Monique Guerrero wasn’t a railway worker, didn’t know much about railway engineering, and was busy doing lots of other things, such as earning a living teaching at the Angoustrine primary school, cultivating her vegetable garden and taking part in public affairs as an association activist or town councillor. In short, a busy life away from the Yellow Train, which had bypassed her village when it was built.

Of the Yellow Train, Monique Guerrero knew a little in that it was electric and ran on a narrower track than other trains. Above all, Monique Guerrero knew that the Yellow Train was inextricably linked to the region it passed through, and that its eventual disappearance – a question that had been raised several times in recent decades – would be a real catastrophe for this mountainous region.

So one autumn day in 2014, on the announcement of the forthcoming closure of the upper section of the line (Font-Romeu – Latour-de-Carol / Enveigt), Monique Guerrero was one of a handful (well, two handfuls, since there were ten of them), to meet in a village hall in Saint-Pierre-dels-Forcats and ask themselves what to do to save the line. There was a retired schoolteacher there, two sitting mayors and one retired, two mountain guides, a forester, a retired engineer, a nursery nurse and even a photographer.

That day saw the birth of the Comité des Usagers de la Ligne du Train Jaune(Committee of Users of the Yellow Train Line), whose acronym CULTJ doesn’t sound very good, but whose voice sounded loud and clear, even in the offices of the SNCF, the Regional Council and even the State, with a single slogan: ” No to the closure of the Yellow Train “.

It was unanimously decided that Monique Guerrero would be the president of this “thing”, which was soon to become a machine for bringing together people from all walks of life and gathering around itself and its president over three hundred members and supporters from all over the place.

A few weeks later, the Languedoc Roussillon region, with the government in tow, released funds to plug the holes and save the line. The newly-created Occitanie region would then take over the project with a safeguarding and, above all, modernisation plan to ensure the line’s long-term future.

Monique Guerrero, who only signed up for a one-year term, has since reappointed herself, not because she’s clinging to the title, but because she’s simply, rightly and logically the best person to do so.

This born scholar has studied the technical and legal files, attended dozens of meetings with railway and political authorities, and stood up to those who always say it can’t be done, it’s too difficult, too expensive, and that it would be better for the train to be a tourist tool and nothing more.

Monique Guerrero has a very high opinion of public service, which is normal, since she’s spent her life in it!

With a benevolent smile, steely pen and unfailing determination, she defends this line and the model of society it exemplifies. A society where the individual car isn’t the only means of transport. ” Cars are like buses and trains”, she says, “they can be shared, life itself is sharing .”

So maybe Monique Guerrero won’t be President of the Users’ Committee for the rest of her life – and we hope she won’t be – but whoever replaces her in this position will be left with a working train, and of course, no monument will be erected in her memory. However, alongside those who wanted it, who created it, who defended it tooth and nail, Monique Guerrero will remain one of those who can be said to have saved the Yellow Train.

“Thank you, Madam!”

Georges Bartoli,
photographer, member of the Comité des Usagers du Train Jaune