Monaco to La Turbie Rack Railway (Chemins de Fer de Provence 15)

The first railway in Monaco was completed in 1869 by the French PLM railway company as part of an international route between France and Italy. There were two stations, Monaco and Monte Carlo. The PLM company became part of SNCF in 1938.

In 1893, a metre-gauge rack railway was constructed to connect Monaco with La Turbie, a medieval village perched on the hills above Monaco. There were a number of different schemes considered before the final version was agreed. These can be seen on the sketch plan which has been provided on[1].

The first scheme was proposed in 1882. The line was promoted by Amédée Brousseau with financial backing from a Parisian banker, Eugene Hubert. The planned line left Moneghetti district on the northern border of the principality and travelled straight up the valley of Sainte-Dévote, with a stop at Le Cros. It would have been 1,860 metres long with one tunnel of 100 metres in length and a viaduct of 60 metres in length (with 5, ten-metre arches), crossing the valley at a height of 8 to 10 m . The costs were estimated at 950,000/1,000,000 francs.[1]

The mayor loved the scheme and it was accepted at the end of 1882 by the local authorities. On 11th April 1883, a public inquiry was ordered.On 16th July 1883 the municipality of La Turbie granted a concession to the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer à crémaillère d’intérêt local de Moneghetti-Monte Carlo à la Haute-Turbie. However, the military authorities opposed the rout and suggested an alternative on the left bank of the River Sainte-Dévote which was 500 metres longer.

The project was reviewed, and in 1884 a second project was proposed, leaving Monegasque and running along the Carnier plateau, along the side of the Mont des Mules, with a halt at Bordina to end 250 metres east of La Turbie. Teh costs were considerably higher: 1,600,000 francs. This route was agreed on 30th July 1884 and the concession was granted on 31st May 1885.  Before work commenced, the banker, Eugene Hubert went bankrupt.

His partner, Brosseau, contacted a new banker, Abel Neveu and the new company (Compagnie du chemin de fer d’intérêt local à crémaillère de La Turbie ou le Righi d’hiver) was formed with statutes being deposited on 22nd December 1886. The company was based in Basel. The board was made up of Swiss and Alsatian financiers and industrialists including the locomotive manufacturer Koechlin, and the Swiss engineer Nicolas Riggenbach who invented the rack railway traction system.

The new company was beset with problems, not the least of these being a series of disputes between Brosseau and the other directors. In 1889, before any work commenced, Brosseau withdrew from the company. On 21st June 1889, the company was dissolved and stripped of its concession.[1]

The saga continued. On 13th February 1891 the engineer, Charles Lornier requested a concession, but the Municipality of La Turbie favoured the earlier applicants and on 9th March 1891 a new company was formed by former shareholders, Compagnie du chemin de fer d’intérêt local à crémaillère de La Turbie (Righi d’hiver). Its head office was in La Turbie and it succeeded in getting a public inquiry started on 20th November 1891.

In 1892, a Swiss engineer, Mr. Stockalper plotted a new route for a metre- gauge Riggenbach rack-rail line. The specification, including all rails, gradients, locomotives, coaches and wagons was drawn up.The project cost was estimated at 1,400,000 francs – 200,000 francs less than the 1884 project.

Finally, in 1893, the local authorities approved the project and the line was declared of public utility. The engineer for the works was Chatelanat and the contractors were Mombelli, Thus and Crovetto. In December 1893, the first two locomotives, manufactured in the workshops of the Société Alsacienne de Constructions Mécaniques in Belfort, were delivered.[1]

The final route is shown on the map below [2]. The line did not enter the Principality , it terminated on French soil in the suburb of Beausoleil.

At 7.00am on 10th February 1894, the line was opened to its first travellers.[3] Traffic grew steadily until 1920. [4, 5, 6, 7] Electrification projects were envisaged in 1926 and 1929 but they did not come to fruition.[8, 9] The line closed in 1932.


The Company had the following equipment:[10]

  • four 020T steam locomotives , the main feature of which was their design that countered the slope;
  • five passenger cars with 60 seats to 2 classes;
  • two goods wagons.

All items were manufactured in Belfort by Société alsacienne de constructions mécaniques (SACM) [11] and delivered in December 1893.

This blog has a series of pictures of the line at the end of the text, below the poster.

We note for completeness that electric trams came to Monaco in 1898 with a line from the Place d’Armes to Saint Roman. Several other lines followed within the Principality. In 1900, the tram system was connected to that of Nice and in 1903 extended to Menton. It has also been pointed out to me (19th March 2018 by BG1000 on the Passions Metrique et Etroite Forum) that there was a short-lived tramway which used the route of the Funicular.

At the beginning of the 20th century an electric tram service connected the Rue des Iris in Monte-Carlo to the Riviera-Palace Hotel. The lifespan of the service was short – just 10 years from 1903 to 1913. The service became redundant as auto-bus and car usage rose in the period before the Great War.

The last trams ran in Monte Carlo and the principality in 1931.

There was a main line station on coast but pressure of land use in the Principality has always been a problem, and in the 1950s a new tunnel was built from the original Monaco station, through the hills behind Monte Carlo, bypassing Monte Carlo station. The latter station was closed and the land occupied by it and the railway released for other uses. In the 1990s, a similar exercise was performed replacing the remaining line through the original Monaco station with a new line and station entirely underground.

There are some great postcard images below after a poster for the La Turbie Line.

As a late addendum. Yves of the Passions Metrique and Etroite! Forum[12] provided this link:

There are a lot more images and text relating to the Monaco-La Trurbie line.


  1. Un Train de Legende: La Cremaillere de La Turbie;, accessed 18th March 2018.
  2.  Chemin de fer à crémaillère de La Turbie à Monte-Carlo; Wikipedia;, accessed 19th March 2018.
  3. Journal des Mines No. 7, 25th February 1894, p6.
  4. Rapports et délibérations : Conseil général des Alpes-Maritimes, Nice, Conseil général des Alpes-Maritimes; September 1914 2nd Ed. p132.
  5. Rapports et délibérations : Conseil général des Alpes-Maritimes, Nice, Conseil général des Alpes-Maritimes, 1916, 2nd Ed. p73.
  6. Rapports et délibérations : Conseil général des Alpes-Maritimes, Nice, Conseil général des Alpes-Maritimes, 1917, 2nd Ed. p74.
  7. Rapports et délibérations : Conseil général des Alpes-Maritimes, Nice, Conseil général des Alpes-Maritimes, 1918, 2nd Ed. p59.
  8. Le Temps Financier; Le Temps, no 259,‎ 2nd May 1932, p2.
  9. Rapports et délibérations : Conseil général des Alpes-Maritimes, Nice, Conseil général des Alpes-Maritimes, 1920, 1st Ed. p149, p211.
  10. Annuaire des Chemins de fer et des Tramways (ancien Marchal) : Édition des réseaux français, Paris, 1928, 43rd Ed. p1334.
  11. Bulletin des lois de la République française, t. 31, Paris, Imprimerie nationale, 1885 “Chemins de fer” p657, p1073-1080, p1980.
  12.  See:, accessed 22nd March 2018.

6 thoughts on “Monaco to La Turbie Rack Railway (Chemins de Fer de Provence 15)

  1. linda769

    Was the old Chemin de fer à crémaillère de La Turbie à Monte-Carlo just an ordinary railway line? Having visited Beausoleil recently it seems incredible that a train could manage the steep inclines.

    1. rogerfarnworth Post author

      I understood that it was a rack railway and a little research to check seems to support my understanding ….

      The railway is listed under french rack railways on Wickimedia Commons:

      You could also have a look at the followign sites on the net:

      Perhaps the strongest immediate indication that it was a rack railway is in its name ‘Cremallier’ means ‘Cog-wheel’, I think.

      Best wishes


  2. Andrew

    This is a very impressive page. I am currently just about to embark on writing an article on the PLM / SNCF line through Monaco from a philatelic viewpoint, the stamps supported by old (mostly postcard) views.
    The La Turbie line is either 99% or 100% outside Monaco, I am unsure which! However, I will give it a brief mention in my article and would link to link to this excellent webpage of yours.
    I am not yet sure whether I am going to include the tram stamps of Monaco in my article and, if I do, in how much detail. By the way, I did spot on your hand-drawn map that you appear to have marked the tram-line by the port, rather than the railway, with the letters PLM, although from the colouring it is clear which is which anyway.
    Best regards,


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