The travellers were understandably tired but undoubtedly happy to have arrived at their south-western destination… although they would still have to cross the bridge to reach Bordeaux proper; at the time the right-bank Bastide quarter was technically part of Cenon. The Bastide district had already made giant leaps forward with the opening of the Pont de Pierre in 1822, and now the new station would help it blossom further.
Gare d’Orléans actually began operating in 1852 prior to its completion, with trains running to and from Angoulême (120 kilometres away). The station’s official inauguration, in the presence of influential Archbishop of Bordeaux Cardinal Donnet (who has already made appearances on the blog) took place on August 17th 1853, one month after the arrival of the first train from Paris. The final passenger train would depart from the station just over 100 years later, in 1955.
|The station as it once was, as featured on Voies Ferrées de Gironde website.|
The neo-classical architecture of the building was the work of the architect M. Darru in partnership with the engineer Pépin Le Halleur. The building, registered as a national monument in 1984, was a U-shaped structure typical of stations that are located at the end of a line. The central part of the front façade was topped off by a grand semi-circular window. However, this part of the concourse collapsed in 1950. The station itself extended over 90 metres and was topped off by a glass roof.
The walls of the eastern and southern flanks still remain but the space inside is now occupied by a 17-screen Megarama cinema and a restaurant complex. Perhaps the last time visitors had a true sense of being inside a former railway station was in June 1997 when local band Noir Désir held a day-long music festival there.
Today, the most prominent remnants of the building’s railway station past are the words “Chemin de Fer” above the entrance to what is now a Pizza del Arte restaurant. Meanwhile the street which runs along the northern side of the building has been given a name which is suitably reminiscent of what would have been the next stop for generations of people who passed this way: Allée du Paris-Orléans.
- Find it: Quai des Queyries, Bordeaux.