BLB Steam Tram 5

Bayonne - Lycée - Biarritz Steam Tram 5, Biarritz

The fashionable seaside resort of Biarritz and the old town of Bayonne on the river Adour, lie in the Basque country of South West France between the Atlantic coast and the Pyrénées and Spain, the holiday area of the Côte d'Argent. In the heyday of steam there were four rail routes (all later electrified) between the two towns, the "Midi" standard gauge main line railway, the "Voies Ferrées Départmentales du Midi" (VFDM) - a metre gauge light railway along the coast which continued to Hendaye, the "Chemin de Fer de Bayonne à Anglet et Biarritz" (BAB) - a standard gauge light railway completely on private right of way, and the "Bayonne - Lycée - Biarritz" (BLB) roadside tramway featured on our postcard. The card titled "Arrivée de tramway de Bayonne" and showing the Biarritz terminus by the Casino, was published by N.D. Phot (Neurdein et Cie of Paris) around 1905, our example being posted on 21st July 1907.

The BLB tramway was built to metre gauge with traditional style roadside running. The original concession of 1885 was passed to the Société Anonyme des Chemins de Fer à Voie Etroite du Midi in 1890, which after acquisition of other lines in the area in 1901 became the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de Pau-Oloron-Mauléon et du Tramway de Bayonne à Biarritz, part of the Belgian Baron Empain group of tramways. The 8.5 km line opened to traffic on 18th October 1888. It ran from the Midi railway station in Bayonne and after crossing the Adour left the town along Allées Paulmy, from where there was a 1.4 km branch to Lycée de Marracq (hence the tramway's name). The line continued along the Route de Biarritz and terminated outside Biarritz Casino as in our postcard.

The BLB had six double-cabbed 0-6-0 tram locos built by the Belgian company Turbize (owned by Ateliers Métallurgique) at their French factory at Blanc Misseron, near Valenciennes. The loco on our card carries the Blanc Misseron maker's number 37 (695 in the Turbize records) and was in fact number 5 in the BLB fleet. BLB also had some 22 trailer cars, the one nearest the camera in our view being car 7.

In 1912 BLB carried 1,123,000 passengers and so decided to modernise its system with electric trams, the new service commencing on 1st February 1914. The tramways then had fourteen 48-seater two-axle motor cars with bow collectors and 22 trailers, additional trailers being added later bringing the total to 35. By 1927 the line was carrying 3,729,000 passengers. Although the line survived the second world war, increasing motor traffic took its toll on passenger numbers and the line closed on 1st October 1948. VFDM and BAB suffered a similar fate and closed in 1939 and 1953 respectively, leaving the main line railway, now SNCF, as the only rail connection between the two towns.

BackGo to Postcard Of The Month Index

Reload Home if you linked directly to this page

Postcard of the Month is created by John R. Prentice © Copyright 2006