Pyrénées-Orientales: between Roussillon and the Aude Pyrenees, a little red train like no other

It can carry up to 137 passengers. In just 2 hours, the TPCF (Train du Pays cathare et du Fenouillèdes), also known as Train Rouge, goes to the vineyards of Roussillon, the Agly valley and Fenouillèdes to Axat, its trails, paths and forests. A different car, the first hour is done in a covered car, the second in the panoramic, hair in the wind and great style. By car.

And considering that this little train is unlike any other, it was put on the rails by a group of enthusiasts, most of them former railway workers, narrowly saved for this summer season 2022. There are about fifty passengers on board this Wednesday August 24. 2022, at the station of Rivesaltes. These root-like journeys between the cars, this shock that makes you balance between the narrow rows of skai chairs, these windows where you can lay your head and breathe fresh air when the old Michelin slows down curves or climbs… A train with the smell of the past.

This caravelle bus travels 66 kilometers separating Rivesaltes from Axat in 128 minutes. A horn, reviving other sepia memories, announces the entry into the station of the red train driven by Michel. Nostalgic fans can’t wait to climb aboard these two bright red cars, from the 1960s. Those who continue their journey to Aude should change trains at Saint-Paul-de- Fenugreek. Then they put a panoramic, partially open to the sky. Among the passengers, the children love to visit Michel in his office. He welcomed them warmly, talking with them, patiently answering their questions.

Nathanaël, 10 years old, Tarn has a little bit of everything, he says “Paper of all trains “. Miguel, an 11-year-old boy from Barcelona, ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ “the driver, behind”. Valentine, 13, what she wants”the sound of wheels on railways”. Philippe himself, funny and cool Olympian, works as a host, bartender, writer-poet and director. For this former professional photographer, who has run a business for 15 years, “every trip is different”. It has come TO MAKE “four round trips in one day” and said to himself “surprised every time how fast the landscapes are”, knew by heart, active “shadow, light, sun, wind or cloud”. ”

The red and white bus finally pulls up and the journey begins. Passed by a magical place, made up of expanses of famous vineyards, casots surrounded by vines, hills as far as the eye could see, the cliffs of the Corbières, hermitages, the high-perched silhouette of the Château de Queribus, and, more briefly, the “devil’s eye”, a hole dug into a larger rock that travelers pass by. “It’s beautiful, I didn’t expect to see such a different landscape,” saidThanks to Lydie, a Bordelaise, while Nathalie and Thierry, from Cognac, discover, as a surprise, the moving beauty, peace and more pain of the Catalan terroir and the borders of Aude. The Red Train represents this special terroir.

A tourist train is “drafted”, but remains silent until 2024

The contract allowing the Cathar and Fenouillèdes Train to travel between Pyrénées-Orientales and Aude expires on December 31, 2021. TPCF travel on the Rivesaltes-Caudiès section is almost suspended de-Fenouillèdes.

Rescued by the state that released aid in the amount of 1.5 million euros to finance the development, while the Red Train is in the loan period. “Thanks to this big envelope, we will be quiet until 2024 said Yves Guimezanes, director of the tourist train. Saying that word “in progress” between communities, regional partners and the Prefecture of Pyrénées-Orientales “to maintain the capital increase, estimated at around one million, necessary for the continuation of the line for the next four years”.

Tourism and atypical tours

According to Yves Guimezanes, the director of the Tourist Red Train, “Since the beginning of this month of August, about 250 people have put on the sun”for him “90% goes as far as Axat, in Aude.” Reaffirmed a “it’s great to go this summer”, with reservations “full until the end of August”. And it’s September “promise too“, thanks to the veterans’ organizations and “many tourists. The Red Line from Rivesaltes has 9 stations: Espira-de-l’Agly, Cases-de-Pene, Estagel, Maury, Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet, Caudies-de-Fenouillèdes, Lapradelle-Puylaurens, Axat and Saint – Martin Lys.

The Red Train runs from April to December, offering a variety of rides outside of the summer season: Easter trains (chocolate egg hunts), Halloween trains, Santa Claus trains; event trips (special train for only 22 seats with sound system, solid wooden tables and lounge with sofas) or Sensory trips (with a star chef on board and with tasting good food); organized by associations, schools, communities…

Timetables and prices can be found online: www. letrainrouge.fr or by calling 04 68 200 400.

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