On a parlé de l’AFAC dans la presse américaine grâce à Nancy Honicker qui est journaliste pour un groupe de journaux américains dans l'état de Pennsylvanie.

Elle écrit un article mensuel sur  la France, toujours sur un sujet qui pourrait intéresser un lecteur américain.

Dans l'état de Pennsylvanie le chemin de fer était longtemps inséparable de l'exploitation minière du charbon et dans la région des mines d'anthracite où je suis née, on s'intéresse toujours beaucoup aux trains et aux trains miniatures.

C’est la raison pour laquelle, le 22 février, elle a publié un article sur l'AFAC dans Le Republican Herald, un jounal de Pottsville (PA).

Voici l’article :


'Railside France' brings back memories 

Published: February 22, 2015

Old-timers like to reminisce. I guess I'm an old-timer, then, because ever since I visited the headquarters of the French Association of Friends of the Rails (AFAC: Association française des amis des chemins de fer), I'm alive with memories of train travel the way it used to be in the "olden days" of Schuylkill County a half-century ago!

The headquarters of AFAC, an association dedicated to all facets of rail technology, is located in the basement of Gare de l'Est, one of the six major train stations of Paris, serving points in eastern France and Germany.

Beneath the station, you can also find a shopping center, a parking lot and a metro station where three lines cross. Somewhere in that underground labyrinth there is a door, behind that door, a hallway and then another door that leads to an old-fashioned wooden staircase. At the top, AFAC opens every Saturday afternoon to those lucky visitors who have found their way.

Once inside, once past the administrative office and the library, where a group of white-haired men deep in discussion ignore the bustle of visitors, we enter "Railside France," a world in miniature, where model trains traveling at speeds equivalent to 80 mph rush through tunnels and around sharp curves, crossing towns, cities, mountains and countryside that replicate the urban and physical geography of France.

The association possesses three platforms, all of which conform in the minutest detail to the standards of the French rail system, right down to the switching equipment and the railway signals. The most popular, built to the HO scale of 1:87 (model train buffs will understand), has an oval circuit with about 150 feet of track where 16 electric engines can run at the same time. There is even a terminus with 10 station platforms and nearby repair and cleaning stations.

The model trains, all replicas of engines and cars that run or once ran on French tracks, pull into stations that could be nowhere else but in France. Anyone who has ever traveled there will recognize the two-story country stations with their red-tiled roofs and stucco facades painted in pastel tones.

On the miniature platforms travelers wait for the train, some leaning out over the tracks, others seated on benches, with, on the wall behind them, posters that look like the real thing, as do the station clock and the sign with the station's name.

High in the miniature Alps, a model train fitted with cog wheels zigzags in and out of mountain tunnels. In Provence, a train traverses a valley between hills with stone villages perched on the slopes.

In honor of the station, which is home to the association, originally called Gare de Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace, members have built by hand a miniature main street of an Alsatian town. Naturally, there is also a replica of Gare de l'Est and just like the station above, recently renovated, its miniature underwent a major overhaul in 2014.

Wandering from room to room, from platform to platform, from one miniature corner of France to another, I'm reminded of my first visit to Roadside America in Shartlesville. I can't remember if it was an outing with the church choir or with the Brownies, but I'll never forget my fascination and delight with the miniature main streets lined with houses whose windows glowed, making me feel as if miniature families really lived inside.

"Railside France" may not be as grand as Roadside America, "the world's greatest indoor miniature village," but it is a fitting tribute to a nation that has built a first-class rail network for both passengers and freight.

Freight trains still cross Schuylkill County, still hauling coal, but in no way can the tonnage compare to the days after World War I when the Saint Clair coal and rail yard was the biggest car and engine repair station in the nation and the biggest coal yard in the world.

I still remember the rows and rows of tracks and the huge round house, which I could see from the Mill Creek Bridge when I was a child. After it closed in 1964, I visited it with my father and finally got up close to the monumental building, circling it, looking up at its glass and cement walls, feeling very small.

I also remember the Reading Station on East Norwegian Street, as I imagine many readers do. It was a big wooden structure, brown and tan (in my memories), Victorian in style, with a covered porch facing Railroad Street and the William Penn Hotel.

Sometimes I'd go to the station to wait for my father to come home from a business trip, running to him when he stepped off the train, dressed in the elegant way men dressed in those days: he wore a blocked felt hat and an overcoat over his gabardine suit.

Sometimes I'd go there to catch the train myself. My Aunt Mildred often took me to Reading to go shopping and have lunch at the Crystal Restaurant. On rare occasions, we'd travel all the way to Philadelphia to visit the eagle at Wanamaker's and eat at the automat.

Memories, memories! The Crystal Restaurant, the eagle at Wanamaker's, the automat, young readers may have no idea of what I'm talking about, but old-timers like me surely do.

They probably also remember the quiet beauty of the train ride between Schuylkill Haven and Hamburg, which followed the path of the Schuylkill Canal through thick forests until it reached the Kernsville Dam. For miles, the train left the noise of highways and cars behind, traveling beneath a canopy of green in summer, through pristine fields of white in wintertime.

I loved that train and I rode it until service between Pottsville and Philadelphia was discontinued around 1980. The train was fast, quiet, relaxing. Too bad it had to come to an end.

Today train travel is making a comeback in the U.S. and there are predictions a high-speed rail network could be in place by 2030.

In France, the first high-speed train, the TGV, joined Paris to Lyon in 1981, cutting travel time in half. Soon afterward the first miniature TGV showed up at AFAC headquarters, where members are too busy keeping up with the times to feel nostalgic about the past.

Liens ;

Le blog de Nancy Honicker : http://pottsville-paris-express.blogspot.fr/. Vous retrouverez le même article agrémenté de photographies

L’article sur le site du Republican Herald: http://republicanherald.com/news/railside-france-brings-back-memories-1.1835551