You may have heard of the former train line, the Parisian chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture, that was used at the end of the 19th until the beginning of the 20th century, but you might not know that the tracks are in disuse, except for those redesigned for public use? Follow us for an exploration of the Petite Ceinture, in the west part of Paris to get an insider’s view!
The history of the Petite Ceinture train line
In 1852, the Petite Ceinture of Paris was created to circumnavigate the city of Paris’ decision to transport goods to the outer districts. Several sections were successively laid out in order to provide a service to serve all of the capital’s outlying districts. Later, from 1862 on, the Petite Ceinture and its many stations opened up to passenger transport.
At its peak, the Petite Ceinture carried several million travellers, notably in 1900 for the Parisian universal exhibition. At that time, the terminus was the Champs de Mars park (the Eiffel tower one). The development of the underground made the line less attractive to Parisians. Indeed the “metropolitain” was more modern, direct, and circulated more frequently than the Petite Ceinture train. Gradually passenger traffic decreased until it is completely closed. Current use of the line is restricted to freight transport activity. With modernization, the gradual closure of slaughterhouses at the gates of Paris (such as those at Vaugirard, 15th district, for example), and the goods transport line, the Petite Ceinture gradually disappeared until its complete closure in the 1990s.
The revival of the Petite Ceinture: a gradual reopening by section
The facilities of the Petite Ceinture have long been abandoned, which has contributed to the development of dense vegetation, much to the delight of urban exploration enthusiasts. Since the early 2000s, the municipality has taken an interest in these abandoned spaces and is gradually reopening some sections to the public. Let’s take a look at those in the 15th, 14th, and 16th boroughs.
Exploration of the Petite Ceinture: let’s start with the 15th district one
The Petite Ceinture train line of the 15th arrondissement was active until 1934 for passenger transport and until the end of the 1970s for freight transport. It served the Citroën car factories and the Vaugirard slaughterhouses, which are today’s André Citroën Park and Georges Brassens Park respectively.
Redeveloped starting in 2011, the Petite Ceinture of 15th presents 1.3 km of walks along the old railway tracks and between buildings for a great stroll. If you take a good look, you can also see Pierre Patout’s unique building on the way: the Paquebot house.
To get to other sections which are closed to the public, get to the 14th arrondissement by passing under the rails leading to Gare Montparnasse station. You’ll find a unique canvas for local artists. Will these deserted areas, a paradise for street artists, one day be reopened to the delight of Parisians? We should hope so!
Stroll in the 14th district Parisian Petite Ceinture
Let’s continue our exploration of the Petite Ceinture by going to the 14th arrondissement of Paris. The layout of this part, which was abandoned in 1985, has been entirely preserved, and the station buildings still exist. A section was recently opened to the public between Rue Didot and Rue Raymond Losserand, to the joy of the neighbourhood’s residents. This pleasant walk is perfect for a family stroll, a jog with friends or simply to admire the street art (or both)!
The train line then continues on its way to the 13th arrondissement, passing under the Montsouris’ park! Access is not open to the public, but portions are visible from certain bridges or buildings along the tracks.
Exploration of the Petite Ceinture Paris 16th district
To finish our walk on the Petite Ceinture of western Paris, let’s go to the 16th district. This part made up the former Auteuil line, opened in 1854, and was integrated into the Petite Ceinture 13 years later. In 2007, a 1.2 km long disused section was opened from Porte d’Auteuil to the former train station of La Muette.
Note that unlike the other parts of the neighbourhoods mentioned above, the Petite Ceinture in the 16th arrondissement no longer contains any rails, as these were removed to make this pedestrian walk. This is a bit of a pity since the remains of road traffic made the charm and history of the place. Nevertheless, the walk is still very pleasant and tree-filled!
Our exploration of the Petite Ceinture of the western Parisian districts is coming to an end. But as the famous line follows a route all around Paris, we will in the future complete this bucolic stroll with more articles to come!
Photo credit: Booster2Success
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