In the north of France, on the outskirts of Valenciennes, sits a strange sight: an abandoned high-speed train that, not so long ago, was speeding its way through the Channel Tunnel.
The train in question is the Eurostar 373018, one of many Eurostar Class 373 trains that started operating in 1994. Capable of speeds up to 186 mph, the Class 373s were specifically designed to transport passengers between London, Paris, and Brussels via the Channel Tunnel.
Since 2016, however, many 373s have been withdrawn or scrapped, despite just 22 or 23 years in service. Eurostar 373018 is officially in storage, but the word “abandoned” seems more appropriate.
Branches from nearby trees now reach out and touch its windows. Weeds rise up from the rusting tracks on which it sits. Graffiti covers what were once the clean lines of the train’s streamlined form. It looks like the kind of place where Rick Grimes would butcher a bunch of zombies, or where Mad Max would go shopping if he wanted to buy a train.
What the future holds for this high-speed train is anyone’s guess. So far, 18 of the 373 Class trains have been sent to be scrapped by European Metal Recycling (EMR) at Kingsbury in the West Midlands region of England. Others have been scrapped in France, three have ended up in museums or colleges, and some lucky 373s have been refurbished and remain in service.
Eurostar 373018, however, remains in “storage” in the north of France, a fine nesting place for birds, an interesting canvas for graffiti artists, and an intriguing landmark for train enthusiasts, eagle-eyed users of Google Earth, and urban explorers like AdcaZz whose video exploration of the train you can check out on YouTube.
And if you’re wondering why these 373s were abandoned and not reused elsewhere, well, it seems like a few factors were in play. Technology had simply moved on, leaving these 22-year-old trains out of date. It was also more cost efficient to bring in a modern fleet rather than overhaul these existing trains, especially as the replacements had a greater seating capacity, meaning more money over less time. In the end, therefore, many of the 373s were deemed “life-expired.”
Update as of November 2019: It’s believed that the engine is no longer at the site. The cars, however, still remain.