Author Archives: rogerfarnworth

Kings Lynn Harbour Branch

Kings Lynn was my home in the 1970s. From the age of 12 to 18, I attended Kings Lynn Grammar School and lived on the East side of the town. I have recently been reading some old railway magazines and came across an article about the Harbour Branch in Kings Lynn. The article was in Railway Bylines in January 2002.

By the 1970s, it was my presumption that most of the infrastructure in the article in the January 2002 issue of Railway Bylines would have been abandoned or removed. My memories of the riverside in Kings Lynn in the 1970s are of a relatively derelict area of little interest to a teenager. Apparently, the line closed in 1968 and much of the infrastructure was removed at that time. However the rails remained intact in the bridge over the River Nar close to the fertiliser factory  until the turn of the millenium. [2]

Kings Lynn was surprisingly included in the rail network early in the development of the UK network. Services between Kings Lynn and Downham Market commenced on 27th October 1846. The Lynn & Ely Railway opened its harbour branch on the same date. It completed the coal handling facilities at the Harbour in May 1848. 1849 saw an extension of the length of the branch as far as South Quay completed. The branch diverged from the mainline to the north of South Lynn.

Access to the branch was controlled by the Harbour Junction Signal Box. The box was completed and in use by 1880. It has a 36-lever Saxby frame. It remained staffed until 8th March 1983. In 1984, it was reduced to the status of a ground-frame and it was closed completely on 10th February 1985. [1]This picture was taken in June 1983. It shows that the box was well maintained right through to closure. [1] It suggests that the fertilizer factory continued to be rail served until the 1980s.Harbour Junction appears at the bottom of this 1920s O.S. Map. [3] The branch crosses the River Nar for the first time North of the junction close to the manure/fertilizer works. The works link both to the Harbour Branch and to the curve in South Lynn between the main north-south line to Kings Lynn Station and the cross-country line south of Kings Lynn. The footbridge shown on the OpenStreetMap plan and in the two pictures taken from the A148 below in almost exactly in the same position as the old bridge over the river. Between the Harbour Junction and the footbridge above, the new A148 (Nar Ouse Way) approximately follows the line of the Branch. North of the footbridge the route of the line is underneath modern housing development which has replaced part of the fertilizer works. North of the old works the line followed a straight north-easterly course crossing what, in my teenage years, was the A148. It was joined, alongside the more northerly buildings of the fertilizer works by the industial railway which served the works.The Branch crossed the Wisbech Road at the point where it is now met by Sandpiper Way. Indeed, the northern end of Sandpiper Way follows the old line which then continues on the north side of the Wisbech Road as Hardings Way.This excellent aerial view (above) of the fertilizer works [4] shows the Branch in the top right. Just above the halfway point on the right side of the photograph is the first bridge over the Nar, then the northern part of the works is followed by the crossing of the Wisbech Road and the coal sidings beyond. [4]

The railway passed just to the West of the Railway Tavern which is shown in the adjacent picture. [5]This aerial image was also sourced from the Historic England Website: ‘Britain From Above’ and shows the Harbour Branch running across the centre of the image with Wisbeach Road at the left hand edge of the image. The River Nar flows under the line to the right side of the picture and the location of the Gas Works is prominent centre-top. Southgates can just be identified in the top left of the image. [7]

I have not found any pictures of the level crossing at Wisbech Road. It was sited just west of the Railway Tavern and under what is now the junction between Wisbech Road, Sandpiper Way and Hardings Way.Looking South from Wisbech Raod along what was the route of the Branch and is now Sandpiper Way.Looking North (above) from Wisbech Road along the old Harbour Branch which now forms Hardings Way.The coal sidings mentioned below would have been on the right-hand side of this image, to the left of the brick built building.

In the adjacent satellite image, the route of the Branch can be picked out by following a straight line from the footbridge at the southerly edge of the image through the building site to Wisbech Road and then along Hardings Way to the bridge over the River Nar at the northerly extent of the picture.

Along the length of the Branch to the north of Wisbech Road, there were a series of coal sidings which were still in evidence in the 1960s. [6]

As can be seen on the 1920s map above, the coal sidings gave way to an extensive area of sidings on the South side of the River Nar. [6] These sidings filled a tongue of land which extended northwards creating a tight loop in the River Nar. At this point the river was usually referred to as Friar’s Fleet. That layout of the river mouth is no longer evident on the ground, nor in the adjacent satellite image. But it can be clearly seen in the 1920s maps which form a part of this blog (above and below). [6]

The tongue of land was connected to the remainder of the harbour on the banks of the River Ouse by a swing bridge which can be picked out easily in the map below.

There were two swing bridges on the line – the first over Friars Fleet and second over Mill Fleet. The article in Railway Bylines has a number of pictures of the swing bridge and these are reproduced below. [1]

The map above shows the northerly extent of the Harbour Branch. It reached northwards to Purfleet and close to the Customs House. [6]This view looks West along the River Nar. The tractor on the bridge was kept  in a converted stable, a reminder of the earlier form of traction used on the sidings. The crane in the background is on the Boal Quay. [1]Another view of the same bridge. This view is taken looking Northeast from Boal Quay. The town is the backdrop to the view, St. Margaret’s Church can be seen in the background. The bridge was moved using a handle which operated a simple geared mechanism. The bridge was constructed by H & M. D. Grissell of Regents Canal Ironworks in London. [1] The swing bridge over the River Nar was built in 1854 when the harbour branch was extended. This view looks Southeast. Road vehicles were prohibited from crossing the bridge. Pedestrians were permitted but it was a tight fit especially when on a bicycle with a wagon to circumnavigate. When the bridge was open to river traffic, a swinging hinged beam was the only deterrent to rail traffic. [1]

There was only a short distance at the neck of Boal Quay between Friars Fleet and Mill Fleet. There were a number of short sidings which served Boal Quay and the adjacent Corn Mill. Boal Quay with clear evidence that the Quay was rail served. [8]Boal Quay taken from West Lynn. The sidings seem to be full of open wagons. [8]Boal Quay in the early 21st Century. A view looking North.Boal Quay – this time the view is looking South.

The line continued over Mill Fleet. The swing bridge was of a similar design to that over Friars Fleet.The swing bridge over Mill Fleet carried the Harbour Branch onto South Quay. This view is taken from the North end of Boal Quay looking Northeast towards the town. The pinnacles of the tower of St. Margaret’s Church can be seen peeping bout above the roof of Gregory & Hampson’s warehouse in the centre. [1]The construction of these bridges was simple. This view is taken looking West across the River Ouse to West Lynn. Boal Quay is to nthe left and South Quay to the right. The Mill Fleet bridge and that across Friars Fleet were demolished at the beginning of 1970, just before I moved with my family to King’s Lynn. [1]I think that this is one of the best pictures (above) that I have seen of the quayside in King’s Lynn. The picture is taken looking North across Mill Fleet and its swing bridge towards South Quay. On South Quay the railway was set in cobbles. The cars parked on South Quay overlooking the River Ouse suggest that the picture was taken in the early to mid-1960s. The handful of vanfit wagons on the South Quay confirm that there is still some rail traffic to be had. [1]

The satellite image clearly shows the old course of Friars Fleet and the shape of Boal Quay. It also shows the full length of the South Quay from Mill Fleet to Purfleet.

South Quay had two sidings along the water’s edge – these were linked at regular intervals to aid shunting.This view of South Quay is taken from almost the same position as the early to mid-1960s photograph above.Marriott’s Warehouse, South Quay in the 1920s (above). [9]

The North end of South Quay is shown in the adjacent image. [10]

Another view of South Quay (below), taken on 18th May 1910. plenty of railway wagons are visible! [11]A modern view of South Quay taken from West Lynn and showing Marriott’s Warehouse!  [12]A modern view of South Quay with Marriott’s Warehouse on the right.And finally, a view of the North end of South Quay in the early 21st Century. Flood protection measures are in evidence.


  1. Bryan L. Wilson; Nooks, Crannies and Swing Bridges – Fixtures and Fittings on the Kings Lynn Harbour Branch; Railway Bylines, January 2002.
  2., accessed on 15th September 2018.
  3., accessed on 15th September 2018.
  4., accessed on 16th September 2018.
  5., accessed on 16th September 2018.
  6., accessed on 16th September 2018.
  7., accessed on 16th September 2018.
  8., accessed on 16th September 2018.
  9., accessed on 16th September 2018.
  10., accessed on 16th September 2018.
  11., accessed on 16th September 2018.
  12., accessed on 16th September 2018.

Tramways de l’Aude – Lastours to Carcassonne

On 6th September 2018, my wife and I travelled down the length of the line from Lastours to Carcassonne. There were not too many opportunities for me to stop to take pictures as we had spent the whole morning following the line from Fanjeaux to St. Denis.

However, it is good to be writing about some things I have seen.

Lastours is located 12 km (7.5 mi) outside Carcassonne, in the valley of the Orbiel. There are four small castles each built on a large 300 m high rocky ridge. The castles were built to control the access to Montagne Noire and the Cabardes region. These are some of the few original Cathar castles left. In the mid-1960s, the village of Lastours had a population of around 500, many working in the mill in the village. The mill is now closed and is used as a visitor centre for the castles on the rock outcrop above. The population in 2008 was 165. [1]

The four castles (Cabaret, Tour Régine, Surdespine and Quertinheux) which are shown on the adjacent schematic plan [3]) illustrate both the pride of the feudal lords and the fragmentation of their power. The castles not only stand as guardians of access into the Black Mountains but also vie with each other for the rile of protector, much as their feudal lords would have been doing. The first mention of Cabaret goes back to 1063. The lords of the place were vassals of the Counts of Béziers and Carcassonne and maintained good relations with the monks of the abbey of Fontfroide . The lords of Cabaret became protectors of the ‘Cathars’ and les parfaits (the perfect ones) who settled there. [2]

A first assault, of Simon de Montfort, against Cabaret in 1210, failed. In 1211, Cabaret eventually submitted voluntarily. But the hostilities towards the crusaders of Simon de Montfort resumed quickly. A Cathar bishop, Pierre Isarn, who stayed at Cabaret in 1223 went up to the stake in 1226 . A new crusader assault took place in 1227 but failed. Finally, the 4 fortresses fell in 1243, although this did not prevent the castellans from continuing their Cathar faith in peace. [2]

As the centuries progressed the village below the castles became a centre for industrial textile-working and the mill was built. The Rabier factory was eventually closed in the mid-20th Century when its production was no longer economic. It is now the tourist reception facility for the Chateaux.

Since 1995, Lastours has been developing a thematic display around mining and metallurgy in the Black Mountains . The region was very rich in iron, copper, lead but especially gold. Gold mines remain operational in the area. [2] Mining areas are shown grey on the map below.The rich mineral deposits in the area, together with the need to transport textile products from Lastours to the wider world became the dominant factors in the push to establish better transport links. As a result the tramway from Lastours was born. It provided effective communication with Carcassonne and the wider railway network. It, in turn, sustained the larger population required as labour in the factory. Products from the surrounding plain could be brought more easily to Lastours.A picture of the factory complex from the 1920s. The chateaux sit above the factory to the right. [3]Damage to factory buildings in floods in 1930. [9]The factory as a visitor centre with one of the chateau above. [8][10]

The Tramway accessed the lower village. It was not possible, because of the constraints of the site, to gain direct access to the mill. As the valley widened, the first opportunity was taken to establish the tramway terminal facilities. Passengers were, of course, expected and provided for but the main focus of investment was the products which would be transported and which would provide the dominant income for the tramway. [10] The small community of Lastours grew in wealth as a result of the immediate access to hydroelectric power and the ability to transport goods to markets. Often these mountain communities that outstripped their neighbours in the plain in economic prosperty. [10] It is however unlikely that this economic prosperty was felt by those who laboured in the mill. It probably secured their jobs even if they remained relatively poorly paid.This image from the 1950s [3] shows the station building in the foreground. It had already survived around 20 years after the closure of the line. Today (2018) the building functions as the village tourist office and bears, on the elevation facing the photographer, a panel describing the tramway and its operation with pictures taken from the book written by Michel Vieux. [4] The station yard in Lastours. [6]The station area is encircled by the blue oval.This is the Station plan shown on the board on the wall of the old station building in 2018. It comes from the book by Michel Vieux and represents the station in 1905. [4]A clearer photograph of the Station at Lastours taken at a different time to the drafting of the plan above. In this image the station has a siding with an end-on connection to the goods platform. [7]Damage to the Station site in the floods in 1930. It is very unlikely that all of the buildings lost in this flood were replaced as the line only had around 2.5 years before closure. [9] The two images above show the station building at Lastours on 6th September 2018. Its use as a tourist information centre has secured its immediate future. The information board about the railway is great. It can be seen in a prominent position in the first of the two pictures. The image below shows that the modern building has been re-roofed, the older overhanging roof has gone.Departure is now imminent. The last image of the Station at Lastours. The water tower and engine shed can be seen in the distance on the left of the picture. [4]The tramway sitting between river and road south of Lastours. [15]

Trams left Lastours on their journey down the valley of the River Orbiel on the left side of the road but very soon they switched to the right (west) side of the road and then entered a short tunnel which was built to smooth out a very tight curve in the road down the valley. There are very few tunnels on the Tramways de l’Aude network and this is one of them. It bears the name Lacombe and is no more than 34m long. The portals are marked on the map above with a red dot and a green dot and are shown below. The pictures were taken from the highway, the first pair in the early to middle part of the 20th CenturyCentury after the tram tracks had been removed, the others in the very early 21st Century, the view of the more southerly portal is now blocked. [15]The north portal. [15]The south portal. [15]The north portal (above). [11]

The south portal taken close to the opening. [11]

The south Portal (below) taken so as to show the road alignment. [11] This view is no longer available as a large concrete barrier has been placed in front of the south portal. Google Earth Streetview is a little out of date as it does not show the barrier which is on the satellite image.

The satellite image clearly shows the large, high concrete barrier which was present when we passed the tunnel on 6th September 2018. I can only surmise that, at night, car headlights shining through the short tunnel have been responsible for some accidents. It would seem likely that cars have not negotiated the tight bends after being led to believe that the tunnel provided a gentler alignment for the road.

After the tunnel, trams continued to follow the western shoulder of the road for a while before then switching back to the eastern side of the road as the halt at Moulin d’Artigues was approached.

The constraints of the site were tight, the road was narrow and it was trapped between the valley side and the River Orbiel. [5] Somehow the engineers of the time managed to fit both the tramway halt and road between the mill and the river.

One might presume that, in the middle of a rural area, a mill of this nature might have been put to annagricultural use. It would be a poor presumption to make, the valley was not rural in the normal use of the word. It was a hive of industrial activity and this mill was used for grinding, crucpshing and then blasting iron ore from Salsigne which was then used in gas purification.

Part of the mill in now in use as a restaurant. The adjacent picture reminds us that when the tramways were closed the valleys they served were not abandoned. Bus services replaced them and often it was the presence of a reliable alternate for of transport which brought about the end of the tramways.

Much of the heavy industry of the valley failed in the mid-20th Century and the resident population moved away to find work.

The trams travelled on down the valley of l’Orbiell’Orbiel to the next halt ‘La Caunette’, thius was at the junction of the road leading to Salsigne and its mines, and close to the lower mining area of La Combe du Sault. At la Caunette Station there was a loading wharf for the Salsigne mines. The wharf and station building remain visible today.A single track branch siding was provided to a loading wharf as shown in the sketch map above. [19] The tramway station had three tracks for the marshalling of tains and to allow two trains to pass each other. Mining products were transported from Salsigne Silver (and Gold) Mines and more immediately from La Caunette Silver Mines. It was a 5km trek to bring goods down from the Salsigne mines and a more arduous uphill trek to take goods transported by the tramway to the mines. [5] The condition of the road was poor and a 600mm gauge railway was provided to transport goods to and from Salsigne. The sketch plans shows its relation to the metre-gauge tramway.

Associated with the mines was a large factory complex at La Combe du Sault. It was a dominant feature in the valley. It processed all the raw materials from the mines.

Incidentally, the gold content in the arsenic ore in the Salsigne mines has been measured as being 12gms/tonne. [5]

The mining complex of La Combe du Sault was of great significance in the 20th Century and greatly enhanced the prosperity of the Orbiel Valley. Once the factory closed, it was demolished in 1986 along with the accommodation which had been provided for workers. [12]

The line continues down the valley following the GC101 (today’s D101). The next significant location marked on the Michelin map is Lassac. It was an inhabited hamlet, with castle, buildings, church placed under the name of Saint-Martin united with the Episcopal Mention of Carcassonne. Its territory is part of the communes of Sallèles-Cabardès and Limousis. The Villa Lassac, was on the right bank of the Orbiel with picturesque garden, orchards, meadows, vineyards, olive groves and mill. [5]

It appears, in 2018, that all that remains are ruins and that the hamlet is uninhabited. There was a major local campaign in the period 2006 to 2009 to prevent destruction of the immediate environs by the Departement. My French is not good enough to understand the technical terms involved but it appears that the issue was the creation of an industrial landfill site at Lassac on what were then polluted stilling ponds from the old works. [13]

As late as 2015 it was reported that the enterprise to create a landfill site at Lassac had failed. The courts declared the enterprise illegal and the Departement cancelled its contract with the company who were to undertaken the work. [14] This leaves unresolved the question of a suitable landfill site for the Aude.This satellite image shows the location of the station at La Caunette at its northern (top) edge.  La Combe du Sault appears at the centre of the picture and Lassac in the bottom part of the photograph.The gateway for La Combe de Sault.Lassac is shown in plan above and the buildings are shown in a photo taken from the D101 below.The river, ford and footbridge at Lassac.

From Lassac, the trams continued down the valley towards Conques-sur-Orbiel. It passes through two further halts on the way. Vic la Vernede was at the site of a priory. The priory at Vic was under the patronage of St. Peter and appeared in the 13th century.

The chapel has relatively recently been renovated.

In La Vernède, there is also a beautiful castle overlooking the valley which included a farm with vegetable gardens, vineyards, meadows, olive trees, herd of merinos thanks to the enlightened vision of its successive owners through time since at least the 17th century. [16] Shortly after passing through the hamlet of Vic la Vernede the tramway switched to the West side of the road and then deviated from the GC101 (D101). It branched away to the West. The route of the diversion can be seen in the picture below, on the right of the image, to the left of the trees. The route of the diversion is initially straight. It then curves to the south.It the encounters the River Rieussec and crosses this on a 13 metre span metal bridge adjacent to the Salitis Road (D901) where the second of the two halts was sited. [5] After the halt the tramway continued in a southerly direction following the route of the lane south of the D901.

One of the abutments of the tramway bridge remain on the north side of the D901. The tramway alignment is just off the D901 to the north and the old bridge abutment is still present.

After the Salitis Road halt the tramway continued in a southerly direction following the route of the lane south of the D901.A new road, the D101A, bypasses Conques-sur-Orbiel and we used this route as we travelled south to Carcassonne on 6th September 2018. The lane which follows the route of the tramway, joins this new road.The D101A enters the photograph above from the left. The old tramway route enters from the bottom of the image and follows the edge of the vineyard field into the middle distance where it meets the D101A.The station was located at the point where the IC35 (the modern D35) met the tramway.Comparing the above pictures of the station and the village of Conques with Google Street view images ties down the station location to the length of tramway to the north of the Route de Villegailheric (D35). The location is shown marked blue on the OpenStreetMap plan.The station provided for trains to pass and also for the loading and unloading of goods. There was a 12m long platform for goods, one siding alongside the platform and another for storing wagons. The sidings were usually full because the line, although a metre-gauge lightly built line, saw heavy traffic. The industrial development of the valley ensured that significant loads were carried. In 1923, 20,600 tonnes were transported on the line. Because of the nature of the permanent way, train lengths and weights had to be limited. The limits placed on movements were: 56 tonnes between Carcassonne and Carrefour de Bezons, 51 tons to Conques, 60 tons from Conques to La Caunette and 51 tons from there to Lastours. [5]

This video has been produced locally. [17]

Travelling on from Conques the tramway followed the GC101 (D201) towards Carcassonne.

The tramway next arrived at the crossroads of Carrefour de Bezons. The station was south of the meeting point of the roads to Conques and to Villalier. It welcomed travelers from Villemoustoussou and the surrounding area. There were three lines in the station which was a junction station and trains could be taken to Caunes as well as to Lastours and Carcassonne. [5] A sketch plan of the station is shown below. [18]The station at Carrefour de Bezons was to the Northeast of the roundabout at the top of the above map close to the Canal du Midi. The tramway then followed the north/west bank of the Canal, first alongside the D149, then alongside the D118d(Route Minervoise) before crossing the Canal to the south/east side and then following what is now called the Route Minervoise all the way to its terminus across the Canal from what is now the SNCF station in Carcassonne. The first part of the route into Carcassonne is approximately shown by pink line on the satellite image below.The area of Carcassonne immediately to the West of the River Fresquel is called Pont-Rouge. There was a halt on the tramway serving this community which was sited close to the road and canal bridge over the Fresquel.At Le Pont Rouge, the double bridge-viaduct and aqueduct over the Fresquel sits alongside a succession of locks which allowed the Canal du Midi to be diverted from its originally proposed route into Carcassonne, permitting the creation of a port capable of serving the interests of the City. [5][22]

From this point the tramway followed the Canal du Midi South along the Route Minervoise (D118) towards Saint-Jean and crossed the Canal at right-angles just to the north of the lock at Saint-Jean.The tramway turned sharply to cross the Canal du Midi from its West bank to its East bank and then arrived at Saint-Jean.The Saint-Jean lock is a single lock on the Canal du Midi, built around 1674. [21]The lock at Saint-Jean.There was a halt at Saint-Jean and the tramway the followed the East/South bank of the canal into Carcassonne.The tramway formation is now covered by a tarmac road, the route Minervoise, on its way into the city.The tramway passes under the Compagnie du Midi mainline and then turns West to run on the South side of the Canal basin.

We finish this blog with a few views of the station and canal basin in Carcassonne and a couple of sketch plans of the tramway facilities in the city.  The Canal basin near the Gare du Midi. The tramway ran on the left of the buildings visible beside the water. The Compagnie du Midi mainline crosses both the Canal, and to the right the road/tramway. The Compagnie du Midi Station in Carcassonne – the Gare du Midi. The tramway ran just off the bottom of this picture. The two smaller pictures below show the overall train-shed roof , first in the 21st Century and second in the early 20th Century.

 Another picture of the Gare du Midi in the early 20th Century.A final shot of the Gare du Midi. The small office in front of the station was of a similar size to one on the opposite bank of the Canal which was the ticket office for the Tramways de l’Aude and which is marked ‘I’ on the sketch plan below.The facilities for the tramway in Carcassonne were significant. In the sketch plan immediately above we have the detail of the station facilities at ‘C’. The two routes which lead off the plan are: ‘A’, the tramway which runs to the South side of the Canal basin close to the Gare du Midi and then on through the Carcassonne suburbs to the rest of the network; ‘B’ the line feeding the Gare de l’Estagnol, which is marked ‘III’ and ‘IV’ in the plan above.

After following this line from Lastours to Carcassonne, my wife and I enjoyed walking round the old Cite of Carcassonne on 6th September 2018.


1., accessed on 7th September 2018.

2., accessed on 7th September 2018.

3., accessed on 7th September 2018.

4. Michel Vieux; Tramways a Vapeur de l’Aude; R. Latour Editions 14 rue Sébile 09300 Lavelanet, 2011.

5., accessed on 7th September 2018.

6., accessed on 7th September 2018.

7., accessed on 7th September 2018.

8., accessed on 7th September 2018.

9., accessed on 7th September 2018.

10., accessed on 7th September 2018.

11., accessed on 8th September 2018.

12. Claude Gironis; La Combe du Saut; Editions Qui Lit Vit, 2012.

13.,1823748.php, accessed on 9th September 2018

14., accessed on 9th September 2018.

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Tramways de l’Aude – Fanjeaux to Saissac and Saint Denis

We started by looking at the most westerly line of the Tramways de l’Aude and the story of the line from Belpech to Castelnaudary can be found in two posts:

The next most westerly of the Tramways de l’Aude lines was that from Fanjeaux running north through Bram to Saissac and then east to Saint Denis. This is a journey along the route of that line seeking to find any possible remaining evidence of its existence.

Fanjeaux is located west of Carcassonne. Between 1206 CE and 1215 CE, Fanjeaux was the home of Saint Dominic, the founder of the Roman Catholic Church’s Dominican Order, who preached to the Cathars in the area. It is a small town of under 800 people. [1]

Fanjeaux is an important Cathar site. It was a major centre, and in the 13th Century was a significant citadel with a population of over 3,000. [2] It was then surrounded by a moat and defended by ramparts with fourteen towers (tours). Two entries serve as reminders of the medieval gates which controlled entry into the town. Like most Languedoc castra it had a large castle (Château) within its walls. Almost nothing of it remains today.

In 1204 Esclaremond de Foix received the Cathar Consolamentum at the Château here in the presence of her brother, the Count of Foix. The site of the Château hall where the ceremony took place is now marked by a Catholic Dominican chapel, supposedly marking the site of one of Saint Dominic’s miracles. You can trace the old city walls and surrounding dry moat, now marked by a road. An outbuilding belonging to the new Château (13th century) also survives and according to a dubious Dominican tradition once served as Saint Dominic’s Fanjeaux residence. [3]

Bram is part of the old province of Lauragais. It was a centre of Cathar belief and that heresy brought the intervention of Simon de Montfort who, besieged the town in 1210. He succeeded in three days and took revenge on resistants by cutting off the top lip of all his prisoners and gouging out the eyes of all but one. For the last he gouged out only one eye so that he could lead the others out of the town to the château of Lastours.

By the 17th century Bram had outgrown its walls and expanded in concentric circles. It population in the early 21st Century is around 3,100. [11]The citadel and old town of Bram. [12]

Saissac is perched in the foothills of the Montagne Noires (Black Mountains) at an altitude of 467 m and boasts stunning views of the Vernassonne Gorge as well as the valley plain which stretches between Carcassonne and Castelnaudary. It first appeared in history in the 10th century, the name originates from the Gallo-Romain Saxiago. The history of the village is strongly linked the Château built in the 10th century. [13]

The Château de Saissac is a ruined Cathar Castle on a promontory at the southernmost tip of the commune of Saissac, in the Aude département located north-west of Carcassonne.

Saissac is mentioned in a legal document (an Acte) from the Abbey of Montolieu in 958, and again in a text of 960. The village is typical of the Black Mountains and is built between the ravines of the rivers Aiguebelle and Vernassonne, just above their confluence. Things to see in the village include the porte d’Autan, a lavoire built in granite, a second covered lavoire and a fine echauguette. Vestiges of the city walls (enceinte) are still visible around the ancient village. These walls date from the Fourteenth century, the same period that the castle of Saissac was restored. [14]

Saint Denis is a village of less than 500 people. [15] It is located in the foothills of the Black Mountains between the valleys of Alzeau in the west and Linon in the east. It is a little to the east of Saissac.

The tramway provided for the sharing of agricultural produce between the plains and the foothills of the Pyrenees, and trains of wheat and maize from the Lauragais plain also crossed those of milk and butter produced in the pastures of the Montagne Noires. [4]

The journey commences at Fanjeaux. A sketch plan of the station is provided below. The station was situated below the town and was on a long thin site with its main buildings strung out along the hillside. This can be seen in both of the postcard images below the sketch. [5]

The station facilities focussed more on goods than on passengers. The goods shed features clearly in the adjacent picture with the water tower and engine shed beyond. The second image is taken from a distance showing the station in its place beneath the town. It shows even more clearly just how far apart the various facilities were.

The track layout at the station makes far more sense than that seemingly provided at Belpech. It seems to have been spread out to allow it to occupy a place on the steep slopes of the town. An additional postcard picture shows the station and the village of Fanjeaux. [16]My wife and I visited Fanjeaux on 6th September 2018 and I was able to take a number of photographs. The first shows the top of the access road to the Station – Avenue de la Gare.The second is taken below the retaining wall visible in the black and white pictures of Fanjeaux and its station. This is where the station used to be!When trams left Fanjeaux Station, they followed a circuitous route around the village. The station was to the Southwest of the centre of the village and trams headed west, then north, then east, before leaving the environs of the village. The route can easily be picked out on the modern satellite image of the village below.  This map shows one of the advertised footpath trails around the town. It uses the old tramway for over 66% of its length. The station was at the location that I have highlighted in blue. The line continued its journey away from Fanjeaux along the pink line to the right of the map. The tramway ran round the north side of the village. [17]

On 6th September 2018, my wife and I walked the route marked in red above. I took a number of pictures as we walked around the village. A few will suffice here to give an impression of the current state of the old tramway route.The first evidence of the tramway to the east of Fanjeaux is the slip road approaching the roundabout at Prouilhe. The slip-road follows the old tramway formation. Prouilhe was the first halt on the tramway beyond Fanjeaux. Its claim to fame was that it was the location of the mother-house of the Dominican order, ‘Notre-Dame des Prêcheurs’. Evidence of the tramway halt is nonexistent but the monastery and the Covent buildings attached to it are still very much present.From Prouilhe, the tramway continued northeast towards Bram alongside what is now the D4. It passed through Taurines and Villesiscle on the way. There are long straight sections of single- carriageway road with no evidence of the old tramway.The station area at Villesiscle is still a flat open space with little indication of its use as a tramway station in the past.Perhaps clutching at straws here, but the alignment of the boundary fence to the memorial garden suggests that the tramway album alignment dictated its location back from the road.

Heading out of Villesiscle thev D4 approaches the modern motorway. The road was diverted to bridge the motorway and the old road alignment is still visible and not surfaced. It s possibly a good example of what the road might have been like when the tramway was in use?The old road into Bram. The motorway which crossed it can just be seen in the far distance.

The tramway entered Bram along what is now Avenue Georges Clemenceau and Avenue du General de Galle. In those days, ‘Route de Fanjeaux’. Bram, Route de Fanjeaux. The tramway tracks are just visible on the left. [8]The view from almost the same location in 21st Century.

In the centre of Bram, the tramway divided. One branch headed north, the other provided access to the Midi Station.I have found no indication of the actual track arrangement for the Tramway in Bram. The pink lines sketched on the satellite image are indication of the routes which are evident on postcard pictures. The line going north made for Saissac and Saint-Denis and crossed the Compagnie du  Midi line, along with the road at a level crossing which is still in place in the 21st Century.The first of a few images of the line heading towards the level-crossing. [18]

Bram, Avenue de St. Denis. The railway crossing gates can just be picked out in the distance. The view is taken north looking away from the town centre. [7]Bram, Avenue de Canal du Midi, or Avenue de Saint-Denis (today’s Avenue Paul Riquet). This tinted image is taken from a point a little further out of the centre of Bram to the north. The crossing gates for the Compagnie du Midi mainline are more easily seen. It is also possible to make out a point with a branch off the tramway heading in the direction of the mainline railway station. As we have seen above this ward not the main tramway access to the Midi station. [8]This picture is taken from a blog about Saissac written in French by Jean Michel of Saissac. The image shows the arrival of a train from Fanjeaux. A triangular arrangement of tracks existed in this square in Bram. The second arm of that triangle can be picked out running to the left of the train and behind the trees in the foreground of the picture. [18]Bram, Jardin Public. The image above of the arrival of the train is taken in the square behind the photographer of this picture. The road directly ahead is the Avenue de la Gare. [8]Another picture of Avenue de la Gare taken from a similar position. [18]Avenue de la Gare. [19]Avenue de la Gare (above). The goods facilities at the mouth of the combined station yard are visible ahead. [19] On 6th September 2018, I was unable to take a photograph, but I could confirm that the goods shed is still there.The entry of a train from Saissac into the station yard at Bram. [8]

The Mainline Railway Station at Bram was/is positioned to the East of the town centre.Bram, Compagnie du Midi Station. The tramway branch which led into the station yard can be seen in the bottom right of this picture. [8]Bram, Compagnie du Midi, Station Forecourt. [9]Bram, Compagnie du Midi Station Train-shed, 1910. [6]Bram, Compagnie du Midi Station, Train-shed Interior. [6]The Station at Bram from the East. [19]

The overall shed roof is now missing in the 21st Century. The tramway buildings and lines are long-gone.

Returning to the tracks which headed north out of Bram, we cross the level crossing and head out of town. At this point the tramway was on the east (right) side of the road.As we leave Bram behind the road is flanked by an avenue of plane trees. As we approach them, I imagine, without much supporting evidence, that the tramway switches from the East to the West side of the road. If this proves to be incorrect, please forgive the excessive use of my imagination!The cycleway on the left, on the West side of the road, may be on the formation of the old tramway.

We are heading for Saissac, and as the journey continues we pass through a series of different stops – Montplaisir-la-Leude, St-Martin-le-Vieil, Cennes-Monesties, and Cap-de-Port. We also cross the Canal du Midi. We cross the canal just north of Bram.The tramway continues North. The countryside north of the Canal due Midi is relatively flat and it ius likely that the route chosen for the tramway was dictated by the desires and dictates of various landowners. The tramway ran on the western shoulder of what is now the D4. The road seems to have been designed to work with the tram. Long straight sections are punctuated by relatively smooth and generous bends.This OpenStreetMap excerpt shows the route. The Canal is visible in the bottom left of the image. The tramway and GC116 (D4) then crossed the River Fresquel and the present D6113. The first halt north of Bram was at this junction – Montplaisir-la-Leude. North of the River Tenten the tramway/road diverted around the edge of a field before heading for St-Martin-le-Vieil.

Things changed as the tramway reached its next stop in St-Martin-le-Vieil. This was the main village in Canton immediately North of the Canton of Bram.

To access the village the tramway/road crossed the River Lampy on an ancient masonry arch bridge. The picture below is not of the highest resolution but sows the bridge early in the 20th century, perhaps while the tramway was still working. The adjacent 1930s Michelin map shows the tramway crossing the Lampy on a separate bridge to the road. The lie of the land and the road alignment suggest that this is very unlikely. No evidence exists to suggest that the tramway diverged from the road over this length.The bridge is just visible in this modern view of the village.

St-Martin-le-Vieil is a historic Cathar site with three significant elements: the castle; the church and the abbey; and a series of caves excavated by hand in the 9th Century. Its origins go back to the 8th century. 

The castle is mentioned as early as 1180. It was donated by Simon de Monfort to the Abbey of Villelongue in 1213. It was ravaged during the wars of religion (1578 ), rebuilt in 1676 as shown by the date inscribed on one of the faces of the small tower. It seems that by 1759 it still possessed its moat and three towers, the stone from one of which was used in the 1870s to build the town hall and school. [20]

The abbey appeared first in the twelfth century (1152 according to some historians). It became of significance in the crusade against Catharism in the thirteenth century. In particular, Simon de Monfort granted it all the lands of Saint Martin le Vieil. It was plundered by the Protestants in 1568 and saw a slow decline until 1789 when there remained only two religious. It was confiscated in 1792 and auctioned off. It was turned into a farm. Later, in 1916 it was listed as a historic monument and now receives aroun 6,000 visitors a year. [20]

The parish church is dedicated to Saint Martin, it is dated to the 14th century. It was built in the Gothic style and remodelled in the 15th century. [20]

The tramway ran along the GC116 (D4) through the village and continued alongside the road and river until close to Cennes-Monesties.The road to Cennes-Monesties diverges to the left. The tramway continued to the right still following the shoulder of the GC116(D4). There was a halt at this location for Cennes-Monesties. I have been unable to find any details.

For most of its length the Saint-Denis/Saissac line followed the route of the existing roads, but because of the road gradients, 8 kilometres separate lines were created. [18] These next few paragraphs and photographs trace the line as it meanders away from the road over the length between Cennes-Monesties and Saissac.

The first deviation is significant both in direction and length, leaving the road for some distance to the south before swinging round to the north and then following the road, but at a distance to the East as far as the next highway junction. The satellite images below confirm the route which appears only as alteration to the color of the ground or crops along its length. At points it is impossible to verify the line but those parts which can be established indicate the route elsewhere. The tramway leaves the shoulder of the road at this point. The tunnel through the undergrowth marks its most probable line. From this point it curves away to the south.The tramway swings away from the road through shrub-land. Its route is approximately marked by a line of taller trees. Once arable land is reach the route of the tramway shows on the satellite image as a wide curve as marked by the pink line.The pink line is only approximate. In the image above, from the route through the open field the line curves back again towards the East and follows the edge of the elongated copse of trees in the field.

In the adjacent image the north end of we features at the bottom of the picture. The line of the tramway snakes through the open field towards the point at which the two roads in the image meet. The route is most clear at the top of the picture. A small copse appears at the top of this picture. It becomes a much larger copse to the north of the side road as can be seen on the next picture.

The route of the tramway crosses the D4 at a point where the road bends eastward. It is difficult to identify the point at which the tramway began to turn back eastward. One possible location, suggested by some marks in the field to the north, is approximately where the first lighter free trees are to the northwest of the D4. I cannot be sure.. However, the alignment to the north side of that field, as the tramway returned towards the D4, is clear.

The pink line is again only approximate and the actual alignment can be made out crossing the field and turning north. The next halt at Cap-de-Port was adjacent to the building in the bottom right of the next image, not far from the road.

The tramway continued north a distance west of the modern D4. It turned this way and that, seemingly mirroring the changes in direction of the road until, at another junction with a minor road, it struck off away from the present D4 (GC116) and curved round to run along the shoulder of the GC103 (the modern D103).



The OpenStreetMap plan below shows the route of the D103 (and therefore the route of the tramway) into Saissac. Its route out of Saissac is along the D408.

The route of the tramway through Saissac is well preserved as a street – the Allee de la Promenade. The route is again shown in pink on the adjacent satellite image of the town.

The route closer into the town is called the Avenue Georges Clemenceau. It was not suitable as the tramway roue because of the narrowness of the street on the west side of the town and the steep drop, west to east, into the town and then the climb, west to east out of the town-centre. The Allee de la Promenade is shown on the OpenStreetMap plan below.Two postcard images of the station are immediately below.

Saissac [10]The old station of Saissac was built around 1904. The first tram arrived in Saissac on 10th May 1905. The station grounds were first used, after closure in 1932 as part of a sports field (1940). at that time, the station room served as a locker room for Rugby and football teams, eventually the land was used for the present gendarmerie. [22]

The tramway route leaves Saissac on what is now the D408. It was once the GC103. The final leg of the journey to Saint-Denis is short – just 5 or 6 kilometres. Initially the tramway ran on the southern shoulder of the road. It then crossed to the northern side just before entering the valley of l’Alzeau and remained there until reaching Saint-Denis.The bridge in the two postcard views above, taken in the early 21st Century looking back towards Saissac.Looking forward from the bridge, the old tramway formation can be seen on the left.

Very soon after leaving the valley of l’Alzeau the tramway entered Saint-Denis. The remaining pictures in this post show the station at Saint-Denis.

The final picture shows the location of the station in the 21st Century. The site has private dwellings built on it. The main identifying factor is the church tower which appears on the first postcard above.


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Tramways de l’Aude – Belpech to Castelnaudary – Part B

We continue our journey from Belpech to Castelnaudary, having taken a rest at Salles-sur-l’Hers. The first few pictures are of the area of the station site at Salles-sur-l’Hers. The OpenStreetMap above shows the approximate line of the tramway (pink) and the location of the station (dark blue). The sketch plan shows a station of similar significant to that at Belpech which is covered in the previous post about this line:

The Station site, shown in the immediately adjacent older postcard view, is still accessible and the lower part of the water tower remains in place. The site ius now in use by the municipal authorities as a technical training centre.

These two pictures are taken from the French language website referenced below. The second attempts to mimic the position of the photographer in the first. The footpath in this second image appears to be in the same location as the railway tracks in the first image. [1]

Tramway patrons would leave Salles village and head towards Castelnaudary on what is now the D15. The first length of the road was known as Avenue de la Gare.The station was immediately to the left of this picture with the photographer standing at the junction of the station access and the main road. [2]Slightly further to the northeast along the road which led to the station. The station entrance is just visible, and the line from Castelnaudary can be seen on the very left of the picture. The distinctive bell wall/tower in the village can easily be picked out on the right of the image. [2]In this old postcard view, the tramway station buildings can easily be picked out on the left. Only the water tower base remains in the early 21st Century. [2]The photographer has attempted to mirror the location of the last shot above. It must have been really difficult to do so. The water-tower base is visible on careful close inspection of the image. The tramway ran just to the left of the trees and it is possible to imagine that, because the verge is high above the adjacent field, we are looking at the tramway formation. [2]

Turning to face northeast, the tramway formation can be seen on the right of the road dropping down to join the road as it crosses the bridge over the River l’Hers Mort and then bearing away to the right to head for Castelnaudary. Both these next two images are taken from Google Street view.After the bridge the D15 follows the bank of the river for about 2.5 kilometres. The old tramway route was to the southwest of the road, between it and the river. The formation of the modern road has swallowed up any remnants of the tramway. A halt at Saint-Andre was followed by another at Nadal close to the crossroads with the D624. Here the tramway turned left to follow the D624 into Montauriol. Theree was a level-crossing across what is now the IC15 (D15) before the tramway followed the north side of the GC19 (D624) towards Montauriol.There is no sign of the tramway in evidence until the cross-roads at Montauriol are reached. At this point, hiding behind a modern hedge, the station building can still be found.The village of Mantauriol is to the south of the road and tramway. The old station building can be seen tight in the top right corner of the satellite image with the village son way south down the D17.

The station at Montauriol was small and the goods facilities were accessed as elsewhere on the line by using a turntable. Passenger facilities were space.

Nothing remains of the station except the small booking office. The building is in such good condition nestled at the foot of the hillside and at the entrance to a private drive, that you might imagine that it is ready to sell your ticket …

The sketch plan has north at the bottom. The facilities were separated from the building that remains,  sited in what is now a private yard. In the picture below, the yard is to the left of the  building. We have been kindly provided with av small sign to make sure that we notice the building. [1]









The next halt/station on the route was Cumies-Payra, again there is no sign of the tramway on the ground between Montauriol and Cumies-Payra. The next limited evidence is at Cumies-Payra where the station location remains but as an open bus/lorry/car park. The Google Street view image below shows the location.The adjacent sketch plan needs rotating through 90° to match the above picture. The through line ran roadside with the ticket office towards the rear of the image.

A turntable provided access from the mainline to two sidings, one of which was provided with a raised unloading platform.

The station at Cumies-Payra is situated midway between the two villages. Payra-sur-l’Hers has a population of around 150 in the early years of the 21st Century. Cumies has a population of around 35 now-a-days. Payra-sur-l’Hers was to the south of the tramway and Cumies to the north. In the 21st Century, they are linked by the D517 which crosses the D624 (the old GC19) and the tramway next to the station site.

Trams continued from Cumies-Payra towards Castelnaudary and arrived at Villeneuve-la-Comptal via Borde-Neuve and Fontcontar.

There are no signs along the road of the presence of the old tramway. The old formation will have been subsumed under the present wider road carriageway. Even the bridges show no sign of the tranway’s existence.North of Borde-Neuve the tramway route separated from the road to give it a better, gentler gradient. One website suggests that the line of then deviation was as marked below. [1]There is no evidence at the bend in the D624 of the divergence of the tramway, as can be seen in the image below.Nor is it possible to pick out the tramway route in the satellite image over the first field north of the D624. Itbis, however possible that the tramway could have followed the farmtrack shown to the east of the satellite image below.If this were to have been the case, the building(s) at the centre-top of the image would have marked the point at which the tramway route could be identified on the ground. Trams would have followed the first part of the farm track back towards the present D624 and then travelled north of that farm track on the hillside. That route is, however, once again, very difficult to pick out.

An alternative much shorter derivation is shown on the Michelin map of the time. I am much more inclined to credit this shorter deviation as being the actual route of the tramway. The extract from the Michelin map shiws the tramway on the north side of the GC19 for some distance from Borde-neuve until the point just above the ‘3’ of the height marker, 329 m. The road and tramway alignments are then close but separate for a distance.The deviation from the route of the road was designed to avoid one steep section of gradient on the road. At its height, the tramway reached 293m above sea-level, at Villeneuve it had dropped to 164m above sea-level. This shorter deviation has much more to support it and there is evidence available in satellite images which support the Michelin mapping.Careful examination of the above image will show remnants of the tramway alignment running from the present-day track on the left, just a few metres to the north of the road and then running to the north of the copse of trees at the right hand side of the picture.This next section of the deviation is more difficult to pick out. I have provided an approximate alignment which is suggested both by contours and topography.This final length of the deviation does not need marking, the tramway route wanders sinuously around on the north side of the modern road.

The image below shows the point at which the road and tramway return to the same alignment.The approach to Villeneuve-la-Comptal with no evidence of the old tramway in sight. The alignment was to the left of the road, probably to the left of the avenue of trees. The small station was at the next riasd junction ahead.The road to the left of the shelter is the Chemin de la Gare.Was this modest building all that was provided for passengers on the tramway? [5]

The tramway continued to follow the northwest side of the GC19 (D624) into Castelnaudary, through what are now the suburbs of the town which reach all the way to Villeneuve. The old Michelin map shows the station on the south side of the town and is additionally marked by a green dot.Before reaching the station the trams passed a large complex of grain silos. These are now owned by Arterris, a large Agricultural Co-operative. [2][8] The buildings dominate the southern half of the town – a veritable cathedral of the agricultural industry which dominated the region. Immediately beyond the silos the tramway crossed the Compagnie du Midi main railway line between Bordeaux and Were.

The Tramways de l’Aude Station shared a location with the Compagnie de Midi Mainline Station. The original approach for trams took them at level across the mainline, but with time this clearly became unsatisfactory. The tramway and road were diverted and a bridge was provided across the mainline of the Compagnie de Midi. The approach to Castelnaudary was across this bridge. This Google Street view image is taken from a point adjacent to the grain silos above.

The sketch plan below shows the two road/tramway alignments with the earlier one in bold. The booking halls for the Tramway and the Midi are numbered ‘2’ and ‘1’ on the plan, respectively. [6]

This bowstring arch bridge was built by March 1922 to carry the road and the tramway over the mainline. The view is taken from the East, on the north side of the Compagnie du Midi mainline. [6]. An early 21st century view of the bridge is below.The OpenStreetMap plan of the modern station site no longer shows any evidence of the Tramways de l’Aude, with the exception of the main station building/ticket office of the TVA which is numbered ’10’ on the plan. The bowstring arch bridge is the bridge at the left of this plan.This monochrome version of the feature image shows Corpet-Louvet No. 27 at the head of a train arriving in Castelnaudary from Belpech. The picture is taken from the station concourse which was shared with the Compagnie du Midi. The ticket office for the TVA is at the left of the picture shrouded in smoke. The building to the right is now the station restaurant! The picture comes from the collection of Gilles Lapasset. [7]A closer view of the TVA Station building taken in 2004 © Bernard Vieu. [7]

The Tramways de l’Aude shared the station forecourt with the Compagnie du Midi and a few photographs of their station follow before the post concludes with some timetables for the tramway.The original station frontage of La Gare due Midi. [9]Two views of the trainshed at Castelnaudary in the early years. [10]Castelnaudary Station in 1997, © J.C. Christol. [10]Castelnaudary Station forecourt in the 21st Century.Castelnaudary Station forecourt in the 21st Century. The train-shed of La Gare due Midi is easily seen at the bottom of the image. The station building for the Tramways de l’Aude is the square building to the bottom left of the picture.

Two timetables for the line, dating from the early years of the 20th Century.From 1913. [3]From 1914. [4]


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Tramways de l’Aude – Overview – Part 3

This third part of the overview of Les Tramways de l’Aude is based on the second and third of a series of three articles provided by Loco-Revue in its magazine in late 1961, written in French by C. Lacombe. It is not a direct translation, and it seeks not to repeat information already provided in the first post in this series. [1]

Traffic: Train lengths on the network were limited to 8 carriages or wagons and a maximum length of 50m. A short section of the network, the line from La Nouvelle to Port La Nouvelle carried a significant summer passenger traffic. Otherwise, the network carried the usual range of customers for a line of local interest: farmers, winemakers, commercial travelers, etc.

From its opening, the network was well patronised. However from 1920, some lines began to see a drop in traffic. Those which continued to see a good level of traffic were those considered to be the ‘main’ lines of the network. Then following table shows these differences and is based on a period of 4 months in 1926.

The main arteries (Lines 1 and 3) have good traffic. The lines in the “suburbs” of Narbonne and Carcassonne (Lines 2, 10, 11 and 12), had high traffic levels, the remainder struggled. The commissioning of railcars, however, brought a marked improvement in the number of passenger trains and passengers. This improvement, was spectacular – a 26.5% on the figures of the previous year!

Passenger services: From their opening, the service on each line was provided by means of three daily return trips, except on the Lézignan to Olonzac section (line 1) where there were four round trips. The overall average speed was between 14 and 20 km/hour which equated to a line speed (stops deducted) of between 16 and 25km/hour. The maximum line speed was intended to be 20km/hour.

From 1909, surveys showed that the average commercial traveller found an improvement in travel times of between 2 and 33 minutes, as can be seen in the table below:

During the Great War, the staff was partly mobilized for the war effort and the company was obliged to reduce the frequency of services to a daily return, except on the Narbonne-Ouveilhan line (Line 11), and on some sections of the Lézignan-Carcassonne Line (Line 1) and Lézignan-La Nouvelle Line (Line 3) where two round trips were maintained daily. Due to the poor condition of the equipment and track, travel times increased considerably on each line.

After the war, the service improved quickly. From 20th March 1920, three daily round trips were secured on Lézignan-Félines section of Line 1, and Lézignan-Fabrezan section of Line 3, while on the rest of the network, two round trips daily allowed a good passenger service. In 1924, the commissioning of a Berliet railcar gave the opportunity to appreciate the flexibility and advantages of these vehicles. In July and September 1926, Dion-Bouton railcars were put into service on Lines 1, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, allowing the lowering of travel times on these lines.

Subsequently, there were three key dates for travel on the network:

    • 14th June 1930 saw the inauguration of the mixed rail/road service (at which time we see twelve buses and three motor trucks appearing to ensure certain services);
    • 23rd July 1932 saw the reduction of the service to two daily round trips, except on the Lézignan-Olonzac section, which remained at three;
    • 1st January 1933 saw the end of all services.

Goods services: The network carried a large quantity of straw, fodder, wine in casks. From Felines to Termenes, complete trains expedited the transfer of minerals from the mines of Villerouge and dAlbas. On the Carcassonne-Lastours Line, other ore trains came from the Caunette mines.

A number of short branch-lines facilitated shipments of heavy goods, specifically:

    • Off Line 2 – a branch to Société des Mines de la Caunette.
    • Off Line 3 – branches to Société des Mines de Villerouge and Albas.
    • Off Line 3 – various small businesses.
    • Off Line 6 – a branch to a company owned by M. Estrade.
    • Off Line 6 – a line to a Ballast quarry.
    • Off Line 9 – a line to the Ballastiere de Ripaud.

Very few trains were exclusively ‘goods’ trains. Most traffic was provided by ‘mixed’ trains.

At the Gare des Palais (Line 3) a specially arranged set of tracks served as a marshalling yard for freight services for the “Corbiéres Group” of lines. The presence of a yard of this nature on a secondary network is rare.

The Tramways de l’Aude had transfer facilities with the Compagnie du Midi, in Carcassonne, Lézignan, Narbonne, Castelnaudary, Bram, and La Nouvelle. The network also had connections to the Canal du Midi, the largest of which, La Gare de Estagnoi was located in Carcassonne.

Finally, on the Mediterranean, the network had a port which put the network in contact with cargo ships loading at Port-La Nouvelle.

Personnel: The network employed 439 staff in 1912 and 453 in 1913. In May 1924, before the network started to downsize, it had 510 staff. That number had dropped to 476 in July 1924. In 1910, each train included: a conductor, a mechanic, a driver and a brakeman.

Buildings: The central operating department, the depot and the main workshops of the network were located in Narbonne, in an area bounded by the streets of Colbert, Medoc, Cuxac and la Paix. Auxiliary depots existed in Bram, Castelnaudary, Carcassonne, Lézignan and La Nouvelle. Station buildings, except those situated in the major cities (Carcassonne, Lézignan, Narbonne, etc.), were built in a simple manner. There were no facilites. [2]

Equipment: The loading gauge was 2.20m wide, 3.50m high. The rolling stock had a single central buffer, coupling used 2-screw couplings.

Locomotives: the network initially ordered 35 traction units: 0-6-0T steam locomotives, tare 17 tonnes, load capacity 21 tonnes;  steam railcars, Rowan type, combined passenger-goods. The company, however, abandoned the idea of railcars and purchased 35 Corpet-Louvet 0-6-0T 16.5 tonne locomotives. This number rapidly became insufficient. Three further Corpet-Louvet, 0-6-0T, 19 tonne locomotives were purchased in 1908 and a further 3 Corpet-Louvet, 0-6-0T, 17 tonne locomotives were purchased in 1914. This completed the provision on the network.

During the war of 1914-1918, the locomotives were not maintained, and one after another they failed. A team of German prisoners was assigned to the network’s workshops  and undertook repairs.  But locomotive condition deteriorated quickly and by December 1918, only 21 out of 43 locomotives were in working order. These types of locomotives were widely used throughout France.

Coaches and wagons: Passenger cars are of the classic type CFIL: two axles, two end platforms. Numbering 76, they are divided into cars of first class (APf and APo) and second class cars (BPf and BPo); tare: 4,500t. These cars come out of the workshops of the ‘SA of Carrosserie Industrielle’. A first series is recognized by enclosed end platforms, while the second series has the classic open platforms. The goods equipment is also built by the ‘SA of Carrosserie Industrielle’. From its inception, the network had 298 wagons distributed as shown below but, as with the locomotives, this allocation quickly became inadequate and in 1908 a further 100 wagons were delivered to the network.

The towed equipment also suffered from very poor or non-existent maintenance during the war. Also, between 3rd May 1921 and 31st December 1923, it underwent a total revision.

Goods Wagons:

29 vans, two axles, series Dfs, 1 to 29 (these vans have a window in end).

145 flat wagons of two axles, series Hfr and H, Nos. 1 to 145, payload 10 tonnes (these flat cars have a gallery at one end).

65 open wagons of two axles, series Ifm and l, Nos. 1 to 65, payload 10 tonnes (these do not have a ridge cross-member).

53 covered wagons of two axles, Ki and K series, n ° 1 to 53, payload 10 tonnes (these covers have a sliding door on each side)

6 flat wagons of two axles, series L, 1 to 6, payload 10 tons (specially designed to circulate in pairs and so allow the transport of loads up to 12-13 m in length).This image was taken at Saissac. It shows three rail vehicles. The one on the right is a covered, windowed wagon, series K1to K53. The two coaches are difficult to make out properly but one at least appears to have closed end platforms which suggest it came from the first batch of coaches bought by the network.

Railcars: On 1st July 1923 Les Tramways de l’Aude ordered a petrol powered self-propelled car from Ets Berliet in Vénissieux. This 40 hp, 30-seater self-propelled vehicle came into service as soon as it was delivered at the end of 1924.

Lacombe says that he would have liked to be able to provide complete details of the vehicle but, sadly, despite long and patient research, he could not find them. It would seem, however, according to the power, the capacity, the descriptions available, that the first Berlet railcar was of the Berliet RBA 5 type. This type, with a front bogie and a rear-axle engine, had the following characteristics:

1 Engine ……………………… type Z of 40hp

Length over buffers ……………… 11.165m

Wheelbase …………….……..………..…5.00m

Total width ……….………………….……2.20m

Total height ……………………………….3.30m

Length of body ………………………10.075m

Number of seats ……………………………..30

Empty weight …………………………8 tonnes

Satished with the service provided by the railcar, the Company ordered from Ets of Dion-Bouton, on 3rd July 1925, a series of five similar railcars and on 3rd February 1926 a sixth unit. The first five entered service on  4th July 1926; the sixth, in 5eptember1926. These railcars were mounted on the De Dion-Bouton JB type 2 chassis. They had a front bogie and a rear axle engine. The 4 cylinder engine provided 65 hp.

The Dion-Bouton Autorails were of an overall length of 9.78m, body length of 8.88m. The passenger compartment was 3.99m long, the luggage compartment, 2.90m. The capacity was 16 seated and 14 standing.

Often, the railcars pulled and additional coach but circulating alone, these railcars easily handled the steeper gradients on the network.The De Dion-Bouton self-propelled vehicles were a great success, popular with the company and its patrons. This excellent model was made by Michel Viers and the image bears his copyright © Michel Viers. [4]

Lacombe finishes his series of three articles with a few words about conditions on the network. Apparently, Les Tramways de l’Aude had a violent enemy. This was not the road company or the constraints placed on the system but Le Vent d’Autan (the wind of Autan). The wind was of course a hazard for the skirts of the ladies and the hats of the gentlemen, but found the tram an altogether different opponent. …

So, Lacombe says, Judge for yourself: On 28th December 1910, the train for Olonzac painfully climbed the coast of Felines, with a strong head-wind in the storm. But the Corpet-Louvert 0-6-0T reached the top of the gradient despite the strength of the wind. However, on the last curve before the pass which separates the departments of Aude and Herault, and 50 m from the summit, the train suddenly exposed its flank to the enemy and the three passenger cars and the van overturned against the embankment.

Three years later, on 28th November 1913, Train  No. 144, towed by Corpet-Louvert No. 40, consisting of three freight cars, two passenger coaches and a van, left Narbonne at 9:55am for Thézan. The wind blew violently and the locomotive struggled against it. Even so, the trip seemed to be going relatively well. However, just 6 km from its destination after the train had passed Saint-Andre Station, the wind redoubled in violence. The locomotive swayed heavily but remained on the track, so did the three freight cars, but the two coaches and the van were lifted bodily and thrown into the vineyard alongside the track. [3]


  2. C. Lacombe; Les Tramways de l’Aude; Loco-Revue No. 212 – LRPresse, November 1961.
  3. C. Lacombe; Les Tramways de l’Aude; Loco-Revue No. 213 – LRPresse, December 1961.
  4., accessed on 31st August 2018.

Cannop Colliery

My wife and I were in the Forest of Dean on 30th August 2018 and visited a small garden centre that we have been to many times before – the Pigmy Pymetum. Later in the day I was reading an older copy of “The New Regard” – Number 23 from 2009. [1] The first article in that edition of the magazine was about Cannop Colliery and was written by Ian Pope. The colliery was just north of the location of the garden centre. It is the present location of a cycle-hire firm which services the cycleways of the Forest of Dean and a Council Depot. Cannop is one of the collieries represented in my collection of N-gauge wagons from the Forest of Dean.This view is one of the aerial views of the Colliery included in the magazine article [1] It shows the backs of the Cannop Villas in the lower left-hand corner. The railway sidings into the colliery are also clearly visible. They ran alongside the old Wimberry Branch of the Severn and Wye Railway. This was the original terminus of the railway when built as broad-gauge in 1868. It served the collieries and quarries in the Wimberry Slade. An interchange wharf existed off the top left of the picture where the old Wimberry Tramway was truncated and terminated. The later Severn and Wye ‘mainline’ can be seen in the bottom right of the image. It did not arrive until 1872, having been built as part of the Mineral Loop. The colliery slag heap can be seen on the left of the picture. [1]

The Cannop Coal Co. Ltd was formed in June 1906, taking over the Union & Cannop and Prince Albert deep gales from Henry Crawshay & Co. Ltd. The aim was to work the Coleford High Delf Seam in the Pennant Group (middle Upper Coal Measures) beneath the workings of the Speech House Hill Colliery. Two shafts were sunk, the 4 ft 9 in thick High Delf being reached at a depth of 612 ft in no.1 pit by November 1909, although the seam was already being worked from a drift mine a short distance up Wimberry Slade. [2]

Sidings and a connection with the Wimberry Branch of the Severn and Wye Railway were installed. Winding of coal from the deep pit began in 1912, output reaching 1000 tons/day by March 1915. Production peaked in 1937 (402,784 tons), making it the largest colliery in Dean, and the workforce was about 1040 around this time. The colliery was an extremely wet one and was flooded on several occasions. Electric pumps were used and 1140 million gallons were pumped in 1928. The high cost of pumping was a major factor leading to closure in September 1960. [2]

As already noted, the colliery buildings are now offices for a Council depot, and a cycle hire centre also uses the site. The overgrown tip and the brick-lined entrance (now gated) to the drift mine survived in April 2002. [2]

This view was taken by E. Runicles from the colliery slag-heap looking north, and is part of a collection held by Ian Pope. It shows the general setting and layout of the colliery which was heavily camouflaged by the trees of the forest. Pope points out that Cannot was known as ‘the colliery in the woods’ as trees were to be found right up to the colliery buildings and, indeed, in and amongst them. This was a stipulation of the Crown who prior to the opening of the colliery had recently constricted a new road between Lydney and Mierystock, which was intended to allow access for tourists to the centre of the forest. The last thing they wanted was an unsightly colliery immediately alongside the road. The large corrugated iron building in the centre of the picture contains the screens where coal was sorted and graded before being loaded into railway wagons. Four sidings passed through the screens which allowed four grades of coal to be loaded into wagons. To the right of the screens are two wooden head frames, one over each colliery shaft. The bridges coining out over the Wimberry Branch allowed waste material from the shafts or screens to be taken up the tip. The brick chimney stands behind a row of 10 ‘Lancashire Boilers’ which provided the colliery with steam power for the widening engines and for electricity generation. [1]In this image we can see the ‘land sales’ wharf, where local merchants or businesses could bring a cart or lorry and collect coal directly from the colliery. The coal would have passed through the screens and been loaded onto a railway wagon which then was emptied at the wharf. This was also a point where materials brought into the colliery by rail could be unloaded. This would have included things like steelwork, pipes, etc. Pit props went into an area off the empty wagon sidings and would have been unloaded there. The building in the centre is the main winding-engine house. [1]

The remaining images in this post are maps. The first shows the position of Cannot Colliery in relation to the railways of the Forest of Dawn. This is followed by three maps showing the site of the colliery in 1903, 1921 and 1968. These three images are taken from the website “” The last of the maps shows the site after closure.


1. Ian Pope; Cannop – A Troubled Colliery; in The New Regard No. 23, 2009, p4-17.

2., accessed on 31st August 2018.

Tramways de l’Aude – Overview – Part 2

This second part of the overview of Les Tramways de l’Aude is based on the first of a series of three articles provided by Loco-Revue in its magazine in late 1961, written in French by C. Lacombe. It is not a direct translation, and it seeks not to repeat information already provided in the first post in this series. [1] In addition a short set of notes are provided about the Compagnie du Midi which also served the department de l’Aude. Another post will look at the remaining articles by C. Lacombe. ….

Lacombe said, in 1961, that network of the Tramways de l’Aude was not remembered well. By 1961, it had disappeared from the public consciousness.

In his first artic!e, published in October 1961, he covers the history of the network and some basic network details. [2]

History: The Department de l’Aude was not well-served by standard gauge lines (and the network of general interest). It was crossed at its widest point by the Bordeaux-Sete line. The Department provided an overabundance of agricultural produce and its vineyards were prolific but transport difficulties were almost insurmountable.

Transport by road was at a premium, capacity was low and tariffs were high. A series of different tramway/railway projects were considered and by 1895 the Department set up a study group to look at the creation of a network of line ‘of local interest’. This work culminated in a public utility inquiry sanctioned on 8th January 1898. The result was the adoption of a planned departmental network of over 300km in total.

We outlined the lines involved in the first post in this series:

The network linked the chief towns of the canton which were not served by the Compagnie du Midi. It also extended outside the Department de l’Aude to allow important connection to the Bordeaux to Sets railway line. This is particularly true for the line to Olonzac in Hérault.

The proposed network was declared as being of public utility in a decree dated 25th March 1898. A limited company was very quickly constituted in Paris (56, Rue de Provence) with a capital of 4,500,000 francs. It was named as the “Compagnie des Tramways a Vapeur du Department de l’Aude” (TVA or TA). Mr Hely d’Oissel was the Chairman of the Board of Directors. A decree dated 8th March 1899 replaced a company owned by Mr. Hugues Bardol  by this new company. The line located in the Hérault, and the connection to Caunes were separately added to the concession in June 1900 and declared to be of public utility in October 1900.

Construction work started on 1st May 1898. Completion/opening dates were provided in the first post in this series. [1]

The first line to open to the public was that between Carcassonne, Caunes and Conques, on Sunday, 10th March 1901. Routinely, three daily round trips took place on this line. As a result of the popularity of this line, the Compagnie des Tramways de l’Aude was authorized, by decree of 1st July 1901, to raise its capital to 12,850,000 francs, which provided sufficient funds for the completion of the network.

Various changes were made to the planned works during construction. Some lines were extended, some shortened. Particular lengths were clearly unlikely to be profitable and were abandoned. These lengths included sections between: Saint-Pierre-des-Champs and Pierredroite; St~Martin~le~Viel and Alzonne; Ferrals, Corbieres and Villerouge; Bizanet and Villedaigne. A decree made on 6th September 1904 regularised these changes and a second decree on 2nd February 1905 confirmed the final table of lines.

Ultimately, 12 years after work commenced in 1898, the last line was completedcompleted in 1910. This, says Lacombe, is worthy of note as there were many unfinished networks of this type in France. However the war of 1914-1918 brought significant disturbance to the network, as it did to many French networks then in service. Until the Great War, the permanent way was well-maintained. Then. during hostilities, no maintenance work was undertaken, and by 1919, the permanent way was in a deplorable states. The company discovered that it needed to change at least 180,000 sleepers to stabilise the line, in the end, the number of sleepers replaced came to 208,000. The work was not completed until 31st December 1923.

Apart from the need to undertake significant maintenance, the post-war period seems to have been a period of relative prosperity, despite the improving road conditions meaning that competition from private cars was developing rapidly. The commissioning, in 1926, of petrol railcars retained passengers who seemed to appreciate what was an innovative form of transport. However, low railway tariffs for passengers and goods resulted in increasing deficits as the years passed.

Mixed-mode train/bus services were tried from 1930 with little success. The bankrupt company sought the support of the Department. The Department took control of the network and maintained services without alteration until 23rd July 1932 when it offered the whole network to La Société générale des transports départementaux (SGTD) for va period of 8 years. The rail service did not last. The mixed rail-road service lasted only until 1st January 1933. The railway operation was closed on this date and buses took over the service. Decommissioning was authorised by decree on 7th August 1934. 

The Network: All the lines of the network were designed with steep gradients and tight curves, with a view to keeping costs of construction to an absolute minimum. Gradients could be as steep as 1 in 20 and curve radii as tight as 40 metres. The metre-gauge track was made with Vignole rail weighing 20kg per metre laid on sleepers spaced at 0.85m. In stations, tracks were separated by 1.7m. For much of the network, rails were laid within the road construction. There were no signals and train safety was secured by phone calls.

There were no major structures on the network, although the trams crossed some relatively significant road bridges. An example being the 3-span masonry arch viaduct over the River Vixiege on the present D625 north of Plaigne. There were a number of smaller bridges built specifically for the network:

  • Small girder bridge over the River Jammas at Salles-sur-l’Hers.
  • The track crosses the “canal due Midi” on a 15 metre span metal bridge at Homps.
  • The railway crosses the River Aude on a metal bridge at Cuxac.

At certain points the Tramways de l’Aude cross the lines of other companies, particularly the Compagnle du Midi. At Castelnaudary, the tramway and GC 19, crossed the Midi tracks at PN 226. An overpass, adopted by ministerial decision of October 20, 1916, replaced this NP and was completed in March 1922. In Bram, the Fanjeaux line cuts the Bordeaux-Séte railway line. In Lézignan-Corbieres, the link between freight and passenger stations crosses the Midi tracks by means of a skew-bridge (74°) of 11.71m span. Incidentally, this bridge was opened to traffic in 1910, too soon after its completion: the recently laid masonry reveals disturbing cracks! 

Compagnle du Midi: The Compagnie des chemins de fer du Midi (CF du Midi), was an early French railway company which operated a network of routes in the southwest of the country, chiefly in the area between its main line – which ran from Bordeaux, close to the Atlantic coast, to Sète on the Mediterranean – and the Pyrenees. [3]

The company was established by the Pereire brothers, who thus broke the virtual monopoly held in France by James Rothschild on the slow-paced railway projects taking place in the area of Paris during the 1840s and 1850s. Rothschild responded by strengthening his grip on the sector with an alliance to the industrialist Talabot. The Pereires in turn founded their financial company Crédit Mobilier. [4]

In 1934 the company was merged with the Chemin de fer de Paris à Orléans to become part of the Chemins de fer de Paris à Orléans et du Midi (PO-Midi).

In 1856, the Midi completed its rail line from Bordeaux to Toulouse. [5][6] In 1857, it continued on from Toulouse through Narbonne to Sète. [5] This put it in competition with the Canal du Midi, and on 28 May 1858 the railway took over the lease of the canal. [5][7]

The Compagnie du Midi’s interests spread across the whole area north of the Pyrenees. Its interests in the Department de l’Aude were limited to a few key lines. This left significant space for a company such as Les Tramways de l’Aude to provide local services.

The creatures image at the top of this blog shows the lines of Le Compagnie du Midi marked in red, those of the Tramways de l’Aude marked in blue. It also shows the lines referred to in the text above which eventually were not constructed by the Tramways de l’Aude. These are shown as dotted lines.



  2. C. Lacombe; Les Tramways de l’Aude; Loco-Revue No. 211 – LRPresse, October 1961.
  3., accessed on 31st August 2018.
  4. Migule A López-Morell; Rothschild; Una historia de poder e influencia en España. Madrid: MARCIAL PONS, EDICIONES DE HISTORIA, S.A. p. 141, 2015.
  5. L.T.C. Rolt; From Sea to Sea. Ohio University, 1973.
  6. Chandra Mukerji; Impossible Engineering. Princeton University Press, 2009. 
  7., accessed on 31st August 2018.


Henri Domengie; Les Petits Trains de Jadis/Sud-Ouest de la France; Editions de Cabri, 1986, p226-233.

C. Lacombe; Les Tramways de l’Aude; Loco-Revue No. 211 – LRPresse, October 1961, p338ff & p361.

C. Lacombe; Les Tramways de l’Aude; Loco-Revue No. 212 – LRPresse, November 1961, p

C. Lacombe; Les Tramways de l’Aude; Loco-Revue No. 213 – LRPresse, December 1961, p

Michel Vieux (ed: Roger Latour); Tramways à Vapeur de l’Aude – Le petit train des vignes.

Les tramways à vapeur de l’Aude; Fédération des Amis des Chemins de Fer Secondaires – Patrimoine Ferroviaire (, No. 171, 1982.