension Project Brignoles - Saint-Maximin

The former Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume station will become the western terminal of the Carnoules - Brignoles - Saint-Maximin tourist line
The non-profit heritage railway association ATTCV, created by a group of voluntaries in 1994, started on August 19, 2001, a tourist passenger service between Carnoules and Brignoles on the Carnoules - Gardanne railway line, using its only railcar at the time, the Picasso. Since then the association has maintained a railcar service from April to November every year. And has drastically increased its collection of railway vehicles.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of this inauguration train, the ATTCV arranged during two days - Saturday and Sunday 23rd and 24th April - an event in and around Brignoles station.

A significant part of this event was an over-the-day "inauguration train" on Saturday with railcar from Carnoules-les-Platanes via Brignoles to Saint-Maximin and back.

Caravelle X 4567 arrives in Brignoles from Carnoules-les-Platanes in the morning

Short stopover in Brignoles to load more passengers prior to continuing

After the short stopover in Brignoles the voyage continues towards Tourves - with spring flowers lining the track.

The Caravelle on the line in the outskirts of Brignoles
One of the reasons the service has not yet been possible to extend to Saint-Maximin is the difficult situation with a dozen or so non-guarded level-crossings, in particular between Brignoles and Tourves. A few of those concern major roads with sometimes high traffic load.

Level crossing with a major road west of Brignoles
Safety crew rushes to secure the level crossing at Les Censiés

Just before the Tourves station, the line passes through a tunnel under the Valbelle Castle ruins.

X 4567 approaching Tourves station from the Valbelle tunnel
The Tourves station building is since many years privately owned. Although the entire yard, except the main track, has been removed and replaced with houses and buildings, the passenger platform is still there and accessible from the street and the train.

Tourves station

The old railway watertower at the southern end of the former railway yard (surrounded by extensive installations for loading of trains with bauxite from the neighbouring mines), is today in modified form reused as a part of a private home. View from the Valbelle Castle
Major attractions in Tourves for future railway passengers include the bauxite museum ("Red Faces Museum") and the Castle hill with the Valbelle Castle ruins.

The Red Faces Museum (Musee des gueules rouges) is only 200 m from the Tourves station. View from the Valbelle Castle

Red Faces Museum - Musee des gueules rouges

Valbelle Castle ruins

Little more that one hour after the departure from Brignoles the railcar arrives with its passengers in Saint-Maximin.

Crew and passengers join for a drink in front of the former station building to celebrate the inauguration journey

The Saint-Maximin station building is today, together with added new buildings, used by civil regional administration and therefore not accessible for the association and its passengers. The yard is partly stripped from tracks and only one track is in a state to be useful for train service.

Only the track to the left can be used for train services.

The timetable for the future train service will likely allow a morning connection to Saint-Maximin with an afternoon connection giving passengers sufficient time to walk to the village center, to visit its narrow streets, its famous basilique (La basilique de Sainte Marie-Madeleine de Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume) and restaurant area.

La basilique de Sainte Marie-Madeleine de Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume

Because of the single-track sitation in Saint-Maximin, the X 4567 later during the day acts as a "trailer" to X 2204. In this way it enables the latter to remain in Saint-Maximin for some time to provide a later return train service back to Brignoles.

The addition of an extra train during the day required a coupled train

X 2204 will likely in the future be used during low-density traffic periods

Caravelle ready for its return to Brignoles, to Carnoules and finally the ATTCV Besse depot

All level crossings require security staff to stop road traffic prior to railcar passage

At Brignoles station waiting for clearance back to Carnoules

This since long awaited prolongation of the tourist line could become a reality next year, depending on result of some still necessary practical/technical and administrative arrangements.

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