Category Archives: Railways in Central Southern France

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

Réseau des Bouches du Rhône (BDR)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbentane-Rognonas Station Buildings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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  15. Paulin François Talabot (1799-1885) was a polytechnic engineer, banker and French politician. In 1836 he created the Compagnie des mines de la Grand-Combe et des chemins de fer du Gard. He was principal shareholder of the Compagnie du chemin de fer d’Avignon à Marseille which eventually became part of the Compagnie du Chemin de fer Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée (PLM),  of which he became the general director (1862 -1882). He participated in the creation in 1863 Credit Lyonnais and, in 1864 with the help of the Rothschild family, he created the bank Societe Generale (of which he was the first director), to compete with the Crédit Mobilier of the Péreire brothers. In addition to being a very wealthy industrialist, Paulin Talabot was elected several times as a deputy of the government (supporting Napoleon III) and general adviser of the Gard. [14]
  16. Société de Construction des Batignolles [19] was a civil engineering company in France created in 1871 as a public limited company from the 1846 limited partnership of Ernest Gouin et Cie. Initially founded to construct locomotives, the company produced the first iron bridge in France, and moved away from mechanical to civil engineering projects in France, North Africa, Europe, and in East Asia and South America. Conversion to a public company, the Société de Construction des Batignolles (SCB), in 1872 allowed the company to raise capital. By 1880 over 5 million francs of shares had been issued. [17] The new company was to continue the work of Ernest Gouin et Cie.; shipbuilding, bridges and other civil engineering works, and machine and locomotive building. Ernest Goüin died in 1885, to be succeeded by his son Jules as chairman of the company. [17] With most mainline railways in Europe complete by the 1870s, the group’s search for contracts became increasingly international. By the 1880s civil engineering was becoming the core business.[6] The company undertook some large railway construction projects such as the construction of the line from Bône to Guelma in Algeria for the Compagnie des chemins de fer Bône-Guelma, and the line from Dakar to Saint-Louis, Senegal. These were operated as concessions by subsidiaries of the SCB. By 1913 the company had fourteen subsidiary companies located throughout the world running railways.[17] The company also constructed canals for irrigation, ports and harbours, and water and sewerage systems.[5][6] Profits from concessions in north Africa, in particular Tunisia, were high (over 25% in the 1890s), and allowed expansion without share issues or loans.[17]
  17. Rang-ri Park-Barjot, “The French Societe de Construction des Batignolles : From manufacture to public utilities”, Department of Economics and Business, Pompeu Fabra University; European Business History Association (EBHA), 2004 Conference.
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Bouches-du-Rhone and its Railways – Part 1 – Tarascon to Plan d’Orgon

Réseau des Bouches du Rhône (BDR)

The Departement of Bouches-du-Rhone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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