Historic Metre Gauge Railways in Provence in Southern France

Aug 2018
206
Ashton-under-Lyne
#51
The next length of the line from Nice to Digne takes us from La Mescla to Le Pont de Gueydan. It is at Le Pont de Gueydan that the line leaves the banks of the River Var and follows one of its tributaries.

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

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.
Although I have travelled on this line a number of times, I have only once travelled beyond Entrevaux and that was in 2001. So looking at the line in 2018, I am almost in virgin territory by the end of this post!
 
Aug 2018
206
Ashton-under-Lyne
#52
New territory for me. The now removed TAM tramway from Pont de Gueydan to Guillaumes up Les Gorges de Daluis .....

TAM Tramway from Le Pont de Gueydan to Guillaumes (Chemins de Fer de Provence 69)

The line from Le Pont de Gueydan north to Guillaumes followed the valley of the River Var and ran through the Gorges de Daluis.

Marc Andre Dubout, writing in French, says that the line was probably the moist daring of secondary line construction work with very steep gradients, numerous tunnels, two remarkable bridges. He comments that it is the most impressive tramway from a tourist perspective with 'unique viewpoints and singular landscapes'.
One of the bridges on this route has the distinction of being one of the earliest reinforced concrete arch structures in France.
 
Aug 2018
206
Ashton-under-Lyne
#53
After a detour up the tramway to Guillaumes we continue on our way towards Digne and travel as far as Annot.

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 6 – Saint-Benoît Pont de Gueydan to Annot (Chemins de Fer de Provence 70)

The first two significant structures on this section of the line are a bridge which carries the N202 over the railway and then the Tunnel de Saint Benoit which is also known as the Tunnel du Pont de la Reine Jeanne and is curved in plan and 110 metres long. This tunnel's north-east portal is a matter of metres from the road bridge.
The line has left the River Var behind and now wends its way along a number of different watercourses.
 
Aug 2018
206
Ashton-under-Lyne
#54
On Sunday 18th November, Jo (my wife) and I travelled from St. Raphael via the Sunday Market in Le Muy to Hyeres. We enjoyed an hour or so on the spit of land extending out from Hyeres towards Iles d'Hyeres and we had lunch next to La Tour Fondue. We spent the rest of the day following Le Macaron from Hyeres to Sainte-Maxime. Nothing I saw on the journey caused me concern about the text of the series of blog posts I have written about the route and that I have already provided links to on this thread. I was able to take a few pictures while on the journey, although there was little time to stop if the full journey was to be completed in daylight! I will post a link to the photographs in due course. On the journey we were also able to make two detours. The first, to Les Bormettes and the site of the old torpedo factory at what is now known as Miramar. The second to St. Tropez.

The relevant links to my blog are:

Ligne du Littoral (Toulon to St. Raphael) – Part 6 – Hyeres to Bormes les Mimosas (Chemins de Fer de Provence 41)

Ligne du Littoral (Toulon to St. Raphael) – Part 7 – La Londe & Les Bormettes (Chemins de Fer de Provence 42)

Ligne du Littoral (Toulon to St. Raphael) – Part 8 – Bormes les Mimosas to Cavalaire (Chemins de Fer de Provence 43)

Ligne du Littoral (Toulon to St. Raphael) – Part 9 – Cavalaire to La Foux les Pins (Chemins de Fer de Provence 44)

Ligne du Littoral (Toulon to St. Raphael) – Part 10 – La Foux les Pins to Saint-Tropez (Chemins de Fer de Provence 45)

Ligne du Littoral (Toulon to St. Raphael) – Part 11 – La Foux les Pins to Cogolin (Chemins de Fer de Provence 46)

Ligne du Littoral (Toulon to St. Raphael) – Part 12 – La Foux les Pins to Sainte Maxime (Chemins de Fer de Provence 47)
 
Aug 2018
206
Ashton-under-Lyne
#56
Our journey along the Nice to Digne line recommences at Annot. We are halfway between Nice and Digne. My memory of travelling on the line is that Annot was touted as being an excellent destination when travelling from Nice, to allow access to mountain walking. A little research shows that to be the case. The map below is a copy of the hiking route map which includes an extensive range of walks. The ".pdf" from which it is taken can be accessed by following the link in the references at the bottom of this post. [1] The train we travelled on through Annot to Digne in 2001 was full of hikers who left the train at Annot.
Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 7 – Annot to Meailles (Chemins de Fer de Provence 71)

We are close to the highest point on the route by the time we complete this section of the journey. Soon, after a long tunnel we will be on a downward ruling grade.
 
Aug 2018
206
Ashton-under-Lyne
#57
This is an aside from the string of posts about the Nice to Digne Line. The valley of the River Var has been prone to flooding over many years. A friend mentioned landslips which occurred at Annot in 1994 and 1996 as a result of heavy rains. The 1994 incident was part of a much wider catastrophic event affecting the whole River Var catchment area. The link below provides some details of the 1994 floods:

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 9 – Floods and Landslides (Chemins de Fer de Provence 72)

On 5th November 1994 an extreme flood event caused the lowest and the second-lowest dams on the Var to collapse. The flood wave inundated parts of Nice, including Nice’s international airport which is situated near the river mouth. It was out of service for several days. The airport lost the business of 50,000 passengers, with damages running up to an estimated 4.5 to 6 million euro. Elsewhere roads like the RN202 were cut, power and telephone lines were interrupted, and three people died and four disappeared. This estimate of lives lost is low compared with some, for instance HydroEurope say that 70 people were estimated to be killed, with large scale infrastructure damage and economical losses from the closure of the airport. The economic damage is estimated at 550 – 800 million Euros. Of the three most recent flood events the flows of 1994 were an order of magnitude higher than the others - 1994 (3680 m3/s), 2011 (1330 m3/s), 2016 (1280 m3/s).
The volumes of water involved in the 1994 floods were unbelieveable!
 
Aug 2018
206
Ashton-under-Lyne
#58
The next stage of our journey takes us out of the catchment of the River Var and into the Valley of the River Verdon. ....

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 8 – Meailles to Thorame-Haute (Chemins de Fer de Provence 73)

The centre piece of this section of the line is the 3.5 kilometre long tunnel which links the valleys of the Verdon and the Vaire together - the Tunnel de la Colle Saint Michel.

The railway line between Meailles and Thorame-Haute was on the last stretch of the line from Nice to Digne to be built. The length involved was that between Saint-André-de-Méouilles and Puget-Théniers.

Work began in January 1900 on the final 27km of the line. The tunnel boring took a number of years to complete. Steady progress was made on the tunnel. The project had a significant setback when, in April 1909 part of the land mass above the proposed location of the station at Thorame-Haute collapsed onto the site of the station engulfing the part built buildings and platforms. Stabilisation of the mountain required the construction of a 114 metre long, 33 metre high retaining wall. The wall was 1.5 metres thick and reinforced by 7 buttresses. [22]

The station was opened to travellers on 3rd July 1911 [23] with the inauguration of the full line taking place on 6th August 1911. The station at Thorame-Haute quickly became a significant tourist destination providing access to some high quality hotels in the upper reaches of the Verdon valley. A wealthy clientele travelled from the Côte d'Azur to access such hotels as the Alp'hôtel de Beauvezer, and the Fontgaillarde in Thorame-Haute.
 
Aug 2018
206
Ashton-under-Lyne
#59
It has been highlighted to me that in my last post in this series I did not provide details of Thorame-Haute Viaduct. In that post, I provided rail-level images and then rushed on to the site of Thorame-Haute Station. This short blog is an attempt to rectify that mistake! I guess you could also see it as a bonus for patiently bearing with me as I meander along the line between Nice and Digne-les-Bains!

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 10 – Thorame-Haute Viaduct (Chemins de Fer de Provence 74)
 
Aug 2018
206
Ashton-under-Lyne
#60
This next post focusses first on the Station and buildings close to it at Thorame-Haute. It highlights a local festival and the importance of the chapel adjacent to the railway station.

Nice to Digne-les-Bains Part 11 – Thorame-Haute to Saint-Andre-les-Alpes (Chemins de Fer de Provence 75)

The blog then takes us on from Thorame-Haute to Saint Andre les Alpes.

In a number of these posts I have been picking up some images from 'www.railsim-fr.com' as there is now a rail simulator version of the Nice to Digne line.
 

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