The Viking Heimdal arrived in Tournon at 1PM. This
was the longest leg of the cruise, as it is approximately 150 kilometers from Avignon to Tournon.
There were two tours today, one to the Tain l'Hermitage for another wine tasting, and the second option was to take a steam train near Saint-Jean-de-Muzols (Train de l'Ardèche) into the Ardeche Mountains. We decided to take the train tour, as it is a very old steam locomotive, and the train would be going through the mountains, with steep gorges and beautiful views.
The steam locomotive was built in 1903, and the cars we rode in were from the same era, so it felt like we had entered a time machine! Seat comfort was not a "design goal" in that era, wooden bench seating with no pads.
The Chemin de fer du Vivarais (CFV) - often called Le Mastrou or Train de l'Ardèche - is a tourist railway in the Ardèche region of the South of France. The metre gauge line is 33 kilometres (21 mi) long. The railway is renowned for its historical steam locomotives in Mallet articulated locomotive style, as well as a collection of historic rolling stock and diesel railcars.
The line runs between Tournon, in the Rhône Valley, and Lamastre in the Doux valley. From Lamastre, the original line ran a further 19 kilometres (12 mi) to Le Cheylard. Originally opened on 12 July 1891, the line closed on 31 October 1968, and reopened as a heritage line the following year. In 2008, heritage services were suspended due to lack of funds to repair steam locomotives, among other issues. In 2013, steam returned to the Vivarais and services were resumed.
Écluse de Caderousse Locks
The locks are located on the Rhône River (24 kilometers north of Avignon), and as you can easily see, the limited height inside the lock is the primary reason why the River Cruise Ships on the Rhône have to leave the sun deck in the collapsed position. On our River Seine Viking Cruise the previous year, all of the locks were open at the top, so the ships could always leave their sun decks in the upright position during the entire cruise.
Our ship passed through these locks on the way to Tournon-sur-Rhône.
Marc Seguin Bridge
This suspension bridge was built in 1847 to connect Tournon to the Hermitage side of the Rhône River. This bridge is now limited to pedestrian usage. Please note that this is not the original bridge, as it was rebuilt at some point.
War Memorial Tournon-sur-Rhône
This war memorial attached to the castle lists those local men who died serving in WWI. It was created by Antoine Sartorio. The limestone memorial, cut into a rock, depicts an "angel of victory" ("une Victoire") who places crowns over the lists of those men of Tournon.
Celeste and I hiked around Tournon-sur-Rhône, to see as much of the village as we could. This castle was originally constructed starting in the tenth century, but what remains today dates from the 15th century and is now a Museum named "Chateau-Musee de Tournon-sur-Rhône".
Saint-Julien church of Tournon-sur-Rhône
Gives you some idea of the age of this village doesn't it? This church was initially constructed starting in 1300.
Train de l'Ardèche Steam Train
We had decided to take the 4 hour tour on the Train de l'Ardèche Steam Train, because it seemed as though it would be fun and it was located in a very scenic part of the mountains near Tournon. Viking arranged it all, and took everyone by bus to the train station where a sufficient number of train cars had to be positioned in order to carry our large tour group.
The bus ride was brief, as the train station is only 5 kilometers from Tournon-sur-Rhône. The geography nearer the river was flatter than the train station area, which was next to the mountains that the train would be travelling through.
Waiting for the Train
And so we hung out for a few minutes, until the train cars were ready for us. Did I mention that it was cold that day?
They have to determine how many passengers are going to take the tour, and then they can have a sufficient number of rail cars ready for everyone. At a point where everyone has boarded the rail cars, the steam engine is attached to the rail cars and the tour commences.
Overlooking the Gorges du Doux
As the train proceeded up the mountain, it looped back and forth over the River Doux below. The entire area the train traversed was geographically interesting. The Doux Valley, is a conservation area where panoramic views appear around every turn!
The River Doux is a tributary of the River Rhone, 70 kilometers in length and flows into the Rhone at Tournon-sur-Rhône.
There were a lot of Bridges
Some additional views of the many bridges that were built to carry the train up the mountain.
There are no roads in this entire area because it is a conservation zone, so all of these bridges were for the railroad only.
Everyone off the Train!
Everyone had to get off the train, so that the engine could moved onto the turnstile to prepare for the return trip. Did I mention that it was cold that day?
The turnstile provided a simple method to turn the locomotive around to prepare for the return trip. Once you remember that there is only a single track here, then you realize why the locomotive needs to be turned around!
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The turnstile operation drew everyone's attention! The locomotive was repositioned much quicker than I would have thought possible.
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Once at the top of the gorge, everyone got off the train, the locomotive was decoupled from the cars and driven onto a turnstile, where the engineer swung the engine around and then he drove it back to the front of the passenger cars and re-coupled for the trip back down the gorge.
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