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It was certainly a bit of a struggle to get to Lunéville - an interesting name and perhaps one which described the situation admirably when it was all over. The ferry to France was late away from Newhaven and consequently we were late into Paris, such that we missed our intended train from Gare de l'Est. When we finally arrived in Nancy at lunchtime, we discovered the local rail services were on strike; a bus left at 16:05 and the next main-line train that served the place left at 16:47, both arriving too late to leave us enough time to visit our objective that night. We went by train and eventually got to what turned out to be a typical north-eastern French provincial town, in time to find an hotel for the night and something to eat.
The place has two things to commend it. One is an impressive chateau, started in 1702 and laid out like Versailles; it had been restored externally after the last war. This is almost in the centre of the town. The second is the Musée de la Moto et du Vélo in the Place de la Deuxiéme Cavalrie, immediately opposite the entrance to the chateau (Moto = motor cycle, Vélo = pedal cycle).
We were consequently there early the following morning - not surprisingly the only visitors at the time - to see Monsieur Maurice Chapleur's collection of some 200 two-wheeled machines (and some three-wheelers as well) displayed on the three floors of the premises. All were interesting in some respect but of particular note for the cyclemotor enthusiast were such items from the 'early' period as a 1902 Motosacoche; 1902 Clément; 1920 Cyclotracteur, a front wheel friction drive; 1920 Ami, 45cc, mounted on bottom bracket with chain drive to additional sprocket on rear wheel; 1923 Rosengart with horizontal roller drive mounted either side of rear wheel; 1922 Lutetia, looking very much like a Mini-Motor but having a chain drive; and a 1922 Micromoteur, front wheel friction drive.
There was a 1914 Wall Autowheel, 1921 Ner-a-car, 1919 Skootamota and a Monet et Goyen Motowiel, together with a Briggs and Stratton Motor Wheel mounted on the cycle in the coventional place but also having a sidecar attached (making a 4 wheeled bicycle!)
From the more popular cyclemotor era, we found a Ducati Cucciolo, a JLO and a Le Poulain - this latter being a front wheel friction drive - whilst another three engines were unidentified to the somewhat untrained eye. Three other machines were, however, placed - being a 1951 Lohmann mounted on a Humber cycle, a Nordap Velmo without casing and a Comef, Paris - Perrenoud engine made for bottom bracket mounting.
Interesting cycle frames were made out of wood and there was also a hexagonal aluminium one. A slightly different touch was added by the barriers between the viewer and the machines being made entirely of cycle chains - with a small sprocket welded to the top of each supporting stanchion. Perhaps the most incongruous exhibit however was a cycle tyre for which an explanation was not immediately available. Hung on the wall was a cycle wheel fitted with a 26 × 1 3/8 Dunlop tyre clearly labelled "Made in Britain". It was all fairly standard until one looked closely at the part-worn tread. All around the periphery of the wheel were little swastikas! One wondered at the circumstances that caused Dunlop to make these most unusual tyres.
In a limited conversation with the owner, specifically about the fact that there was no VéloSoleX in the museum, he advised us that he didn't think they were a museum exhibit and he had actually sold many hundreds in his time as a bike shop owner. He had, however, on the office window a little yellow sticker which indicated "ICI VENTE VELOSOLEX" which, unfortunately, was the only one. We took our leave of him and as we returned to the main road, the first vehicle we saw heading towards us as we waited to cross - as if to prove his point - was a VéloSoleX 3800, ridden by the almost obligatory large French lady. Quite an amazing coincidence but just going to prove that they are still about in France and, if one is lucky, one can see them still in use.
As stated previously, the museum is situated in Lunéville, about a half hour ride to the east of Nancy. It is open daily (except Mondays) from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 18:00. The entrance fee (earlier this year) was Ffr16.00 (£1.75): very remarkable for the content and certainly a place well worth a visit for those with cycles and motor cycles (or cyclemotors) as a hobby, even though it is a little way from the normal tourist areas of France.
First published - June 1990
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