Jack May Trip continued to Freiburg, Bescanon, Basel, and Dijon

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Jack May Trip continued to Freiburg, Bescanon, Basel, and Dijon
Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, September 8, 2019 3:22 AM

Completion of posting photos may take a whole day, so plan on returning

Thursday, August 23 dawned bright and sunny and would stay that way all day, with temperatures rising into the 90s.  It had been warm on the previous day, but not particularly uncomfortable.  After breakfast we rolled our bags over to the Bahnhof and waved goodbye to the trams of Strasbourg.  We reached the platform in time for the 8:04, which was a French SNCF TER dMU.  It deposited us in Offenburg at 8:22, where we waited 15 minutes for a connecting train, which turned out to be a push-pull local that got us to Freiburg on time at 9:25.  We could have taken an ICE from Offenburg, which would have saved us 26 minutes, but that would have cost big bucks.  We easily found lockers to stash or luggage and made our way to the Hauptbahnhof's tram station, on a road bridge that spans the railroad tracks.  We were able to pick up maps and bought day tickets as well, the cost of our entertainment coming to 6.40 euros.

Freiburg, actually Freiburg im Breisgau (not to be confused with Fribourg in Switzerland*), is a compact city of about 220,000 residents containing a network of 5 meter-gauge tram lines that radiate outward to put most of its populace within a short walk of a tram stop.  Like most tramways in Germany (the opposite of France) 
it is a legacy system, dating from 1901, which has now been extended to a length of about 22 route miles.  The city itself, which was founded in the 12th century, is noted for its beautiful medieval Altstadt (old town), which has been mostly pedestrianized, and that condition reaches out to its edge, along the busy and beautiful Kaiser-Joseph-strasse, which hosts the trunk of its tramway.  The city is also the gateway to Germany's scenic Black Forest, lying along the Dreisam River just east of the Rhein.

* The Swiss city, which has no local streetcars, but is served by interurbans, is sometimes referred to as Freiburg im Uechtland.

The system, operated by the Freiburger Verkehrs AG (or VAG), has expanded in the last 40 years, most recently after our visit, when an alternate north-south route through the city center was placed in service this past March to relieve congestion on the trunk.  While in Freiburg we were able to observe all 5 routes passing (with some turning) at Bertoldsbrunnen, the crossroads of downtown.  With the routes running on 8-minute headways, that meant one tram came through every 48 seconds.  With the opening of the new trackage, now only four lines can be seen at that intersection (one tram every minute).  Another busy location is on the bridge at the main railway station, which serves four lines and is where we started our visit to this fair city.

The beautiful downtown is not the only magnet that attracts traction enthusiasts, but also the wide variety of VAG's rolling stock plays a hand.  The fleet includes (oldest first) three varieties of Duewag GT8s, two types of Siemens Combinos plus new CAF Urbos units.  On the negative side most of the equipment is wrapped in advertising, but fortunately a sufficient number is reasonably tasteful, with which I hope you will agree upon seeing the photos below.  We begin with three equipment views at Bertoldsbrunnen and one at Haid Munzinger Strasse.


Freiburg's newest cars are CAF Urbos 100s, manufactured in Spain.  Twelve of these 100-percent low-floor trams populate the roster (301-312), with half having been delivered in 2015 and the remainder arriving in 2017.

No. 286 is one of Freiburg's 18 Siemens Combino units, also 100-percent low floor.  The original order for 9 (271-279) was delivered in 1999 and 2000, but then were returned to Siemens when the manufacturer recalled the entire line due to major structural problems caused by faulty design.  They had to be rebuilt (and were), and have since been returned, with just one having been replaced.  Meanwhile nine more, No. 281-289, called Combino Advanced, were built from 2004 to 2006, incorporating the necessary strengthening during the manufacturing process.*  The major difference between the Basic and the Advanced group is that the latter, like the CAF cars, are air-conditioned.  This particular view is one of the few trams we saw without an advertising wrap, proving that the VAG's official colors are actually red and white, somewhat reminiscent of Toronto's new Flexities.  Unfortunately, the only photo I took of a Basic Combino was not of sufficient quality to present here.

* They were provided free to Freiburg until the original cars were replaced.  No. 272 was used by Siemens for testing and experimentation, and was no longer fit for service, so it was replaced by No. 290.


Above and below:  Two of the three different types of GT8 6-axle trams that Duewag built for the VAG over the years.  The upper view shows the final version of the 3-section articulated units, operating on route 3 at Bertoldsbrunnen.  No. 241, the first of 26 units delivered between 1993 and 1994, is officially a class GT8Z, and illustrates the carbuilder's departure from the long-time body design it introduced in the 1950s.  The photo directly below illustrates that chassis.  
Duewag-built GT8NF car 225, now sporting a low-floor center section, is shown approaching the loop at Haid Munzinger Strasse.  Since these cars are single-ended, they cannot run on route 2, whose southern end has a stub terminal.

Here are some of the first photos we took when we started our inspection tour of the VAG system.

CAF-built car 302 pauses at the Hauptbahnhof stop on the viaduct that takes Bertoldstrasse over the railway tracks.  Four of Freiburg's five tram routes stop at this busy station.  Herz Jesu Kirche (Sacred Heart Church) dominates the background of this view, which looks west.

Two advertising-free examples of Freiburg's rolling stock are shown in this view at Hornusstrasse, which at the time of our visit was the terminal of these lines, and whose loop joined through route 4.  Duewag GT8Z car 262 operating on route 2 lays over alongside CAF 303 on the 5.

I've always enjoyed verdant leafy scenes, so it was fortunate that we came upon a few.

A VAG Duewag GT8Z waits for its scheduled departure time at the southern terminal of route 2.  The very quiet Gunterstal Dorfstrasse is about 2
½ miles from Freiburg's city center.

The western part of route 1 travels through woods for a short distance near the Rathaus im Stuhliner stop.  The advertising-wrapped CAF unit is en route to Littenweiler Lassberstrasse.

Here are a couple of views from some other interesting locations.

An Advanced Combino on route 5 has just passed under the DB and is leaving Heiliggeiststrasse to enter side-of-the-road reservation prior to the Friedrich Ebert Platz stop.  Yes, those are leaves on the ground, as even though it was August, some trees in Freiburg had already begun to change color.

The double track on Schauinslandstrasse narrows to bi-directional single track to carry Duewag GT8Z No. 249 on route 2 and its brethren through a historic (1781) building near Klosterplatz toward the southern end of the line.

And finally, saving the best for last, three views from the area along Kaiser Joseph Strasse leading to the city center--a great place to take photos.  I won't tell you exactly how many I took, but here are some representative ones, with and without the peaked tower portion of the landmark Martinstor (Martin's gate).

Above and below:  No, the sign does not say Martinstor, nor is it a translation from any German I know.  But the arches of Martin's gate are definitely not golden.  The installation of that sign in this historic area was quite controversial, but at least it is not painted a garish red and yellow.  That said, parts of the clock tower date to the 13th century, although it and the associated buildings were rebuilt in 1901 to their current configuration, which reflects the architectural style of the Holy Roman Empire in the 15th century.  The Duewag GT8s shown in the two photos along Kaiser Joseph Strasse certainly are a little more modern than 15th century transportation would suggest.  The lower tram is a GT8NF, while the upper one is a GT8K, as the center section does not contain a low floor.  Why no views of Combinos or Urbos in this photogenic area around Martinstor?  They were certainly present, but because all my other photos in that location had motor traffic or pedestrians in the way, I've chosen not to display them.

A view through the arch under the tower.  Duewag GT8Z No. 246 is about to make its way through the proverbial "McDonald's Tor."

These last 3 photos illustrate the different body styles of Freiburg's Duewag GT8 cars, in oldest to newest sequence.  From top to bottom, No. 211 is a GT8K that came from a series of 10 built in 1981-2 (205-214), which were slightly wider than Freiburg's pioneering 4 plain GT8s, No. 201-204, from 1971.  The cars from the 1970s are long gone, but as illustrated, the GT8Ks can still be seen on the city's streets.  The middle photo shows 
No. 225, one of eleven class GT8NF units built in 1990 and 1991.  Note the center section.  No. 221 to 231 were VAG's first low-floor cars, albeit with just a tiny "bath."  That amount of space was enlarged significantly in the GT8Zs (lowest photo and earlier).  Presumably the NF in GT8NF stands for "NiederFlur," which translates to low floor.  In 1989 Siemens acquired Duewag and the innovative company that stood for excellence was fully absorbed by 1999. 

In order to catch our TGV from Mulhouse (France) to Besancon we had to be back at the Hauptbahnhof with our luggage at 16:45, the departure time of our connecting train.  Since the heat of the day was finally getting to us, we decided to arrive a little early, counting on the fact that there's nothing like a large Coke with lots of ice to quench thirst and serve as a defense against the possibility of dehydration--especially enjoyable in the air-conditioned confines of McDonalds.  It turned out that riding aboard trams that were equipped with AC had just been temporary respites from waiting in sunlight for good photos.  When considering the next two days of cool, damp, dark weather, at least one of us thought that taking pictures with the sun beating down might well be preferable.  In any case, we enjoyed our visit to Freiburg and thought the tramway was very well-run, which no doubt accounted for the heavy ridership we encountered.

Our SNCF dMU train left on time at 16:45, but soon stopped for about 9 to 10 minutes, perhaps waiting for an ICE to pass.  As a result we arrived in Mulhouse at 17:36 (17:30), still in time to make our TGV connection at 17:42, but too late to get out to the forecourt of the station to photograph the trams and tram-trains laying over.  But the skies had begun to cloud up anyway, and it continued to get darker while we traveled aboard our sleek double-decked TGV.  The Paris-bound high-speed train dropped us on time at 18:27 at the large and modernistic (but austere and lifeless) TGV station on the outskirts of Besancon.  
We found our connecting dMU to Besancon Viotte, and it operated on time, leaving at 18:49 and depositing us at another modernistic station inside the city at 19:04.  Now it was almost pitch dark and the sky was threatening.

We bought our rail ticket for the journey to the Basel area for the following afternoon here, as well as 24-hour tram tickets (for 4.30 euros each), and picked up some maps at the station's information office.  We then waited for a route 2 tram, which would take us to the city center, about a block away from our Ibis hotel.  At that time service was a bit infrequent, running every 15 minutes and we had just missed a car, but we didn't see any taxis either.  
Upon arrival at our stop we had to scurry through light rain.  Once checked in we saw the precipitation had let up and soon found a nice restaurant in the pedestrianized old city, where we had an enjoyable dinner at a sidewalk table.  It had cooled down considerably, so we were comfortable until the onset of another shower, forcing us to move to an adjacent table that had an umbrella.  Unfortunately rain was predicted for Friday as well, so we retired not knowing how good mother nature would be to us on the morrow.

To be continued in Segment 15.

Before pushing ahead with my narrative about our visit to Bescanon, here is a photo from Freiburg that was sent by Richard Horne after he read chapter 14.  This view of preserved tram 56 from 1927 was taken during a charter in 2018.  Thank you Richard.

When we got up on Friday morning the sun was shining over Besancon (pronounced Bes an son), despite the forecast for rain.  Unfortunately the good weather didn't last very long, and the sky soon turned overcast with periods of rain, sometimes heavy.  After breakfast we checked out of the Ibis, leaving our luggage with the desk clerk while we toured the tramway prior to the departure of our afternoon trains, which would take us to Basel area.

Besancon is a rather small city, with a population of just 120,000, about the same as Evansville, Indiana, and lies at the foot of the Jura mountains some 260 miles southeast of Paris.  Based on my observations, if it wasn't for the tramway, it would be just another unexceptional city, like some slightly larger ones here in this area, like Paterson, N. J., Allentown, Pa. and Bridgeport, Conn., but more pleasant.  Its compact center has an attractive pedestrianized section, characterized by a pleasant ambience like most cities in France.  The new tramway skirts the edge of that area.

A meter-gauge streetcar network operated in Besancon until 1952, and it took over a half century for rails to come back to the municipality's streets.  Like so many other French cities that decided to abandon its tramways during the rise of automobile travel after the end of World War II, a choice made easier because the effects of combat had worn out much of their rail transit infrastructure, Besancon's citizens eventually realized what the motor car had wrought.  Their leaders were impressed with how new tramways had already brought back a civilized style of life to the downtown areas of other similar conurbations since the advent of France's "light rail revolution."  Thus, some 20 years after Nantes started it all (1985), Besancon began its own planning, which reached fruition in 2014 with the advent of a two-line standard-gauge tram system.

The 9-mile long tramway's operator is called Ginko* and has a roster of 19 CAF Urbos-3 100-percent low-floor double-ended streetcars, which take current from 750-volt DC overhead.  The system is laid out in a typical manner for the light rail or tramway mode, with tracks located in city streets as well as private rights-of-way alongside arterials and in their medians.  Most of the system is separated from motor traffic.  Lines 1 and 2 share the same rails for much of their routes, but then they split with the 2 running to the in-town railway station.  Line 1 has a short section of single track and certain narrow streets force the cars to operate in mixed traffic.  Headways are usually excellent during base and rush hours, with a combined frequency of every 6 minutes, except (unfortunately for us) during the August holidays, when they are 16 minutes on each line, producing a car every 8 minutes on the joint section of route.  Running time from one end of route 1 to the other is carded at 44 minutes with route 2 being 32 (or 7 from the junction).

* Ginko, not be confused with gecko and Geico, is the trademark of Grand Besancon Metropole, the region's transportation agency, which has contracted its operation to Keolis.

Since we had already ridden line 2 from the railway station last night, and it's a rather short spur (see

https://www.ginko.voyage/se-deplacer/itineraire/plans-du-reseau/ for a map), we decided to ride east on route 1, whose tracks are mostly embedded in pavement, with some of clearances being rather narrow.  We rode out to the end and saw cloud cover moving in rapidly from the west, so we went back one station to take advantage of what sunlight still existed.  We did not spend any time at the other route 1-only stops, preferring to get back to a point where we could enjoy a 8-minute frequency rather than a 16.

The Marnieres stop is one in from the Chalezeule terminal, and on a section of reserved track that runs along Boulevard Leon Blum.  The city must have suffered a summer drought as all the untended grass we saw was brown.

We then went back to the center city for a few photos, after which we rode the joint section of line to its end at Hauts du Chazal, crossing the 
Doubs river four times.

Above and below: Place de la Revolution is a pedestrianized square in the "old city" and hosts a busy market.  Unfortunately it is impossible to hide the motor vehicles needed to deliver produce and other goods to the vendors.  Nevertheless the area's restored buildings are quite attractive, with the rails being set 
in cobblestones adding additional flavor.

The trams reverse on a stub track beyond the Hauts du Chazal terminal stop.  The track at left leads to the carhouse and shop.

We then continued back to the city center and our hotel, stopping here and there for photos.

Above and below:  Two views from the pedestrian overpass at the busy Allende stop.  Several governmental buildings seemed to be located here.  Named to commemorate Salvador Allende, the leader of Chile before fascists overthrew the government and instituted a reign of terror, the area also has streets named for Van Gogh, Picasso and Da Vicini.

Ave and below:  Only diehard traction enthusiasts would be standing in pouring rain to photograph trams.  The upper photo shows a CAF Urbos 3 car on the Pont de Canot over the Doubs river.  The photographer turned 180 degrees to capture a similar tram approaching the Canot stop along the Quai Veil Picard parallel to the river.  Everybody else who was on the street had found shelter.

A few minutes later the shower had let up and people were back on the street.  We rode an eastbound tram one stop further inbound and spied the next one about to cross the Doubs again, turning from Quai Veil Picard onto the Pont Battant.

Back at the hotel we picked up our luggage and rolled it back to the Republique stop, where, lo and behold, sunlight and shadows appeared.  It lasted for only a few moments though, but fortunately we were able to take advantage of it.  Then we continued to Gare Viotte on route 2, took our last photos and climbed the long ramp to the railway station.

A CAF Urbos 3 eastbound on route 2 is shown running along Avenue Elisee Cusenier and is about to enter its stop at Republique to pick up passengers, including the two photographers.  The shadows, although light, were quite rare on this mostly inclement day.
Above and below:  The brief appearance of sunlight was ancient history by the time we arrived at Gare Viotte, but nevertheless I took these two photos.  In the upper view, one of Besancon's 19 CAF trams rounds the corner from Avenue du Marechal Foch onto Avenue de la Paix, where it would come to a stop to end its run.  Below, two cars pose at the terminal.  When outbound trams enter, their electronic signs are immediately switched to read "Special."

We would be reversing our journey of the previous day as far as Mulhouse, with our departure aboard an SNCF local train set for 13:05, and so with it now approaching 13:00 we scurried up the ramp to the station with our luggage.  We agreed that we enjoyed our visit to Besancon despite the weather.  We thought ridership was a bit low with the park & ride lots far from reaching capacity, but also knew it was August, when many businesses in France are closed for vacation.  And we were informed that the city plans to enlarge the lots and build a new line in the next five years or so to connect the ends of route 1 and 2 and extend further west to a Technology Park, so the outlook for the system is very positive.  I certainly would like to go back to get photos in better weather, especially along the narrow streets and single track on the eastern section of route 1.

We arrived at Besancon's outer station on time at 13:18, but our connecting TGV was late and didn't come in until 13:41 (13:31).  This put us ten minutes late into Mulhouse at 14:27 (14:17), but still allowed for some photos in the station's forecourt before our 14:46 departure on a TER train for St. Louis.  [Photos of Mulhouse's tram and tram-train were featured in a report about my trip to Switzerland in 2014.]  We decided to spend the night in St. Louis (France), a suburb of Basel (Switzerland) for the same reason we stayed in Kehl when we visited the Strasbourg tramway two days earlier.  Both towns are located at the ends of new international tram operations, and hotels were cheaper there as well.

Our arrival in St. Louis was two minutes early at 14:58 (15:00).  St. Louis didn't look like much of a town and the railroad station appeared to be rather sterile.  But its forecourt (actually backcourt, on the undeveloped side of the station) has a large tram loop, which we ended up photographing soon after we checked into our accommodations a short walk away.

To be continued in Segment 16
Continued from Segment 15.

The narrative left off upon our slightly early arrival in Saint Louis (France) at 14:58 aboard an eMU train on SNCF's Mulhouse-Basel line.  It was a TER express, with Saint Louis being its only intermediate stop.  While changing trains in Mulhouse, we photographed a few trams laying over behind the station.  We undertook this midday itinerary to afford Karl-Heinz the time necessary to cover the two recent extensions to the Basel tramway network that cross the border from Switzerland into the two adjacent countries of France (Saint Louis) and Germany (Weil am Rhein).  He had to get an early start to return home on the following day, Saturday, August 25, for a family event, which involved changing clothes and then riding another train from the Ruhr to a venue in Bremen--a very busy day, indeed (he made it).  Thus, after checking in to our hotel and buying 24-hour tickets, we rode the two respective lines, the 3 and the 8, and thus crossed international borders a total of 4 times during the next few hours.  I'll write more about the lines later, but first a little information about Basel.

This Swiss city, located along the Rhein River, has a population of about 180,000.  Dating back to the Roman Empire at the time of the birth of Christ, Basel has never suffered the consequences of war, due to Switzerland's strict neutrality over the past centuries.  It is the Swiss Federation's third largest city (smaller than Zurich and Geneva) and a major tourist attraction with notable art collections in an incredibly attractive medieval-looking city center, anchored by its 12th century Gothic cathedral 
and 16th century Town Hall.  The latter is located at the heart of the tramway, with some 8 carlines stopping directly across the street.  Basel is also a major stopping point on popular Rhein river cruises and, because of its location at the meeting of three countries, a literal crossroads of commerce.

As such it is a major railroad junction, with lines running into its principal station (SBB Bahnhof) from France, Germany and the entirety of Switzerland.  Major express trains pick up and discharge passengers at the huge terminal (served by 10 tram lines), while a significant number of local trains from Germany use another station, Badischer Bahnhof (served by a mere 2 tram routes).

As most of our readers know, Switzerland has a number of official languages, including Italian, French, German and Romansh.  Basel is in the German-speaking section, but because it is so close to France, French is also quite popular.  And it seems no matter what Swiss citizens' preferred language may be, they also speak English.  The country is not a member of the European Union, but participates in many of the organization's rules and regulations, including the Schengen agreement and the E. U.'s single market.  Thus there are no passport controls at its borders with adjacent countries.  But like many E. U. members such as Great Britain, Sweden and Denmark, it does maintain its own currency, in this case the Swiss Franc, which is very strong.  The difference in hotel prices on the other side of the Swiss border was one reason we stayed in Saint Louis.

Ever since my first visit in the 1970s, Basel has been high on my list of favorite tram cities in the entire world--and remains one of the relatively few major networks that hasn't been diminished by heavy rapid transit lines (also true for Den Haag, Melbourne, Zurich, Dusseldorf).*  The meter-gauge tramway, which has 11 regular lines operating over about 58 miles of route, has several quirks that add to its interest.  Even before the two new extensions into France and Germany opened, the system already had one line that passed through a section of France on its way between the city and another part of Switzerland.  Leymen, on the relatively long interurban line to Rodersdorf, is its penultimate stop, where signs remind alighting passengers that they've entered France; if they wish to stay they're directed to a government customs office.  On the other hand, the border crossing points alongside the two tram extensions have actual immigration and customs stations and barriers for automobiles whose occupants want to declare any purchases.  The other peculiarity is that there are two owners/operators that share the transit network, a condition which fortunately is totally transparent to the riders, as the two entities, 
the Basler Verkehrs-Betrieb (BVB), which is responsible for the urban routes, and Baselland Transport (BLT), which owns and operates the lines that reach out into the suburbs, are entirely integrated, including fares.**  The BVB cars are painted green, while the BLT units are yellow, and that is probably the only difference that users notice.  The inner portions of the BLT routes operate over the BVB, and based on agreements, the long BLT route 14 is operated by the BVB with its own rolling stock.  I should also mention that one of the aspects of Basel's tramway that I like is its retention of single-ended operation.

*  Of course it's easy to ignore the Metros in favor of the trams in cities like Vienna, Brussels, Prague, Budapest, Milan, etc.

** Besides accepting credit cards, most ticket vending machines accept both Euro and Swiss Franc coins, but not bills or a combination of the two currencies.

But that is all beside the point.  The main purpose of our journey to Basel was to ride the last two of the four border crossings by tram that were one of the goals of our trip.  In the past week we had ridden streetcars across the border between France and Germany in the Saarbrucken and Strasbourg areas, so as soon as we rode from those countries to Switzerland we could cross that objective off our list.  In addition we wanted to sample 
Basel's latest rolling stock, and that was accomplished too.

Upon returning to the station we bought 24-hour tickets from the ticket agent, which were priced at 9.10 Euros or 10.50 Swiss Francs.  It remained overcast for the rest of the day, but nevertheless we photographed the first route 3 car we saw waiting in the loop, which then took us into Basel.

The loop at Gare de Saint Louis, with a Bombardier-built Flexity ready to depart on international route 3 for Basel.  Sixty of these 7-section 100-percent low-floor cars are the BVB's most recent acquisitions, having been delivered to the property between 2014 and 2018.  The order was split between 7-section and 5-section units.  When we saw that this car was outfitted with an advertising wrap, we were afraid this was a new trend, but were pleased we didn't see any others like that.  This car promotes the IWB, which supplies Basel's public with gas, water and electricity. 

We rode as far as Barfusserplatz in the heart of the city, where we visited the BVB travel center and obtained up-to-date maps.  At that point Karl-Heinz had some quick errands to run, so we decided to meet at Marktplatz, 
one stop further along, about 15 minutes later, giving me a little time to take a few photos in this bustling and historic neighborhood. 

The BLT's newest cars are 38 Tango units built by Stadler.  Constructed in two orders from 2008 to 2016, these 
70-percent low-floor single-enders are capable of speeds up to 50 mph.  This route 11 interurban car, en route to the town of Aesch south of Basel, is shown at Barfusserplatz in the city center, a junction that serves 9 lines, so for most of the day there is at least one car in sight.

Seven lines cross the Rhein on the Mittlere bridge, which connects the northeastern part of Basel with the city center.  The original bridge at this point was built in 1225 and lasted until the turn of the twentieth century, when the current (1905) span was constructed, no doubt because of the advent of Basel's tramway with its rolling stock quite a bit heavier than horse-drawn wagons.  In the past few years the bridge was closed to most motor traffic.  A Bombardier Flexity on route 6 is shown running westward from Kleinbasel 
toward Grossbasel.

We soon passed over the Rhein on a route 8 car (see photo above) and then rode past the line's old terminal, +Kleinhuningen, finally crossing the German border 2 stops later to enter the town of Weil am Rhein, where there are 3 stops.  The extension is about 1
½ miles long and opened on December 14, 2014.  Not all route 8 cars continue into Germany, with short turns still looping at the old terminal.  We paused in Weil for refreshment and, of course, some photos.  I would cover both route 3 in France and route 8 in Germany more meticulously on the following day, and pictures from that Saturday are displayed further below.  See map at http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/ch/bs/basel.htm to keep track of our afternoon's excursion.

This is not a bridge over the Rhein, but rather the terminal of route 8 in Weil am Rhein, on a structure that spans the Deutsche Bahn.  The station below the structure serves the Basel area's S-bahn system and regional trains in the 1ree state of Baden-Wurttemberg.  A Siemens Combino is shown after its passengers have alighted.  It will traverse a loop behind the photographer to reach the inbound platform, where many passengers are waiting.  Several shopping centers are just a few yards away.  Basel has 28 Combinos, built in 2001 and 2002.  They arrived in the light green livery shown above, which was quite a contrast to the traditional Basel darker green color, but now, since the purchase of the Flexities in the classic livery, are being repainted to match.  I saw some of these, but did not get any good photos.

We then rode the 8 back across the border and on to Claraplatz for some photos, but it was too congested there for anything decent.  We continued to the SBB Bahnhof for more pictures, and then rode a route 1 car to Burgfelderplatz, where the line crosses the 3, and had dinner in an Italian restaurant at that intersection before making our way back on the 3 to Saint Louis and our hotel.
Awaking to a dark and dreary morning on Saturday, August 25, Karl-Heinz and I said our goodbyes and he went off at 7:30 to get to Basel SBB for a 9:13 Deutsche Bahn train to the Ruhr.  I had a leisurely breakfast and then checked out of our hotel.  I should have mentioned that the hotel was small and the desk was sometimes left unattended, so not wanting to take the chance of being locked out when coming back for my bag prior to my departure for Dijon, I rolled it to the railway station, where I deposited it in a locker.  I then went out to the forecourt (actually the backcourt) and by a combination of walking and riding, began taking photos along the section of route 3 in France.  The 3 was extended across the border from its old terminal at Burgfelderhof for 4 stops to Gare de Saint Louis on December 10, 2017.  Thus the 2-mile extension had been in service for a little less than a year before our visit.  Similar to the 8, about half of the route 3 cars are short turned at their old terminal.

Above and below:  Two views of route 3 Flexities on the line's extension into France.  The upper photo was taken close to the Saint Louis terminal and features what I suspect is an exhausted cornfield at the end of the growing season.  It wouldn't surprise me that the area is scheduled for development now that good transportation has arrived.  The inbound tram on the right-of-way 
in the lower view is approaching the border at Burgfelderhof.  From the faded colors it is possible that this area has suffered a drought similar to the one we experienced in Besancon.

I then rode to Weil again for additional photos, via route 3, route 1 and then the 8.  I've put the following two views together to contrast the border crossings.


Above and below:  The two border crossings traversed by the most recent extensions to Basel's tramway network.  In the upper photo a simple sign at right marks the border between France and Switzerland along route 3 at Burgfelderhof.  The outbound Flexity is heading for St. Louis.  Had it taken the switch it would have looped back to return to downtown without entering France.  The lower view shows an inbound route 8 Flexity leaving Germany and entering Basel.  Riders are not bothered by a customs stop.  I don't know if that would be the case if they were typical rush hour New York subway users carrying a TV or air conditioner.

My plan for the rest of the day was to ride BLT route 10 out to Rodersdorf.  Thus I took an 8 car back to Dreirosenbrucke in order to transfer to the 1, but as I was doing this I was very surprised when along came a heritage car on what must have been a charter.  Click, click, and then I saw an yellow BLT unit on route 17 heading my way.  More clicks.

No. 181, one of Basel's historic streetcars, pulls trailer 1193 through the mist on the "Three Roses Bridge" (Dreirosnebrucke), where Voltastrasse crosses the Rhein in northern Basel.  The 1925 SIG-built heritage tram, apparently on a charter, was given the name, "Zum Feigenbaum" (to the fig tree), but I haven't the faintest idea about the meaning of its appellation.  The matching trailer was built in 1927.

A two-car lashup of Schindler equipment from the late '70s and early '80s pauses at the Blasiring stop on Klybeckstrasse alongside St. Joseph Church just short of Dreirosenbrucke.  Until the advent of the Tango cars these 'Santfe' units were the mainstays of the BLT fleet.  Low-floor center sections were added to many cars in the 1990s, and those that remain six-axle units are now non-driving motors. "Santfe" translates to 'gentle,' and these cars certainly provide a comfortable ride.  Over 50 of these units, 
which are mostly confined to route 17, remain on the roster, supplementing the 38 Tangos.

I rode a 1 car all the way to Markthalle, which is the stop right after the end of the Birsigviadukt, which brings Viaductstrasse over the BLT (routes 10 and 17) and the northern end of Basel's zoo.  I walked a short distance back and took a photo from the bridge.  I then continued down a hill to the Zoo stop and boarded a Schindler car on the 17, which I rode to Ettingen, its terminal.  The 10 continues further to Rodersdorf via Leymen.

Above and below:  Two photos of the BLT interurban line to Rodersdorf showing new Stadler Tango cars.  The upper view is looking north toward the city from the Birsigviadukt near the zoo.  Before the line was integrated into the BVB system the terminal of the Birsigtalbahn
* was located at Heuwaage, virtually at the overpass shown in the background.

* The 10-mile long Birsigtalbahn (BTB) was one of several interurban lines that were consolidated into the BLT in 1974.  Between 1984 and ++1986 the line's 940-volt overhead was lowered to 600/650; loops were built at Heuwaage and Rodersdorf, as well as all intermediate short turn stops; the blue liveried motor-and-trailer operation replaced; and through running into the city center was commenced.  The other end of route 10 (to Dornach) was the Birseckbahn (BEB), the 11 to Aesch was the Trambahn Basel-Aesch (TBA), and route 14 to Pratteln was the Basellandschaftliche Ueberlandbahn (BUeB) before the merger. 

The lower photo was taken at Ettingen, the terminal of route 17.  An inbound tram from Rodersdorf is shown just short of the stop, where the end of the route 17 loop track joins the mainline.

My plan had been to continue out to route 10's Rodersdorf terminal before returning, which would have meant that I'd cross the Switzerland-France border four more times!  I would also have had to buy another ticket as my day pass did not cover the additional zone.  However I was saved from that horrible fate as when I looked at my watch, I realized that the extra hour or so for me to accomplish that could result in me missing my train to Dijon, or at least get me back to Saint Louis too close for comfort.  So, I took a photo and headed back, riding a Tango* on route 10 to Bankverein and then a route 3 Flexity for the rest of the journey.

* Just a short note about the Tangos:  when I first encountered them right after they were introduced, I found the ride to be uncomfortable on curves;  that seems to have been fixed.  These meter-gauge cars also operate in Bochum (Karl-Heinz's 'home' system), Geneva, Aarhus and on the Lyon airport line.  Stadler has just delivered a standard-gauge version, dubbed Nova, to Ostrava in the Czech Republic.

I arrived about 20 minutes before the scheduled departure of my 16:47 TER connection to Mulhouse, which gave me plenty of time to reclaim my bag.  The eMU train got me to its terminal at 17:10 (on time), and since the connecting TGV wasn't scheduled to depart until 17:42, I again took the time between trains to look at the trams congregating in the station's forecourt.  It was raining again, but I took a photo anyway.  The TGV departed on time and the ride was fast and uneventful, with portions on dedicated high-speed rights-of-way and some on traditional trackage.  We stopped at Besancon on time (18:30) and then finally reached Dijon at 18:56.

Interestingly enough the sun had come out while I was aboard the TGV and when I walked the short distance to my hotel I was even able to take a photo of one of the trams scooting by.  The Kyriad was expecting me and the desk clerk directed me to a good [French] restaurant for dinner.

To be continued in Segment 17.
Continued from Segment 16.

This is the last chapter of my report and covers my visit to Dijon (France) on Sunday, August 27 and my journey home one day later.  The last segment ended upon my arrival in what could be called the Mustard City (why aren't their trams painted in the old Rotterdam colors--or the new Brest livery?) on the previous evening.  Yes, Dijon mustard does come from the city of its name, but surprisingly, it was not perfected until the middle of the 19th century.  It's a medium sized city with a population of 150,000, located about 200 miles southeast of Paris.  If you look at my trip's itinerary carefully you would wonder why its final portion wasn't in the sequence:  Freiburg, Basel, Besancon, Dijon, but that had to change when Karl-Heinz found he had to get to an important family affair in Bremen on the 26th, and that wouldn't have been possible if he had to leave from Besancon.  As a result I ended up with some duplicate rail travel mileage, specifically an extra round-trip between Mulhouse and Besancon, but that was via a high-speed TGV, a mere 45 minutes and 80 miles each way.  Considering that the weather in both Basel and Besancon was not very good, it certainly did not cost me in terms of photography.

Dijon opened its handsome 11-mile long two-line standard-gauge tramway in two segments, with route 1 coming in September 2012 and route 2 some 3 months later (see 
http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/fr/dijon/dijon.htm for a map).  The city's entrant into France's light rail revolution came a little over a half-century after its meter-gauge legacy system was closed (1961).  Bill Keigher and I took a day trip from Paris to Dijon in 2013, but the weather was inclement, not good at all for photos (nor for staying dry), so I was hoping for better this time--and my wish was granted with a cloudless Sunday.  Operation of the system, which is branded as Divia, is contracted out to Keolis,* also operator of the new Waterloo-Kitchener light rail line in Canada.  The fleet consists of 33 Alstom 100-percent low-floor Citadis 302 units, painted in a simple, attractive livery, mostly operating along tree-lined reservations under unobtrusive overhead.  Frequencies on Sundays during the summer vacation period for both of the lines was every 15 minutes, providing a 7½-minute headway on the common section, which contains 4 stops through the city center.

* A comparative study of 32 tram systems published by Eurogroup Consulting identified several systems operated by Keolis among the bet performing in the world.  The Keolis tram systems in Lyon, Bordeaux, Manchester and Lille achieved performance scores that ranked first, third, fifth and ninth respectively, in large city rankings.  The Keolis-operated systems in Dijon, Tours and  Bergen took the top three spots in the medium city rankings,  According to the study, Dijon significantly outperforms average scores on ticketing, thanks in part to the introduction of open payment on board trams, which allows passengers to purchase, store and validate tickets using contactless credit or debit cards.  The "tram effect" is perfectly illustrated by Dijon where public transport ridership grew by 40% in just three years following the tram's inauguration.

I awoke early to a rising sun in a cloudless sky, but after taking the hotel's breakfast I stepped outside into a freezing wind.  What a turnaround!  After 90+ degree days in Saarbrucken, Strasbourg and Freiburg, followed by dismal rainy days in Bescancon and Basel, it was now 46 degrees in bright sun.  Brrr, but I had packed a sweater--and I knew it would get warmer by the afternoon.  But this was a mere annoyance as the sun was shining!

I was out on the street early, while shadows were still long.  After purchasing a day pass (4.20 Euros) from a ticket vending machine at the Gare Foch stop in front of the hotel, I first rode out to the northern end of route 2 at Valmy.  There were few fellow travelers on board on this early Sunday morning.  The absence of automobile traffic made it easy to get photos.

Above and below:  Two scenes between the Valmy and Giroud stops of Dijon's route 2 with the hills that line the northern edge of the city in the background.  After leaving the Valmy terminal the T2 makes a gradual 180-degree turn before heading toward the city center.  All the points on the electronic destination signs of Dijon's Citadis 302s are not lit at the same time.

I then rode back to Republique, the junction of the two routes, and took the 1 out to its Quetigny terminal.  This line has a large number of traffic generators, including sports arenas, the university, hospitals and an Olympic swimming pool.  The wide center-of-the-road reservation here looked like a green carpet and I took a number of photos.

Above and below:  I saw only one wrapped tram
 and that was a public service pronouncement placed encompassing its centermost section.  I had walked back from the Quetigny Centre terminal along Avenue du Chateau to the curve leading from Avenue de l'Universite when I saw the car with its highly contrasting yellow and black message.  After I photographed it (above) I caught it for a closeup while it laid over at the T1's end station.  Combined with the message on the other side, it translates to "A tram weighs the equivalent of 30 rhinos--in front of him you will never make weight."  Clearly its a warning to caution motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians that there's a great deal of danger from being in the way of a heavy streetcar, as it is unlikely to be able to stop in time if an attempt is made to beat it to a grade crossing.  Apparently the safety campaign using rhinoceroses on skateboards as a metaphor for trams was introduced around 2011 in Melbourne, Australia, whose system (Yarra Trams) is also operated by Keolis (see https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/10/25/oz_trams_equivalent_to_30_skateboarding_rhinos/).  Since then longer, heavier cars have been built for the new Gold Coast tramway, and so the number of rhinos has had to be increased:  https://ridetheg.com.au/dev/rhino/.

Most of the reserved track at the outer end of the T1 is laid in a very wide "neutral ground."  A Citadis 302 has just left the Quetigny Centre terminal.

I then rode back to Republique and after a photo transferred to a 2 in the other direction, to Chenove, which meant I would soon complete the entire network, as the 1's inner terminal is the railroad station, just a few yards west of the junction of the two lines in the city center near my hotel.  Route 1 and the northern end of the 2 are my favorite branches of the system, as for the most part they run on attractive well-landscaped streets, almost all in grassed center medians.  The other end of the 2 seems to go through an older section of the city, and its reservations appeared to be a bit narrower.  The stops look similar to tram (or light-rail) platforms all over the world, with short shelters containing ticket machines, information panels and benches--and advertising--usually supplied by the French multinational, J. C. Decaux.  But I found it odd that many of the posters displayed at the stops consisted of messages in English rather than French.

A number of the ads specifically urged riders to switch to contactless payment cards, and each example bore a Visa trademark.  One of the cards used as an example had an HSBC logo.  
Some of the displays contain the slogan, "No ticket, no problem" https://yourgreatstories.keolis.com/dijon-your-bank-card-as-a-ticket/.  According to the trade press, Dijon is the first city that is totally equipped for contactless fare payments using bank cards.  The system charges the regular 1.40 euro rate for each of the first two validations, but automatically switches over to a 4.20 day-pass on the third validation and future ones on the same day.  The cards sold at Divia offices and by ticket vending machines (like the one I obtained) are contactless as well.  No matter which method is used for payment, the bankcard (or ticket) must be validated upon entering each vehicle and of course, must be presented when a team of fare checkers boards.  I was checked once, and then on a subsequent ride, the same people must have recognized me, as they didn't stop at my seat.

I rode the 2 out to the north again, suspecting the sun would be right for a few photos near the Toison d'Or (Golden Fleece) shopping mall/restaurant/hotel development, which is probably the largest traffic generator on the line.  The complex seemed to have been carved out of the verdant countryside along with a very pleasant looking park that contains a number of attractions and amenities, including playgrounds, sports fields, walking trails and even a miniature golf course.

Above and below:  The T2 line separates the Toison d'Or development from the park, and makes two stops in the vicinity.  The top view shows an inbound tram slowing down for the outer stop, Zenith, the name of a large concert and performance space.  The yellow background is clear evidence of the summer's drought.  While the track area remains mostly green, the sprinkler-based irrigation system does not reach the surroundings.  The inbound unit accelerating out of the main stop for the Toison d'Or mall in the lower photo is shown passing under the modernistic Holiday Inn. 

Working inbound from Toison d'Or the T2 turns onto Avenue de Langres and splits into two tree-shaded single-tracks on either side of the roadway.

Once I completed my photography I headed back downtown, and serendipitously came upon a multi-ethnic festival that was occupying the city center.  I took a few photos, and here is one portraying some of the activities.  Every time a tram would come by, the parade would pause to let the vehicle go through.  I couldn't resist taking one more tram photo, and then called it a day.

This group, one of many, parading through Dijon's city center represented Slovenia. Perhaps the poster bearer is a preview of coming attractions.

My final photo of the day was taken at Place Darcy, adjacent to the festival.  While there are tall poles supporting street lighting, the tramway overhead in the city center is suspended from span wire attached to buildings.

I found a nice restaurant for my last meal in France, slept soundly and was up at the crack of dawn to get ready for my 7:04 departure for Charles De Gaulle Airport.  It was too early for the hotel's breakfast, so I grabbed a muffin and milk from a kiosk operated by a popular French chain (named after my son, Paul) and consumed it aboard the train.  The two-hour ride on the TGV, whose final destination was Lille (Europe), was uneventful, although it ran a few minutes late, not arriving at CDG until 9:10 (9:02).  Since my flight wasn't leaving until 13:45, I had considered riding the RER line B to Le Borget, to see more of tram-train T11, but I was quite satisfied with my coverage from about two weeks earlier, and besides, Clare wanted me to find a certain ointment for back pain that was not available in the U. S.  Just about each terminal building had a pharmacy, but when I inquired about the product (we had bought some in Scotland) at the first drug store, I was told it had been recently discontinued--but the clerk suggested that perhaps one of the other shops still had some in stock.  Thus I went on what I thought would be a wild goose chase, walking and rolling my luggage to stores in all 6 appendages of Terminal 2, and leaving empty.  Then I rode the VAL to Terminal 1, and eureka!, the last pharmacy at the airport, had one tube.

I now had little time left, but was happy to settle down, get my seat assignment and wait for my Delta flight to be called.  I was placed in seat 22F in the center of the Boeing 767.  Loading was smooth, as was the flight, which I estimated to be about 85 percent full.  It was interesting to note that the seats in all the exit rows were empty;  I guess nobody wanted to pay the supplemental charge.  We pushed off at 13:42 (45) and soared into the sky at 13:56.  The food was middling, but on the other hand they served ice cream for dessert and there were no crying children.  I slept and read, and before I knew it we were over Elizabeth, New Jersey.  Landing at Newark was at 15:46, and we reached the gate at 15:58 (16:21).  When I finally got out of customs and immigration it was about 16:30.  I notified Clare by cell phone and she +pulled up to the curb just as I exited through a door in Terminal B.  We were home by 17:00.

It was a great trip.


  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 15,635 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, September 9, 2019 9:13 AM

An accident with a very minor injury forces postponement of further posting for one or two days. 

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 15,635 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, September 10, 2019 5:38 AM

Photos posted, recovered from slight injury.


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