CDFP Railway

  


 

Chemins de Fer de Provence

NEWS - The steam hauled service will once again operate on Sundays between May & September in 2017.
 

 

The idea of a railway line which would link Nice, on the coast to Grenoble, high in the alps was first conceived in 1861 by Alphonse Beau de Rochas. The intended route was to be via the Var valley. In 1882 the military authority gave its consent for construction of the line to begin. The builders decided to adopt a metre gauge line, rather than standard gauge, which would help to navigate the routes very steep terrain. Narrow gauge instead of one metre forty permitted the use of much tighter curves and help lower construction costs.

1891 - First section of the line opened between Digne and Mézel.

1892 - Inauguration of the Nice - and Puget-Théniers section.

1911 - Nice to Digne fully operational from 3rd July.

The railway had a second line which branched off the Nice to Digne route at Colomars. This line ran west, passing over the spectacular Pont du Loup viaduct, through Vence and onwards to Grasse and eventually Draguignan. It is this narrow gauge metre line that passed through the olive groves of The Domaine, just under the windows of the house, and which John and Winifred Fortescue nicknamed The Spuffle Train, because of its 'spuffling' progress along the mountainside.

The spectacular Pont du Loup viaduct which was blown up during WWII

The spectacular Pont du Loup viaduct which was blown up during WWII
 - some of the columns are still visible today

 

The line is known locally as The Pine Cone Train and there are a number of arguments as to how it got this name!

One suggestion is that it was because of the pine cones people brought back with them from town on a Sunday.

Another is that it was because the train travelled so slowly you could get off and collect pine cones and hop back on again without it leaving you behind.

Lastly, the name would come from a Christmas story saying a gatekeeper remained only with her sick child without firewood. The team of a night train made a stop to offer its coal to her. When the steam engine itself had suddenly lacked fuel, pinecones from the trees bordering the way fell directly into the tender, so the train could keep going on its way.

 

In the rare photograph below it is this line that can be seen entering the tunnel under Grasse, (now a road tunnel). The photographer's back is towards Draguignan and the view is looking towards Grasse and Vence. Much of the former route of this railway has been turned into a road and walkway and passes the pedestrian entrance to The Domaine at the bottom of a long flight of steps.

The line closed during World War II and did not re-open. The station at Draguignan still exists and is in excellent condition, as are some of the viaducts and bridges. The Nice - Digne section of the Chemins de Fer de Provence still operates daily with certain sections steam hauled during the summer months. It provides a spectacular ride through the mountains for visitors. In addition, the southern end of the line serves as an urban commuter route into Nice.

 

CDP line entering the tunnel under Grasse in 1918

1918 postcard showing the CDP line entering the tunnel under Grasse - the over bridge with two stone
abutments in the bottom right hand corner is still there and can be seen in the pictures of the route
 looking west & east further down the page

West portal of the tunnel under Grasse

The same location in 2006 - tunnel portal clearly visible but for road use now

 

The west portal in 1918

The west portal in 1918

The west portal now in use as a road 2008

The west portal in 2008

   
The east portal in 2008

The east portal

The short bridge after the west portal

The short bridge after the west portal

   
The bridge looking west with stone abutments in the 1918 photo

The bridge looking west with stone abutments in the 1918 photo

The bridge looking east with stone abutments in the 1918 photo

The bridge looking east with stone abutments in the 1918 photo

   

Grasse Station

Grasse Station probably around the early 1900's complete with train in one platform and having the luxury of a buffet room on the left  hand platform

Site of the former Grasse Station

The same location today - almost unrecognizable apart from the building on the right hand side of the picture and the position of the chimney pots

 

Le Ravin du Rossignol Viaduct

The line crossed Le Ravin du Rossignol on this girder bridge
which now carries the road

An early postcard view of Grasse taken from the eastern end of the bridge

An early postcard view of Grasse taken from the
eastern end of the bridge

Le Ravin du Rossignol Viaduct as a road bridge in 2006

In use as an important road bridge in 2008

Another view of the road bridge in 2008

 

 
Sir John would lean out of his study window to watch the little 'spuffle-train' pass near their garden and call out to Winifred '....just one peasant in it today Sweetheart ' From 'Sunset House'.

 
The steam train much as it would have looked in the Fortescue's

The steam train much as it would have looked in the Fortescue's
time running in September 2011

The steam train runs on summer Sundays

The steam train runs on summer Sundays
(May to October) September 2011

 

An early share certificate with spledid artwork

Early share certificate showing some lovely artwork

Map of rail network c1921

Map of the railways in the area in c1921

Click here to see a further selection of photos

CDFP Nice

Click here to see a further selection of photos

To learn more about the Chemins de Fer de Provence, visit these excellent web sites
where there are numerous photographs and a wealth of information.

Web Sites:
to visit the CDP official web site click here

to visit another site with excellent photos of the CDP click here
to visit Group d'Etude pour le CDP click here - superb photos and information

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Pictures - P.Riley