Claimed to be a train like no other, the ‘La Micheline’ railcar was a revolutionary invention of the 1930’s. The railcar (Carel-et-Fouché) was one of a limited number of experimental trains built in France in 1952 by the Michelin tyre company. Their aim was to provide a smoother journey to their passengers by using rubber tyres instead of conventional steel wheels. Unfortunately the concept never really took off, partly because of regular punctures but also due to their inability to handle heavy loads. Nonetheless, several remained in service in Madagascar until the 1990’s when they finally retired from regular passenger service.
In 2010, railcar No. 517 was restored and brought back into service – primarily for tourists. It is painted in a striking pure white livery and was nicknamed ‘Viko-Viko’, the name of a Malagasy bird. The railcar glides along the tracks at 50 km /h from Antananarivo to Andasibe in the east or Antsirabe in the south on a few days every month*. Inside the cabin, you will find nineteen white washed wicker armchairs, a floor made of bamboo and a small bar at the back. La Micheline is piece of Madagascar’s history; a travelling museum and should you be lucky enough for it to be in service, you will be able to enjoy spectacular Madagascan scenery from the comfort of a uniquely designed, rubber tyre rail vehicle (*not in service at the time of visit).
Timetable & Cost
Other Carel-et-Fouché examples
No. 514 ‘Vintsy’ displayed at “L’Aventure Michelin” museum in Clermont-Ferrand, France
No. 516 ‘Fandrasa’ (ex. ‘Tsikirity’) located at Fianarantsoa carriage works on the Fianarantsoa-Côte Est railway
Where to look for more information?
The official Madarail website, www.madarail.mg (opens in new tab) shows up-to-date information about this touristic service. Hover over 'VOYAGES' and click on 'trains touristiques' for further details.
I was shown around the La Micheline railcar, 'Viko-Viko' on Friday 24th April 2016 by Lalaina, an employee of Madarail by prior request. Viko-Viko is currently parked up in Antananarivo shed (not visible from Cafe de la Gare) as unfortunately, due to track conditions the touristic trains have been suspended until further notice - a real shame.