Tramways de l’Aude – Overview – Part 1

Les Tramways de l’Aude operated a departmental network in the department of Aude between 1901 and 1934. [4] A series of metre-gauge lines existed around Narbonne and Carcassonne. The lines were predominantly alongside roads with the exception of short sections where alignments required a deviation from the side of the carriageway.  [1] Gradients could be steep, almost as steep as 1in 20 and the horizontal alignment often had to accommodate tight curves. [4] The extent of this metre-gauge network is shown above. The sketch map is taken from the back cover of the definitive French text about ‘Les Tramways de l’Aude’ by Michel Vieux. [5]

Essentially, trains were steam-hauled throughout the life of the line.   Apparently some use was made of Autorails from 1924 onwards but resulting improvements were only mediocre. [4] Wikipedia [1] suggests that lines were closed by 1933. I have seen one article which talks of final closure on 7th August 1934. [4]

One short section of the network from Carcassonne to Lézignan was built on the territory of the department of Hérault , between the communes of Félines and Olonzac.

La compagnie des tramways à vapeur de l’Aude (TVA), was formed on 7th November 1898 . Its headquarters were in Carcassonne. The new company replaced Mr. Hugues Bardol, contractor and concession holder for a tramway network in the department of Aude. This company adopted a ‘TVA’ logo, although on rolling stock only the letters TA were used. [3] Stations were well equipped and laid out but income and traffic were essentially seasonal and labour costs were relatively high because of the bulk of the transported goods and large numbers of barrels. [4] L’Aude’s economy in the late 19th century was heavily dependent on vineyards and problems with transport were increasingly occurring. La Piege, to the east of the department, fed it with seeds and fodder. An example of the problems being experienced is quoted on the Baraigne village website:

Transport by carts are currently so expensive, so long and difficult, that in the canton of Belpech, instead of sending the goods on Castelnaudary, we prefer to transport them directly to Mazères and Saverdun, in the department of Ariège , to ship them to Narbonne.” [3]

So, to avoid poor quality roads, goods were transported over a route that was 140 kilometres long! It became imperative to find a suitable solution which mm in I mixed transport costs. As we will see in a later post, the solution in this case was a meandering tramway between Belpech, Salles sur l’Hers and Castelnaudary. [3]

La Société générale des transports départementaux (SGTD) operated several networks (Railways of the Suburbs of Reims , Tramways of Eure-et-Loir , Tramways of the Côte d’Or). In 1928, it began negotiations to take over the network in l’Aude using a mixed rail-road operation. After redemption of the company’s assets trams steam Aude, their service commenced on  1st August 1930.

The network had a total length of 342 kilometres and served much department. The lines can be divided into four groupings: [1]

Connections to other networks (junction stations), particularly with the network of the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer included:Castelnaudaryline Bordeaux-Saint-Jean – Sète-VilleBram, line Bordeaux-Saint-Jean – Sète-Ville; Carcassonne, line Bordeaux-Saint-Jean – Sète-Ville, line Carcassonne – RivesaltesCaunesline Moux – Caunes-Minervois; Lezignan, line Bordeaux-Saint-Jean – Sète-Ville; Narbonne, line Bordeaux-Saint-Jean – Sète-Ville, line Narbonne – Port-BouLa Nouvelle , line Narbonne – Port-Bou. [1]

Most of the lines of the network opened between 1901 and 1905: Carcassonne – Caunes: 10th March 1901;  Homps – Lézignan: 16th December 1901; Carcassonne – Caunes: 5th February 1902; Olonzac – Homps: 5th February 1902; Thézan – La Nouvelle: 5th June 5, 1902; Luzignan – Thézan: 22nd June 1902; Ripaud – Tuchan: 10th October 1902; Castelnaudary – Halls: 1st January 1903; Halls – Belpech: 14th June1903; Conques – Lastours: 15th June 1903; La Nouvelle – La Nouvelle Plage: 14th July 1904; Narbonne – Ouveillan: 12th February 1905; Narbonne – Fleury: 12th February 1905; Fabrezan – Saint Peter: 1st April 1905; Bram – Prouille  : 10th May 1905; Bram – Saint Denis: 10th May 1905; Les Palais – Mouthoumet: 10th May 1905; Narbonne – Thézan: 10th May 1905. [1]

Three opened at a later date: Bram – Fanjeaux: November 20, 1906; Felines – Olonzac: October 1, 1908; and Caunes – Felines: June 15, 1910. The last two openings were sections of the Carcassone-Lézignan line and required major construction work. [1]

Rolling stock and Locomotives

Locomotives: there were 45 locomotives in all. They were all 0-6-0 locomotives built by Corpet-Louvet and delivered between 1899 and 1914. [2] They were as follows:

No. 1 to 3 Corpet-Louvet n ° 776-778 in 1899;
No. 4 to 5 Corpet-Louvet n ° 785-786 in 1899;
No. 6 to 26 Corpet-Louvet n ° 789-807 in 1900 and 1901;
No. 27 Corpet-Louvet No. 932 in 1902;
No. 28 to 35 Corpet-Louvet n ° 809-816 in 1903;
No. 36 to 37 Corpet-Louvet n ° 1164-65 in 1908;
No. 38 Corpet-Louvet n ° 1229 in 1908;
No. 39 to 41 Corpet-Louvet n ° 1370-72 in 1912;
No. 42 to 43 Corpet-Louvet n ° 1495-1496 in 1914;
No. 55 to 56 Corpet-Louvet n ° 1054-55 in 1905.
No. 55-56 came from the Mining Company of Villerouge and Albas, in Félines-Terménès. [1]

Autorails: There is evidence of the use of small railcars from around 1924 onwards. [4]

Passenger Cars:  72 2-axle cars [1]

Baggage vans:     27 vans with postal compartment [1]

Freight wagons:  86 covered wagons, 81 open wagons, 186 flat wagons and 10 flat wagons with pivoting sleepers. [1]

References

  1. https://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tramways_de_l%27Aude, accessed on 24th August 2018.
  2. Taken from a list of Corpet-Louvet locomotives established by Sébastien Jarne, http://demophile1.free.fr/Corpet&Louvet.doc, accessed on 25th August 2018.
  3. http://sgdelestaing.pagesperso-orange.fr/Francais/Tramway.htm, accessed on 24th August 2018.
  4. http://ruedupetittrain.free.fr/lignes/sudest/tramway-aude.htm, accessed on 27th August 2018.
  5. Michel Vieux (ed: Roger Latour); Tramways à vapeur de l’Aude – Le petit train des vignes.

One thought on “Tramways de l’Aude – Overview – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Tramways de l’Aude – Overview – Part 2 | Roger Farnworth

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