Monday, May 12, 2008

Doubling the line

When driving between Pont-en-Royans and St-Marcellin [some ten kilometers], you have to cross the train line between Grenoble and Valence. There are several itineraries, most of which include a level crossing over the railway line. Now, whenever I cross that line, my brain recalls a certain anecdote, automatically and systematically. This is a boring nuisance, because it's always the same anecdote, and I would like to be able to say to my brain: "Hey, why can't you recall something else, something new, instead of that same old anecdote?" To be perfectly honest, it's not a bad anecdote at all... which is probably why it always reappears in my mind. Here's the story:

François Marty, a gentle native of south-west France who spoke with a quaint regional accent, was the archbishop of Paris from 1968 up until his retirement in 1981. As a farewell gift, his parishioners at Notre Dame de Paris got together enough cash to purchase an old-fashioned 2-horsepower Citroën: the vehicle that Americans named jokingly "basic automobile".

Upon receiving this gift, the delighted cardinal exclaimed enthusiastically: "This vehicle will take me to Paradise!" Then he drove off into retirement in a Dominican convent in the village of Monteils in south-west France. In 1994, at the age of 90, François Marty attempted to drive his automobile across a level crossing in the vicinity of his village. Before he reached the other side, a train smashed into him, carrying the cardinal and his sweet chariot home to God.

A few days ago, when setting out for the return trip after shopping at the supermarket in Chatte, I was surprised to discover that a familiar level crossing was blocked.

I got out of my vehicle to see what was happening, and I discovered that workers were installing a second set of rails.

I recalled that, a few days earlier, in nearby Vinay (when I was visiting the Danisco factory), I had already viewed work being carried out upon this vast project: doubling the existing railway line between Grenoble and Valence.

Alongside the blocked level crossing, a light-hearted publicity panel announced that, in 2009, we should think about taking the train on this line between Grenoble and Valence.

We see passengers from an automobile, blocked in a traffic jam on an overhead bridge, sliding down a rope to catch the train.

It's perfectly true. I really must get around to taking the train at St-Marcellin, from time to time, to visit Grenoble or Valence. It's such a pleasant and convenient solution, and far less tiring than the automobile. Besides, in Grenoble, there's a fabulous tram system to take you everywhere. When the double line speeds up the train service, there'll be no excuse for not adopting this solution. With such interesting destinations as Grenoble and Valence (pleasant provincial atmosphere, shops, restaurants, cafés, museums, etc), it might be said that trains on this line will surely take us to Paradise!

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