Broadcast on France 3 National on 5 September 1980 at 9.30 pm, the musical En… Train claimed to offer “entertainment at the French Railways Museum in Mulhouse”. But this was not just yet another entertainment show; it was an original piece of television that was commented in the press. Costumes, dance routines, piano interludes and above all the presence of the artist Marcel Amont, who began by reminding viewers of his special relationship with the railways, turned the 52-minute show into a high point of the history of museum-related events.
On 19 June 1976 at 10 am, almost five years to day since the opening of the temporary museum in Mulhouse North, the final museum opened its doors in Dornach. Five years were sufficient for restoring more machines, moving them, building the new building and publicising the French Railways Museum for the ever larger number of visitors. Looking back, the half roundhouse appears like a museum laboratory, where the collection, and more importantly its organisation, were tried out. While the last elements of rolling stock travelled to their final home, Jean-Mathis Horrenberger and Michel Doerr were preparing the inauguration, scheduled a few weeks later. In 1978, visitors looking at the locomotive 232 U 1 were startled by the sound track now in place, in sync with the movement of the coupling rods. The machine was ready to “start”.
From one station
and the TGV
That French-Italian sculptor was one of the greatest manufacturers of his time. In 1909, after experience gained principally at De Dietrich, he set up his automobile plant in Molsheim, a town located to the southwest of Strasbourg. While the Royale was the icon of his industry, Bugatti was also very interested in the railways.
The presidential railcar, which stepped off the production lines in 1933, is a sign of that interest. It was operated by SNCF till 1953, become a rolling laboratory until 1975 and was then selected to join the collection of the French Railways Museum.
After restoration work in the workshop of Bischheim, its carmine livery blended with TGV orange. That marriage of colours and forms, amplified by the granular appearance of the slides, in itself symbolises the development of design over the 20th century.
A period room
The electric cube
“[…] you promoted the idea, brought together all the goodwill, drove the convergence of efforts, then after becoming the Director of the museum in gestation, you defined the floor plan and specified the details. One wonders from where you derive the power to turn a childhood dream into a reality admired by over a million visitors.”
– Award to Michel Doerr of the decoration of the Légion d’honneur, speech by André Portefaix at the ceremony of 19 October 1983
From the office windows, the decorated team carefully watched the comings and goings of cranes and trucks. A new building was emerging on Rue du Pâturage. This was the centre of energy, which would become Electropolis. Five years after the saving of the Sulzer-BBC machine of the company DMC, the outer walls of the cube were being erected. The EDF museum, designed by the architects Morin and Fanuele, opened in 1987 and inaugurated in 1992, set out to display the epic of electricity. The institution is developing all the time, and offers a space dedicated to innovation since 2018. A rotor from the nuclear power station of Fessenheim, which arrived in the night from 6 to 7 April 2021, stands proudly at the centre of the electric garden. This 153-tonne object is the latest large acquisition of the partner museum.
A museum with
Under its domed roof, a screening room was installed, marking the birth of the Ciné-rail. This panoramic cinema was the third Omnimax theatre in France, with 99 seats, and was intended mainly for screening documentaries. Hydro and Images de Hollande were among the catalogue of short films shown between 1989 and 1990, offering visitors and cinema buffs of Mulhouse “sensations and images that will take your breath away!”
“Voyage in the world
“A coffee, one last ride, and we leave!”
The restaurant was a key element in that experience, with the formal and information exchange fostered by the delicious fare of Alsace.
Located on the first floor of the office building, the restaurant was also the “canteen” for office employees of La Mer Rouge district. And while their parents enjoyed a cup of coffee, children clambered onto the little train which went around the cultural dome.
15 km per hour is a lot when you are little! Especially when the train is in reverse!
Mulhouse, capital of technical museums
Work of 1995 and storage at the musem
of the Museum
as a film set
2003 : Train Capital
In 2002, the museum was in a state of high agitation. Some rolling stock was getting ready to leave its Vosges valley for the streets of Paris. This major event, which was widely filmed, commented and photographed, was called “Train Capital”. From 17 May to 15 June 2003, the Buddicom, the Crampton, the BB 9004, the PR2 and the ambulance carriage were displayed on the Champs-Elysées to an enchanted public. The event organised by SNCF in partnership with Bombardier, Alstom and Siemens turned out to be a Titanesque enterprise. From Mulhouse to Paris, its organisation required many months of preparation and the support of the army, particularly for convoys travelling by road. This open-air exhibition, which put the SNCF collection on show, also created a sense of nostalgia. More than a century after the Universal Exposition of 1900, the words of Maurice Bixio still echo between the service roads of the most beautiful avenue in the world.
From the French Railways Museum to the Cité du Train
While the original building A would be retained, buildings B and C give way to a large and colourful hall: the Show Tour. The move was mainly aimed at remedying decreasing attendance and rejuvenating the image of the museum. At the same time, the firm Culture Espace, which was already in charge of managing the automobile museum in Mulhouse, was appointed as the manager.
A new era began: that of the Cité du Train.