President David Shepherd CBE FRSA FGRA
Chemin de fer de la Baie de Somme
Earlier this year a depleted wine rack set us thinking about another trip to France, and initial plans were to go the Pas de Calais area, within easy reach of the Baie de Somme railway. We could not decide on where to stay and when we received an offer we couldn’t refuse from P&O for a 3 day return from Portsmouth our plans were changed. At the end of May we caught the Friday morning ferry from Portsmouth to le Havre and then made our way to Dieppe, also in easy reach of the railway. We stayed at the Hotel Windsor on the Dieppe sea front, a Logis de France hotel, booked by email.
On the Sunday morning we were up early and after breakfast (croissants, rolls and coffee) we set off for St Valery sur Somme, the southern terminus of the metre gauge Chemin de fer de la Baie de Somme (except for the occasional diesel services that go on to Cayeux). We parked in the station car park and then walked along the quay to the Port, where we bought our tickets at the "Ticket Wagon" and boarded the waiting train for the 10-45 departure. The train takes half an hour to reach Noyelles, where the loco "runs round" to take the train on to le Crotoy on the northern side of the Somme estuary, another half hour journey. The Loco then ran round to front of a second set of carriages, which formed the 12.00 service back to St Valery. We returned on this train, the other option being to stay at le Crotoy until the 15.30 train, we had been there some years before and seen what there was to see. Again the loco runs round at Noyelles, which is adjacent to the SNCF station on the Calais to Paris line, before returning to St Valery. Noyelles serves as the passing point for the afternoon services.
Enthusiasts waiting for the train to depart at St Valery
We arrived back at St Valery shortly after 1.00 pm and made our back to the car. We then drove to Cayeux, where we found a convenient kiosk on the sea front selling sausages and chips and crepes. So we had a two course alfresco lunch, after which we took our folding chairs onto the beach and sat in the sun for the rest of the afternoon. Shortly after we had returned to Dieppe the sun vanished and the heavens opened. Our plans of eating out changed to eating in the hotel restaurant.
Rounding a bend between Noyelles and Le Crotoy
The standard gauge line from Noyelles to St Valery was built in 1858, by La compagnie du Nord. The metre gauge lines were built by the Société Générale des Chemins de Fer Économiques for the département of Somme. The line from Noyelles to le Crotoy was opened in July 1887 and the metre gauge line from Noyelles to Cayeux was opened in the September, running between the standard gauge lines to Noyelles. The line to le Crotoy closed in December 1969 and that to Noyelles and Cayeux in December 1972. The Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme Association was formed in 1969 with the aim of returning the lines to use.
No. 15 Runs around at Noyelles
Every day during July and August. Weekends from April till the end of September, with several Wednesdays and some Thursdays. There are 3 schedules. Green - two afternoon trains each way between St Valery and le Crotoy. Blue – Green service plus a morning train from St Valery to le Crotoy and back. Yellow – Blue service plus an extra train from St Valery to Noyelles and back, and two diesel services from Cayeux to St Valery.
More information, in French, can be found on the associations web site at www.chemin-fer-baie-somme.asso.fr