Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 5 – La Mescla to Le Pont de Gueydan (Chemins de Fer de Provence 68)

We return once again to the Nice to Digne metre-gauge line and continue our journey from La Mescla.We start at the La Mescla Station which was completed in 1904 to replace an earlier building which had been located about 500 metres further north.The next image shows the station which was abandonned in 1904, and the colour image shows the same site later in the life of the line. The road and the tunnel in the distance have been widened.Beyond La Mescla the railway continues to hug the river bank on the South West side of the River Var. The satellite image below shows the extent of quarry workings on the north bank of the river associated with Lafarge Bétons Centrale Malaussène (Construction Material Wholesaler)! Two bridges are visible in the satellite image. The first in the bottom right crosses both railway and river, the second appears to be an internal industrial bridge across the river.The route continues in a generally northwesterly direction for a distance of little more than a kilometre alongside the river, before turning to a more westerly alignment. The line continues to remain close to the River until crossed by the road as shown on the second image below.The 50 metre span suspension bridge is Pont Auguste Dubois at Massoins has a maximum load capacity of 3 tonnes and it provides access for the D126 across the river to Massoins high above the river on the north bank. Malaussène holds a similar position on the south bank! Their shared station is in the valley floor on the south side of the river after the short tunnel known as Tunnel de Malaussène which is marked on the plan immediately above by the red and green dots. Early in the life of the line there was a crossing keepers cottage alongside the railway crossing at the eastern tunnel portal, as the Gilletta postcard below shows.The eastern portal of the Tunnel de Malaussène. [1]The western portal of the Tunnel de Malaussène is hidden beyond a road over-bridge and a myriad of road signs!A road underpass immediately before Malaussène Station.La gare Malaussène, trackside. [2]La gare Malaussène, forecourt – hidden from the road by trees and a hedge. [2]

After La gare Malaussène, the railway drifts away from the road as it travels west across the flood plain. The road remains close to the River Var. The road (D6202) then swings away from the river to allow it to access a new bridge across the watercourse. As it does so, it alignment comes close once again to the railway, and road and railway cross the river in close proximity.The old road travelled along the south bank and under the railway bridge before crossing the river on a bridge which is now long-gone. The two shots immediately below show the old road bridge upstream of the railway bridge. The third picture below shows a goods train pulled by a diesel locomotive heading towards Nice. [6] Now on the north side of the valley, modern road and railway run closely in parallel until reaching Villars-sur-Var. The entrance to the station area is shown below.CP-X-304 arrives at Villars-sur-Var travelling towards Nice in 2016, (c) Kjell Strandberg. [3]Villars-sur-Var Station building in 2016, (c) Kjell Strandberg. [3]An aerial view of the station. [4]An overall view of the station site featuring the watertower. [5]A Renault Railcar at Villars-sur-Var Station. [6] And in the two images immediately below the station is shown with other railcars present. [7]

The final image of the station at Villars-sur-Var is taken from the road side in winter.

Travelling on from Villar-sur-Var the line closely follows the northern bank of the river as far as the station at Plan Souteyran. In that length of the line the river meanders back and forth and only very occasionally is the line more than 100 metres from the River Var.

The halt at Plan Souteyran is not evident on the ground and appears to have been destroyed. It sat between the railway and the old road as can be seen on the map and satellite image below and served a very small community on the river bank.The next halt was at Touet-sur-Var – Le Tournel, and came after another length of line hugging the north bank of the Var. There appears to be no evidence of this halt which may have been removed to allow for the modern road formation.Just beyond the location of the halt is a small lattice truss bridge, typical of those crossing small streams along the line.Another kilometre or two along the line the railway entered the village of Touet-sur-Var. Its alignment can easily be picked out in the satellite image below. The village station can be seen to the left of the image.The old village of Touet-sur-Var sits high above the more modern village which has formed around the railway station. [10]

After Touet-sur-Var the line closely follows the river once again in a westerly direction, smaller lattice girder bridges carry the railway over tributaries of the Var, such as the one below which crosses Le Cians immediately before the halt of the same name.The Halt Shelter can just be picked out on the right side of the image above. Beyond l’Arret Cians the road, railway and river continue in close proximity, typically as below, until approaching Puget-Théniers.En-route to Puget-Théniers, the line once passed through a further three halts, of which there is no evidence of two in the early 21st Century. The third appears to to be no more than a sign and a length of railing alongside the main road into Puget-Théniers.The Station Approach, Puget-Théniers.A satellite plan of the whole station site including the GECP workshops.The station can be seen on the left of this elevated image of the village, adjacent to the river. [13]In another elevated image, the railway can be seen alongside the river. A train is entering the shot from the bottom (the East). [14]The railway is even more visible in this image. [15]Landslide on the approach to the village in 1960. [12]The railway is in the immediate foreground of this picture of Puget-Théniers. [16]Renault ZZ-06 and XR-1336 at the bridge shown in the postcard above at Puget-Théniers on 08/07/1987, (c) Photo Martijn Haman. [18]Old postcard of the station. [11]The station building early in the 21st Century. [17]SY 03 in Puget-Théniers on 07/07/1987, (c) Martijn Haman. [18] A later image is shown below. [19]Puget-Théniers is the headquarters of the GECP (Groupe d’Étude pour les Chemins de fer de Provence). The GECP was formed to: renovate and restore rolling stock and locomotives on the line; promote of the line of the Railways of Provence; operate the Train des Pignes à vapeur; and undertake Heritage Activities and Historical Research. [20]GECP’s workshops are in an old station building (above and below). [20][21]The loco shed. [19]The new and the old together. [22]

The “Train des Pignes” operates out of Puget-Théniers on parts of the 151 km metre-gauge Chemins de fer de Provence (CP). The steam trains run by the GECP which was founded in 1975 when the line was seriously threatened with closure. Most trains operate to Annot (a distance of around 20 km), with an intermediate stop at Entrevaux, on select days from early May to early November and are hauled by ex-CP (Portugal) 2-4-0+0-6-0T Mallet E 211 (Henschel 19874/1923). In Portugal, the loco was in use out of Sernada on the Val de Vouga lines until 1975, out of Lousado from 1975 to 1976 and out of Regua on the Corgo line from 1976 to 1981. The loco was sold to the GECP in 1986, she first saw use on the CP between 1988 and 1992, after which she went through a major overhaul at the Lucato Termica workshops in Castelletto-Montferrato (Alessandria, Italy) only to return to service in 2010.

Prior to the arrival of the Portuguese Mallet, the GECP used ex-SNCF ‘Réseau Breton’ 4-6-0T E 327 (Fives-Lille 3582/1909) between 1980 and 1987, and again between 1993 and 2007. Before it came to the CP, it had been saved by FACS in 1967 and saw limited use on the Vivarais line between 1969 and 1979. Since 2007 it has been out-of-use and stored inside the shed at Puget-Théniers. It would need some major repair to work once again, but is not really adapted to the steep gradients. Also at Puget, GECP uses ex-SNCF ‘Blanc-Argent’ 0-6-0DM No. 11 (CFD Neuillé-Pont-Pierre 1940-41) as a shunter. Built on the frames of CFD Indre & Loire Nord 0-6-0T No. 8 (Couillet 1885), the little diesel first saw use on the CFD Indre & Loire Nord and Yonne lines, before being sold to the Blanc-Argent (BA) railway in 1952 and ending up with GECP in 1988. [23]

After leaving Puget-Théniers, heading west towards Digne-les-Bains, trains continues tofollow the river course. The railway, for about one kilometre, remains on the northside of the river.Trinité bridge on the Var between Puget-Théniers and Entrevaux. [11]Trinité bridge, taken from the south side of the River Var.

Once on the south side of the river, the railway and the road stay clos together. One year while staying in Nice, my wife and I took the train to Entrevaux and walked back along the line to Puget-Théniers. I remember the trees shading the road and the line really well. The picture below is typical of that length of the line.En-route to Entrevaux the line passes through an abandonned station (above), and as it gets closer to Entrevaux is crossed by the road at grade (below). The old cottage for the crossing-keeper still remains.A view of Entrevaux Station from the East.Entrevaux taken from a drone. The railway station can be seen on the right of the river and in the top half of the image. [24] Four historic images of Entrevaux Station and bridges above. [25]

In 2011, my wife and I spent an hour or so sitting on the platform at Entrevaux Station, the following six pictures were among a number taken then.Immediately after the railway station at Entrevaux the railway crossed a tributary of the River Var and plunged into a 164m long curved tunnel. The two pictures immediately above show the tunnel portal in the 21st Century and in the time of steam. The map below shows the tunnel highlighted in red, blue and green. A few tens of metres beyond the west portal of this tunnel, trains entered another tunnel, shown as black dots on the map which was 128m long. [26][27]The western portal of the first tunnel is quickly followed by the Eastern portal of the second tunnel.After the western portal of the second tunnel, the railway crossed the road once again at a level crossing and resumed a path close to, and on the south side of, the River Var.In the 21st Century, the crossing is automated, but the crossing keeper’s cottage remains a few tens of metres beyond the level crossing. While the road meanders away from the river, the railway line hugs the river bank as we travel on. After a few kilometres, road, rail and river converge once again after the railway has passed through a mall halt at Plan d’Entrevaux.Along the next length of track two interesting structures are encountered, both are visible in the picture above. These are false tunnels/aqueducts and have been given the nickname ‘Elephants’ because they bear some resemblance to an elephant. They provide for some relatively high water flows on two temporary streams. [28][29] Both are shown on the map below.The first encountered is marked with red and green dots, the second with black dots. These provide an interesting location for photographs, as can be seen below. After the ‘elephants’ the line swings more to the north following the course of the river and passes through another halt – Entrevaux-Agnerc. The halt immediately precedes another level crossing. The location of the halt, the crossing and the crossing keeper’s cottage can be seen below.The railway then dives into another tunnel – Tunnel des Cornillons. The tunnel is just 62m long and is marked with black dots towards the top-middle of the map above.The East Portal.The West Portal. [30]A steam train leaves the west portal of the tunnel on is way west. [30]

The road crosses the River Var at this point (just north of the East Portal of the tunnel). The location is known as ‘Le Pont Noir’. The railway remains on the south side of the valley for another kilometre or so before reaching Le Pont Gueydan. At this point the River Var turns sharply to the north and the railway follows the course of a tributary – Le Coulomp. The first station after the bridge is Saint Benoit Pont de Gueydan. This station was a junction station. The TAM ran a tramway north up the valley of the Var from Le Pont de Gueydan. It was the starting point of the tramway, which was often referred to as the Haut-Var tramway, which ran as far as Guillaumes.

This is the end of this stage of the journey.


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TAM Tramway from La Mescla to Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée – Revisited (Chemins de Fer de Provence 67)

I first looked at this tramway in 2013. It was only a short blog recognising the existence of the line in the valley.

This line was 26.5 Km long and connected villages in the Tinée valley to Nice to Digne line. Like other lines of the Tramways Alpes Maritimes (TAM), the electric current was single phase. The civil engineering works (bridges, tunnels) were executed by the Department.

The line was built in 1911 and operation started on 1st April 1912. Landslides affected the operation of the line in the early months. The original opening was delayed from January to April because of landslides and on 2nd April a further landslide affected several hundred metres of track and destroyed power lines.

The line operated until July 1931.

The line left the Nice to Digne line at Pont de la Mescla. The junction station was south of the confluence of the two rivers. La Tinee Station is featured in a previous blog, … Tinee Railway Station.

Trams left La Tinee Station and travelled along the Nice to Digne line into Les Gorges de la Mescla and their route along the a River Var is covered in detail in the blog above. Trams passed through the halt at La Mescla and then crossed the River Var on a new bridge built for the tramway.A modern view of the tramway bridge taken from upstream on the banks of the River Var. [1]The tramway left the mainline and curved tightly onto the concrete arch bridge built for it in the early 20th century. It replaced an earlier suspension bridge which would not have been able to carry the loads imposed by the trams. [2]

A view taken from upstream on the West bank of the River Var, © Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region – General inventory [3]Once across the bridge, the tramway hugged the western side of the valley of La Tinee. On the adjacent image, the formation of the line is visible at the base of the rock outcrop. The line continued on the west side of the valley with the road on the east side for around 500 metres. The formation of the tramway is easily visible along that length of the river/road on the far bank. The images below are taken from Google Streetview and show first the tramway formation (indicated by the line of vegetation) on the West bank of the Gorge, then the old road bridge (taken from the new bridge).

There are some very interesting structures built into the rock of the valley walls at this point. The picture of the old road bridge includes pictures of structures on the East side of yhe valley and the follwing image shows those to be found on the West side of the valley above the road. The structures are known as Les Chuise de Bauma Negra.

The Chuise de Bauma Negra belongs to the system for controlling the gorges that lead to Nice within the Séré de Rivières’ system. [4] 

The fortification was constructed between 1884 and 1887 to block the way to Nice from la Tinée. The Chuise is situated at the narrowest point of the valley, in the Mescla gorges, just before the confluence with the Var. Its design is identical to that of the Chuise de Saint-Jean-de-la-Rivière. It is a fort built into a dam.


The limestone valley of La Roya was and is a communications route that has been controlled in turn by the Sardinians, the Spanish, the Austrians and the French. The southern part was incorporated into France in 1860 during the reintegration of the county of Nice. Control of this border region allowed the regulation of Italian activity. In this respect, the fort (Chuise de Bauma Negra) provided support for the Fort du Pic Charvet. It is built on the right bank of the gorge, on the edge of the road. It combines concrete parts with a two-storey façade in stone cut into the cliff. The structure comprises two floors next to the road. It has openings for 40 and 120 mm canons. Underground galleries lead to the gun shelters and firing posts that in turn lead on to the main road. Two rolling bridges, which could be moved from inside the fort, allowed the road to be cut off. It could house between 30 and 60 men. There was no separation between the stores and billets. On the left bank of the gorge, the engineer had planned to install mortars to catch the enemy in crossfire. [4][5]North of the Chuise de Bauma Negra, the tramway shares its formation with the M2205 road and runs through La Courbaisse and on towards La Tour. It passes a large quarry at La Courbaisse which dominates the satellite image below.Typical or the road/tramway route north of La Courbaisse.Before reaching La Tour the gorge closes in once again.

The road/river/tramway turn westward and immediately before reaching the Station of La Tour the road/tramway cross to the North side of the river. In the satellite image below the station building is on the left, the road accessing the village of La Tour leaves the main road just to the left og the bridge which is on the right of the photograph.The old road/tramway bridge has been superseded by a modern structure.The station building at La Tour still bears its station-board. It is 4 kilometres from the village of the same name which sits above the valley to the North.Second World War gun emplacement to the west of the station at La Tour.

The next stop on the line was the halt for Tournefort [2] (a village high above the river to the South). There is an old arched bridge across the river at the approximate location of the halt and an old barn that might have been used for storage of goods close to the tramway. Any other evidence of the halt appears to have been lost.Marc Andre Dubout records this building as being the Station at Roussillon. [2] It is at the bottom of the road which leads to the higher parts of the village but some distance to the West of the village in the valley.

Roussillon was the next stop on the line, followed by Pont de Clans.Three bridges at Pont de Clans. The roadway now uses what was the alignment of the tramway.In the image above [2] the tramway uses the middle bridge. It avoids the sharp turn of the road that we see at the rear of the picture and is of the same construction as the road bridge (in the foreground) which crosses La Tinée and leads to the hillside beyond. in the two images below the tramway bridge is shown first in the foreground with the old road bridge behind and then on the right with the road bridge which provides access across La Tinee, centre-left. In this aerial image the tramway alignment it shown as a pink line. [2]Sadly, the old tramway bridge was not able to support modern highway loading and has been replaced by a far more functional structure. The same is not true of the bridge which provides access across La Tinee (see below). The station building can be found just round the bend travelling north from the bridges. It bears the station name-board.North of Pont de Clans the road/tramway remain on the East bank of the river. The next stop is the halt for Bancairon which is a little to the north of the present village. Soon after the Station (below) the modern road runs on a viaduct down the middle of the gorge with the river beneath, and at the end of the viaduct it ends up on the West bank of the river.The old road (and so also the tramway) remains on the East bank of the river. [6]

The old road/tram route continued on the East side of the river and was eventually joined once again by the modern M2205. Just before the modern road crosses back over the river the old road/tramway was carried over the Vallon d’Ullion on a viaduct.

The point where the old road and tramway meet the new M2205 is shown in the first image below. North of this point the tramway encountered its next stop at Marie. The station is at the bottom of the side-road leading to the village of Marie.

The village sits high above the valley floor on the East side of the River.

The station is shown in the satellite image below in the top left corner, the village is in the right bottom corner.

Just as for the village of La Tour, the climb to the village of Marie along the M58 road is steep and long.

The 1:50000 plan from the 1950s and the most up-to-date IGN plan show the road clearly below. [7] In the case of both villages it required some stamina to return home after being dropped off by the tram.

North of Marie the tramway continued on the East side of the valley all the way to St. Sauveur sur Tinee. Very occasionally the modern road and the oldroad/tramway followed a different course – as here just south of La Bolinette.And when crossing the Valley of the Bramafan River.The tramway required three tunnels within less than one kilometre at Les Fours (Rimplas).

In all three pictures immediately above the tunnels are of an asymmetrical shape. The additional height on one side allowed space for the catenary and its support poles.

Continuing north along the valley the tramway closes in on Saint Sauveur sur Tinee. Marc Andre Dubout says that the station was located at the southern entrance to the village. [2]Dubout goes on to say that the passenger building was demolished to make way for the building in the above photograph. The locomotive shed was located on the right just before the present building above. He provides the picture below which is taken in almost the same location as the one above, in fact just a few metres closer to the village centre. It is taken after tracks have been lifted but before the removal of the station building

The postcard image above is similar to one offered by Dubout but with less of a postage stamp obscuring part of the image. This picture was taken a few steps further into the village but this time with the tramway in place. Dubout suggests that we should note the width of the rolling stock – 1.90 metre was the loading gauge width. [2][8]Dubout also provides a sketch map of the station and details of the timetable for the line. [2]


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TAM Tramway in the Valley of the River Esteron – Revisited (Chemins de Fer de Provence 66)

I first looked at this tramway in 2013. It was only a short blog recognising the existence of the line to Roquesteron: map of the Esteron Valley tram route can be found on Marc Andre Dubout’s Website. [1]

Marc Andre Dubout comments: “The declaration of public utility dates from February 10, 1906 and the commissioning takes place seventeen years later, July 29, 1923. The commissioning of the line was delayed by landslides occurring on the line of Daluis which have monopolized the teams of roadmenders. … One month after the opening, an accident due to a braking problem interrupted the operation from November to December 15, 1924, barely a year after it was put into operation. The inauguration took place on July 24, 1924 in great pomp with MM. the prefect, mayors of the communes crossed, and of course banquet, Marseillaise, etc.”

The line departed from the Nice to Digne mainline at the station for the Charles Albert Bridge.The Charles-Albert Bridge station at the time of the Estéron line. [1]The modern day halt. [1]Before the tramway was constructed the Charles Albert Bridge was a suspension bridge (built by Marc Seguin in the mid-19th Century) [2] but this bridge was not designed to accommodate tramway loading. In 1913 it was rebuilt to accommodate the trams, just as was necessary with the Pont de la Mescla on the Tinée tramway. The replacement structure had six spans of over 30 metres in concrete built by the company Thorrand. In the foreground of the image immediately below, there is the Pont-Charles Albert stop and the lime kilns at La Lauziere overseen by the perched village of La Roquette sur Var, © Yann Duvivier. [6] This ‘new’ bridge was replaced in the mid-20th Century by the one which is in use today. The bridge as it is in the early 21st Century is shown on the three images immediately above. [3][4]The west end of the present bridgebridge (above), recovered from Google Streetview.

Leaving the end of the Charles Albert Bridge the tramway turned right and began to climb the Route de Gilette (M17), first, in a northerly direction and then, after a hairpin bend, in a southerly direction. That southerly direction was only maintained for a short distance (about 1.5 kilometres) as the M17 approached another hairpin bend and then returned to a northerly course.

After about 2 kilometres a further hairpin bend led to the tramway and road returning to a southerly direction for over a kilometre. A branch-line struck off from this hairpin to provide a service to Bonson. A further bend led to the road and tramway travelling in a north-westerly direction. The excerpts from Google Maps illustrate the route.We can also follow the route of the tramway on Google Earth, as immediately below, and on the website [5] in the following image.There is a discrepancy between the two lines (pink and red) shown above, at the eastern end. I can find no evidence to support the wide-sweeping approach by the tramway to the Charles Albert Bridge as suggested in the Google Earth image above. The tramway at other locations on the network could manage some very tight curves. There is evidence of this at Le Pont de la Mescla. The railway station in the photograph of the bridge which was built for the tramway in 1913, is close to the bridge. This mitigates against the tramway joining the main line further south after crossing the main line.

Carrying on with our journey, we have seen that the tramway gained height along with the M17 by running through a series of hairpin bends so as to keep the gradient reasonable. At ‘la Senegoge’ there was a junction. A branch-line went north to Bonson (blue arrows, below) and the mainline continued to Roquesteron (red arrows, below). [5]Before continuing towards Roquesteron, we will check out the branch-line to Bonson. Sadly I have not yet been able to find any images along the route to Bonson which are contemporary to the tramway. We will have to be satisfied with images from Google street view in 2017 which show a wide metalled road in place of what would have been a narrow un-metalled carriageway not much wider than the loading-gauge of the trams. The tram loading gauge was 1.9 metres and the road width would have been no more than 3.3 metres if not less.Initially the road/tramway travelled northwest from La Senegoge approximately following the contours of the hillside, before turning tightly to the east in the Vallons du Baus de Lunel. The road/tramway climbed through La Salles and turned north. The approximate line of the route is marked in pink on the satellite image below.North of La Salles the road/tramway continued following the contours through olive groves towards Bonson.The route enters the satellite image above at the third point on the left side at the bottom, and travels through this olive groves to Bonson, the village in the top flight of the photograph and the terminus of the tramway branch-line. [6][7][8]We now return to ‘la Senegoge’ and resume our journey up the valley of the Esteron River. As we have already seen the road/tramway travelled south from ‘la Senegoge’ before turning sharply to the northwest and heading for the village of Gilette high on the slopes above l’Esteron and visible on the left side of the picture immediately below. [9]The village of Gillette sits in a craggy location above the River Esteron. Two features are highlighted here. The blue circle marks the location of a bridge over the road/tramway in the pictures immediately below. The red circle is the location of the tramway station. [5]The bridge from the North, Google Street view.Gillette tramway station.Gilette is a small village sited approximately 480 metres above sea-level. In 1999, its population was 1,252 which increased to 1,449 in 2007. [10]

Heading on from Gillette, the road/tramway followed the contours above l’Esteron, through the forested slopes on the north side of the valley.The route circumnavigated the side valley of Le Latti. The route is shown in blue above entering the satellite image from Gilette on the right.The route continues to follow the contours through the forests on the north side of l’Esteron. There is a very short tunnel on the route close to the top right of the above image, its location is shown below. [5], and in images immediately below the map, first from the East and then from the West.It is very likely that the tramway followed the track on the outside of the bluff.

The next point of interest on the rout is the halt at Colle Belle which is identified on the map below by a red circle.The small station building of Colle Belle, the name-plate is still visible on the face of the building. [5]

Before leaving Colle Belle, it is worth noting a significant accident which occured here in November 1924, soon after the line was finally opened. The headline is shown below and a translation of the article is provided in the references below, courtesy of Marc Andrea Dubout. [12]At Ciavarlina, the tramway passed through a steeply side cutting which inevitably has been widened to accommodate the modern road.

It then passed under the D117 at Vescous in another short tunnel, marked with a black circle on the adjacent plan, [5] before winding its way into what was the station. The old station building is circled in red on the adjacent plan. It is now a restaurant.

The tunnel portals are shown in the next couple of pictures which are followed by a picture of the old station building.The old station building at Vescous (above) still bears the station name-board but it is now a restaurant. [11]

The next stop on the line was le Villars (sometimes spoken of as the halt serving Pierrefeu). The station building is circled in red on the adjacent map. It was much smaller than the station building at Vescous which probably suggests the the stop was of lesser importance at the time the tramway was built.After le Villars, the line continued to share its formation with the road. The route is shown on the satellite image below.  It is the lowest blue line in the photograph, running southwest from le Villars before turning east and the following the contours around the valley of Le Riou.The present bridge over Le Riou, the image is taken from Google Streetview.

The road/tramway is seen leaving the satellite image above heading in a southerly direction. Very soon, it turns to the west and runs parallel to the River Esteron which can be seen at the bottom of the satellite images below. The blue line continues to show the alignment of the road/tramway.The valley is heavily forested at this point and the image above is typical of the next few kilometres of the route. The road/tramway follows the contours on the north side of  l’Esteron Valley, crossing a series of different culverted run-off water courses from the hills above. The images below show the locations of the culverts provided for the Ravin de Vuefort and Ravin de Caine which are typical of a number along the route.The next station on the tramway was at Le Ranc. The location of the station building is circled in red on the adjacent map.

The building design closely mirrors that at Le Villars. The location od the station name-board can be picked out on the elevation of the building which once faced the tramway.We are closing in on the end of the line – just a few more kilometres to go. The map below shows the remaining 3 to 4 kilometres of the line. Le Ranc appears in the bottom right and Roquesteron in the top left.A little before Roquesteron the tramway crossed a more substantial viaduct over La Villette. Now-a-days the road divides as the viaduct was only constructed for the width of a single vehicle. The adjacent pictures show the viaduct. [5]

Another couple of kilometres and the tramway reached Roquesteron, both road/tramway and river turned north into the village.Before entering the village proper, the tramway/road crossed Le Riou a tributary  of l’Esteron. A popular local name for a watercourse! Teh bridge can be seen above and on the right of the map below.The tramway entered the village on what is now called Boulevard George Salvago. The terminus was adjacent to the Post Office and the depot was almost nextdoor. The image below shows the arrival of the first tram in Roquesteron when the line was first opened.And finally … the timetable ….. [1]















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  12., accessed on 20th December 2013. Source: … The accident referred to in the text was reported in Le Petit Niçois , it occurred on 2nd November 1924. The article was written in french and the following text is a paraphrase translation of the text:After the accident the three cars in the consist rolled over on the road. The power car was resting against electricty poles; the second car lay across the road; the last car, whose fasteners broke, faced in the opposite direction.
    A little more than a month ago, on 20th September 1924, the officials of our Department inaugurated the tram line going from Charles Albert Bridge to Roquestéron via Gilette. Yesterday, a very serious accident halted all traffic on the line which since its inauguration has been well-received by the populations of the villages and hamlets along the route. This accident, although serious – as we shall see later – has caused the death of no one and we hope that all four of the injured can be saved.
    Curiously, exactly one year and one day a similar accident occured on the Villeneuve-Loubet line, and as in yesterday’s incident, only employees on that train were injured.Yesterday morning at 6:25, a train consisting of two power cars and a freight car left Charles Albert Bridge for Roquesteron. Many travellers had taken their places in the first two cars. The freight car was carrying 6 tons of wooden sleepers. Most of the travellers left the tram at Gilette,  only six or seven travellers continued up the line.
    Among them were Mr. and Mrs. Jules Aubert, residing in Nice, 19 rue d’Alsace-Lorraine, Mr. Pleinera, Administrative Officer of the Chiefdom of Engineering in Nice, MA Bonhomme, residing in Grasse, Benaud district, Mr. Marius Farau As a farmer, he went to Pierrefeu and the other travelers went to Roquesteron, as well as M Désiré Jauffrel, a railway driver from South France who was on leave.
    The wattman of the train, Mr Adolphe Faissole, 30 years old living in Roquesteron, the driver, Mr Marius Fredy, 52 years old retired from the Arsenal Toulon living in Roquesteron, with his wife having also taken place on a car, M Honoré Saurin, 26 years old, single living in Gilette, brigadier, poseur of the company.
    At the Collebelle stop, another employee of the departmental trams joined the tram, Mr. François Bruni, 34 years old, married and father of a charming baby only 14 days old.
    About 400 metres from the Collebelle stop – 4.86 kilometres from Gilette  at 9.35am the accident occurred. In what circumstances exactly? This is what has not yet been established, the wounded could not be questioned being all employees of the Company and the only ones who would have been able to provide an answer. 
    However, according to the people we spoke to at the scene of the accident and the condition of the cars overturned, here is what we presume:

    Leaving Collebelle, the road has a fairly steep descent turns to the right at about 400 metres. Approaching the curve, the wattman began to put the brakes but the train failed to slow sufficiently. When his car left the rails and hit  two of the catenary supports, the wattman jumped out of the car by the door and rolled on the road.
    The first engine, left the rails, and was thrown to the side of the road. The next car tipped over onto its right side, completely obstructing the road. The coach of rail sleepers was overturned to the left.
    Our picture, shows the position of the three cars after the accident and their position is explained by the following findings: The brakes of the first motor did not work; those of the second, on the other hand, were tightly packed and those of the freight car had not been connected to the engines and could not be used.

    That most of the travellers escaped almost unscathed and that there have only been four seriously wounded,  is almost incredible given the state of the cars on the road. But it is fortunately so!  When the cars were overthrown, the able occupants helped the wounded who were the employees of the Company Fred Bruini, Saurin and Faissole. The Brigadier of Gendarmerie Barandon, the Gendarme Dubeau, Mr. Brezès, judge of Peace of Roquesteron, then arrived and undertook their respective investigations.
    An ambulance was requested from Nice and immediately arrived. After around 14 hours it went back carrying the four wounded to the Hospital Saint Roch, it was from Les Ambulances Automobiles of the Côte d’Azur , 1 place Gambetta. Meanwhile, first aid was given to them by Gilette’s doctor. In the meantime all the traffic was naturally interrupted on the line, a bus of the service of the Upper Valley came from Roquestéron to collect travellers going in this commune.

    By 2.15pm, MM. Couturier, Inspector of Compagnie du Sud-France, Talent, Inspector of Traction, Fouquet Inspector of the Way arrived to begin their investigation. At 3:35 pm, MM. Israel and Lotier, Engineers of the Control of Roads and Bridges and Mr. Capiello, Wattman Chief of South-France also arrived. According to the findings of MM. Israel and Lotier, the wattman was no longer in control of the tram about 800 metres before the scene of the accident. On the other hand, it would be the driver who was in the second car who should have applied the brakes to this car, seeing the danger. These gentlemen will be returning to the scene today with the Chief Engineer of Alpes Maritimes to complete the investigation.

    The wounded were received at the Saint Roch Hospital by Mr. Gasigila, an intern who provided them with the most enlightened care. Their diagnosis is as follows:
    – François Brun, open fracture of the left leg
    – Honoré Saurin, slight bruises all over his body
    – Marius Frédy minor bruises to the head and kidneys
    – the most seriously affected is the Faissole wattman who has received a strong concussion.
    We wish them the most sincere wishes for their recovery.

    All traffic on the line of departmental trams Pont Charles Albert-Roquestéron suspended for a few days. It may be possible before the complete reopening of the line in operation, to ensure aservice to and from Gilette. The road, as we said above, is completely obstructed by the second power car. After the accident, no vehicular access along the highway was possible. As we leave, a team of diggers arrived to open a passage in the embankment on the right side of the road because we can not touch the cars until the official investigations are completed. However, a night and day will be, at least, necessary for this work.

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 4 – Plan du Var to La Mescla (Chemins de Fer de Provence 65)

After a detour to look at the metre-gauge TAM tramway from Plan du Var to St. Martin Vesubie we continue along the main line toward Digne. We board the train once again and head North from Plan du Var.Travelling in the other direction, this Soulé/Garnéro two car unit is on the 14.25pm  Digne les Bains to Nice Sud on 6th July 2004. [1]

North of the Station the line crosses the River Vesubie and continues on the east side of the River Var towards Chaudan, about 2 kilometres north of Plan du Var..Looking back to Plan du Var across the valley of the River Vesubie. [2]Road and Rail bridges over the River Vesubie [3]Chaudan village in 2010. [3]The halt at Le Chaudan is between the two roads on the East side of the Var. [4]

Some close-up shots of the station are shown below. The view from the Station platform is beautiful in both directions. The platform is provided with a small shelter and there are no other facilities at the station.

This picture is taken on the platform at Le Chaudan in 2010. [3]The view north from Le Chaudan Station. [3]The next stop on the line is La Tinée Arrêt. This station is also sited between the two parts of the Route de Grenoble but there is a passing loop provided which allows trains to cross at this point on the line.  The approach to the station is shown in the image above. [3]

28 kilometres from Nice, the Station was opened in 1892 and was the provisional terminus of the line from Nice during the construction towards Digne.

La Tinée was also the starting point of the electric Tramway service operated by the TAM, heading up to Saint Sauveur sur Tinée. The trams shared the line as far as Mescla. The line to Saint Sauveur sur Tinée operated for just 19 years much as the route to St. Martin Vesubie. It was opened in 1912 and closed in 1931

La Tinée is the name of the tributary of the Var whose confluence is a little further north.The station buildings are large. The image above shows the station from the roadside looking north. [5]. A water tank was provided as were significant goods handling facilities. The following pictures document the state of the station in 2010 and are to be found on the website. [3]Arriving at the Station from the South in 2010.An early postcard showing La Tinee Railway Station.

La Tinee Station, boarded up in 2010.An obstructed view back towards Nice.Three locomotives were recovered from Les Réseaux Métriques du Massif Central. BB401 was one of these. According to Jose Banuado (Le Train des Pignes) BB401 joined the Chemins de Fer de Provence in 1971. It was built in Marne by Les Ateliers C.F.D. de Montmirail.The water-tower was north of the main buildings of the station.After La Tinee, the railway continued North into Les Gorges de la Mescla.The railway line hugs the East bank of the Var for about a further 2 kilometres until it reaches another halt – Le Reveston (Arrêt). [3] On the way it is protected at points from likely rock falls by some interestign structure and also passes through one tunnel – Tunnel de Barre du Pin.Tunnel de Barre du Pin is 84 metres long. The south portal is shown in the adjacent image, the railway tunnel runs below the old road tunnel. The North portal is shown below. [6]

This early postcard image shows the tunnel and the old road. The old road curved round the rock outcrop above the tunnel. [6]Very slightly downstream of the Tunnel de Barre du Pin tunnel, the railway passes under concrete structures (casquettes) which are not strictly galleries but which protect the line from rock falls. [6]

At Le Reveston  the railway passes through the halt and then crosses the River Var on a steel truss girder. It approaches Le Reveston tightly sandwiched between the two arms of the Route de Grenoble. The Google Streetview image immediately below shows this clearly.

The line the curves round following the old road through the halt and across the Var on the steel truss bridge.The tunnel beyond the bridge is just visible in the shot above and shows up better in the image immediately below.There is a public footpath on this side of the truss bridge and a maintenance pathway on the other side which provides access to the building beyond. That building, which is visible in some of these shots, is a power station and is shown in monochrome below. [3]At the beginning of the plant’s operation in 1900, there was no pedestrian bridge or other access to the plant. Conflicts arose when plant operators crossed the bridge over the railway tracks to reach their workplace. It took over ten years (until 1912) for the wisdom of a pedestrian access being provided to prevail in the minds of those in power.The bridge will be added in 1912, after ten years of vain quarrels.

In 1953, a short stub line was provided (35 metres long) to provide access from the railway to the plant. There was a point installed at this time which eventually was removed in 1998. [3]

The first electrical plant in the Alpes Maritimes, it was set up under the direction of Alexandre Durandy in 1896 to generate electricity for the tramways. It delivered about 2000 horsepower (1.5 MW) in three-phase current of 10,000 volts 25Hz transmitted to the Sainte-Agathe plant of the TNL. The power-station was rebuilt in the 1950s and takes water from further up the valley of the Var. The turbine house is visible in the monochrome image above. The water supply by pipe and gallery comes from some distance further up the river valley.

The Tunnel de Mescla South portal is visible in the pictures of the truss-girder bridge above. The tunnel is 934 metres long. [10]The North portal is now-a-days smothered by the modern road network as is the Station of La Mescla. The present station building is disused but it sits on the site of one built in 1904 to replace another station some 500 metres further upstream. The original station building of 1904 can be seen on the postcard image immediately below.The 1904 La Mescla Station with the tramway bridge visible in the distance. The image comes from the mid to late 1920s. [7] It is just possible, in this image, to pick out the tramway branching from the Nice to Digne main line before the concrete bridge is reached. This building replaced an earlier station some distance north of this point.

The Station at La Mescla was immediately adjacent to the confluence of the two rivers – the Var and the Tinee as demonstrated in the title provided by the photographer of the postcard image below.The next few images focus on the tramway bridge and its predecessor. [3][4]The bow-string concrete arch bridge was not the first bridge at this location. The original suspension bridge was not designed to carry the loads which would have been placed on it by the trams. It was built in 1883 to provide better access to the Tinee Valley, and was removed in 1909. [11] The tramway turned sharply onto the concrete arch bridge which was built in 1909. [9] It replaced the earlier suspension bridge. The adjacent photograph shows the bridge in excellent light. It was a graceful structure. [13]The view of the old bridge from the South s now obscured bt the much newer road bridge across the Var. [8]

It may be helpful here to reflect on the early history of road building in the hinterland behind Nice as that history goes some way to explaining the route chosen for the railway in later years.

A route north from Nice was first promulgated via Levens and indeed the road to Levens was built in the mid-1850s. The Valley of the Var being notorious for flooding an the erosion of the river banks. However, consideration was then given to containing the river not only to prevent flooding and its economic effects but also to address health issues including the malarial marshes near the coast. [12]

The construction of a dike along the Var, from its mouth to Baus-Roux over a length of over 23 kilometres, also allowed the construction of a road accessible to motor vehicles. This new road became the main access to the valleys of Estéron, Vésubie, Var and Tinée. It became indispensable.

Construction of this new road was easy. It was based on a flat stable surface and provided for an excellent road on long straights and broad curves. The climb alongside the river was gradual and the land gained by retaining the river created space for future widening of the road an other transport projects. [12]

As early as 18th August 1860, an imperial decree was promulgated, declaring the public utility  of the works to contain the Var. The French State carried the full cost of the work and the length from the coast to Baus-Roux was finished quickly (by 1869).

The new road was given the designation IR205 (Imperial Road No. 205) and ran from the coast up the Var and into the Gorge at Le Chaudan. It ran through the Gorge, exiting at La Mescla and then followed the valley of the River Tinée to Saint-Etienne a dn over the pass to the Valley of Haute Ubaye and then on to Barcelonnette. The link to Barcelonnette was perceived to be of great strategic importance.

The image below is a hand-drawn map of the road network in the immediate area north of Nice and the valleys of the hinterland.

However, the proximity of the border, coupled with an ever-increasing deterioration of Franco-Italian relations from 1881, lead the military authorities to oppose the extension of the road to Barcelonnette. This situation immediately benefited the Var valley and more particularly the Haut-Var, since a route further west to reach Barcelonnette was now required and the route along the Var was ideal. [12]

It is natural, therefore, that the thinking of engineers planning the new metre-gauge railway should think first of the Valley of the River Var.

The route of the railway north and west of La Mescla will be the subject of a separate post, as will the tramway in the Tinee Valley.


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TAM Tramway from Plan du Var to St. Martin Vesubie – Revisited (Chemins de Fer de Provence 64)

Back in 2013, I wrote a short blog about the line from Plan du Var to St. Martin-Vesubie:

Many of the images in that post were culled from a blog by Marc Andre Debout. [1] It feels appropriate that I should revisit my blog and update it. I have discovered significantly more about the route and I’d like to complete a detailed survey of the route.

An interesting survey of the line was undertaken for the French website “” (written in French) [2] which I have drawn on, along with the things, in producing this post.

The “Brissonneau” heads, a freight train in La Vésubie station. Bernard Rozé Collection – published by BVA, April 1956. [4] This will have been taken after the closure of the tramway (1929).Also taken at Plan du Var, this could only be a train off the tramway during the first year of its life 1909 to 1910. It is more likely to be a Digne to Nice train. [4]

Tramway services left Plan du Var Station travelling North and diverged from the Nice to Digne line before reaching the Vesubie River. The images below are old postcards of the location of the junction and show the development of the site over a number of years. Initially an stone arch bridge took the road over the Vesubie, but when this failed is was replaced by the concrete arch bridge visible in some of the pictures.

The first picture shows the location prior to the construction of a number of buildings to the North of the confluence. The second still has the old arch bridge and includes those buildings. The third shows both the tramway and the new bridge. The fourth encompasses both bridge and junction but it is [possible that the tramway peters out when it reaches the tarmac of the road over the Pont Durandy. If that is the case, then the fourth photograph was probably taken after the closure of the tramway in 1929.Taken from the railway in the 21st Century. This picture shows the truss girdr bridge over the Vesubie on the Nice Digne Line and the road bridge (Concrete Arch) behind the vegetation.The two pictures immediately above were found for sale on the website in 2018. [5]The 1955 1:50,000 IGN map shows a track which was once the tramway along the Vesubie River Valley commencing at the road bridge, Pont Durandy, and running under the ’43’ (on the map) before turning North to cross the river and join the roadway up the valley. [3]The plan above shows the road route into the Vesubie Valley marked with the green arrow the blue dotted line is that of the old tramway. The tram line crossed the road just before the Vésubie bridge. She went up this last about 400m before crossing it in turn on a bridge that has now disappeared. [2] The image below shows the location of the tramway formation as it can be seen in the early 21st Century. [2]After traveling for around 400m on the South side of the Vesubie River the tramway crossed to the North side and joined the road at the point shown on the image above.

The General Council of the department decided to construct of three lines in the area on 10th February 1906. They were The Plan-du-Var – Saint-Martin-Vésubie line for the Vésubie valley and, for the Tinée valley, the “La-Tinée” line – Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée. These two lines were given to the TAM (Tramways of the Alpes-Maritimes) to manage [6] . The third line was the Nice – Levens line, allocated to the TNL (Trams of Nice and Littoral). [7]

Within just a few weeks of the establishment of a Municipal Council for St. Martin-Vesubie (1908) a campaign was inaugurated to see modifications to the proposed tram service to the town/village which included revisions to the planned station location and layout. The budget for the station site was originally 6,000 francs. The revised and agreed scheme amounted to 10,000 francs.

Considered a priority, the Vésubie line was commissioned in 1909. Construction took place, during that year and the line opened on 1st September 1909. However, electric powered tramcars were not delivered in time for the opening and for approximately one year steam engines were in use on the line. Electric trams finally entered service in 1910.

The trams allowed both good s and passengers to be transported quickly: the cans of milk from the pastures were delivered directly to the centre of Nice and other perishable items also reached buyers much more quickly.

In translating French to English in my last post on this line, I managed to misconstrue the history of the line. In that post I said that the line did not reach St. Martin Vesubie until 1928 and Roquebillière in 1926. What I should have understood at the time was that there was an interruption in the service betwen 1926 and 1928. A huge landslide that buried the village of Roquebillière also covered roads and railways. 24th November 1926, date of the tragedy, was engraved in local memories. As a result, the saints-martinois had to take a bus to complete their journey until the trams were again allowed to cross the landslide in September 1928. This transhipment promoted the use of coaches instead of trams and as a result it was decided to close the line in 1929. Tram transport was, by then considered archaic in the face of competition from the automobile.

Positive decisions in favour of the tramway were regularly made within the local communes and the tramway was seen positively until the advent of the Great War. However, the last action by the Municipal Council relating to the line was the refusal of an increase in tariffs on the line because of the increased competition from buses and lorries It seems that the demise of the tramway was already anticipated, long before the Roquebillière disaster provided what was ultimately the fatal blow to the line.

I came across the adjacent image of a Nice-St. Martin bus, while researching the route on the internet. I cannot remember where I found it. It is perhaps easy to see that the newer and more reliable buses provided very strong competition for the trams.

Once the tramway crossed to the north side of the Vesubie close to Plan du Var, it followed the road perched above the river [10] for some distance. There was a short tunnel through which the old road passed in the 1950s which was probably in existence at the time of the tramway.

The road leading to that tunnel (and the route of the old tramway) can be seen below diverging from the newer road and tunnel. [11] The image is taken from Google Streetview. A similar image shows the old road/tramway formation, close to the River Vesubie, returning to join the newer road/tunnel on the north side of the rock outcrop. After the tunnel the formation/road passes through La Madone (La Cros d’Utelle) still following what is the northwest bank of the river.A typical early postcard view of the road alongside the River Vesubie before the tramway was constructed. [8]A typical scene on the road up the Vesubie Gorge. This picture was taken in February 2017. The road was closed to allow the landslide to be removed and the site secured. [9]The station building next to the river at La Cros d’Utelle (La Madone). [1]

From La Madone (La Cros D’Utelle), the tramway continued along the West bank of the Vesubie and through a short (20 metre) rough-hewn tunnel which is shown in the map below and in the two images which immediately follow the map. [11]The pictures immediately above show typical scenes along the route of the tramway formation which is now hidden under the M2565 road through the Vesubie Gorge. The first picture is from Google Streetview and shows a narrow private footbridge providing access to a steep footpath on the East bank of the river. The second shows a tunnel and almost hidden a bridge supporting the road over the river. The third photograph shows the entrance to the tunnel (Tunnel de Pagary Longeur) which is located on the map below. [11]

Interestingly, the TAM lines were equipped with a single-phase electrical supply of 6600 Volts, 25 Hertz. The catenary was suspended from wooden posts or cliff walls by metal brackets. Th electric traction units worked throughout the life of the tramway (approximately 20 years) although some improved units were provided in 1920 on the line of Vésubie. In 1911, four to five round trips of trams were scheduled each day. But by 1914, because of the war, there were only two daily movements until the line was closed in 1929. [7]

North of the tunnel the gorge narrowed significantly and hemned in the tramway. The adjacent photograph gives an idea of just how narrow the gorge cut by the Vesubie is/was at this point. As the gorge widens out again the tramway took the opportunity to cross the Vesubie onto its eastern bank by means of a very graceful arch bridge.

In the image below, Google Streetview has allowed me to pick out the bridge through the local vegetation. That photo is then followed by an older postcard picture of the bridge [1] – the first Pont de St-Jean-la-Riviere. There is a later bridge built immediately adjacent to the village which took a road over to the Westbank and up to Utelle.The bridge in the two images above is shown at the bottom left of the IGN map above, close t toe Colombier. The second, newer bridge is immediately adjacent to the village of St-Jean-la-Riviere where the M32 leaves the M2565/M19. The newer bridge is shown below. [12] Between these two bridges the tramway followed the West bank of the Vesubie while the main road took to the East bank. [2]The station at St. Jean la Riviere on the south-west side of the river, circled in red on the map below. It is now the town hall! [1][2]From the new bridge, the line travelled up the East bank of the Vesubie northwards out of the village of St. Jean la Riviere. In a couple of kilometres, the tramway crossed back to the west bank of the river by means of the bridge below. Within 300 metres, the Tarmway returned to the East bank by means of the structure show below.The tramway and road then travelled in an easterly direction towards Le Suquet.

Close to Le Suquet, the Gorge opens out and the tramway formation/road drift away from the River Vesubie before turning northwards to cross the river once again. Then for a time the tramway and road kept their distance from the river.The station building at Le Suquet [1] is shown on the adjacent plan circled in red. The bridge in the postcard above is circled in blue. [2]

North of Le Suquet, a new tunnel takes the M2565 on a straighter course than the old road/tramway took. The older route can be seen on the right-hand side of the picture below.. The northern portal of the new tunnel can be seen in the second picture below with the old road (and so the tramway formation) joining the newer road from the left.The tramway route remains on the West side of the valley through Le Fourcat and on towards Lantosque. Tram-travellers faced none of the confusion of modern drivers about which route to take. The trams just followed their tracks which took the higher route alongside the retaining wall in the picture below and then passed through a tunnel at St. Claire.The tunnel was just 28 metres in length. [11] The first image below shows the South-West Portal  and the tramway, the second shows the same view but from the 21st Century and the third picture shows the North-East portal. The second and third images come from Google Streetview. The tunnel is rough-hewn from the rock. The first is an old postcard view. [13]The two postcards immediately above show the tramway following what is now the M173 but was in those days a separate route from the road. [1]

Trams approached Lantosque along the line of what is now the M173. The bridge shown in the image below was not crossed by the trams. It carries a road over the Riou de Lantosque.The trams followed what is now the M173 round to the left in the above image and then round a relatively tight bend into the centre of Lantosque. [14][15]In the light of the fact that the train on the viaduct is steam hauled we can date this image to the period from September 1909 to November 2010 when all trains were steam-hauled as the electric traction had still to arrive from the manufacturer. [16]The 5 images immediately above all show the same viaduct North of Lantosque and close to La Bollene-Vesubie. The bridge was built for the tramway and also provided road access across the Vesubie River. All the images are old postcards. The bridge is not easy to photograph in the 21st Century because of the growth of vegetation in the river valley.

North of the Viaduct the Vesubie Valley opens out further. The tramway took the east side of the valley heading for the old village of Roquebilliere. The next station was provided for the village of La Bollene Vesubie, although it was in the valley 5 kilometres from the village which couldm only be accessed via a mountain road. The station location can eb seen below on a Google Streetview image and then below that in a picture and map from [2]North of the Viaduct the Vesubie Valley opens out further. The tramway took the east side of the valley heading for the old village of Roquebilliere. On the approach to what is now the old village there was a very significant landslide in 1926 which took away a significant number of houses.

There are pictures and a video below (after the pictures of the village as it was before 1926) which show the extent of the damage caused. 19 people were lost in the rubble of the landslide and attempts to rescue them or recover their bodies seemed likely to result in further movement of the hillside. Collapse of the village of Belvedere above the slip remained a very real possibility.

The original slip occurred on 24th November, continuing rains meant that one 30th November the hillside started to move again. Movement  over two days amounted to about 10 metres over a width of between 60 and 200 metres. The buildings in its path could not resist this and by 1st December 1926, a further 10 buildings had collapsed. Fortunately, by the end of December, with frost, the earth was harder, and stabilized. [22]The 7 images immediately above show the tramway in the village of Roquebilliere in advance of the tragedy which struck the village in 1926. The old village was of quite a significant size and much of it disappeared in the landslide of that year. Three images in old postcards are shown below.The village has suffered landslides and floods six times since the 6th  century. It was rebuilt each time in the same place, except for this last time, after the landslide of the 24th November 1926.  Most of the inhabitants left the severe tall houses of their old village to go to a new location on the West bank where there was already a church dating from the 15th Century. The old village remains inhabited but much smaller than before the 1926 disaster. 

The two videos below show, respectively,  the village immediately after the landslip, [18] and the village in the 21st Century. [19]

A late 20th Century shot of the old village taken from the road to Belvédère, high on the hill where the landslip occurred in 1926. [17] The red ring circles a WW2 gun emplacement.Another shot of the road bridge, this time from the new village. [20]The route of the tramway in 2017, taken from Google Streetview.Belvédère, high above Vieux Roquebilliere on the East side of the Vesubie Valley. [21]

After Roquebilliere, the tramway followed the East bank of the Vesubie until immediately below the village of St. Martin Vesubie. On the approach to the village it crossed a substantial viaduct. The first image below is an old postcard view looking back across the viaduct from St. Martin.The tramway can be seen crossing the bridge in both of the old postcard images above. The location of the bridge is shown circled in red on the plan above. [2]The viaduct in the 21st Century is shown (above) on an image from Google Streetview.

The trams climbed into the village along Route de la Vesubie and then, as shown on the adjacent plan, turned left onto Place de la Gare as the main road swung round to the right in a hairpin bend. [2]The station building is shown above as it appears in the early 21st Century! [2]We finish this journey with a series of postcard views of the station at St. Martin Vesubie. The one immediately above was taken while steam power was still active on the line, probably in 1910. The images below show a busy station area in the early years before the first world war.And finally ….A plan of the station track layout – the route to Plan du Var heads off on the left of the plan. [2]


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  2., accessed on 8th July 2018.
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  4., accessed on 8th July 2018.
  5., and, both offered for sale, accessed on 9th July 2018.
  6. As noted in other posts the TAM was a subsidiary of the Chemin de fer du Sud de la France (SF) then the Chemin de fer de Provence (CP) continues to provided a service between Nice and Digne.
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Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 3 – La Manda to Plan du Var (Chemins de Fer de Provence 63)

Colomars/La Manda to Plan du Var

At La Manda, a branch line to Meyrargues separated from the main line to Digne les Bains immediately north of La Manda/Colomars Station. That branch-line is the subject of a run of blogs in this series. The route is covered in one series, the first of which is:

The post above contains a significant number of images of Colomars/La Manda Station.

The last of the series on the route of the branch-line is:

A short series of posts covers locomotives and rolling stock on the branch which inevitably overlap with that on the main line. The first of these is:

The last of these is:

Colomars/La Manda

We begin the next stage of our journey along the Nice to Digne les Bains line at Colomars Station. The modern halt is on a section of railway line which was not part of the original alignment. The as-built alignment had to accommodate access for the branch-line to the bridge over the River Var and had to allow for a height gain to permit trains to travel over the top girders of the truss-bridge over the Var.

The relative positions of the old station and the modern halt can be seen on the adjacent sketch map. A few photos of both the station and the halt follow. First, the ancient station is shown in the early 1900s and then in more up-to-date photographs shows what of it remains. [1]The modern halt, is literally just that, a couple of unmanned platforms adjacent to the river revetments. [1]Two final pictures before we leave La Manda. The first is a reconstruction of the station site, the second is an archive photograph of the old line to the south of the station which shows the construction work for the new diversion along the river bank in the 1960s. Note, in that picture, the La Manda has still to be reconstructed. Both of these pictures come from the ‘formule4’ website. [12]While the modern line follows the east bank of the Var, the original line north of the old Colomars/La Manda Station and the original junction with the Central Var line the Nice to Digne line entered a short tunnel which is now used as a one-way access from the main road to La Manda for vehicles travelling in a southerly direction. The plan below shows the current road layout at La Manda and the location of the tunnel. The roads to the south-east of the main road follow the alignment of the railway that they have replaced. [2]The northern portal. [2]Two Images (above) of the southern portal in 21st Century. [2]The southern portal immediately before it ceased to serve as a railway tunnel. The picture also shows a Renault railcar and the northern arm of the triangular junction with the Central Var line. [2]

The tunnel is known as Le Tunnel de Vallade. It is approximately 50m long and is just over 65m above sea-level. Its use as a pad tunnel means that it has been kept in good condition since the railway like he was diverted.

North of the tunnel, the line drifted back towards the bank of the River Var to join the present alignment of the railway. The old line is shown by the black line on the Google earth satellite image below.The line then followed the East bank of the Var to St. Martin du Var which was the next station on the route. The next three images are taken from Google Maps Streetview and show the approach to the station at St. Martin du Var.The three images immediately above are taken from the website, ‘Le Train de Pignes’. [3]A trackside view of the station building at St. Martin due Var. [4]Two aerial shots of St. Martin du Var. The first from the south. [5] The second from the Northeast, shows the station buildings on the right of the photograph. [6] These two pictures show the station in its modern context.

The line continues to follow the east bank of the Var passing through the halt at La Roquette-sur-Var (immediately below). The bridge behind the halt is Pont Charles Albert and gives its name to the halt.The three images immediately above are taken from the formule4 site and show the location in the 21st century. [7] The image below was also found on the formule4 site but was sourced from BNF Gallicia. [8] It shows the original bridge, a suspension bridge across the Var and interestingly a standard-gauge railway which connected the Baus Roux to the mouth of the Var by means of a cariole pulled by horses heading up the valley away from the coast and descending under gravitational power towards the coast. A cariole was  a type of carriage used in the 19th century. It was a light, small, two- or four-wheeled vehicle, open or covered, drawn by a single horse. The Baus Roux was an industrial area just to the north of the Pont Charles Albert on the East side of the Var.Two pictures of the old cement works at Baus Roux. [9]The bridge in the bottom half of the above satellite image is Pont Charles Albert. one of the abandoned cement works is immediately below the words ‘Baus Roux’.

The line passed through a halt on its way North to Plan du Var – Arret de Baus Roux is shown immediately below (abandonned). [7] That halt was replaced by one with the name ‘La Roquette sur Var/Baus Roux’ which s shown on a Google Streetview image below.Within a short distance we catch sight of a large industrial complex on the west bank of the River Var. This is Gabre Power Station which sits on a promontory which sticks out into the course of the river. The power station was served by its owen rail link whiuch crossed the metalntrussvgrder bridge shown in both of the two images below.Gabre district in the commune of Bonson (Alpes-Maritimes, France), opposite Plan du Var, with the Gabre bridge and the Gabre power plant built in 1890 to supply electricity to the trams of Nice. On the other side of the Var, you can see the road to Digne (ex-N202, currently D6202) and the railway line of the Railways of Provence (“Train Pignes”). This picture was taken from the village of Bonson in 2007 © Eric Coffinet [10]The perched village above the power station is Bronson © Eric Coffinet [11]

The rail link to Gabr Power station diverged from the Nic to Digne line on the with side of Plan due Var. Its rails could still be seen in the road surface of the truss girder bridge in the early 21st Century. [7] This series of 5 photographs of the Gabre Bridge are culled from formule4’s website. [7]

There is evidence of this short branch-line on the 1955 IGN 1:50,000 map of the area. [13] It can been seen close to the Hyrdoelectric plant on the left side of the ‘fold’ in the map. I cannot find details of how itconnected to the mainline and can only assume an at grade crossing at the east end of Le Pont de Gabre and a junction at the railway station in Plan du Var.Plan du Var with Le Pont du Gabre at the bottom of the combine map/satellite image and the station buildings between the River Var and the village. [14]

The next few images of the station at Plandu Var come from the ‘formule4’ website. [7]Looking north through the station.The station buildings with the village off to the left.Looking North from the station into Les Gorges de la Mescla. Just beyond the building on the right the tracks coverage to a single line once again. The buildings on the left were originally associated with the tramway which ran up the Vesubie Valley.

At Plan du Var a tramway diverged from the mainline and headed up the Vesubie Valley. Some limited details of this branch-line can be found at:

We finish this part of our journey along the Nice to Digne line at Plan du Var.Plan du Var Station (c) Eric Coffinet. [15]






  1., accessed on 20th November 2017.
  2., tunnel No. 06046.1, accessed on 7th July 2018.
  3., accessed on 7th July 2018.
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The Network of the Tramways of Nice and the Littoral (TNL) at its Height (Chemins de Fer de Provence 62)

As I have mentioned in the last month or two, I have been very fortunate indeed. … For my birthday this year, my wife has bought me two books about the tramways of Nice. Both of these books are written in French by Jose Banuado and published by Les Editions du Cabri. [1]

I am enjoying reading the first of the two volumes at the moment which covers the history of the tramways in Nice. I have had some conversations of a number of forums about the TNL which ran the tramways along the coast and in the city of Nice as well as a number of lines which travelled up into the hilly countryside behind the coast.

Sadly the full story of the TNL network is currently only available in Jose Banuado’s books which are written in French.

I have teamed up with Google translate to translate some of the pages of Jose Banuado’s book  and I hope that I have fairly translated his work which follows in italics. This is not an official translation, it just part of my endeavour, as someone with very little knowledge of the french language, to understand the text. If you are fluent in both French and English and have access to Jose Banuado’s books, you might want to check my translation to ensure I have fairly represented his work. [2] I guess the text in italics is more a paraphrase than a translation.

This post focusses on the years immediately before the First World War. It was at this time that the network reached its fullest extent and it was the time when it was both in its best condition and carrying the greatest number of passengers. After the First World War things began to change and competition from other forms of transport increased.

The pictures included in the text are not those included in Jose Banuado’s book.

The TNL Network at its Height (Jose Banuado Volume 1 : p62-68)

Like many French rail transport networks on the eve of the first world war, the TNL experienced, significant growth in all areas: mileage exploited, number of passengers and tonnage of goods, staff numbers, etc. There were a number of improvement and development projects underway, both for urban and interurban traffic, but the economic and human upheavals brought by the war were soon to bring a halt to the overall prosperity of the tramways of Nice.

The Completion of the Departmental Network

On the eve of the war, one line of the departmental network in the hinterland behind Nice remained to be built and an extension to another had just been agreed.

The 1904 convention provided for the extension of the La Grave-de Peille line along Les Gorges de Paillon to reach the village of L’Escarène. L’Escarène was the capital of the canton and had a commercial importance but also a military significance, because from L’Escarène one could extend the tramway towards Lucéram and Peïra-Cava, at the edge of the highly strategic Authion massif. However, the new PLM international route Nice-Breil-Cuneo had just been confirmed across the same route. This resulted in a rapid diminution of interest in the establishment of a tramway in what were very sparcely populated gorges

The general council, still wishing to see L’Escarène connected to the TNL network, decided to replace the planned line with a totally different route: La Pointe-de-Contes – L’Escarène, by the Nice pass. A convention was signed for this purpose on 5th and 18th April 1913. A month later, a decree was made on 19th May 1913 pronouncing that the new line was of public utility. The proposed line was 7.569 km via La Pointe. Work was started immediately across difficult terrain, including a long deviation below the village of Blausasc.

In addition, since the location of the terminus of the Nice-Levens line required tram passengers to walk nearly a kilometre to reach the village, an extension to Levens village was promulgated in October 1908. 1,089 km long and comprising a tunnel, this extension provoked long discussions concerning its financing. It was the subject of an agreement made on 20th February and 2nd March 1912 which was ratified by the decree of public utility on 9th July 1913. But within a year the war impeded further progress on work that had just begun …

The Completion of the Urban Network

The network in the city of Nice had last seen alterations not long after the turn of the 20th Century. They were supplemented by a new line when on 8th February 1908, the city of Nice granted the TNL a line connecting Magnan bridge to the suburb of La Madeleine. Declared of public utility on 21st February, the line was give the route number 12 and began operations on 27th April 1908. A single track followed the shoulder of the road up the valley for a distance of over 2.2km. It facilitated the rapid urbanization of this popular district where small factories, laundries, restaurants and cafes opened up. La Madeleine became a popular Sunday walk destination.

Closer to the centre of Nice, three lines had been granted in the period from 1902 onwards and should have entered the quadrilateral formed by the Boulevard Gambetta, the Rue de France, the Avenue de la Gare and the Avenue Thiers, which is nowadays called “Quartier des Musicians” because most of the streets are named after famous composers of the 19th century. Place Gambetta   Line 6 (Masséna-Gambetta) was to take Rue Alphonse-Karr and Chemin St. Etienne (today, Rue Georges-Clemenceau) to access the bridge under the PLM railway. In its final route, Line 7 Saluzzo-Gambetta followed Avenue Beaulieu (now Maréchal-Foch), Rue la Paix and Chemin St. Etienne, where it joined the route of Line 6.  Between Masséna – Potiers, Line 7 was then intended to follow the streets Alphonse-Karr and Cotta (now, Marechal-Joffre) and the Avenue de Fleurs as far as the junction with the Rue des Potiers. However, as a result of opposition from residents in the Musicians Quarter the company and the municipality decided not to construct the lines in the Quarter.

As might be expected in a more popular area, close to the Old Town, Line 11 Masséna-Port had no more luck. The route initially planned via Rue de St. François-de-Paule and Cours Saleya sparked protests from the market traders on the route. [The image below indicates the extent of the market and highlights the likely disruption that would have been caused by the tram route.] A new route via the Streets of Rues du Palais et de la Terrasse, Les Quais du Midi and Des Ponchettes (today, Etats-Unis and Rauba-Capèu), the Quai Lunel and La Place Cassini (today, Ile-de-Beauté), which was the subject of a concession. But the opponents did not desist and this line through the historic heart of the city was never built.In the first half of the 1910s, the completion of the urban network was the subject of arduous negotiations between the municipality and the TNL. On 5th and 6th February 1912, two amendments and a new convention were signed to alter the lines to be built. The four routes not yet realized were abandoned in favor of extensions and new links towards the suburbs of the city:

• an extension of line 4 Port-Lazaret, via the Boulevard Empress-de-Russie;

line 6 (Massena) Boulevard Joseph Garnier-St. Sylvestre via Avenues St. Barthelemy (today, Auguste Ravnaud), Cyrille-Besset and Boulevard de Cessole;

line 7 Place Saluzzo-Rue de Lépante;

line 7 bis (Masséna) Carras-Caucade;

Line 11 (Masséna) Place de Tende-Eglise St. Roch;

• an extension of line 12 to Le Madeleine-Supérieure;

line 13 (Masséna) Place Saluzzo-Col de Villefranche on the flank of Mont Boron.

Plans were made for extensions to line 5 to L’Ariane and from the Cimiez line to Rimiez. The draft convention for all of these lines was submitted to the inquiry of public utility during the winter of 1912-13, but from 15th December it was revoked by the city. The municipal elections of 5th May 1912 resulted in the replacement of Mayor Honoré Sauvan by General François Goiran, who was very critical of the company and did not want to grant it too advantageous conditions. After endless discussions, a new project was proposed on 6th March 1914. It consisted only of lines 6, 7a and 11, on different routes  to those previously proposed.

In the spring of 1914, the TNL operated a network of 166.5 km, including 33.6 km of urban lines, 2 km of routes within the port area and 130.9 km of coastal and departmental lines. If common lines are deducted the total reduces by about 5km. The rolling stock fleet consisted of 174 powered units (including 9 in Monaco) and 90 passenger trailers, as well as 13 tractors and 140 freight cars. The staff consisted of a thousand employees, ensuring an annual traffic of nearly 25 million passengers and more than 200,000 tons of goods. For 1913, the last year before the war, with 4,564,544 francs of receipts and 3,227,730 francs of expenses, the financial balance sheet of the company was largely profitable and the coefficient of exploitation remained at a rate of 0.71 to the envy of many other networks.



  1. Nice au fil du Tram Volume 1 and 2, Jose Banuado; Les Editions du Cabri.
  2. Nice au fil du Tram Volume 1; p62-67.