Category Archives: Railways and Tramways Around Nice

Various posts about the railways and tramways in Provence and Les Alpes Maritime.

TNL Tramways during the First World War (Chemins de Fer de Provence 80)

A very large part of the information contained in this blog is translated from the French.

Jose Banaudo is the author of the book written in French about the tramways of Nice and the Cote d’Azur. [1] I have translated the part of that book which refers to the Great War with the help of internet-based translation software and report on it here, supplemented with additional information where available.

World War 1

In the fifteen years prior to the Great War, the growth of the population of Nice and the surrounding towns and villages necessitated a rapid development of the tram network. The advent of the Great War prevented any further significant development of the network and by the end of the war, the network was in need of an in-depth modernization programme. However, it was not until 1924 that the authorities granted the TNL the authorization to increase tariffs.

During the War, a number of small schemes were undertaken with military needs in mind. Among other things, the network managed to obtain a connection to the PLM at the Saint Roch station and a connection with the Cannes tramways in the streets of Antibes. [2]

Traffic decreased during the War, especially that of tourists. The condition of the tracks deteriorated, especially on the Monte Carlo line. Plans were made to modify some curves in order to admit bogie engines on the line, with the restoration of a few sections of track. This work was completed on 3rd September 1918.

Trams Serving the War Economy

The TNL was called upon to undertake a very important role in the national war effort and in supplying the region. As Nice was in a border zone, the arrangements for making tramways available to the military authority “in the event of a mobilisation, alert or unexpected attack” were established on 14 January 1910 by an agreement between the authorities in Nice, the TNL and the EELM company which was in charge of ensuring the electricity supply to the network.

From the date of the mobilisation, all the rolling stock assigned to the transport of goods (i.e. twelve tractors and one hundred and forty wagons) was made available to military. Within three days. 2110m of tracks were laid to connect the military establishments in the Riquier, St. Roch and Bon-Voyage districts, east of Nice, to the tramway network, to barracks, handling yards, subsistence shops and forage yards. Stables were set up at the Var racecourse in St. Augustin, and a military training camp was created in the St. Véran district at the exit of Cagnes.

The tramways transported nearly a thousand tons of food, military equipment and materials, ammunition and medicines, horses, mules, straw and fodder. Some of the supplies were unloaded at the port, often from the colonies. Other supplies arrived in Nice by the PLM, whose wagons were transferred along a street connection to a transhipment platform in La Gare du Sud where a company of territorials, relieved every three hours, ensured day and night the transhipment onto the wagons of the TNL.

In the months following mobilisation, military demands gave way in part to the needs of civil life: coal for the gas plant, wheat for the flour mills, goods  for other French regions and even for Switzerland, etc.

La Gare du Sud was heavily congested. In order to relieve that pressure and accelerate the transshipment of goods, the TNL, the PLM and the Chamber of Commerce concluded an agreement in March 1915, to establish a connection between the tramway to Contes and the new station at Nice-St. Roch, where a series of sidings were created to facilitate transshipment. This installation, had a capacity of a thousand tonnes per day, was made operational in July.

The tramway workshop at boulevard Sainte-Agathe was one of the best industrial establishments of the city of Nice, and the military authorities took it over in January 1915  and conferred on the TNL the responsibilty for machining 75 mm shell blanks and training some 30 small businesses in the region to do this type of work. Manufacturing subsequently extended to 120 mm shells and small bombs. These small bombs were intended to be dropped by hand from aeroplanes. The raw materials were transported by railway from the Toulon arsenal to Nice, and the finished items were transferred in the opposite direction. Congestion on the PLM coastal line eventually led to these exchanges being undertaken by sea.

The depot of Sainte-Agathe also converted wagons required on the other networks for by the military field railway.

The year 1917 saw tramway traffic increase in several areas. On 26th March 1917, a daily coal train was put into operation from the port of Nice to the gas plant of Cannes, located near Mandelieu.  From 17th November 1917 an additional service transporting cement from Contes to Mandelieu for the construction of the new military camp at Fréjus was commissioned. When the cement arrived at the end of the Cannes network, cement was transshipped by trucks.

Transport of the wounded. 

From the first months of the conflict, most of the large hotels in the towns and cities of the Côte d’Azur had been requisitioned to house wounded and convalescing soldiers, war orphans and civilian refugees from the evacuated areas. The lines of the urban network of Nice as well as those of the coast which served these establishments experienced an intense traffic, increased from 1917 by contingents of Americans.

The most seriously injured soldiers had to travel lying down. During the summer months, sixteen modified open trailers were used to carry 10 stretchers. During the cold season, a tractor and eight vans were fitted out to accommodate 12 stretchers on three levels. If necessary, eight conventional urban power cars could each carry 8 stretchers. 

There were twenty-eight hospitals in the city of Nice and its surroundings, these included the two mixed civilian and military hospitals of St. Roch and Villefranche, six auxiliary hospitals, ten additional hospitals, seven hospitals managed by volunteer staff and three convalescent centres, most of which were set up in requisitioned villas, residences and hotels.

There are some excellent images showing the hospital trams in Banaudo’s book.



  1. Jose Banuado, Nice au fil du Tram, Volume 1; Les Editions du Cabri, 2004.
  2.—de-l-apogee-au-declin/31975780.html, accessed on 24rh August 2018.


Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 14 – Mezel to Digne (Chemins de Fer de Provence 78)

Mezel and Châteauredon are two villages in the valley of l’Asse. Mézel is a small village, 15 km south of Digne-les-Bains. It’s a long, narrow village, with one long main street, the Rue Grande, set back from the D907 road that passes by on the East side of the village. Mezel is just under 1.5km south of the railway station. Châteauredon is also a small village. It is less than 1.5km to the Northeast of the railway station. The l’Asse flows to the Southeast of both villages.

Mezel/Châteauredon Station is roughly midway between the two villages and is sited between the ‘D907’ and the ‘D17’.Mézel/Châteauredon Station, (c) Kjell Strandberg. [1]

We set off from the station, initially in a westerly direction and the line runs on the north side of the ‘D17’ which can be seen to the left of the line in the first image below.Just under a kilometre from the station, the ‘D17’ crosses the line by means of a level crossing. The two images above are taken from the cab of an autorail approaching the level crossing. [2]

The two views below come from Google Streetview. The first is taken of the crossing looking northwest, the second is taken looking back to the Southeast.The crossing keeper’s cottage remains!

The road continues to follow the railway but now on its northeast side. They are immediately adjacent to one another once again by the time the railway reaches l’Arrêt des Lavandes.

Road and rail remain close for a further kilometre or so before the road turns sharply under the railway through a low single lane bridge. Immediately after the bridge (below) the railway turns through 90 degrees from a northwesterly trajectory to a northeasterly alignment and gradually pulls away from the ‘D17’.The railway curves away to the north. [2]

The next structure on the line is the bridge of Le Chaffaut de Saint-Jurson over the Torrent de Roche Chave as shown on the adjacent map and the staellite image below.The bridge is a fine masonry arched viaduct, seen first from the upstream side. [3]And then from the downstream side. [3]

About a kilometre further north is the Arrêt de Saint-Jurson, immediately adjacent to a level crossing for the village road.L’Arrêt de Saint-Jurson, immediately adjacent the level crossing and so very close to what was the crossing keepers cottage. [4]

After the Halt for Saint-Jurson, the railway curves gently round towards a Westerly direction, crossing the Torrent du Bat de l’Anesse and then passing under and accommodation bridge which carries part of the road called Les Hermittes over the line. After travelling under the overbridge, trains then sweep round to a more Northerly direction before entering the Tunnel des Hermittes. The tunnel is 300 metres long and sits about 580 metres above sea-level. Once again the tunnel is marked on the plan below with red, blue and green dots. [5]

The southern portal. [6]Two images (above) of the northeastern portal. [5][6]

After leaving the northeastern portal of the Tunnel des Hermittes, trains crossed the Ravin de Saint-Pierre and entered the small halt which serves the Golf Course at Digne-les-Bains. L’Arret on the rail-simulator. [7] I have not been able to find any photographs of the halt.

North of the Golf Course, the line begins to run alongside the Route de Chaffaut and then enters another Station – La Gare de Gaubert-Le Chaffaut. A driver’s eye view (above) approaching the Gare de Gaubert-Le Chaffaut from Nice. [2]

The adjacent map shows the station site and the viaduct to the north.

The first image below is taken from the narrow lane to the East of the station.

The next two are taken from the same lane, the first just north of the station building the next a little further to the north of the station buildings.

The fourth image below is a rail-simulator image of the station. A rail-simulator image of la Gare de Gaubert-Le Chaffaut. [7]Looking toward Nice with an Autorail leaving the station. [8]Looking back through the station site after the train sets off for Digne. [8]An Autorail arrives from Digne. [8]

Immediately after leaving the station heading for Digne trains pass over a small viaduct which takes the line across a single lane road and the Ravin des Beaumes. The Viaduct over the Ravin des Beaumes, viewed from the East.The Viaduct over the Ravin des Beaumes, viewed from the West. On the D12 looking Northeast, the line crosses the road on a low-headroom bridge. Looking back along the D12 to the railway over-bridge.

A little further along the line it encounters an aqueduct. As can be seen below the aqueduct is dry at the surface. The first image below show an accommodation road-crossing on the left of the satellite image above, which is immediately followed by two views of the aqueduct. One showing its bridge of the D12 and the other over the railway. The last of the four images immediately below shows the line beyond the aqueduct and is taken from the D12. A driver’s eye view of the Aqueduc de Gaubert. [2]

The next point of reference on the line is the level-crossing at Route du Plan de Gaubert. The fist image below looks back along the line towards Mezel, the second looks forward to Digne, and the third shows the level-crossing viewed from the East.The level-crossing appears at the bottom of the adjacent map.

There is another halt just to the south of the river – L’Arret du Plan d’eau des Ferreols and then the line crosses La Bleone  and the N85 on its way into Digne-les-Bains.

An early postcard image showing the bridge over La Bleone. [10]Railway bridge over La Bleone and the N85 with the span over the road appearing to be much newer than the spans over the river! [9]The railway bridge over the river and N85 viewed from the West on the N85.A plan of the whole station site.The level crossing on Route Napoléon, Avenue de Verdon.The level crossing on Route Napoléon, Avenue de Verdon.The crossing keeper’s cottage, looking towards the terminus at Digne.Looking ahead towards Digne Station from the level-crossing on  Chemin du Hameau des Hautes Sieyès.The water tower at the mouth of the station yard in Digne – the railway stations are off to the left by a few hundred yards. Then picture is taken from the north side of the tracks.A view of the same water tower from the south.A line side view of the water tower and the station yard beyond. [15]Two images of the goods shed, the second is from the cab of an Autorail.  [2]A drawing of the good shed. [15]The Engine Shed seen from the cab of an Autorail travelling towards the passenger station buildings. [2]A line side view of the Engine shed looking East towards the passenger facilities at the station. [15]The Engine Shed from the south side of the station complex.A driver’s eye view of the line from the engine shed looking east towards the station platforms. [2]The turntable and Engine shed looking West. [15]Two drawings (above) of the Engine Shed. [15]Two images (above) of the pedestrian underpass just to the east of the Engine Shed. The first shows the north entrance and the second, the with entrance.Looking ahead from the cab of an Autorail. This gives a good idea of the length of the station site. The passenger facilities seem to be a very long way distant. [2]A larger scale map of the station complex.

The transfer building and platform set aside for the transshipment of goods from the metre-gauge line from Nice to the standard-gauge branch which fed Digne from the mainline to the West. [15]The original passenger station building for the metre-gauge line. [15]The station courtyard looking East, with the metre-gauge station building to the right and the original standard gauge facilities on the left. [15]Modern traction stabled on the line to the old station building. [13]A view across the passenger facilities of the station complex taken from the northwest.A view of the shared station platform at Digne in the 1980s. [12]Three images (above) in monochrome showing the shared passenger facilities at Digne. [16]A later image of the station after the removal of the standard-gauge lines. [13]A closer view showing the platform in use in the early 21st Century and the old station building for the Nice to Digne line. [13]The early 21st Century station! [13]The early 21st Century station. [13]Images of the standard gauge station from the North side of the complex.A closer view of the station forecourt highlighting the proximity of the two station buildings and their different architecture.The immediate station plan in the early 21st Century.These three images (above) show different iterations in the planning of the station with the bottom image best reflecting what was built on the site. [15] In the 20th Century the facilities for the metre-gauge line were altered to provide a shared platform with the standard-gauge branch.

On the south side of the site the land drops away from the station and in order to maximise the space on the site a significant retaining wall had to be built on the south boundary of the site.One plan showing the construction of the retaining wall. [11]An impressive shot of the Nice-Digne Line Station building and the retaining wall supporting it above the Avenue de Verdun.  [13]A further diagram of the retaining wall. [15]The retaining wall in the early 21st Century, two views (above) taken from Google Streetview.The Chemins de Fer de Provence Station Hall. [13]Three drawings of the Chemins de Fer de Provence Station Building. [15]

Two videos are included below which give a good idea of the condition of the station site. [14]

To finish this blog post I will include some postcard images of the station site from earlier year and then reflect a little on what might be happening in the future.

First the postcards from the CPArama website …..The standard-gauge PLM station and engine shed. [10]The station courtyard. [10]The two stations taken from the top of the retaining wall at the south side of the site. [10]The station courtyard from the West. [10]The PLM station looking West. [10]The Chemins de Fer de Provence Station Building. [10]The PLM Station taken from alongside the standard-gauge Engine Shed. [10]An early steam-hauled service is about to set off on the journey towards Nice. [10]

And finally, what about the future. ….

Traffic on the metre-gauge line is hampered by that fact that the standard-gauge connection to Digne has been cut. Christopher James has mentioned that there has been talk of a possible metre-gauge line extension to meet the SNCF mainline at Château-Arnoux Saint-Auban, however, this is probably beyond the resources of the Chemins de Fer de Provence.

In looking for plans of the Station Site at Digne les Bains, I noticed reference to a ‘Project de Tram Train Digne Manosque’. It can bee seen on the Openstreetmap plan below and is shown as a dotted line which runs from Digne (immediately below) to Château-Arnoux Saint-Auban.The project is intended to use the old standard-gauge formation and its line into Château-Arnoux Saint-Auban is shown above. The project now has a website: Is the scheme feasible? There are some questions about this which appear in the comments on the website.

How likely is this scheme, does anyone know?


  1.,6.201066,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1sAF1QipMAOPyxuAbfSVVUTAyfZOew2a0G07LK1iGfYxyI!2e10!3e12!!7i1500!8i1000!4m5!3m4!1s0x12cb91840c767ed3:0xa02521aa30f35bdd!8m2!3d44.0097448!4d6.2007228, accessed on 19th August 2018.
  2., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  3., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  4., accessed on 20th August 2018.
  5., accessed on 20th August 2018.
  6., accessed on 20th August 2018.
  7., accessed on 15th August 2018.
  8., accessed on 20th August 2018.
  9., accessed on 21st August 2018.
  10., accessed on 21st August 2018.
  11., accessed on 21st August 2018.
  12., accessed on 1st August 2018.
  13., accessed on 21st August 2018.
  14. These two videos are available on YouTube.
  15., accessed on 21st August 2018.
  16., accessed on 21st August 2018.

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 13 – Barrême to Mezel (Chemins de Fer de Provence 77)

We resume our journey at the Station in Barrême. The first picture shows it on a glorious day and in its best light!The station at Barrême. [4]An aerial overview of Barreme with the Station visible to the bottom left of the image, (c) Marc Heller. [12]The Station appears quite lonely in 1891! [7]Two views of the station clock. [1][8]The Station as approached from Digne. [2]La gare de Barrême, (c) Yves Provence. [1]La gare de Barrême, (c) Yves Provence. [1]La gare de Barrême, (c) Yves Provence. [1]General View of the Station. [3]The station courtyard. [3]The station courtyard in 21st Century. [5]Barreme Station with Autorail travelling towards Nice and  a construction train brought by the DU-102 draisine, (c)  La bête de Calvi. [6]A very similar view without the trains! [10]Modern traction at Barrême. [9]A view from the South, (c) Marc Heller. [11]The station on the rail-simulator. [31]

As an interesting aside, research on line suggests that the final location of Barreme station was not the location originally intended. I have found a sequence of drawings which seem to locate the station to the north-west of the present location further along the Nice -Digne line, beyond the bridge in the village centre. It is possible that I have misunderstood the drawings, but it seems that there was another location planned and that the station would have had larger facilities if the original plans went ahead. That location is shown in red on the plan below.Plan of originally proposed railway station. [12] Three images (immediately above] showing the plans for the originally proposed station buildings on the first planned site of the station. [12]

A further interesting aside is the fact that Barreme Station has been used as the source for a model by Aubertrain ( These next few pictures give a sense of the quality of the model. [16] The diorama is 602 x 400 x 250 mm in size. These last two pictures can be found on the site, “” and purport to show an early steam engine at Barreme Station. If this is correct, then the station shelter was rebuilt some time after the pictures were taken. [13]

We leave Barreme Station on the train an immediately cross the L’Asse de Moriez just before its confluence with L’Asse de Blieux. Barreme Bridge [15]Barreme Bridge [14]

Beyond the village limits, road, rail and river once again run in very close proximity. The road is now the N85 and the river is now l’Asse. In the photograph below the road and river are immediately next to each other and the river can just be picked out beyond the first line of trees and vegetation.A driver’s eye view of the next Halt on the line – l’Arret de Saut de Loup. [15]

At times the River Asse runs through some relatively steep sided Gorges and road, rail and river squeeze through the narrow space available, as Google Streetview shows below.The next Halt is Arrêt du Poil-Majastres which can be seen in the image below.Road, rail and river continue in close proximity. The next image shows the bridge crossing L’Asse for the route,”Lu Buis Noire East.” It is followed by a driver’s eye view of the same location.Le Buis Noire East seen from the cab of an Autorail. [15]

The line drops steadily down the valley of l’Asse towards Norante. Its route favours the river rather than the road until, close to Chaudon-Norante, it enters another tunnel – the Tunnel de Norante. By this time the line has dropped to an altitude of about 650 metres above sea-level. The tunnel is 137 metres long and is marked on the map below by the red, blue and green dots. [17] The next station is Chaudon-Norante and can be seen in the top left of the map.The southern portal of the Tunnel de Norante. [15]The Northern portal of the tunnel. [17]Immediately after trains emerge from the Tunnel de Norante they cross another simple girder bridge. [15]And then quickly arrive at Chaudon-Norante Railway Station. A driver’s eye view from the cab of an Autorail shows the approach to the station. [15]The station at Chaudon-Norante in 2013. [18]The station on fire in the winter of 2015/2016. [19]The station after the fire, taken from the passenger platform in 2016, (c) Jean-Pierre Alpes. [20]The two images above show the station viewed from the road in 2018, they are taken from Google Streetview and clearly show the damage to the building resulting from the fire a couple of years earlier. The station on the rail-simulator. [31]The line ahead to Digne. [18]

Road rail and river continue in close proximity down the valley from Chaudon-Norente, until the railway passes under the road and into a tunnel.Looking back up the valley of l’Asse (above) from over the portal of the tunnel.

The Tunnel de Serre Geneston is at an altitude of 655 metres above sea-level and is 213 metres long. [21] The N85 has been realigned over the southern portal of the tunnel to remove a sharp bend in its alignment. This means that the original portal is shrouded by a concrete span.

This can been seen in the first image below.The southern portal of the Tunnel de Serre Geneston. [21]Northern portal of the Tunnel de Serre Geneston. [21]

After the Tunnel de Serre Geneston the railway , road and river are once again close together, this time, however, the railway is considerably higher than both road and river and its formation is supported by a lengthy retaining wall.Arched masonry culverts permit drainage.

After quite a length of masonry retaining wall, the next significant structure on the railway is the bridge which carries it over the N85 at …………………………… The images below show the view of the structure from the south and then from the north. It probably constitutes the least attractive bridge on the Nice to Digne Railway line!

In a short distance the railway drops to be at a similar level to the river and while running in very close proximity once again, this time is is the road held up above the railway on a significant retaining wall.

Within a couple of kilometres the road and railway are back at the same level and the railway is immediately alongside the road. The pictures below of the girder bridge over Ravin de Couinier show how closely road and rail are aligned. The first is from Google Streetview, the next three are from [22]In Chabrières, Entrages, road and rail cross each other again, this time at a level-crossing which is shown in the three images below.A train driver’s eye view approaching the crossing. [15]A van driver’s eye view approaching the level-crossing.A view from the cab of a Autorail as it crosses the N85 at the level-crossing. [15]The approach to the Halt at Chabrieres. [15]The Halt at Chabrieres. [15]The halt at Chabrieres. [32]The Halt and crossing at Chabrieres seen from the N85.Chabrières Halt. [23]The station on the rail-simulator. [31]The line West of Chabrières. [15]

To the West of Chabieres, the line turns northwards and then enters the Tunnel de la Clue-de-Chabrières. We are now about 600 metres above sea-level and the tunnel is nearly 600 metres long! It is marked by the usual red, blue and green dots on the map below. [24]The South Portal from some distance upstream on the other bank of the river. [32]The South Portal of the tunnel. [15]The North Portal of the Tunnel is shown in the two images above [24] and below, (c) Nicolas Janberg. [25]A short distance after the train passed through the tunnel it went through another request halt – l’Arret de de Saint-Michel-de-Cousson. I have not been able to find pictures of this halt. It then, once again crossed the main road at a level-crossing.Road, rail and river all once again in close proximity and a typical small span bridge carrying the railway over a minor tributary of l’Asse.

The line continues alongside the road for about a kilometre before swinging away to the south following the north bank of the l’Asse. A further kilometer West and the road rail and river are once again close for a short distance as the valley narrows. The N85 road then turns away north into the village of Chateauredon, and the river turns away south leaving the railway on its own to cross the valley of the Saint-Jean a tributary of l’Asse!

As we approach Mézel/Châteauredon station the ‘D907’ road approaches the railway and an accommodation level-crossing takes a very minor access road to the south of the line, see immediately below. In the second image below, the ‘D907’ has dropped below the level of the railway and passes under it via a small girder bridge.The approach to the station from the east as seen from the cab of an approaching Autorail. [15]The same Autorail enters the station. [15]Mézel/Châteauredon Station [26]Mézel/Châteauredon Station [27]Mézel/Châteauredon Station Courtyard [28]Mézel/Châteauredon Station [29]The station on the rail-simulator. [31]Mézel/Châteauredon Station in an old postcard. [30]

It is here at this station – Mézel/Châteauredon – that we take our next break.


  1., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  2., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  3., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  4., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  5., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  6., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  7., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  8., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  9., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  10., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  11., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  12., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  13., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  14., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  15., accessed on 10th August 2018.
  16., accessed on 17th August 2018. When the website was viewed in August 2018 the price of the completed model of the station buildings was 875 euros!
  17., accessed on 18th August 2018.
  18., accessed on 18th August 2018.
  19., accessed on 18th August 2018.
  20., accessed on 18th August 2018.
  21., accessed on 18th August 2018.
  22., accessed on 18th August 2018.
  23., accessed on 18th August 2018.
  24., accessed on 18th August 2018.
  25., accessed on 18th August 2018.
  31., accessed on 20th August 2018.

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 12 – Saint-Andre-les-Alpes to Barrême. (Chemins de Fer de Provence 76)

Our journey recommences in Saint-Andre-les-Alpes. The feature image shows the village with the station in the foreground. The image immediately below gives a panoramic view of the village from the north, showing the first of the lakes in the Verdon valley behind the village, as well as the railway station in the bottom-right. [4]The advantage of travelling in a DMU or an Autorail is that views along the line ahead are possible. This DMU is preparing to leave Saint-Andre. [4]

Recently, the engine shed at Saint-Andre was fully refurbished by Chemins de Fer de Provence with fincance from the PACA region. The two images immediately below show this work underway. [5]The shed was falling into disrepair. It dates from the opening of the line in 1911. Without prior warning, work started in 2014 on the restoration work. reported on the work in September 2014. They established through talking to a railway employee, Stéphane, that: “This is a building for the office of the district chief between Thorame and Digne les Bains, the premises for the employees of the canton of Saint André les Alpes, and the storage of the Praisine and other maintenance machines. At the moment we are restoring the building and then will start the works of tracks to join the building.” [5]  The four images immediately above show that the roof of the engine shed was fully restored to an as built condition, (c) Christopher James.[16]The two images above show wagons at Saint-Andre-les-Alpes Station, (c) Triede. [6]The driver’s view as the train sets off from Saint-Andre-les-Alpes. [1]A rear view of an Autorail heading for Digne, or is it an Autorail travelling from Digne? Quite probably as the headlights are on! (c) © JMi 2. There is quite a bit of foreshortening in the image as the bridge on the station side of the Autorail is over a road.  [2] Two views of the modern bridge just to the south of the station in Saint-Andre-les-Alpes. 

Saint-Andre sits to the north of the stretch of the River Verdon which includes its famous Gorges. My wife and I spent a day in these Gorges in November 2017.

The railway turns away to the West following the N202 road, rather than following the River through the Gorges du Verdon. The OpenStreetMap below shows the station at Saint-Andre in the top right and, after the bridge over the N202, the next major structure on the route, the Tunnel de Moriez in the bottom left as a dotted line.The Tunnel de Moriez passes under the Col des Robines. It is 1195 metres long and at an altitude of approximately 940 metres above sea-level. It is roughly on an east-west alignment, as shown below. It is marked by  red, blue and green dots. [7]To the East, the railway lines swings sharply into the tunnel mouth. The line leaving the tunnel to the West passes through a deep cutting before meandering its way across a small accommodation bridge into Moriez. The East Portal. [7] Two images of the West Portal. [7]The railway is now in the Ravin de le Riou and follows the river into the village of Moriez.A driver’s eye view of our arrival at Moriez. [1]Moriez Station taken from just to the East along the N202.Moriez Station from along the N202 to the West.Moreiz Satation (c) Kjell Strandberg. [8]Chemins de Fer de Provence unit No. X304 arrives at Moriez with the 09:27 from St. Andre
les Alpes to Digne les Bains on 13th June 2018, (c) Jeff Nicholls. [16]Looking west from Moriez Station (c) Grüni sen. [11]After Moriez, the line follows Le Riou and then L’Asse de Moriez down its valley. It crosses Moriez Viaduct just to the west of the village and then runs parallel to both the road N202 and the river. Two images of Moriez Viaduct. [9]An early image of the viaduct, (c) Frédéric Pauvarel. [10]Moriez Viaduct from railside. [13]

As the map above shows, road, rail and river run in parallel travelling west down the valley of Le Riou. The bridge at Hyeges spans a tributary of L’Asse de Moriez – the Torrent d’Hyeges.The bridge at Hyeges.A driver’s eye view of the bridge at Hyeges. [14]The bridge at Hyeges from the North West (c) Marc Heller [12]The Bridge at Hyeges from the South West, (c) Géraud Buffa. [14]Chemin de Fer de Provence railcar X304 crosses Hyeges viaduct near Moriez with the 09:27 from St. Andre les Alpes to Digne les Bains on 13th June 2018, (c) Jeff Nicholls. [16]

Immediately beyond the bridge the railway enters the Tunnel de Hyeges. This tunnel is only 72 metres in length. The red, blue and green dots fix its location on the adjacent map. [15] The bridge can also be picked out on the north side of the N202 just to the east of the tunnel. The portals of the tunnel are shown below. The East Portal. [15]The West Portal. [15]

The road N202, L’Asse de Moriez and the railway continue to run in parallel. A view looking East towards Moriez along the valley with L’Asse de Moriez below the road to the right.

Although the road and rail switch sides at a level crossing at Baumeniere. Some Google Streetview images of the crossing and crossing keeper’s house follow.The railway now continues  between road and river, crossing a tributary of l’Asse de Moriez just down the valley from the level crossing – Ravin de BouquetRoad rail and river are still together at the next level-crossing, below, at Clôt de Moune.We continue southwest down the valley of l’Asse de Moriez.The bridge over the Ravin de la Gourre.

A series of other culverts and small bridges carry the line over a relatively broad flat area in the valley before the valley narrows once again. In the image below, taken from Google Streetview the river is below the railway to the left and the road has recently been widened requiring removal of part of the rock face on the right.Old road, new road railway and river are all visible in the satellite image below. Just under 1 kilometre to the east of l’Arret de la Tuilière the railway crosses l’Asse de Moriez on a relatively small girder bridge.A driver’s eye view of the bridge over L’Asse de Moriez, (c) Marc Heller. [14]Railcars Nos. X304 and X306 of the Chemin de Fer de Provence metre gauge Nice – Digne
line chug along between Moriez and Barreme with the 15:23 service from St. Andre les Alpes
to Digne les Bains on 8th June 2018. During the summer of 2018, this was the only northern section of the Nice – Digne metre gauge line in operation due to heavy engineering work taking place over several months between St Andre and Plan du Var, (c) Jeff Nicholls. [16]The bridge on the image above appears to the right side of the map immediately above. Arrêt de la Tuilière is shown marked in red. Interestingly to the south of the station there is a small hamlet called ‘Repentance’.

Beyond ‘Repentance the railway has only a short distance to travel before entering the village of Barrême. The map below shows this length of the journey. The satellite image focusses on the village of Barrême.A driver’s eye view of our arrival at Barrême. [1]Old postcards showing the station at Barrême. [3]

It is at Barrême that we take the next break in our journey towards Digne-les-Bains.


  1., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  2., accessed on 9th August 2018.
  3., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  4., accessed on 14th August 2018.
  5., accessed on 16th August 2018.
  6., accessed on 16th August 2018.
  7., accessed on 16th August 2018.
  8.,6.468418,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1sAF1QipMRYN0KdwYWFrzmemE0420CdG6aTnfUWmawsPjn!2e10!3e12!!7i1500!8i1000, accessed on 16th August 2018.
  9., accessed on 16th August 2018.
  10., accessed on 16th August 2018.
  11., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  12., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  13., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  14., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  15., accessed on 17th August 2018.
  16., accessed on 19th August 2018.
  17. These pictures have very kindly been supplied by Christopher James on 21st August 2018.

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 11 – Thorame-Haute to Saint-Andre-les-Alpes (Chemins de Fer de Provence 75)

We will be resuming our journey from Thorame-Haute in just a few minutes, but as we wait for the train on to Digne, there are a few things to take in.

The first is the large chapel which has been built close to the station and which does not appear in the earliest postcard views of the station, nor in pictures which predate the railway’s arrival in Thorame-Haute. The site of the station was, and still is, the location of a special celebration in the Roman Catholic Church’s year in Provence. ….

The second, is the station itself.

1. Notre Dame de la Fleur

Thorame-Haute hosts an annual celebration in Pentecost each year, and also seems to be popular for other celebrations during the year. The first two postcard images show a celebration in honour of Joan of Arc which took place in the open air on 26th September 1909.Large crowds gathered on 26th September 1909 before the railway had been extended through the mountain to the valley of La Vaire. [1]This second postcard view was taken on the same date and shows the small chapel which existed at Thorame-Haute at that time. The festival celebrations were taking place in the open air. [2]

But … these are not pictures of the major annual celebration. A little research into local customs provided more information on the Pentecost season celebration associated with Notre Dame de la Fleur. I also want to acknowledge Christopher James’s help it identifying the reason for the chapel at the location of the station.

In the fifteenth century, a peasant farmer lived in Thorame, possessor of a modest herd which he led himself to pasture. He was a Christian with patriarchal customs. One day, he appeared before the municipal magistrates claiming the appearance of angels who marked a location, eight kilometers from Thorame,  for the site of a chapel to be built in honour of the Virgin Mary. He had led his flock to the abandoned area and while he was praying, an angel appeared to him and as his vision ended he saw a single rose which came from the garden of heaven – a sign left for the shepherd to authenticate his vision, which earned the Virgin Mary the title of “Our Lady of the Flower. [3][10]

Fr. Juvenal Pélissier was born in Allos on 1st January 1879. In 1920, he was entrusted with the spiritual education of the parishioners of Méailles and Peiresc, in 1925 he moved to the parish of Thorame Haute.  For many years he made every effort to create a new chapel at the site of the vision and visitation. His parish newsletters continually and consistently focus on the  legend of Our Lady of the Flower. Eventually the foundations were started in 1936. [10]The present chapel building dates from the 1930s. It is the work of Abbot Juvenal Pélissier who worked alone for more than a decade to raise money for a new chapel. It stained-glass windows represent different species of flowers which grow in the valley of the Verdon. [3]A postcard view of the interior of the chapel. [6]The Chapel’s Rose Window. [7]The day of the Festival. [7]The day of the Festival, (c) Christopher James. [33]The pilgrimage. [11]The pilgrimage, (c) Christopher James. [33]The pilgrimage, (c) Christopher James. Christopher James says that the Crucifer is known locally as ‘Cocoa’. [33]The pilgrimage. [12]The pilgrimage, (c) Christopher James. [33]Notre Dame de la Fleur. [7]

The tradition of the pilgrimage of Our Lady of the flower is still an integral part of the annual life of the inhabitants of Upper Verdon. The event is organised by volunteers. They prepare for the procession which starts in the main village of Thorame-Haute and ends at the railway station. In 2016, Marc LIboa and a team of volunteers provided a “reward meal” for all who participated in the procession.The images immediately above show the participants in the festival eating in the shadow of the station close to the chapel. [5]A similar scene (c) Christopher James. [33]

After this  the religious ceremony took place, “orchestrated by Father Benedict of Colmars the Alps, Father Jean Boudoux Canon of Barrême and Jean-Louis Colombano who assisted them. Pilgrims were numerous and everyone was able to leave with a bouquet of blessed flowers, beautiful flowers prepared … by volunteers.” [7]Inside the chapel, (c) Christopher James. [33]Another view of the Chapel. [8]

2. Thorame-Haute Station

We noted towards the end of the last but one post that the site of the station at Thorame-Haute was inundated in the period immediately prior to it being due to be opened. A major rock fall delayed the opening of the line and required a significant retaining wall to be built in 1909 to 1911 to hold the land above the station.The station site, the picture is taken from the D955 with the River Verdon  behind the photographer. The retaining wall referred to in the text can just be seen to the left of the goods shed.The same retaining wall is visible behind the stored carriages above. The station can just be picked out to the left of the image. This picture is also taken from the D955.It can be seen more clearly in this picture. [13]It is also evident on the right hand side of this postcard view.A few photographs of the station show that a siding to the south of the station has been used for storage of redundant stock. It is clear that the metal surfaces of the carriages are ideal for graffiti paint! [9]

This panorama shot shows the three main parts of the station buildings, from left to right – the goods shed, the passenger facilities and the station buffet or restaurant. [4]

There is a rail simulator version of this line and I thought it might be of interest to see some stills from which show how this station has been treated. three pictures follow below. [14] The overall impression is excellent, there are some detailed issues – such as the roof of the goods shed and the detail of the waiting shelter on the central platform in one of the images. Overall, these computer generated images give a good idea of the railway as it passes through the landscape. Tanguy has posted three images on the for comparison … copies are provided below. [14] This last image is taken from the top of the retaining wall referred to in the text. [14]

The onward journey

We climb about our train to head away south down the Verdon valley.The first two images below show a driver’s eye view as we leave the station. First we pass stored rolling stock and then head off down the single-track line. [15] The D955 follows alongside the line at a lower level until it swings across the Verdon on the arch bridge above. A retaining wall is shown on the left of the picture which hods the railway above the road. The hillside above and below the line is very steep and retaining walls are needed along the length to secure the rock face above the railway formation.The first image above is taken from the D955 on the west side of the valley of the Verdon. The second is taken from the driver’s cab in an Autorail on the line. [15] Both show the size of the retaining walls along this section of the line.

The next station is Allons-Argens. This next view is also taken from the cab of an Autorail, it shows the approach to the station. [15]The station building from across the valley on the D955.The D52 crosses the Verdon from the D955 and provides access to the station and on up the valley of L’Ivoire to Allons.Allons Argens Station drawn by Phillips Vernet. [17]Allons Argens Station from the river bank. [16]Allons Argens Station from its access road. [18]The old station buildings are fenced off. [19]The station is a request stop and no facilities are provided for trains to pass. [19]

Immediately after Allons Argens Halt the railway crossed the River Ivoire on a single span stone arch bridge.

The line, which has been travelling in a generally southerly direction, curves first to the west and then to the south as it follows the east bank of the River Verdon. In about five kilometres, it crosses the river to the west bank and arrives at the village of La Mure-Argens.Google Earth image of the bridge across the river. The view is taken looking North.Driver’s view across the Bridge. [15]Two images (above) of the rail bridge over the Verdon near La Mure Argens. [22]A constriction plan for the same bridge, for a footway extension to the side of the bridge. [22]

A series of smaller photos, show aspects of the bridge and include two of the design drawings! [22] And then we move on the the village of La Mure Argens.

The two images immediately above were sent to me in August 2018 by Christopher James and show GECP ‘The Portuguese’ cross the bridge across the Verdon, (c) Christopher James.The station at La Mure Argens (above) as depicted on a rail simulator. [15]

The station was no more than a halt with no facility for trains to pass. The village was around 1 kilometre northwest of the station which was set in open fields. The first image looks southwest along the short platform. The second image shows the station building elevation and is taken from the fields opposite. Both are from the CCCP website. [20]Two level crossings which retain their crossing keeper’s houses take the railway across roads to the south of the town. The first shows the cottage in a copse of trees next to the line. The second covers a more major road.The first road crossing taken from the southeast, (c) Paul Garnier. [21]The second road crossing. The picture is taken from the north and is taken from Google Streetview.

Leaving La Mure Argens the railway crossed the valley of the River Issole on another graceful single span arch bridge of the same design as that crossing the Verdon north of La Mure Argens.The Bridge over the River Issole. [23]Driver’s view across the Bridge. [15]Beyond the bridge over the River Issole (visible in the top right corner of the map above), the railway gradually drifts from a south-westerly course to a south-southwesterly course as it approaches Saint-Andre-les-Alpes railway station (in the bottom left above). there was a bridge over Route de Lambruisse (top right of the satellite image below) and the line then fed into the station.The station approach. [15]Closing in on the station. [15]An Autorail at Saint Andre les Alpes. [24]Looking north. [25]The three images above are all stills taken from a rail-sumulator. [14]An old postcard. [2]Another old postcard. [2] Looking South into the station site. [26] Modern traction at Saint-Andre-les-Alpes. [27]Saint-Andre-les-Alpes. [28] Saint-Andre-les-Alpes. [29] Saint-Andre-les-Alpes. [29]Saint-Andre-les-Alpes. [30] Modern transport at Saint-Andre. [31] Steam at Saint-Andre. [31]Renault Autorails at Saint-Andre. [32]The station yard and old engine shed. [34]

We take another break here at Saint-Andre-les-Alpes and continue the journey on another day.


  1., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  2., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  3., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  4., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  5., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  6., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  7., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  8., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  9., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  10., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  11., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  12.é, accessed on 11th August 2018.
  13., acessed on 10th August 2018.
  14., accessed on 10th August 2018.
  15., accessed on 1st August 2018.
  16., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  17., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  18., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  19., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  20., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  21., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  22., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  23., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  24., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  25., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  26., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  27., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  28., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  29., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  30., accessed on 12th August 2018.
  31.‘best-of’/the-train-des-pignes, accessed on 12th August 2018.
  32.èmes/Train, accessed on 12th August 2018.
  33. I have been corresponding with Christopher James about the various posts on my blog. He has very kindly sent me a number of pictures. These of the festival at Thorame-Haute were supplied as large size files (10MB+) which I have downsized for the blog.
  34., accessed on 13th August 2018.

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 10 – Thorame-Haute Viaduct (Chemins de Fer de Provence 74)

Its been highlighted to me that in my last post in this series I did not provide details of Thorame-Haute Viaduct. In that post, I provided rail-level images and then rushed on to the site of Thorame-Haute Station. This short blog is an attempt to rectify that mistake!  I guess you could also see it as a bonus for patiently bearing with me as I meander along the line between Nice and Digne-les-Bains!GECP locomotive, ‘The Portuguese’, breaks out into the Verdon valley as it leaves the western portal of the Tunnel de la Colle Saint Michel (c) Christopher James.The same locomotive crossing the Viaduct at Thorame-Haute, (c) Christopher James.An Autorail on the Viaduct. [1]Another Autorail on the Viaduct seen through the tree canopy. [2] This close up image shows the masonry of the Viaduct to good effect. [3]

These two images are taken from the Structurae website. [4] They have been selected to show the structure and it location rather than for any aesthetic consideration. Even so the structure appears graceful and dramatic. Not something that is noticeable at rail level or from a train. The arched voids in the spandrels relieve a significant amount of load from the arches of the viaduct.The viaduct and station at Thorame-Haute soon after construction of the viaduct was completed. [5]As a taster for my next post, the chapel immediately adjacent to the station at Thorame-Haute is the focus each year of a significant local festival. More of this in the next post, (c) Christopher James. [6]A final view back from Thorame-Haute Station towards the road-crossing and the Viaduct beyond, (c) La bête de Calvi. [7]


  1., accessed on 31st July 2018.
  2., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  3., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  4., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  5., accessed on 11th August 2018.
  6. I have been corresponding with Christopher James over a number of my posts about the Nice to Digne line. Christopher James lives locally and travels on the line frequently. This picture was sent to me by email.
  7., accessed on 31st July 2018.

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 8 – Meailles to Thorame-Haute (Chemins de Fer de Provence 73)

Meailles is the starting point for the next stage in our journey. The featured image is an excellent black and white panorama of the village, station, viaducts and railway line. This next image shows the station and the Viaduc de Moana sitting below the village. [1]We return to the station at Meailles ready to catch the next train. A final look round the station is followed by checking the timetable and then joining the next train as it leaves the station! The pictures below are all to be found on the relevant page of, [4] except for one which is an image from Wikipedia. [5]Driver’s eye view leaving Meailles Station. [9]Looking back towards the station from the level-crossing on the road up the valley side to Meailles village.

The next few images show the Viaduc de Moana which our train crosses almost immediately after leaving the station at Meailles.First from the level-crossing in the image above.Then a driver’s eye view of the viaduct.A railcar heading onto the Viaduc du Moana, (c) Mouliric. [2]Freight train on the viaduct. [6]The two images immediately above are sourced from the CPArama website. [3]

This image is taken from above the viaduct on the hillside close to the village of Meailles.




The image below is taken from the far side of the valley of La Vaire.The Viaduc du Moana crosses the Ravin du Maouna which can be seen heading away to the northeast behind the viaduct.Modern train on the Viaduc du Moana, (c) La bête de Calvi [8]The view ahead up the valley of La Vaire (above) taken from the road up the valley side to Meailles.The railway heads north-northwest up the valley of La  Vaire. The next major structure is a tunnel – the Tunnel de Méailles. The tunnel is 104 metres in length and is shown by the red, blue and green dots on the map below. At this point the railway line ius now 995 metres above sea-level. [7]The south portal of the Tunnel de Méailles. [7]The two images above show the north portal of the tunnel which includes a short ‘gallery’ beyond what would have been the tunnel entrance and then a significant retaining wall and bridge. [7]For a couple of kilometres the railway continues along the east bank of La Vaire. [9]Peyresq Halt is preceded by the bridge over La Vaire and followed by the tunnel portal. A Renault Autorail heads away from the Halt towards Nice. [24]It crosses La Vaire on a short girder bridge, passes through Peyresq Halt and then enters the Tunnel de la Colle Saint Michel [9]Modern transport at Peyresq Halt. [10]Looking back down the line, we see slightly older transport approaching Peyresq from Meailles. [11]The Tunnel de la Colle Saint Michel is at an altitude of more than 1000 metres above sea-level. It is 3.46km in length – the longest tunnel on the line. The tunnel is completely straight except close to its eastern portal where it has a slight curve which matches the line to the east of the tunnel. There are two interesting and original features in the tunnel which are both in the north wall. [12]

Inside a tunnel, a few metres from the eastern portal it can be seen that the eastern portal needed to be widened. The old alignment of the tunnel wall is still visible as a pedestal. The widening facilitated alignment sights for drivers. About 1100 m from the western portal, a side chamber 8 m deep and 4 m wide exists, which was a stable for horses during the construction of the work and was also used for turning the carts used to transport rubble from the tunnel construction.

In addition, this tunnel was subject to strong draughts which, in winter, froze water infiltrating into the tunnel. This caused the formation of ice stalactites which risked significant damage to trains. To prevent this the west portal was given an overhead door in 1969. The eastern portal is visible in images above the western portal is shown below. [12]As trains leave the western portal of the Tunnel de la Colle Saint Michel they cross a short viaduct over the River Verdon and crosses a track on the west side of the river. There is an old crossing keeper’s cottage adjacent to the line. [12]A view towards Digne taken from above the western portal of the Tunnel de la Colle Saint Michel.The crossing keeper’s cottage. [9]

Leaving the Tunnel de la Colle Saint Michel, the line turns sharply to the southwest and follows the western bank of the River Verdon to a point not far north of the Station at Thorame-Haute where it spans the river once again and enters the railway station on the eastern bank of the river. [9] [9][9][13][14]Steam at Thorame Haute Station. [15] A festival at Thorame-Haute.Another view of the station on an old postcard, the following photos all come from the same source, one of CPArama’s webpages. [16] La Place de la Gare, Thorame-Haute. [17]La Place de la Gare. [18]The station in bright sunlight. [20]A recent photograph of the main station building. [21]

It is interesting that the village which gives its name to this station is almost 8km away. The line enters the valley of the Verdon well south of the village and heads away south.

The station is about 95 kilometres from Nice at an altitude of over 1000 metres above sea-level. The station was opened in 1911 and a separate buffet building was included on the site next to the main building. [19] The railway line between Meailles and Thorame-Haute was on the last stretch of the line from Nice to Digne to be built. The length involved was that between Saint-André-de-Méouilles and Puget-Théniers.

Work began in January 1900 on the final 27km of the line. The tunnel boring took a number of years to complete. Steady progress was made on the tunnel. The project had a significant setback when, in April 1909 part of the land mass above the proposed location of the station at Thorame-Haute collapsed onto the site of the station engulfing the part built buildings and platforms. Stabilisation of the mountain required the construction of a 114 metre long, 3.3 metre high retaining wall. The wall was 1.5 metres thick and reinforced by 7 buttresses. [22]

The station was opened to travellers on 3rd July 1911 [23] with the inauguration of the full line taking place on 6th August 1911. The station at Thorame-Haute quickly became a significant tourist destination providing access to some high quality hotels in the upper reaches of the Verdon valley. A wealthy clientele travelled from the Côte d’Azur to access such hotels as the Alp’hôtel de Beauvezer, and the Fontgaillarde in Thorame-Haute.

It is at Thorame-Haute that this leg of our journey is completed.


  1., accessed on 5th August 2018.
  2., accessed on 5th August 2018.
  3., accessed on 9th August 2018.
  4., accessed on 9th August 2018.
  5., accessed on 9th August 2018.
  6., accessed on 9th August 2018.
  7., accessed on 9th August 2018.
  8., accessed on 10th August 2018.
  9., accessed on 1st August 2018.
  10.,6.612933,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1sAF1QipNFeGoAhEI7HVF0vLop7jT4jL6tfsbg5Zy7yg1S!2e10!3e12!!7i4296!8i2760!4m5!3m4!1s0x12cc6f997b176e59:0xb48d78a0c1ca0c6c!8m2!3d44.0420841!4d6.6129327, accessed on 10th August 2018.
  11.,6.612933,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1sAF1QipM3SJhROxBfPav9XWKGwn1vNf2CGkvFGnLlyoBG!2e10!3e12!!7i3194!8i4937!4m5!3m4!1s0x12cc6f997b176e59:0xb48d78a0c1ca0c6c!8m2!3d44.0420841!4d6.6129327, accessed on 10th August 2018.
  12., accessed on 9th August 2018.
  13., accessed on 10th August 2018.
  14., accesed on 10th August 2018.
  15., acessed on 10th August 2018.
  16., accessed on 10th August 2018.
  17., accessed on 10th August 2018.
  18., accessed on 10th August 2018.
  19., accessed on 10th August 2018.
  20., accessed on 10th August 2018.
  21., accessed on 10th August 2018.
  22., accessed on 10 the August 2018.
  23.”Allons-Argens”%2C”chemin+de+fer”%2C1911&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=”Allons-Argens”, accessed on 10th August 2018.
  24., accessed on 1st August 2018.

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 9 – Floods and Landslides (Chemins de Fer de Provence 72)

Christopher James contacted me having read a number of my posts because he remembered images of a major landslide at Annot Station. He undertook some research and found a newspaper article and some photographs of the landslide at Annot. The images he sent me and the newspaper article are immediately below. We corresponded a little about the date of the landslip and I think we now believe that it happened as part of a major incident which occurred in November 1994.

On 5th November 1994 an extreme flood event caused the lowest and the second-lowest dams on the Var to collapse. The flood wave inundated parts of Nice, including Nice’s international airport which is situated near the river mouth. It was out of service for several days. The airport lost the business of 50,000 passengers, with damages running up to an estimated 4.5 to 6 million euro. Elsewhere roads like the RN202 were cut, power and telephone lines were interrupted, and three people died and four disappeared. [1] This estimate of lives lost is low compared with some, for instance HydroEurope say that 70 people were estimated to be killed, with large scale infrastructure damage and economical losses from the closure of the airport. The economic damage is estimated at 550 – 800 million Euros. Of the three most recent flood events the flows of 1994 were an order of magnitude higher than the others – 1994 (3680 m3/s), 2011 (1330 m3/s), 2016 (1280 m3/s). [2]

My blog:, provides a number of pictures of the damage done to the watercourse, it revetments and its structures. Part of the problem has been the gradual encroachment into the valley of the Var by various land reclamation schemes over the years. [3]

But these events are not a recent penomenon. The Observatoire Regional des Risques Majeurs (ORRM) En Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur has reported on a series of similar events over the past 150 years. [4] These events have occurred across the whole of the southern alps – Sisteron in 1886; Valette (Ubaye Valley) in 1982; Annot in 1994 and 1996; Rochaille in 2001; Villard-des-Dourbes in 2002; Barles in 2008, are all events mentioned by the ORRM. Their website includes the following photograph taken at Annot in 1994. [4]

As we have already noted, the events of November 1994 were of an order of magnitude greater than had been experienced in the catchment of the River Var in the century or so before 1994 and in the years after. Significant structures were destroyed, such as the Pont de Gueydan, immediately below.

The main A8 was cut by the river. The railway was cut at various points and it was 18 months before it re-opened. At the time there was a significant risk of complete closure of the line. The image below shows one of the ‘elephants’ along the line which was destroyed and had, along with the road and river embankment, to be rebuilt.

More damage to the A8 and the railway line.

The bridge at the mouth of the River Vesubie was destroyed.

The floods of 1994 were devastating for the railway and for the communities it served. They left a number of communities inaccessible except by mountain tracks. Rebuilding of railway and roads was no easy task and the subject of some wrangling about what was best for the communities alongside the river.

In 1994 a new highway was planned, situated in part on the right bank of the Var. This would result in a further reduction of the river bed in the order of 10%. The plans met with strong opposition from the riparians, who fought the proposed highway in the Administrative Court.

A decision was taken in 2001 to further investigate the road alignment. The highway was eventually built along a modified itinerary and under a different name. [1]

If anyone knows more about flooding and landslides that have affected the Nice to Digne line it would be good to hear from you.


  1., accessed on 6th August 2018.
  2., accessed on 6th August 2018.
  3., accessed on 6th August 2018.

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 7 – Annot to Meailles (Chemins de Fer de Provence 71)

Our journey along the Nice to Digne line recommences at Annot. We are halfway between Nice and Digne. My memory of travelling on the line is that Annot was touted as being an excellent destination when travelling from Nice, to allow access to mountain walking. A little research shows that to be the case. The map below is a copy of the hiking route map which includes an extensive range of walks. The “.pdf” from which it is taken can be accessed by following the link in the references at the bottom of this post. [1] The train we travelled on through Annot to Digne in 2001 was full of hikers who left the train at Annot.It will also be evident from the above map that the line has left behind the department of Les Alpes Martimes and is now in the Alpes de Haute-Provence. The Tramway from Pont de Gueydan northwards (…r-de-provence-69) followed the approximate boundary between the two departments.

Annot is in the valley of La Vaire. Its station is on the valley side to the southeast of the town centre. [2]

Annot is located on the edge of Mercantour National Park, it was founded on a small hill and surrounded by wooded mountains, the village which dates from the 11th century, has little by little spread along the banks of La Vaïre. The old village is built in sandstone. Immense boulders of this rock (sometimes more than 100 metres high) can be seen at close quarters by following the “Chambre du Roi” waymarked circuit. Some of these rocks can be seen in the background of the image below.The viaduct seen from beyond the village. [3]A view of Annot from further to the southwest. [4]Annot from above. the railway can be seen crossing the viaduct behind the town. Annot railway station is just off picture to the right. [5]

OpenStreetMap provides an excellent cartographic image of the town, station and viaduct. The railway can be picked out easily as a black line to the east and north of the town. [6]

So, we return to the railway station and prepare to leave travelling North, initially, towards Digne-les-Bains.

The pictures immediately below are taken at the station. The first shows the most modern trains on the line and the carriages of the Steam service. [7]An older railcar (autorail) and the steam service waiting at Annot Station. [8]A modern train approaches the throat of Annot station from Digne while the “Portuguese” Steam Locomotive waits in the station. [9]The three images above show Annot station in its very early days. [16]

Our train sets off from Annot. The next few images give a driver’s eye views along the line as we leave the station. [10] About 700 metres beyond the Station the line crossed the Viaduc de la Beite, across the valley of La Beite. We have already seen the viaduct in the photographs of the town of Annot above. But it is an elegant structure, so more photographs seem appropriate.This is Le Train des Châtaignes. It is the last day of the 2013 season (Saturday 2nd November) for the “Train des Pignes” It circulated between Puget-Théniers and Le Fugeret for the Fête de la Châtaigne at Le Fugeret, (c) Jose Banuado. [11]

Post card images follow: A freight train has just crossed the viaduct heading for Annot, circa 1956. [16]

As trains travel over the Viaduc de la Beite, they turn back to towards the D908 and for a short distance travel east-west before turning to the northwest once again. As the road and railway continue in a northwesterly direction their paths drift closer together so that around 4 kilometres northwest of Annot they are running side by they approach l’Arret des Lunieres. [10]l’Arret des Lunieres.

North of the Halt the road drifts down toward the valley floor while the railway follows the contours. As the disparity in levels increased the old road swung underneath the railway at Ravin de Fouent Bouisse and back again under the viaduct having crossed the stream. The clearances between road and rail were not adequate fro modern vehicles and the road had to be diverted to stay on the southwest side of the railway.The viaduct before any consideration of diversion of the road. [14]

In no more than a couple of hundred metres, the road had dropped sufficiently to pass under the railway at a second viaduct and then follow it on its northeast side. before switching back to the southwest side again. The viaduct was named, “Viaduc de Fontbouisse.”Looking back towards Annot.From the same position, looking forward towards Le Fugeret.An early picture of the Viaduct. [14]With the road back on the southwest side of the railway, the lines are supported a significant height above the road by a substantial retaining wall.

As the road and railway approach the village of Le Fugeret, they separate and Google Streetview becomes less effective in showing the route of the railway! Before entering the station at Le Fugeret it is worth looking at the satellite image below to get a feel for the railway in the immediate vicinity of the village. As can be seen in the image, the railway station is some distance from the old village. The station is just visible at the bottom of the picture, with the old village to the middle left. The railway line uses this location to loop back on itself to gain height before continuing once again in a northwesterly direction. It’s track can be picked out on the satellite image, and can more easily be seen on the openstreetmap extract below it.Le Fugeret Station was set on an approximately north-south alignment to the southeast of the village to permit the line to gain sufficient height to continue on its journey up the valley of La Vaïre. The station buildings from the south. [10]The station buildings looking south towards Annot. [12]The northern end of the platforms at Le Fugeret Railway Station. [10]The northern station throat with the old village of Le Fugeret visible to the left of the track ahead. [10]A rural idyll near Le Fugeret. [13]A train leaves Le Fugeret station for Digne and passes the old village. The small bridge under the train in the image is shown below in a telephoto view from the main road in the village. [15]The line leaves the station and heads towards the loop. The station is off the picture to the right, the village is in the foreground, the accommodation bridge is visible to the left of the churchThe railway can be seen again right at the top of the photograph having turned through 180° close to the village, as seen below. [17]The railway turns round to the northeast with the old village behind. [18]The village is off the photo to the left. The railway continues to turn through 180° in the foreground, and can be picked out again, after turning through another loop, at the top of the picture. To the bottom right of this picture and hidden behind the trees, the line passes through a short tunnel. [17]

A 194 metre tunnel allows the 180° turn to negotiate the topography of the village. This tunnel is called “Tunnel Notre Dame.” It is shown below marked with red, blue and green dots. [19]The southwest portal of the Tunnel Notre Dame. [10]The southeast portal of the Tunnel Notre Dame and the small bridge over the grandly named Ravin du Gros Vallon. [19]An accommodation bridge provides access between fields either side of the line. There are a number of driver’s eye views in this post which have been taken from the website of Reinhard Douté ( [10]

The line completes its first 180° turn after passing under the accommodation bridge above. It then crosses the Ravin du Coin, on an embankment, before entering a lengthy curved tunnel which accommodates the next 180° turn – The Tunnel du Fugeret. The tunnel is marked by red, blue and green dots below and is over 500 metres long. [20]The southern portal of the Tunnel du Fugeret. [20]The northern portal of the Tunnel du Fugeret. [20]

The line then curves gently across the north of the village to the Tunnel de la Barre which can be picked out on the left of the satellite image immediately below. On the way, it crosses the Ravin du Gros Vallon again. The second image below shows the viaduct which spans the ravine.The third image below shows Le Fugeret with the line running high on the hillside behind it and the viaduct over the Ravin du Gros Vallon can bee seen on the right of the picture.Le Fugeret from the southwest. [21]

The Tunnel de la Barre is marked on the map below by red, blue and green dots and is just 75 metres long its portals are shown below. [22]The east portal of the Tunnel de la Barre. [22]The west portal of the Tunnel de la Barre. [22]

After leaving the tunnel the line continues to curve round to the north and then crosses a viaduct and passes through another short tunnel.The Viaduc de l’Hubac. [10]The viaduct and tunnel of l’Hubac. The Ravine is known as the “Ravin de l’Ubac.” [14]

The viaduct is a substantial structure, the tunnel is short, only 35 metres in length. The south east portal is shown in the first image below and the northwest portal can be seen in the second image below. [23] A short distance beyond the Tunnel de l’Hubac, the line crosses the D210 on what is now (2018) a very new, short-span structure. The road then climbs steeply, first to run, for a very short distance, at the same elevation as the track, and then to rise high above it.