Tour de Provence with Caravelle X-4567 - Part 2

Day 2 - Marseille - Nice - Marseille InterCity Train

Marseille St Charles
The following day, Friday, had an early morning start from Saint Charles, scheduled for 06.13 (actually leaving at 06.20).

Direction Toulon in the darkness, with lights passing by at the stations in Aubagne, La Ciotat and further east. It was only just before Toulon that we could see anything more than street lights and house lanterns.

Today's trip had actually been advertised as being from Marseille to Ventimiglia in Italy. Why Ventimiglia? Because the Friday street market in Ventimiglia is the largest along the Riviera, with hundreds of stands and a large variety of products (from genuine Italian to counterfeit) and crowds of visitors. Parking a car is sometimes a problem, which makes taking the train being the most convenient.

The original idea had been to take the Caravelle to Menton on the French side, almost at the border, but tunnel construction work in Monaco forced ATTCV to stop in Nice. Passengers then used the regional train, TER, to and from Ventimiglia. An option was to stay in Nice and for example explore the new tram line and its connection to other rail networks.

The Caravelle this day then became - an Inter City train, with return to Marseille in the late evening.

A couple of Italian passengers ask if the Caravelle can take them to Nice, because their TGV train has been cancelled and they have a connection in Ventimiglia. Of course, they're most welcome!

It's not until west of Toulon that we start to see some contours of the landscape we're passing through. We know we pass through the famous Bandol wine district, but we can't see anything.

Entering Toulon. Uniformed SNCF staff take photos of the Caravelle - and of each other in front of the Caravelle. Of course, it's not every day you get the opportunity to see, or send off, such a train


Leaving Toulon we get a wonderful sunrise over the Maures mountains. And as we rush to our next stop, different shades of gray mark the contours of trees, bushes, houses and hills in the morning mist.

Sunrise over Les Maures mountains

Vineyards Côte de Provence in morning mist

Morning mist

Carnoules station - the full circle (minus 1 km!) completed. A group of passengers heading for Ventimiglia board here.

Carnoules was once a center for steam engines. A hectic railroad town, the only steam engine depot on the PLM line between Marseille and Nice, with some 500 railroad people working on hundreds of steam engines.

Most of the installations were destroyed by heavy air bombardment during the final part of WW2.

Carnoules SNCF
Next stop Les Arcs - Draguignan, in the morning sun. The line from Les Arcs to Draguignan, some ten kilometers north, was abandoned and removed during the 1990-ies, therefore the double name today. Draguignan was once an important rail town, the largest station on the 1 meter gauge Nice - Meyrargues line.

Les Arcs

After Les Arcs we head eastwards in the valley towards Frejus and the sea. We pass the St.Raphaël station, until the end of WW2 also terminal for the 1 meter gauge coastal line to Toulon. Felix Martin, at the time the mayor of St.Raphaël, was the "father" of that line, as well as of the Nice - Meyrargues line mentioned above and the still existing Nice - Digne line.

100 km/h - max speed for the Caravelle

The line passes at the foot of the Esterel mountains

Cruising at a comfortable speed we now enter a beautiful region, the Esterel mountains, passing over bridges and through tunnels, between the steep slopes of the mountains and the Mediterranean sea. A beautiful bridge at Mandelieu marks our entrance to the Côte d'Azur and the so-called French Riviera.

Near La Bocca

After La Bocca, where the recently restored line to the "perfume city" Grasse connects, we stop in Cannes. The station area is covered by an elevated street, which almost gives the impression that you are in a tunnel. Quite a different impression than that of the luxury hotels and the sun on the beach along the palm tree lined La Croisette.


After a number of stations - Golfe Juan, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, Biot, Villeneuve-Loubet, ... - we reach Nice-Ville station, after 3 hours and 10 minutes from Marseille. Almost as fast as TGV ... well, almost.

Golfe Juan


We arrive in Nice-Ville station after hardly more than 3 hours or travel from Marseille.

Most passengers continue to Ventimiglia. Some stay in Nice.

Three level crossing: Elevated road, TGV train and Nice tram

Nice tram in front of old Sud France / Train des Pignes main station (being partly restored)
 The train returns to Marseille, leaving Nice just before sunset.

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[This is an edited version of an article on the now closed web site railtrain.org/attcv/]