The game of the French railway

The game of the French railway

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French railroad game

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Publication date: September 2006

Historical context

If Pellerin d'Épinal remains the best-known popular imagery publisher, others publish comparable plates: Pinot and Sagaire in Épinal, but also Henri Silbermann and Gustave Fischbach in Strasbourg, Gangel and Adrien Dembour in Metz, Castiaux and Blocquel in Lille, Wentzel in Wissembourg, Lacour in Nancy, Félix Juven in Paris…

These images had originally a religious vocation, but little by little, the themes diversified: the highlights of the history of France, the legends and the tales, the fashionable novels, the children's stories, the popular songs. soon made the heyday of the so-called Epinal imagery. These images were pinned on the "closed beds", on the lintel of the fireplace or on the walls of the most humble of thatched cottages.
Intended for children, the boards of puppets and soldiers, already well distributed, were completed by paper theaters around 1840, then by construction boards to be cut from 1860. Individual games - riddles - or collective n 'were not forgotten: known since the XVe century, the game of goose was then on the rise and took all possible forms for the purposes of entertainment, education and propaganda.

Image Analysis

The Railroad game, published around 1855 by Gangel in Metz, is designed after an idea by Ernest Henry on the principle of the goose game, of which it has a very classic structure with its sixty-three pictorial boxes. The rules of the game are in the center of the spiral. Two to six players can compete with two dice. The first to arrive at the terminus station (63) wins, but to do so he must avoid accidents, backtracking provided for by the rule and slowdowns imposed by the six stations placed on the route.

At a time when the novelty of the railway was a source of mistrust and reluctance on the part of a public frightened by modernism, the Railroad game offers an initiatory journey to players, children or adults. All the elements that make up a train are represented: locomotive, tender, first, second and third class wagons, baggage wagons, flour wagons, sheepfold wagons, postal wagons, etc. The essential infrastructures are not forgotten: tracks, switches, signage, level crossings, bridges, tunnels… In addition to the technical dimension, there is a geographical aspect: the train stops in a few large cities in France - Marseille, Nancy, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Paris. The players thus carry out an educational journey and learn while having fun: the playful does not exclude the didactic.


The game of goose can be seen as a game of emulation, a competition on a closed course where you have to get there first. Arnaud reports that Napoleon Ier "Gave himself there with a very southern ardor, counting the boxes with his middle finger like a schoolboy, being annoyed when the dice were against him, entering the" cabaret "only with humor, cheating for fear of falling into the" well "or to go to" prison "". Designed over the centuries on multiple themes, it constitutes an unrivaled source of lessons on the history of customs, techniques, science and industry. It is very popular in the XIXe century. Gangel edited a number of them on different themes: the Railroad game for example, or the Fairy tale game where the player, moving from one tale to another - those of Perrault, Madame d'Aulnoy ... -, sets out on an initiatory journey with trials, enchantments, monsters and other magical artifices.

  • railway
  • Game
  • industrial Revolution


Henri GEORGE, La Belle Histoire des images d'Épinal, Paris, Éditions du Cherche-Midi, 1996 David S. HAMILTON, The fascinating world of trains, Paris, Gründ, 1977 Ellis C. HAMILTON, Le Train.L'épopée des chemin de fer, Paris, Éditions Princesse, 1978. René PERROUT, Trésors des images d'Épinal, Barembach, Éditions J.-P.Gyss, 1985.

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "The game of the French railway"

Video: The French Railway S1 Ep2: The Sad Story Of John!


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