Drivers and mechanics, they keep alive the steam train which runs not far from Alès

Drivers and mechanics, they keep alive the steam train which runs not far from Alès

Dans la cabine d'à peine trois mètres carrés, la chaleur de la cheminée est intense. MIDI LIBRE – Eva Bonnet-Gonnet

La locomotive a vapeur des Cévennes est conduite, ce dimanche 14 avril, par David Barbier et Albert. Une tâche rude, mais conviviales. 

A whistle. A shrill screech. A cloud of steam. This Sunday, April 14, the Henschel-Kassel locomotive is ready to reach Saint-Jean-du-Gard. Without the modern appearance of the tourists on the platform of the Anduze station, one might have believed, seeing the machine ready to leave, in a jump at the end of the 1940s. On board the train at Cévennes steamboat, which resumed service on March 30, there are tourists, of course, who will settle into the authentic wagons from the beginning of the last century. And there are David Barbier and Albert, at the helm of this 80-year-old train. The first takes the role of "driver", the second of the mechanic, therefore the driver.

Drivers and mechanics, they keep alive the steam train which runs not far from Alès

At the station, it's an opportunity for the curious to see the machines up close. FREE NOON – Eva Bonnet-Gonnet

Old-fashioned interview methods

Recognizable by their heads wearing caps "old-fashioned", their faces obscured by soot, the drivers of this old cuckoo have learned to regulate the complex machine as in the last century. They are the ones who tirelessly light the water boiler and the coal hearth, those who pay attention to the good health of the machinery. Standing in the locomotive, in heat reaching fifty degrees and harsh coal emissions, the teammates started the smoke box, where an agitated fire heats the water stored at the front of the wagon . "These are 200 to 300 kilograms of coal that we regularly load on a round trip", explains David Barbier, driver since the 1980s of the steam train of Cévennes. "It’is a necessary task. The chimney grate must always be covered, where the train will lose power. By controlling the supply of the home, we control the phenomenon of transformation of water into steam. Simultaneously, it is responsible, through the left window of the locomotive, for being the eyes of Albert, who regulates the admission of steam into the cylinders of the locomotive, therefore of the speed. "I’have the best role, that of blowing the whistle !", smiles Albert, in position since 2012 in the private tourism company.

Drivers and mechanics, they keep alive the steam train which runs not far from Alès

At Saint-Jean-du-Gard station, Albert controls the mechanics of the locomotive. FREE NOON – Eva Bonnet-Gonnet

"You have to have mental strength to do this job!"

The two of them complement each other on these journeys of around forty minutes, under the intense heat. But also once the train is parked in Saint-Jean-du-Gard, for two hours. One greases the axles, controls, the other welcomes the curious into the cabin. Tomorrow, they will exchange roles. "We are a team that rotates . A driver must know how to be a driver, and vice versa.", explains David. Between two batches of coal, it's also more pleasant to pass the time. He likes to tell, between two batches of coal, anecdotes about the region to pass the time, or to enjoy a landscape that's so popular. rsquo;he now knows it by heart. "We got used to each other, we're a good team. You have to have mental strength to do this job!", adds the latter. "Especially during the hot weather, that gives us happens to yell at us. But it never lasts long, concludes Albert.

Drivers and mechanics, they keep alive the steam train which runs not far from Alès

The Anduze, Saint-Jean-du-Gard line is one of the most beautiful in France. FREE NOON – Eva Bonnet-Gonnet

Even on bad days and in working conditions, it must be admitted, rough and physical, "everything is not so bad  !", for both employees. "It’s a different type of work spirit it’s convivial means giving pleasure to people. The relational aspect takes precedence. And then, look at the frame", exclaims David Barbier, recalling that the Anduze, Saint-Jean du Gard steam line is one of the most Belles de France. "People are waiting for us, they are happy to see us. We have our regulars!". 

Some techniques also help relieve the efforts of the day. Like those relating to ergonomics, which allow us not to exhaust the body through batches. . Or the different types of water to drink, and how regularly, so as not to collapse in the heat. "After all, it’s almost like every job. You get used to it!"

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