Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Railway Station One-Upmanship

In 1928 the railway was opened between Nice in France and Cuneo in Italy and suddenly two insignificant villages found themselves to be the centre of attention. St. Dalmas de Tende was the last Italian station before the border and Fontan Saorge the equivalent French. Mussolini was never one to hide his light under a bushel and built this enormous Palladian style edifice (he didn't do it himself, he employed people) to show off to the French just how great Italy was.

The enormous building running across the centre of the photograph is the railway station of St Dalmas de Tende. It is utterly out of proportion to the size of village that it serves.

The view from the station yard.

The view from the platforms.

Not to be outdone, the French erected this orange barrack-like monument at their frontier station: Fontan Saorge.

During the Second World War the 143 km of railway line with its 105 tunnels and 96 bridges suffered severe damage and was unusable. Under the Treaty of Paris 1947, the frontier was redrawn and France gained the communes of Tende and Brigue, so both the stations were now French. Another provision of the treaty was that Italy was to restore the line to operational status as part of its war reparations. It was apparently in no hurry because the line was only opened in 1979!
Ironically, the Mussolini station at St Dalmas de Tende is now bricked up and derelict - used as an unmanned halt and the 'French' station at Fontan Saorge serves as a holiday camp for the SNCF as well as a halt for trains.

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