Chemins de Fer de la Provence

Should you be fortunate enough to be in the Cote d' Azur in the south eastern part of France, try to drag yourself away from the crowded resorts of Cannes, Antibes and Nice and try instead a leisurely ride in the narrow gauge train that climbs high into the mountains of Provence. Starting from Nice, the Chemins de Fer de la Provence offers a unique way to explore the beautiful landscape of the region. The trip from Nice through exotically named villages such as  Moriez, Le Fugeret, Puget, and Colomars, ends in Digne Les Bains. The single journey takes around 3.25 hours and a return ticket cost £22 in 2000.

The line is normally operated by modern single and two car diesel units, but steam locomotives are brought out from retirement on a number of occasions throughout the year, operating over a section of the line around Puget.

Several of the following photographs were taken from the train windows, and do not do full justice to the scenery on display. You have to see it for yourself!

The fine old terminus in Nice is no longer used, it is now replaced by a more practical modern building a bit further along the line. I hope that this elegant structure survives.

The disused terminus in Nice

In contrast to the terminus, the line itself is pleasantly humble. Travelling along you will observe the fastidious attention to matters relating to health and safety, note the secure fencing between track and road.

View from the cab

The line passes a variety of attractive small towns, many of the photos were spoiled by intrusive telegraph poles, but some managed to escape that fate.

The line follows the course of river valleys most of the way, during our trip the water was quite high and carried a load of grey sediment.

The passenger trains use underfloor engined diesel units, but the line does possess at least one stylish diesel locomotive. I presume that it is used for freight or track maintenance, but we saw very few goods trucks.

As the track climbs higher into the mountains there is evidence of extensive civil engineering, with many tunnels and viaducts.

Steam locomotives are occasionally used on special trains

E327 is a 4-6-0T built by Fives Lille, France 3582/1909

The river gradually shrinks as the line approaches the watershed  

The line terminates at Digne les Bains, the next photo shows the train standing in that station. Here the line connects with the SNCF, but the standard gauge lines were overgrown with grass and do not appear to have been used for some time. Note the much smaller single car unit parked adjacent to the modern train, there was a variety of antique diesel powered machinery on display at various points along the line.

The two car unit was comfortable and well prepared, this final photo shows the attractive interior.

If I were to do the trip again I might be inclined to get off the train at Puget, as that looked a particularly nice little settlement, while those with a limited amount of time available might make that their destination.

If you would like to know more about this line, why not visit the web site entitled Sur Les Chemins du Train des Pignes?

Bryan Attewell
13th May 2000

Photos re-scanned 26-09-2008