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France Abandoned 1930s Railway in Paris

UrbanScribe

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Known as La Petite Ceinture or The Little Belt, Paris’ former steam railway existed from 1852 to 1934. The railway was built for a number of reasons. Namely because the city had recently undergone major fortifications to help prevent attacks, so an easier way to transport goods, including amory was needed. When the railway was created it linked the two existing lines in Paris into one circular track.

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Postcard image of La Petite Ceinture in its prime.

By the 1930s Paris was rapidly expanding and means of transportation needed to keep up. Once the modern metropolitan line was established there was little need for such a small railway and so La Petite Ceinture was eventually decommissioned. Although it has been out of action for decades, parts of the tracks are still accessible today. You can even make out the tracks if you Zoom in on Google maps.

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A map of the railway line in the 1920s.

Over the years, many people have tried to bring this hidden part of the city back to life. However, its future remains, as it has been a source of much debate. La Petite Ceinture is now an empty wasteland, save for the colourful graffiti and plant life that now grows wild along the tracks.

I had always wanted to explore an abandoned railway, so while in Paris we thought we would check it out. We entered the railway on a side street near Père Lachaise Cemetery. The way to get in was hidden by a concrete wall with a small gap we could sneak in between. The empty tracks and the abundance of greenery made for some eerily poetic visuals. It had a definite Zombie/End of World vibe to it. There appeared to have been an attempt to revive the old overpass to our right with a cafe/art gallery. But that too looked abandoned, perhaps only a few years ago.

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Behind us was a deep, extremely dark train tunnel. My partner was keen to explore the tunnel, but we were without a strong torchlight, and I also did not want to find out what (or who) was in there. So instead, we progressed ahead of us into the bright light of the day.

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I was fairly sure our exploration wasn't breaking any laws, but it did feel strange because no one else was around. Some parts were so high above the ground they went over the roads at times, and we could look down on the Parisian life happening below without anyone seeing us.

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An old station now decorated in brightly coloured graffiti.

Occasionally, we could see the steps that once provided the street access to the railway. However, these were now gated and locked.

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Although we never found anything of the sort, rumour has it there are tunnels that lead all the way into the Paris Catacombs.

We kept walking the tracks for about an hour without any real plan for how we were going to get out. The broken fences and places that looked like we could get out were starting to get fewer and fewer so we decided to take our leave when next we could.

We visited the railway when we were in Paris again. This time we got in near Bellevue Park. It wasn’t nearly as isolated because we saw a bunch of local pre-teens sneaking around, and a guy shooting up drugs in the tunnel.

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The_Raw

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Great report! I've still not ventured there myself. There is definitely an access point for the catacombs along there somewhere. I believe it's a hole in the wall that takes you straight inside.
 

UrbanScribe

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Great report! I've still not ventured there myself. There is definitely an access point for the catacombs along there somewhere. I believe it's a hole in the wall that takes you straight inside.
Thanks! That's awesome, I will definitely have to research it more so I can visit when I'm there next.
 
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