In 1929 French engineer André Michelin, of tyre fame, patented the use of pneumatics on rail vehicles in a bid to improve passenger comfort. Trials were hugely successful and ‘Micheline’ wagons were soon zooming up and down the world’s rail tracks.
Madagascar didn’t escape the craze and got its first Micheline in 1932. By 1953, there were seven in regular service, but lack of maintenance and investment slowly caused the Madagascan railway system to fall into disrepair – Michelines included.
It wasn’t until the revival of the rail system in the early 2000s that plans to restore the pneumatic wagons were hatched. Following restoration by the Michelin Museum in France, one Micheline, which seats 19 passengers in old-world class, resumed service in 2011, chugging its way between Tana and Andasibe (Périnet) or Antsirabe at weekends. But the wagon had been out of action for eight months at the time of writing, with the authorities unable to say whether and when it would get back on the rails.