Category Archives: Railways and Tramways Around Nice

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

The Menton to Sospel Tramway Revisited Again! (Chemins de Fer de Provence 61)

I have already mentioned that my wife has purchased two books for me as a birthday present. They are written in French by Jose Banuado. They cover the tramway network of the TNL, the Tramways de Nice et du Littoral. In the first volume there is a section about the tramways which meandered into the hills behind the Coast, one of which was the tramway from Menton to Sospel.

Among a whole series of different pictures, mainly old postcards, were some pictures of the line showing the operation of steam locomotives on the line and others of goods wagons in use between Menton and Sospel, particularly to deliver material to the construction work on the PLM Nice-Cuneo line..

The pictures and text below come primarily from Jose Banuado’s book. [1] The French text has been translated with the help of Google Translate. …….The Menton-Sospel line is the only one in the TNL network to have seen steam locomotives. In the above photograph, a small 0-4-0T No. 212 is shown. The manufacturer and the owner are not known. The locomotive is pulling a bogie truck and a wagon. The condition of the ballasting of the line suggests that this view is prior to the commissioning of the line, (c) Jacques Schopfer, the TCA Collection.The upper of the two photographs in the image above shows one of several locomotives destined for the construction sites of the PLM Nice-Cuneo line which were transported by tram to Sospel. This German-built 0-6-0T was partly deconstructed to be transported on a TNL wagon in September 1912, for the Gianotti Bros. public works company, (c) Maurice Bouvet, the Jose Banuado Collection. The second photograph in the image above is taken in 1914. The 0-6-0T Orenstein & Koppel steam locomotive No. 6871 of the Francois Mercier Company is about to leave the goods station at Carel in Menton, coupled with the shunter No. 13 of the TNL, (c) Jacques Schopfer, the TCA Collection.Engineer Jacques Schopfer photographed the 0-6-0T Orenstein & Koppel steam locomotive No. 6871 of the Francois Mercier Company coupled with the shunter No. 13 of the TNL on numerous occasions in 1914 – on the Viduc de Monti, on the approaches to the Viaduc du Caramel, and stationary on the viaduct, (c) Jacques Schopfer, the TCA Collection.The Menton-Sospel tramway was used for the transport of material fro the construction of the PLM line from Nice to Cuneo. In the pictures above we can see shunter No. 7 with a load of tubes on a flat wagon at the goods station at Carel in Menton; sunter No. 13 with a load of rails on two wagons before the stop at Villa Caserta, (c) Jaques Schopfer and Maurice Bouvet, collections of the TCA and Gerard de Santos.The bogie motor-trams of the 213-216 sub-series with more powerful engines and braking systems were also used for goods traffic on the Sospel line: above on the right with a wagon loaded with a small steam locomotive at Castillan, and immediately above with a load of long poles on the Caramel viaduct, from the collections of André Arutur & Jean-Jacques Stefanazzi.Caramel ViaductThis postcard dates from around 1914 and shows the viaduct at Caramel, with one of the bogie trams pulling a goods van. [2]

Goods trains were a feature of the line from the start, but there was a serious runaway of a goods service at Monti on 12th September 1912 which destroyed tractor 4 and killed its two crewmen. From 16th June 1913 a new service was started with two tractors 6, 7 (and 13 added in 1914) in the form of motorised box cars (known as fourgons in French), which were fitted with the same powerful equipment and brakes as the bogie passenger cars, and which pulled a variety of goods wagons.

In 1914, four passenger trips and three or four goods trips were made on the line each day, but like the rest of the T.N.L. network traffic fell off in the 1920s. During the building of the P.L.M. main line railway from Nice to Breil via Sospel, the line had a boost of goods traffic carrying many construction materials, but once complete in 1928 there was huge drop in traffic.


  1. Jose Banuado; Nice au fil du tram Vol.1 published by Les Editions du Cabri, p59-61.
  2., accessed on 8th June 2018.

Goods Services on the Network of the Tramways of Nice and the Littoral (Chemins de Fer de Provence 60)

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.

One particular area of discussion has been a practice which seems unique to Nice among other major cities in France and possibly much wider afield. The TNL ran not only passenger services but good services as well.

Sadly the story of these activities is currently only available in Jose Banuado’s books which are written in French.

I have teamed up with Google translate to translate the pages of Jose Banuado’s book which relate to the goods traffic on the TNL network and I hope that I have fairly translated his work which follows in italics. 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]

At the end of the year 1903, the TNL was at responsible for a 94.3 kilometre network, of which 29.1 km represented the eight urban lines of Nice, 12.1 km the line to Cagnes, 15.6 km that to Contes and 37.5 km that to Menton including the line through Monaco and beyond to Menton. This network was operated with one hundred six powered trams and thirty-two trailers, to which were added three tractors (shunting locos) and twenty-two wagons for the transport of goods.  

There was no extension to the network between 1903 and 1907, when the short line to St. Jean-Cap-Ferrat was completed. On the other hand, the increase in traffic necessitated the improvement and the increase of the fleet of rolling stock. On the urban lines, the original powered vehicles saw extended platforms and trailers were added on the most loaded services. As early as 1904, the company signed a contract with the advertising agency Silberberg to rent advertising space inside and outside the trams in the city. This arrangement was however not extended to the coast lines. New powered vehicles were ordered for the coastal lines: forty vehicles which were more powerful and comfortable were delivered in two batches between 1904 and 1909. They were equipped with air-brakes and coupled permanently into pairs. 

The transport of goods took off remarkably. This distinguishes the TNL network from its counterparts in most other major French cities. In addition to postal and retail freight traffic on the coast, the Contes cement plant provided substantial tonnages with coal deliveries for its kilns and lime shipments and cement in sacks. But to ensure the best trade, it was necessary to link trams to the other major transport infrastructure of the city of Nice: the commercial port, the PLM station and the Chemin de Fer du Sud. 

From the beginning of the work on the Nice-Ventimiglia railway under the Second Empire, the Municipality and the Chamber of Commerce of Nice had pushed for the creation of a port connection and a ferry terminal. Forty years later, as the PLM had done nothing, the same authorities took advantage of the establishment of trams to provide a service to the port by this means of transport. This prospect was made all the more promising by the crossing between the circular line No. 8 of the TNL and SF Nice – Grasse and Puget-Theniers. At the crossing, at Boulevard Gambetta, ir was easy to introduce a connection between these two metre-gauge networks. An agreement was signed on 7th February 1905, providing for the connection of the two lines at the north-east corner of the level crossing, the construction of an exchange platform in the sidings of the Chemin de Fer du Sud Station and the electrification of the tracks. This meant that the TNL locomotives could access these sidings. At the other end of the city, the chamber of commerce, manager of the facilities of the port, took charge of laying tracks on the docks. 

All of these facilities were built and commissioned in the course of 1906, but their operation was not made official until the following year. A transit route was established between the port and the South Station. Using the urban lanes, the distance between the lanes was accordingly increased by Arson Street, Saluzzo Square, Barla Street and Bridge, Carabacel Square and Boulevard, Gioffredo, L’Escarène, Lepante and Assalit Streets, Thiers Avenue and Boulevard Gambetta. The TNL assigned shunters/power cars and a hundred wagons to the traffic, while the Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France ordered two hundred wagons able to run on the tracks of the trams to the port of Nice. A final formality needed to be settled to ensure a service which worked to the satisfaction of all: the state, as the owner of the port, had to grant an operator the right to access the tracks on the quays. The Chamber of Commerce expected to be the natural beneficiary of this concession and to surrender the rights to the company TNL. However, the Minister of Public Works preferred to deal directly with the TNL, and stipulated this in the decree of public utility of 30th April 1909. 

The connection to the port of Nice enabled the transport of large volumes of goods, the majority of which concerned the industries alongside the line to Contes (the Contes cement factory, L’Ariane flour mill and the Nice-Riquier gasworks), as well as exchanges with the Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France Station. The latter was also a point of contact with the PLM network since, although the PLM had always refused a direct connection with the trams, it was connected with the Chemin de Fer du Sud Station from 1899 onwards via a short branch-line which linked the two stations, set into the road pavement of the Rue de Falicon (now-a-days called the Rue des Combattants en Afrique du Nord). So, ultimately, it became possible to transship goods from a wagon of standard-gauge to a vehicle of the TNL and vice versa.


  1. Nice au fil du Tram Volume 1 and 2, Jose Banuado; Les Editions du Cabri.
  2. Nice au fil du Tram Volume 1; p50-52.

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 2 – Nice to La Manda (Chemins de Fer de Provence 58)

Trains left la Gare due Sud in a Westerly direction before turning first North-West and then round to the south towards St. Philippe. The video below shows the first part of the route from Nice to Colomars (La Manda).[7]

On the map below the site of the original Gare due Sud appears as a void in the right middle of the image with the present station to its West.

The two station sites are covered in the previous post in this series:

Before we finally leave the site of the two stations, modern and old, here are a few more images of the two stations and rolling stock at the site.  The first image is the only one I have found which shows a steam locomotive leaving the old Gare du Sud.More photographs can be found by following the links in the reference section at the bottom of this post. [1]Les tirages sont datés de Juillet 1983. Le jour exact n’a pas été retrouvé.1984 Autorail Billard en gare de Nice Chemins de fer de Provence.

Some amazing photos can be found on various french forums. The next four are from Les Trains de l’Histoire [2] and a thread which focusses on diesel motive power on the Nice-Digne Line.Further photographs below are taken from a variety of websites.[3]To finish these pictures at the station, two photographs of the modern diesel units no providing the regular service on the line. After leaving the old station, trains remained within the station site for some distance. Rue Alfred Binet did not cross the old station site in those days. Trains then had at grade crossings at Rue Dabray, Rue Gutenburg and the junction of Boulevard Joseph Garnier and Boulevard Gambetta. The first small stop on the line was immediately after the road junction.Looking back towards the station from Rue Dabray.Looking ahead from Rue Dabray across Rue Gutenburg[4]Looking forward from Rue Gutenberg towards the Arrest Gambetta beyond the next road junction.Looking forward to the road Junction at Gambetta[4]The road junction.An Autorail (Railcar) (x305) at the road junction crossing at the top of Boulevard Gambetta and close to the Arret Gambetta on the Railway.[5]Another Autorail crosses the junction [7] In gentler times – with the red flag to alert traffic![6]Modern Image!The Arret at Gambetta.Looking forward from the Arret Gambetta.[4]

Just beyond the small Station called Gambetta the line curved round under Boulevard Mantega Righi and then entered the tunnel at La Mantega – the tunnel Piol Mantéga.The tunnel was 350 metres long. The current Piol Mantéga Tunnel is the result of the joining of two older tunnels by a modern one of 174 metres in length. The two older tunnels were La Mantega Tunnel (88 metres long) closest to La Gare du Sud, and Piol Tunnel (78 metres long).
In addition, the entrance to the Piol tunnel was extended by a dozen meters towards Saint-Philippe in concrete. [8]The images below are two views of the cutting between La Mantéga and Piol tunnels close to Saint Paul’s Church. The North portal of Piol Tunnel is visible as well as an aqueduct which carries a small stream over the tunnel. A picture of St. Paul’s Church follows the views of the works. The picture of the church is taken from over the old tunnel portal in the images immediately below.
The tunnel runs below the trees to the left of the church.In the photograph above the railway runs to the right of the road (Avenue Paul Arene) twoards the next Station, another small halt called Nice-Parc Imperial which can be seen marked Arret on the right side of the map below.The line is shown below in the satellite image from Google Earth

The portal of the next tunnel, that of Saint-Philippe, is just visible in the bottom left of the satellite image. Details of this tunnel can be found on the Inventaire des Tunnels Ferroviaires de France website.[9]Saint-Philippe Tunnel is 255 metres long, in it the line curves round from a south-westerly direction to a north-westerly direction. Leaving the tunnel the line immediately crosses Avenue d’Estienne d’Orves and enters another small halt.The halt of Nice-Saint-Philippe consists of no more than a small concrete platform and immediately precedes the entrance to the next tunnel, that of Saint Pierre.[10] The tunnel was 633 metres long and as the black and white image below shows, trains immediately crossed two bridges after leaving the tunnel. The tunnel portal is marked with a yellow arrow.[10]These last three pictures show the bridges along the hillside and are taken from across the valley. The pictures that follow show the approach to and the location of the next halt – La Madeleine.Chemin du Vallon Sabatier Passes under the railway to the immediate north-west of the station.As does Chemin de la Costière.The line continues North-west from La Madeleine Halt before swinging round to the West and crossing Boulevard de la Madeleine on an elegant viaduct.It then enters another tunnel – le Tunnel de Bellet (also known as  le Tunnel de Saint Antoine). The tunnel is 950 metres long and straight enough to be able to see the far end from outside the near portal. The far portal, furthest from La Madeleine is interesting. Because of its proximity to the Italian border, the entrance to the tunnel was been equipped at its construction in 1892 with a fortified defence system. Six years later, in 1898, defences were reinforced by the introduction of a pit 4.2 metres long in front of the portal which in normal times was filled with sand. In times of war, it could either be emptied, or receive explosives to destroy the tunnel entrance if required.

The tunnel portal now sits just under the A8 and can be seen to the right of the satellite image below. The railway continues around the edge of the industrial complex at Cremat and a halt is provided to serve the area – Nice-Cremat-PAL.This was at one time the stop of Zygofolis details of which can be found in the last post in this series. [11] Slip-roads from the A8 now travel under the line using purpose built bridges.

In the picture above, Nice-St. Isidore station building can just be glimpsed to the left of the image. The approach along the line is shown below. The station building can just be glimpsed from the Chemin de Crémat.From St. Isidore, the line continues and turns to a more northerly direction and then switches back towards the North-West and crosses Chemin des Serres and Chemin de la Glacière before entering the complex at Lingostiere.

The first image of the depot at Lingostiere has been rotated to show the underpass flood channel at Chemin de la Glacière in the bottom left of the picture. Just to the North-West of this bridge the tracks fan out to serve the depot.The depot at Lingostiere was the main depot on the Nice to Digne Line. The workshops were created in 1975 before it was in Draguignan despite the closure of the Central Var line in 1949. A variety of rolling stock and traction could be observed alongside the line out of Nice towards La Manda. Another photograph from Les Trains de l’Histoire, Sur les Chemins de Fer de Provence (Nice-Digne) shows the depot in 1979.[2]T62 at Lingostière on 14th February 2007.[12]

The following images are from Alain Mionnet.[13]

The line leaves Lingostiere and passes under the M6202 dual carriageway before settling in alongside that road. The M6202 and the Chemin de Fer de Provence follow each other for some distance alongside the River Var.

The picture below shows the two running in parallel. The halt visible in the distance is Saint-Sauveur.

The next halt is Bellet.And the next is Colomars/La Manda. The satellite image below is of great interst to those who are following the original line of the railway. The modern line follows the River side and the M6202, the original line deviated to the East. The wide sweep of the line which branched off the Nice to Digne line can be seen curving round to the La Manda bridge. Even though the railway disappeared in the 1950s, its route is still visible in the layout of the roads at La Manda.A little less obvious because of the trees is the old alignment north of La Manda heading towards Digne-les-Bains. It can still be picked out on the next satellite image below and returns towards the river bank in the top right of the image. If your eyesight is really good you might just be able to make out the name of the road which follows the old line – Avenue du Train des Pignes.

We finish this second part of the journey along the Nice to Digne line by focussing on the station at La Manda which was usually referred to as Colomars in the early life of the line.

The Ligne de Central Var left the Nice to Digne line at La Manda close to Colomars on the River Var. The station building at Colomars Station remains as evidence of the line. The line branched off the current Digne line just to the north of the hamlet of La Manda.

The station construction is typical of many of the stations still evident on the route of the line. A few historic postcards are reproduced here to give an idea of the station in the early years of the 20th century.

The second of these postcard views has been ‘adapted’ by Jean Giletta the photographer to include a hand drawn train. While it is a pity that the photographer did not wait for a real train to cross the bridge, the picture illustrates the nature of the river crossing. The railway line crossed the river on the top of the truss girders with provision between the trusses for road traffic!


  1., Narrow gauge railway Nice Digne;, accessed on 10th April 2018
  2. Les Trains de l’Histoire, Sur les Chemins de Fer de Provence (Nice-Digne);, accessed on 10th April 2018. Copy right for these images rest with the photographers …. the relevant names on that site are: chavance, michel/57, Gérard and there are some great photographs to enjoy there.
  3. Wikipedia, Chemins de Fer de Provence;, accessed on 10th April 2018; Flickr, Nice JHM-1980-0268 – France, Chemins de fer de la Provence, Nice;, accessed on 10th April 2018; Flickr Hive Mind – The World’s Best Photos of x304;, accessed on 10th April 2018; Ruhn Feldt, Nice – Annot – Digne-Les-Bains;, accessed on 10th April 2018. The last link provides photographs along the full length of the Nice to Digne Line.
  4., Railways of Provence: from Nice to Digne (June 15, 2016);, accessed on 10th April 2018.
  5. Transport Rail Blog, Les Chemins de Fer de la Provence;, accessed on 11th April 2018.
  6. Picssr, JHM0284’s Most Interesting Flickr Photos;, accessed on 11th April 2018.
  7. Formule4, Chemins de Fer de Provence 1 Nice Vésubie Nice Visite;, accessed on 11th April 2018.
  8. Inventaire des tunnels de ferroviaires de France, Tunnel du Piol Mantéga;, accessed on 11th April 2018.
  9. Inventaire des tunnels de ferroviaires de France, Tunnel du Piol Mantéga;, accessed on 12th April 2018.
  10. Inventaire des tunnels de ferroviaires de France, Tunnel du Piol Mantéga;, accessed on 12th April 2018.
  11., there are also some excellent photographs of the trains and buses that served the theme park taken by Jean-Henri Manara; accessed on 24th April 2018.
  12. Simplon Postcards, Chemins de Fer de Provence – CP, Page 1B: Rolling Stock – Diesel Locos & Trailers;, accessed on 12th April 2018.
  13. Alain Mionnet, Le Chemin de Fer de Provence;, accessed on 12th April 2018.

The Connection between the PLM(SNCF) Station in Nice and La Gare du Sud (Chemins de Fer de Provence 59)

The Chemin de Fer due Sud de la France station, commissioned in 1892, benefited as early as 1899 from a 960 m connection to the PLM network.[1] The route of the connection is shown on the 1958 map of Nice below. La Gare due Sud is the more northerly of the two stations shown on the map.

Somewhere along Rue des Combattants en Afrique du Nord or Rue Alfred Binet, Nice – 1963 – © JH Manara.[1]The same locomotive operating on street between the two railway stations in Nice – © JH Manara.[2]The same locomotive again, operating between wagons on the link between the two stations.[3]


The connection between the CP and SNCF networks was established as  dual-gauge  line so that normal track wagons could be towed by metre-gauge shunters. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the passage of freight trains in the middle of the street began to pose a problem with regard to traffic. I have only been able to find a few images of the line in use, taken, I think in 1963 by the same photographer, although available on the internet from different web sites.

The locomotive in the images above was also recorded on site at la Gare du Sud. 1974. [4]

CP51 appears to be an 0-8-0 diesel shunter and seems to have had a long life on the Chemin de Fer de Provence. It was converted from a steam locomotive in 1948 and given the loco number 51. The work was done by the CFD workshop in Montmirail. In these CFD conversions, power was transferred from the diesel engine via a mechanical gearbox that drove one axle. The remaining axles are connected to the drive axle via the coupling rods. The loco was mainly used for traffic between la Gare du Sud and the SNCF station, for the transfer of freight wagons. From 1970, the vehicle was moved to Digne and shunted wagons at the station there. From 1978, the locomotive was used for construction trains and was eventually set aside at Lingostière after an engine failure in 1987. In 2010 it was still in the sidings at Lingostière.[5]

1980. [6]


CP51 sits in a decrepit state in the sidings at the depot at Lingostière. [8]

STOP PRESS …… CP51 has been found! It is hiding at Saint-André-les-Alpes! It has been photographed on 25th April 2018 in a siding awaiting restoration! [9]

There is a 3D printed body shell for this locomotive, produced by Shapeways[10] …


  1. Transport Rail Blog, Les Chemins de Fer de la Provence;, accessed on 11th April 2018.
  2. © All Rights Reserved,, accessed on 23rd April 2018.
  3., accessed on 23rd April 2018.
  4. Tyrphon, Jean-Pierre Dumont;, accessed on 23rd April 2018.
  5. File:CP-51-débris Lingostière 04-2014.jpg;, accessed on 23rd April 2018 and translated from the German text of the website.
  6., accessed on 23rd April 2018.
  7., accessed on 23rd April 2018.
  8., accessed on 23rd April 2018.
  9. Photograph taken by ‘La bête de Calvi’ on the Passions Metrique et Etroite Forum;, accessed on 25th April 2018.



Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 1 – Nice (Chemins de Fer de Provence 57)

The Chemins de Fer de Provence is the name used for the one surviving metre-gauge line in Les Alpes Maritime. The route from Nice to Digne. This series of posts will follow the line from Nice to Digne and will have occasion to divert onto some branch-lines along the way.

The line from Nice to Digne is the only remaining line of the former network of the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer du Sud de La France. The company was created in 1885 by Baron Jacques de Reinach, a French banker of German and Jewish origin (1840-1892).[1] At its apogee in 1910 the company looked after 879km of railways, most of these are shown on the map below.

The Company was responsible for: the Central and Littoral Var lines; the Nice-Digne Line; the Cote-d’Or line; the Cogolin to Saint-Tropez branch-lines; the Isere tramway lines (Tramways de l’Ouest du Dauphiné);[2] the Tramways des Alpes Maritimes. However, by 1925, the company was experiencing significant difficulties. It was wound up and a new company with new financial backers  was formed – Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de Provence. This new company lasted for 8 years until 1933.Early in the planning phase, relations between Italy and France were tense. The military demanded that the section of the line between Nice and Saint-Martin-du-Var was designed to permit access by standard gauge trains. Indeed, this was also a requirement for the first length of the Colomars to Meyrargues line. A dual track-gauge arrangement was included in the plans  when the concession arrangements were updated on 21st May 1889.  The loading gauge for the line was also enhanced to be the same as for the standard gauge lines. On 29th July 1889 the concession was approved by law, the line was declared as being of ‘public utility’ and the length of Line from Nice to Saint-André was also formally included in the concession.

Construction costs for the line were high and in order to ensure its completion the length between Puget-Théniers and Saint-André-les-Alpes was, in part, funded through an agreement signed between the company and the state. A formal agreement between the Minister of Public Works and the Compagnie des Railways du Sud de la France on 23rd March 1906 provided for the company’s construction of the Puget-Théniers to  Saint-André-les-Alpes. The agreement was approved in law on 29th December 1906.[3]

Construction work began on the first length of the line on 14th August 1891. This was the length between Digne and Mezel – a length of 13km. In 1892, the sections from Nice to Colomars (also 13km), Colomars to Puget-Therniers (45km) and Saint-André-les-Alpes (previously Saint-Andre-de- Meouilles) to Mezel (31km), were under construction.[4]

Between 1892 and 1907, various scandals about the reliability of the company endangered its finances and slowed the progress of the work significantly. By 1907, only a 12km section between Puget-Théniers and Pont-de-Gueydan was open. The following year that was extended to Annot, a further 8km.[4]

The work progress relatively rapidly from this point on. The full length of the line was completed in July 1911, and a ceremony was attended by the Minister of Public Works on 6th August 1911, to inaugurate the last length of the line (the section between Saint-André and Annot).

As we have already noted, the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer du Sud de la France was unable to sustain operations beyond 1925. Their role was taken over by Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de Provence. In turn, this company was only able to manage the line until 1933 when it handed over bother the Nice to Digne line and the Central Var line to the State. The Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de Provence then restricted its activities to the Littoral line. The State department for Bridges and Roads (Ponts et Chaucees) took over responsibility for the Nice to Digne Line.

In the immediate pre-war period, all three lines were developing well, services were increasingly popular thanks to the introduction of Autorails (Railcars). However, the War and particularly the fighting which accompanied the Liberation, dealt a serious blow to the railway infrastructure of the region.[6]

Recovery after 1944 was very slow. There was no hope of reconstruction for the Eastern part of the Central Var line and its trains terminated at Tanneron. Eventually, the Littoral line (Le Macaron) closed by 1949 and the Central Var line, by early 1950.[6]

In 1952, the State released the Nice to Digne line into private management once again, but this was not without its problems and by 1959, the State was threatening closure of the line unless draconian measures were taken.  These threats were repeated in 1967 and again in 1968. This resulted in the two departments and the cities of Nice and Digne joining forces to create the “Syndicat mixte Méditerranée-Alpes” (SYMA) which  took overall responsibility for the line and entrusted the operation of the line to the CFTA (Societe Generale de Chemins de Fer et des Transports Automobiles).[5,6]

A shuttle service between Nice and Colomars was inaugurated in the 1970s. In 1975, SYMA opened workshops at Lingostière workshops to replace those at Draguignan. The Draguignan workshops became unavailable after the War. It took quite a time to replace them![6]

The 1980s seemed to see an up-turn in the fortunes of the line. The GECP (Groupement d’études pour le Chemin de Fer de Provence)[7] started to run steam excursion trains (an example of which can be seen below). In 1981, the link between Geneva and Nice in the form of ‘Alpazur’ was reinvigorated.[6] The service had been in place since the late 1950s.[8] A standard gauge link to Digne was used to connect with the metre-gauge line. The two different trains are shown above. That line ran from Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban to Digne-les-Bains.The line was also enhanced by the introduction of a new stop on the line for Zygofolis, an amusement park joined to a water park.[9]

This renaissance was short-lived. The SNCF decided to close the standard-gauge link between Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban and Digne in September 1989.[10] Nice town hall decided to call for the closure of the line from Colomars to Digne (90% of the full length).

The mayor of Nice finally agreed to accept a compromise. The deal agreed was that the Chemins de Fer de Provence (CP) would give up the magnificent Gare du Sud and the city would give up its fight to close the line.[6]

However, exceptionally bad weather and flooding in the Autumn of 1994 (5th November 1994) resulted in the River Var carrying away significant lengths of several hundred metres of the Nice to Digne line. The CP took over 18 months to repair the line and recover.[6,11,12] The images below show examples of the damage caused in the November 1994 floods.

In the last two images we have, on the right: the bridge at Gueydan on the Var destroyed by the flood which would in time be scrapped and replaced by the French Army. On the left is one of the many breaches of the line.[13] Immediately below this text are two images of a similar breach which happened in 1982. Following them are three videos shot during flood flows in the Var River channel in November 2011. The first at the Airport and the other two at the bridge at  La Manda near Colomars.

SYMA’s control over the Nice to Digne Line continued until 1st January 2007 when the Appeal Court in Marseilles closed it down because of discovered flaws in procedures within the company.

The line was operated by Transdev[14] and Veolia Transport[15] through a subsidiary called Compagnie Ferroviaire du Sud de la France (CFSF)[16] until on 1st January 2014 a new company was formed to run the line – Régie Régionale des Transports de Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur (RTT PACA).[17] Under RTT PACA’s control the line has been significantly upgraded and rolling stock improved. It is still possible to travel on the line behaind a steam locomotive, courtesy of the GECP but regular services are now in the hands of very modern DMUs.

A Journey Along the Line – Part 1 – La Gare du Sud

Our journey starts in Nice at the magnificent facade of la Gare du Sud. First a few older postcards to introduce us to the station. ……..

La Gare due Sud[18] was built in 1892 by the architect Prosper Bobin on behalf of the Compagnie des Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France. Prosper Etienne Bobin was born on 11th January 1844 in Montigny-en-Gohelle (Pays-de-Callais) and died on 10th December 1923 in the 6th Arrondissement in Paris.

The station has two main components, the passenger building and the train-shed. The first has a striking facade which faces onto the Boulevard Malaussena in the Liberation quarter of Nice. It was designed in the rationalist style which favoured the use of new industrial materials without compromising on elegance.[18] The name ‘rationalism’ is retroactively applied to a movement in architecture that came about during the Enlightenment (more specifically, neoclassicism), arguing that architecture’s intellectual base is primarily in science as opposed to reverence for and emulation of archaic traditions and beliefs. Rational architects, following the philosophy of René Descartes emphasized geometric forms and ideal proportions.[19] Structural rationalism most often refers to a 19th-century French movement, usually associated with Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and Auguste Choisy. Viollet-le-Duc rejected the concept of an ideal architecture and instead saw architecture as a rational construction approach defined by the materials and purpose of the structure. The architect Eugène Train was one of the most important practitioners of this school, particularly with his educational buildings such as the Collège Chaptal and Lycée Voltaire.[20]

The monumental facade of la Gare du Sud with a high central pavilion flanked by two side pavilions displays a decorative repertoire made of veneered ceramics and painted motifs overlying the stone structure. The building is roofed in terracotta.[18]

Trackside, there was (and is) a large train-shed, 23m wide, 18m tall and 87m long which covered the platforms. It is a metal structure inspired by the work of Gustave Eiffel which was originally used to house the Russian pavilion of the 1889 World Fair.

La Gare du Sud was completed in 1892, it operated as a railway station until December 1991, almost reaching its centenary as a station before circumstances in Nice dictated its closure.

Over the years the station site was developed to the extent visible in the hand-drawing below.[21]

In the 1910s, with increased traffic, the locomotive shed was enlarged. The two water tanks were mounted on masonry pedestals. Several additional rooms were created (most of them next to the shed). These included an office for the deputy chief and a traction shop. A Cnetral Office was built to the West of the Station adjacent to Rue Dabray which brought all the key staff togetehr under one roof.

Later, in 1936, a new workshop for diesel railcars (autorails) was built at the west end of the passenger hall. By the eve of the Second World War, the station was at its zenith. In addition to the buildings there were several kilometres of track, 44 single points, four three-way points, a variety of turntables which included one locomotive turntable.

After the Second World War, a building, serving as a simple repair shop, was to be the last new building on the site.[18]

I have pulled together a few photographs from a variety of sources which show the station in operation. They are in no particular chronological order and copyright is acknowledged where it can be established. Most of the images are freely available on the internet. The first two have been taken from the ‘Nice Rendez-Vous’ website[23].Interior of the South Station – ABH Railcar and modernized cars in 1954.
Photo: M. Rifault – JL Rochaix Collection – Publisher: BVA in Lausanne (Switzerland).1969_BILLARDniceNice – 1969 – Remarkable view of the atmosphere of the Nice train station and its depot with a host of Billard railcars having just been recovered on various CFD lines coming to close. On the left, we can also see two ABH. © JH Manara.[22]Nice – 1983 – note the imposing height of the train-shed, the three railcars and the recution of the lines in favour of car parks that will soon take over the entire site! © JH Manara.[22], 1980.[24]Wikimedia Commons. [25]

The last two images show wagons in storage at la Gare du Sud. They have been provided by a member of the GEMME forum in France.[36]

From the end of the War until the 1990s the uncertainties over the future of the Nice to Digne line meant that little was invested in the facilities at la Gare du Sud. In 1970, plans were drawn up to close the station. The city hoped to eliminate 4 level-crossings by moving the station to Rue Cross de Capéu a distance of 700 metres. The site of the proposed new station was purchased in 1972 and the Architect was chosen. The project remained on the drawing board.

In 1973, a number of unused sidings were lifted. In 1975, the President of SYMA, Jacques Médecin, Mayor of Nice, declared that he intended to stop the financial participation of the City in the organization (SYMA), and requested the sale of la Gare du Sud. Land on the south side of the station was sold, all of the buildings on that land were demolished, 150 wagons on the site were scrapped.

In 1976, access to the station was compromised when the City connected the streets of   Alfred Binet and Falicon. Access to the goods hall and shunting manoeuvres became  almost impossible. On 22nd March 1977, the automatic gates of Gambetta, Cros de Capeu and Gutemberg Streets were removed and replaced by traffic lights![21] This meant that trains were restricted to a speed of 4km/hr when crossing those streets.Recovery plans were negotiated in the late 1970s. Goods trains were banned from the centre of Nice. In 1978, the south side of the station site became a municipal car park. A period of ten years of relative calm then ensued, although the City maintained its intention to purchase the whole of the site of la Gare du Sud.

A memorandum of understanding was finally signed on 18th January 1991 for the sale of the site of la Gare du Sud to the City for 151 million francs. As part of that deal the terminus of the Nice to Digne line was designated as being at Rue Alfred Binet. The commissioning of a new station at Rue Alfred Binet was scheduled for November 1991 but was eventually postponed until 10th December. The last day of operation of la Gare du Sud as a railway station was 9th December 1991.[21]

The new station was designated as the Gare de Nice CP and was built in a modernist style, in contrast to every other station on the line. [26] The following pictures show that station and can be found on the ‘Le Train des Pignes’ website. [26]

From 9th December 1991 to the year 2000, la Gare du Sud remained derelict. Although there had been a land transfer to the City the building was not sold to the City until the year 2000. The City then produced plans to demolish the station.[18]

This demolition raised many protests and finally the Minister of Culture , Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, opposed it in 2004. Meanwhile, the facade of the old station was registered as a historical monument on 23rd September, 2002.[27] The train-shed was registered as a historical monument in June 2005. The elegance of the building is demonstrated by the following images draw by the Architect, Mario Basso.[28]

Mario Basso is also responsible for a comprehensive archive of media posts relating to the station over the years.[28] That story can also be followed on Le Train des Pignes website.[29]

The building was saved from destruction but its future remained uncertain. Several projects were promulgated and then fell by the wayside (including the site becoming a new City Hall for Nice) before finally a project to convert it into a media library became a reality. The passenger building received a full restoration.Drawing by Jean Francois Laugeri

The work was completed in time for opening in December 2013. A video taken from a drone, shows the finished work to the old passenger facilities.[30] Meanwhile refurbishment of the train-shed was also being considered. The video project presentation is below. [31]

TESS was given this project and some pictures of their work are shown below.[32]

The renovated station is intended to be at the hear of a new area in the City. [33,35] The old train-shed will become a venue for restaurants and boutiques and will be surrounded by green spaces, the site will also benefit from parking, housing, gyms, a multiplex cinema and many shops.

Further development work was due to start in April 2018. The old train-shed will be known as le Salon du Vintage and will be run for the next 45 years by Banimmo France.[34]

It is intended that the train-shed will accommodate 22 restaurants by December 2018Voilà à quoi devrait ressembler la halle en décembre 2018A mezzanine floor needs to be installed. opening is planned for 15th December 2018.



  1. Michel SteveMetaphor Mediterranean: The architecture of the Riviera from 1860 to 1914 , Editions Demaistre, 1996, p.88.
  2. WikipediaTramways de l’Ouest du Dauphiné, accessed 3rd April 2018; and Wikipedia, CEN Réseau Isère;éseau_Isère, accessed 3rd April 2018.
  3. Wikipedia, Ligne de Nice a Digne;à_Digne, accessed 3rd April 2018; and “No. 48721 – Act approving an agreement between the Minister of Public Works, Posts and Telegraphs and the Railway Company South of France for the execution of the route of the line of St. André to Puget-Théniers:” 29th December 1906. Bulletin of the laws of the French Republic , Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, serie XII, Vol.  74, o  2811p1365-1366.
  4. Wikipedia, Ligne de Nice a Digne;à_Digne, accessed 3rd April 2018.
  5. Wikipedia, Société générale de chemins de fer et de transports automobiles;été_générale_de_chemins_de_fer_et_de_transports_automobiles, accessed 3rd April 2018.
  6. Wikipedia, Chemins de Fer de Provence;, accessed 2nd April 2018.
  7. GECP;, accessed 1st April 2018.
  8. Wikipedia, Alpazur;, accessed 3rd April 2018.
  9. Wikipedia, Zygofolis;, accessed 3rd  April 2018. There are some excellent photographs of the trains and busses used to serve this theme park which are taken by Jean-Henri Manara;, accessed on 24th April 2018.
  10. Wikipedia, Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban Station;âteau-Arnoux-Saint-Auban, accessed 3rd April 2018; and Wikipedia, Ligne_de_Saint-Auban_à_Digne;à_Digne, accessed 4th April 2018.
  11. Wikipedia, 1994 dans les chemins de fer;, accessed 4th April 2018.
  12. Hydro Europe, The Var River Project;, accessed 4th April 2018, and Hydro Europe, Project;, accessed 4th April 2018.
  13., Museums and Tourist Railways, accessed 4th April 2018.
  14. Wikipedia, Transdev;, accessed 4th April 2018.
  15. Wikipedia, Veolia Transport, accessed 4th April 2018.
  16. Wikipedia, Compagnie Ferroviaire du Sud de la France;, accessed 4th April 2018.
  17., Régie Régionale des Transports de Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur;, accessed 4th April 2018.
  18. Wikipedia, La Gare du Sud;, accessed 4th April 2018.
  19. Wikipedia, Rationalism (Architecture);, accessed 5th April 2018.
  20. Froissart-Pezone, Rossella; Wittman, Richard, The École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris Adapts to Meet the Twentieth Century; Studies in the Decorative Arts. University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Bard Graduate Center. 7 (1): 30, 1999-2000.
  21. Le Train les Pignes, l’Histoire de la Gare du Sud, Part 1;, accessed 4th April 2018.
  22. Transport Rail, les Chemins de Fer de Provence; accessed on 5th April 2018
  23. Nice Rendez-Vous, la Gare du Sud; accessed 5th April 2018
  24. – a picture from 1980;–und-zahnradbahnen~chemin-de-fer-de-provence-cp/673186/cp-chemins-de-fer-de-provence.html, accessed 5th April 2018.
  25. Wikimedia Commons;,_Chemin_de_Fer_de_Provence.jpg
  26. Le Train des Pignes, les 50 Fiches Gares Nice-Provence;, accessed 4th April 2018.
  27. Notice No.  PA06000023 , basis Merimee, French Ministry of Culture.
  28. Mario Basso, Archive Gare du Sud Nice;, accessed 4th April 2018.
  29. Le Train les Pignes, l’Histoire de la Gare du Sud, Part 2;, accessed 5th April 2018.
  30. YouTube, Drone-06 – Nice Gare du Sud;, accessed 6th April 2018.
  31. YouTube, Le Projet de la Hale de la Garde du Sud;, accessed 5th April 2018.
  32. TESS, Ancienne Gare du Sud;, accessed 5th April 2018.
  33. Gare du sud: nouvel espace de vie;, accessed 6th April 2018.
  34. Banimmo France;, accessed 6th April 2018.
  35. Quartier Gare du sud, on Metropolitan Nice Côte d’Azur;, accessed 6th April 2018.
  36. Les Forums du GEMME;