Once upon a time, the TGV… The pioneers tell the story

The film “Once upon a time, the TGV… The pioneers tell the story” illustrates the saga of the origins of the TGV, a creation of SNCF and its railway workers. It pays tribute to all the men who participated in the early TGV adventure—men who dared, who believed in high-speed rail, in the future of railways. Enthusiastic men who came together to overcome challenges and achieve remarkable feats.

2021 marked the 40th anniversary of the commercial launch of the TGV on the new high-speed line between Paris and Lyon. It represented a significant technological advancement and a major breakthrough in the way of traveling by train in our country and beyond.

To commemorate this anniversary, the Archives and Documentation Service of the SNCF group unearthed a large number of documents that trace the high-speed adventure and the numerous experiments and inventions that ultimately made the “TGV” project a reality.

This work, which engaged all the entities of our service, takes the form of a film whose script is narrated by the actors of this epic journey. It is based on both the engineers’ notebooks, pioneers of high-speed rail and the inventions that made it possible, a few years later, and on illustrations from our collections, including films, photographs, or documents, allowing us to visualize the various phases of this human and technological adventure. It summarizes the history of the TGV from the world speed record achieved on March 28 and 29, 1955, in the Landes region at 331 km/h to its commercial service debut at 260 km/h on September 27, 1981.

The highlights of the video

  • From 1 min. 12: “Introduction”
  • From 4 min. 11: “Design of the TGV”
  • From 11 min. 21: “Ideal working conditions”
  • From 12 min. 40: “Project C03”
  • From 20 min. 26: “The first time on board”
  • From 23 min. 56: “The electric TGV”
  • From 28 min. 03: “The speed record”
  • From 34 min. 36: “The quality of public service”