Tramways de l’Aude – Tuchan to Ripaud via Durban

This next journey along Les Tramway de l’Aude begins in the town of Tuchan in the Southeast of the Departement of Aude.The small town of Tuchan – the tramway station was off to the bottom right of this satellite image.A schematic drawing of the station site. The watercourse shown on the sketch will not be the River Petit Verdouble. There was a mill close to the station site and it is possible that the watercourse shown would have been a mill-race! The sketch has the North point to the bottom of the image. [3]The old tramway station site is outlined in pink. In the bottom corner, the old engine shed is still standing.

Joseph Pestel on the RMweb forum (26th October 2018) comments: “There are three buildings left on the old station site still if you include the water tower. The river on the station map is a figment of the cartographers imagination. All there is in reality is a deep drainage channel alongside the road.” [22]This 1942 aerial image shows the station site at that time. The original buildings can be picked out – the engine shed, the passenger building and the goods office. There appears to be no sign of a mill-race. This suggests that the sketch plan of the station may erroneously include the river passing under the station. [4]The route of the line from Tuchan as far as Ripaud. [3]The tramway timetable for Tuchan to Ripaud. [3]The 7 images immediately above show the station site and surrounding buildings. [1][2][3]

Immediately on leaving the station the tramway and the GC105 (D611) crossed the river to the East of Tuchan. I have seen that river given two different names – Le Petit Verdouble and Riviere du Mas de Segure. The images below show trams crossing the bridge over the river.The two images above show trams on Le Pont sur Le Petit Verdouble close to Tuchan. [1][2].

Joseph Pestell comments: “In all these years (40+!), I had never noticed that the caption on that photo of the bridge is wrong. The Petit Verdouble (usually a dry bed) is somewhat further east and does not intersect with the tramway until about a km further east at the junction for Nouvelles. That bridge is indeed over the watercourse (usually dry but a torrent in the 1999 floods) that takes you up past the Mas de Segur towards Palairac.” [22]

The 1930s map adjacent to these notes shows the tramway route from Tuchan to Durban via Villeneuve-les-Corbieres.

The tramway climbed about 100 metres from Tuchan to the Col d’Extreme before dropping down about 120 metres into Villeneuve. The distance to Villeneuve tramway station was about 14 kilometres.

The first few kilometres Northest from Tuchan followed a gentle grade through vineyards with the trams running on the eastern shoulder of the GC105.After just over 2km the road and tramway crossed the Riviere du Col d’Extreme.The modern D611 has its own new bridge. The old GC105 and the tramway route can be seen on the image on the North side of the modern road in the image above. The hills around the road begin to close in and the valley begins to narrow from this point although the gradient of the road remained relatively shallow for a few more kilometres. The tramway continued to follow its eastern shoulder.

The image above, together with the adjacent satellite image [4] leave some significant questions about the actual alignment of the tramway. The 1930s Michelinn Map above suggests that the tramway followed the route of the modern road to the East of the River. However, the 1942 aerial image shows two alternative possible routes for the tramway, one on each side of the Riviere du Col d’Extreme. Reviewing the 1950s 1:50,000 IGN Map leaves the question open.

It is not clear whether the GC105 and/or the tramway were on the West or East side of the river. It is clear on the adjacent aerial image that the road from Nouvelles crossed the River in an East-West direction and then turned south to meet the modern road alignment to the Southwest of the modern bridge at the location shown in the image above. In the image below, the purple horizontal line on the map masks the location of the bridge on the line of the road to/from Nouvelles. [4]

It is not clear what route the tramway followed, but I should be inclined to accept the route given by the 1930s Michelin Map. which would match the thicker roadside line on the 1950s map above. Perhaps the road in the period before the 1930s was aligned to the West of the river and the tramway to the East. The road may then have been realigned to follow the tramway in the period prior to the making of the Michelin Map. I can find no conclusive evidence.

A counter argument is put by Joseph Pestel (26th October 2018), which given his residence close to the line is likely to be most reliable: “At Nouvelles (or rather at the road junction for Nouvelles), one can still see clearly (on the ground rather than with aerial photos) that the road used to stay on the right-hand (west) bank of the Petit Verdouble. There was a single bridge across to the road to Nouvelles. I don’t know at what date the road was widened and taken over two bridges (both washed away in 1999) to run for about 250M on the left-hand bank of the river. But I am sure that I have seen a pic of a halt at Nouvelles for the tramway on that side of the river. So my guess is that the road was diverted at the time the tramway was built. But not impossible that the road was moved after the tramway was built or even after closure which would explain the confusion on the Michelin map.” [22]

North of this location the road and tramway approached the Col d’Extreme. The modern road has been cut through the high point of the Col. As a result the old road alignment seems to have been lost and it is also difficult top pick out the tramway alignment. The 1942 Aerial image below shows that the road and tramway diverged close to the summit of the Col.The Col d’Extreme. The GC105 and tramway rose realtively steeply to the summit. Beyond the summit the topography dictated that the GC105 needed to fall way relatively quickly and a single hairpin bend was required to allow this to happen. The tramway needed a more gentle route to the North of the summit and diverged to the East of the road and followed a wider arc. [4]

The tramway and the GC105 remained distinct from each other for around a kilometre North of the Col. Both dropped quickly away from the summit but the tramway needed a gentler decent than the road. The earthworks associated with the modern D611 seem to have obliterated the old tramway and GC105 road.

On the decent to Villeneuve-les-Corbieres the tramway switched to the western shoulder of the GC105. I could find little or no evidence of the tramway along this stretch of the modern D611, except perhaps some old bridge abutments! I guess the evidence is tenuous at best, but we do know that this was the route followed by the tram and that the tracks ran on the West side of the GC105 (D611), so it is just possible that the concrete blocks visible beyond the  modern bridge railings below are remnants of the tramway?When the road and tramway reached Villeneuve-les-Corbieres they curved to the East through the old village centre. The Michelin map from the 1930s shows a small village on the South side of the River Berre. The village has extended across the river and the two banks of the river are linked by a series of bridges.A Google Streetview image which shows the three bridges crossing the river bed in Villeneuve-les-Corbieres – this is taken from the far bank. The old village is ahead across the river and the tramway and GC105 were beyond.The tramway route through Villeneuve-les-Corbieres.

After passing through thenheart of the old village, trams encountered the tramway station close to the River Berre and to the East of the village.The GC105 (D611) left the village  heading East and the tramway station was encountered on the first significant piece of open ground alongside the road. The first house on the left of the picture appears in one of the 21st Century images below. [5]The two images immediately above take us much closer in on the station! The first is an exceprt from the earlier image. [6]Wine was clearly a major commodity carried by the tramway! [7]Looking from the village towards the station site in the 21st Century. The house on the left is the one noted in the monochrome image of the village taken from the South and shown above.Still travelling in the same direction, this is the approximate location of the tramway station at Villeneuve-les-Corbieres. There is nothing of the station left to see and in the 21st Century there has been significant development on and around the site.This view of the old station site is taken from a minor road on the North side of the River Berre. The single storey buildings are built on what seems to have been the station site.

The tramway and GC105 followed the valley of La Berre from Villeneuve-les-Corbieres to Durban. It approached Durban Corbieres from the West and remained on the line of what is now the D611 through the village.The route is confirmed on the adjacent 1930s Michelin Map which shows the line on the North shoulder of the ols GC105 between Villeneuve and Durban. The location of the station can also be picked out to the East of the village of Durban and on the North side of the GC105.

Worthy of note is that in the 1930s the village is shown on the map as being completly to the south of the river Berre with one bridge crossing the river and carrying the IC40. on the OpenStreetMap image above there are two further bridges shown to the East of the IC40 bridge and the village has expanded significantly to the North of the river.

Durban is a town that has experienced its fair share of natural disasters. There have been significant floods over many centuries. The historic postcards below show a range of different locations along the Avenue de la Gare which later became the Avenue des Corbieres and the D611. In the pictures the flood defences vary from something quite elaborate, with steps to allow access to the top of the wall, to plain walls.

The more modern images culminate in pictures of present day arrangements which appear to have widened out the valley and so reduced the height of the flood defences. Before looking at the postcards it is worth noting the debilitating nature of the November 1999 floods. The picture immediately below shows the extent of the floods overlain on a map of the village. [12]The tramway entered the village from the Southwest. The original route across the River Berre could be seen on the left as the trams entered the town passed the Gendarmerie.The river bridge, the tramway passed behind the Gendarmerie. [10]

The first series of pictures below centre around the junction between the modern Avenue des Corbieres and the Rue du Fort.In this image there is a plain flood-defence wall on the left. The road to the right is Rue du Fort and the Fort can be seen at the top of the hill. The tramway can just be picked out in the carriageway on the left of the picture [8]The same location on a different location. [9]The tramway is more obvious in this image. The picture was taken from a point slightly further to the West along the flood-defence wall. [10]The same location in the 21st century. The flood protection now appears almost non-existent.A little further East and looking back to the West. the steps to the level of the top of the flood defences are on the right of the picture and there is evidence about halfway up the right-hand side of the image of the lattice girder bridge across the river. [10]A similar image in the 21st century. These are now the only steps to a higher level and provide access to the lattice girder bridge over the River Berre.

These next pictures are centred on the junction between the modern Avenue des Corbieres and Rue du Centre.Rue du Centre is the road off to the left in this image. We are looking West along the Avenue des Corbieres [5] This image is taken from a point a few metres further to the East than the one above it. [8]We have turned round to face East. The building at the centre of the image seems very similar to that on earlier images. The difference is that this one has windows facing West. Note the stone steps which are not evident in the two images above this one. [9][11]This image is taken from a point slightly further to the West. [9]Approximately the same location in the 21st Century. As above, there is now only a dwarf wall to provide a parapet to the river wall rather than the earlier high flood-defences.Two aerial images of the village showing two different river levels. The first shows very little water in the channel. [11]As the tramway approached the station at the west end of the narrower road alongside the river, the road widened out for a short distance. [13]A similar view in the 21st century. Both views are taken looking West. The modern image shows just how accessible the watercourse now appears!We have already noted that the station at Durban Corbieres was to the East of the village centre. [9]The tram sets off down the road from the station back into Durban – today it is the D611, Avenue de Narbonne. [13]Just a few yards further down the road, but this time without the tram. [13]

From Durban the tram passed through one more station before reaching the junction at Ripaud. The stop for Villeseque des Corbieres was on the main road a distance West from the village. The site of the station was just to the North of the junction between the GC105 and the IC50 to Villeseque.After the station for Villeseque the tramway and the GC105 headed North towards Ripaud. Both road and tramway followed the eastern bank of La Berre with the cream way on the western shoulder of the GC105. 

Within a kilometre of Ripaud the river alignment was such that the road and tramway could not continue to follow its East bank. The GC105 and the tramway crossed to the West bank and the tramway then entered a short tunnel.

The old road eventually was closed and the new D611 now runs through the old tramway tunnel. The satellite aerial image below is that the highest resolution possible, The image was taken in 1962 prior to the diversion of the road. [4]

The road and tramway crossed the River Berre on a single span bridge.

The adjacent map, centred on Ripaud, shows the location of two short tunnels. That circled in blue is the tunnel on the line between Durban and Ripaud. [15]

This is the only image I have found which shows a tram, the tunnel, the bridge and the road all in one picture. The green arrow shows the route of the road which is highlighted below with a black arrow. [20]This view is taken from the West across the bridge over the Berre and shows the tramway tunnel portal. The GC105 turned to the right and followed the river. [16]A much later view showing the D611 now running through the widened tramway tunnel. [17]The single-span arch bridge over the River Berre south of Ripaud. [18]The North portal of the old tramway tunnel now takes the D611, the old GC105 is to the left of the rock curtain and is no longer used for traffic. The river flows below and to the left.The approach to the road junction at Ripaud in the 21st Century. The arch bridge crosses the Ruisseau de Ripaud immediately adjacent to it confluence with La Berre. The inn ahead is in Ripaud. The tramway cross the bridge in the foreground and then formed a junction with the tramway from the North.An early view of the bridge. [21]

We noted in the last post that there is an excellent model of the tramways of Ripaud and we will see more images of that model in the next post. Here is one to finish this length of our journey, (c) [19]This picture of the model railway shows the model of the inn which can be seen in the Goggle Streetview image above! [19]


  1., accessed on 21st October 2018.
  2., accessed on 21st October 2018.
  3., accessed on 21st October 2018.
  4., accessed on 22nd October 2018.
  5., accessed on 15th October 2018.
  6., accessed on 23rd October 2018.
  7., accessed on 23rd October 2018.
  8., accessed on 24th October 2018.
  9., accessed on 24th October 2018.
  10., accessed on 24th October 2018.
  11., accessed on 24th October 2018.
  12., accessed on 24th October 2018.
  13., accessed on 24th October 2018.
  14., accessed on 24th October 2018.
  15., accessed on 25th October 2018.
  16., accessed on 25th October 2018.
  17., accessed on 25th October 2018.
  18., accessed on 25th October 2018.
  19., accessed on 20th October 2018.
  20., accessed on 15th October 2018.
  21., accessed on 25th October 2018.
  22., accessed on 29th October 2018.

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