all the year round and provides an excellent way of visiting towns such as Font Romeu if you
wish to avoid the alternative of the twisting road route. It
is rated as a Unesco heritage site and the only railway higher
than this in daily use is the Darjeeling-Himalaya.
The railway dates from the early 20th
century and was built to provide a practical way of accessing
the high plateaux of
Catalonia. On the way to Font-Romeu you will pass through Bolquére-Eyne,
the highest station in the French railway network at 1,592m.
The line goes on to La-Tour-de-Carol - Enveigt, where there is
a connection to the SNCF main line, with services to Toulouse.
The Yellow train consists of both closed carriages and open
trucks with wooden seating. Perhaps the best option for comfort
and view is one of the closed carriages which has a platform
at either end. Here you have the best of both worlds - reasonably
comfortable seating and the opportunity to stand on the outside
for photography when you reach some of the more spectacular points
on the route.
The Yellow Train starts it's journey
from a station about 1 km. before the road reaches the walled
town of Villefranche-de-Conflent.
It can be reached by road from Perpignan in about 30-40 minutes
(~70kms.), although there is also a connection via the normal
SNCF railway line from Perpignan.
Either before or after the train ride
it is worth spending some time walking around the old town,
although in summer it becomes
somewhat of a tourist trap with many gift shops selling souvenirs
of the Catalan region. However the restaurant, Auberge Saint-Paul,
in the corner at the far end of the town can be highly recommended
- the lunch menu can be particularly good value. Also close by
is the Fort Libéria which can be reached after a climb
up the hill above the town.
If you take the train as far as
Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via (35km. and about 1h. 40m. from the
start) you can walk to the
site of the Solar Furnace (the largest in the world) about 1km
down the road. Here you can visit a small exhibition where you
can watch a short video (they have versions in English as well
as French) telling the story of the site, which is used for the
testing of materials at high temperatures by using the focussed
rays of the sun. Outside you can see the giant mirror system (1800
m2) which is used to operate the furnace (3,500 °C), located
here because it is one of the sunniest places in France.
From the station you can take a small shuttle bus (navette)
which goes to the skiing town of Font-Romeu (1,750m. alt.) about
3 kilometres away and further up the mountain. This town has
two seasons, the skiing season which gets underway from January
to the end of April and a summer season during June to August
when the town is popular with walkers who want to explore the
area. There are plenty of cafes and bars in the town where during
the seasons you can rest awhile and have a coffee, ice-cream
or maybe lunch before returning to your starting point.