Monday 15 December 2008

Encore la Petite Ceinture

Today we make a brief return to the strange semi-abandoned universe of la Petite Ceinture whose carefully maintained and long forgotten railway tracks silently encircle the city of Paris. After almost 75 years without a regular service, most of the tracks remain in a state of readiness as if the resumption of service was imminent.

This locomotive with its rather fetching hinged cap attached to the funnel is an example of the type that was employed on the route in the early decades of the last century. It would have made regular trips through the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont conveying passengers from Pont de Flandre with a pressing need to be at la Maison Blanche by the quickest means possible. It would have made a splendid sight as it charged through the park, between the two tunnels, in a blur of smoke and steam. The rapid expansion of the Métro provided alternative routes that were faster and more direct leaving la Petite Ceinture to its eventual extinction in 1934.

The photographs, lovingly presented in glorious greyscale for added enjoyment, were taken in the 19th arrondissement where la Petite Ceinture crosses the Canal de l'Ourcq on the splendidly named Pont Craquer, close to Parc de la Villette. The tracks wind their way through some fairly uninspired architecture. An unhealthy amount of plant life encroaching on to the track suggests that maintenance standards are slipping. It may well be that the continued existence of la Petite Ceinture could soon be coming to an end. To see a passenger’s view from the Pont Craqeur in 1992 follow this link. Be prepared to wait until the video is about 6 minutes in!

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