So I’ve recently been getting model railway magazines sent to me from France. It started a couple of months ago when by chance I accidentally set my eBay ‘item location’ settings to ‘worldwide’. Shortly after a lot of “Loco Review” – a French model railway magazine popped up, both cheap to buy and cheap to mail to California. I snapped up about 8 random back issues from years: 2002 and 2003 for around $20 in total – not bad considering just one copy can cost around $16 to mail to the USA under normal circumstances.
I can’t remember why or how I first came across French Model Railway magazines. I seem to remember that I had been looking for information about French Railways especially their electric locomotives. I would say I’m a fan of French railways but a completely uninformed fan. I don’t know any history of the railway system and I don’t know how well both the full scale hobby or how well the model scale hobby is supported by fans in France or elsewhere.
My first introduction to French railways was in the late sixties and early seventies when my family took us to the South of France via the auto train. My parent drove us to Southampton after which we took the ferry to Dieppe. At Dieppe we would put the car on a truck towed behind the train while we slept in a family sleeper cabin. I remember waking up in the middle of the night in the middle of France and just listening to the sound of the railway in the darkness. You know the sort of things: the ringing grade crossing bell fading in and fading out as it passed by, the porters chatting quietly in French at the station (knowing that there were folks sleeping in the train docked at the platform), the distant sound of the locomotive both braking as it enters the station and accelerating away into the night, the clickity-clack of the train over the section rail. We would wake in the morning in the south of France in bright sunlight, hot air and lean out the window watching the slopes of coastal mountains pass us by. It was quite magical.
And the trains were marvelous too. In contrast to the poorly maintained, underfunded and rather grim British Rail system of the late sixties and early seventies French railways were clean, well-maintained, bigger (they have a larger loading gauge than the UK), had an exotic mix of colors and paint schemes, and locomotives and rolling stock. They had character too, unlike the perfect German or Swiss systems (that’s another blog post another time) the French system somehow retained a unique character: not quite perfect, not quite pristine, but still very good.
I’ve never really had time to study French Railways and I’ve never known how to either. Where can I buy books? If I do find books on French trains then how well will I be able to follow them with just high school French?
Well Loco Revue is a pretty good way to get started down this path. I’m sure there are English railway magazines dedicated to the continental European scene but for now I have these eight (with a few more on their way) copies – printed in France and written in French – which I’ve been slowly working my way through over the last few weeks.
Contained within the pages are a range of articles that include much of what you would expect from a British or American magazine: product reviews, advertising from suppliers, articles on layouts, articles on locomotive kit assembly, articles on scratch-building and kit-bashing, weathering techniques, exhibition news and importantly for me information about prototype locomotives and railway histories. But most importantly it has some great modelling. Most of the models are set in France and so if you are a fan of the French countryside then the layouts are a real treat and a way to experience the landscape.
In order to understand what is being written I have an iPhone language translator app. I can just scan the passage and send it through the program. In some instances it will return garbled English or misunderstand railway terms which may have been borrowed from regular French such as the word ‘réseaux’ which in regular French means ‘networks’ or ‘grids’ but in modeling terms means ‘layouts’. But taking the translation together with my high school French I’ve been able to figure out most of what is being said.
Here are some scans of contents that caught my eye:
If anyone is interested in acquiring either new or used copies of Loco Revue then here is their website or you can do a search on Ebay for ‘Loco Revue’ but make sure your ‘item location’ settings are set to ‘Worldwide.’ Here’s a link to that search request: Loco Revue
Anyhow I’m slowly making my way through the pile of magazines sent to me a few weeks back. I’ll post more on this topic some other time.