Goods Services on the Network of the Tramways of Nice and the Littoral (Chemins de Fer de Provence 60)

I have been very fortunate indeed. … For my birthday this year, my wife has bought me two books about the tramways of Nice. Both of these books are written in French by Jose Banuado and published by Les Editions du Cabri. [1]

I am enjoying reading the first of the two volumes at the moment which covers the history of the tramways in Nice. I have had some conversations of a number of forums about the TNL which ran the tramways along the coast and in the city of Nice as well as a number of lines which travelled up into the hilly countryside behind the coast.

One particular area of discussion has been a practice which seems unique to Nice among other major cities in France and possibly much wider afield. The TNL ran not only passenger services but good services as well.

Sadly the story of these activities is currently only available in Jose Banuado’s books which are written in French.

I have teamed up with Google translate to translate the pages of Jose Banuado’s book which relate to the goods traffic on the TNL network and I hope that I have fairly translated his work which follows in italics. If you are fluent in both French and English and have access to Jose Banuado’s books, you might want to check my translation to ensure I have fairly represented his work. [2]

At the end of the year 1903, the TNL was at responsible for a 94.3 kilometre network, of which 29.1 km represented the eight urban lines of Nice, 12.1 km the line to Cagnes, 15.6 km that to Contes and 37.5 km that to Menton including the line through Monaco and beyond to Menton. This network was operated with one hundred six powered trams and thirty-two trailers, to which were added three tractors (shunting locos) and twenty-two wagons for the transport of goods.  

There was no extension to the network between 1903 and 1907, when the short line to St. Jean-Cap-Ferrat was completed. On the other hand, the increase in traffic necessitated the improvement and the increase of the fleet of rolling stock. On the urban lines, the original powered vehicles saw extended platforms and trailers were added on the most loaded services. As early as 1904, the company signed a contract with the advertising agency Silberberg to rent advertising space inside and outside the trams in the city. This arrangement was however not extended to the coast lines. New powered vehicles were ordered for the coastal lines: forty vehicles which were more powerful and comfortable were delivered in two batches between 1904 and 1909. They were equipped with air-brakes and coupled permanently into pairs. 

The transport of goods took off remarkably. This distinguishes the TNL network from its counterparts in most other major French cities. In addition to postal and retail freight traffic on the coast, the Contes cement plant provided substantial tonnages with coal deliveries for its kilns and lime shipments and cement in sacks. But to ensure the best trade, it was necessary to link trams to the other major transport infrastructure of the city of Nice: the commercial port, the PLM station and the Chemin de Fer du Sud. 

From the beginning of the work on the Nice-Ventimiglia railway under the Second Empire, the Municipality and the Chamber of Commerce of Nice had pushed for the creation of a port connection and a ferry terminal. Forty years later, as the PLM had done nothing, the same authorities took advantage of the establishment of trams to provide a service to the port by this means of transport. This prospect was made all the more promising by the crossing between the circular line No. 8 of the TNL and SF Nice – Grasse and Puget-Theniers. At the crossing, at Boulevard Gambetta, ir was easy to introduce a connection between these two metre-gauge networks. An agreement was signed on 7th February 1905, providing for the connection of the two lines at the north-east corner of the level crossing, the construction of an exchange platform in the sidings of the Chemin de Fer du Sud Station and the electrification of the tracks. This meant that the TNL locomotives could access these sidings. At the other end of the city, the chamber of commerce, manager of the facilities of the port, took charge of laying tracks on the docks. 

All of these facilities were built and commissioned in the course of 1906, but their operation was not made official until the following year. A transit route was established between the port and the South Station. Using the urban lanes, the distance between the lanes was accordingly increased by Arson Street, Saluzzo Square, Barla Street and Bridge, Carabacel Square and Boulevard, Gioffredo, L’Escarène, Lepante and Assalit Streets, Thiers Avenue and Boulevard Gambetta. The TNL assigned shunters/power cars and a hundred wagons to the traffic, while the Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France ordered two hundred wagons able to run on the tracks of the trams to the port of Nice. A final formality needed to be settled to ensure a service which worked to the satisfaction of all: the state, as the owner of the port, had to grant an operator the right to access the tracks on the quays. The Chamber of Commerce expected to be the natural beneficiary of this concession and to surrender the rights to the company TNL. However, the Minister of Public Works preferred to deal directly with the TNL, and stipulated this in the decree of public utility of 30th April 1909. 

The connection to the port of Nice enabled the transport of large volumes of goods, the majority of which concerned the industries alongside the line to Contes (the Contes cement factory, L’Ariane flour mill and the Nice-Riquier gasworks), as well as exchanges with the Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France Station. The latter was also a point of contact with the PLM network since, although the PLM had always refused a direct connection with the trams, it was connected with the Chemin de Fer du Sud Station from 1899 onwards via a short branch-line which linked the two stations, set into the road pavement of the Rue de Falicon (now-a-days called the Rue des Combattants en Afrique du Nord). So, ultimately, it became possible to transship goods from a wagon of standard-gauge to a vehicle of the TNL and vice versa.

References

  1. Nice au fil du Tram Volume 1 and 2, Jose Banuado; Les Editions du Cabri.
  2. Nice au fil du Tram Volume 1; p50-52.

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