Extraordinary Machines de l’Ile

Machines de l'Ile © Jean-Dominique Billaud - LVAN
Monumental mechanical structures featuring animals or extraordinary creatures are being designed and built in Nantes : the Machines de l’Ile. Visitors can watch the entire process of their construction, drive and even ride them.

[ Practical ]

Getting there
- By road
380 km from Paris on autoroutes A6a and A10
- By train
TGV Paris Montparnasse – Nantes. The journey takes 2 h 10
Getting around
Tramway N° 1 runs from the city centre and the railway station to the Machines de l’Ile, stop “Chantiers Navals”.
Opening dates and hours
From February 7th to 22nd : every day from 2pm to 6pm
From February 24th to April 10th : Tuesday to Friday from 2pm to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 6pm
From April 11th to 26th : every day from 10am to 6pm
From April 28th to July 2nd : Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm
From July 3rd to August 30th : every day from 10am to 7pm
From September 1st to October 19th : Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm
From October 20th to November 2nd : every day from 10am to 6pm
From November 3rd to December 16th : Tuesday to Friday from 2pm to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 6pm
From December 17th to 31st : every day from 2pm to 6pm, till 5pm only on December 24th and 31st. Closed on December 25th.
Admission fees
Visit of the Machine gallery or the Marine Worlds Carousel or Elephant ride : €8.50 / €6.90 €
Free for children under 4
Les Machines de l’Ile
Les Chantiers. Bld Léon Bureau
44200 Nantes
Tel : 0810121225
Located on an island on the Loire River, the former shipyards of Nantes are back to life. Under the vast naves of the hangars, welders, boilermakers, carpenters, engineers and sculptors are busy working in a vast gallery. However no boats are being built.
All those men create extraordinary machines made of wood and steel seeming sometimes coming out from a science fiction movie and inspired by marine and animal worlds. The Giant Ant, the Manta Ray, the Pirate Fish, the Lantern of the Depths, the Crab Larva, the Giant Crab, the Abyssal Bus, the Storm Ship…

Marine Worlds Carousel © J.D Billaud - LVAN
 Creatures from another world
A bestiary of living machines which evolves with time as machines give place for construction of new ones as soon as they are completed. From two terraces overlooking the workshop at a height of 7.5 meters, the visitors can easily watch all the stages of their creation. Engineers work on their sketches. Welders fit together metallic pieces. Carpenters dress animals’ skeletons. The sight is fascinating.
Besides, two short films explain the philosophy and the genesis of this tourist and cultural project worlds away from the universe of traditional amusement parks. More attractive for kids and many adults as well, machinists working to bring the machines to life explain how their mechanisms work and how they were developed. Above all they invite people to test them.

Giant Ant © J.D Billaud - LVAN
 Ride on a giant ant
Thus visitors end riding on a Giant Ant and are invited to manoeuvre the legs, the head and the mandible while two machinists guide it through the gallery. More breathtaking, a Flying Flea takes passengers at speeds of more than 100 km/h in a wind tunnel flight simulator. Seat belts, helmets and goggles compulsory !!!
Almost as spectacular, they can also board a heron with a 8-metre wingspan that flies over the 5m in diameter and 4m high large-scale model of the Herons Tree planted in the middle of the gallery.
When completed, this monumental steel tree will measure 50m in diameter and 35m high and will be topped by two herons that will carry passengers for a circular flight over its hanging gardens. Visitors will also be able to walk from branch to branch.

Heron tree © J.D Billaud - LVAN
 Heron Tree
Providing a preview of this project, a 20 m high, 20 m long and 20 tons full size prototype of a branch where you can stroll extends out of the front the warehouses creating a sort of canopy above the terrace of the bar of the Heron Tree.
The Giant Crab, the Manta Ray, the Pirate Fish, the Crab Larva, the Storm Boat and many other animated machines created in the past few years are now installed on the Marine Worlds Carousel opened in 2013.
Located on the banks of the Loire, it’s a huge three-tier merry-go-round 25 m high and 20 m in diameter featuring dozens of moving elements split between three floors having as themes the seabed, the abyss and the sea surface. Young and old alike can access to the gangway surrounding the carrousel and climb aboard one of these extraordinary machines to guide their movements.

Giant Elephant © J.D Billaud - LVAN
 Giant elephant
On some days, it’s also possible to explore the bowels of the carousel with a machinist.
But the most astonishing is still to come with the Great Elephant. Several times a day this 12 m high and 8 m wide mechanic pachyderm weighing 45 tons makes 45 mn strolls around the island spraying water from its trunk. A marvel of technology boarding up to 49 passengers able to see from the inside how the mechanism works, the moving gears powering the legs. They can also make the elephant trumpet and control some of its movements. Wherever you stay, in its belly, on the balconies set up on its sides, or on its back, at the height of the fourth floor of a building, it’s always an incredible experience.

January 03, 2016
Thierry Joly