In the heart of Paris, a well-kept secret lies beneath the bustling Gare de l’Est train station. Right beneath tracks 4 and 5, dozens of miniature model trains are meticulously preserved and showcased by the Association Française des Amis des Chemins de Fer (AFAC).
At the AFAC headquarters, the soft hum of miniature trains greets visitors. The collection includes over 600 yards of tracks, hundreds of switches, power lines, station masters, and passengers, all meticulously arranged on three different railway systems established between 1946 and 1955. Every detail, from the lifelike landscapes to the trains themselves, has been handcrafted.
Established in 1929, and located within Gare de l’Est since 1937, the Association Française des Amis des Chemins de Fer unites railway enthusiasts, fosters railway knowledge, and advocates for train improvements and heritage preservation. The organization welcomes enthusiasts from all backgrounds to join its mission. It currently boasts approximately 3,000 members across France and internationally.
While Parisians and travelers rush above, oblivious to the wonders that lie beneath their feet (including a subterranean World War II bunker), those in the know can explore this hidden world of model trains.
Know Before You Go
AFAC's headquarters is open from 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. every Saturday afternoon. They are located in Gare de l'Est and to reach them, you'll need to make your way to the exterior of the station, to an underground street leading to the Alsace parking level -1, behind an unassuming door numbered 9.