Category Archives: Railways Blog

Le Train de Merveilles – Nice to Tende – Part 2 – A Link with the Mediterranean

This magazine Railway Wonders of the World was produced in the 1930s when the Nice to Cuneo railway was relatively new. Most copies of the magazine now survive as two bound volumes. I am fortunate enough to own both. This article is a great insight into the line in the 1930s.

Le Train de Merveilles – Nice to Tende – Part 1

Starting from the sea level, the Nice-Tende railway line rises to over 1000 metres in height as it travels towards Le Col de Tende.wpd85d76c3_05_06torre-saorge
The line was an amazing feat of engineering, a real achievement in a dense, hilly region. It is distinguished by an impressive succession of structures (over 200 In all): viaducts erected overlooking deep canyons and countless tunnels in the mountains (including 4 helical structures!).
In the immediate post war era the line was closed as many of the major structures had been destroyed. It wasn’t until the mid to late 1970s that those structures were replaced. Some of the following pictures illustrate the condition of the line before renovation.hautpays51-cai1




The project to undertake the rebuilding of the structures on the line and to re-lay the standard gauge track was costly and was undertaken by the regional authorities in France and Italy. Many of the structures were rebuilt by the end of 1978.

Le Viaduc de Scarassoui

This viaduct was built across the valley of the Roya between two tunnels close to Fontan. It was commissioned in 1923. Its designer was Paul Séjourné, the engineer was André Martinet and the contractor was Mercier, Limousin et Cie. It was a graceful, elegant structure.


399_001livre-cdt-scara2It survived for little more than 20 years before it became a casualty of the Nazi withdrawal from southern Europe in 1945. When the bridge was blown the tracks where left hanging over the river.hautpays32-scara36

Once the tracks were removed the bridge lay derelict until 1977 when a replacement structure was started. It was simpler and more functional but none-the-less a dramatic structure in its own right.387_001viaduc_scarassoui-situ01_cle5d5215TDM-sur-viaduc-article-272X194_tcm65-49743_tcm65-32994_272x194

And finally, … for now at least!

Written on the flight home, early on 23rd April – St. George’s Day.

My first visit to Uganda in 1994 started with a train journey from Mombasa. So it is perhaps fitting to end with a short piece about what is happening to the railways of Uganda now. The first line from Mombasa through Nairobi and on to Kampala and then Kasese was built well over a hundred years ago and is of a narrow gauge construction. There is to be a new line from Mombasa through to Kampala provided a current dispute between the Chinese contractors and the Ugandan government can be resolved.

I read this piece in the Railway Magazine on the flight home ….

“Uganda set for rail revival? …. Freight traffic in Uganda is slowly increasing, although long-term prospects probably depend on the completion of the proposed standard gauge line from Mombasa, in Kenya, to Kampala, in Uganda. The line is being built by Chinese contractors and is now the subject of disputes between the Ugandan government and the contractors.”

This new line will be to standard gauge and there will be transhipment issues between different parts of the network.

The passenger service I enjoyed in the 1990s is long gone. New Vision in Uganda carried a story about the decline of the railways.

I did a little bit of research on the way home.

The government is considering developing commuter services for Kampala:…/kampala-passengerservice-planned.html

Two wikipedia articles are interesting, giving some good background information:

RVR (Rift Valley Railways) is the new franchise holder for the railways and is beginning to undertake some development work.