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February 22, 2011


A Disused Railway Line and Parisian Birdsong

by soundlandscapes

A WALK ALONG THE Rue Pouchet in the 17th arrondissement led me to a bridge crossing the railway line of the old Chemin de Fer de Petite Ceinture.

Built between 1852 and 1869, the Petite Ceinture or, Little Belt, railway line was the first public urban transportation service in Paris, and was the forerunner of today’s Paris Métro.

It comprised a thirty-five kilometre line that encircled Paris and it was built mainly for transporting goods between the five main railway stations in Paris, but it also offered a public transport service up until 1934.

The first Paris Métro line opened in 1900 with more central, more modern and more rapid rolling stock, together with more comfortable stations and more competitive prices than the Petite Ceinture. Consequently, the urban passenger service of the Petite Ceinture gradually began to decline. In addition, the local goods traffic grew. The Petite Ceinture operators used the loss of passenger traffic to decrease the number of passenger train movements and increase the number of goods train movements since the transportation of goods was much more lucrative than transporting urban passengers.

Eventually, the urban passenger service ceased on 22 July 1934 and was replaced by a bus service.

Today, twenty-three kilometres of the railway tracks of the Petite Ceinture remain. Large parts have been turned into nature parks and green walkways like the one I found in the 17th arrondissement.

Birdsong Beside the Disused Tracks:

In between part of the disused railway track and the small Rue du Colonel-Manhès is a delightful green walkway, which doesn’t look at it’s best in February but which I expect looks delightful in the springtime.

Even so, on a cold February afternoon, the birds were singing heartily, defying the traffic noise and the rain and keeping the spirit of the Chemin de Fer de Petite Ceinture alive.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Feb 23 2011

    Interesting topic and lovely sounds!

    I would disagree though with your statement that “large parts have been turned into nature parks and green walkways”. In fact, very few sections have been touched at all, and most are forbidden to the public. The sections in the east of Paris still belong to the SNCF, and are still in functioning order. I took a ride on a train on the line a few years ago, and it is still the only rail connection between the Gare de Lyon (Bercy) and the the Gares de l’Est and Nord.

    • Feb 23 2011

      Thanks Adam – a valuable comment as always. Yes, perhaps “large parts” was an overstatement. Let’s just settle for “parts”.

      Enjoyed your latest “Invisible Paris” piece by the way. Ah yes, Paris in the rain. I especially like it late at night when it’s dark – watching it that is rather than being in it of course!

      • Feb 24 2011

        I think most people hope that large parts will soon be parks and walkways!

        I don’t know the section that you have shown here, but it is interesting to see that they have seemingly incorporated a walkway and kept the tracks in place.

  2. Lucas.
    Jul 6 2013

    Are you quite sure this line is abanoned? The track seems well maintained & hardly eroded….?

    • Jul 6 2013

      I can assure you that this line is abandoned. The only train you will find on here is a ‘ghost’ train.


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