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Normandy tramways - Sourdeval to Granville


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Whilst training in Normandy for a London to Brighton charity bike ride, I discovered the paths along old railway lines. While searching for pictures of the trains, I discovered by chance that in addition to the standard gauge line, a narrow gauge railway ran quite close to my little country cottage. One thing led to another: I found an excellent book in the Brecey library (Quand les petit trains faisaiant la Manche), spotted a Jouef Decauville set on Ebay, chatted to Andy at A2B who identified a Baldwin in one of the old pictures (Bachmann model duly ordered), and hopefully what will follow is a small model representing some of the line that I can take to local Vides Greniers as a bit of fun to entertain and maybe inform the locals. They know about the 'big' railway but mostly have no idea about the long-lost narrow gauge line.

 

The line closed in 1935 and thanks to the American and German tank drivers, much of the infrastructure is lost, but I started research today to find where the stations and stops were. Gare de Sourdeval (end of the line) is a private house but the outline of the platforms can still be seen. Today we only got as far as Cherence le Roussel before the call of the cafe as it's tricky to be sure where the smaller stops might have been and we drove up and down the road a few times. But thanks to an example timetable in the book, and google maps, we're pretty sure we found where most of the halts were. We can't be sure that Gare de Cherence was where the salle de fetes is now, though that's the only bit of flat land in the village, and I am told that the Mairie might have an old photo of the station - the Mairie opens for 2 hours most Thursdays so at some point I'll pop in to see what they have.

 

If anyone has any thoughts or advice on resources to help with research, or what OO9 or HOe models to look out for that might suit a small layout, that would be great, and meanwhile, a couple of pics of locations already identified, as they are today: the platforms at Sourdeval, Pont de la Forge (forge long gone!) and where Gare de Cherence surely must have been - nowhere in this area is anywhere that flat in its natural state

 

 

20200106_113227_(2).jpg

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20200106_155439 (2).jpg

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Hi Philip

Interesting stuff and it should add interest to you bike rides.

 

The line from Granville via Coutances to Sourdeval-la-Barre  was one  of a number of metre gauge lines built in the Département by the Chemins de Fer de la Manche. It opened in 1908 and closed in 1935 though the section from Coutances to Sourdeval closed to passengers in 1932.  In 1926, apart from the short line between St. Mere Eglise and Pont l'Abbé that had closed in 1914 after only seven years, the CFM was bought out by the Département de Manche which would have granted the original concessions. It was then operated along with the other d'Intêret Local lines in the département as the Chemins de Fer Normands which I assume was a company owned by the local authority. 

 

The stations seem to have been the common French type for this sort of railway,  There was a main building with passenger and parcels facilities and the Chef de Gare's office on the ground floor and an apartment for him and his family on the first floor; at one end of that building was an attached goods shed and loading platform and, for the all but the smaller stations, a ground floor wing at the other end housing a waiting room, lamp room and toilets.  They didn't have raised platforms for passengers so the outlines you've found are probably all there ever was but all but the smallest stations would have had a raised loading dock usually running from one end of the main building with the attached goods shed occupying the first part of it.

A good proportion of these fairly substantial stations usually survive but are often modified so not always easy to spot. Because the railways closed so early I'd expect less to remain than from lines that closed after the war. It's often surprising though how much does remain largely because in rural France they tend to find new uses for any decently constructed building. I don't know if it's still there now but, in the 1990s, I noticed from the main Cherbourg road that bypasses St. Mere Eglise that the old station was still there.  Stopping, I discovered that the station building with its goods shed, the engine shed and the water tower were all intact. They were disused but in fairly good condition so I assume they must have been used for something else since 1914. 

 

I'm surprised by the indentification of a Baldwin as the CFM's 25 steam locos were all 0-6-0Ts of three different sizes built by Weidknecht  in their works in Paris. I wonder if this could have been a 600mm contractor's loco or one used by the Germans in the building of the Atlantic Wall.

 

Despite the captions on many local postcards from when it was operating, the two CFM lines from Granville weren't tramways as they ran on their  own right of way. The CFM did though run through the streets between Granville Ville and its passenger and goods terrminus at Granville Port. This was a dual gauge track shared with the Etat railway which had a goods branch from a junction just before its terminus to the port.

885431410_GRANVILLE_-_Passage_du_Tramway_sur_la_Place_Plville.JPG.533b3b5a6488e18a5491583d16957ee5.JPG

This train is not "passing", it's actually in the CFM's Granville Port terminus about to leave.

 

My information comes from the Ouest de la France volume of Les Petits Trains de Jadis by Henri Domengie which is usually pretty accurate but  I think I've got a book about the CFM somewhere. I'm not sure if I have a Michelin map of the Cherbourg peninsula early enough to show the line of this railway but if I have I'll PM a scan.

Exploring France's once vast network of local railways can be fun, albeit rather addictive, but if they've turned them into cycleways they won't be difficult to find.

 

H0e is of course narrow for metre gauge though relatively fewer French modellers these days seem to use the more accuruate H0m using 12mm gauge (TT gauge) track. 

Edited by Pacific231G
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Phil - now you can see the benefit of using RMweb - in less than two hours, David has given you an incredibly detailed response.

 

See you in a few weeks time when you are back home again.

 

Mike

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Not much trace of the tramway these days. The port at Granville still has some standard-gauge track in places but the station in the background of the above postcard is long gone (replaced by a rather ugly post-war Gendarmerie)

 

Nice part of the country though! This postcard shows both the standard and narrow-gauge systems at the eastern end of the harbour.

 

JB

 

Granville.jpg.d997703734e8e3c10c4ef18d6a57c149.jpg

 

 

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Great stuff JB, Pacific - thanks, and lots more material here for me to absorb :) Incredibly, someone recently sold a ticket from Luc to Ouistreham on eBay. Also, on the wall of the 'Metropolitan' - the building facing Avenue de la Mer, there's a picture of a train outside the building, back in the day.  

 

Pacific - interesting background that has helped me reconcile what I have found so far. Clearly the term 'tramway' misled me - pretty sure that when the train left Sourdeval it had to be on the road until at least half way to Cherence le Roussel as the local geography is so undulating. But certainly by Mesnil Gilbert the line was between road and river as I have pinpointed where both Mesnil Gilbert and Cuves stations once were - and of course Gare de Brecey still stands. 

 

Lots more research to do - many thanks both for the pointers

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Looking promising Phillip. The photos you showed me in the shop were quite blurred so correct identification of the loco would be difficult. It definitely was similar in shape to the Baldwin, although I am nowhere near 100% confident that it is. It will certainly give you something to work with though. The location looks great. 

 

Andy

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9 hours ago, Philip D said:

Great stuff JB, Pacific - thanks, and lots more material here for me to absorb :) Incredibly, someone recently sold a ticket from Luc to Ouistreham on eBay. Also, on the wall of the 'Metropolitan' - the building facing Avenue de la Mer, there's a picture of a train outside the building, back in the day.  

 

Pacific - interesting background that has helped me reconcile what I have found so far. Clearly the term 'tramway' misled me - pretty sure that when the train left Sourdeval it had to be on the road until at least half way to Cherence le Roussel as the local geography is so undulating. But certainly by Mesnil Gilbert the line was between road and river as I have pinpointed where both Mesnil Gilbert and Cuves stations once were - and of course Gare de Brecey still stands. 

 

Lots more research to do - many thanks both for the pointers

Most of the contemporary postcards refer to the line as Le Tramway  de Sourdeval a Granville but it was definitely a railway and not a tramway (French law defined a tramway as a railway running along or on the road for 2/3 or more of its length and they were cheap to build but very restricted to speed and weight.

 

As luck would have it I do have a copy of Michelin 59 St. Brieuc-Rennes from I think 1934 that shows the route of the Granville-Avranches-Sourdeval line and only one section of about 20kms south of Granville appears to be roadside . It'll still be Michelin's copyright but I'll PM a scan of it to you.

Basically, the CF Manche line left its terminus at Granville-Port to join the Etat's S.G. port line through the streets. It separated from that to reach its own Granville-Ville station after which there was a junction where one line ran roughly E.N.E. to Condé while the line to Avranches swung south through a short tunnel under the Etat main line then in an arc around the edge of Granville to join the then N811 just south of  St. Pair. It then ran down the coast along that road (whether on the verge or actually on the side of the road can't be determined from the Michelin map) leaving it at the south end of Jullouville. It then ran on its own "plateforme independante" but fairly close to the road which it rejoined about 4km west of Avranches to run into the town. From Avranche to Sourdeval it was entirely on its own right of way but generally followed the N811 running between it and the north bank of the river See from la Gohanniere to Mesnil-Gilbert (apart from two short sections where it crossed to run north of the road. After Mesnil-Gilbert it crossed the road again and ran north of the river, now the opposite side from the road,  through the narrow valley (gorges?) to Sourdeval where it made a connection with the long closed and dismantled) Etat S.G. branch from Vire-St.Lô.

The platforms whose outlines you saw at Sourdeval were almost certainly those of the Etat SG station.

Some of the line's route has been absorbed by roads and the road along the south edge of Brecey called La Martiniere that passes the gare is certainly on the former route of the railway. Comparing aerial images from IGN with the old Micheline map quite a lot of the railway's route can be traced- mostly where it has been used for minor roads but ocassionally by field markings. 

Edited by Pacific231G
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7 hours ago, Pacific231G said:

As luck would have it I do have a copy of Michelin 59 St. Brieuc-Rennes from I think 1934 that shows the route of the Granville-Avranches-Sourdeval line and only one section of about 20kms south of Granville appears to be roadside . It'll still be Michelin's copyright but I'll PM a scan of it to you.

 

What a fantastic resource. I'll now need to re-visit the area to see if I can find any remaining evidence of where the line really did run, suitably kept refreshed with visits to the excellent local cafes. Thankyou so much :)

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53 minutes ago, Philip D said:

 

What a fantastic resource. I'll now need to re-visit the area to see if I can find any remaining evidence of where the line really did run, suitably kept refreshed with visits to the excellent local cafes. Thankyou so much :)

 

another useful online resource for searching for where the old lines ran is the British Library georeferencer map platform:

 

http://britishlibrary.georeferencer.com/compare#

 

zoom into the area of interest and a list of historic maps will appear on the right hand side as a list, these are georeferenced and some are large-scale, eg:

 

1826578367_blgeoref.jpg.71f9bd5ccf705c2af3cb7f96723e7181.jpg

 

 

cheers,

 

Keith

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, bécasse said:

A map first published in 1934 is out of copyright (more than 70 years ago) but you still have to acknowledge the source if reusing it.

Thanks Bécasse

Copyright in a work normally lasts for 70 years after the death of its creator but you're quite right that there is an exception for maps where it is 70 years after first publication (50 years for crown copyright e.g. Ordnance Survey maps) .  According to the Bodleian

https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/maps/reproducing-maps If you scan, photograph or trace a  map (or anything else that's out of copyright) then that reproduction becomes a new work in which you have copyright but that doesn't extend the expired copyright of the original work. So, if I scan an out-of-copyright map that scan is my copyright. How anyone would evidence that for a mass printed map is less clear unless the copy I own is somehow unique.  

Unfortunately, I don't think track plans of model railways count as maps, so we can't publish plans from model railway magazines unless they're out of general copyright. We can though redraw them.

 

 

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Given Bécasse's useful clarification of map copyright. This is the route of the  Chemins de Fer de la Manche line from Granville to Sourdeval.

CF_Manche_Granville_-Sourdeval.jpg.a55ebf6e4a68565f8ef66235c9ce7fc4.jpg

It should enlarge if you click on it and I'd used a highlighter to clarify its route (something I no longer do with old maps)

It's scanned from the Michelin  1:200 000 map no 59 (St.Brieuc-Rennes) and I think it's the 1935 edition. Until 1938 Michelin didn't put a date on their maps but there is a code that I think makes it that year- the year when the line closed. 

 

I can't yet upload the route of the other CF de la Manche from Granville because of the 10Mb upload limit but will post it when I can

.

 

 

Edited by Pacific231G
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Always good to see a French NG thread, especially one about Normandy.

 

Need to be careful not to get confused between the Voie Soixante lines of the CFC and the other, metre gauge, lines though.

 

From the former, I have in a cupboard (against which my longer-distance bike is coincidentally leaning at the moment, which should please the OP) a tile from the roof of the magnificent depot/workshops at Bayeux. It had already fallen from the roof, when I acquired it, I hasten to add.

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17 minutes ago, Pacific231G said:

Given Bécasse's useful clarification of map copyright. This is the route of the  Chemins de Fer de la Manche line from Granville to Sourdeval.

 

Thanks again!  This helps massively in working out where the line ran, and joins several dots already worked out, that were inconsistent with a line along the road. For instance, there looks to be a crossing point just north of the Cherence-St Pois road junction (an unnaturally-flat pathway in a hilly terrain) and indeed that is where the line crossed the road. Over the next few days I'll get out with the camera and try to spot some evidence,  now I know where to look

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On 08/01/2020 at 16:13, Nearholmer said:

Always good to see a French NG thread, especially one about Normandy.

 

Need to be careful not to get confused between the Voie Soixante lines of the CFC and the other, metre gauge, lines though.

 

From the former, I have in a cupboard (against which my longer-distance bike is coincidentally leaning at the moment, which should please the OP) a tile from the roof of the magnificent depot/workshops at Bayeux. It had already fallen from the roof, when I acquired it, I hasten to add.

Indeed but though the 234km long CFC was the most extensive public 600mm gauge network in France it did not, apart from the city trams in Caen, actually meet a metre gauge line. Apart from the line from Caen to the coast and along it to Luc-sur-Mer which closed on D-Day (with the early morning train in steam at Luc about to set off for Caen, a trip it never made) all the other lines of the mainly roadside 600mm Calvados system had closed between 1929-1932 and though this is well before my earliest Michelin map  of the area was published in 1937 they still appear even though they had supposedly been dismantled by then.  I was also quite surprised, while staying in the Hotel de la Gare at Bayeux in the 1980s. to find that both the station building and the depot were intact, both being used by the buses that replaced the railway (not the same buses obviously!)

Chemins_de_Fer_du_Calvados.png.e297202d118be13027c3e46c1a8d1ea0.png

 

Back to the metre gauge CF de la Manche. There was another line from Granville that ran to Condé-sur-Mer where it had a terminus alongside the Etat station. The line runs along the edge of Michelin 59 from 1935 and 54  from 1937 (the year after the line closed but it's still shown) so this map has been taken by combining them

CF_Manche_Granville_-Conde_.jpg.87890dbfd08c2eb0b4f5e0f2ef75ec70.jpg

In 1927, using rail from the short lived (1907-1914) Pont l'Abbé-St. Mere-Eglise line, the line was extended by adding a third rail within the standard gauge Etat branch to produce a dual gauge track that enabled metre gauge trains to run on to St. Lô where a new metre gauge terminus was built to one side of the Etat's through station. This lasted until the entire metre gauge line from Granville closed in 1936.

618848723_CFMCondsurVire-St_Lo.jpg.d4e5eef7d8890b377bbed2447c99d3d9.jpg

 

The Etat line through Condé to St. Lô closed to passengers in 1938 (along with most secondary branch lines in France) but part remained open for goods until 1989 . South of Condé the line has been dismantled but from St. Lô to Condé is still intact and a 7km section from Condé gare to Gourfaleur is now used for a Velorail operation.  

 

 

 

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21 hours ago, Pacific231G said:

.... (with the early morning train at Luc-sur-Mer about to set off for Caen, a trip it never made) .........

 

 

 

Lovely to see, on the wall of the Metropolitain cafe restaurant in Ouistreham, a picture of a train passing the building, presumably en-route to Caen given the direction it is facing

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20191231_164154_resized (002).jpg

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If you go the other side of the river, and follow the route of line that crossed the bridge at Benouville, one of the little Norman/Alsace style wayside stations is preserved - I think it might be at Dives.

 

No, checked my photo, it’s at Le Home - Varaville, which is before you get to Dives. IIRC it’s actually on a cycle route.

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12 hours ago, Nearholmer said:

 it’s at Le Home - Varaville,

Got back from lunch at Merville to see your post. Was only a couple of km from Varaville! Will go back when I get the chance to see the little wayside station

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That Café is just asking to be modelled and it doesn't look particularly distinctively Norman so is probably good for almost anywhere in France- certainly anywhere north or slightly south of the downstream Loire. The thing that always struck me about the Calvados system is how oversize the rolling stock looks for the gauge. That seemed less true of the Pithiviers-Toury tramway so I assume the authorised loading gauge was about the same as that for metre gauge roadside tramways. 

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Getting back to Le home -Varaville for a moment:

 

If you scroll down on this page the 'ancienne gare' has quite a write-up, with pictures 'then and now'. http://tourisme.aidewindows.net/varaville.htm and a bit of an excursion with Proust. The link being "Entre 1907 et 1914, Marcel Proust fréquente régulièrement le Grand Hôtel de Cabourg, logeant dans la chambre 414 du quatrième étage.".

 

This style of station has a very strong parallel with something rather unexpected https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly_Flats_Railroad

 

The depot of the Grizzly Flats RR was a near direct copy of a depot on a real US railroad (Pottsville on the Lehigh Valley RR), which was published in a sort of architects design book in 1893, then reproduced in Model Railroader in 1946, and became the archetypal Disney station. Pottsville depot was designed by an Alsacienne architect, who had family links to Normandy, and the CFC depots of this type are as much if not more Alsacienne as they are Norman ........ I've long wondered whether the CFC ones inspired the US ones and even whether the same guy designed them.

 

(If I can unearth my books about the CFC, I will see whether they say anything about the loading gauge limits, but my gut feeling is that it was a 2m width, which, as you say 231, applied to metre gauge tramways also)

 

 

 

 

Edited by Nearholmer
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Then and now. Three locations where I have found old pictures and have revisited today. Sourdeval and Brecey stations survive while the site of Cuves is still accessible. Think I blobbed at Cuves and was standing where the station was!

 

Sourdeval old.jpg

Sourdeval now.jpg

Brecey old.jpg

Brecey now.jpg

Cuves old.jpg

Cuves now.jpg

Edited by Philip D
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Some more 'then and now' though more 'now' as 'then' is somewhat elusive. The first two pics feature Mesnil Gilbert having found an old picture. I was about 200 yards out with Cuves as there's a house called 'La Gare' just up the road - next pic is at Perriers Brouains and must be the house. Last pic for now is a bridge at Tirepied - won't bore you with all the others of lanes and embankments, but when you know approximately where to look and what to look for, it all starts to become clear

Mesnil Gilbert old.jpg

Mesnil Gilbert now.jpg

Cuves now 2.jpg

Perriers Brouains.jpg

Tirepied.jpg

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