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The TGV Story
By John McKey, Pictures by John McKey, Ilkka Siissalo, Sanna Siissalo, Richard Oed, Pekka Siiskonen and Focalplane.

Welcome to the future TGV Story page! For the moment, only the 4 - 5 first articles are in place, but more material will be added regularly and often.

Page 1
  Part 1: Pre TGV Era of the 20th Century...
 Part 2: Testing with Turbine Powered TGV...
 Part 3: First High Speed Line Paris - Lyon...
 Part 4: Great Success of the Generation 1 TGV-PSE...
 Part 5: TGV-PSE Today and Tomorrow...
 Part 6: TGV-LaPoste - the High Speed Postal Sets...

Page 2
 Part 7: TGV-Atlantique and LGV-Atlantique...
 Part 8: TGV-Réseau, a common model for all networks...
 Part 9: Thalys emerging...
 Part 10: Renfe AVE 100...
 Part 11: Eurostar Capitals units...
 Part 12: Regional Eurostar units...

Page 3
 Part 13: Thalys PBKA of Benelux + Germany...


   Train Recognition Guide
   Super High Speed Main



    Railroad Structures
    Steam and Smoke

    Winter Visions by H.P.
    Winter Visions by S.V.
    RR Snow Fighting Gallery

   European Countries
    Finnish RRs 150 Years...  
    Finnish Vintage Rolling St.

    Finnish Vintage Vr1 / L1
    Jokioinen Museum RR

  > French TGV Story

    Norwegian Ore RRing

    Russian RR Visions

    Swedish Malmbanan
    Running with IOREs

    Swiss TRAXX Operations
    Swiss Gotthard Route Vis.

   North American Visions

    North America
    North America by G.P.










 Part 7: TGV-Atlantique and LGV-Atlantique
SNCF TGV-Atlantique unit 393 at Paris Gare de Montparnasse, France

"Le Mans, 17 minutti...Le Mans, ... " I could tell the compartment French people had a wide grin when they listened to the conductor colored wording from the loudspeaker. I was sitting in the comfortable and quite lavishly decorated Corail coach second class compartment with 5 other people heading for Angers where my then girl friend was studying. Angers is another hour and half behind Le Mans on the classic lines. Le Mans itself 2,5 hours from Paris in 1988. And it helps to have a conductor humoring passengers with his southern accent (I think) making long journey even more comfortable. On this occasion you could hear this message over 15 times (quite exceptionally) before stopping at the famous city station. Le Mans is famous for its 24 hour race that takes place yearly in early summer. The city itself is an ancient dwelling place with currently 150'000 inhabitants, but knowing French probably two-three times as many counting all its surroundings to the number too. The French cities are sometimes divided to very small units, ensuring the direct contact with the administration and the people living in the area.

It was very easy to find a train from Paris to Angers in 1988. The line was not exactly saturating Southwest of Paris, but it definitely was heavily used by constant long trains of Corail formations. These were headed mostly by shark nosed French locomotives built for relatively fast and heavy traffic. This was all to change soon. The success of the first line Southeast of Paris had been immense. So the next line was easy to discuss with the French financiers in the public sector. The LGV-Atlantique was opened in 1989. The line starts for once outside Paris Gare Montparnasse rail yard with a tunnel and is followed by a total of 12 other tunnels! The longest of these is over 4000 meters long and can be used with semi high speeds by the TGVs accelerating for their super high speeds for longer stretches on the high speed line. Before Le Mans the LGV-Atlantique line has a smaller branch West towards Bretagne. The LGV-Bretagne is being built for the time and should be completed in a few years. To south the LGV-Atlantique has a stop in Le Mans called Vendôme-Villiers-sur-Loir-TGV. A little further still the line ends but again is being lengthened (as far as I last read) between cities of Angers and Nantes, the extension towards Southwestern parts of France still waiting for realization.

SNCF TGV-Atlantique unit 393 at Paris Gare de Montparnasse, France
The first two TGV-Atlantique prototype trains appeared in in white and dark blue (instead of then used orange-gray-blue) in the second half of the 1980s. With the two prototypes the newest design for the TGV was perfected. The production run for TGV-Atlantique followed so that the units rolled out of the assembly line between 1988 and 1992. Some of the changes for the production units from TGV-PSE trains of previous generation were the air shock wave protection (needed when meeting another high speed unit running the other way of high speed line and/or running inside tunnels). Another change was the coloring: since TGV-Atlantiques the TGVs have had bright blue bands running along their sides and the base color has been silver. If you compare the prototype white and silver, it is clear that the silver shows a lot less dirt on it and thus needs much less cleaning than the white would have needed. Silver and shades of gray were used on all TGV trains of SNCF until 2012. And even the newest TGV-2N2 units are still colored this way today rolling out of the production line of Alstom. The most important difference between other TGVs and TGV-Atlantique is that while others have 8 intermediate trailers per locomotive pair the Atlantiques have 10. This was possible because of the relatively flat terrain on the LGV-Atlantique. Also for refinement now the powered axles were located in locomotives only releasing the trailers for accommodating passengers. The unit power was in spite of this raised from 6450 kW (8646 Hp) to 8800 kW (11796 Hp) under 25 kV overhead wires.

SNCF TGV Atlantique number 354, France

For spotting TGV-Atlantique coming towards you look at the forehead of it. While the TGV-PSE has a well visible step there, TGV-A has a totally aerodynamic rounded shaping. Once the train is a little bit closer, count the intermediate trailers. 10 trailers mean it is really a TGV-Atlantique while 8 intermediate modules means that you are looking at the TGV-Réseau. Close by, the big blue unit numbers at the front of the locos can be seen, for TGV-A these are in the range 301 - 405. And faithful to their home grounds I've never seen or heard of TGV-Atlantique strayed running outside their use area Southwest of Paris. One of the reasons is of course that their length makes them incompatible with the rest of the TGV fleet which can be mixed and matched to all combinations of pairs. 2 normal TGVs are about 400 meters long, the minimum maximum length of a typical French station platform, so two extra trailers would cause problems. On LGV-Atlantique these overly long train can run even in pairs.

SNCF TGV-Atlantique unit 393 at Paris Gare de Montparnasse, France

SNCF TGV-Atlantique unit 393 at Paris Gare de Montparnasse, France

SNCF TGV-Atlantique unit 393 at Paris Gare de Montparnasse, France

SNCF TGV-Atlantique unit 393 at Paris Gare de Montparnasse, France

SNCF TGV-Atlantique unit 363 at Paris Gare de Montparnasse, France
SNCF TGV-Atlantique double unit near Bordeaux

  Part 8: TGV-Réseau...


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  TGV-Réseau for all Networks

SNCF TGV-Réseau unit 4504 has arrived from afternoon Milan, Italy to Paris, France near midninght
1 - 2) TGV-Réseau trivoltage unit 4504 has arrived before midnight to Paris Gare de Lyon from Porta Garibaldi, Milan, Italy. This is one of the two trains leaving 7:49 "simultaneously" (at the same minute) from Paris and arriving to Milan 6 minutes apart 14:45/14:51 every day. The return leg starts for both at 16:10 and the units arrive to Paris 23:19 (for the unit in picture) and 23:24. There might actually be two trains running the same popular route. Capacity control in the this case is easy: you just don't run the other train if it is too quiet.
SNCF TGV-Réseau unit 4504 has arrived from afternoon Milan, Italy to Paris, France near midninght

SNCF TGV-Reséau unit 4523 closeup at Nissan,

Looking at the TGV passengers numbers in the early years, added capacity was always needed
-> 1981: 1,2 million passengers
-> 1982: 6
-> 1983: 9,2
-> 1984: 13,7
-> 1985: 15,4
-> 1986: 15,6
-> 1987: 17
-> 1988: 18,1
-> 1989: 19,1
-> 1990: 29,9
-> 1991: 37
-> 1992: 39,3
-> 1993: 40,1
-> 1994: 43,9
-> 1995: 46,6
-> 1996: 55,7
You can notice from the figures when the TGV-PSE units and later TGV-Atlantiques joined the ranks. It looks like the demand was still not the limiting factor but the supply. So even more TGV units were needed.

SNCF TGV-Reseau at Nissan Station in France
These came in the form of the next development model, TGV-Réseau, TGV-network in English. Like the name tells this was to be a true generic TGV set to supplement the crowded lines in France and running some real long distance journeys to Italy and Spain. Basically it was the TGV-Atlantique design with standard 8 intermediate trailers instead on 10 used on TGV-A. 50 SNCF bivoltage units in 500 numbers series series (1500V + 25 kV 50Hz) joined the fleet in 1992 - 1994 and SNCF 30 trivoltage units (1500V + 3000 V + 25 kV 50Hz) in 1994 - 1995. These units ran 300 km/h (186 mph) top speed from the beginning and this is raised today to 320 km/h (199 mph) to match the traffic patters better.

At the same time the high speed network was growing with LGV-Nord from Paris to Lille and in two branches to Belgian border and Channel tunnel, tunnel traffic starting in 1994.

SNCF TGV-Reseau near Nissan in France
Today you can see TGV-Réseaus just about anywhere on the French high speed travel rail networks. It often supplies added capacity running in pair with another TGV. Considering that only 31 bivoltage units today are in traffic this seems quite unusual, obviously the TGV-Réseaus are run more than some of other types. In heavy use, some of the units have now gone through two refurbishments.
SNCF TGV-Reseau unit 4529 near Nissan oppidum,

SNCF TGV-Reseau unit 4521 at Nice Ville in Carmillion colors, France
During the refurbishment 2 the blue-silver units are joining the Carmillion colored fleet. Since these might be done at different locations, some unit might be colored first an only when possible refurbished inside. TGV-Réseau new "Carmillion" livery, Nice, France

TGV-Réseau units 508 and 509 at Paris Gare du Nord, France


TGV-Réseau unit 552 next to ICE3 class 406 of DB, Paris Gare d'Lest, France
In 2008 it was supposed that DB would start compete the routes from Paris to Germany with their class 406/406M ICE3 trains. Wrong, these trains are not reliable, so competition is impossible. The next generation class 407 has been in basic certification process not for 2,5 years, so not much danger there either. TGVs still are the king of the hill! Picture by Sanna Siissalo.

TGV-Réseau unit 552 next to ICE3 class 406 of DB, Paris Gare d'Lest, France
A more unusual view to TGV-Réseau sisters 506 and 536 running lines here East of Paris Gare de L'Est starting for LGV-Est.

Vision TGV story was created for by John McKey. Pictures by Ilkka Siissalo, Focalplane, Richard Oed and John McKey.

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  Part 9: Thalys emerging...

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  Thalys Emerging

Thalys PBA unit 4535 arriving to Gare du Nord, Paris
The high speed alliance to develop the Paris - Brussels - Amsterdam and Köln was created in 1987. The target was to link the cities with high speed networks, a target achieved a couple of decades later. The group of SNCF (France), SNCB (Belgium), NS (Netherlands) and Deutsche Bundesbahn (Germany) agreed on creating Thalys for operation of this direction. The Thalys owners initially were just SNCF and SNCB. The Deutsche Bahn acquired 10% of the company in 2007.

The first alliance train left Paris Gare du Nord in 1996 on French high speed LGV-Nord, then over to Brussels, Belgium and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This was a TGV-Réseau set typified with disguise as a Thalys PBA. 9 sister trains also followed, though SNCF would use some units for its traffic for many years to come. The original number series follow the international TGV-Réseau numbers 4501 to 4530 first Thalys PBA being 4531 and last 4540. There is some confusion with the unit 4531, which ran in Thalys livery as a normal SNCF TGV for over a decade before being converted to "another TGV-Réseau".

In pictures above and below the Thalys 4535 is just arriving to Paris Nord, a place where you are almost guaranteed to see one or more units with Thalys livery. Thalys PBAs have three current systems 1500V + 3000V DC and 25kV 50 Hz making them able to run into Belgium and Netherland in addition to France but not to Germany where 15 kV 16,7 Hz would be needed. (This was soon solved with Thalys PBKA quadruple electric systems). 8 intermediate trailers between two locomotives make these quite standard TGV units, except for their attractive red, silver and white livery.
Thalys PBA unit 4535 arriving to Gare du Nord, Paris

Taking a closer look at the locomotive: the figure on it was initially much smaller, a woodpecker like, but if you take a closer look at it you can also see a mermaid surfing the wawe. Since refurbishing the figure on locomotives has been a lot bigger as is the wawe formation behind and under it.
Thalys PBA unit 4535 arriving to Gare du Nord, Paris

Thalys PBA unit 4538 stopped at Brussels, Belgium
Above the Thalys PBA set 4538 stopped at Brussels for boarding the passengers. Below another two pictures also from Brussels. Pictures by Timo-Jussi Hämäläinen.
Thalys PBA unit 4538 stopped at Brussels, Belgium

Thalys PBA unit 4538 stopped at Brussels, Belgium

Vision TGV story was created for by John McKey. Pictures by Ilkka Siissalo, Focalplane, Richard Oed and John McKey.

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  Part 10: Renfe AVE-100 TGVs...

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  Renfe AVE 100 TGVs

Renfe AVE100 number 15 in Cordoba, Spain
The Spanish high speed systems were in the beginning of their fast development cycle in the early 1990s. Looking at the tried and trusted super high speed trains available then and consulting the map it is easy to find the reason for the choice of also then fastest super high speed train: TGV-Réseau. This type was named for the Spanish networks as AVE 100 (AVE = Alta Velocidad Española, or ave as Spanish for bird). 100 was the first of the long line of AVE trains following in numbers. Class 100 was built for the normal gauge 1435 mm and class 101 for the Spanish gauge 1668 mm. Here the story gets somewhat complicated.

The initial order for the Renfe (officially Renfe Operadora) TGVs was placed for 16 trains: first 10 for the normal gauge and the following 6 for the 1668 gauge. The first 8 trains of the French TGV design were manufactured in 1992 by Alstom at the same time in a hectic process of creating a large fleet of TGV-Réseaus for French SNCF too. As Spain has strong train building knowledge at CAF and Talgo, CAF manufactured the units from 9 onwards. Putting some straight route to some bends it looks like these broad gauge units were later regauged to 1435 mm and another batch of 8 units seems to have appeared. If this information is correct, these units are probably manufactured by CAF too. (This arrangement between the two manufacturers' capacity sharing works both ways: Alstom manufactured for example a batch of Finnish VR CAF design Sm4 EMUs).

The AVE100 itself is quite standard TGV-Réseau with locomotives at the ends and 8 intermediate trailers. If you look closely, you notice though that the lower half of the hood is more rounded following the ideas of then prototype phase third generation TGV designs (TGV-Duplex). And probably the tastes of the buyer too. But the upper half still has the large "spoiler" to keep the flying debris away from the windows plus quite normal TGV-Atlantique/TGV-Réseau locomotive design. This feature makes it easy to identify the AVE 100 from similar other TGVs. The AVE 100 has again the electrical systems of the trielectric TGV-Réseau: 1550V/3000V/25kV, except that the 1500V used in France was not installed until 2013! It also looks like the trains have been subject to continuous development with train controls systems added and the first refurbishing was applied in 2005 - 2009. 10 units are now receiving another refurbishing while simultaneously the third electricity system is being installed at manufacturer Alstom. Two first units are now in tests around France. The trains are also perfected to run 320 km/h (199 mph) in pairs in this country too.

The plans for Renfe with the current management have always been internationally minded. After several years efforts these are now turning true: Renfe will run the AVE 100s from Spain to France. More information has many variations. Some quote starting points as Barcelona and Madrid, and the end points anywhere from Paris to Avignon or Toulouse. As the Renfe international traffic will start this year in France, we will soon see which are the first destinations and if these will be extended all the way to crowded Paris.
Renfe AVE-100 unit running in Alcoela, Spain

Vision TGV story was created for by John McKey. Pictures by Ilkka Siissalo, Focalplane, Richard Oed and John McKey.

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  Part 11: Eurostar Capitals units...

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  Eurostar Capitals, U.K. Class 373

Eurostar Capitals lead by locos 3021 and 3018 at Paris Gare du Nord, France
The Eurostar capitals are close cousins to the other TGV trains, but built for the French, Channel tunnel and U.K. standards. The modular structure and bigger lines are still very similar, but going into the details you find numerous differences from bogies to the aerodynamic shaping.

The Eurostar capitals EMU was designed to run as two half sets coupled together forming a unit with 18 trailers. Both half sets have a locomotive followed by 9 articulated and permanently interconnected coaches, the last coach of each section having a bogie of its own and connecting to the other half. The first coach bogie behind the locomotive is also powered.

Some of the operations factors for the EMUs:

  • To run on French high speed lines the train needed to run 300 km/h (186 mph). As we know something running slower will severely affect all trains behind it.
  • To run into the Channel tunnel the Eurostar capitals units needed several comfort and safety features, pressure seals, enough train length between two escape routes, etc.
  • For U.K., the 750V electric third rail pick up was initially used. Also the old lines restricted loading gauge before the U.K. national High Speed 1 between Channel tunnel and London was completely finished.

Looking at the loading gauge the trains are 10 centimeters narrower than a typical TGV, the length 7 meters shorter than that of the double TGV, but there are 40 seats more than on the TGV-Réseau of the same period (due to 2 missing power cars). Also the locomotives' combined power is 12,2 MW (16,400 hp) to compensate with the increased train length and weight.

The Eurostars have been reported occasional problems with winter weather and traversing between warm tunnel and cold outside air. Some rebuilding to cope with the problems seems to have been done, but nothing to keep traffic rolling when the weather turns really severe.

From the economical side the trains are only suitable for larger routes and selling 790 seats would be challenging to any operation outside the current Paris - London route. This challenge is further multiplied when the tunnel safety norms are harmonized with those of the European Union, maybe allowing trains half the length to run throught it. With smaller trains the new market development is much easier. Two standard 200 meter EMUs can also be split outside the tunnel and directed to two different locations. This is the modularization the older Eurostar Capitals units currently can't compete with.
Eurostar Capitals lead by loco 3018 at Paris Gare du Nord, France
Above the streamlined nose and the current new logo of the Eurostar. Eurostar Capitals lead by locos 3018 and 3001 are seen here at the one of the Europe's busest stations Gare dy Nord in Paris, France. Below another unit stopping at Lille, between the Channel tunnel and Paris.
Eurostar capitals at Lille, France


Eurostar units division StPancras
Here the line to split the two locos + 9 coach Eurostar Capitals class 373 train sections can be seen. Both coaches have their own bogies, not interconnected with articulation. Below a picture of another magnificent train shed at St Pancras in London. St Pancras serves as the other end of the 2:15 dash between Paris, France and London, U.K. Eurostars have been very effective on this line competing with the airlines that once ruled the route.
Eurostar unit 3201 at StPancras, London

Eurostar Capitals units 3214 and 3215 at St Pacras in London
Side by side, ready for another dash to Paris, France from London, U.K...

Vision TGV story was created for by John McKey. Pictures by Ilkka Siissalo, Focalplane, Richard Oed and John McKey.

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  Part 12: Regional Eurostars...

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  Regional Eurostars

Eurostar Regionals loco 3204 at Paris Gare du Nord, France
The Eurostar Capitals also has a smaller sister, called Eurostar North of London" or "Eurostar Regional". These trains profile seems to always have been somewhat unclear. "North of London" would suggest these were intended to be used running from smaller cities than London to continental destinations. However, if you look at the developments there at the time, there were other more immediate railroading concerns needing more attention than building high speed lines. Some served as a leased unit for GNER between London and Leeds. But otherwise the units ended up to secondary use.

7 Regional Eurostars exist. Each consists of two half sets, a power car with 7 interconnected trailers. This formation again is not the standard TGV length, but coincides (probably unintentionally) with that of the German ICE1. The Regional units first bogie closest to the locomotive of the trailer set is again powered. The sets were built at the same time in 1992-3 when the Eurostar Capitals rolled out the assembly lines. Half set 3308 has never been used for revenue service, but for "static testing" and the 3304 is said to be retired. In the picture below it looks like similarly colored locomotives and maybe trailers too for this service have been borrowed from one of the Capital units, along with the unit 3225 below. But generally Eurostar Regionals are this kind of blond nosed units.
Eurostar Regionals loco 3225 at Paris Gare du Nord, France
As you can tell from the pictures, Eurostar has more units than it needs while SNCF high speed TGV service is train hungry with less available capacity than it would wish. This lead years ago to arrangement that the Eurostar Regional units were moved to France where they have served ever since national lines North of Paris. From the numbers on the units in the pictures it would appear even more capacity has been needed.

Note in the picture below the nose section has obviously had need to be rebuilt for several times, likely due to incidents with automobiles and other obstacles on track. The train also carries the TGV sign, misleading a casual observer to think it as a normal TGV unit. Here the TGV sign actually signifies the SNCF high speed service, also known as the TGV. The current SNCF logo as owner of the train set also overlaps the TGV logo here in a company name standard placement. A number of the Eurostar units are not directly owned by Eurostar as a subsidiary of SNCF, but SNCB (Belgian railways) or the SNCF itself. 30xx units are Eurostar owned, 31xx SNCB owned and 32xx owned by SNCF directly.

With small number of units and noncompatible parts and service the Regional Eurostars might be the first TGV like units removed from the regular daily service. Or the next to be refurbished for the next 15 years.
Eurostar Regionals loco 3204 at Paris Gare du Nord, France

Vision TGV story was created for by John McKey. Pictures by Ilkka Siissalo, Focalplane, Richard Oed and John McKey.

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  Part 13: TGV-Duplex, First Doule Decked TGV Units...

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The story continues on page 3...

© Railroad Reference 2004 - 2013   -   Created 18.3.2013 John McKey, Updated 25.4.2013