Next Stop: History

It’s a great idea and everyone loves it no matter their age! A little train ride to dive into the past and present of the railway on a journey intrinsically linked to Périgord itself. Head to the platforms at Niversac station and hop on board the train with a tour guide.

A great journey

When the railway came to the Dordogne area in the mid-19th century, the idea was to open it up by making it easier to get around, provide new outlets for local businesses and shorten journey times for travellers. The railway adventure began here during the Second Empire and continues today with the launch of the train shuttle between Niversac and Mussidan.

We decided to test it out whilst in the area, as guests of the Grand Périgueux Tourist Board based at Fanal at Niversac station since January 2023.

2.30pm: arrival at Fanal 

The brick and wood building is the former trade hall. That’s where we meet the other passengers and our guide who has our tickets for a trip in partnership with the TER Nouvelle-Aquitaine train company. Fanal? That’s a funny name… “Not really,” we’re told. It’s the name of the lamp at the front of the train or back of the last wagon (for freight) or carriage (for passengers).”

That sets the tone and our outing is very much on track. We’re surrounded by railway history, with a water tower that once supplied steam trains, a wagon winch, De Dietrich carriage from 1929 and the station itself.

When we reach the platform, we already know a huge amount (if you don’t take a guided trip, information points detail the history of the railway between Fanal and the station). Here’s a quick recap of what we know so far: there has been a railway between Périgueux and Coutras in Gironde since 1855. The Périgueux-Brive railway launched in 1860 (it took three hours to travel between the two towns) and a junction to Agen opened in 1863. It all belonged to the iconic Compagnie Paris-Orléans.

3.05pm: departure from Niversac station 

The train’s coming into the station… Some of the carriage is reserved for us. Our tickets are checked and the trip through time is now on track in a shuttle that regularly runs between Niversac and Mussidan. We’re not going that far… Not today anyway.

The scenery flits by… and the stories begin. We hear about opposition to the railway’s arrival and resistance to buying land, political campaigns to get from one place or another and a few heritage disasters that were avoided.

After Château du Lieu-Dieu, the church and Boulazac industrial estate (which first appeared in the 1960s with the stamp factory opening in the 70s), crossing the Lesparat marks the beginning of the urban area. We can see the hospital, Saint-Front Cathedral domes, Saint-Georges district, Vésone tower and Château Barrière, which we’ll get a better view of on the way back.

3.17pm: arrival at Périgueux station 

Périgueux… The shuttle continues its journey without us. Our trip back in time is going slightly off the rails… outside the station.

An original location to encourage urban planning in the west of town. A new footbridge has been built, the first dates back to 1904. As the first impression of the area that travellers have when they arrive, the site had an important role with things like the high standards of its restaurant.

The building itself hasn’t changed much, except for the awnings and other Belle Epoque features that are no longer here.

And back again...

3.36pm: departure from Périgueux station

Our ticket did say “return”… We use our time for a Q&A session and listen to stories from the seniors (and locals) about the railway adventure.

3.47pm: arrival at Niversac station

Last call… All change! We weren’t gone for that long but we travelled much further than we actually did. Back in time any… over 150 years you know!

Ready to go? 

Meeting point: Grand Périgueux Tourist Information – Niversac Station.

Free car park

Tickets: 4€ – 8 €

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