Demolition of the Paris Metro, 2007-2010 (50+ pics)

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dsankt

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Hi, I realise I don't post much of late but I posted some of the earlier stuff in this series and thought some people might be interested in the system wrap up.
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The Paris Metro and the service it provides are deeply intertwined into the fabric of the city. As the 4.5 million Parisians who ride it every day will probably attest it's the quickest way around whether it's for work, for play or both. The metro's distinctive art-nouveau style is unmistakable and the plant like green wrought iron entrances topped with the orange orbs and Metropolitan signage designed by [ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hector_Guimard]Hector Guimard[/ame] which sprout up all over the city lead one down to the gleaming white tiled platforms to be whisked away all over the city. On my first trip to Paris I arrived into Gare du Nord and entered the dense maze that is the metro. Despite the crowds, the noise and the distinct odour of piss, I was in love. The kind of love which inspires one to risk life, limb and deportation to get up close and personal.



The History
On 20 April 1896 the project to construct an underground transportation system for the city of Paris began. Four short years later the Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris (CMP) opened their first line, running east-west from Porte Maillot–Porte de Vincennes. Not long after that the CMP was joined by the Société du chemin de fer électrique souterrain Nord-Sud de Paris (Nord-Sud) and between the two companies almost all of the 10 lines initially planned for Paris were built by 1920. Initially these lines served only the city of Paris (the snobby residents even went to far as to ensure the metro ran right hand side, to guarantee non-interoperability with the left hand side system in the suburbs) but in the 30's - 50's the suburbs were finally connected. Today Paris' metro is still growing and changing through constant renovations, line extensions and currently the conversion of more lines to use the driverless robotrains like those of line 14.

Back in October 2007 sometime after midnight and before the first trains rolled into regular service, qx and I took our first timid steps onto the tracks of the Paris metro. With more nervousness and care than I'd like to admit we gingerly stepped down between the metal rails just off the end of a platform wondering what madness had possessed us to do so. We'd never done Metro like this before and this scary new world was full of elements we didn't understand at all. Looking at every rail critically working out which carried the power, asking ourselves so many questions: how far could the electricity arc, would that even happen, could the cameras on the platform see us, did security wait in the tunnels after hours, were there any trains after service, if so how fast did they go, did anyone live in the tunnels, would be encounter writers? We'd heard lots of stories about RATP security forgoing the usual legal punishments and simply beating up those found in the tunnels and kicking them out onto the street. We weren't packing paint but would that matter?



We took a few careful paces into the tunnel then hastily retreated back to the safety of our discreet entrance and back up the ladders up to street level. Our initial forays were short and clearly we had no fucking idea what we were doing but that taste was like a dirty needle in the arm of pure adventure crack. It was enough to get us hooked and we craved it constantly like two dirty fiends.

Over the next few years we were enslaved to this addiction like only those who grew up in a city deprived of metro could be. Week in week our we hit the tunnels, scouring our maps and coming up in the early hours smeared from head to toe in that thick black dust which never fully washes from your clothes. I would wake the morning after with that distinctive smell still hovering in my nostrils, for imbued was it into the fabric of all my clothes, my sheets and my hair. The thick slabs of scunge under our fingernails was like a badge of honour, the black tinge in the folds between thumb and index finger which never faded a symbol of dedication. The symptoms pervaded our appearance, our speech and our dreams. To us the system was an open slate ripe with possibilities. It drew us in and we could only oblige by beginning to dismantle it piece by piece.

The ghost stations
Before developing a deeper appreciation of the system we were drawn initially to the abandoned stations. Some of these seem totally abandoned and haven't been reappropriated for other uses, some have become RATP storage and others, even more rare, were never even open to the public. With time we would conquor them all.

Arsenal, Champ de Mars
The stations Arsenal and Champ de Mars are the easiest to visit as they can be reached from the topside so they're as good a place to begin as any. While situated at opposite sides of the city these two stations share a similar story. They were closed on the same day, 2nd September 1939, when the metro employees were recruited to join the war effort. After the conclusion of the war they were never reopened for general service as they're simply so close to other stations. The paris metro is one of the most dense in the world with an average distance between stations of ~500m.





Following these the next craving one might satiate comes in the form of those abandoned stations which require one to partake in the third rail steeplechase commonly referred to as tunnel running. Obviously one could choose to walk instead of run but unless you're doing this well after service the luxury of a leisurely stroll is not on offer. Whilst the alcoves spread evenly along the tunnel are reasonable concealment they're not foolproof and you're not invisible to the drivers so do yourself a favour and minimise their use. So pack your running shoes and get ready to duck under signal boxes, leap over the points and generally deal with all the problems that come with running over an unforgiving mess of wooden sleepers, metal points, rocky ballast and tangled cables.



Good form is to, as the train passes by, launch oneself from the alcove down the half meter wide gap between the third rail and the tunnel wall. This isn't the olympics so nobody expects gazelle like speed and grace, the uneven rocky metro ballast will see to that. Ideally the front runner watches ahead for trains, the last watches behind and if you've a third they can count how long you've been running for. It's also prudent to watch for electrical boxes and the like protruding from the walls which require one to duck and weave while still avoid the third rail beside your knee. Knocking oneself unconscious, falling on the juicer and being pulped will crimp your day. Faites attention! With each alcove assess the situation, consider how far it is to the next (if you're lucky enough to see the damn thing) and decide whether to stop and wait or cast those fucking dice again and keep running.



Croix-Rouge
Croix-Rouge (red cross) station was the original terminus for line 10 which operated for only 16 years before it, like the two aforementioned stations, closed in 1939 for the war. Similarly it was never opened again for public use. Like Arsenal, Champ de Mars and Saint Martin, Croix-Rouge can be seen from the windows of the passing train as it lies on regular service track. Using this as a guide we judged the distance we'd need to run to get the station and thinking it wasn't too far I invited my gf along for a look. She cautiously accepted which to her misfortune was totally validated when we discovered the distance was far greater than estimated. I doubt I'll ever be totally forgiven.








Saint Martin
Of Paris' abandoned stations Saint Martin is the largest and the most well known. It's the only abandoned station to be dual layer and to have two different lines running through it - 8 and 9. In addition to its size Saint Martin is well known for the 1940's advertisements it contains.


source: pridian.net

"Both these photos are of advertisements circa 1948, which have never been seen by the public. Note that there is no graffiti, in Paris that means one of two things: they are in a very public place and surrounded in security cameras... or they are very hard to access. In this case, they are very hard to get to...

After the war the metro advertising business was in bad shape, so during the stations brief reopening it was decided that the station would be used as a showcase for what companies could buy in the way of public advertising in the cities metro. However, the station closed soon after and the ads were never used for their intended purpose.

Both these ads are for real products, and I believe "Maizena" (a brand of corn flour) is still in production. These are examples of semi permanent type ads for which a company would pay an annual fee. They are made of hand painted ceramic tiles, which explains why they appear in such good condition after 50 years."
- courtesy of Pridian.net



Stations never completed
Following the entry level stations above one might begin to seek more exclusive fruits and rightfully so. Both the stations Haxo and Molitor are a different breed altogether to those mentioned above because they were never finished, never connected to the surface and never open to the public. Adding these to the haul takes a different approach as both Haxo and Molitor lie on sections of track not used by the general service. As such there's no option to peer out the window of a passing train to even catch a glimpse of what's in store if you're lucky enough to reach them. Further both lie on sections of track commonly used for storing trains. Haxo and Molitor are guaranteed to be an adventure.




Haxo
The abandoned station at Haxo is barely a station at all, in fact only one platform was built and only part of the platform is adorned with those gleaming white tiles which Paris known for. The station is however, plastered end to end in graffiti. The highlight of visiting Haxo by foot is the journey as reaching it from either end can be a risky undertaking. The Voie Navette to the south is home to layed up trains, workers and security guards with dogs; and to the north is an awkwardly positioned station which has recently claimed the metro bust virginity of three friends.






Molitor
Lastly there is Molitor, hardest of the abandoned stations and my favourite. We'd never heard of anyone exploring Molitor and a Google image search turns up some RATP tour photos and little else. According to Magic Paris by Jean-Christophe Patat "The legend even says that you can climb down the lycee's (high school's) main stair to the station". This legend is indeed a legend, as having dodged the cameras and the alarms and actually seen Molitor with our own eyes there no alternative to the hard way. If you want this one, you need to work for it. Molitor has an island platform with an arched roof of gleaming white tiles. Unfortunately there's no signage but this is offset by the trains. Lots of trains. Leading south away from the station is the Voie Murat which was packed with probably another dozen - along with more cameras, more alarms and more adventure.






Raccord Tunnels
In addition to the stations listed above the system is full of raccords, or linking tunnels, which span between lines to enable easy movement of the rolling stock. In our travels though they seemed to be mainly used for work trains traversing the system and for storing trains after service. The raccords are extremely convenient, as like the trains, one can lay up there for a while and wait for the system to close, or simply avoid the busiest stations by working from line to line. As an added bonus they're excellent chill out spots for listening to trains moving through the major tunnels, passing every few minutes in peak hour then at increasing intervals as the service winds down. It's worth noting not to get too comfortable though, lest a lumbering work train interrupt your nap. When those lumbering diesel beasts roll past at 5km/h, covered in workers, you'll be sweating.







Almost all of the raccord tunnels are small, single track affairs with dimmer lighting and less graffiti than the main lines. The movement of air pushed and pulled by the trains deposits little piles of litter in the raccords, amongst the stacks of spare materials and components often found in them. One could venture a guess there's less graffiti in them since there's no passenger service there and nobody to see the works. There are exceptions naturally and many of the raccords contain oddities unmarked on any map. Without checking them all, you'll never know.








Rolling Stock
With time the tunnels become repetitive, the junctions similar and the abandoned stations seen. Cliché as it may be, eventually the metro becomes about the experience and the adventure, more a journey than a particular destination. The journey is a conflagration of uncontrollable variables which conspire to make it unpredictable and dangerous. But that's the fun of being within a live system and as they say, there's never a dull night in the metro.



Naturally the biggest risk is the rolling stock but like the moth and the flame it's what we grew to have the biggest hard on for. Not in an anorak way - you won't see us scribbling down carriage numbers and looking at engine specs; but in a manner of respect for these intimidating beasts which roam the system. They're unconcerned by our weak, fleshy bodies and totally indifferent to whether said body remains in one piece, or many smeared down 100m of track. It's inevitable that over the course of our adventures we'd encounter these beasts up close and personal, in fact by the end we began to seek them out as we gained the courage to venture further into their territory.







There are regular trains, the driverless robotrains of line 14 (and soon line 1), work trains and of course, the Spragues. One night while totally unprepared for such we chanced upon a mint Sprague sitting on a platform, like it was fresh from a 1930's production line. It was a twin-car train resplendent in ravishing red and green against the sparkling backdrop of white tile. Red for the ballers in first class, green for second. The panels were shiny and true, the inside lovingly worn. The wooden second class seats were polished, the padded first class ones still springy. It's probably still sitting there waiting to be taken out for special occasions. Don't ask where it is, I can't say.







The Risks
Naturally the activities presented here are dangerous and concern varying degrees of legality but I'll spare you the disclaimer and hypocrisy of "do as I say, not as I do" and offer a short list of situations I or my friends found ourselves in from which you can choose for yourself your own (in)actions.

  • getting caught by security and police while too drunk to function, inspired by 2 French cataphiles on shrooms
  • getting into a fist fight with coked out bunch of frenchies while midriding
  • qx dropping his keys and having them land perfectly balanced on the third rail
  • riding in the back carriage and hitting the bell button, getting yelled at by the driver then having the train stop and wait in the station while we fled
  • being 10 seconds from running headlong into a ghost train near Vavin
  • sprinting out a raccord tunnel after a robot train started up automatically just as we reached it
  • a driver in the voie des fetes telling qx and AC he was glad they weren't throwing rocks at him
  • hiding on the floor of a layed up train near molitor waiting for the cleaners walking by to leave
  • cramped into an alcove with snappel, qx doing similarly on the opposite side of the tunnel while pinned down by a late arriving train near molitor being parked by a drive who clearly knew we were there.
  • meeting workers in an old station and them being totally cool with us, then having a nap on the ground while waiting for the trains
  • jumping out from a midride as the rain pulls into station, way before it's safe to do so and almost collecting a dozen people standing on the platform who are totally shocked at this person materialising out of nowhere onto the platform and hurtling towards them
  • getting caught up between two groups of workers near a yard while trying to access a raccord tunnel
  • exiting from a tunnel onto the platform to discover security hiding and waiting for us by looking at the tv screens used by the drivers to check it's safe to close the train doors. Naturally we turned and crept away very very quickly.
  • getting caught by securitons in the tunnel and discovering they were really scared of the 3rd rail and wouldn't cross it, only go around it. Then the looks on their faces when, expecting bags of spraypaint, we opened our backpack and out came the pile of 1 series bodies and lenses.
  • Jumping up onto a platform mid service and meeting ticket inspectors, who couldn’t' give us a cheap fine since we had valid tickets and instead found something much more expensive to hit us with.
  • the police stopping beside us one night while we were trying to open a locked metro manhole with a street sweeper bristle. Then them deciding it was a catacomb manhole and asking us about the catacombs.
  • Being chased away from a tunnel into a yard by a single security guard yelling "bougez pas bougez pas!". Yeah right!
  • Running a certain camera'd and alarmed to the hilt loop track, emerging topside just in time to avoid being seen by a dog equipped secca who asked "was that you in the tunnels?", "nah mate we're just Australians getting drunk" and lifting our cans of disgusting 12% Maximator beer with a grin.






The Oddities
With the risks accepted, ghost stations done, raccords run and trains encountered one begins to develop an appreciation for the oddities in the system and begins to comb it, seeking out the weird, the undocumented and unknown places. These places will always draw back those who have a stronger interest in the metro than collecting the set of abandoned stations. Here's a sample:

From the really fucking weird things you find in the tunnels:


To the platforms guarded all night long by a guard and his dog who you might miss by virtue of a visit to the pissoir:




Enormous vent systems:




The Zébulon, the protype for the common [ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MF_67]MF67 stock[/ame], on an abandoned platforms of an active station:






The short section of tunnel of the Voie des Finances which was used up until 1967 to transport money collected from the other stations to a large RATP office in the east:


The tunnels under the river reminiscent of Londons' tube:


And those of line 14, the driverless automated line on which opening the platform doors halts the line:


Navigation


The loop at Porte Maillot:






General dicking around:








And of course, the abandoned section of tunnel converted into an underground facility, including a tunnel packed with the fading red and green of vintage Sprague rolling stock waiting to be moved to a museum. Shortly after we found it the tunnel became the venue for the illest party of the year. You can read more about this place here.







[/QUOTE]

The end?
As we haven't walked every section of tunnel nor checked every door, and considering the evolving nature of the system and the city it supports there is and will always be more to see, find and experience in the metro. This is in no way a definitive list, nor even a checklist for future explorers to use in their adventures in the metro, since discovering your own places is substantially more rewarding and something we should always pursue. Counter intuitive as it may seem, the system still feel so virgin despite the thick layers of graffiti almost :)P) everywhere. Not once did we encounter others of a similar disposition to ourselves down there. Not a single graffiti writer, nor a single explorer. It's easy to believe the Metro is yours alone to explore and no doubt there is much more to be found secreted away below the streets of Paris. Pose 'em and get fucking involved.



Shouts first and foremost to quantum-x and marshall, the two with whom I spent the most time tucked into alcoves as the trains whistled past. Also to snappel and hount for the nights face down in the ballast, nose to the third waiting for the perfect moment. To BHV for that first piece of information which led us down onto the tracks that first stressful night. To everyone else I got dirty, stinky and downright filthy with. To the iron men of the CMP and the NS who built such an excellent system and the hard working staff of the RATP who maintain and extend it. Last of all a special shout to le-mec-sans-nom, whose hours of painstaking work opened possibilites everywhere. Your contribution to this project is forever appreciated.

ds, 2010.
 

scribble

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Stunning pictures and write-up. I fear for your lives though.:frown:
 

King Al

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Amazing stuff as always Dsankt! the old adverts and the 1930's train are fantastic!! you are a nutter though :)
 

dsankt

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Stunning pictures and write-up. I fear for your lives though.:frown:

Seriously, don't. There are far better things to be fearful of than the death of someone you don't know, doing something they love by their own choosing.


Amazing stuff as always Dsankt! the old adverts and the 1930's train are fantastic!! you are a nutter though :)

The trains were a fantastic find no doubt, one of the best :)
 

Foxylady

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Stunning pics and write-up as always, Dsankt. Great to see an overview of your adventures down there and the sort of stuff that can seen and experienced. Good stuff. :)
 

night crawler

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If there was an award fro thread of the year the you have just won it, absolutely stunning. In the words of the younger generation You Rock.:)
 

0xygen

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Wow! Firstly, you guys are fucking nuts but.... I admire your guts! I lived in Paris for the best part of 2 years and used the metro daily. This, however, is a side to it I've never seen before!

Excellent pics and brilliant write-up,

Nice one!

-0xy
 

dsankt

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Wow! Firstly, you guys are fucking nuts but.... I admire your guts! I lived in Paris for the best part of 2 years and used the metro daily. This, however, is a side to it I've never seen before!

Excellent pics and brilliant write-up,

Nice one!

-0xy

Most of the abandoned stations you can briefly see out the window of the train if you look hard and at Victor Hugo and Gambetta you can see the old sections of platform beyond the active areas. Otherwise the interesting sections tend to be out of sight out of mind :)
 

cuboard

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this sounded crazy would have loved to been there! as for the pictures theres too many to pick out for my favs, you really did a great job! :exclaim::exclaim:
 

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