Pulled by authentic machines from the Belle Époque, the mythical steam train, the Seagull Train, travels a tourist route of 21 km between La Tremblade and Saujon.

The seagull train and its mythical steam engines

It is almost the same age as the "Lison", the large steam locomotive created in 1890 by Zola in "La Bête Humaine". The writer has also published this first novel after his final holidays in Royan in 1888.

Indeed, the old Schneider machine which covers the 21 kilometers of rails between Saujon and La Tremblade dates back to 1891. It is twenty years older than its youngest, the already very old henschel. Leaving the Japy factories in 1912, it was also brought to Charente-Maritime to find a second wind on the old line managed by the Compagnie du Chemin de fer de la Seudre. It was inaugurated in heating in June 2015.

On his heavy black steel garment, each part of which was fastened by large protruding bolts, the Schneider locomotive (the “Progress” model) sports all the attributes of the steam-powered, whistling, smoking old lady: chimney, air pump, valve, hearth, manometer. The 2 steam locomotives are classified as Historical monuments.

Thierry Avan

seagull train

With family or friends, enjoy a full steam ride from Saujon to La Tremblade.

Careful maintenance

Thierry Avan
seagull train

To begin with, before launching it on the route, a long preparation session is necessary. In the studio where she rests, Chaillevette, the mechanics therefore drill the axles and suspensions of this 25-tonne monster every day with a hammer. In the cockpit, they then send the wood and coal to the boiler. There, an oil-soaked fabric triggers the first flame. A slow pressurization operates up to 11 bar. The locomotive's lungs then emit a deep inspiration. The machine, pulled by a shunter equipped with a diesel engine, leaves its stable in a plume of smoke. Under the machine, the ashtray is emptied of its slag through a hatch. The connecting rods of its flashy mechanics are greased one by one using oil-soaked wicks.

“Hubs” since 2020

In 2020, the railway, owned by the departmental council of Charente-Maritime, will be equipped with two "turntables". They are connected to the track at the two terminals of Saujon and La Tremblade. These two mechanical devices mounted on a pivot thus allow each round trip to put the Schneider or Henschel locomotive back in the direction of travel, funnel forward. One more attraction for tourists because the maneuver, spectacular, is done in public.

A route between fields and marshes

The Trains et Traction association has been operating the Train des Mouettes since 2008. This horse harnessed in iron crosses the typical terroirs of Charente-Maritime at 25 km/hour, top speed! On the ride, along theSeudre estuary, one after the other salt marshes et oyster landscapes. The transport of oysters to Bordeaux and Paris has long been the main activity of this secondary line. When it opened in 1876, it traced its route to the Chenal de la Grève, at La Tremblade. However, this portion is referred to the early 1980s.

A restaurant on board the seagull train

Since 2021, the Train des Mouettes has been operating a restaurant train, Called Seudre Ocean Express. Equipped with 2 first class carriages converted into dining cars, the train offers its passengers dinner on board. Through large bay windows, we take the opportunity to contemplate the landscapes of the Seudre. The chefs prepare the meals based on local products: oysters, shellfish, fish... in order to honor the local gastronomy. Each car has a capacity of 44 guests, by tables of 2 or 4 people. Services take place on Wednesday and Friday evenings, from mid-July to the end of September.

Length of the video: 4 minutes 27

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