Monthly Archives: December 2017

Ligne du Littoral (Toulon to St. Raphael) – Part 1 – History (Chemins de Fer de Provence 36)

Toulon to St. Raphael – ‘Le Macaron’

Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France

Ligne du Littoral – Part 1

This railway ran along the Mediterranean coast in the department of Var in Provence in Southern France. When the PLM built its railway from Marseilles to Nice is chose an inland route bypassing the costal towns of Var.

I guess that the board of the PLM, in their wisdom, felt that they would gain most from the quickest possible route linking Marseilles, Cannes, Nice and Monaco. And who is to say that they were wrong.

Nevertheless, this left a significant portion of the coast adrift with no rail service. The Chemin de Fer du Sud stepped in to provide a metre gauge service along the coast. The line eventually extended from Toulon to St. Raphael and was not connected to the rest of the Chemin de Fer du Sud system. It was the most southerly of the three mainlines of that system.

The PLM line left the coast at St. Raphael in the North-East and returned to the coast at Toulon. The metre gauge line had a large station at Toulon and followed the coast through Hyères and Frejus back to St. Raphael, with branches to St. Tropez and Cogolin. The area just inland is known as the Massif de Maures.

The line, 110 kilometres was long, followed the coast for most of its route. The tightest radius was 100 metres. The line was most often on its own formation, sometimes on a protected roadside platform alongside what was then the N559 or the D98.

History of the Line[1]

The PLM, at first, welcomed the construction of a metre gauge line as it anticipated that it would only increase traffic on its own system. The decision to begin the work on the laine was taken in 1887. The first 33 kilometre-long section from Saint-Raphaël to Cogolin/St. Tropez was opened on 25th August 1889. The line was then extended to Hyères, a further 51 kilometres. This work was completed in August 1890. The two short branches to Cogolin and St Tropez were completed a year later in 1892.[2]

The PLM became nervous of the possibility of the line extending to Toulon. It was fearful for competition on through traffic. So, the terminus of the coastal line was initially fixed as being at Hyères. It was a few years before the line was extended through to Toulon. The completion of the line and the opening of the last section to Toulon took place on 6th August 1905. This last 23 kilometres was constructed as a result of the success of the line over previous years.

The line was very popular with tourists as it opened up access to coastal resorts to the East of Toulon. Nonetheless rapid construction of the line left the formation fragile and regular maintenance and sometimes more significant work was required to keep the line in operation. Very early in its existence, the line had to cope with bad weather. Structures built for the line were neither big enough, nor robust enough to deal with flooding in the area. Major work had to be undertaken to rectify the problem.

During the first 25 years of its existence, the line allowed the opening up of the coastal towns of the Massif des Maures and the demographic growth of many communes such as Pradet, Carqueiranne, La Londe, Cavalaire, Sainte-Maxime and Saint-Tropez. It considerably enhanced the economy of the area, even if its own finances did not fully reflect this. In the years before the Great War a series of different projects were mooted and possible concessions were investigated.

An agreement signed on 27th November 1908, between the General Council of the Var and the Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France granted the opportunity for the railway company to build branch-lines connecting other villages and towns to their main line between Toulon and St. Raphael and also providing connections to the Central Var line. The two main routes agreed were:

  • A line from Salernes through Brignoles to a junction withe the coastal line near Pradet.
  • A line from Draguignan to St. Aygulf, connected at both ends to the Chemin de Fer due Sud’s main lines.

A further commitment to these lines was made in April 1909 when the agreement was enshrined in law. However, these additions to the network were destined never to be realised. The advent of the First World War meant that schemes of this nature were inevitably put on hold.

The First World War left the Company in a parlous state. The poor state of the line was not addressed in the years immediately after the War. In the 1920s, a series of different natural disasters affected the line. The degradation of the service and the poor state of the network accentuated the competition by the road.

Finally, in 1932, the local authorities responded. A decision was taken to modernise the line. Immediately after this decision there were very violent storms in the Mediterranean and these storms seem to have provoked a tidal wave which badly damaged costal defences and the railway line as well.

Surprisingly, this disaster did not cause the closure of the line, rather it prompted greater commitment to the modernisation plan. Work was undertaken quickly and the line was fully open once again by October 1933.

Modernisation almost went as far as electrification, but a dispute between the Railway Company and the Local Authorities meant that this did not go ahead. The Local Authorities decided that electrification would bring such an improvement in profitability that the work would pay for itself and so did not warrant subsidy. The Railway Company was unable to raise finance for the electrification. In fairness, both sides had strong arguments on their side. The costal line was after all the most financially viable and busiest of the lines of the Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France. By 1933, the historical company only had the coastal route under its control as the other two lines had been taken over by the State after going bankrupt.

The Railway Company turned to look at diesel railcars as the best solution to secure the future of the line. The decision was taken to buy 10 200hp railcars rather than the originally proposed 7 100hp railcars. They arrived in 1935 and were an immediate success.

In two years the number of travellers tripled, the revenue doubled and the cost per kilometre cut by two-thirds. The daily timetable was increased to seven round trips on each section, and thirteen between Toulon and Hyères. The Company was so successful that they became victims of their own success: some schedules trains had to be increased from single car operations two, three and even four car operations on occasions. In this period, the train overcame all competition. The Toulon-Hyères tramway closed on 30th September 1936, and bus companies saw their customers desert their services and consequently saw a dramatic drop in revenues.

During this period any problems encountered were those arising from success rather than failure. In 1936, the General Council of Var ordered six new railcars and two locomotives. During the years 1937 and 1938, seventeen new stops were created on the line and a departmental coordination plan was created to regulate compettitve activity between road and rail.

Between Toulon and Hyères, the bus service was reduced and between Toulon and Cavalière buses were cancelled completely. However, the Railway Company found that it need to supplement the rail service on that second route and developed a coach service to complement its own rail service.

As a consequence of this action, a small change was made to the agreement with governed the management of the line and other transport in the area. In July 1938 this change formally permitted the Railway Company to replace some of it trains with road vehicles as necessary. This addendum did not at the time seem significant but ultimately it was the freedom for the company to do this which cause the end of the rail service only a few years later.

On the eve of the war, in 1939, the Chamber of Commerce of Toulon finally secured the permit for construction of a metre-gauge track between the Toulon terminus of the costal line and the PLM station.

Wartime bombing and occupation caused serious damage to the coastline and to parts of the railway. A few weeks after the liberation, a shuttle was put back into service from Toulon to Hyères, it allowed a daily return in each direction. It ran heavily overloaded.

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the employees of the Railway Company managed, without significant resources and without recognition, to restore traffic along the whole length of the line. It was operational by 15th March 1945 before the end of the conflict in Europe. But the number of vehicles was reduced and those operable were in a very poor state of repair. It quickly became obvious that there was no likelihood of financing and that the Company was also riddled with debt. On 29th October 1945 the Company Director proposed transferring all service to road vehicles. Technical reports were undertaken on the state of the railway and proved to be surprisingly positive about its condition and the possibility of proper repair.  However, the political discussions about what to do with the railway lasted three long years, during which the railway operated in really poor conditions. Overloading of the remaining 9 railcars was common and the Company supplemented these with road transport. In the same period maintenance of the permanent way was cut t a bear minimum to allow the company to purchase more road vehicles. By the summer of 1948, Railway Company flyers were only mentioning their bus services and no reference was made to the railway, even though trains were still running.

The closure was drawn out. On 14th May 1948, the decision was made to close the line. On 19th May, the Frejus diesel workshop was in flames. Railcar repairs were no longer possible. Rail cars continued to provide a service along the line until 2nd June 1948. A truncated service continued between Toulon and Hyères, until 18th October 1948. Some sources suggest that some sort of service continued without any logistical support until 1949.[3]

And finally, why ‘Le Macaron‘ (the Macaroon in English)?

A plausible explanation is provided by Roland le Corff [4] who suggests that  in Provençal, the train was called Lou mascaroun (which gave the word macaron) and which means “black” and more precisely a person blackened by coal. For example, this is what coal miners were called. What could be more logical than to name a steam train whose black smoke smeared on the faces of passengers leaning out of the window and of course that of the mechanic and driver placed in the front row?


[1] Wikipedia;, accessed 17th December 2017; and, accessed 18th December 2017.

[2], accessed 15th December 2017.

[3] E.g., accessed 18th December 2017.

[4] Roland le Corff;, accessed 18th December 2017.

Harz Mountain Railways

The Harz Mountains host an amazing heritage railway line. There is plenty to read later in this blog but we start with a few pictures. Make sure to follow through all the videos including the one which finishes the blog after the links and references. Incidentally the last few links are all to video makers pages on YouTube and there are some stunning railway related videos to be found. But first, these pictures ……………


A beautiful snow bound picture (not the one immediately above) of a metre gauge railway loco straining the lift its load up through the Harz Mountains in Winter was on the front of one of the  Cards that I received at Christmas in 2017. It came from a friend who has visited the railway system in the Harz Mountains and it reminded me that the Harz Mountain Railways are on my bucket list of things to do.

I thought, as a way of relieving the need to travel, I would look at what I could find on-line. I discovered a rich tapestry of videos, photos and text and I plan to show some of what I found here in this blog post. Littered around the post are pictures and videos which often are stunningly beautiful, certainly dramatic! Steam, smoke and sometimes snow!

The railway system is extensive, it is the largest network of narrow gauge railways in Germany. The lines connect the principal cities of Wernigerode, Nordhausen and Quedlinburg and several smaller towns in the area. There is, in all, about 140 kilometres of metre-gauge track. The lines have numerous steep gradients and run through areas of outstanding natural beauty as well as into the heart of one of an industrial city.

There are three main lengths of track, the oldest is the Selketalbahn from from Quedlinburg via Gernrode to the junction with the Harzquerbahn at Eisfelder Tamuhle. The earliest length of this line to open did so in 1891, that latest part of this line to open was in service from 1905.

This section of the system is more lightly used but does feature two branches to Harzgerode and to Hasselfelde.

The second line, the Harzquerbahn, opened from Naordhausen to Ilfield in 1897, and then in 1899, through to Drei Annan Hohne where it met the Brockenbahn.

The Brockenbahn between Werningerode and Schierke opened in 1898, and the length to the summit of the Brocken was completed the following year.

The company is mainly owned by the different local authorities that it serves and is an island of traditional practice within the wider, highly efficient German railway network. It runs a significant number of its trains with steam haulage, mostly employing 1950s vintage 2-10-2 tank locomotives, hauling traditional open-platform bogie carriages. It supplements the steam-hauled services with ones relying on diesel rail cars.

After the Second World War the entire network fell within the Soviet Zone of Occupation, later East Germany. The two main lines which now make up the system, the Gernrode-Harzgeroder Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft (GHE) and the Nordhausen-Wernigeroder Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft (NWE) were subordinated to the East German Deutsche Reichsbahn in on 1 April 1949.

After the fall of the communist regime in East Germany and the reunification of the country it did not take long  for a private railway company to be formed to run the Harz Mountain Railways. On 1 February 1993 the private railway company Harzer Schmalspurbahnen GmbH (HSB) took over all stock, lines, staff, etc., from the Deutsche Reichsbahn and since then has acted as both the railway operating company (EVU) and railway infrastructure company (EIU).

The head office is in Wernigerode, where its workshops and locomotive depot are located. Today the HSB has the longest single network of narrow gauge railway in Germany, with a total length of 140.4 km (87 miles), 44 stations and halts. Trains run to a timetable and the company operates more than ten steam locomotives, seven diesel railbuses and three trams (on the Nordhausen Tramway).

The best-known line is the Brocken Railway which is worked by steam locomotive-hauled trains to a daily scheduled timetable running from Wernigerode via Drei Annen Hohne to the Brocken and back.

Regional services between Nordhausen and Ilfeld, on the other hand were transferred to diesel railbuses and (since 1 May 2004) trams, apart from one pair of steam trains. In addition the HSB still operates regular goods trains from Hartsteinwerk Unterberg (on the Selke Valley Railway) to Nordhausen Übergabebahnhof (on the Trans-Harz Railway) using diesel locomotives of Class 199.8 and piggy-backed standard-gauge wagons.

On 1 May 2004, a link line was opened in Nordhausen between the Nordhausen Tramway and the Trans-Harz Railway. Since then, the tramway between Nordhausen Hospital and the HSB halt of Ilfeld-Neanderklinik (Line 10) has been worked by electric and hybrid vehicles of the Combino duo class. On the Trans-Harz Railway (which has no catenary), motive power is diesel-electric, the trams being equipped with an on-board diesel engine.

Since 2004, the Nordhausen Nord station has become much less used and most traffic now operates out of what was the tramway stop of Nordhausen Bahnhofsvorplatz.

On 18 April 2005, work started on the extension of the Selke Valley Railway from Gernrode to Quedlinburg (length 8.5 km) after DB AG had closed this standard-gauge section and sold it to the HSB. First, the Gernrode terminus was converted into a through station. On 4 March 2006, the first narrow gauge train Quedlinburg station and, since 26 June 2006, there have been scheduled services by the Harz narrow gauge railways to Quedlinburg with at least two pairs of steam trains per day. In Quedlinburg the HSB stops at a shared platform with trains of the Harz-Elbe Express to Halberstadt.

Rolling Stock

The network is notable for its steam locomotives. We benefit today from a lack of investment during the period the line was in Deutsche Reichsbahn ownership, between 1945 and 1993. There are 17 2-10-2 tank locomotives, built during the 1950s and several older types as well which include four 0-4-4-0 T mallet compound articulated locomotives. The steam locomotives are assisted by a fleet of diesel railcars which supplement the steam services primarily for the benefit of the local population.


Links and References

  1. David Longman; Accessed 14th December 2017.
  2. Michael Williams; Is this the world’s greatest steam train?;  The Telegraph, London,; 2nd September 2016. Accessed 15th December 2017.
  3.  Wikipedia; Harz Narrow Gauge Railways; Accessed 15th December 2017.
  4. Wikipedia; Broken Railway; Accessed 15th December 2017.
  5. Wikipedia; Harz Railway; Accessed 15th December 2017.
  6. Wikipedia; Selke Valley Railway; Accessed 15th December 2017.
  7. Wikipedia; South Harz Railway; Accessed 15th December 2017.

Shame and Honour on the African Continent

I am trying to write a book about the dynamics of Shame and the Gospel. I have asked for comments on a first draft of the text  from a lecturer at the college I attended when training for ministry in the Church of England. One of many thoughtful and helpful comments he made related to the prevalence of sources from a Middle Eastern and Asian context and the limited references to the theme of shame in African literature.

I follow a blog from Jayson Georges called which was founded in 2013 and now acts as the digital platform of the Honor-Shame Network. In 201.. Jayson Georges wrote a short post about the paucity of literature about honour and shame coming from the African context (

I took the comments from my college lecturer and the post from as a challenge to research what literature exists that focusses on shame in a Sub-Saharan African context.

This article (link below) provides some insight into what literature is available and gives some idea of the breadth of issues considered.

African Shame Issues

The survey is by no means exhaustive and I would very much appreciate any pointer to other sources and/or relevant areas of study.

In addition to the works referred to in my article it is worth noting the existence of the book written by Mark S. Aidoo.

“Shame in the Individual Lament Psalms and African Spirituality” (Mark S. Aidoo) 

I have not yet read the book but it appears to be a significant addition to the list of texts referred to  in the blog from This is what advertisers say about the book.

The book explores how the rhetorical function of ‘shame’ and its cognates within twelve Individual Lament Psalms (ILP) reflect persuasive responses aimed at enhancing the relational spirituality of the psalmist. It argues that the Hebrew terminology of ‘bws is used as a response to enhance a spirituality of relatedness. The author argues that the plea for positive shame is to enhance positive spirituality that leads to changes of attitude, repentance, faithfulness, self-knowledge, and wholeness. Negative shame influences negative spirituality that leads to destruction and unworthiness. The volume reflects African Christian spirituality elucidating the psalmist’s perception of positive shame

Ligne de Central Var – Part 15 – Rians to Meyrargues (Chemins de Fer de Provence 35)

Rians to Meyrargues

We start the last section of our journey on the Ligne de Central Var of the Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France from the station at Rians. Before returning to the station we take a look round the town and its immediate environs.

A view of the church and bell tower in RiansRians is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in south-eastern France. It is a provençal village in the Upper Var located north east of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire. It is on a narrow farming plain between the hills north-east of Sainte-Victoire and south of the Durance/Verdon hills.

The main employment is agriculture, predominantly wine. The village itself is built on a hill that is dominated by a 12th-century bell tower and the church of Notre Dame de Nazareth. The Town is made up of concentric medieval streets that work their way down the hill.

I am told that notable events in Rians include: dancing in the squares on 14th July; the Fête de St Laurent on 8th August; and the Fête de la Courge in October. We missed all these as we drove across the north side of Rians in November 2017.

A few pictures will give us a feel for the village.

 Rians photo rians0131b.jpg

 Rians photo rians0088b.jpg

 Rians photo rians0058b.jpg

 Rians photo rians0109b.jpg

 Rians photo rians0121b.jpg

 Rians photo rians0149b.jpg

Since prehistoric times, this village has been populated. There is apparently proof that around 40,000 years ago people used to live in caves of Rigabe. There are over 4,300 people living in  Rians at present.

After a good look round, we head for the station up Avenue de la Gare.

As we wait for our train we notice once again the large Wine Cooperative next to the station and comment on how much larger its warehouse is than the goods facilities at the station.

The line heads north-west from the station and curves round to a more westerly direction before crossing the Canal de Provence. In the satellite image below the Chemin des Herbes in the bottom right is the route of the line immediately after leaving Rians Station. The line leaves the image centre left below the East-West arm of the Canal.

Incidentally, in November 2017, we had breakfast at a small Boulangerie on the North side of Rians – Artisan Boulanger, Lucian Amoureux. The premises are just to the South of the old line. A lovely and cheap breakfast it was too.

The Canal de Provence is run by SCP – La Société du Canal de Provence. In 1957, aware that the control of water was the key to the socio-economic development of Provence, three territorial communities, the departments of Var and Bouches-du-Rhône and the City of Marseille, decided to pool their rights to the catchment around the Verdon river. They gave the Société du Canal de Provence the task of ensuring the hydraulic development of the region.

In 1963, the company was commissioned by State concession to build and manage the Canal de Provence and the other works necessary for the water supply of the Eastern and coastal areas of Provence.

The Company has an annual turnover of 100 million euros. On average it invests 40 million euros each year in its infrastruture. It has 480 employees and transports 200 million cubic metres of water each year. It also produces 20 Million kWh of hydro-electric power each year.

It has nearly 70 km of open channels, more than 5,000 km of water supply and distribution pipelines, 85 dams and local reservoirs, 83 pumping stations, 19 water treatment stations, 4 clarification and filtration stations, 6 mini and micro hydropower plants that produce 50% of the company’s consumption. It supplies 1,700 companies, 165 municipalities, 6,000 farms, 80 000 ha equipped with irrigation, 37,000 individuals, 2,000 posts and fire stations and about 40% of the population of the entire Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

More information can be found by following this link:

The railway line ran along the line of the road which can be seen in the picture above, crossing the large canal on a bridge and then heading off into the distance to the left (South side) of the narrower canal. Two pictures along the route show, first, an abandonned crossing keeper’s cottage, and then a view back down the line before it reached the next halt, showing some of the significant earthworks along this length of the line.

A few kilometres after crossing the canal, the rail formation meets up with the D561 road to the West of Le Benas and just to the East of the border between Var and Bouches-du-Rhone. There was a small halt at this point (Roques-Port Sec) and the building remains as a private property.

The satellite images suggest that at one time the old road was above the line of the railway, separated from it by retaining walls and at one point by a rock bluff. The present road has apparently been aligned with the old railway on a widened formation.

Close to the border a modern aqueduct can be seen over the D561, part of a whole series of water supply arrangements run by the SCP. This is a suspension bridge carrying a water supply. Typical of Provence is the amount spent by the Department and Region in securing a good water supply for residential, farming and business use.

We move on now into Bouches-du-Rhone. Jouques is the next village on the line.

It is a small village not far from Le Durance, nestled between Provence and Luberon. On the way to Jouques the line leaves the alignment of the D561 (while remaining on Route de Rians) and crosses the river (the Ruisseau de Saint-Bachi) and travels along on the South side of the river.

Approaching Jouques, the formation runs immediately alongside Chemin de Couloubleau. The road, as can be seen, widens out to include the railway formation and becomes Avenue de la Gare.

A short stop at Jouques Station and we are on our way once again. the tracks head across the yard ahead of us on the adjacent photo and then into a very short tunnel before we pick it up again on La Burlière. The picture below looks back down the line towards Jouques town centre.

The route then finds a path alongside the D561 once again as it leave Jouques behind. The trains followed tracks aligned roughly with the cycleway/footway on the left of the photograph.

At various points along the D561 its route can be picked out, either directly alonside the carriageway or deviating away from it.

The line continued to what is now a major canal aligned with the present D561 road bridge – Pont EDF. When the railway was in use this canal did not exist. It was built in the 1960s.

The formation seems to have been obliterated by the canal works. It does not follow the alignment suggested in the file associated with Google Earth as we can identify the station building somewhat to the South of that line, much closer to the canal.

It appears that the line followed the route of the canal for a few hundred metres before deviating into Peyrolles. The exact line is difficult to decipher, however, the 1934 Michelin map shows the line a good distance below the N96 (now D96) and the N561 (now D561) roads as they meet East of the centre of Peyrolles.

The red line on the satellite image above is the route of the line as indicated on the add-in to Google Earth. The green-line is the much more likely route and the green box highlights the location of Peyrolles Station.

Leaving the station the route curves round to the South West, tightly following the line of a smaller older canal (Canal de Peyrolles) which runs on the North-side of the modern canal. The green line approximates to the route on the image below. It follows what is now called Boulevard Courdeloi before crossing the Canal de Peyrolles to join the Route du Plan.

The Route de Plan and the rail alignment cross the D96 at level and the road name changes to La Grange. The alignment then turns to a more Westerly rather than North-westerly direction and runs parallel to the old PLM line towards Meyrargues. The red line below seems to travel passed the station an on along another railway. More about this below.

The three satellite images show the shared location of stations on three different railway lines. The most northerly station marked on the final satellite image in yellow is the PLM Station on the old line between Paris and Marseilles. The red arrow points to the passenger station buildings of the terminus of the Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France Central-Var line. The blue arrow points to the passenger facilities of the terminus of the standard gauge line to Salon-de-Provence and Arles which was run by the department of Bouches-du-Rhône.

It is this third line which has been picked out by the red line through the station site on the first satellite image immediately above and following this third line is a story for another occasion.

The PLM Station In Meyrargues

This station was constructed in the 1850s and remains open today. The PLM line circled round the West side of Meyrargues and entered a short tunnel before reappearing to the South-east of the town. The alignment can be seen on the map at the end of the next sequence of photos.

Once clear of Meyrargures the line travelled south to Marseilles.

The Bouches-de-Rhône Departmental Railway

This standard railway had its terminus in Meyrargues and travelled via Lamanon and Eyguières to Arles and Salon-de Provence


The good shed visible beyond the passenger station building is now in use as a perfumery and they have kept records of the drawings of the building.

The Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France Station

Our journey terminates in this station. There is just time top provide you with the timetable if you want to make the return journey along the line.









Ligne de Central Var – Part 14 – Barjols to Rians (Chemins de Fer de Provence 34)

Barjols to Rians


Barjols is a small town of around 3,200 inhabitants. Close to it is a small geological feature which includes a small gorge and a series of caves. The caves became home to a Carmelite Convent.

Along with much of France, Barjols experienced a period of agitation shortly before the French Revolution. In addition to the fiscal problems present for several years, the harvest of 1788 had been bad and winter 1788-1789 very cold. The election of 1789 provoked agitation and heightened a sense of class difference.  At the end of March 1789 riots and insurrection shook Provence. A food riot occured in Barjols on 26th March 26. Peasants attacked property owners seeking to force them to cancel outstanding debts. The reaction was to call out ther local constabulary, then to institute legal proceedings, but ultimately those convicted were not imprisoned. The storming of the Bastille resulted in a climate ofvfear in the region and amnesties were given in August and a civil guard was created, made up of local owners, artisans and farmers to protect against further revolt. Ultimately the revolution took place throughout  France and everything changed.

In the 1790s Barjols was chief town of the district. It was wealthy. In the XIX th  century, Barjols had become the ‘French capital of leather’. It had 24 tanneries and a sreies of 23 mills. Also, interestingly, a factory making playing cards.

In the Middle Ages, bow hunters and breeders sold or traded their skins to local artisans, most often to the shoemaker himself who tanned them. In 1608, Jean-Baptiste Vaillant installed the first tannery factory thanks to the tax benefits granted by Henri IV, a fervent advocate of industry. Barjols had 300 years of prosperty resulting from the tannery industry. There were 24 tanneries by 1782. In 1900 it wasnoited that Barjolais tanners treated so-called “exotic” skins from Africa, Asia and South America. At the beginning of the 20th century, new tanning methods appeared and revolutionized the leather industry. 

The new methods, vegetable tanning, reduced the tanning time from several months to a few weeks. However, the real revolution lay in the discovery of chrome tanning that lasted only 24 hours. Competition became significant and the number of tanneries in Barjols declined. At the time of WW2 there were only 3 larger tanneries in Barjols, but they were still employing more than 450 people and represented 5 to 7% of the total production of French tanneries by processing 5,000 tons of skins per year.

Decline set in in the 1950s and the last tannery in Barjols filed for bankruptcy in 1983. The work had primarily moved abroad, to the USA, South America and elsewhere.

Today the large tannery buildings serve as lofts or workshops for a large community of artists based in the town.

Barjols calls itself ‘the gateway to Haute Provence and the hills of Var’, near the Gorges du Verdon and the Lake of St. Croix, it is a peaceful village, set on a limestone cliff, and an inviting stop for visitors. It has 42 man made fountains, Barjols’ architecture and life have been determined for centuries by the abudance of water. 

Because of its more recent industrial past Barjols didn’t develop into a big tourist destination and so has kept many features and characters of French village life.

Having taken time to get to know Barjols we head back to thge railway station to continue our journry. As we do so we find on thge street a ticket which must have been dropped by someone.

We set off on our journey bearing this lost ticket and enjoyingvthe accommodation in 2nd Class.

Once we leave the station travelling towards Rians we find ourselves in cutting and quickly going under a road over-bridge. The modern name for the route is HLM les Camps. The image below is from Google Streetview as is taken looking back towards Barjols Station.

The route continues towards Varages and encounters a short tunnel. both the portals are shown below, together with a map which marks the tunnel with a black dotted line with arrowheads at each end. beyond the tunnel the line continues to follow Chemin de Varages-Pres, a gravel road based on the formation of the old line.










The aerial shot looks back down the line towards Barjols and gives a good impression of the scenery around the line. Hidden behind trees in the centre of the image is a crossing keeper’s cottage. the formation of the line is now overlain with a broken tarmac surface.

The line continues on towards Varages held high above the local road on a series of retaining walls. The road comes up to meet the railway and crosses it. There are two images below the one of the retaining wall which show the crossing, the first looking back down the line (the railway came down the track behind the green waste bin. The second image shows the formation and the road diverging again. The railway took the route on the left of the picture which is now covered in tarmac.

Rue Saint-Photin continues to meet the D35, crossing a river bridge en-route. The crossing keeper’s cottage can be seen at the junction, as can the portal of the tunnel beyond. The line disappeared into m a short tunnel just beyond the present D35.

The formation continues to be tarmacked and carries the road along below the village of Varages and into the old station.

Our train can just be seen now in the old postcard exiting the tunnel portal and arriving at Varages Station.


Beyond Varages, the line continues in a North-westerly direction for half a kilometre or so before diverting westward.

Just south of Bezaaudon and with the D561 nearby, the trackbed becomes inaccessible for a while but continues to follow the routs of the D561 but a hundred or so metres to the South.

And by the time the D561 turned south to cross the alignment, the railway was bridgeable as it was in cutting.

The D561 leaves the rail alignment here and also crosses the river, heading away southwards. The line continued along the river bank to the next station.

The station for the village of Saint-Martin-de-Pallières sat in open fields to the north of the village.

The next visible structure on the route is the crossing keeper’s cottage at Les Bréguières Occidentale, Esparron. The landscape alongside the line is now predominantly made up of flat open fields and the line itself travels along the flat landscape with cuttings or embankments. Our next stop is at Esparron Station.

The private dwelling and gardens have been nicely restored. The line travelled between the two remaining structures, the station house and the goods shed. Even part of the station platform remains visible. The D70 was crossed at grade and the line headed on to meet the D561.










On the plan above, Esparron can be picked out in the bottom right and the route of the line runs from the top right to the top left. A tarmac surface means that it is easy to follow the route in a vehicle. We did this in November 2017.

Further West the formation runs directly alongside the D561, before crossing it at grade and running on the South side of the road, hidden behind the trees in the picture below.

It joins the D561 just before reaching Rians and then follows that road up[ to a roundabout junction with the D3 which it crossed at grade. Evidence of the crossing point is hidden under the modern road layout. Although its route can be picked out just beyond the roundabout leading away to the north of the D3 and becoming Chemin des Herbes.

The Station at Rians was on the North side of what is now the D3. Two of the old buildings exist unaltered. The third has been converted extended to improve its use as a Wine Cooperative building.

The “Rians et Artigues” winery was founded in 1922 and made use of the railway to transport its produce. I have found fiures for its operational capacity in 1979. That year it vinified 19,235 hectolitres of wine, including 574 hectolitres of AOC Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence. It had 252 members who were then cultivating 296 hectares of vines. The building is marked with the yellow arrow. The passenger station building is marked with a red arrow and now-a-days hides behind a high hedge. The Goods Shed is marked with a blue arrow. The station site is marked with a red ellipse on the plan below.

We disembark our train here in Rians to take a break before travelling on.


Ligne de Central Var – Part 13 – Sillans la Cascade to Barjols (Chemins de Fer de Provence 33)

Sillans la Cascade to Barjols

We start this part of our journey along the Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France Central Var Line by having a look round the immediate vicinity of the station and village of Sillans la Cascade. First we have pictures of the waterfall that gives the town its full name, then some postcards from the town itself.

We wander back to the station at Sillans la Cascade, crossing La Bresque on the way. At the station we continue with our journey. As we set off from the station we travel alongside La Bresque. The river provided a good defence for the village on three sides as the plan of the town above illustrates. The station was on the East of the town across the river.

As we travel round the north side of the village we encounter the bridge over La Bresque. The river is now relatively small as can be seen in the adjacent picture. The bridge is at the point marked on the map above by a red ellipse. The route we are now following is today called Chemin de Provence and once clear of Sillans la Cascade it follows the D560 (Chemin de Fox Amphoux) closely on its north side until the road turns away westwards and the line loops round from a north-westerly direction to a more westerly direction itself . The road and the rail formation are back next to each other by the time we reach the Clinique Veterinaire de Sillans (3 Chemin du Plan, Route de Barjols, 83690 Sillans-la-Cascade, France)

The road and the railway formation seem to come together entirely at a point just before the junction between the D560 and the D32, although the location of the abandoned crossing keeper’s cottage might suggest that the rail formation remained on the north side of the present D560.

For some distance this was the case. The road and the rial formation followed each other until the road swung away towards a junction with the D13 and the railway continued in a North-westerly direction to cross the D13 some metres north of the D560’s junction with it. The divergence is in the first picture (on the left) below the route of the line is shown beside the vineyard in the second picture (on the right). the two alignments did not meet again for at least half a kilometre close to Chateau La Calisse, (

We found another crossing keeper’s cottage further along the route beyond the junction between the D560 and the D60. This must have been at a point where the road and the railway switched sides and the railway continued on the South-side of the road towards Barjols.

At the chevron sign on the adjacent photo, the road turns sharply to follow the north-side of a watercourse, the rail formation crosses the brook before turning parallel to the road and crossing a side road twice (D60) which loops into Ponteves and then out again to join the D560.

The railway continues along the South side if the stream for a few hundred metres before crossing it once again and then crossing the D560. Its line betrayed, once again by another crossing keeper’s cottage. Its crossing of the road was probably at roughly the pint where there are now metal garden gates. The road and the railway formation diverg as the road drops down into the town of Barjols and the rail route holds North of the town.

From this crossing point the railway approaches Barjols on a tight curve in a deep cutting., as the picture and map below illustrate.

The station site is further to the North-west and was reached by the line after it crossed the D554.

The station site was to the North side of what is now called Avenue de Garessio and is highlighted by the red ellipse. At the time these pictures were taken the whole site was for sale and many of the buildings were still visible.

Sadly the main passenger building seems to have been demolished prior to the taking of the pictures.

So we finish the next stage of our journey and look forward to exploring the small town of Barjols at the beginning of the next episode!

Ligne de Central Var – Part 12 – Lorgues to Sillans la Cascade (Chemins de Fer de Provence 32)

Lorgues to Sillans la Cascade

Over a short break in Lorgues we have time to look round the town before returning to the station to continue our journey.

Here are some pictures of our wander round the town.


The site of Lorgues Station

We return to the station to continue our journey.

Our route takes us out of Lorgues along what is now called Chemin du Train des Pignes Ouest and on into what would have been open country but which now has a lot of well spaced residential property. Significant structures still remain extant, such as the bridge below.





The route wanders through the mixed woodland, farmland and housing of the French countryside. Increasing numbers of vineyards and lavender fields begin to make this really feel as though it is Provence!

The line runs roughly parallel to the Chemin de St. Antonin (D50) and, at points, right next to it but at a slightly higher level, held there by rustic retaining walls as above. Somewhere along this length was the station for Entrecasteaux. It would not have been well used, as it was so far north of the town. There appears to be very little evidence of its location.

The road and the railway formation diverge sharply and the line continues through woodland to the valley of La Bresque where it runs close to but at a much higher level than the D31 on its way towards Salernes.

After quite a distance in the midst of farmland and forest the line once again encounters relatively low density housing in the hamlets of the valley of La Bresque, and the route once again bears a modern road name – Les Amourenes. Gradually the D31 (Route d’Entrecasteaux) and the railway formation converge. They meet as the valley begins to widen out and approach Salernes. The picture below shows the road and the old railway in very close proximity and it remains like this until close to Salernes.

As the line approached Salernes it began to rise above the road alignment and then swung away from the D31, turning first northwards and then eastwards and aligning itself with Boulevard de la Liberation (D2560). After a short distance it left the line of the D2560 and roughly bisected the angle between the D2560 and the D51. This is the location of Salernes Station. The plan below shows this. The blue dotted line is the alignment of the railway and the red ellipse is the station site. Below the map are a number of pictures of the station site today, a few old postcard views from the early 20th Century and two aerial shots, one of the past and one from much more recent times.

Beyond the station, the line turned back on itself to travel roughly Northwest along the D560 and then running West some distance north of Salernes but still following the route of the D560. On the way, at times it was in deep cutting. The map and picture below give a good idea of the topography and highlight one of the more significant structures on this part of the route – the bridge now carries a narrow lane linking two parts of the Commune.

The D560 has been widened and re-profiled recently. The route of the railway has been lost in the earthworks associated with the road widening and can only be picked out easily on satellite images where its path diverted slightly from the road alignment. For example, the railway formation is visible to the North side of the road at its roundabout junction with the D31 (Route d’Aups). For a while, the line then followed the Route d’Aups (see the map below), before that road reverted to travelling East after a hairpin bend and the railway formation continued Westwards towards Sillans la Cascade.

Somewhere in the vicinity of Salernes the railway crossed the la Bresque. I have not been able to identify the exact location of the bridge in this postcard. No doubt someone will be able to provide more details.

One possible location  would be just to the west of the map below, although the built area behind mitigates against this.

The line curved through the forest before returning to then line of the D560. On the way it crossed one road and the crossing keeper’s cottage for that location appears still to be in place as part of an extended house.

Once the line regains the D560 it follows it fairly closely on towards Sillans la Cascade. The two can be seen in tandem on the satellite image below. Just the tightest turns in the road were smoothed out by the engineers of the line.

The next satellite image, shows the location of the old station (now a school) and the village of Sillans la Cascade. The route of the railway runs from the top left of the image to the bottom right. We will be taking a break from our journey at Sillans la Cascade. Just two images of the stationfollwo the satellite image – an old postcard and a picture of the station house as part of the school buildings.


Some excellent information on this part of the line is provided by Randonnes Ferroviaires Fiche Iteneraire Chemin du central var median which can be found at: