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Bouches-du-Rhone and its Railways – Part 2 – Orgon to Barbentane
Bells and Whistles — Episode 3
Overhead Line Electrification for Railways
The line between Orgon, Chateaurenard and Barbentane is shown on the sketch-map below. The North-point is at about 11 o’clock.
In 1900, about 60,000 passenger tickets were sold. It took 1hr 23min to go from Barbentane to Orgon-Gare and 1hr 30min in reverse. The passenger service was terminated on April 10, 1937, this was surprising as at the time alternative road services were not available. In 1941 the service was, it seems, provisionally restored but in 1946 the line was permanently closed to passengers. 
The freight traffic was significant. In 1900, 24,500 tonnes of fertilizers, cereals and other goods were transported on slow speed trains and 20,000 tonnes of vegetables which required rapid delivery.The line from Orgon to Barbentane. Trains to Barbentane and Tarascon followed the same route out of Orgon until just beyond the station at Plan d’Orgon. The route of the line to Tarscon is sown in pick on this 1930s Michelin Map and is covered elsewhere. 
The present station at Orgon served the PLM line. The secondary branch line to Barbentane was served by a smaller structure close to the PLM station. The PLM line had travelled North alongside the N7 before turning to the East and crossing the Durance River. The station buildings were of a more substantial nature than those on the secondary lines. The image below comes from Google Streetview and shows the station building in the early 21st century.The view above shows the station at Orgon. The picture is taken from the North-east.
The adjacent satellite image is taken from Google Earth. The station building is clearly substantial. The waiting shelter on the opposite platform also of some substance. There were a series of sidings at the station of which a number were still in use in the early 21st Century.
The station at Orgon sat on a piece of land between the Vallat Meyrol and the Canal Septentrional des Alpines and the Durance River. Just to the North of the station the PLM line crossed the Vallat Meyrol. That bridge can be seen at the top of the adjacent image.
The station for the secondary line to Barbentane sat, as shown below, close to the PLM station. It sat alongside the shelter on the platform across from the station building.The BdR railway station is on the right side of the above image. 
The adjacent image shows the location of the BdR station building and shows the approximate route of the line in green. 
From the station the BdR swung round the North side of Orgon alongside the Canal Septentrional des Alpines. The next two aerial images show the that alignment. 
The postcard image which follows that shows the line from the North with the town and castle behind.The old railway runs across the centre of this image. 
Before heading away from Orgon it is worth a look at contemporary images of the PLM bridge across the Durance River. The next few images give a good impression of the structure.The four images immediately above show the bridge between Orgon and Cheval Blanc across the Durance River. Leaving Orgon it appears the the line first followed the south bank of the Canal Septentrional des Alpines for just a short distance, but when that turned away to the Northwest the line continued in a westerly direction. The route to Plan d’Orgon is shown on the following excerpts from 1955 aerial images from the IGN site. 
The aerial images show the old railway line deviating away from the D7N as it approaches Plan d’Orgon.
The Station at Pland’Organ was on the north side of the town and was still in use as a railway goods yard until 2006. The station building was demolished in 1979.
Railway tracks still remain at the site of the station in the early 21st century. Details of the station are provided in another of my posts. 
Plan d’Orgon station site seen from the Southeast. 
Plan d’Orgon was a junction station. We have already covered the line which served Tarascon, leaving the Barbentane Line just to the Northwest of the station. It is shown as a red line on the staellite image below. We continue along the green line.After crossing Route de Cavaillon at level, the line continued in a Northwesterly direction. This Google Streetview image is taken from Route de Cavaillon looking Northwest. The aerial image below shows the route of the two lines in 1955. Travelling Northwest, trains followed the D7N. The line ran around 30 metres to the Northeast of the road for some distance. Modern maps still show the line which closed relatively recently. Looking back along the line from the D74C (Route de Saint Jean).The image above is taken looking Northwest along the line from the same location.
The adjacent map shows the route of the line through the village of St.-Andiol. 
St.-Andiol Station still has its tracks in place and part of the station building as well. The tracks are overgrown on the approach to the station from the Southeast but they are still in place as the picture from Avenue de 19 Mars shows below.Looking North from Avenue du 19 Mars in Saint-Andiol.Looking South from the D24C (Route des Agasses/Avenue des ANC Combattants) in Saint Andiol.Looking North through the Saint-Andiol Station site from approximately the same location in the early 21st Century. Saint-Andiol Railway Station in the early 20th Century. The view from Chemin des Muscadelles North of Saint-Andiol Station, looking back South along the line.The image above looks North from a side street close by in 2012.
The adjacent image shows the D24 and the railway, North of Saint-Andiol, travelling North in very close proximity. The route of the line then follows the Chemin Vieux de Saint-Andiol through Saint-Michel and the southwestern suburbs of Cabannes. As the road bears Northeast towards the town centre, the railway turns Northwest and runs into what was the Railway Station site. The IGN map below shows Station. 
Once again the tracks remained in place in 2012 when the pictures were taken from Chemin de Barrie and from the end of Avenue de Verdun. These modern pictures are supplemented by 4 early postcard photographs of the Station.
Northwest of Cabannes, the railway followed a straight course alongside the meandering D26 (Route de Noves) before the road and railway ran parallel to each other for just under a kilometre, as can be seen below. The line then ran cross-country away from the route of roads until reaching Noves. On the way it crossed the D26 and the D7N.
Looking Northwest towards the site of Cabannes Station from Chemin de Barrie. The view of the station site from the end of the tarmac on Avenue de Verdun. Two very early images of Cabannes Railway Station.  Two early 20th century pictures of Cabannes railway station.  The D26, Route de Noves and the BdR Railway run parallel to each other for around a kilometre. The picture is from Google Streetview and was taken in 2012. Looking towards Noves from the D7N, another Google Streetview image. The railway approaches Noves from the Southeast along the line of trees visible in the bottom right of this image and which crosses the D7N road running up the right side of the satellite image. The railway line still passes North of the Noves Stadium and then curves towards the Northwest, entering the station site . The tracks can still be glimpsed through the bushes at the edge of the Stadium car park. Two photographs of the Station at Noves in the early 20th Century.  Noves Station. Noves Station from Avenue Agricol Viala. This Google Streetview image looks back towards Cabannes. The railway left (and still, in the early 21st century, leaves) Noves in Northwesterly direction alongside the Cd28 (Route de Chateaurenard). This picture comes from Google Streetview and was taken in 2012. By the time the D28 has been reached the railway is travelling in a Westerly direction. The IGN map below shows the route as it approaches the outskirts of Chateaurenard.  This image is a second map from IGN of Chateaurenard and shows the railway running across the North side of the modern town.  This image covers the same area as the map immediately above. It is a 1955 aerial photograph of Chateaurenard. 
The Station at Chateaurenard was one of the significant stations on the route to Barbentane. The building was commensurate with that status. Unlike many of the other stations/halts on the line, the station building was a two-storey structure.
The four images above show Chateaurenard Station near the beginning of the 20th Century. .
These two images show engines and rolling stock on the Station site.  Google Earth satellite image of Chateaurenard Railway Station in the early 21st century. Map of the Station site provided on line by IGN.  Looking back from Chateaurenard Station towards Noves. The photographer is standing on Avenue Leo Lagrange. Looking forward through the station site from the East. The photographer has turned through 180 degrees from the last picture. The water-tank is on the right. The two-storey station building can just be seen beyond the canopy left of centre. The two-storey station building, taken from Rue de la Gare to the South. The Station building from the North.  Looking back across the station site from Chemin du Mas de Quentin. Looking West from Rue Paul Aubert at the Western end of the Station site. The present railway line follows the route shown here through Rognonas to join up with the main line which heads Southwest to Tarascon from Avignon, just to the North of Mas de Corne. This is alos the route of the old railway, as can be seen on the aerial photograph below.
There was a small Halt at Rognonas on the BdR line of which there appears to be no evidence on aerial photographs from 1955 or more modern maps.
On the route of the PLM line from Tarascon to Avignon there was a station for the two villages of Barbentane and Rognonas. It is marked ‘Gare de fret’ on the map from IGN below.The same area is shown on this 1955 aerial image.
Barbentane-Rognonas Station Buildings.
The picture above shows Barbentane-Rognonas Station on the PLM line. The old BdR station building is behind the photographer over his left shoulder. 
The adjacent IGN map shows both station buildings and illustrates their relative positions. 
The pictures below show the BdR building today.The BdR Station Building in the 21st century. The picture is taken from the south at the end of the Impasse de la Gare.The same building taken from the West. The picture above is taken from the bridge over the main-line which sits just to the North of the BdR Station building. The old PLM building can be seen in the right-background. This is a Google Streetview image.
The adjacent image is taken over private land from the East. This 1955 aerial image clearly shows the location of the station, its buildings and track work were still complete in 1955.
Finally a few notes about the whole line and the station at Barbentane.
On 24th July 24 1843 Messrs Talabot and Frères , of the Railway Company of Avignon in Marseilles , obtain the concession of the line Avignon to Marseilles. On 18th October 1847 the Barbentane- Saint-Chemas section of the PLM line opened and the Barbentane station was declared open. It was given the name “Barbentane-Rognonas,” although initially it had been thought to call it Rognonas Station. 
The secondary line from Barbentane to Orgon was developed as part of a series of secondary lines financed and built in the Departement of Bouche-du-Rhone by the Société de construction des Batignolles.  In 1882, in Bouches-du-Rhone, the company changed its name to: , this company became the Société nouvelle des chemins de fer des Bouches-du-Rhône, then in 1886, Compagnie des chemins de fer régionaux des Bouches-du-Rhône. The company folded in 1913 and was taken over by the Departement. It became known as the Régie départementale des transports des Bouches-du-Rhône, better known under the acronym RdT13. 
This explains how the BdR station for the Barbentane-Orgon Line became known as the Batignolles station. The line was declared of public utility by promulgation on 30th August 1884. Its purpose was to serve the rich agricultural plains located between the Rhône, Durance and Alpilles and promote the transport of the crops both to the Rhone valley via the station PLM Station at Barbentane, and to Marseilles and the Côte d’Azur via the Orgon PLM station. 
The work on the line began in November 1886> Temporary track was laid to access the River Durance where the gravel necessary for the embankments was extracted. Construction was complete in January 1888 and the line opened that spring, along with the line from Saint-Rémy to Plan-d’Orgon.
The line measured/measures 28 km.and was travelled in just over an hour. The track has/had very shallow gradients. The ruling grade was downhill from Plan-d’Orgon to Barbentane, which was the direction of travel of the most heavily loaded trains.
This article first appeared on rogerfarnworth.com
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