Être en train de : expressing ongoing actions in the past

In French, there is no equivalent tense for the English Continuous Past (I was doing, he was singing...).

In most cases, you can use Imparfait for both : 
- Simple PastJe dormais souvent.     I slept often.
- Continuous Past : Je dormais à cette heure-là.     I was sleeping at that time.

Now look at these examples:

Nous étions en train de dormir quand le téléphone a sonné.We were sleeping when the phone rang.

Tu étais en train de parler et Paul t'a interrompu.You were speaking and Paul interrupted you.

Eve était en train d'écouter de la musique.Eve was listening to music.

When you really want to emphasise the progression of the action, you can use the expression être en train de + [infinitive] (Literally to be in the process of).
The verb être is in Imparfait to express the Continuous Past

 

Also see Être en train de : expressing ongoing actions in the present

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Examples and resources

Vous étiez en train de fabriquer vos déguisements.You were in the middle of making your costumes.
Nous étions en train de dormir quand le téléphone a sonné.We were sleeping when the phone rang.
Tu étais en train de parler et Paul t'a interrompu.You were speaking and Paul interrupted you.
Eve était en train d'écouter de la musique.Eve was listening to music.
Clever stuff underway!