History of the CFTR

Quick introduction

The CFTR birth was not easy at all because it is the result of a split of another heritage railway which already exists nowaday (2015). But now the relationship is far better than for more than 30 years.

At the first beginning

31 founding members, 4 active, 16 support, 1 honorary and 5 corresponding members: this ist the first team of the CFTR! All are volunteers because of the statutes and are experienced in heritage railway operation.

First task after the split: find a private siding from a company which would not have any use for it and would make some section of rails available. The team had luck: a company in Cernay, a small city on the line Mulhouse-Thann-Kruth, was agreed to lend some place to park the first locomotives and wagons that the team would save before finding a short line where to operate.

While other members were looking for new locomotives and wagons, the future president and the actual secretary found a short line which was not already used for touristic operation and didn't belong to the french railways SNCF (something which is massive unfavourable). In fact, it was the industrial-type railway from Volgelsheim to Marckolsheim, owned by the Port Rhenan de Colmar and operated by it. This authority and few others like the rhine port of Colmar, the autonomous port of Strasbourg, the waterways) have been approached and after few discussions, all the concerned persons agreed to let the association use the short line for free!

The association could now be founded. The future president wrote the statutes and the secretary helped for this very important task: the goal was to avoid the difficulties that lead to the past split.

Founding the association

On july the 4th, 1982 the CFTR was founded as nonprofit organization, after the law of 1907 (In Alsace the laws are on some points diffrent then in the rest of France because of the german history of our region). First operation day was on july the 9th, 1983, only one year after its birth! The huge work that have been done in this short period of time is just unbelievable. Wagons and locomotives have been preserved, tracks laid, a depot erected and this only on week-ends and by volunteers!! But this is only the beginning of a long history: to repatriate the locomotives that belong to the members and were still housed at the precedent heritage railway is very difficult. A lot of money and time are spent to convoy the materials to Volgelsheim and it is nearly impossible to use the rail because the french railways are absolutely not interested in helping the volunteers.

 Short chronology :

End of 1981:

Project of a new heritage railway in Alsace.

April 6th, 1982:

Agreement about a private siding in Cernay.

April 18th, 1982:

Agreement with the Port Rhenan de Colmar  for operating from Volgelsheim to Marckolsheim.

July 4th, 1982:

Official founding date of the CFTR.

January 1983:

Recycling of sections of rails in Cernay to equip de depot. Volunteers lay the tracks by themselves. Depot is built by a specialized             company.

July 9th, 1983:

Official inauguration of the short line: the steam locomotive Fives-Lille pulls the first train.

February 17th, 1984:

The 030 TB 130 is finished and can be operated.


Agreements with a german boat operator to combine train and boat on the Rhine river.

April 1984:

The Baldwin A1A-A1A 62029 is bought by a founding member in Lens.

December 2d, 1984:

First general meeting of the CFTR.


First operation with the combination train + boat.


At the Raft of Sans-Soucis, an siding is inaugurated.

June 12th, 1988:

First operation on the line Colmar-Munster-Metzeral for the 120th birthday of this line. Perhaps one of the most succesful                             circulation of the association with thousands of visitors in the valley.

October 16th, 1989:

Celebration of the 150th anniversary of the linee Mulhouse-Thann.


Restauration of the 2d 030TB (the 134) and operation in double unit with the 130. Making of the film: "Un été alsacien."

June 29, 1991:

The 141TB424 and the so called "Rame Alsace" (suburb train from Paris East) are now hosted at the CFTR.

July 2d, 1991:

The city of Volgelsheim buys the train station. Goal: make if available to the CFTR to simplify the operation.

September 7th and 8th, 1991:

Anniversary of the line Strasbourg-St Louis with operation of the 030TB130 on the short line Sélestat-La Vancelle and                                 Colmar-Turckheim.

May 10th, 1992:

First operation of the 141TB424 which will serve regularly now outside of the line Volgelsheim-Marckolsheim, that's to say for                     example on Strasbourg-Sarreguemines, or for special operations to the railway museum in Mulhouse and other circulations. This             shows that the SNCF, who owns the locomotive, has good trust in the technical capabilities of the CFTR.

November 4th, 1992:

Arrival of the postal van.


Last operation of the 141TB424 which will return to the SNCF, including the rame Alsace. Last operation was on september                         28th, 1997.


2 new locomotives have been preserved: the LLD and a Baudet-Donon-Roussel, BDR.

May 5th, 1998:

15th Anniversary of the CFTR with the first operation of the Henschel.


The 030TB134 is finished.

May 22th,1999:

The Ulmer Eisenbahn Freunde (UEF)  has organized a travel with 300 personnes coming from Stuttgart and who want to reach                 Bern in Switzerland. The association will participate to the 300th anniversary of the city of  Neuf-Brisach.

May 21st, 2000:

Centenary of the both 030TB: 2 new Diesel Multiple Units X73500 are to be seen in Volgelsheim: these are the new passenger                 trains operated by the Region Alsace.

July 2001:

The first german boat mastern reaches the retirement age. The BFS who operates boats in Breisach as well is contacted. This                change brings some advantages: the boats are longer, have a higher capacity and are of bether quality but some changes in the                 operation are needed.

Now it is necessary to get on the boat in the Rhine port, some few meters from the depot. A dock has to be created which will                       be financed by subventions.

October 2001:

The city of Volgelsheim, the SIVOM, the VNF, the Rhine port of Colmar agree to finance the project. The channel from Rhone river             to Rhine river will be reactivated.


New processes and rules have to be defined because the authorities want to increase the safety of the touristes.

The 20th anniversary of the CFTR should be organized in may 2003.

April 27th, 2003:

The worst which could happen: a fatal accirdent. The association looses a very dedicated volunteer, 2 others are injured.                             Immediately, the operation are stoped and an investigation is opened. The anniversary won't be celebrated.

On August the 16th, the association is allowed to start the operation again. This is a very late date for the association who can not             repair and survive without income.

May 15th, 2004:

The inauguration of the dock which was forecast for 2003 can finally take place one year later. Even in use since some few                         weeks, the dock is officially opened.

August 8th, 2004:

First time that the french national TV TF1 comes to us and shoots a news!

Video is to be found here!

June 2005:

Not a really nice time for the association: the mayor of Volgelsheim, Mr Mann, who was very dedicated to its job, dies suddenly.                 Mr Mann has all the time supported the association, even in 2003 when the accident happened.

Nowadays (2015), the association has less then 55 members. Only 10 to 15 come to the depot on a regularly base to repair and               operate the trains, from Pentecost to the end of september.

We are an international association because we have swiss and geman volunteers!

To close this short presentation, we would like to thank the city of Volgelsheim and its mayor, who has made a huge investment                 in buying and restauring the train station, which helps the operation. The historical value of the station is evident and now, it is                     used again for a steam train!. For the CFTR the image is by far better: in the past, the tourists had to board in the depot, which                     was quite... inconvenient!

Whithout its involvement, the CFTR would not have had the authorization to start the operation so quickly after the terrible accident             of 2003.

The both 030TB in a dreadful state: thousand of hours were spent to make them available again!! (Cernay, 1983)

Beginning  Steamlocomotives