Marseille Cars 625 & 523

Marseille Cars 625 & 523, Rue Cannebière

Our card, number 55 in the series of an unknown publisher, shows a busy scene on the Rue Cannebière in Marseille, France. The card was posted in 1914, but the view dates from around 1905.

On 23rd January 1876 horse tramways operated by Compagnie Générale Française de Tramways entered service in Marseille on a number of routes including via the Cannebière, the main thoroughfare of the Central district. In 1890 new lines were introduced using steam traction and in 1892 the Compagnie de L'Est Marseille opened a metre gauge line from Noailles station (in a tunnel) to the St. Pierre district using Francq fireless locos. From 1892, electric trams began in public service on the route to St. Louis using conventional overhead wire and trolley poles, the first trams in France to use this system.

The trams in our picture are early four wheel cars, 523 being one originally from the St.Louis route. The livery was predominantly cream at this time. Oddly, the gauge in Marseille is 1430 mm instead of the usual 1435mm and this caused problems when trailer cars were bought from Paris in 1938 because they had to be regauged.

From 1900 steps were taken to electrify all the routes. The Noailles line was taken over in 1904 and converted to standard gauge and at a later date (1942) the tunnel was double tracked. The network expanded to some 177 km with over 70 routes operating 454 trams and 496 trailers by the 1930s, at which time some 27 routes used the Cannebière.

During and after the Second World War, trams fell out of favour and from 1942 replacements by trolleybus and motor bus took place. By 2000 only one tram route remained, that from Noailles to St. Pierre, with a fleet of 19 PCC type trams and forty-seven modern modern trolleybuses were in service, but in 2004 the last trolleybus ran and the tramway was closed for future reconstruction.

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