Return of lasting affection for the train! Its plebiscite is unanimous because it has all the qualities required in current ecological concerns. Demonstration: a Paris-Marseille emits 1.7 kg of CO2 by train, against 85 by plane and 149.6 by car. After this irrefutable postulate, the renewed desire for the railway has more sensitive and intimate arguments… The train preserves a talisman: childhood. Who does not have a distant train in the vagaries of his heart For Thibault Constant, childhood is the genesis of his passion for trains: “It comes from my father, a railroad worker at the SNCF. I grew up on the lines of France. We took night trains to see my grandparents in the South. It was adventure! The train is an integral part of my life.” Since then, he has become a 2.0 transpotter, a successful YouTuber who indulges in the rail-attitude, recounting over the videos on his “Simply Railway” channel, his rail travels including this nugget, a Rome-Sicily by train! A train on a ferry that crosses the sea… A coffee on the bridge before arriving on the platform of Syracuse station… Childhood: same heart-catcher for me. The train was my summer vacation friend. The Paris-Trouville-Deauville punctuate my happy memories. Sandwiches in aluminum foil, carefully arranged suitcases, family transhumance. The Gare Saint-Lazare with its sparse glass roof was a cathedral. She keeps this absolute of light that Monet painted so many times throughout a day… I remember the turbocharged orange trains, infallibly on time, the languor of the changing landscapes, from the quarry to the bocage, the stop in this tiny station, Grand-Jardin , overgrown with flowering foliage, the final stage that said the approaching arrival. And at the end, finally the sea… Turning points of which Thibault Constant made a vocation, another way of seeing the world. The train made him a writer-traveller, author of a guide to Europe on the railway: “We have time to work, read, dream. And we walk in a train, the only means of transport where we can move at leisure. It’s a bubble. The train is a social microcosm, a meeting place. I’m going around the world where only the train can take me. Going to Alaska by train is a slap in the face for the view, the privilege of incredible landscapes. I also took a train in Colorado that goes through canyons where there isn’t even a hiking trail. Exclusive panoramas, impossible to discover otherwise.” But no need to go beyond the world for a promise of rare horizons. Two views will forever imprint my memory. I was 19: an early morning micheline from Aurillac to Rodez, overlooking the volcanoes of Auvergne. I was riding above clouds trapped in the trees of the valley. A Paris-Venice, more than ten years ago, this night train that you had to take just for this moment of dawn when it crosses the lagoon in the mist. An extraordinary emotion of floating, a train on the water, and on leaving the platform, the pleasure of being on the threshold of the vaporetto. Unfortunately, this route no longer exists. Night trains suffered from low cost planes and a few notable miscellaneous events. But he will come back to the top! Imaginations are at work as promised Adrian Aumont with its “Midnight Trains” project for 2025, connecting major European cities at night: “It starts with a personal apprehension, I hate flying! There was also the flight-shaming carried by the generation of Greta Thunberg. Beyond its undeniable ecological virtues, the night train has this notable prevalence that it takes over sleep time to travel long distances. Promiscuity got the better of the night trains. What it lacked was comfort and privacy. We think of trains as hotel rooms: real bedding, a private space. Create a desirable experience-driven journey. The concept is classless, based on the principle of the hotel industry, from standard to deluxe rooms, with a restaurant area and a bar. I remember that when we communicated about this project, all the media in the world contacted us. It’s a sign. It denotes another desire to travel… The first line we will open will be a Paris-Milan-Venice. She has this potential for business and daydreaming.” There is a train paradox. Once the engine of modernity, tool of the industrial revolution here, and of the conquest of the West in the United States, its speed accelerated the world. Today, we love him for the way he dawdles, the way he knows how to be slow, the perfect ally of slow tourism, a notorious benefit of this world after, that we have been sold so much. From now on, time is a luxury and the train is its safest confidant. It offers time but also stories, reverie… Steve would have become Spielberg if he had not seen, as a child, the train scene in Under the biggest tent in the world, by Cecil B. DeMillewhich he obsessively reproduced in his garage, an admirable and matrix sequence in his autobiographical film, The Fabelmans? The thoughts that escape when the landscapes pass. The Orient-Express which continues to fuel fantasies and which, beyond its luxury, is the finest diplomat for learning about Europe. The Trans-Siberian, the only line that connects Russia to China, now hampered by the war, because the train is also an emissary of Foreign Affairs. Railway novels. The hall of lost steps. The emotion of seeing someone waiting for you at the end of the platform: so many books and so many films on this moment… So, those who love, will take the train?
The Zadig magazine n17 – The train, a French passion, by Éric Fottorino.
Night trains: 30 unforgettable journeys in Europe, by Thibault Constant (ed. Gallimard).
To listen to: France Culture’s podcast series, L’Orient-Express, un rêve d’Europe.
To devour on a train, Mécano, by Mattia Filice (ed. POL), see page 98.
Find it on Vogue.fr
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