The Canal du Rhône au Rhin: Mulhouse, Cité du Train

Trans Europ Express

Some say that Mulhouse is the “European capital of Technical Museums”. Undoubtedly “European capital” of anything is a debatable assertion. With that there is no question that the city is home to a cluster of large and interesting technical museums.

Among Mulhouse’s massive exhibition halls is Cité du Train, the museum selected by the Société nationale des chemins de fer français (SNCF, the French national rail company) to preserve and display the artifacts of France’s rail history. The museum houses examples of the rolling stock used in France from the start of its railway age up to the modern era.

Cité du Train

A Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits coach, the historical operator of the Orient Express.

There’s a lot to show. France’s modern rail network is the second largest in Europe. With 100 billion passenger kilometers a year it is the fifth most used passenger network in the world. In 2017 1.8 billion railway journeys were logged in France, roughly 27 per capita. Compare that to United States where there were only 1.6 rail journeys per capita in 2015. The difference speaks to the utility and popularity of the French rail network.

The French rail system didn’t get to where it is today with leaving significant history behind. It’s this history that Cité du Train collects and presents in its 161,000 square feet of space. Visitors pass through the story of French rail on a route that leads from the past to the present. It is an opportunity to see and imagine how life on the French railways has evolved over time.

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Cité du Train is roughly four kilometers from Mulhouse’s port de plaisance. It is easy to reach by bike or by tram. Cité du Train is located near Musée Electropolis. It is easy to visit both museums on a single trip out.

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