Jack drifts down towards Leadhills station © Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2011 A moderately early rise (the snoring in the far side of the room made a good substitute for an alarm clock) meant there was no hurry to catch the ferry - the 7.30 sailing. As the boat pulled away we were tucking into a breakfast which was to last us most of the day - until our return crossing in fact. “Make sure I don’t pull away from a photo-stop on the left-hand side of the road, Steve”. A minor road crosses the railway tracks about half a mile south of the tunnel mouth near Calais, and a good view is possible. Our weather of the previous evening had produced thick fog across the channel, and we now faced the buffeting wind again as mist rolled over the low hill-tops beyond the tunnel mouth. There was plenty of activity here - several shuttles, a couple of Eurostars, and a light class 92. We had hoped to see an international freight train, but our luck was out in this respect. A new station has been built at Calais Frethun, at the start of the LGV (Ligne a Grande Vitesse) to Lille. We spent half an hour here, enough time to see a Calais - Paris TGV depart, and later a Eurostar pass through, sweeping down over the flyover crossing the Boulogne line, and on down the striking gradient towards the tunnel. The French high speed lines are built on the concept of  using gradients rather than curves to cope with the landscape. I had read that a yard at Grande Synthe, on the outskirts of Dunquerque, was a busy spot, so we next headed east along the coastal motorway, and found the yard easily despite Steve’s navigation. A number of yard shunters, similar to BR class 20s, were in action. I had also hoped to see some of the aging steeple-cab electric locos, built in the early days of 25kv electrification. According to Steve’s magazine some are still active in the area; however there were none at Grande Synthe. We observed the considerable amount of activity for an hour or so, then headed out into the country, aiming for the small town of Bergues, where a lane beside the track gave easy access, and a level crossing warned of trains. In just over an hour we saw perhaps seven or eight trains - local push-pull passengers, a couple of freights - a heavy iron ore train for the steelworks at Dunquerque - and a couple of light engine movements. Every single one in the direction of Dunquerque - most frustrating, as the view was better in the other direction. Within minutes of leaving, we saw from the car another long and heavy freight, in the same direction again! No steeple cabs though. We had noticed several locos in yards at Calais, not far from the motorway, so we turned back for what was to be our last gricing spot. Calais Frethun yards are close to the loops at the end of the shuttle terminals, so we were able to see several shuttles as well as operations in the yard, plus the numerous locomotives of various classes stabled in the sidings - including a steeple cab electric, perhaps 50 years older than the two (light) class 92s which passed through. The yard is on the Calais - Boulogne line - we hoped a main line train would pass through. Two trains did - but only when we were back in the car, on our way to the last stop... ...which was of course the hypermarket - can’t go to France without stocking up with a drop of vin, along with some fromage and a saucisse or two! We made it back to the ferry terminal with a few minutes to spare before check-in time; nevertheless we were almost the last car on the ferry. “Is it a holiday in England this week?” asked the French ferry operative. The 75 minute crossing was uneventful, and we were soon on English soil again. The M25 could have been much worse, and by the time we were ready for a break we were at Cherwell Vale services, north of Oxford on the M40. Our gricing was not over however, for as we left the services, we found 35005 “Canadian Pacific” resplendent in its early BR blue livery, on a low loader. “We’ve really seen everything these two days” commented Steve. He was right - a most successful “jaunt”.  SNCF Scenes from the trip described above, plus further French rail action in Brittany, recorded in April '97
Eurostar, Calais Le Shuttle, Calais Shuttle and tunnel, Calais TGV, Calais Frethun TGV at Calais Frethun Eurostar sweeps down from the flyover... ...and continues its descent towards the tunnel DMU, Grande Synthe DMU departure, Grande Synthe 66066... ...and 66033, Grande Synthe 64720, Grande Synthe BB 63570, Grande Synthe French symmetry - Grande Synthe yard 66716 shunts at Grande Synthe Return of the DMU, Grande Synthe ...BB16550 pulls BB16752 leads a double-headed iron ore train, Bergues Push-pull - 16664 pushes... 66401 runs light engine near Bergues Loco assortment, Frethun Ancient and modern 67596 and BB 12077, Frethun Y8242 shunts at Frethun Electric 22219 and cl. 67 diesels Ancient (BB 12077) and Modern 92 023 - and various other things, Frethun yard The bonus - Canadian Pacific 35005 at Cherwell Vale services What a lot of locos!