TGV or air: a link

The death occurred recently of Roger Tallon, a former pilot and industrial design pioneer who created the look of the French high speed trains (TGV) that compete with aircraft in Europe.


Although his name could very well be English, he was actually French, born in Paris in 1929. In his youth he studied engineering, and also trained as a pilot. He was, of course, too young to get involved in the war.

After his military service he chose to work for Caterpillar and Dupont de Nemours. With these American employers he was introduced to the field of industrial design, which did not at that time exist in France. He was associated with a remarkable number of developments: his obituary in the Times mentions toothbrushes, watches, ski boots, fridges, typewriters and motorcycles. He even designed a highly attractive portable television, the TéLéavia P111 which was highly successful until Téléavia realised that it was outselling their larger and more expensive models.

Much later he was instrumental in designing the different French High Speed Trains (the TGVs) and also the Eurostar. His design, which symbolised French modernity, went beyond just the outline of the trains: he was also concerned with all aspects of the internal furnishings of these trains.

His part in the success of these trains meant that he was called upon to help with high speed railways in other countries, as well as the Meteor line of the Paris Metro system.

This weekend, as I travel on the TGV, the Metro and the Eurostar, I will think of him.

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