All aboard the birthday train / Un anniversaire à toute vapeur

steam train, France, Haute-Loire, poster, vintage, VFV, Velay, Velay Express, train à vapeur, Raucoules, le Chambon-sur-Lignon, affiche, Saint-Agrève, la Galoche, patrimoine, chemin de fer, Auvergne, railway, heritage, chemin de fer historique

To celebrate his 70th birthday, my dad, a lifelong steam train enthusiast, invited friends and family for a round trip on the Velay Express, for a memorable journey back in time, and through the amazing scenery of Haute-Loire, Auvergne, France.

The invitation card only asked guests to be at my parents’ house at 8.30am on a Sunday morning in July. Once everybody had arrived, my dad announced that we all were to drive to Raucoules, to board a specially reserved passenger carriage on the Velay Express vintage train.

At 10am the enormous locomotive 101 slowly chugged out of the station. Outside, the Velay plateau unravelled its lush green fields and its pine-covered volcanic domes under the infinite blue of the summer sky. Inside, conversation and laughter, fuelled by snacks and refreshments, echoed around the beautiful vintage carriage.

Reserved carriage

At noon the train pulled up with a exhausted sigh at the Chambon-Mazet station. Just like the train carriage, the Hotel du Velay, in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, was closed to the public to accommodate the 70-strong party. The exquisite lunch, oh so French, extended merrily into the afternoon and ended with a beautiful birthday cake.

There was still time for a group photo before boarding the steam train again for the return journey to Raucoules.

If you didn’t know my parents, you could think that the party ended when the locomotive returned to its shed. Instead, everybody was invited back to my parents’ house, where the birthday celebrations continued late into the night.

A fitting conclusion to an unforgettable day.


Pour célébrer ses 70 ans, mon père, passionné de trains à vapeur depuis toujours, a invité famille et amis pour une excursion à bord du Velay Express. Ce fut un voyage mémorable dans le temps et à travers les paysages extraordinaires de Haute-Loire, en Auvergne.

Le carton d’invitation spécifiait simplement de se trouver chez mes parents à 8h30 un dimanche de juillet. Une fois tous les invités arrivés, mon père annonça que nous devions nous rendre à la petite gare de Raucoules, pour monter à bord d’un wagon réservé du train historique Velay Express.

A 10 heures, l’énorme locomotive verte 101 s’ébranla péniblement sur les rails. Dehors, le plateau du Velay déroulait ses champs verdoyants et ses sucs couverts de pinèdes sous le bleu infini du ciel d’été. Dedans, conversations et rires résonnaient joyeusement dans le beau wagon d’époque aux banquettes de bois.

Wagon réservé

A midi, le train s’arrêta avec un soupir épuisé en gare du Chambon-Mazet. Tout comme le wagon, l’Hôtel du Velay était fermé au public pour accueillir notre groupe de quelque 70 personnes. Le repas délicieux se termina en début d’après-midi par un gâteau d’anniversaire exquis.

Après une photo de groupe devant la gare, il fut temps de reprendre le train pour le trajet de retour vers Raucoules.

Si vous ne connaissez pas mes parents, vous pensez peut-être que la fête s’est achevée quand la locomotive est rentrée au hangar en fin de journée. En fait, tout le monde fut invité à retourner chez mes parents, où les réjouissances se poursuivirent jusque tard dans la nuit.

La conclusion idéale d’une journée inoubliable.

Visitor information

The Velay Express steam train and vintage diesel trains run every Sunday from late April to late October. In July and August, trains run also on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Fares start at €12.50 (adult), €9.50 (child 4-12 years old), €42 (family) for a return ticket on one section of the railway. The full timetable is available here. To book your tickets online, please click here

More information on the area is available through the local tourist offices – Haut-Lignon TourismeHaut Pays du Velay and Ardèche Hautes Vallées.

En savoir plus

Le train à vapeur et les autorails historiques du Velay Express circulent tous les dimanches de fin avril à fin octobre. En juillet et août, il y a aussi des trains les mercredis et jeudis. Les tarifs commencent à 12,50 € (adulte), 9,50 € (enfant) et 42 € (famille) pour un ticket aller-retour sur une des trois sections de la ligne. L’horaire complet est disponible ici. Il est possible de réserver ses billets en ligne en cliquant ici.

Pour tous renseignements touristiques sur les régions traversées par le Velay Express, veuillez consulter les offices de tourisme locaux : Haut-Lignon Tourisme, Haut Pays du Velay et Ardèche Hautes Vallées

 

steam train, France, Haute-Loire, poster, vintage, VFV, Velay, Velay Express, train à vapeur, Raucoules, le Chambon-sur-Lignon, affiche, Saint-Agrève, la Galoche, patrimoine, chemin de fer, Auvergne, railway, heritage, chemin de fer historique

 
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12 Responses to “All aboard the birthday train / Un anniversaire à toute vapeur

  • This is an awesome idea Annette – your parents organised a great event. My father, around the same age as your father, is also a lover of steam trains. My two boys remember heaps of train trips, clambouring over carriages and chatting with drivers with their grandpa.

    • Most of us knew that the surprise event would have something to do with trains! My boys are also mad about trains, especially my 6 yo. Long may this last…

  • This is a fab idea! My brother-in-law is also a steam train fanatic. Might just forward this to my SIL 🙂 He’ll be thrilled to bits to experience this 🙂 #countrykids

  • There is nothing quite like an old steam train. Our little train is electric but we borrowed a steam one for last Christmas when Santa came to visit, it was a huge treat for all the children here. I’m sure your Dad must have been in his element with all his family aboard this lovely old train through the French countryside. Certainly a birthday to remember.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids
    Coombe Mill recently posted…Blue Space for Mental Wellbeing

  • Am-A-Zing! I cannot think of a better way to celebrate a 70th birthday! #familyfunlinky

  • Oh wow what fantastic scenery and what a lovely experience, my youngest is train made and would love to go on something like this
    Just popping over from #countrykids

    Laura x

  • Oh wow, what a fantastic idea and party planning! Wagon reserve, dej francais bien arose, des amis et puis longue soiree – impeccable! Merci b d’avoir partager avec nous tous! #countrykids

  • What a wonderful way to celebrate your dad’s birthday. Love a ride on a steam train and that countryside is beautiful 🙂 #countrykids

  • This will certainly make for a birthday to remember. My parents love steam trains and this would be the perfect trip for them. #countrykids

  • Wow what a venue for fabulous landmark birthday. Private carriage train, so special. You all must have had a beautiful day. We have been on a couple of steam trains here but really do love to watch them tug past as we watch from the track edge.

    ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬
    Karen | TwoTinyHands recently posted…One Last Camp… Dudden/Eskdale Valley

  • Oh wow, this sounds like an amazing birthday party. Certainly one to remember!
    Thank you for linking up with #FamilyFunLinky
    Alana – Burnished Chaos recently posted…Jungle Speed – Board Game Review

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