Visiting the railroad station at Montauban, France: with a neo-classical frontage dating from 1884

Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Montauban railroad station, Tarn-et-Garonne, France
Montauban railroad station, Tarn-et-Garonne, France | Source
Charles de Freycinet (seen at extreme right) and other dignitaries, 1916
Charles de Freycinet (seen at extreme right) and other dignitaries, 1916 | Source

Opening up the interior of France in the 19th century

The lines of this building, and its state of maintenance, look so clean that one may be forgiven for thinking that it is a modern structure, styled traditionally.

In fact, the building dates from the late 19th century, 1884, to be precise. The coming of the railroad to Montauban, in southern France's Tarn-et-Garonne department — originally in 1856, establishing a rail link with Bordeaux — was in the context of the country's great expansion of the at first private rail network (1) which occurred during the Second Empire and the Third Republic. Montauban particularly benefited from the development of the railroad following the influential Freycinet Plan (French: le plan Freycinet) in the 1870s. Significantly, in 1879 the French government designated the Montauban - Brive-la-Gaillarde route to be of public utility.

Interestingly, briefly in 1870, the person later to be author of the Freycinet Plan, Charles-Louis de Freycinet (1828-1923)(2) served as Préfet (senior departmental civil servant) of Tarn-et-Garonne, at Montauban. One wonders whether the subsequent benefit which Montauban received under the Freycinet Plan was entirely a coincidence.

The station is operated — not unusually — by France's state railroad company, S.N.C.F. (Société nationale des chemins de fer français). In recent years, the high-speed TGV service from Paris has served Montauban.

Among the building's features are frequent arching, and a conspicuous clock. Photographic evidence has survived of the arched entrance with its large clockface looking down at horses and carriages before the days of motor vehicles.

The full name of the station is Gare de Montauban-Ville-Bourbon (3), in reference to the fact that a now closed second station was known as Gare de Montauban-Ville-Nouvelle.

July 11, 2013

Notes

(1) It must be noted, however, that even as far back as the Second Empire, minor, branch lines, of no economic interest to the large railroad companies, were subsidized by the French state.

(2) De Freycinet later served also as French Prime Minister.

(3) Some documents render this word in an unhyphenated way: Villebourbon.

Map location of Tarn-et-Garonne department, in which Montauban is situated
Map location of Tarn-et-Garonne department, in which Montauban is situated | Source

Also worth seeing

In Montauban itself, situated on the Tarn river, striking architecture includes the Ingres museum and the arcades of the place Nationale.

Cahors (distance: 60 kilometres) ; major landmarks include the 14th century Valentré fortified bridge and the city's ancient Cathedral.

Toulouse (distance: 55 kilometres) has numerous cultural and historical attractions, including the Capitole square and some striking Medieval churches, and is a major regional centre.

How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), where car rental is available. (Paris-Montauban: distance: 627 kilometres). The French railroad company SNCF maintains services from Paris to Montauban. There are also domestic air services between Paris and Toulouse, where car rental is also available; there are also rail links to Montauban from Toulouse. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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