After annexing Nice, the French authorities continued to develop the infrastructure in the County of Nice. The coastline was already provided with good road and rail infrastructure. The hinterland and mountains were difficult to access. To open up the villages, the administration implemented the plans established by the Sardinian engineers before annexation.
Many roads used to connect to different villages around Nice could only be traversed with great care and travel times were long. For example: St Martin Lantosque (now St Martin Vésubie) was 10 hours from Nice in 1876 and even with the help of the Digne train in 1894, the journey still took 7½ hours.
It was decided on 10th February 1906 that tramways would serve four valleys:
– The valleys Vésubie 34 km from Plan du Var to St Martin
– Valley Tinée 24 km from Mescla to St Saviour
– Valley Estéron 29 km from Pont Charles Albert to Roquestéron
– High Var valley 19 km from le Pont du Gueydan to Guillaume
The Tram was the economic solution existing dirt roads could accommodate rails but a number of civil enginering structures would be needed. Work began in 1907 on the Vésubie line. It took two years to complete and finally in September 1909 the line came into service. The power system was not complete so the company had to use steam locomotives. This solution resulted in a number of accidents and regular derailments disrupted traffic. Following these incidents, the government implement a series of works to realign and accelerate the implementation of the power supply. Line started regular electrical operation in October 1910.
Line along the Tinée connecting Mescla to St Saviour opened in April 1912. Then the 1st World War postponed the commissioning of lines to Guillaume and Roquesteron until 1923 and 1924.
For a while twice daily tram services carried passengers and goods on these lines. Farmers went to Nice to sell their products, see a doctor or settle their affairs, and tourists and lovers of alpine sports could access the mountains. Nice was served fresh produce direct from the mountains: milk, fruits and vegetables, wood, hay, etc …
In 1929, however, the competition from road transport forced a decision to close the tramways and the last service was closed in 1931.
The content of this post has been translated from http://www.mangiapan.net/page.php?id_sujet=38, with some amendments.
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