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The Train Tram Concept and the future of Public & Private Transport with particular relevance to the Tramways Alpes Maritime

This Paper is in two parts.  This is part 1, detailing the Historic Context.  For part 2, The Future, click
This paper is also indexed  - click for a table of contents for parts 1 and 2


John Thurston

from the Evolution of Modern Traction Seminar on 5th November 2005


This paper looks at historical experience of transport in Nice and surrounding regions, how and why it has developed, then looks beyond the present into the future. A better view of current proposals for new transport networks can be reached with an understanding of experience; both of regional demography, and of proved technology. Such experience ('world 3' in terminology of Popper and Checkland) combined with conceptual thinking helps us define new ways of moving about. Hence Part 1 is devoted to setting the demographic scene (a 'rich picture'), and studies rail transport in SE france and the Tramways Alpes-Maritimes in particular. Part 2 enriches the picture with reviews of technologies applicable to sustainable forms of public and freight transport, then looks at ways in which future developments might be implemented (possible conceptual models).

This paper is the author's personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the policy of his company or its clients.

1. Introduction to Part 1-  Historical Context

There are many proposals for adoption of the 'Tram-Train' concept in Europe, Nice and the PACA (Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur) region is one place where it is under active consideration. It could be argued that it is not a new concept in south-east France, as evidenced by the way the Sud de France (SF) railway has developed, and, a little further north, the Lyon tramways.

In 1860 the departement of Alpes-Maritimes was created when territory was ceded to the French Republic from the Kingdom of Pimont-Sardaigne. It has many deep valleys, most of which feed via the valle du Var into the sea at Nice. The area also has a number of natural links to surrounding regions, constricted by the coast and the Alps.

2. Historical Background

Soon after the creation of the departement, the administration of Ponts et Chausses began building many roads and bridges along the valleys.

The Sud de France (SF) railway (now CP)

The section to Puget Theniers opened in 1892, it very closely follows the trace of the road (N202) between Lingostiere (7,78km) and Puget Theniers (58,35km). It quickly became very well used to La Vsubie (Plan du Var), where most passengers transferred to horse buses serving local valleys. In xxxx the SF was restructured and became the Chemins de fer de Provence (CP). Following the destruction of the viaduc du Loup on 24 August 1944, the route to Grasse and Meyrargues became unsustainable and closed completely on 2 January 1950.

Today, the Nice-Digne route is supported by a partnership (SYMA) of the departements and communities it serves. It is operated commercially by Connex under a renewable concession agreement.

The TAM network from 1895-1914

In December 1895 a branch line from La Vsubie to St Martin was proposed using electric traction. In January 1906 the SF was granted a concession to build and operate 7 lines, 4 radiating off the SF main line to Puget Theniers, and 3 off the SF line to Grasse. The decree of Public Utility allowing work to proceed on the 145,342km network was signed on 10 February 1906. The first line, to St Martin, opened on 15 September 1909, the other lines opening during the next 4 years.

TAM - Development, Maturity and Decline, 1914-1933

All routes were electrified at 6,6kV 25Hz. The four lines of the 'montagne' group, totalled 108,5km, (plus 9,7km over the SF over which the trams ran). Motor trams were on 2 axle Brill trucks, controlled by contactors and a  4-tap transformer feeding 2 x 55ch motors, maximum design speed 46km/h.

The Cagnes-Vence/Grasse group (25km to Grasse and 12,3km to Vence) used the same voltage and traction system as the 4 lines above and connected to the SF at Vence and Grasse. The junction of the two routes was at Villeneuve, 1,6km from Cagnes. There was also a short 2,2km branch from Pre de Lac to Le Bar.

The choice of 6,6kV 25Hz was made because of the length of these lines and the distance from the points of supply. In the case of the Pont de Gueydan - Guillaumes line a supply at 15kV 50 Hz was obtained from the hydro-electric station 39km away at La Mescla which fed a rotary convertor at Pont de Gueydan. The La Vsubie to St Martin line was 34,101km long. When  the decision was made, there was also a proposal to operate the SF main line at 6,6kV, using CC+CC electric locomotives.

Gradients and curves were severe, up to 72mm/m and down to 30metres radius.

Civil engineering was impressive, with numerous tunnels. Majestic viaducts used the then modern reinforced concrete, most of which remain today.

The Pont de Gueydan - Guillaumes route, also known as the Ligne du Haut Var, was 20km long, rising from 535m to 790m altitude, highest point 835m at Villeplaine. For its whole length the tramroute is in the Var valley and the Gorges de Daluis. There are 23 tunnels and 17 bridges and viaducts. The major construction is the concrete arch bridge known colloquially as the viaduc du Saut de la Mariee, the tramway name being viaduc des Clues. It is still is use by people who want to jump off the 80m high bridge.

The 26,5km La Tinee to St.Sauveur line rises from 171m to 493m. Originally the connection with the SF was a simple halt 100m from the junction. Due to the danger of falling rocks and very limited space, the trams were extended to run over the SF to La Tinee station 2,7km further south. Many of the overhead fittings and insulators are visible to this day in the tunnel du Mescla. A 60m span bridge immediately after the SF junction carried trams across the Var.

The Plan du Var - St.Martin Vesubie (ligne de la Vesubie) rose from 139m at Plan du Var to 949m at St.Martin Vesubie, a distance of 34,1km. In 1912 6 new bogie trams were ordered with 6 tap direct control of 4x75ch motors and gear ratio of 113/18. Although bogie vehicles they were only 10,3 metres long on 148cm bogies at 5,05m bogie centres. Magnetic track brakes were fitted. Later, some of these were allocated to the Cagnes-Vence route.

The ligne de lEsteron from Pont Charles Albert to Roqusteron was almost entirely in or alongside the road. It was electrically connected to the lines to St Martin and St.Sauveur over the SF to permit exchange of vehicles for maintenance.

Desertification of the population in these rural areas was significant (around 30% during this period), coupled with new motor transport the deficits grew and closures took place in less than 24 years of life.

The Coastal Routes (TNL)

Tramways of the TNL and their predecessors operated in Nice and along the coast from 3 March 1878 until 10 January 1953. A particularly narrow body profile (198cm) was originally imposed to prevent the PLM carrying goods through the streets.

Cannes Trams

Two companies, Tramways Cote dAzur, and Tramways de Cannes, operated lines from Cannes to Grasse and from Mandelieu to Antibes. The TCA often described itself as Cote dAzur Electrique.

The Marcel Cavaille decree of 14 January 1974

A decree of 11 November 1917 made a distinction between:-

bulletvoie ferree urbain or tramway urbain (local railway in urban area);
bullet voie ferree or chemin de fer,

Since that date legislation affecting local railways and tramways has remained generally static until the 14 January 1974 decree by Transport Minister Mr Marcel Cavaille. This decreed that tramways should improve and be used to renew transport in urban areas and cities. Two months later the Minister invited the Mayors of Bordeaux, Grenoble, Nancy, Nice, Rouen, Strasbourg, Toulon and Toulouse to begin studies on the part new tramways could play in the improvement of public transport and the environment in their cities. In August 1975 the Union des Transport Public Urbain et Regionaux was formed to study tramway technology from around the world and was instructed to develop a Materiel Tramway Standardise Francaise. (Only one of these does not yet have some kind of tramway, Toulouse. Nancy has a sort of tramway but its trams can be driven like a bus). Nice has a limited urban service on the CP (former SdF) that functions like a tramway.

Effects of Legislation on the Implementation of Tramways in France

Responses to the Ministers invitation included recommendations for 6 types of tram based on the German VOV Stadtbahn M6/M8 design. The UTPUR then called for detailed designs to be submitted by midday 28 November 1975. 9 designs were submitted, 3 of which were rejected, these were:

1.        TREGIE a bimodal bus (rejected because it was not a tram)

2.        HABEGGER a monorail (rejected because it was not a tram)

3.        TATRA a tram (rejected because it did not conform to the conditions of tender)

Six others received further consideration, these were:

4.        VALBUS a guided electrically powered bus

5.        CFC a standard gauge version of a Belgian SNCV tram

6.        SODETEG Duwag design 93% French construction

7.        BN MATRA BN design 80% French construction

8.        CITADIS a low floor design with 200mm high floor

9.        ALSTHOM 340mm high floor with Schindler bogies

Submittals 7, 8 and 9 were selected for further development undertaken by Alsthom and MTE Francorail. Dr Philippe Neerman of the BN Matra group was retained to develop the vehicle body designs.

Submittals 4 and 5 were not selected for further study because they did not fully comply with the Standards, and submittal 6 was rejected because of non-compliance with requirements.

Transport Alpes Maritime

In 1990 the departement Alpes-Maritimes reorganised the bus networks into a network under the title Transport Alpes-Maritimes (TAM). Buses have a near uniform livery although operated by several different concessionaires. TAM includes Autocars Nice Transport (ANT), Transport Rgional des Alpes-Maritimes (TRAM), Transports Automobiles Nice Plan-du-Var (TANP), Socit Automobile de Provence (SAP) and others. The Nice urban network operates as 'SUNbus', (Service Urbain de Nice) by SEMIACS.

3. Transport in Nice and the 'small bus' network

Comparison with other urban transport systems of similar size highlights one particular difference which makes public transport in Nice unique in France. It is suggested this is a result of the physical geography of the area. Analysis of the SUNBus routes, their length, distribution and average passenger loadings shows that Nice and its urban environs has a very extensive penetration of many bus routes into populated areas. Correspondingly, the average loadings of some routes is much lower than in other cities of similar size. The lightly loaded routes are those that provide a service to the collines, because of these the routes are constrained to the valleys and the sides of the hills. In many cases it is impractical for some residents to access routes close to them but which may be on the opposite side of an adjacent hill.

The SUNBus network has therefore evolved with a relatively large fleet of small buses which are able to negotiate narrow roads, steep gradients and tight corners.

Larger buses would be neither fully loaded nor practical. An example is route 60 between Ferber and Magnan, both these termini are on one of the proposed Est-Ouest tramway alignments and are not very far apart. But the number 60 buses serve an extensive area on three legs to St.Antoine. During morning and evening peak hours these buses run through to Gare Routiere. Other small bus routes with a frequent service for example are 72 and 73.

Introduction of the two proposed tramway routes (E-O & N-S) should include easy, well-timed and efficient interchanges with these bus routes. The principal interchanges are at: Ferber (E-O); Magnan (E-O); St.Sylvestre (N-S); Riquier (N-S). Other interchanges (depending on the chosen alignment of the N-S route) need to provide connections currently provided at PN Gambetta or Pl de Gaulle.

4. Nice Tramway Politics 1974-2002, and the plan in 2002

Current and Future Developments

Awareness of increasing congestion and pollution, whilst economic prosperity depends on mobility has in the last 10-20 years brought a realisation that alternatives to the car are imperative, these alternatives must be attractive to the user.

Other cities have demonstrated how tramways provide an attractive and effective alternative method of transport. Successful examples of new tramways are seen in Grenoble, Lausanne, Manchester, Nantes, Saarbrucken-Saarguemines, and Strasbourg.

An example of an existing tramway which has been modernised and extended and which has proved to be exceptionally successful is the Karlsruhe/Altalbahn network. A main feature of this network is the through running of services between the main line and local railways and the urban tram routes.

New Tramways for Nice

The following three main objectives might be achieved:


The provision of a modern public transport system attractive to non bus-users which could provide fast access into and around Nice, at a time when rapidly growing traffic congestion threatens to hamper the citys prosperity and plans for growth. bullet

The stimulation of urban renewal and regeneration, such as is said to have been achieved in other cities introducing schemes of this nature elsewhere in Europe, America and the Far East. bullet

Reduction of pollution (acoustic and atmospheric), traffic congestion and road accidents.

The new tramway consists of two principal routes, one a North-South axis, and the second an East-West axis. The N-S axis is constrained in the south by the sea, and in the north by high ground. The E-O axis is not constrained in this way and has natural linkages extending north east, east, west, and north west along the coast and valleys of Paillon and Var.

The route of the new tramway between Place de Gaulle and Bd Auguste Reynaud has been subject to intense discussion, called locally the question diagonale, and reported in Nice Matin 2000-12-2.

Jean Nano Icart and the former dput-maire, Jean-Paul Barty, and their advocate Me Christian Boitel, engaged in a procdure (tribunal administratif), to annul  the Plan d'Occupation des Sols concerning the tramway, and review the application of l'article R 123-17-1 du Code de l'Urbanisme.

The movement termed La dfense du patrimoine Belle Epoque, successfully obtained a revised POS for the route of the tramway between the two roads with much less destruction.

Gare du Sud: Hotel de Ville, Le Maire de Nice & Ministere de Cultur

Jaques Peyrat, the Mayor of Nice and Senator in the National Assembly, has for a long time campaigned for the reconstruction of the Gare du Sud site for the new hotel de ville. The existing offices are undistinguished buildings on a cramped site in Old Nice. Under the former minister of culture, Catherine Trautmann, Mayor of Strasbourg, the ministry classified the station structure as an historical monument. There was uncertainty as to what parts were subject to the order. The next minister, Catherine Tasca, clarified this somewhat by implying that the order applied to the entire structure. This did not please M. Peyrat who is not socialist, but a staunch supporter of the former RPR. When Jacques Chirac became president of the Republic with 17% support, the next minister of culture obligingly told M. Peyrat that the municipality could clear the entire site providing the frontage was reconstructed at another location.

Later, a suggestion appeared in the form of a question in Nice Matin on Thursday 14 novembre 2002 asking if the building was to be reconstructed on the future gare multi-modale on la plaine du Var. The author, Philippe Fiammetti, did not make it clear if this was to be at the airport, or at the other proposed site for development at le Plan du Var at La Vesubie, perhaps some deliberate obfuscation. More recent reports suggest this is to be at St Augustine, near the airport.

Jean-Christophe Simon, conservateur rgional des monuments historiques, reported that it would be difficult to determine the time this work would take because of its unusual nature, a gigantesque puzzle.

A Statement of Intent to Operate the new network?

Seen in the SUNbus station in May 2002 was a former TAM bus (operated by Transport Regie Alpes Maritime) sporting the appelation on its LCD destination indicator: TRAM. This was shortly after the public consultation exercise for the new tramway had started.  A few buses also sported the Connex logo.

5. The Chemins de fer de Provence (C.P.)

Formerly the Chemin de fer de Sud du France (SF), it consisted of two main lines terminating at Nice, and a physically separate coastal route running eastwards out of Toulon. These notes deal with the two routes to Nice; Nice to Meyrargues and Digne to Nice. These two routes merged at Colomars on the east bank of the Var.

Built partly as a result of a military strategy to protect the coast and its hinterland from naval attack, it was opened as a dual gauge (100cm and 144cm) railway between Nice and Vence. There had been a purely military tramway along the east bank of the Var before the line opened. Even those bridges on the rest of the system were designed and built to, and still are, capable of carrying both gauges.

In Fig 5 the underside of the bridge across the Var near Puget Theniers the three longitudinal bearers can be seen arranged to support a dual gauge railway formation consisting of three rails.

Curiously, the tunnel de l'Hermitage near Digne has a narrow section over one tenth of its length. Legend has it that this is the result of a clause in the Treaty of Frankfurt, insisted upon by the Emporer Bismarck, that France should be prevented from allowing the easy passage of weapons and troops towards the French frontier. But it is more likely that as part of the tunnel had been built by the PLM for a metre gauge branch in 1883, when they withdrew the scheme, then the project was taken over by the SdF who envisaged dual gauge operation.

The Commissions of Four Rails and of Small Radii

On 12 February 1890 a military and technical commission was constituted to decide on the crucial question of whether the dual gauge should consist of three (assymetric) rails or four (symmetric) rails. A SdF metre gauge locomotive successfully hauled a standard gauge train at Callas on 22 February.  Prsident Carnot made an official visit on 25 April 1890 to accept a decision to adopt four symmetric rails.

However, the commission d'tude des voies ferres courbes de faible rayons was instituted on 18 July 1890 to further study the question of the logistic operation of secondary and light railways. Desdouits dynamometer car tests were conducted using standard gauge Mallet locomotives of the CF d'Herault and double headed light PLM 030T locomotives with a trailing load of 125 tonnes. Performance was found to be satisfactory without the locomotive axle loads exceeding that permitted on the rails used for metre gauge trains.

On the 19 November 1891 the ministre de la Guerre accepted the three rail principle, approved by a ministerial decision on 12 May 1892. Therefore the four rail section Grasse - Draguignan was converted to three rails, and further dual gauge construction was with three rails (e.g. Nice - Digne which was constructed to accommodate a future third rail but which was not laid).

Nice Digne

This section remains as a 151km long metre gauge line operated by 6 Soule autorails each with 2 MAN 165ch engines. A double unit no 350 built by Carosserie Garnero near Nice with a single 500ch engine often provides the summer daytime return service. Digne-Mezel opened 14 August 1891, Mezel-St.Andre 15 May 1892, Nice-La Tinee 7 June 1892, La Tinee-Puget 8 August 1892. The line was completed on 3 July 1911.

Nice Meyrargues

This was the longer of the two SF lines from Nice, 210km247, of which the first 12km795 were common with the Digne line. At Colomars the line crossed the Var on the upper of a double deck bridge, six spans of 61m. The viaduc du Loup  was built on a quarter circle with 11 arches of 20m spans. A further impressive bridge was the 4 span viaduc de la Siagne, 231m long and 72m high. At Vence and Grasse there were connections with the Cagnes-Grasse/Vence lines of the TAM. Much of this line 112km6 to Draguignan was dual gauge, initially 4 rails symmetrically disposed, but later altered to three asymmetric rails. This was a result of the insistence by the army that standard gauge track be laid (see above).

Operationsof CP by SYMA

In 1988 SYMA (responsible for financing the railway) authorised a new partnership between the operator and T.N.L. (Transports Nice Littoral formerly Tramways Nice Littoral). CGEA group continued to operate the railway but with a specific urban service commitment between Nice and Carros. This new agreement was for an initial but renewable period of 5 years. The function of SYMA is to ensure that the relevant communes in both departements (04, 06) are represented and their interests are satisfied. Following the restructuration of the Vivendi group the CGEA interests (Connex) have been transferred to Veolia Environnement.

C.P. Operations and Operating Rules (ex SdF)

Rules governing the running of trains were introduced with ministerial approval on 7 August 1888, entitled Reglement general pour les services de lexploitation and are still in force today with revisions made by the C.P. in 1925 and by the C.F.T.A. in 1977. Some of the rules relating to operating conditions last century have fallen into disuse and others have been annulled by later service orders.

Current Single Line Operating Rules

Train operation (departure, crossing and stopping instructions) is regulated by a train operation record book (livret de la marche des trains) which is issued twice yearly. It defines train times at all stations, crossing points and stops. Details from the record book relating to a particular train are inserted into the train crews book (journal de train, chefs du trains), telling them where to stop and how long to stop for, and which trains to wait for to make connections and to cross. In the case of late running, unscheduled stops or special trains, additional entries are made in the Station Agents record book and in the journal de train. Where two trains have to cross their paths at a different station to the normal station, the Controller through the Station Agents make entries in the journal de train for both trains. When the controller has received confirmation that all the necessary entries have been made in the journals de train he authorises the Station Agents to despatch the trains. When there is no Controller to authorise a movement (more frequently the case some years ago), the Agent at the entry station obtains the agreement of the Agent at the exit station to block the line. The Agent at the entry station enters this in his record book and in the journal de train of the train that is waiting to depart. The Agent at the exit station enters line blocked in his record book. Neither record is valid until counter-signatures have been given to and obtained from the Chef du Train when the train has travelled through the section. This ensures a form of rule-based sequential interlocking. It is not permitted to have a record book or journal without properly authorised and completed counter-signatures.

Where two trains travel through the section in the same direction a simple procedure of reporting the position of the first train by radio or by telephone is used to authorise the second train to proceed to that reported position. The first train cannot proceed until the Agent at the section entry station authorises the train to proceed in accordance with the procedures described above. The Agent at the exit station will not unblock the line until the second train has arrived. It is particularly important that the entry station Agents record book entry clearly states that two trains are to travel through the section and that the exit station Agents record book entry corresponds exactly before the two trains are allowed to depart. The correspondence is assured by telephone or by radio.

Crossing at Unmanned Stations

Where trains cross at unmanned stations, these are authorised by a Agent special voie unique, who can also be the Controller, and is located in the Nice control office, the train crew are provided with a long spanner to unbolt and bar over the points where the trains cross. If the two entry stations are also unmanned the train crew undertake the duties of the Station Agents, and communicate directly with the Controller/Agent special voie unique. After the trains have passed each other safely the two Chefs du Train countersign each others journal and confirm to the Controller that both counter-signatures have been received. This is now a much more usual method of operation which depends on an effective train radio system carried by train crews.


Initially, communication between stations used the Breguet telegraph system. This was replaced by a Siemens telephone system in 1930. Following the plans for improvements in operations in 1977, a radio-telephone system was installed in seven stations and in each of the Soule autorails.

Alignment Standards and Design

When the CP was first built (as the Sud de France) there were no transitions between circular curves and tangent sections. From 1946 parabolic transitions of the Combier or Nordling form were introduced to reduce the effective rate of change of cant experienced by the Renault autorails. The maximum cant was 68mm until 1935 when it was increased to 106mm, and from 1947 when it was increased to 136mm. The current value is equivalent to 195mm on standard gauge.

If standard gauge cants are adopted these would permit 125km/h on curves down to 695m radius and 140km/h on curves of 870m radius. It is suggested that where the track with parabolic transitions is upgraded the realignment should be based on clothoid transitions, giving a neutral lateral force with an arithmetical rate of increase in cant gradient.

Recent changes

In November 1994 much of the railway was closed because of unsatisfactory maintenance and accidents. In April 1996 the railway was reopened after much work. Although there have been many technical changes to the railway in 108 years, the principles of operation introduced in 1888 are very little changed.

The plans to develop a Nice metro / tramway may cause more significant changes to the railway if one of the routes follow the CP line to Colomar and La Vesubie. One possible effect is that the line may be curtailed at le Plan du Var de La Vesubie, some 25km short of its former terminus at la Gare du Sud. There has long been agitation by several interests to extend the operation of the CP over the former PLM branch from Digne to St Auban, where it would make connexions! with the regional services operated by SNCF between Brianon and Marseilles.

6. Examples of Tramways and Light Railways East of Lyon

Cie. des Omnibus et Tramways de Lyon (OTL) - Ligne 16

Line 16 to La Balme les Grottes was planned by Messieurs Laurent & Peyret in 1901, being part of a scheme to construct a line of local interest between Lyon and Chambery. In 1905 the concession was transferred to the OTL for the construction of the section within the Departement of Isere. The first part to open was from Villeurbanne to Jonage in 1907 using a direct current power supply, and trams built in 1899 for the urban sections. These arrangements were temporary until 1909 when the line was extended from Jonage to Jons with power fed at 6600V 162/3Hz. It was further extended bit by bit in the central Lyon metropolitan area to Place Cordeliers in 1913, taking over the then line 3 from Villeurbanne. The voltage changeover point was at Villeurbanne from 1913 to 1914, when it was transferred to Meyzieu, as part of a plan for complete conversion to direct current.

Construction of the complete line was interrupted by the war in 1914 and was not completed until 1921.

In 1988, at the site of Amblerieu, the penultimate station on the line, a long section of original track was brought to light when the local farmer cleared undergrowth alongside the road, but within a few years that too had disappeared.

OTL Monophase Trams - General

For the operation of the line, the OTL purchased 15 Paris trams from the Est Parisien and Ouest Parisien companies. A further 8 redundant trams built for the Vanves-Champ de Mars line were also acquired in that year. All of these trams were rebuilt as dual voltage trams.

These trams were introduced from February 1909 onwards and operated on the long rural line 16 to La Balme and Cremieu and line 17 to Montluel. They would often be used in a train hauling one or two 2 axle trailers. Monophase operation was a temporary expedient for low cost electrification and on line 17 was short lived, being converted to dc between 1912 and 1915. Ac operation of line 16 continued until the end of passenger services in December 1937. 

All these vehicles were equipped with two trolley poles for dc power in the urban sections and a Westinghouse pantograph for 6.6kVac operation on the rural ac sections. The Westinghouse direct "hand control" circuits with a 6600/600Volt auto transformer are believed to have been fitted.

OTL Type A Trams  (Stock nos 249-256)

This series of eight trams were purchased by the OTL in November 1908 and entered service on 14 February 1909. It is assumed that these were built on ex Est Parisien trailers, and following their acquisition were stripped of mechanical parts, probably at the EP Lilas depot before being delivered to the OTL. The OTL then appears to have panelled the body framing, fitted platforms and lifeguards, and made provision for Brill MT Eureka trucks and ac electrical equipment which is believed to have been supplied by the Westinghouse company. The motors were probably 43hp Westinghouse type 307, being within the maximum capacity of 50hp for the Brill trucks.

These cars weighed 16400kg, had 9 first class seats, 15 second class seats, and carried 23 standing passengers.

OTL Type B Trams  (Stock nos 257-263)

These 7 vehicles were similar in size to the type A cars but were of a different body style, believed to have been derived in 1910 from the Ouest Parisien Type A trams. The control gear, ac electrical equipment, trucks and motors was similar to that fitted to the OTL type A cars.

These cars weighed 17400kg, had 12 first class seats, 12 second class seats, and carried 24 standing passengers.

OTL 'Vanves' (Stock nos 264-271)

The Vanves-Champs de Mars company obtained 16 motor bogie trams for the opening of their route on 14 July 1900. The company failed in February 1902 and the cars were put into store at the Jules-Ferry depot. Ten remained in store until 1910, eight of which were then acquired by the OTL company. These were equipped with pantographs, auto transformers and ac control gear to operate lines 16 and 17 with the Types A and B cars. Being fitted with more robust St Louis type 13 trucks, these cars had higher power 60hp motors, believed to be TH523 type.

These cars weighed 17000kg, had 10 first class seats, 10 second class seats, and carried 22 standing passengers.

OTL Manage (type "chemin de fer") (Stock nos 2051-2065)

In 1914 25 luxurious bi-current bogie trams, known as 'Chemin de Fer', were supplied by the carrosserie Manage in Belgium.  The standard gauge trams were originally, however, in the following year These cars had 9 first class seats, 30 second class seats, and carried 22 standing passengers. On one occasion a Manage car was used to convey the Presidential party to the Foire de Lyon..

These 25 standard gauge cars nos 2051-2065 weighed 24,07 tonnes and were equipped with four Westinghouse type 307 motors of 43hp and Brill 27G equal wheel bogies. The bodywork consisted of 90mm vertical teak matchboarding, with large enclosed end platforms. The large Westinghouse controller was mounted to the left of the driver allowing access through a central vestibule door to coupled trailers. These were built for operation on lines 16 and 17, but shortly after delivery line 17 was converted to dc operation throughout, and transformers and pantographs were removed, and the earlier monophase trams were sufficient to operate the remaining ac line 16 to La Balme. Since the La Balme line passed through largely rural communities, from which the locals would probably have wanted to carry their chickens and other produce, the company may have thought it would not be appropriate to operate this route with their new trams. The standard gauge Manage trams were therefore allocated to operate line 17 and other dc lines.

There were also 10 metre gauge cars nos 1211-1220.

OTL Locomotive no 2156 

Because line 16 was built under a joint concession in conjunction with the CF du Haut Rhone to carry through goods and mineral traffic, a locomotive was required. Although steam and diesel locomotives of the Est de Lyon were used to haul trains to Cremieu EL station, the OTL built a dual voltage locomotive principally to haul the HR and Optevoz traffic to and from yards in the Lyon urban area. This bi-current locomotive, no 2156, was built in 1921, was of all steel rivetted construction, had two baggage compartments, a central equipment compartment, Brill type 177E long wheelbase bogies, four type TH586 motors and dual draft gear for coupling either to tramway or railway vehicles, including wagons of the Est de Lyon and PLM railway companies.

OTL Locomotives no 2151-2153

The OTL also possessed three "petrole-electrique" locomotives, which were principally intended for hauling railway wagons over line 12 between yards and factories in the Venissieux area, but it is believed may have occasionally been used on line 16 when locomotive 2156 was not available.

SLM Steam Tram Locomotive

Works trains were often hauled by the SLM steam tram locomotives built in 1899 for the Neuville line (converted to metre gauge electric operation in 1932).

OTL (ex PLM) Locomotive 3-AT-16

A PLM steam loco was used for haulage of the Optevoz cement traffic between Cremieu (Est de Lyon exchange siding) and Hieres s'Amby.

OTL Rolling Stock

Trailer stock consisted of 15 passenger carriages nos 680-694, 5 passenger/baggage carriages nos 695-699, and from 1922 5 trailers built by CGCM of Villefranche s Saone nos 701-705.

Goods traffic was carried by 40 vans, 37 wagons, and 35 flat wagons, all of which had 2 axles and were of the restricted 2,1metres body width for operation over the city sections of the OTL tramway. There were five 2axle flat wagons and 7 bogie flat wagons used for the carriage of stone from the several quarries in the Rhone valley.

Chemins de fer de l'Est de Lyon (EL)

The Compagnie des Chemins de fer de l'Est de Lyon was formed in February 1878 with Belgian finance, based on plans originally proposed by Freres Mangini. The line to St Genix opened in 1881, and in 1913 an extension to Chambery using electric traction was planned. The conflict of 1914-1918 caused the abandonment of these plans, as it did in the case of the OTL. The EdL was one of many local interest lines built by the Freres Mangini in the area, but the others were reclassified by the government as lines of General Interest and were incorporated in the PLM in 1883.

In July 1937 the OTL closed line 16 to passengers beyond Meyzieu and the ac electrification was removed. From this time the EdL took over the operation of all the goods services on the outer end of line 16 and its branch to Cremieu. Although there were direct connections between the OTL and the EdL at Lyon Brotteaux, the EdL locomotives and trains gained access to the OTL for these goods services at Cremieu EdL station. There was still some grooved tram rail on the site of the connecting line here in 1988. There are proposals to open a metro line to the airport at St Exupery (Satolas) using some of the former EdL alignment.

In July 1987 the remaining EdL section, 15km Part Dieu-Meyzieu, passed to SNCF, Meyzieu-Pont de Cheruy may become a metro extension. The last train carried cement on 25 June 1987.

Chemin de Fer du Haut Rhone

There is very little trackwork still visible today of OTL (Lyon Tramways) line 16, the long rural high voltage tramway, and none of the connecting C.F.du Haut-Rhone. Messrs Laurent & Peyret envisaged an interdepartmental light railway running eastwards from Lyon to Chambery or even, some say, to the Swiss border.

In 1901 they received a concession to build 56km of the route between Lyon and La Balme with a branch to Cremieu, this became standard gauge line 16 of the OTL and was electrified at 6,6kVac. In 1906 they obtained another concession to build and operate a further 35km of line from La Balme to Bregnier-Cordon. This became the Haut-Rhone line and was opened in stages in 1911 and 1912 with through connections to the OTL being achieved in 1921. At the start of the war the line was closed until 1915 when one return service per day was run.  In 1920 due to financial deficit the line was sequestrated by the Departement and integrated with the metre gauge lines of the Tramways de lAin.

It was possible at the height of the service to make one through journey a day from La Balme to Bregnier-Cordon on Sundays, holidays, and Mondays (except the first in the month or market days at Belley). A return through journey could only be made on Sundays and holidays. The 35km journey was nearly twice as fast as walking!

After the war the service was increased to two services each way over most of the line with four services on some sections. In 1935 all the traffic was transferred to road, except for one train per day which ran in one direction only from Lhuis to Villebois until the winter of 1938/9.

The rolling stock consisted of 4 Buffaud & Robatel locomotives built in 1910. These were of the same design as the metre gauge locomotives of the TA except that they had inside frames to suit standard gauge. The body profile was 2,2metres wide to suit the tramway dimensions of the OTL and vehicles were fitted with central tramway type buffers and side screw couplings to match the OTL tramway stock. In 1930 another locomotive of the same design as the first 4 was delivered from Pinguely.

Passenger vehicles consisted of 4 wheel end platform saloon carriages, some with baggage compartments. The line earned more income from the carrying of building stone from quarries at Glandieu and marble at Sault-Brenaz. For this traffic, the line had a number of 4 wheeled and bogie flat wagons, which were then handed on to the OTL at La Balme for haulage to Lyon by electric locomotive. Some of these loads are known to have been single blocks of stone up to 15 tonnes weight. For general parcels and other traffic the line also possessed some 4 wheel vans and open wagons of a type widely used on other light railways in France.

The depot was located at Villebois, where there was also the works and a connection with the main line PLM railway.

The physical continuation of line 16 of the OTL from La Balme les Grottes to Bregnier Cordon became the 42km CF du Haut Rhone. The Laurent & Peyret concession for this section was transferred to this company in 1906, and in 1907 the decision was made to build it to standard gauge in conformity with the OTL enabling through operation of goods traffic. An inter-departmental commission of Ain-Isere gave the responsibility of construction and exploitation to the departement of Ain. The section between Bregnier Cordon and Villebois (PLM) was put into service in 1911 and from Villebois to Sault Brenaz in 1912. Finally the connection to the OTL was made in 1921. Traction was provided by 4 030T locomotives built by Buffaud and Robatel in 1910, nos 1-4, and in 1931 the company purchased a fifth locomotive of the same design, no 5, built by Pinguely.

Tramways in Grenoble and Isere

S.G.T.E., C.E.N.

In 1888 the CEN received a concession to build and operate a 16km line from Place Bir-Hakeim to Sassenage and Veury, opened on 29 January 1895. In 1902 the concession passed to the departement of Isere and the line was absorbed into the Grenoble network of the SGTE and was electrified. This line was originally operated by 3 steam tram 030T locomotives built at Blanc Misseron in 1895.

In November 1894 and June 1895 MM Merlin and Chassery proposed three lines Grenoble-Eybens, Voreppe, and Montfleury. The first two were proposed as fireless loco lines, the third as an electric tramway, but all opened as electric. The 13 April 1897 decree authorised the SGTE to build them and they were partly opened in February 1897, Grenoble becoming the 18th town in France to have electric trams. Buire of Lyon built nine teak bodied trams, 7,6m long, 40hp, 38 seats 30km/hr. Lines to Varce (April 1897-1900), and Claix, Vif, and Les Saillants were built.

Villard de Lans, (G.V.L.)

The PLM studied a steam rack line (950m rise) to St Nizier in 1893, but abandoned it due to cost. The departement of Isere invited concessionaires to build and operate a line without success. In 1906 they issued contracts to build the line and stock as a public work metre gauge adhesion tramway, opening in 1911 to Seyssins. It was at this time that the caf Le Tram in Av. Aristide Briande first had a tram service passing its doors (now served by TAG ligne A). By 1914 although construction was well advanced further opening was delayed until July 1920 when trams reached Villard de Lans. Less than 18 years later this last section was abandoned because of lack of traffic. On 21 August 1944 both bridges over the Drac were destroyed in American bombardments. On 8 September a temporary bridge and tram service was restored (Pont du Vercors). While this temporary service was running a new concrete bridge was built. The former SGTE terminus at Cours Berriatt was extended to the caf Le Tram along the route of the new TAG Ligne A. The concrete deck of the bridge has a stepped down recess along its north side which was to accommodate the tram rails. This formation was opened up to view during conversion of the bridge in the 80s to a tram only bridge. GVL voltage was 600V in town and 800V in country.

Voie Ferree Dauphine (V.F.D.)

In 1892 Societe Voie Ferree Economiques received a concession for a 33km light railway from Jarrie Vizille to Bourg dOisans. The company became the VFD in 1893 and opened the line during 1893-4. With further concessions the company extended with routes from Grenoble to Froges and Vizille and electrified these lines between 1901 and 1914. The section from Jarrie Vizille to Vizille was converted to dual gauge (3 rails) in 1951, and to standard gauge in 1959. All the metre gauge was removed by 1964. The company exists still with an extensive bus network and the goods line to Vizille.

Tramway Grenoble Chapareillan (T.G.C.)

A concession was granted in 1895 to M. Claret to build a tramway. The TGC opened to Chapareillan terminus in March 1900. In 1930 the line was taken over by the departement and was operated by the V.F.D., who also used the TGC depot at Ile Verte for its other lines. It closed in sections between 1933 and 31 October 1947. Power supply was the two wire 600V. VFD trams were able to operate to the depot using only one wire.

Voiron-St.Beron & Fourvoirie (VSB)

Concession granted 1891. Opened 1894/5. Taken over by EdL from 1922 until ceded to Isere and brought under VFD. Busstituted from 1932-6. Last section used by goods from St.Beron station to metal factory until 1953. Locos were Pinguely 22t 030T nos 1-7. Also carried Chartreuse.

Sud de France Tramways Ouest Dauphine - Isere (SF TOD)

Concession to MM Rolland et Cie in 1898, opened starting in 1908. Concession transferred to SF 1903. Ceded to departement in 1919 and operated under VFD 1922. Closed pass 1927-35, goods 1934-36. Declassified 1939.

Chemin de fer des Economiques du Nord (CEN)

Joint between Vicinal & Baron Empain. Concession 1889 to work Vienne-Voiron and Charavines branch. Open 1891-1900. Ceded departement 1930, bustituted 1932, declassified June 1939.

S.G.L.M.G. (St George de Commiers, La Mure, Gap)

Originally planned in 1881as a standard gauge steam railway and built as metre gauge in August 1888 to carry anthracite coal from the HBD collieries near La Mure to St George de Commiers on the PLM, it was soon electrified at the end of the 19th century. Construction took six years over difficult terrain with many tunnels, viaducts and cliff side shelfs. Fives-Lille originally operated the line for ten years, then forming the SGLM co with head office in Grenoble. From the beginning difficult working conditions brought about electrification, starting with the La Motte dAveillans - La Motte section in 1903 using the Thury 1200Vdc two wire overhead electrification method. Success led to complete electrification from 1904 to 1910 except for the Notre Dame de Vaux branch. In 1906 extension to Gap and branch to Sievoz was planned and it was declared a public utility. Slow work and war prevented completion and in 1932 it had only reached Corps when remaining works were abandoned which were declassified by 30 Nov 1941 decree. La Mure to Corps closed in 1949. All other passenger traffic ceased in Feb 1950 except miners trains from La Motte to La Mure which ran until 1962.

In 1989 the SGLMG held a conference Tourism and the Narrow Gauge Railway during and after which ideas were developed with other tourist railways. From 1982 to 89 tourist numbers grew tenfold with train loadings being around 200. During the 1950s it was converted to a single wire + 2400V overhead. In 1929 a fleet of powerful locomotives with flexible Secheron spring drives were purchased from Secheron of Geneve.

Recent Developments on the SGLMG

Since the ending of the Houillieres Basse Dauphine traffic, a voluntary association with the assistance of the regional and departmental tourism offices has reformed the company to continue operating as a tourist railway. It has acquired A1 & A5 automotrices and trailers 22/3, 52, 62 from the Nyon-St.Cergue-Morez tramway, several vehicles from the RhB and the St Gervais-Vallorcine line, including the unique 3rd rail snow plough 2450.

The company also expressed an interest in the 2200Vdc trams of the Rhtische Bahn, which became redundant after conversion of the Arosa line to ac traction.

Tramways (Transport) de Agglomeration de Grenoble (TAG)

Alain Carignon, former Maire de Grenoble drove the first official tram before he went to prison. Line A opened in 1987, and line B to the Universite opened a few years later.

A third branch to the Trade Centre has also opened. Further major extensions are being built.

For second part of this paper, The Future, click