photo The Pine Kernels Train


The Pine Kernels Train


Les Chemins de Fer de Provence assurent quatre allers-retours par jour de Nice à Digne-les-bains. Ils relient sur 151 km les Alpes-Maritimes et les Alpes de Haute-Provence et comportent une dizaine d’arrêts en gare et 30 arrêts dans des haltes.

Le train propose également vingt deux fois par jour, une navette aller-retour entre Nice, Colomars et Plan du Var.

Known throughout the world, the legendary little “Train des Pignes” takes you leisurely from Nice to the spa town of Digne. This century-old train track invites its passengers to a 94-mile ride across the hinterland of Nice, the Provence highlands and, finally, the Haute-Provence Alps, lasting 3.5 hours.

An icon of the Provencal collective memory, this railcar does four return trips a day. It travels on a single, one metre wide track in order to be able to easily wind its way through the hills and mountains. It goes through a series of tunnels: twenty-five of them, the longest being that of the Colle Saint Michel: 2.1 miles.

The “Train des Pignes” is nothing but technical prowess, and required gigantic amounts of work: sixteen viaducts, fifteen steel bridges and twenty-five tunnels. In 1902, the construction involved more than four hundred workers for two years, in a very challenging environment. The works had their fair share of fallen rocks, landslides, floods, …, which somewhat shattered and troubled this railway adventure.

The Provence Railways line carries several legends with regards to its name:
- The low speed allowed passengers to alight from the moving train to pick pine kernels,
- During WWII, the lack of coal supply would have made it necessary to use pine kernels to fuel the engine,
- Finally, there is legend according to which, during a Christmas night, “ a gatekeeper fell short of firewood. The railwaymen running a night train stopped and offered her coal. When the engine itself ran out of coal, pine kernels from the surrounding trees fell directly into the tender, enabling the train to carry on its journey”.

However, the origin of the name seems to tend towards a more pragmatic fact: the coastline tracks travel through large pine forests.

Among the fifty stations the train goes through, this link between the Mediterranean sea and the Alps travels through the medieval town of Entrevaux, the village of Annot, … A trip along gorgeous landscapes bordered by deep gorges, and all at an average speed of 37 miles an hour.

Although the line has been operational for one hundred years, it has been updated and provides its passengers with spacious, air-conditioned railcars. The more nostalgic are not ignored, and the steam train operates between May and October. Two itineraries are on offer:
- A steam-powered train (pulled by a 1925 engine) from Puget-Théniers to Entrevaux,
- An itinerary combining diesel + steam-powered train from Nice to Annot.

To make your own mind up, let yourself be tempted by the trip!

For further information:
Chemins de Fer de Provence
4 bis Rue Alfred Binet - 06000 Nice
Tel. +33 (0)4 97 03 80 80
Fax. +33 (0)4 97 03 80 81


04 Juillet 2013 - Berengere


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