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]

References

  1. http://rue_du_petit_train.pagesperso-orange.fr/lignes/sudest/reseau-BDR.htm, accessed on 7th March 2019.
  2. http://marc-andre-dubout.org/cf/baguenaude/plandorgon-tarascon/plan-tara.htm, accessed on 7th March 2019.
  3. http://bne.lagramillere.free.fr/barbentane-la-ligne-du-bdr-de-barbentane-a-orgon-gare.htm, accessed on 7th March 2019.
  4. https://trains.fandom.com/wiki/Tarascon_-_Saint-Remy-de-Provence, accessed on 7th March 2019.
  5. http://voiesdesaffectees.free.fr/tarascon-orgon.html, accessed on 7th March 2019.
  6. https://www.cparama.com/forum/saint-etienne-du-gres-t29127.html, accessed on 8th March 2019
  7. https://remonterletemps.ign.fr, accessed on 7th, 8th, 9th March 2019.
  8. http://www.inventaires-ferroviaires.fr/hd13/13057.a.pdf, accessed on 9th March 2019.
  9. https://www.cparama.com/forum/plan-d-orgon-t29120.html, accessed on 9th March 2019.
  10. http://bne.lagramillere.free.fr/barbentane-la-ligne-du-bdr-de-barbentane-a-orgon-gare.htm, accessed on 10th March 2019.

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