It may not be a coincidence that the new issue of Histoires de Paris devoted to the fabulous adventure of the railway in the capital, arrives on newsstands on February 14. Because between the stations and the City of Light, it is a singular love story, which has been playing out for nearly two centuries. With, as in any relationship, its ups, its downs, its fiery beginnings and its little routines, its tragedies or its feats of glory.
This is what you will discover by leafing through the 108 pages of this magazine, assembled like so many wagons. The locomotive ? This is the business of the pioneers, these great rail fundraisers who, with the help of engineers, designed the France of rail in the middle of the 19th century. At the heart of the network, Paris, from which spun seven main lines like so many veins irrigating France.
We hardly measure how much the train was a revolution – technical, democratic… – in the life of the French. To reach Lyon from the capital, it took Balzac, Hugo and all their contemporaries (who had the means and… the health) nearly ten days in diligence. And about 40 hours with the mail coach, the ancestor of our TGV which galloped at full speed. Compare this to the two hours it now takes to reach the Gare de Lyon and the Cité des Gaules!
But the train, as you will read in our special issue, is also an open door to beauty and dreams. Take the Parisian train stations, where you rush into a hurry, your nose on your smartphone: these monuments, among the most majestic in the City of Light, have the merit of being cathedrals teeming with life. Even without jumping on a train, even staying at the platform, guaranteed escape.
In this magazine concocted by Le Parisien, with the faithful Lorant Deutsch in the driving position, you are promised a wonderful journey through time. Past – ah, the ghost stations, and the remnants of the little belt –, present – Gare Montparnasse as you’ve never seen it before – and future: that of the Grand Paris Express which will shape the capital region of tomorrow.
On the eve of a decisive PSG-Real in the Champions League, let’s savor this other nod to the calendar: the first line in the Ile-de-France region was put into service on August 26, 1837 from a simple wooden landing stage near rue Saint-Lazare . Nearly 20,000 passengers boarded that day aboard the… Paris/Saint-Germain-en-Laye ! Love at first sight, we tell you.
“The Fabulous Adventure of Paris Stations”, n° 18 of Histoires de Paris, on sale today in all newsstands. 108 pages. Price: €6.20.