Railway stations

A century ago, Paris had tens of railway stations. Most of them were small ones along the circular line, “La Petite Ceinture” (the small belt), created just inside the then relatively new Thiers wall (see previous post) in the mid of the 19th century. The purpose was to link the major railways stations between each other. Most of these tracks and stations were abandoned in the 1930’s; the metro had taken over the job. A few of the “Petite Ceinture” stations are however still in operation, used by certain faster metro lines (RER).

The major stations for far distance destinations were built between 1837 (Gare St. Lazare) and 1849 (Gare de Lyon) in their first version, rebuilt and extended later. The ones remaining today are thus the six you can see on the plan above. I already posted about Gare St. Lazare, Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon and Gare Montparnasse. To finish with the stations, this post will cover Gare d’Austerlitz and Gare du Nord. (Another major station building was of course the Gare d’Orléans, built for the 1900 World Exhibition, abandoned as a station in 1939 and now the Orsay Museum (since 1986).)

Gare d’Austerlitz (another Napoleon victory, sorry) dates from 1840, with some extensions a few decades later. It’s the smallest of the big Paris stations and serves basically the southwest of France, but also Spain with direct trains to Madrid and Barcelona - you can read “Salida de Trenes” on the advertising board. For the moment there are no high speed trains (TGV) from this station. Today, if you want to go by a TGV to the southwest you must use Gare Montparnasse. Gare d'Austerlitz is now rebuilt to take over some of the TGV traffic from the other, overloaded, stations. It will take a couple of years.

The station is also used by the metro – one line goes through the station over ground. One (fairly) quick metro line (RER) will take you to the Orly airport. (See also the top picture.)

If Gare d’Austerlitz is fairly modest when it comes to the number of passengers, Gare du Nord has the highest number of passengers on the European continent, 180 million per year including the metro passengers. The basic part of the present station dates from 1864 replacing a first one from 1846. (The original facade was moved to serve for a station in Lille – still there). A lot of extensions and modifications have taken place later including a glass construction which covers local train tracks and the quick metro lines (RER).

The destinations are mostly north and northeast of Paris and include also the Benelux countries and parts of Germany. (Here you can read “Abfahrt” on the advertising board.) This is where you will find the fast trains (TGV) to Lille, Brussels (Thalys), London (Eurostar)! It takes now 2 hours and 15 minutes only to reach London (St. Pancras) via the Channel Tunnel (the “Chunnel”) and about 1 hour and 20 minutes to Brussels (with extensions to Amsterdam, Cologne...). Some people today work in Paris and live in Brussels (cheaper).

You can also go to the CDG airport from here, but the service is not yet comparable to what e.g. London can offer (Heathrow Express). It’s planned.

Time to wish you a nice weekend! When you read this, I’m probably already on my way (or have arrived) to the south of France for a long weekend and a blogger meeting. I will not post on Monday and will not have the time to visit your blogs. Should be back in “normal service” mid next week!


Cezar and Léia said...

Dear Peter!
Another "blogger meeting"! Absolutely envious here now! :-)
Have a wonderful weekend dear friend, and enjoy a lot the company of friends!Waiting for the pictures!
Many thanks for so nice post about Stations! Very informative!
God bless you

Dakota Bear said...

Great as usual.

I had the pleasure of being in the Gare du Lyon last year in the first week of June.

Shammickite said...

There's something romantic and very special about those railway stations, perhaps it's the glass roofs, or the ornamental facades.... but just looking at your photos makes me want to go on a long train ride. I am reminded of my train journeys from home in UK to boarding school and back, but of course, those journeys were on the old fashioned steam trains.
I am sure you will have a wonderful weekend and I hope you tell us all about your blogger meeting!

Blind Fly Theater said...

Thanks for another fine lesson put to the music of your photos, Peter.

Virginia said...

How grand. I hope you will be meeting Jilly and Nathalie!! Can't wait for the photos. Have a wonderful holiday Peter!

Azer Mantessa said...

I filled my landing card :-)

Have a nice weekend :-)

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Splendid! Especially the first picture! Is the Eurostar a TGV?

Do have a wonderful weekend!

Cergie said...

A londres il y a la gare de Waterloo, sorry.
Successivement les grandes gares comptent beaucoup pour moi : Lorsque j'étais enfant, la gare de l'Est pour Epinal (nous passions quelques jours hôtel Terminus Est qui existe toujours) et aussi lorsque notre fille vivait à Berlin et que nous y allions en train-couchette.
La garde du Nord lorsque notre fille était à Düsseldorf
Gare Montparnasse pour la Loire Atlantique de Pat et Bordeaux pour Etienne
Et à présent mostly Gare de Lyon, pour Lyon et Montpellier + le Var.
... Et la Suisse.

Catherine said...

J'adore l'atmosphère des gares, l'empressement ou l'attente des voyageurs. Tes photos, en particulier celles qui montre la foule, rendent bien cette atmosphère particulière.
J'aime voyager par le train.

Bon voyage au pays du soleil, Peter.

alice said...

Donc tu n'es pas parti par les gares que tu nous montres aujourd'hui... Je te souhaite un excellent weekend et de belles rencontres sous le soleil du sud. A bientôt!

Olivier said...

de toutes les gares parisiennes, la gare du nors est celle que j'aime le moins, je la trouve triste..de loin celle que je prefere est la gare de Lyon. J'espere que Samedi tu passeras voir Ebena (13h) au champs de mars ;o))

catherine said...

serais tu parti pour Avignon ? lucky you !

Ruth said...

I took the RER once from the airport into the city. It was fine, but with my suitcase going up and down metro station stairs, I decided not to do it again. ;)

Shionge said...

Cheers Peter for a wonderful weekend and what a lovely post.

We took the Eurostar from London to Paris and landed in Gare du Nord ;) I love to walk around the railway stations, soak in the hustle and bustle of the place.

april said...

Very interesting this entry about stations. We call them "Kopfbahnhöfe" because trains seem to end there. I think it's not so nice for the passenger to get from one station to another but perhaps it's better for the city when it is not cut into too many pieces by the rails.
Have a nice weekend. South of France, that sounds nice to me.

Thérèse said...

I never realized the huge amount of glass panes all over these stations!
Hope you had a great weekend!

Alain said...

La gare du Nord n'est pas ma préférée. J'avoue avoir un faible pour la gare d'Austerlitz qui mettait Toulouse à 6 heures de Paris dans les années 70, un exploit à cette époque.

Starman said...

One of the best dinners I ever had was at Le Train Bleu in Gare de Lyon.

claude said...

Je ne sais pas si je tiens cela de mon enfance, mais j'aime bien l'atmosphère des gares et du métro.
Lorsque nous allions en vacances dans le berry, on partait de la gare de Lyon.
L'autre jour, au Mans, avec mon Chéri qui n'avait pas circulé devant la gare depuis un bout de temps a pu voir, comment maintenant on défigure l'architecture ancienne des façades par d'immenses verrières. C'est laid.
L'ancienne Gare Montparnasse n'existe plus. J'y ai de bons souvenirs de petite fille.

Kate said...

We will patiently wait for your new photos. This series is wonderful theme. When you gather information for your posts, where do you research, Peter? I know you'll have a wonderful time. See you mid-week.

Cutie said...

Hmm... I can still remember the train station there. Gosh it has been years. Really miss it.

Lydia said...

I love your point of you about Paris !!!

hpy said...

SI après cette visite on loupe encore un train à Paris, on n'a plus d'excuse.

Anonymous said...

Nice shots. I don't know much about the way people get around in foreign countries but it sure beats walking.

My Birds Blog

GMG said...

Another wonderful post of a lovely theme: I always loved trains!!
Lucky guy; another tour and another blogger meeting!! ;))

Neva said...

I did not get a chance to try train travel when I was in Paris but this looks exciting! Hope your blogger meeting goes well! Have fun!

Marie-Noyale said...

Voila comme au Monopoly tu as toutes les gares!!
Apparemment Samedi c'etait a la gare Montparnasse qu'il fallait etre... ou eviter suivant que l'on aime la fete,la foule et les binious!!!

Passe un bon debut de semaine au soleil du sud de la France.

Dave-CostaRicaDailyPhoto.com said...

I found your blog from Jilly's links on her blog about your meeting with her and other CDP bloggers. Yours is a most informative series. THank you.

By the way, although you are Swedish, I wonder how much fun the French are having, at the expense of the British, over the cover of this week's Economist Magazine.

Parisbreakfasts said...

I love love love Paris' train stations. I'm happy to hang out just for the atmosphere...romantique IMO
And you can read all the current magazines at the Relay for free.
Lots of wonderful info here.
Must bookmark.

PeterParis said...

One day we will also meet, I'm sure! :-)

Dakota Bear:
Perhaps the nices station, especially if you took the time to visit the restaurant Le Train Bleu! :-)

I have also some experience of steam engined trains, including the Flying Scotsman! :-)

PeterParis said...

Sincere thanks for your always kind comments! :-)

The photos are partly there now! :-)

Happy landing! :-)

PeterParis said...

Yes, Eurostar is a TGV! :-)

Waterloo, c'est fini! C'est maintenant St. Pancras! :-)

J'ai pris le train! :-)

PeterParis said...

En effet, la Gare de Lyon! :-)

Samedi j'étais ailleurs! :-)

Non, ailleurs qu'Avignon cette fois-ci! Voir posts qui suivent en ce moment! :-)

PeterParis said...

Yes, if you have heavy luggage I would recommend the bus (or possibly the taxi)! :-)

Yes, a very special atmosphere! :-)

Yes, different from Cologne where the trains go through! :-)

PeterParis said...

You have to look upwards! :-)

Austerlitz est sans doute la gare la plus calme! :-)

Especially the devoration is fantastic! :-)

PeterParis said...

En effet, la Gare Montparnasse, surtout vu de l'extérieur, n'est sans doute pas une grande réussite! :-)

I search a bit everywhere... Google of course! :-)

The station is still there ... and you know the way! :-)

PeterParis said...

Sincere thanks! :-)

En effet! :-)

Sorry, but I think walking is the bast way... if you have the time! :-)

PeterParis said...

... and when will we meet you? :-)

Of cours arriving from the States, flying is more appropriate! :-)

J'ai donc choisi la Gare de Lyon! :-)

PeterParis said...

Very happy that you found this way! I have to look for the magazine! :-)

So you spend hours at the RELAY? :-)

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