Le Havre Car 111

Le Havre Car 111, Boulevard Maritime

Here is another of the many and attractive litho-printed postcards from French card producers, Lévy Fils et Cie, of 44 Rue Letellier, Paris. This time we see the sea front at Le Havre by the "New Pier" in about 1902 with tram 111 having just arrived and posed for the photographer. Its destination indicator already says Hotel de Ville in preparation for its return trip to the town centre seen in the distance. At the date of the postcard, this was the terminus of the line but it was extended further in 1907. This postcard is also available in black and white and in sepia versions.

Le Havre Car 39 This smaller view (also available in colour) gives an example of something very common with Lévy postcards, that is another card which at a quick glance seems the same and in fact has the same serial number, in this case 89, but is not identical. They must have both been taken at the same time of day as the shadows are the same and the state of tide is similar. However, the tram is now car 39 and it is on the other track. It is not at the same date as the sales stalls on the right are in a different position and in fact it dates from around 1905. In other words the view has been re-posed and photographed again. The caption now reads Boulevard Albert 1er, the name of that section of the Boulevard Maritime.

Le Havre Car 39 again And that's not all. Another common 'LL trick' was to take two pictures within a couple of minutes of each other in the time it took to change the plates in the camera, and our LL 89 card provides a good example. A slightly later view (right) shows the same passengers on the rear platform of the same tram but the man seen walking towards the tram in the earlier view is now waiting (or hoping) to get on board in the later one. He appears to have allowed the two women in dark dresses to board first which could have been a big mistake - the tram already looks very full! Other clues include the St. Bernard dog with its owners. In the earlier view, they are on the pavement near the centre of the picture but in the later view they are walking towards the bottom right corner of the card. The family group with children and a pram on the road have also moved nearer to the photographer.

The tramways in Le Havre began with standard gauge horse lines in 1874 which in turn had replaced horse bus routes dating from as early as 1832. In 1879 the horse tramways were taken over by the Compagnie Général Française de Tramways (CGFT). From 2nd February 1894 the first electric trams ran after an installation by Thomson. The company had by then added Électric to its name and had already electrified its system in Marseille. Additional lines were opened by CGFT and in 1908 a metre gauge line to Montivilliers (dating from 1899) was taken over and converted to standard gauge. By 1927 there were 57 km of route.

The initial trams were a batch of 40 open-fronted cars, 8 metre long and 2.2 metres wide (quite wide for this date), mounted on 2 metre wheelbase 4-wheel trucks, probably from Blanc Misseron with Thomson equipment. Of these, 24 had a single 25 hp motor whereas 16 had two such motors and were used on the more hilly routes. The cars for the first few years had unusual lifeguards mounted on the front instead of under the platforms. With time more cars of a similar design were added, some having two 40 hp motors. The original livery was dark green, replaced in 1902 by cream with a red band.

Le Havre in 1930 In 1922 the cars began to receive enclosed fronts. The postcard on the left shows an example of one of the earlier cars (58 or 59) which has received its new vestibules. This view of the same location was produced around 1930 and is no. 226 in a series by E.L.D. (E. Le Deley, Paris), but also has an imprint for "C.M., Le Havre", probably a local dealer, and it is interesting to see a small group of people on the right buying picture postcards, no doubt including some with trams. By 1927 there were 102 cars and 41 trailers, some of these having been conversions from horse trams. The system suffered considerable bomb damage to track, overhead, cars and the depot during World War II. After the war, services we reinstated but from 1947 buses and trolleybuses gradually began to take over from the trams, with the last car running on 5th June 1951, the trolleybuses continuing until 28th December 1970.

Pissaro Painting At the beginning of the 20th century Le Havre was not only an important port, but with its beach by the Boulevard Maritime was a seaside resort as well. It attracted thousands of visitors who avidly bought picture postcards from the large number available by many publishers. Not only that, but artists saw a market. In 1903 French Impressionist Camille Pissaro (1830-1903) did many works there including views of the sea front, several of which such as "Port at High Tide" shown here included a tram.

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