The SNCF Archives

In 1989, under Jacques Fournier (Chairman from 1988 to 1994), we began consolidating all SNCF archives under one roof. The move, which reflected our determination to open up the company’s historical records to the public, culminated in November 1995 with the inauguration of the SNCF Historical Archive Centre in Le Mans, a city southeast of Paris. The center, which welcomed its first visitors early the following year, provides historians and the public with easy access to all existing SNCF resources on the history of the French railroads.

With over 42 linear kilometers of documents within its walls, the center houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of corporate records in France. And with materials dating back to the 19th century, it preserves and showcases the entire history of French railroads as well as the more recent history of SNCF, from the company’s creation in 1938.

Our Open Archives website provides access to an extensive collection of documents—all available online.

La salle de lecture du Centre national des archives historiques du groupe SNCF, le Mans (Sarthe). ©SNCF

Learn more:
SNCF Archives and Documentation Service (SARDO)
Open Archives website

The 1939–1945 collection


Under France’s Heritage Code, our 1939–1945 collection is freely available to the public, as are the rest of our historical archives. This means that anyone can access our Second World War records, amounting to 1.35 million pages in total. As well as 2,914 boxes of material, the collection includes 14,385 digitized PDF files, which our archivists scanned in 2011 and published online in 2012. And because our digital collection is identical to our physical archives—not a single document was left out—all company records for the period 1939–1945 can be viewed in person at the SNCF Historical Archive Centre in Le Mans or online via our website.


Under France’s Heritage Code, our 1939–1945 collection is freely available to the public, as are the rest of our historical archives. This means that anyone can access our Second World War records, amounting to 1.35 million pages in total. As well as 2,914 boxes of material, the collection includes 14,385 digitized PDF files, which our archivists scanned in 2011 and published online in 2012. And because our digital collection is identical to our physical archives—not a single document was left out—all company records for the period 1939–1945 can be viewed in person at the SNCF Historical Archive Centre in Le Mans or online via our website.

The SNCF Archives and Documentation Service (SARDO) has published a guide explaining how the archives are catalogued, and how to search them. Most of the records are in French. You can download a copy of the guide from:

our Open Archives website (direct link to PDF)

the “Our history” section of the SNCF.com website 

You can also search the historical archives database by key word here (click on “Consult the digital archive”).

Examples of documents from the 1939–1945 collection

Deux exemples de documents disponibles en ligne dans les fonds 1939-1945

A poster warning rail workers about the dangers of the Resistance ©SNCF SARDO — “Sabotaging equipment =  sabotaging food supplies! Who protects machinery and your friends’ lives? Rail workers like you.”
A leaflet encouraging rail workers to support Resistance efforts ©SNCF SARDO

In keeping with our commitment to transparency, copies of our scanned Second World War archives were presented to the Shoah Memorial in Paris, the Yad Vashem Center in Jerusalem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. in December 2011 and January 2012.

Pour renforcer la démarche de transparence de SNCF sur le passé de l’entreprise, une copie des fonds SNCF 1939-1945 numérisés a été déposée au Pour renforcer la démarche de transparence de SNCF sur le passé de l’entreprise, une copie des fonds SNCF 1939-1945 numérisés a été déposée au Mémorial de la Shoah à Paris, à l’Institut Yad Vashem de Jérusalem et à l’United States Holocaust Memorial Museum à Washington, en décembre 2011 et janvier 2012.

SNCF presented scanned copies of its Second World War archives to the Shoah Museum in Paris on December 6, 2011. Left to right: Guillaume Pepy, then-Chairman of SNCF, and Eric de Rothschild, President of the Shoah Memorial in Paris. ©Emmanuel Rioufol
SNCF presented scanned copies of its Second World War archives to the Shoah Museum in Paris on December 6, 2011. Left: Henri Zuber, Senior Heritage Curator and Head of the SNCF Archives and Documentation Service. ©Emmanuel Rioufol
SNCF presented scanned copies of its Second World War archives to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C. in January 2012. Left to right: Radu Ioanid, Director, International Archival Programs, USHMM; Paul A. Shapiro, Director, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, USHMM; Bernard Emsellem, Adviser to the Chairman of SNCF on Holocaust Remembrance; and Frédéric Doré, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of France in Washington, D.C. ©Jerry M. Ray

SNCF presented scanned copies of its Second World War archives to the Yad Vashem Center in Jerusalem. Left to right: Bernard Emsellem, Adviser to the Chairman of SNCF on Holocaust Remembrance; Avner Shalev, President, Yad Vashem Center; Haim Gartner, Director of Archives, Yad Vashem Center; Jacques Fredj, Director, Shoah Memorial in Paris; and Sheraz Gasri, Embassy of France in Israel.

Visiting the SNCF Historical Archive Centre in person

The SNCF Historical Archive Centre is open to the public Monday to Thursday, from 8:15 a.m. to 12:00 noon and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 12 noon.
Address: 2 Avenue de Bretagne, 72100, Le Mans. Tel.: +33 (0)2 43 21 74 65
Email: archiveshistoriques.sncf@sncf.fr
Where to find us
Access to the reading room is by appointment only.