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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 June, 2003, 22:50 GMT 23:50 UK
Paris marks age of the train

By Hugh Schofield
In Paris

Train on Champs-Elysees in Paris
The train forms part of a month-long exhibition on France's love of trains

The people of Paris have been treated to an unusual spectacle - the sight of a train travelling up the Champs-Elysees.

As part of an open-air exhibition on the history of rail travel, a mile of track was specially laid down for one day.

An avenue normally teeming with motor vehicles was, on Sunday, the preserve of pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers and one real-life, full-scale train.

The three carriages, with a locomotive at either end, travelled the mile or so from the Place de la Concorde to a point near the Arc de Triomphe at a leisurely pace.

Each of the 15 trips took a full half-an-hour, and hundreds of security personnel lined the track to prevent accidents.

Strike problems

The rail itself and the tons of ballast had been laid down over a number of nights during the last week.

People walk by an 1852 train on Champs Elysees in Paris
Futuristic and historic trains are on display, including one dating back to 1852
It is all part of a month-long show of a type the French are masters at.

The theme is rail travel and, lining the Champs-Elysees, are early steam engines, a presidential Pullman suite, a cattle truck like those used for transport to the Nazi death camps, and the latest TGV fast train with interiors by Christian Lacroix.

The French love their trains, and life on the railways is treated in a number of displays.

But one all-too-familiar aspect is tactfully omitted - the strike.

The latest national stoppage starts, by an unfortunate coincidence, on Monday evening.

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21 May 03  |  SOL

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