Thursday, 17 February 2011

Buttes-Chaumont – the Permanent Way

This postcard view has been taken from the southern heights of the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Today these slopes are densely wooded and this view is unobtainable. The railway is the Petite Ceinture, the long defunct Parisian orbital railway that runs through the eastern flank of the park enabling us to unite two obsessions in a single posting. The photographer is standing on top of the Tunnel de Belleville from which the tracks run north and leave the park at the point where the road bridge carrying the rue de Crimée travels overhead. The eastern boundary fence in the park has been breached and offers one of the easiest access points on to the trackbed of the Petite Ceinture. This writer is routinely mocked by friends and family for an aversion to any activity that might be construed, however remotely, as unauthorised so this was a major step in more ways than one. Which is how these photographs came to be taken.

La promenade est interdite sur la Petite Ceinture, comme pour toute voie ferrée appartenant au réseau national. L’alinéa 5 de l’article 73 du décret n° 730 du 22 mars 1942, modifié par le décret n° 69-601 du 10 juin 1969, portant règlement d’administration publique sur la police la sûreté et l’exploitation des voies ferrées d’intérêt général et d’intérêt local (J.O du 23 août 1942) stipule qu’ "il est défendu à toute personne de pénétrer, circuler ou stationner, sans autorisation régulière, dans les parties de la voie ferrée, ou de ses dépendances qui ne sont pas affectées à la circulation publique, d’y introduire des animaux ou d’y laisser introduire ceux dont elle est responsable, d’y faire circuler ou stationner aucun véhicule étranger au service, d’y jeter ou déposer des matériaux ou objets quelconques, d’entrer dans l’enceinte du chemin de fer ou d’en sortir par d’autres issues que celles affectées à cet usage.

Down on the hallowed ground of the Petite Ceinture, having transgressed line 5 of article 73 of decree 730 of March 22nd 1942, modified by decree 69-601 of June 10th 1969, it all looks very well cared for. The ballast has been renewed and is free of weeds while the tracks themselves show little evidence of rust formation. The railway emerges from the tunnel to the south into a cutting, the west side of which is buttressed by a brick built wall with alcoves adapted by rough sleepers using outsize plastic groundsheets to provide shelter and privacy. To the north where the tracks run underneath rue de Crimée, a branch that formerly served the abattoirs at La Villette diverges to the right. Some hardcore urban explorers were already present at the mouth of the tunnel engaged on a project of their own. Ignoring them in time-honoured fashion I walked north for a few hundred yards taking photographs before a deep seated fear of authority warned me the time to retreat was at hand.

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