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Note: this text was originally published in the Fred’s Notebook section of my Web site on April 19th, 2001, a forerunner of Blogs, and was subsequently discarded. It is published here in its original version. If RER C/Boulainvilliers operation stayed more or less the same in the previous 10+ years, Snow Hill has probably seen some evolution, at least in terms of rolling-stoc in use.

2014-02-23_115116
A tale of two cities: Snow Hill Tunnel and Boulainvilliers
(April 19th, 2001)

(with apologies to Charles Dickens)

What happens when a “lost” subway is no more “lost”? I mean, what happens when one of these get reused again for public service. Apart from not being qualified any more for the “Lost Subways” section of my Web site, extensive refurbishment justified by modern railway technology requirements and environmental issues leads too often to the loss of the original and somehow romantic atmosphere of the place.

An interesting parallel can be made between Snow Hill tunnel in London and Boulainvilliers station in Paris, France. Both were built around the turn of the (19th) century, both were downtown, subterranean North/South lines carrying important traffic, both were closed but ultimately revived at the end of the 20th century to be included in express services. In both cases, re-opening included extensive works.

Snow Hill: this tunnel altogether with the now defunct Snow Hill station (a.k.a. Holborn Low Level) was built by the LCDR in 1866 to connect with the Metropolitan Line at Farringdon Street, and to Moorgate in 1871. Special features included provision for a banking engine in Farringdon to assist freight trains in climbing up to Ludgate and underground berthing sidings.

Through passenger services to Farringdon Street were abandoned in 1908, while the spur to Moorgate was eventually closed in 1916 as a wartime economy measure. Freight services were cancelled in 1969 and the tracks removed. North-South through services were resumed in 1988 as part of new Thameslink services, after extensive civil works including construction of a new subterranean station on Snow Hill station site, known as City Thameslink, and the demolition of the Holborn Viaduct terminus altogether with the Ludgate Hill viaduct – made famous by my fellow countryman and engraver Gustave Doré.

SNH-SnowHillSeen from Blackfriars, the concrete box in the distant is the new City Thameslink station.
(Picture © 2001 by F. Delaitre).

SNH-BlackfriarsIn Blackfriars station, class 319 dual voltage City Thameslink service
departs for the South on February, 22nd, 2001.

Picture © 2001 by F.Delaitre.

Snow Hill Tunnel

Boulainvilliers: this station and the adjoining tunnels were built from 1897 as part of the new Courcelles-Champ de Mars services run by the Compagnie de l’Ouest for Paris’s Universal Exhibition of 1900.

The Boulainvilliers station was located on the new part of the line, sandwiched between two tunnels, northbound towards the Avenue Henri Martin station, southbound towards Quai de Passy. The line was completed on April 13th, 1900, after the quadrupling of tracks from Courcelles to Avenue Henri Martin and the construction of a twin viaduct on the Seine across the Ile des Cygnes.

It is interesting to note that this short connecting branch took much of the media attention, leaving in the shadow the opening of Paris Underground’s first line between Maillot and Vincennes three months later.

At the beginning of the 20th century, traffic slowly decreased and the Boulainvilliers section suffered from the competition of the Metro lines 6 and 9. With the soon-to-come demise of the Petite Ceinture services, passenger traffic ceased on June 1st, 1924. For 40 years, the line – reduced to a single electrified track – was used for the transfer of empty rolling stock (“Standard” EMUs) to and from the Champ de Mars depot (demolished in 1969, the site is now occupied by the Cultural offices of the Australian Embassy in Paris, and was adjacent to the UIC – Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer – building, rue Jean Rey).

After the closure of the Champ de Mars depot, the Boulainvilliers line – with its 3rd rail removed – was used for temporary storage of new rolling stock awaiting delivery, such as the MS61 EMUs of the RATP prior to the opening of RER line A to Saint-Germain-en-Laye and later the SNCF Z6400 EMUs prior to conversion from 3rd rail to 25kV overhead of the suburban lines out of Saint-Lazare.

In 1982, the branch was awoken from its Sleeping Beauty dreams and left to the civil engineers. The station, once leased by the SNCF to a dentist, was reverted to its original use while the cutting over the tracks was covered by a concrete roofing, supporting a garden. The Boulainvilliers line eventually reopened in 1988 as the northern barnch of the new RER line C.

BOU-EntranceEntrance of Boulainvilliers northbound tunnel in 1907.
(Picture by E. Gérards).

BOU-BVBoulainvilliers station building is looking like a small villa,
in accordance with the surroundings of the poshy 16th arrondissement.
(Picture © 2001 by F. Delaitre).

BOU-TrainZ2N double-deck EMU leaving Boulainvilliers station
northbound for Henri Martin on April 19th, 2001.

Picture © 2001 by F.Delaitre.

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