[design] Jacques Cooper, the man who designed the TGV, has passed away

Jacques Cooper, designer of the original French TGV, has sadly passed away at 93 years old. We pay a small tribute to his work and his legacy:

In the 1970s, Alstom put all its effort into inventing a completely new, innovative and, above all, fast train. Jacques Cooper was an industrial designer who was asked to “design a train that didn’t look like a train”. At the time, aerodynamics was not a core design concern in France. Massive, box-like locomotives pulled trains. Cooper designed a streamlined, aerodynamic machine that looked like a racing car. It was given a bright orange colour, and the TGV was born.

The first TGV: the TGV Paris-Sud-Est, designed by Jacques Cooper © SNCF
The SNCF logo, redone for the 40th anniversary of the TGV on TGV PSE train no.16’s nose © Emmanuel Bremont

First, a prototype with turbine engines was created, and then, over the years, a purely electric version was developed. Cooper produced all these designs, irreversibly revolutionising the world of railways. The orange-white-gret TGV Paris Sud-Est was a revolution and has become an icon in France and abroad. Its maximum commercial speed was 270 km/h, and in 1981, it broke the world rail speed record at 380 km/h.

The TGV PSE no.16 after braking the speed record © Groupe SNCF

Even today, Cooper’s design touch on the first TGVs lives on. The ” winglets ” characteristic of the TGVs of the 90s, which then disappeared for more than 20 years, have reappeared on the TGV M, again showing its design’s timelessness.

If you want to read more about Mr. Cooper and the development of the original orange high-speed trains – you MUST see this: