Monthly Archives: March 2019

Railways of Herault – Route A – Saint Chinian to Beziers Line – Part 1 – Saint-Chinian to Cazouls-les-Beziers

Chemins de Fer de l’HéraultThe Departement of the Herault. [7]

The network of the Company of Railways of Local Interest (IL) of Herault reached a maximum length of 212 km. Its lines were standard-gauge. It was planned in the first years of the second empire, it was given authorisation in July 1865.

Lines were commissioned as shown in the table below: [1]

One of the early Mallet locomotives used on the line is illustrated in the adjacent image. [3]

Construction and opening of railways was interrupted for a period of 10 years, from 1877 to 1887 as a result of the poor financial condition of the Company. Bankruptcy apparently occurred in 1884. Although declared bankrupt, the Compagnie de l’Hérault succeeded, inspite of everything, in avoiding forfeiture by signing a concordat with its creditors. It issued new securities listed on the stock exchange and entered into agreements with the departement authorizing it to continue building the network of which it would be both the owner and the operator. [4] By the last decade of the 19th century the company finances were sufficiently stable to allow significant extensions to the network. [1]

The line from Celleneuve to Montbazin, when complete allowed traffic on the two parts of the network without the need to pay tolls to the Compagnie du Midi. It was the same with Colomiers to Maureilhan line.

Except for the Palavas line, which was predominantly beach-side, the other lines were for wine, grapes and bauxite traffic. But the network was fragile financially, because of construction costs, maintenance and operating expenses.

The departement purchased the network in 1928 and entrusted it to the Société Générale des Chemines de Fer Economiques (SE), which undertook some considerable work to stengthen the formation and renovate structres. The new Company also used railcars.

In 1932, under pressure from road transport, it was decided to close the passenger service on all lines except for the line to Palavas. The service was restored in 1939. However after the war traffic could not be sustained and both passenger and goods traffic ceased section by section across the network.

On 1st June 1963, the SNCF resumed serving Mèze but only until 1968. The only remaining part of the network is the line from Cazouls to Colomiers – which is incorporated into the SNCF network. [1]

The first line we will look at is that starting in Saint-Chinian and running to Beziers

Saint-Chinian – Beziers Line – Part 1 – Saint-Chinian to Cazouls-les-Beziers

Much of the network is shown below. We start from Saint-Chinian station which is at the western extent of the network. [5] Before setting off, it is worth noting that in 1905, the journey by passenger train from Béziers to Saint-Chinian lasted 1 hour and 30 minutes (departure at 10 am, arrival at 11.30 am) . The mixed passenger/goods train was responsible for the collection of wagons in each station. The actual length of the trip could be over 2 hours in length. [6]The length of the network covered in this post is the line from Béziers to Saint-Chinian and its branch from Colombiers to Maureilhan. [6]The first few kilometres from St, Chinian to Pierrerue Halt. [2]An aerial image from 1953 shows the terminus station at Saint-Chinian. [2]St. Chinian Station. [2]

The wine trade between Saint Chinian and Béziers Gare du Nord was very important to the deapartement. It was around the 1850s that the departement of Herault, which was known for cereals, fields of wheat, oats, alfalfa and barley and was self-sufficient in sheep, goat and horse breeders, began to see significant increases in the size of its vineyards. [3]

St. Chinian Station is shown above, [2] and in the adjacent image. [3]

The vineyard area increased from 96000ha in 1828 to 174000ha in 1850, doubling in 20 years. Little by little, the vineyards came down from the hillsides and invaded the plain. The small walls are there to testify. The main reasons were the urbanization and economic growth which caused the increase of the incomes and especially the arrival of the rail network which made the transport faster, much more reliable and cheaper than by the roads. Herault couldWe could deliver wines to Paris and the North, East and Centre of France. [3]

The mainline French rail network in the Hérault was shared by the PLM (Paris-Lyon-Marseille) and the Compagnie du MIDI, which started in Tarascon and headed for Bordeaux; with links to Beziers, Narbonne, Toulouse, Bordeaux and to Perpignan. [3]

The Béziers-Saint Chinian line included 10 sidings that connected to: three wine merchants, two cooperative cellars, two large factories, two tank wagon sheds and a repair shop.

The major handicap for the line at the beginning of its operation was the axle load at 11T. It was not until 1934 that the axle weight limit was increased to 16T. It was not until 1963 that the axle load limit was increased to 20T, which made it possible to use 40T tank wagons. An additional handicap for the line was the level of and disparity in tariffs charged by the Company. For example: A tonne of wine in barrels from St Chinian cost 195.78fr in 1934, while Puisserguier, shipped from Quarante-Cruzy to the MIDI line in Colombiers cost 186.90fr. The result was competition between stations and where competition between stations. [3]

In 1904, the first industrial scale wine-making cooperative appeared – “L’Egalitaire” of Cébazan. A brokers office was established on the platform of the station at St Chinian, where the sale of wine arriving by carts was negoptiated. The goods platform was a hive of activity . In the midst of the barrels of wine, wine-tasters held sway. [3]

The establishment of Cooperatives meant that villages lost their local distilleries. Disease badly affected the crop for a number of years. In 1907 trade began to significantly improve as vines became productive once again. By 1946, the secondary lines of the Hérault transported 74,495 tonnes of wine, of which 26% left the stations of Cazouls, Cessenon and Saint Chinian (Saint Chinian 8152 tonnes – Cessenon 7233 tonnes). [3]

The timetable for the line in the early 20th century is shown above. [5]

The adjacent image shows an autorail (railcar) at Saint Chinian Station. [6]

The small town of Saint-Chinian is very pretty and is in the middle of a cool valley. It is the former favorite residence of the bishops of Saint-Pons. The town hall occupies the buildings of the former Benedictine abbey which served as their episcopal palace. The caves of Our Lady of Nazareth, the Roman remains of St. Peter and the Roman cemetery of Cazo must attract our attention. On 12th September 1875, the Vernazobres River flooded two-thirds of the town causing extensive damage and the death of 97 people. [6]The 1961 aerial image above shows the route of the railway as a white line. It is shown overlain with a red line on the photograph. [8]This aerial image is an extract from a 1953 survey and shows location ‘1’ on the 1961 photograph. This is the station throat at Saint-Chinian. The station area and the first part of the line to Beziers are now covered by a housing development as shown below. [2] The housing development on the Saint-Chinian Station site.This IGN map covers the same area as the 1961 aerial image. The railway formation is now hidden under the line of the Route de la Voie Ferree through beyond the halt and cemetery at Pierrerue. [8]The route of the railway in the early 21st Century.Location ‘2’ on the 1961 aerial photograph. [2]The same location in the 21st Century. The railway track-bed has been used by the tarmac road. The dirt tracks visible on the aerial image immediately above are still present in this picture.1950s Map showing the railway and Pierrerue Halt. [2]Pierrerue Halt and Cemetery in 1962. [2]The location of Pierrerue Halt close to the Cemetery in 2016.

Beyond Pierrerue, the railway continued across flat open farmland to Commyras.

The first few hundred metres beyond Peirrerue Halt are shown on the old drawing below. Teh cemetery can easily be picked out at the bottom of the plan.A plan of Pierrerue from the 1950s which shows the old railway line travelling roughly North-South. North of the Cemetery the old railway crossed the Ruisseau de Mourgues on a short span arch bridge as shown below. [9]The stone arch bridge which took the railway over the Ruisseau de Mourgues. [11]

A little further to the North, the railway crossed a smaller stream, the Ruisseau de Recourel and crossed the D134 at an un-gated crossing before running parallel to the D20 alongside the Vernazobre River. The terrain had by this time changed. The railway was running through pine woodland. [11]This 1962 aerial image shows the length of the line North of the point where it crossed the D134. The red arrow points to the location of a later building, built on the line of the railway which is highlighted on the adjacent aerial image that was taken in 1996. [11]

old railway continues beyond this point and the original formation is visible as it circumnavigates the sharp edge of the river valley side.

The track-bed which ran alongside the D20. [11]The first length of the railway North and East of Pierrerue. [8]The first relatively significant structure along the route is the two-span arch bridge at location ‘3’ above. It is built over the Ruisseau de Gineste. It is clearly shown on the plan below. [11]The two-span arch bridge over the Ruisseau de Gineste. [11]The line continues on to Commeyras which is roughly in the centre of this aerial image from 1961. Just before the halt at Commeyras the line crossed the Ruisseau de la Combe at location ‘4’ in the image above. The bridge was a three-arch viaduct. [8]This view was taken by Serge Panabière. [10]Just after Commeyras, the line crossed the access road to the hamlet via an unprotected crossing (above). [11]


A train passes through Commeyras. [12]

The stop of Commeyras-sur-Vernazobres served the village of Prades-sur-Vernazobres located some 2 kilometres distant. [6]

The next viaduct was a little further to the East of Commeyras, at location ‘5’ on the aerial image above. The viaduct has been allowed to become more overgrown than the first 3-arch viaduct we encountered. [12] It crossed the Ruisseau de Mirot.The next length of the route. [12]The first kilometre or two beyond the boundary of the small commune of Commeyras is shown on this next aerial image from 1961. The railway, at first, followed the D20 closely and then continued to follow a relatively straight path surrounded by vineyards as the road swung away a little to the North. [8]Two bridges in short succession at location ‘6’ on the aerial photograph from 1961 above carried the line across seasonal streams. [8] The masonry arch bridge over Ruisseau de les Combes. [12]The masonry arch bridge over Ruisseau de Mascarinies. [12]A small metallic railway bridge close to the pint where the D20 converges once again on the line of the old railway – location ‘7’ above. [12]The D20/D14 and the old railway run alongside each other for a short distance before they crossed at an un-gated crossing. When the line was active the road accommodated the railway as shown below in a 1955 aerial image. [12]

The adjacent map shows the realigned D14 and the old railway alignment. [12]

The railway continues to diverge from the road and follows what is now a riverside path known as Boulevard de l-Orb. The Vernazobres River which we have been following relatively loosely is a tributary of the Orb.The old railway curved round the North side of the old town of Cessenon-sur-Orb. [14]It route through the modern town is described by the Boulevard de l’Orb. [14]Approaching the suspension bridge which crosses the Orb River along what was the route of the railway but which in the 21st Century is the Boulevard de l’Orb. The picture immediately below is of the older bridge which was at this location. Then picture is taken from the North and shows the old railway line still in place. [6]The railway ran just behind the dwarf river wall visible in this modern picture. [16]The railway continues round the North side of the old town. This is location ‘9’ on the 1961 aerial photograph.

Cessenon is built on the banks of the Orb. It has a 14th century church whose Romanesque portal still exists. A high square tower or dungeon, former bell tower, dominates the houses. The coat of arms of the city are azure with three fleurs-de-lis of gold, with the border Gules; in the center of the shield, a stick perished in the same band. [6]A 1961 aerial photograph of Cessenon Railway Station. [14]This picture is taken at the station throat at the West end of the station area in the early 21st century.The location of the chimney in the picture above is easily identified on the modern image further above. ‘La Tuilerie’ (the Tile Factory) is approximately on the line of the modern warehouses in the image above. The relative positions  are evident on the adjacent 1955 aerial photograph. [12]

The series of postcard views below show the station building and goods shed at Cessenon.

This card was posted in 1905. A mixed train is at the platform in front of the goods shed. The train has arrived from Beziers. The first wagon behind the locomotive is probably a Schneider D-81 van. The card was sent to Mrs. Dô by her son, Jules. It says: “Do not worry about our fate we are in good health, we find ourselves well, we do not know when we will arrive.” [15]

The Station Building. [17]The Station Building swing the goods shed to best advantage. [17]

Beyond the station at Cessenon, the railway continued along what is today the Rue de la Capelette and then the Chemin de la Capelette which runs between the D14 and the Orb River as it heads for Reals. [18][19]Google Streetview shows the track-bed running Southeasterly in a relatively straight line across the open vineyards and fields towards distant hills. The next relatively significant structure is the bridge over the Ruiseau de Rhonel which is shown in the three images immediately below. [18][19] This plan from the 1950s shows the approach to the Bridge over the Ruisseau de Rhonel. [20]The next hamlet along the line is St.-BlaiseAt St.-Blaise, the old railway line crosses the Ruisseau de St. Blaise and is then met by the modern D36 as shown on the adjacent map. [6]

The plan below from the 1950s shows the area of St.-Blaise at that time. [21]This underpass is actually the route of the seasonal stream, Ruisseau de St.-Blaise and is just to the west of the village. [19]

For a short length at St. Blaise, the modern D36 lies on top of the old railway before the railway alignment drifts south of the road. The first image below comes from 1961 and shows the old road and the railway. [18] The second image comes from the early 21st century and the railway route is shown in a light brown line. [19]  Along this length two steams were crossed.First, the Ruisseau de Gournier [19][21]Then, the Ruisseau de la Bousquette. [19][21]

Journeying on from St.-Blaise the line approached Reals. As it passed the location of the modern sports ground which is shown as a black rectangular outline on the map above, a short length of rail is still visible. [19]The railway crossed another brook before reaching the tunnel at Reals. The tunnel location is marked below by the orange and green dots. [22]The western portal of the 42 metre-long tunnel. [22]The eastern portal of the tunnel. [19]

Just a short distance ahead as the railway alignment turns to the Southeast we encounter the old railway Station for Reals. The passing loop at Reals Station is marked above by the red arrow on this 1955 aerial image of the line, the station building is marked ‘Gare’. [19]

The adjacent view is taken from the North. [17]The station building is now a restaurant! [19]

Beyond Reals, the railway turned southwards and headed for Cazouls-les-Beziers as shown on the adjacent map. [23]

Initially it followed the southwestern bank of the Orb River but it then turned away South. For a long length of the route it followed what is now a minor road.

Just beyond Reals Station it is possible to look back to the North to see an impressive road bridge which spans the Orb River.An old postcard view of the Pont de Reals [24]An early 21st Century view from the old railway route. [25]

The aerial image shows the road bridge across the Orb River and the line of the railway turning away to the Southeast. [18]

The next photograph is at a smaller scale and shows the line continuing, first to the Southeast and then to the South [18]

This picture is typical of the old track-bed to the East of Reals. [23]This bridge spans the Ruisseau de Estagnol. [23]

The line turns away to the south and heads for Cazouls-les-Beziers. This is illustrated on the map from the 1950s above and on the adjacent 1961 aerial image. [18][26]

The next image below shows the masonry arch bridge which spanned the Ruisseau des Fourfouilles which is visible both above and in the adjacent aerial image. [23]

Further along the line the route is shown first on a hand-drawn map from the 1950s and then another 1961 aerial image.

Another 1950s land plan (above) shows the route of the railway. [27]

As noted above, the adjacent aerial images were shot in 1961.

The line continued over open fields on a straight path for some way. [18]

The third of the adjacent aerial images takes the line as far as the station at Cazouls-les-Beziers.

En-route the railway crossed numerous small streams and water-courses. Its track-bed along the way is now in use as a single-track road. The structures which carried the line were similar to those already highlighted in this post. Although occasionally this is not the case. One such location is just to the North of what was a gated level-crossing at the D16. The line crossed the Ruisseau de la Mouchère and by the early 21st Century this masonry bridge has been reconstructed.

In the first image below from Google Streetview, the D16 can be seen crossing the line of the railway. The bridge parapets seem to be of a piece with the age of the railway.

However, the arch beneath has clearly been reconstructed as shown on the adjacent picture. [23]

As we have noted, the line crossed the D16 at a gated crossing and as a result there was a crossing-keepers cottage next to the line. This is the first that I have been able to identify along the length of the line from Saint-Chinian.

The building may well have had a small extension at some time over the intervening years. [23]

Beyond the D16 there were a series of small accommodation bridges constructed of steel on brick abutments. Two of these locations are featured in the images below. The first can be seen in the photograph of the crossing-keepers cottage.The crossing-keepers cottage at the D16. [23]The first of these over-bridges carries the Chemin de Fournic across the route of the railway. [23]The next structure carried the railway over a local road – the Chemin Vicinal Ordinaire N° 29, called ‘la Gauphine’. [23]

The next location of note on the railway line was one of its more significant bridges. A metal lattice girder viaduct carried the railway over the Ruisseau de Rounel.The railway bridge north of Cazouls-les Beziers. [23]The same bridge looking across towards Cazouls. [28]And again (above) from a different angle. [29]

Later in the life f the structure them lattice girders were replace by solid girders as shown in the adjacent picture. [30]Another picture of the bridge with the village behind it. This was taken before closure of the line in the early 1960s. [32]The same bridge again. This picture was taken by Serge Panabière in 2007. [31]The same structure is shown above at track-bed level in around the year 2000. [23]

And again, in August 2016. The track-bed from the north side of the viaduct southwards is once again in use as a railway! [23]

The 1961 aerial image of Cazouls Station above indicates that in 1961 the line was probably still in use as far north as Cazouls. The site is clearly busy!

The IGN map below shows the modern station layout with a significant number of sidings. [18]

The first photograph below was taken in January 2009 looking North back along the line towards Reals from Rue du 19 Mars 1962. It is a Google Streetview Photograph.

The second photograph is taken from the same location, also in January 2009, but this time looking south into the station site.

These pictures of the station site from 2009 and the following pictures from 2016 seem to make it clear that this modern branch line was secure. It had been fully refurbished and was well-maintained. It clearly (you might think) had a strong future.

This was not (is not) the case. Despite the cash expended on the line, the mayor of Cazouls decided that the line had no future and it was closed in January 2017 in favour of creating a greenway along its route south from Cazouls.

First then, two images from 2009.The next two pictures show the line north of the Station, first in 2016 and then in 2018. [23]The next two images look south from the Rue du 19 Mars 1962, also in 2016 and 2018. [23]It is at this point that we complete the first post about the railway lines of the departement of l’Herault. The next post will look at the lines south of Cazouls.





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Bouches-du-Rhone and its Railways – Part 2 – Orgon to Barbentane

Réseau des Bouches du Rhône (BDR)

The line between Orgon, Chateaurenard and Barbentane is shown on the sketch-map below. The North-point is at about 11 o’clock.

In 1900, about 60,000 passenger tickets were sold. It took 1hr 23min to go from Barbentane to Orgon-Gare and 1hr 30min in reverse. The passenger service was terminated on April 10, 1937, this was surprising as at the time alternative road services were not available. In 1941 the service was, it seems, provisionally restored but in 1946 the line was permanently closed to passengers. [1]

The freight traffic was significant. In 1900, 24,500 tonnes of fertilizers, cereals and other goods were transported on slow speed trains and 20,000 tonnes of vegetables which required rapid delivery.The line from Orgon to Barbentane. [1]Trains to Barbentane and Tarascon followed the same route out of Orgon until just beyond the station at Plan d’Orgon. The route of the line to Tarscon is sown in pick on this 1930s Michelin Map and is covered elsewhere. [2]

The present station at Orgon served the PLM line. The secondary branch line to Barbentane was served by a smaller structure close to the PLM station. The PLM line had travelled North alongside the N7 before turning to the East and crossing the Durance River. The station buildings were of a more substantial nature than those on the secondary lines. The image below comes from Google Streetview and shows the station building in the early 21st century.The view above shows the station at Orgon. The picture is taken from the North-east.

The adjacent satellite image is taken from Google Earth. The station building is clearly substantial. The waiting shelter on the opposite platform also of some substance. There were a series of sidings at the station of which a number were still in use in the early 21st Century.

The station at Orgon sat on a piece of land between the Vallat Meyrol and the Canal Septentrional des Alpines and the Durance River. Just to the North of the station the PLM line crossed the Vallat Meyrol. That bridge can be seen at the top of the adjacent image.

The station for the secondary line to Barbentane sat, as shown below, close to the PLM station. It sat alongside the shelter on the platform across from the station building.The BdR railway station is on the right side of the above image. [1]

The adjacent image shows the location of the BdR station building and shows the approximate route of the line in green. [3]

From the station the BdR swung round the North side of Orgon alongside the Canal Septentrional des Alpines. The next two aerial images show the that alignment. [3]

The postcard image which follows that shows the line from the North with the town and castle behind.The old railway runs across the centre of this image. [4]

Before heading away from Orgon it is worth a look at contemporary images of the PLM bridge across the Durance River. The next few images give a good impression of the structure.The four images immediately above show the bridge between Orgon and Cheval Blanc across the Durance River. [5]Leaving Orgon it appears the the line first followed the south bank of the Canal Septentrional des Alpines for just a short distance, but when that turned away to the Northwest the line continued in a westerly direction. The route to Plan d’Orgon is shown on the following excerpts from 1955 aerial images from the IGN site. [6]

The aerial images show the old railway line deviating away from the D7N as it approaches Plan d’Orgon.

The Station at Pland’Organ was on the north side of the town and was still in use as a railway goods yard until 2006. The station building was demolished in 1979.

Railway tracks still remain at the site of the station in the early 21st century. Details of the station are provided in another of my posts. [2]

Plan d’Orgon station site seen from the Southeast. [7]

Plan d’Orgon was a junction station. We have already covered the line which served Tarascon, leaving the Barbentane Line just to the Northwest of the station. It is shown as a red line on the staellite image below. We continue along the green line.After crossing Route de Cavaillon at level, the line continued in a Northwesterly direction. This Google Streetview image is taken from Route de Cavaillon looking Northwest. The aerial image below shows the route of the two lines in 1955. [3]Travelling Northwest, trains followed the D7N. The line ran around 30 metres to the Northeast of the road for some distance. Modern maps still show the line which closed relatively recently. [6]Looking back along the line from the D74C (Route de Saint Jean).The image above is taken looking Northwest along the line from the same location.

The adjacent map shows the route of the line through the village of St.-Andiol. [6]

St.-Andiol Station still has its tracks in place and part of the station building as well. The tracks are overgrown on the approach to the station from the Southeast but they are still in place as the picture from Avenue de 19 Mars shows below.Looking North from Avenue du 19 Mars in Saint-Andiol.Looking South from the D24C (Route des Agasses/Avenue des ANC Combattants) in Saint Andiol.Looking North through the Saint-Andiol Station site from approximately the same location in the early 21st Century. [8]Saint-Andiol Railway Station in the early 20th Century. [9]The view from Chemin des Muscadelles North of Saint-Andiol Station, looking back South along the line.The image above looks North from a side street close by in 2012.

The adjacent image shows the D24 and the railway, North of Saint-Andiol, travelling North in very close proximity. The route of the line then follows the Chemin Vieux de Saint-Andiol through Saint-Michel and the southwestern suburbs of Cabannes. As the road bears Northeast towards the town centre, the railway turns Northwest and runs into what was the Railway Station site. The IGN map below shows Station. [6]

Once again the tracks remained in place in 2012 when the pictures were taken from  Chemin de Barrie and from the end of Avenue de Verdun. These modern pictures are supplemented by 4 early postcard photographs of the Station.

Northwest of Cabannes, the railway followed a straight course alongside the meandering D26 (Route de Noves) before the road and railway ran parallel to each other for just under a kilometre, as can be seen below. The line then ran cross-country away from the route of roads until reaching Noves. On the way it crossed the D26 and the D7N.

Looking Northwest towards the site of Cabannes Station from Chemin de Barrie.The view of the station site from the end of the tarmac on Avenue de Verdun. Two very early images of Cabannes Railway Station. [11]Two early 20th century pictures of Cabannes railway station. [11]The D26, Route de Noves and the BdR Railway run parallel to each other for around a kilometre. The picture is from Google Streetview and was taken in 2012.Looking towards Noves from the D7N, another Google Streetview image.The railway approaches Noves from the Southeast along the line of trees visible in the bottom right of this image and which crosses the D7N road running up the right side of the satellite image.The railway line still passes North of the Noves Stadium and then curves towards the Northwest, entering the station site .The tracks can still be glimpsed through the bushes at the edge of the Stadium car park.Two photographs of the Station at Noves in the early 20th Century. [10]Noves Station. Noves Station from Avenue Agricol Viala. This Google Streetview image looks back towards Cabannes.The railway left (and still, in the early 21st century, leaves) Noves in  Northwesterly direction alongside the Cd28 (Route de Chateaurenard). This picture comes from Google Streetview and was taken in 2012. By the time the D28 has been reached the railway is travelling in a Westerly direction. The IGN map below shows the route as it approaches the outskirts of Chateaurenard. [12]This image is a second map from IGN of Chateaurenard and shows the railway running across the North side of the modern town. [12] This image covers the same area as the map immediately above. It is a 1955 aerial photograph of Chateaurenard. [12]

The Station at Chateaurenard was one of the significant stations on the route to Barbentane. The building was commensurate with that status. Unlike many of the other stations/halts on the line, the station building was a two-storey structure.

The four images above show Chateaurenard Station near the beginning of the 20th Century. [13].

These two images show engines and rolling stock on the Station site. [13]Google Earth satellite image of Chateaurenard Railway Station in the early 21st century.Map of the Station site provided on line by IGN. [12]Looking back from Chateaurenard Station towards Noves. The photographer is standing on Avenue Leo Lagrange.Looking forward through the station site from the East. The photographer has turned through 180 degrees from the last picture. The water-tank is on the right. The two-storey station building can just be seen beyond the canopy left of centre.The two-storey station building, taken from Rue de la Gare to the South.The Station building from the North. [1]Looking back across the station site from Chemin du Mas de Quentin.Looking West from Rue Paul Aubert at the Western end of the Station site.The present railway line follows the route shown here through Rognonas to join up with the main line which heads Southwest to Tarascon from Avignon, just to the North of Mas de Corne. This is alos the route of the old railway, as can be seen on the aerial photograph below. 

There was a small Halt at Rognonas on the BdR line of which there appears to be no evidence on aerial photographs from 1955 or more modern maps.

On the route of the PLM line from Tarascon to Avignon there was a station for the two villages of Barbentane and Rognonas. It is marked ‘Gare de fret’ on the map from IGN below.The same area is shown on this 1955 aerial image.

Barbentane-Rognonas Station Buildings.

The picture above shows Barbentane-Rognonas Station on the PLM line. The old BdR station building is behind the photographer over his left shoulder. [14]

The adjacent IGN map shows both station buildings and illustrates their relative positions. [12]

The pictures below show the BdR building today.The BdR Station Building in the 21st century. The picture is taken from the south at the end of the Impasse de la Gare.The same building taken from the West. [1]The picture above is taken from the bridge over the main-line which sits just to the North of the BdR Station building. The old PLM building can be seen in the right-background. This is a Google Streetview image.

The adjacent image is taken over private land from the East. This 1955 aerial image clearly shows the location of the station, its buildings and track work were still complete in 1955.

Finally a few notes about the whole line and the station at Barbentane.

On 24th July 24 1843 Messrs Talabot and Frères [15], of the Railway Company of Avignon in Marseilles , obtain the concession of the line Avignon to Marseilles. On 18th October 1847 the Barbentane- Saint-Chemas section of the PLM line opened and the Barbentane station was declared open. It was given the name “Barbentane-Rognonas,” although initially it had been thought to call it Rognonas Station. [14]

The secondary line from Barbentane to Orgon was developed as part of a series of secondary lines financed and built in the Departement of Bouche-du-Rhone by the Société de construction des Batignolles. [16]  In 1882, in Bouches-du-Rhone, the company changed its name to: , this company became the Société nouvelle des chemins de fer des Bouches-du-Rhône, then in 1886, Compagnie des chemins de fer régionaux des Bouches-du-Rhône. The company folded in 1913 and was taken over by the Departement. It became known as the Régie départementale des transports des Bouches-du-Rhône, better known under the acronym RdT13. [1]

This explains how the BdR station for the Barbentane-Orgon Line became known as the Batignolles station. The line was declared of public utility  by promulgation on 30th August 1884. Its purpose was to serve the rich agricultural plains located between the Rhône, Durance and Alpilles and promote the transport of the crops both to the Rhone valley via the station PLM Station at Barbentane, and to Marseilles and the Côte d’Azur via the Orgon PLM station. [1]

The work on the line began in November 1886> Temporary track was laid to access the River Durance where the gravel necessary for the embankments was extracted. Construction was complete in January 1888 and the line opened that spring, along with the line from Saint-Rémy to Plan-d’Orgon.

The line measured/measures 28 km.and was travelled in just over an hour. The track has/had very shallow gradients. The ruling grade was downhill from Plan-d’Orgon to Barbentane, which was the direction of travel of the most heavily loaded trains.


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  15. Paulin François Talabot (1799-1885) was a polytechnic engineer, banker and French politician. In 1836 he created the Compagnie des mines de la Grand-Combe et des chemins de fer du Gard. He was principal shareholder of the Compagnie du chemin de fer d’Avignon à Marseille which eventually became part of the Compagnie du Chemin de fer Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée (PLM),  of which he became the general director (1862 -1882). He participated in the creation in 1863 Credit Lyonnais and, in 1864 with the help of the Rothschild family, he created the bank Societe Generale (of which he was the first director), to compete with the Crédit Mobilier of the Péreire brothers. In addition to being a very wealthy industrialist, Paulin Talabot was elected several times as a deputy of the government (supporting Napoleon III) and general adviser of the Gard. [14]
  16. Société de Construction des Batignolles [19] was a civil engineering company in France created in 1871 as a public limited company from the 1846 limited partnership of Ernest Gouin et Cie. Initially founded to construct locomotives, the company produced the first iron bridge in France, and moved away from mechanical to civil engineering projects in France, North Africa, Europe, and in East Asia and South America. Conversion to a public company, the Société de Construction des Batignolles (SCB), in 1872 allowed the company to raise capital. By 1880 over 5 million francs of shares had been issued. [17] The new company was to continue the work of Ernest Gouin et Cie.; shipbuilding, bridges and other civil engineering works, and machine and locomotive building. Ernest Goüin died in 1885, to be succeeded by his son Jules as chairman of the company. [17] With most mainline railways in Europe complete by the 1870s, the group’s search for contracts became increasingly international. By the 1880s civil engineering was becoming the core business.[6] The company undertook some large railway construction projects such as the construction of the line from Bône to Guelma in Algeria for the Compagnie des chemins de fer Bône-Guelma, and the line from Dakar to Saint-Louis, Senegal. These were operated as concessions by subsidiaries of the SCB. By 1913 the company had fourteen subsidiary companies located throughout the world running railways.[17] The company also constructed canals for irrigation, ports and harbours, and water and sewerage systems.[5][6] Profits from concessions in north Africa, in particular Tunisia, were high (over 25% in the 1890s), and allowed expansion without share issues or loans.[17]
  17. Rang-ri Park-Barjot, “The French Societe de Construction des Batignolles : From manufacture to public utilities”, Department of Economics and Business, Pompeu Fabra University; European Business History Association (EBHA), 2004 Conference.
  18., accessed on 13th March 2019.

Bouches-du-Rhone and its Railways – Part 1 – Tarascon to Plan d’Orgon

Réseau des Bouches du Rhône (BDR)

The Departement of Bouches-du-Rhone

The different routes which made up the Bouches-du-Rhone network. [1]

The first line that we will look at is that from Tarascon to Plan d’Orgon which passed through St. Remy de Provence. The route is shown on the 1930s Michelin map below. [2]This line branched off the line between Orgon and Chateau-renard which can also be seen on the map above. That line continued beyond Chateau-renard to Barbentane as the map below shows. [3] On this map, the route to Tarascon can be seen leaving the route shown at the Gare de Plan d’Orgon in the bottom right of the map. We will return to the Barbentane to Orgon line once we have looked at the Tarascon to Plan d’Orgon line.The line from Tarascon to Saint-Rémy section of the route to Plan d’Orgon was built by the Bouches-du-Rhône railway company, and opened in 1874. The section of Saint-Rémy at Orgon was opened only in 1887, at the same time as the Barbentane-Orgon line of which it constituted a branch. [5]

On 19th February 1870 the concession for the Pas-des-Lanciers to Martigues and Tarascon to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence lines was granted to the Société des railways of Bouches-du-Rhône. The line between Tarascon and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence opened on 25th May 1874. [4]

The company became, in 1913, the Departmental Board of Bouches-du-Rhone, which continued to operate the line until its closure in 1950. [5]

The map above shows the location of the west end of the line at Tarascon (close to Beaucaire) and North of Arles. The map below shows schematically the relation between Becauaire and the terminus at Tarascon.The plan above shows the relative arrangement of the various stations and railway lines either side of the Rhone in Beaucaire and Tarascon in 1904. [4]

The adjacent images show the mainline station at Tarascon. The station formed a junction in the mainline. Tarascon junction station sat at the meeting of lines from Marseilles, Nîmes and Avignon and the companies PLM and Midi. The station for the line to Orgon was behind the station buildings in these pictures. [2][5]A series of views of the standard-gauge station at Tarascon taken from a variety of vantage points. [2]

The green box below highlights the location of the standard-gauge station, the red circle highlights the secondary line station and the line which heads Southeast from it is shown in red.The site of the station is shown above in the mid 1990s. The water tower and the passenger facility were still standing at that time, as were a number of other buildings. [2]

The adjacent picture was taken for Google Streetview in 2016. The water tower remained at that date but the passenger building had disappeared.

There was a relatively large station yard at the lower level alongside the curving line from Tarascon to Arles and originally a connecting line on a gradient that allowed the transfer of goods vehicles between the main and secondary lines.

The mainline from Avignon direct to Arles had a number of goods sidings and the Tarascon to Orgon line passed under these in a tunnel which is still evident in the 21st Century, as the image below shows.

The line from Tarascon Station passed under the mainline in a short tunnel as it headed out into the countryside. This image is taken from Google Streetview.These two monochrome aerial images show the route of the line travelling East. [7]Trains left the secondary station at Tarascon just after 8am and again at 2:10pm, 5:45pm and 7:50pm. All of these trains travelled as far as St.-Remy-de-Provence. Two reached Plan d’Orgon and one of these travelled on to Orgon. [2]

The rout East from Tarascon was only very gently graded and the farmland through which the line travelled was essentially flat. The image below looks back along the track-bed towards Tarascon at the location marked on the momochrome aerial image above with the numeral 1.This second Google Streetview image is taken at the same location as the first and it shows the railway formation as it heads East. The picture illustrates how flat the countryside was. From this point onwards, for a number of kilometres the railway followed a relatively straight path to Saint-Étienne-du-Grès.The Station at St.-Étienne-du-Grès. [6]Three further pictures taken in the early 20th Century at St.-Étienne-du-Grès from the Cparama website. [6]

Occasionally it is relatively easy to fix accurately on the line of an old railway. As the line approached St.-Étienne-du-Grès, the picture below (taken in 2012) shows some remaining track from the railway where it crosses a minor road (Chemin du Mas d’Artaud).Looking back West along the line towards Tarascon. From the crossing at Chemin du Mas d’Artaud, the railway crossed the fields to arrive on the North  side of St.-Étienne-du-Grès. A length of that route is the modern single lane road – Chemin de la Malautière. The station at St.-Étienne-du-Grès was just off the bottom right corner of the above map. Pictures of the station in the early 20th Century are shown above.The station at St.-Étienne-du-Grès was at the location ringed in red. The St.-Étienne-du-Grès Co-operative is still in existence at the location ringed in green. [7]The route of the line between the station and the co-operative in St.-Étienne-du-Grès. In this aerial image the co-operative at Saint Etienne du Gres is visible in the bottom-left. The route of the old line is shown as a red line. The route runs along a line roughly equidistant between the D99 and the Roubine de Terrenque (a narrow slow flowing canal /river. [7]This view of the Co-operative buildings is taken from Place du Marché (the D99). The route of the old railway is behind these buildings.Looking East along the old line from Chemin du Pont Carlin (location 2 on the above aerial image). The station which served Mas-Blanc-des-Alpilles was somewhere along this length of the track-bed.A similar location on an modern IGN map, the mauve dotted line indicates what was the route of the old railway. [7]A cycleway follows the route of the old railway fro a short length – Eurovelo 8. This is the view along the line at the start of the cycleway. [8]This is the view along the line adjacent to the Zone d’Activites de la Massane. [8]The D99 now switches from it original route (nowthe D99a) to follow the line of the old railway. The cycleway joins the route close to the crossing of the Gaudre du Rougadou. [8]The four monochrome aerial images above from 1955 show the route of the railway between Saint-Etienne-du-Gres and Saint-Remy-de-Provence. [7]The old railway track-bed follows the mauve dotted line to reach the line of the modern D99 which then follows the old track-bed across the North of Saint-Remy-de-Provence. [7]A closer view,  extracted from the aerial image above, is focussed on the location of theSaint-Remy de Provence Railway Station in 1955. The railway formation is now hidden under the D99. [7]Looking from West to east along the D99 through what was the railway station site. This image is taken from Google Streetview looking along what is now Avenue du Marechal Juin.

The next few pictures show the railway station while it was still in use. The first two show railcars (automotrices) standing in the station at Saint-Remy-de-Provence. The following two  images show the station when in use at the time steam power was in use.The old station building was still standing in 2017. This picture is taken from the old station forecourt. The railway lines were on the far side of the building where the D99 now runs, as shown below.South of the present town, is the site of what was a roman city – Glanum. Some remains are still visible. The destruction of the site in 270 by the Barbarians, followed by the development of Saint-Rémy, resulted in the ruins being covered gradually by alluvial silt.Moving on from Saint Remy, the line continued across relatively flat terrain towards Plan d’Orgon. The route first follows the D99 along Avenue du 19 Mars 1962, Avenue Mal de Lattre de Tassigny and Avenue General Goislard Monsabert before leave the D99 behind for a while to run along Voie Communale de Jean Piquet as far as La Galine.The line then ran along the North shoulder of the D99. [7]Occasionally pulling away from the road to the North. [7]The station at Mollege appears at the top right of the last monochrome image above. The modern IGN plan shows the location and the station building is marked on the map. [7] The building has been extended a little, as shown below.The railway then ran along the North side of the D99 towards Plan d’Orgon. Before reaching the town, it first drifted away from the D99 and then deviated away to the North so as to be able to swing round the town and join the Barbentane to Orgon line.The line from Tarascon reached the Barbentane line after crossing the D7N.After the junction, the line crossed the D99 (Route de Cavaillon) and entered the station area.Plan d’Organ’s station remained in use as a goods facility until 2006 when the town’s fertilizer plant closed down. The station building had been removed in 1979.The Station at Plan d’Orgon. [2]The Station at Plan d’Orgon. [9]The Station at Plan d’Orgon. [10]Tracks remain at the station site. This view is taken from the South-East. [2]


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Japanese Narrow Gauge -762mm Lines – Part 6 – The Kiso Railway – Part E – The Ogiso Line from Yabuhara

[NB: As far as I am aware permission has been granted for the use of all the photographs below. This is particularly the case of the site which I have relied heavily on in producing this post. I have sought, where-ever possible to attribute all sources and have no intention of contravening copyright. Should there be an issue with any of the images below, if you are the copyright holder, please contact me. Please accept my apologies in advance if this has occurred.]

This sketch map shows the location of the JR Chuo Line station as a white rectangle. The Kiso Forest Ibarahara (Yabuhara) Forestry Office & yard extended south of the red dot labelled 木曽森林管理署.  [1] The darker black line shows the short branch from the JR Station to the transshipment area. The thick green lines show the 762mm gauge lines.Yabuhara JR Chuo Line Station. [2]The yellow arrow shows the route of the short branch to the logging yard. The picture was taken in 1999. [2]Looking back at the station along the approximate line of the short branch in 2014.The approximate line of the branch running into what was the logging yard.A view across the logging yard showing the rote of the branch from the station in the top-right.The sketch plan above shows the arrangement of tracks in the transshipment yard. The yellow lines are those connecting with the JR Chuo Line and are at the approximate position of the red arrow on the image immediately above. The green lines are the 762mm Lines. North is to the right of the sketch. [2]

The adjacent annotated satellite image from Google Maps shows how the area of the sidings has been developed over the years.

The JR transshipment sidngs are shown in 1964 in the image below. Timber is shipped from here all over Japan.The JR transshipment sidings. [3] The same transshipment sidings. [4]An overview of the location showing the JR sidings in the centre of the image and the 762mm lines at the bottom of the picture and above the JR lines. The village is behind. This picture also comes from 1964. [5]This modern image from Google Maps shows the line of the old 762mm gauge railway in 2014. Its location is about two-thirds up the monochrome image immediately above.Less than a kilometre further north the old railway route leave the modern prefectural highway No. 26 when it crosses the river. The old railway remains of the East bank of the river. It appears that the old line was on the West side of highway No. 26 and crossed the road to take the route shown above. The location is marked on the sketch map below by the first indicator arrow above the red dot which marks the southern terminus of the line. [6]A little further north the main line (Green) continues to follow the river while a branch-line (Light Green) heads off the the Northeast. The point is marked by the second indicator arrow above and is shown in 2014 below.The route continues North along the East side of the Kiso River before running through Ogiso (小木曽), the village in the picture below.In Ogiso another branch-line departed from the main logging route. It can be seen branching off the the West across the river close to the top of the sketch map above.The Sasagawa Line left the main line in Ogiso. Currently it is the site of a sawmill. [7]

From Ogiso the line continued on the East bank of the river eventually reaching the modern-day Miso Dam.The Miso Dam is shown at the top of this sketch map. For most of the journey to the dam the railway followed the East bank of the Miso River, only crossing the course of the river close to the location of the modern Dam. [8]Prior to the construction of the Miso Dam the railway crossed the river as shown here and then passed through a short tunnel before continuing up the West side of the river [9]The forest road which replaced the railway before the construction of the Dam. The bridge was built after the railway closed, the tunnel was built for the railway. [9]The same location during construction of the Dam. The bridge span has been removed but the tunnel portal remains (Construction record photos). [9]The railway followed the valley floor as shown above. There is little to see today other than the water of the lake. [10]

The adjacent image was taken as a record photograph before construction of the Dam. The railway route at this point was a long straight section. The longest in the Kiso Forest network. [11]

This next picture is taken at the site of the Takase stop. The caption indicated that there were 4 or 5 tracks at the station. This picture was taken before the flooding of the valley when the Miso Dam was finished. [11]

The line continues northward and branches again towards the top of the modern lake as shown on the sketch plan below. [12]The route of the two lines at the junction is highlighted on the satellite image above. The bridge at the bottom of the satellite image is shown in the picture below. [13]Okinoiso Bridge. [13]The confluence of the two rivers before the formation of the reservoir. This image was also taken as a record photograph before construction of the Dam. The river to the left is the Sasaozawa. [13]

The railway route up the valley of the Sasaozawa was constructed to a lower standard than the main line as it was designated as a working track. The satellite image above shows a spiral track arrangement to allow the logging line to gain the necessary height to continue up the valley. That spiral is shown below.This ramshackle spiral was eventually removed at the end of the Second World War when the Sasaozawa working track was abandonned. [13]


A full survey of the length of the Sasaozawa Line has not been attempted but carries a few photographs of the line which were taken in 1929 and originally included in a Japanese language book entitled “Ogiso Forest Railway” which was issued by Yabohara Forestry.

The first two of these show Diesel Locomotive No 26 negotiating the spiral. The pictures were taken at different times or on different dates as the train formation is different in each of the pictures. [13]

The third of these images appears immediately below and shows the line further up the Sasaozawa River. The construction techniques are clearly shown. The railway has a temporary look to it and would almost inevitably have been at risk in the event of the river being in spate. [13]This final photograph in the sequence from 1929 shows as the caption says: Trolley riding down gold shoe curve (say horseshoe shape). both the last two photos illustrate the fact that the line use gravity as a tractive force. Pairs of trolleys travelled down the line in the hands of a single brake-man. [13]

Returning to the main line, the adjacent image is one of relatively few which shoe one of the Baldwin steam locomotives at work. The location is north of the confluence between the two rivers. The tunnel is now under water, although at times of low water it is said to be possible to negotiate the tunnel in a canoe. [13]

The next picture shows the forest track that replaced the railway. It is another picture taken for record purposes before the valley was flooded. [13]

Beyond the end of the modern reservoir the landscape has been altered as regrading has been undertaken. The old railway formation is occasionally visible as below. [13]The old railway track-bed is on the right in this image. [13]This image is taken looking back down the old railway line. [13]This is the location of what was once a two track station and passing loop – Senmizawa Station. [13]The old railway continues running northeast along the Miso River Valley following the path of what is now a gravel forest road. There is little evidence left of the old railway as forest road bridges have replaced the old railway structures. [14]

The line travelled on through Funagawa (a station on a curve with a passing loop). The location is shown below in May 2014. [15]Funagawa Station (舟ヶ沢). [15]Funagawa Station (舟ヶ沢) is the lower red dot on the plan the next significant point is where a branch-line heads off to the East at Sawa Bridge of the Pond (池の沢橋梁). [16]The branch-line (the pond line, 池の沢) was built to the same standard as the main line because it was heavily used. [17]

Some distance further along the line comes another branch-line. It appears at the top of the sketch map above at the location of Ogasawa bridge (尾頭沢橋梁).The line from the south enters this plan from the right. The branch-line follows the Ogasawa River. The station is named after the river. [18]The Ogasawa junction with a train coming off the branch line. The branch is clearly a ‘work line’ as the construction standard is lower and it runs on timber piers. The photograph comes from “Ogiso Forest Railway” issued by Yubarahara Forestry Bureau. Note that this train is also pulled by one of the Baldwin Steam Locomotives. [18]Ogasawa Station in 2008. [18]Ogasawa Station in use. It included a logging plant of which the offices are behind the locomotive. The photograph comes from “Ogiso Forest Railway” issued by Yubarahara Forestry Bureau. [18]The line continues up the valley. The Ogasawa Station is the lower red dot above. Hakubaki Station is the red dot at the top of the map.  [19]

At times the old line does not follow the forestry track. The 7th Misogawa Bridge (第7味噌川橋梁) is one such location. As the adjacent photograph shows, one of the abutments of the old railway is still visible. [20]

This applies for the 8th Misogawa bridge (第8味噌川橋梁), below. The track-bed between these bridges is indistinct and follows the opposite bank of the river to the forest road. [20]The 7th Misogawa Bridge (第7味噌川橋梁)  and the 8th Misogawa bridge (第8味噌川橋梁) are shown above. There are copious photos available on the Japanese language website ( which can be found by following the link in the references below. [20]Hakubaki station (鉢伏停車場) [20]The rail route continues to completion on the sketch map above. [21]Upper Zokotsuzawa Bridge No. 1. The forest road sits alongside the abutment and piers of the old railway bridge. for many of the structures up the remainder of the valley the picture is the same, a newer forest road bridge alongside old abutments. (上ゾコツ沢橋梁第1号) [22]The sketch map above shows two hairpin bends on the line. This if the first, the photo was taken in 2014 looking north. [22]The hairpin bends. [23]The second hairpin bend. [23] Beyond this point the route of the old line become increasing indistinct but it can be followed on the Japanese language website [24]

Just occasionally highlights stand out along the route. These two pictures show a typical bridge on the working line. The construction is entirely from locally sourced timber. [25]





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