“A journey through space and time” aboard the Geotrain

“Songs include fossilized coconuts and shark teeth”

The project was launched last year at the initiative of Pau Geology Association Geolval and in partnership with SNCF, local authorities and tourism offices. When learning about the renovation of the historic TER line between Pau and Canfranc, the association saw the opportunity to propose a public commented tour of the geological history of the Pyrenees. About fifty people took the TER at the height of the morning.

This Tuesday, August 2, apprentice geologists settle in a reserved square in front of the train. Annie Lacazeau, hat on her head and a bag full of stones on her shoulder, welcomed the small group. “The zigzag railway line corresponds to the geological landscape”, explained the president of the association, showing the large schematic map.

Geological expansion

“We are going to take a journey through space and time. By observing the mountain, we see layers corresponding to periods. Like a pile of comics in a teenager’s room, you know? asks the guide to the two young men by the window.

Evan and Nathan are 13 years old. The first is fond of science, the second was “forced” by his mother sitting opposite him. Angélique Marchand has been waiting for this trip for three years and is considering joining the GéolVal association.


You have to pay attention to the landscape to observe the rock formations mentioned by Anne Lacazeau, president of the Association Geolval. “You almost need a panoramic roof to see well,” he says

Anna Paul/South West

Neophytes can be assured, the trip is accessible to all. “Geology and I are zero”, guesses Elisabeth Lemason, Annie Lacazeau’s friend participating in the trip for the first time. “We go for walks with Annie where she explains geology, but sometimes we pick up, eh”, laughs the retiree. He is pleased with the highly instructive speech of the retired SVT Academy Inspector.

The untagged TER was specifically chosen by SNCF for obvious reasons of visibility. While passing through Jurançon, we learn about the existence of a soil with a strange name: Puddingstone. The subject is not English cuisine, but the rocks, visible at the foot of the vines.

A little further, Lynx’s Eye has the chance to see a fossilized underwater lava flow

Underwater lava and glaciers

“These are solar heaters. The rocks absorb heat during the day and redistribute it to the ground at night,” said the retired geologist. A little further, Lynx Eye is lucky enough to see a fossilized underwater lava flow, which quickly appears behind a grove of bamboo.

Terminus at Bedus, hilltop.  The rest of the line, which goes to the magnificent Canfranc station converted into a hotel, is being renovated.


Terminus at Bedus, hilltop. The rest of the line, which goes to the magnificent Canfranc station converted into a hotel, is being renovated.

Anna Paul/South West

Then, towards the plains of Arudi, a cold snap in geologic time, the train moves from tropical to glacial. “There’s a glacial moraine,” begins the guide before being interrupted by Ivan’s exclamation. ” I know what it is ! ” He said casually how the plain was formed after the glaciers broke up, named after the floods that followed the melting of the glaciers.

Near Sarens, the TER is running slow due to the collapse of a retaining wall on the railway viaduct last February. A chance for Annie to rest, and for the small group to observe the 150,000 tonnes of ballast within the rails, these small pink, gray and green stones coming from Scandinavia and the Basque Country.

Arriving at Bedus, the small group discovers magnificent fossils, such as the ammonites here.


Arriving at Bedus, the small group discovers magnificent fossils, such as the ammonites here.

Anna Paul/South West

Bedus arrival provides a glorious scene. Surrounded by mountains, the geologist unearths a rock sample bearing a fossilized ammonite. The visit ends after the presentation of the association’s interpretive panels, which can be found at each station and along the Trans-Pyrenees geological route. Visitors can return during the next TER and check out the geological interpretation in augmented reality by scanning a QR code on one of the Geoval leaflets. Or climb a weeping mountain, ride an electric bicycle or even climb a tree.

“Wonderful”, “bright”, “very interesting”, all participants enjoyed the trip. “I don’t regret coming, we can ask questions, laugh. It’s a good time,” even Nathan admits.

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