Renovating Gare de l’Est

One of Paris’ trains stations is being restored to its former glory.


Renovation isn’t quite finished yet on the 150-year old station, but things are looking good already.

– the station has been cleaned inside and out.
– the central part of the front of the station, closed for years, has been re-opened to create a central exchange area between the métro and the mainline station.
– a spectacular glass tile roof can now be seen. The downside: 50-odd shops have been created to sell you dodgy clothes, poor food and mobile ‘phones.
– the entrance to the metro has been opened out, with an impressive new ceiling and newly-exposed wrought ironwork.
– all metro platforms and corridors (three lines meet here) have been renovated and retiled.
– in the main station, marble that had been hidden behind thick brown PVC for years (the seventies were not kind to this building) is at last visible.

All this has been done to celebrate the arrival of the new TGV fast train service to the northeast of the country (and Europe). Travel time to Strasbourg used to be four hours. Since June, it takes just 2 hours 20 minutes! Journey times to Germany and Switzerland have been slashed too; Frankfurt takes 2 and a half hours less to get to now, trains to Zurich take 4 1/2 hours instead of 6!

You’ll find lots more information on the official TGV site here.

We have a quick slideshow of the station to look at here on Flickr.

And whilst looking on Flickr, I found some really old photos of the station that user blacque-jacques has posted, and decided to do before and after shots, like this one:

Things have changed quite a bit since then! There are a couple of other shots like that in the slideshow.

I was intrigued to know how blacque_jacques had got hold of the old photos, so I dropped him a message. He replied that the photos are from summer of 1959 or 1960, by an unknown Dutch fotographer on a holiday. They are in a collection of 1000 negatives I got at a flea market, and they run from late 1958 to mid-1961. I’m pretty sure about the dates because there’s a Daily Telegraph headline reading “GEORGE DAWSON ARRESTED” and a sub-headline mentioning orange juice. A George Dawson had his conviction upheld by a UK court in 1960.

Quite a fascinating story…

As well as a wonderful past, the station has a bright future; a new garden walkway will be created next year to link Gare de l’Est with Gare du Nord, allowing travellers to get between them without having to negotiate the Paris traffic. Also, around 2012, a fast train to the airport Charles de Gaulle should be ready…

We’re more used to passing through stations rather than deliberately passing time in them, but I hope that the next time you’re in Paris you will take a closer look at Gare de l’Est!

P.S. Did you know that several scenes in the movie Amelie were filmed at Gare de l’Est? Check out the trailer below. You’ll see it’s huge windows quickly, and if you watch the movie again you’ll recognise a lot of the huge spaces that they used…


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