Abandoned Paris train tracks – now walking tracks.
To cater for visitors attending the first Paris World Fair in 1867, a circular rail route was established for train travel around the capital. Rail was already introduced in France since 1828, beginning with mining companies to transport coal, and from Paris to major cities from 1855.
The Petite Ceinture – the Small Belt – is the former double-track railway line encircling Paris, at a time when the area was in the rural zone. It opened in 1867 and continued until competition from the Metropolitain line (the Metro), established in 1900, forced the closure of the Petite Ceinture in 1934. The train tracks were never removed.
Over time, wild flora and fauna spread across the rail line – with more than 200 plant species and more than 70 animal species.
In 2007, one section of the Petite Ceinture in the 16th arrondissement – between Porte d’Auteuil and Muette Station – was open to the public as a walking trail. Other sections of the ‘green path’ have subsequently opened to the public. Former railway stations have been renovated as cafes, restaurants, and bars.
The Montrouge-Belt, part of the former railway network, situated in the 14th arrondissement, was open on 25 February 1867 and closed in 1934. Abandoned for 74 years, the Moutrouge-Belt railway station was rehabilitated in 2008. It is now Poinçon.
Poinçon – Punch – opened in July 2019 as a ‘contemporary space’ for a café-restaurant and cultural programs, such as exhibitions and events. The old railway station, now contemporary space, overlooks the railway tracks.
Poinçon takes its name from the tool that the train conductor used to perforate a hole in a passenger’s train ticket to verify it. The small, hand-held poinçon de billet – ticket punch – was used in France for the Petite Ceinture and the Metropolitain lines until the 1960s.
Behind the Poinçon are stairs to the rail tracks. Near these stairs, on the rail platform is a painted transport container. It is Les Tontons Flowers, an urban, hyper-local, agriculture project. Les Tontons Flowers, which was locked when I viewed it, is a family business that produces micro-greens and aromatic plants using a chemical-free, plant substrate which replaces soil. Les Tontons Flowers also runs a participatory collective scheme promoting food resilience.