Did you known? A real train so rare, we will never see it in N scale, or any scale for that matter!

Hoping everyone is having a great summer! I don’t have much time for my layout these days, but I’ll be back! In the meantime, an interesting factoid about a real train…

The Principality of Monaco, also known for its Casino district (Monte-Carlo), is the world second smallest independent nation (2 sq. km or about 0.8 sq mile). The only train station is underground, linking Monaco to the surrounding France on both sides. To the west: Nice, Cannes, Marseilles and so on. To the east: Menton and then Italy.

5 of those red & white trains exist in the world

TER Monaco in Monaco

TER Monaco in the underground “Monaco Monte-Carlo” train station

Monaco does not have any railway opeator. The French SNCF has a concession for Monaco’s only train station.
The train station is for the most part under Monegasque territory; which means technically it is neither in France nor even in the European Union! But for all intents and purposes, Monaco is just another French SNCF station.

However in 2007, the Principality of Monaco invested in 5 trains to support the growing commuter traffic between Cannes and Italy; including thousands of French commuters coming to work in the Principality every day. They were given to the French SNCF.

TER Monaco in Monaco

Livery with mention of the French region and Monaco.

TER & TGV in Monaco

TER & French TGV in Monaco

They are standard SNCF rolling stock (Z26500). More pictures are available on this page. A video of mine is on top of the article (made in Nice station).ย  Be sure to check out this other (and better) video from another Youtube user:

Railway secession

Unfortunately, things did not work as planned. The French SNCF suffers from dozens ofย  strikes each year; the poor and overused state of the tracks in this mountainous region also doesn’t help.
The trains (including, but not limited to those bought and paid by Monaco) are regularly sprayed, and nobody in France cares or has the means to prevent it anymore. What the French consider normal would be shocking (and subject to prosecution) in many neighbouring countries…if only Monaco had left its trains to be operated by the Swiss Railways!

Close to 20 000 jobs in Monaco rely on a good railway connection. But France does not deliver. Ironically and sadly, mostly French people who need the Monaco jobs are the ones suffering.

This all nearly lead to a small – albeit international – crisis. A few years ago, the then State Minister of Monaco (equivalent to the Prime Minister), threatened France. Even after the delivery of those new trains, the railway service wasn’t getting better. The Monaco Government threatened to end the SNCF concession on Monaco’s train station and territory, which effectively meant declaring the small country’s “railway independence”. In the end, as in any good French epiphany… nothing much happened.

TGV in Monaco

French TGV in Monaco

Meanwhile the 2007 TERs are getting old too quickly and the French SNCF needs a wake up call. France will also soon be forced to open its national and international railway market. Let’s hope someday Monaco will launch their own railway operator, and start teaching the SNCF a friendly lesson with better service and new unique trains ! But, can a country as small as Monaco – with only one train station – launch its own railway company?ย  We shall see!
Who knows, some exotic model train manufacturers might even decide to release limited series of Monegasque trains models!

What do you think? Isn’t that an interesting and unique railway small story?
Enjoy the rest of the summer, whether you are close to a railway track or on a sunny quiet beach!