He is the man who gave the TGV its distinctive silhouette, with its tapered, aerodynamic nose and its first orange color, which has become legendary in the French railway world. The designer Jacques Cooper, “father” of the first TGV put on the rails, died at the age of 93, Agence France-Presse (AFP) learned on Wednesday April 17, from the train manufacturer Alstom, where he worked in the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1972, the designer first imagined the style of the very first “turbotrain”, the TGV-001, a prototype designed to allow the train to reach speeds between 250 and 300 km/h, still unheard of at the time . This TGV will never be put into commercial service, but during the launch of the very first high-speed train between Paris and Lyon, Jacques Cooper will again be responsible for its design and will rely largely on the style of the TGV-001.

Both the silhouette and the orange color were retained and in 1981, the TGV appeared in France, Gare de Lyon, in Paris, under the eyes of the President of the Republic at the time, François Mitterrand. This is the start of a rail adventure which will mark France by considerably reducing travel times in the country. The TGV will become a symbol of national pride regularly brandished by the country’s leaders to illustrate France’s industrial success.

“We are moved at Alstom to learn of the disappearance of Jacques Cooper,” its CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge told AFP. Jacques Cooper “will have forever marked the railway sector, notably by designing the characteristic nose of the orange TGV, which opened the way to high speed in France. We send our thoughts to his family and loved ones,” he added.

Tractors, Helicopters and Porches

Born in 1931, Jacques Cooper also designed tractors and helicopters during his career as a designer before specializing in railway equipment “of which exterior design would become his great specialty” according to a biography published in 2006 and entitled “Cooper, the man who designed the TGV” (Loïc Fieux, La Vie du rail).

Jacques Cooper has other important achievements such as the Porche 914-6 Murène – from which he took inspiration for the design of the TGV – for Heuliez and the metros of Santiago and Cairo.

More than forty years after the appearance of the TGV in France, the SNCF is preparing to receive by the end of 2025 a new generation of high-speed trains, the TGV-M, whose exterior design generally retains the lines and shapes imagined by Jacques Cooper in the 1970s.