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The SNCF archives

Our Archives and Documentation Service (SARDO) is SNCF’s working memory. Learn more about SNCF—past and present—when you explore our archives and media collection.

SARDO

Want to know more about the history of rail in France?

Whether you’re a professional or a simply a passionate amateur, our Archives and Documentation Service (SARDO) will open its historical and cultural riches to you and help with your research project.

Three SARDO entities—the National Centre for Historic Archives in Le Mans, the National Centre for Employee Archives in Béziers and the SARDO Media Collection in Saint-Denis—hold a rich historical and cultural collection retracing the adventure of rail and the story of passenger and freight transport, in France and beyond.

Our Open Archives website

Retrace SNCF’s history through a curated collection of documents, films and historic photographs—all available on line.

Learn more

France’s Heritage Code

SNCF Group’s archives are open to the public: under Articles L213-1 and L213-2 of France’s Heritage Code (Code du patrimoine) they may be released to anyone upon request.

When you consult our archives, you agree to:

  • cite the SNCF Archives and Documentation Service as your source every time you use our material;
  • comply with French law on public archives whenever you use our material;
  • ensure that your use of our material preserves the interests and rights protected under the law

Consult the Code du patrimoine (in French)

Our collections

The SNCF archives retrace more than a century of French rail history and offer insights into our multimodal operations in France and beyond.

Group management and operations

Want to know how our operations have changed over the years? Curious about how rail transport works?

Visit our National Centre for Historic Archives in Le Mans. You’ll find:

  • files on our Board of Directors dating back to 1938
  • texts of internal regulations
  • archives on the departments responsible for budgets, finance, employment and sales policies, plus a fine collection of tourist posters and brochures
  • files on the departments responsible for equipment, rolling stock and transport, dating back to SNCF’s predecessor companies
  • plans for rolling stock, stations, bridges and other structures

Genealogical sources

Interested in the history of railway workers?

Our National Centre for Employee Archives in Béziers holds records on over 800,000 railway workers, with career information, pension files and employee registers covering:

  • employees of the railway companies that combined to create SNCF: Est, Alsace-Lorraine, Nord, Ouest-Etat, Paris-Orléans (later Paris-Orléans-Midi), Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée
  • SNCF employees (permanent staff; auxiliary/contract workers and executives)
  • employees of the North African networks

Iconic images

Interested in rail iconography from before 1945? Visit our National Centre for Historic Archives in Le Mans. There you’ll find:

  • magic lantern slides of locomotives
  • photographs
  • postcards of stations from throughout France and rolling stock from other countries.

Interested in iconography from 1945 to the present? Want to explore SNCF media productions from our beginnings, or actually hear the sounds that have shaped the world of rail? Visit the SARDO Media Collection for:

  • 500,000 colour and black-and-white photographs
  • 6,800 films dating from the 1930s and subject-specific videos since 1990
  • 1,000 sounds from the history of rail—passing trains, signals, klaxons and more

Want to see rail-related objects going back to the 19th century? The collection at the National Centre for Historic Archives in Le Mans includes:

  • a large selection of locomotive crests
  • railroad watches, vintage lapel pins worn by past employees, uniforms and more

Archives for the war years 1939-1945

The Archives and Documentation Service hosts a dedicated website on the history of rail from 1939 to 1945, making a rich collection of documents from the SNCF Archives available on line.

Our resources were so extensive and covered so many topics that we digitized the collection, both to fulfil our commitment to transparency and to preserve these fragile historic materials.

Records are also available on the websites of the Shoah Memorial in Paris, the Yad Vashem Centre in Jerusalem, and the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

There are two ways to search our online archives:

  • consult the search guide for information on how SNCF is structured and how the archives are catalogued, and launch a guided search
  • download the SNCF archive management app and use it to run a key-word search in the historical archive database (does not include images)

You can access the digitized archives by clicking on the links in the description for each record. These archives do not contain lists of deportees, which can be found on the website of the Shoah Memorial.

Consult the digital archives

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