The Big Train Robbery

photo: au diable des lombards
A long-time downtown joint for downtown folks.

The Even Bigger Roller Derby

Paris:- Sunday, 4. October 1998:- Last Monday evening, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid decided to rob a train. These two are a bit too old for it, so they settled for robbing a train station instead.

Wearing ski-masks, the two banditos stuck up the SNCF station at Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche, which is at the end of a line from Saint- Lazare, buried deep in the Marly Forest.

Just as in the 'old days,' the two bandits did not get much - 1,000 francs - but nobody was hurt even though a pistol was waved around a bit. The two escaped into the forest and managed to slip through the Marly police net.

But the effects were large as angry trainmen decried the lack of security. For an eight-wagon suburban train, the driver might be the only SNCF personnel aboard; responsible for as many as 1500 passengers.

On Tuesday, no trains operated out of Saint-Lazare and the action was repeated on Wednesday. This affectedphoto: gare st nom about one million passengers - over the two days - who do the daily commute between Paris' western suburbs and the city centre.

This had a ripple effect on traffic, with jams in the north-west and west on Wednesday mounting up to a total of 200 kms at 8:30.

Willie Sutton never said he robbed train stations, 'because that's where the money is.' He stuck to banks.

The government immediately announced an 80-man reinforcement by the CRS for the trains and promised that cops would ride the suburban trains in the future. The SNCF itself has a security force of 800 agents and they have said they'll double this number.

Trains on the northern and south-eastern networks have had a simple radio-alarm device for the past two years. These are very much like portable phones and the have their own reserved frequency.

During the last rolling 'incident' I witnessed, passengers phoned home to say the train would be late - while the driver had to run down the tracks to the nearest station to do the same thing.

The upside to the sudden train strike, was that everybody went back to work on Thursday - including those involved with the 'shipwreck' of the RER line 'C,' which ended its 14-day strike to coincide with the opening of the Mondial de l'Automobile.

Friday Night Roller Mania In Paris

Yesterday I got a participant's account of the weekly Roller Derby that starts at the place d'Italie, and rolls merrily around Friday-night Paris.

As I was told about this, I did not realize that the as-yet-unread Saturday edition of Le Parisien I had with me contained a two-page spread on it. It has been going on for some time now, but the paper has been merely noting it with a traffic-jam logo, right on the place de l'Italie, in its Friday editions.

According to my informant, the roller gang numbered about 4,000 and police cleared the way before them and swept up stragglers after them - as the mob did their 22 kilometre tour. It started informally in 1995, and the police - 'les Roller-Flics!' - have been in on the ride since last October.

The rollers reached 5,300 in number on their 3. July outing. It can take them a quarter-hour to pass any given spot. And they fall down; but along with the cops are the travelling ambulancesphoto: auto salon: fete ford with 'first aid' available. Taxis drivers and other Friday evening party people don't care for the traffic jams caused by all this.

They g through Montparnasse and over to Trocadéro, up to the Champs and east through the right bank and after about three hours end up back where they started.

Ford, celebrating the world launch of its new 'Focus,' by dispensing lots of food and drink to journalists.
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