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November 27, 2011


Paris Metro Line 5 – Vanishing Sounds

by soundlandscapes

LINE 5 OF THE PARIS METRO must surely have the most distinctive sounds on the city’s entire Metro system. Earlier this year, I produced a blog piece about the Quai de la Rapée Metro station on Line 5 together with the sounds of the trains passing in to and out of the station.

Sounds of Line 5 at Quai de la Rapée:

Line 5 was opened in 1906 and it crosses the east of Paris from Bobigny to Place d’Italie. At  14.634 km, it’s the sixth longest and the eighth busiest line on the Paris Metro network.

Paris Metro Line 5

Yesterday, I had to travel along Line 5 from Gare d’Austerlitz to Place d’Italie and once again I was struck by the distinctive sounds on this line. I recorded the relatively short journey and I’ve included the end of it, the one stop from Campo Formio station to the terminus at Place d’Italie, for you to listen to.

Sounds of Line 5 – Campo Formio to Place d’Italie:

So what causes these distinctive sounds? I think it’s mainly to do with the fact that the trains on Line 5 are over forty years old – they were introduced in 1967/1968, so they are sounding their age.

Photo from Wikipedia

They are Type MF 67 rolling stock – and here, a quick lesson in Paris Metro train designation is called for. There are several types of trains on the Metro system but they fall into two main categories, those designated Type MF and those designated Type MP. The distinction is that the Type MF’s (Le materiel fer) have steel wheels whereas the Type MP’s (Le materiel sur pneus) have rubber tyres.  Needless to say, the Type MF 67’s on Line 5 have steel wheels, which contributes to some of the distinctive sounds.

It is with mixed feelings that I can report that rather swanky new trains are gradually being introduced on Line 5.

Photo from Wikipedia

The existing MF 67’s are being replaced with the new Type MF2000 trains. These are more efficient, quieter and the only trains on the network to have on-board air-conditioning. To date, sixteen MF 2000 trains have been introduced, leaving forty MF 67 trains remaining.

So, the distinctive sounds of the Type MF 67 trains on Line 5 are set to disappear some time soon.  Suddenly, recording and archiving these vanishing sounds for posterity seems to be really quite important.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nov 29 2011

    I’m on line 9 and they have the same type of trains as on the 5. With no upgrade plans at the moment, I think we’ll still have this type of train for a while to come. But the line is pretty much straight with very few turns. Line 5 produces some of the most amazing sounds, mainly as there are a lot of bends and turns, giving those awesome screeches that you’ve captured.

    • Dec 3 2011

      Thanks Colin. Yes, the MF 67’s will survive on Line 9 for some time. My line is Line 1 and we’re in the process of going automatic. RATP are introducing two new fully automatic trains a month. By the end of 2012 Line 1 will be completely automatic with no drivers. We will be controlled by computers and the good news is that computers don’t go on strike. Hurrah!

  2. Dec 4 2011

    Creak creak creak. Fantastic, I can almost imagine it as being a fossilised sound from the industrial revolution.
    It’s interesting, the idea of endangered/vanishing sounds. For example, for these current sounds to be come so prominent they at some point replaced or blurred other sounds which now might not exist.
    It all seems quite an evolutionary process in a way, though it’d be nice to have better control of the direction of that evolutionary path.

  3. Dec 7 2011

    It’s true that computers don’t go on strike, but I bet the man who has to turn the computers on still will!

  4. Suzi Montgomery
    Feb 28 2012

    Enjoyed the sounds- loved how the voice came in announcing the stop- nostalgic for Paris

    • Feb 29 2012

      Thanks Suzi, I’m pleased you enjoyed these sounds. The sounds of Line 5 I think are especially evocative.

  5. Oct 23 2013

    I loved this post very much, but don’t think I’ve had a chance to comment on it!

    Although the MF 67 cars are old and clanky, that clanky sound does produce a unique sound that isn’t heard very much over here in the US. Most older railcars here just screech and squeal. You don’t really notice any of the clanky clank that the Paris subway cars produce.

    And now, I’m sure you’re planning a post about Line 9. Now that the MF 2000 is rolling out to that line now. 🙂


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The sun begins to set on the MF 67-F on Line 5 of the Paris Metro | Public Transit As Told By HARTride 2012

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