The “Train des Mouettes”: the Seudre estuary aboard a time machine

La Tremblade
The “Train des Mouett ...

Have you always dreamed of riding a steam train? Between La Tremblade (fr) and Saujon, relive the charms of the journeys of yesteryear by boarding the “Train des Mouettes” pulled by the oldest steam locomotive in France! Listed as a historic monument, the locomotive takes you along the most bucolic railway line in Charente-Maritime: along the Seudre estuary. An original railway adventure, picturesque and full of nostalgia for some, combining an incredible experience with the pleasure of discovering new landscapes, comfortably seated aboard cars dating from the beginning of the 20th century. Ladies and gentlemen, be careful at the start!


Mornac

Typical landscapes of the Seudre Estuary like here in Mornac

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Go back in time and relive the golden age of the railway

It is a journey of 21 km but above all a journey through time, a leap in the past which transports us back a century and allows us to relive the epic of the railroad in an idyllic setting surrounded by railway enthusiasts. The start of this adventure is from the two tourist stations connected by the railway line: on one side that of La Tremblade, in the heart of the marshes of the Arvert peninsula and on the other, the station of Saujon, a charming little town crossed by the Seudre. As you have understood, the route of the "Train des Mouettes" runs along part of the Seudre estuary, the smallest river in France. It stretches for 67 km before joining the Atlantic, bordered by a mosaic of waterways, salt marshes, mudflats, channels, pastures, basins and oyster villages. This real arm of the sea is a unique and picturesque territory to discover aboard this century-old steam train, while daydreaming in front of the landscapes that pass by at an average speed of 25 km/h. A timeless and contemplative journey in perspective!


Seagull Train  Seagull Train


The good idea Read our article on the Little Train of Saint-Trojan, if you like locomotives!


Arriving at the small station of La Tremblade, the visitor reception office is none other than an authentic postal car dating from 1926. immediately immerses us in the atmosphere of yesteryear: old objects are exhibited, everything seems frozen in time.


Seagull Train  Seagull Train

By car! Notice the cars open to the outside


After collecting our tickets comes the long-awaited moment to board. We are guided by the happy volunteers who make up the day's crew and who work tirelessly to perpetuate the great spectacle of steam!


The good idea After the train, fancy a boat trip? Read our article on the prettiest boat trips in Charente Maritime.


Seagull Train

Seagull Train  Seagull Train

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A journey to conquer the heritage of the estuary

Dressed in period clothes, Marie, our chef de train, shares with us a multitude of information on the history of this "iron lady" who captivates all eyes. Indeed, the "Progrès" locomotive, dating from 1891, is one of the first outputs of the Creusot factories in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. This locomotive-tender has the particularity of transporting the coal which feeds it near its two water tanks, on either side of the boiler. To complete the La Tremblade – Saujon round trip, ie 42 km, this legendary machine over 130 years old swallows up 3,500 liters of water and nearly 800 kg of coal!


Seagull Train  Seagull Train

Seagull Train  Seagull Train


The whistles resound on the platform, the train starts in a succession of dull noises, spitting a plume of smoke. At the controls of the locomotive, three men share the tasks: the driver in charge of fueling the combustion of coal with the shovel, the driver and the mechanic. Quite a team effort! Operating a steam locomotive is a physical profession. The “Train des Mouettes” now winds its way through the peaceful landscapes of the Saujonnaise plains. The magic is there!


Seagull Train  Seagull Train


We soon arrive at Chaillevette station for an unmissable stopover: refueling with coal. Without getting off the train, we witness, fascinated, this laborious work. The train sets off again, towards Mornac-sur-Seudre, one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France” nestled in the middle of the marshes. Some passengers decide to stop there to take advantage of the gentle way of life in this oyster-farming village where many artists have settled. We decide to continue the route to Saujon station to complete the complete route and venture into the village of Saujon and its port of Ribérou before the train leaves!


Seagull Train  Seagull Train

Mornac sur Seudre

Seagull Train  Seagull Train  Seagull Train

The maneuvers to turn the locomotive and go back in the opposite direction

Saujon Station  Saujon Station

Saujon station includes a small souvenir shop, local products and exhibits period equipment

A new breath of life for the “Oyster Train”!

In this oyster-farming region between land and sea, the small railway line leaving La Tremblade for Saujon could have disappeared forever. It was opened in 1876 for the transport of local goods (salt, resin, vinegar and oysters). ) At the beginning of the 1980s, two enthusiasts observed with a pinch in their hearts this disused railway line, definitively closed by the SNCF. Very quickly, the idea of reviving these rails germinated in the minds of two friends, Richard Verger and François Prineau. The association of the “Chemin de Fer Touristique de la Seudre” was then born and volunteers gathered their strength to gather the equipment necessary for the operation of the rails. The following years were marked by financial difficulties and it was not until 2008 that a handful of amateurs and former railway workers founded the current association "Trains & Tractions" to take over the "Train des Huîtres" renamed “Le Train des Mouettes” on this railway line, now owned by the Charente Maritime department. Since then, thanks to the relentlessness of more than 120 volunteers, these locomotives have been renovated, maintained and today transport more than 35,000 annual visitors. The two steam locomotives used come from the Creusot factories and date from 1912 and 1891. The latter is also a real treasure: the oldest locomotive in working order in France! Transmission of knowledge, duty of memory and preservation of railway heritage are the deep motivations of this team of enthusiasts who accompany us on these timeless journeys...


The good idea Read our article on Charente Maritime oysters to learn more about this gastronomic delight, acclaimed throughout France!


Seagull Train


Useful information :

Find the timetables on www.traindesmouettes.fr (fr)


Seagull Train


In July & August, embark on themed trains: Le Train du Marché and Le Train des Loupiotes! During these 2 months, Saturday is the day of maintenance of steam locomotives. The train runs on a diesel locomotive dating from the 1950s.

The return ticket is valid all day: you get on and off as you please. The train stops for 5 minutes at Mornac sur Seudre and Chaillevette. The one-way trip takes around 1h15, count 3h outing for a round trip. No ticket office is available at Mornac sur Seudre and Chaillevette stations.


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Article and photos prepared by Lesley Williamson for the Guide Charente Maritime


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