Category Archives: Railways and Tramways Around Nice

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

Ligne du Littoral (Toulon to St. Raphael) – Part 15a – November 2018 Visits to the Line (Chemins de Fer de Provence 81a)

Another Postscript.

This 1929 aerial photograph from the IGN site ‘’ really interests me. I discovered it on 19th November 2018 while staying in Saint-Raphael.

The centre of St. Raphael is in the middle of the picture, the relatively small harbour looks more expansive than it does now in the early 21st century. Watching some of the large yachts if the mega-rich manouvering in the harbour is interesting.

The large church building stood out much more clearly in the 1920s than it does today. The River Garonne was not built over in the way it is today.

The metre-gauge line can clearly be seen passing under what was the PLM standard-gayge mainline and climbing in an arc to meet the mainline at St. Raphael railway station. The metre-gauge sidings can be seen to the right-hand (East) side of the photo.

It is also possible to identify the metre-gauge passenger station building on the aerial image to the North of the mainline under what is now the site of the Gate Routiere.

The Google Earth satellite image below shows approximately the same location in the early 21st century. The grey roofed building houses the Gare Routiere and there are modern strictures over the site of the old goods yard.Little was done in the developments of the late 20th century to preserve significant aspects/views. As can be seen above there is a large modern block between the port and the church which obscures what could still have been an excellent view of the church. The images below show the effect of  modern development in this particular corner of the world!Perhaps surprisingly the alignment of the old metre-gauge line can still be picked out in this image. I have enhanced the scale a little in the image below and shown the approximate alignment with a green line. Tarmac covers most of the route shown. There is a break beneath the mainline.

Ligne du Littoral (Toulon to St. Raphael) – Part 15 – November 2018 Visits to the Line (Chemins de Fer de Provence 81)

On 13th and 16th November 2018, my wife (Jo) and I walked around St. Raphael and took some photographs of the location of Le Macaron railway station and updated the post below accordingly.

On 14th November we traced the line of Le Macaron between Ste. Maxine and St. Raphael. I was able as a result to add a PostScript to my earlier blog post on that length of Le Macaron. The revised post can be found at:

On Sunday 18th November, Jo and I travelled from St. Raphael, via the Sunday Market in Le Muy, to Hyeres. We also enjoyed an hour or so on the spit of land extending out from Hyeres towards Iles d’Hyeres and we had lunch next to La Tour Fondue. We spent the rest of the day following Le Macaron from Hyeres to Sainte-Maxime.

Nothing I saw on the journey caused me concern about the text of the series of blog posts about the route that I have written.

I was able to take a few pictures while on the journey, although there was little time to stop if the full journey was to be completed in daylight!

On the journey we were also able to make three detours. The first, to Les Bormettes and the site of the old torpedo factory at what is now known as Miramar. The second to the old perched village of Bormes les Mimosa. The third to St. Tropez.

We took a few photographs on Sunday 18th November and these follow at the end of this blog postpost, together with a few from other sources.

The relevant links to my blog are:

Some photographs … The majority my own, others are referenced below.

Le Muy, 18th November 2018.Le Muy, Sunday Market. [1]The remaining station at Hyeres is the SNCF standard-gauge station. [2]A view out to sea from close to the branch-line to the torpedo factory (long-gone) at Miramar. The picture was taken on 18th November 2018.The railway station building at La Londe-les-Maures taken from what was the line of the railway just to the West of the station on 18th November 2018.The railway station building at La Londe-les-Maures taken from the South.The railway station building at La Londe-les-Maures taken from what was the line of the railway just to the East of the station. This image was also captured on 18th November 2018.Clearly this image was not taken in November! we drove around the village which sits high above the valley below and as a result high above its ancient railway station. [3]The old station building at Cavalaire-sur-Mer taken from the North on 18th November 2018.The same building also pictured on 18th November 2018. in remodelling the centre of the town the authorities have chosen to reflect its railway history by building a ‘railway’ into the paving. Flat metal and wooden piecs have been used to good effect.The old village centred on the station and the present town has reflected that by running the ‘railway’ through the centre and, as can be seen in the image below has created a series of benches that mimic the old railway wagons of Le Macaron.This image shows one of the buildings associated with the old branch-line to St. Tropez. It was also taken on 18th November 2018 as the sun was beginning to set. Evidnce of the existence of the station is preserved in the name of the road as the image below highlights.The old station area in St. Tropez now forms a large tourist car-park as can be seen in this image taken on 18th November 2018.St. Tropez in the evening sun on 18th November 2018.


  1., accessed on 18th November 2018.
  2., accessed on 18th November 2018.
  3., accessed on 18th November 2018.

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 Banuado 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. His text is 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]From July 1915, the laying of a TNL track to the new PLM station of Nice-St. Roch finally created a link between the two networks. In operation, this facility is used to ship the No. 7 Bogie Van required by the Military Authority for the Schlucht Line. (Photos -Jacques Schoffer – TCA Collection). [1]

Traffic decreased, especially that of tourists. The condition of the tracks was deteriorating, especially on the Monte Carlo line. Studies were undertaken to modify the lines of certain 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 day 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. An animal park was 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.

On the Nice-Antibes line, the motor bogie tram No. 201 stops at the entrance of the military camp in Saint Veran, on the site of the current racecourse of Cagnes (Rene Clavaud Collection).

The tramways transported to these parks and warehouses 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 transferred over a street connection in Falicon towards 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, these military movements gave way in part to those needed for 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 and 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 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 following year, one lane was lengthened
to receive coal shipments to PLM locomotive depot nearby.In 1916, the connection of the trams to the PLM station in Nice-Saint-Roch was extended to establish a reserved lane for the unloading of English coal imported by sea. The TNL tractor No. 9 is pushing back a train of five high-sided open wagons containing coal onto this raised siding. The siding was 1.93m above its surroundings and over a good part of its length it was made up of scrap sleepers supplied by the PLM and simply stacked without any form of binding. (Jose Barnaudo Collection.)

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.

An abundant female workforce, provided in particular by the wives of combantants,
was used until 1917 in this war effort.

The depot of Sainte-Agathe also worked to transform wagons required on the other networks for by the 10th section of the military field railway. In 1916, the port of Nice received large shipments of American wheat which were removed by tramway to St. Roch station, the mill of Ariane and that of Monaco.Above, two trains for the needs of the Army during the 1914-1918 war: the first is No. 13 bogie tractor at the head of a train of straw or fodder at the depot of Sainte-Agathe. And the second, carries cars involved in an accident in a barracks. (Photos Jacques Schopfer – TCA collection.)

When more than one ship berthed at the same time, loads could not be moved by the TNL immediately. There was a lack of covered warehousing on the quays, so it was decided to convert the TNL depot at the port into a warehouse for the stacking of wheat. AS a result a storehouse for nearly 3000 tons of cereals in bags was created, which was still used by the civil supply administration for two years after the war.

The year 1917 saw tramway traffic increase in several areas. On 26 March 1917, after connecting the TNL and CTC tracks which until then had only crossed each other on the Place Jean-Macé in Antibes, a coal train was put into operation daily from the port of Nice to the gas plant of Cannes, located near Mandelieu. Since this service was entirely satisfactory and the PLM Marseille-Ventimiglia line was almost exclusively reserved for military transport to Italy, the tramway provided from 17 November 1917 an additional service. It transported cement from Contes to Mandelieu for the construction of the new military camp at Fréjus. When the cement arrived at the end of the Cannes network, cement was transshipped by trucks to a destination beyond the Esterel.

The wartime traffic made it possible to smooth out administrative difficulties between companies of the Nice and Cannes tramways, and even to silence the claims of the municipalities crossed for a tax on goods in transit!

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.

If for able-bodied passengers this influx only caused capacity problems, it was quite different for the transport of the most seriously injured who had to travel lying down. During the summer months, sixteen modified open trailers were used to transversely arrange ten stretchers. During the cold season, a tractor and eight vans were fitted out to longitudinally receive twelve stepped stretchers on three levels. If necessary, eight conventional urban power cars could each carry eight stretchers. Depending on the formation of the convoy and the gradients to be covered (many temporary hospitals were served by the steeply sloping Cimiez line), from 60 to 72 seated and lying injured people could be taken from the PLM station to the care and convalescent establishments.

There were twenty-eight such establishments 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. Their total capacity reached 7131 beds in care units and 1275 beds in convalescent homes, the numbers are mentioned in brackets in the following list.

  • Eight establishments were served by the Cimiez line: École Normale (300 beds), Hermitage hotels (375, served by a private funicular railway). Regina (650), Majestic (650), Winter-Palace (400), de Nice (350). Riviéra (150) and Alhambra (162).
  • The largest was at the terminus of the Imperial Park line: Imperial Hotel (800).
  • Only one was served by the St. Sylvestre line: Parc Chambrun residence (280).
  • Seven were located in the 1st town centre and served from avenue de la Gare or rue de Lépante: Hôpital St. Roch (275), clinique des Augustines (100), asile Evangélique (80), Grand hôtel (550), hôtels des Palmiers (350), Continental (575) and Gallia (300).
  • Eight establishments were located on the Carras line: Lenval (65), Russian (24) and American (30) hospitals, Négresco (400), Ruhl (550), Royal (275), Ang1terre (175) and Palace (400) hotels.
  • Three were located along the first line of Villefranche: English hospitals (60) and Villefranche (30), Villa Schiffanoia (50).

The following three images come from Jose Banaudo’s book. [1]


  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 contruction 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.


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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.


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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.


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