Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Bussang - an unfinished tunnel and a viaduct to nowhere

Bussang is the town in the Vosges region of France where the River Moselle springs from the ground.

We came to Bussang, in search of a tunnel -  the road tunnel at the top of the Col de Bussang which, from 1871 to 1918 served as the frontier between France and Germany. The frontier has now retreated once more to the Rhine and the road over the col, now entirely in France, has been widened and no trace of the tunnel exists.

The road tunnel at the top of the Col de Bussang -
one end in France and the other in Germany.
But Bussang has another tunnel. In 1932 France began a monumental project to drive an 8 km railway tunnel under the Col de Bussang to link Mulhouse to Paris. They had constructed just over 4km by 1935 when the work was stopped for lack of funds and in view of the worsening political situation - a tunnel pointing at Germany might be military suicide.

After the invasion in 1940, the Germans used the unfinished tunnel as a factory for armaments and fortified the former railway portico to look like this:

Bussang railway tunnel portico as altered by
the Germans during World War 2.
When the project was abandoned in 1935, no track had been laid an no trains had run but much of the infrastructure - bridges, cuttings etc. - had been built. From this tunnel entrance the trackbed ran on an embankment and a viaduct by the town of Urbes. When the town needed a bypass the commune sold for foundation rubble the embankment leading to the viaduct, leaving it stranded in the middle of nowhere.
The Viaduc d'Urbes. The embankment which served it
 was sold to make a bypass road.

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