Exploring the “plans inclinés”

Hiking distance : 9, 10, 15, 11 and 10 km ; Hiking time : 3 to 4 1/2 hours
information panel at les Pinèdes
info panel a the Pinèdes tower

Just north-west of Alès, these five different walking routes explore the ruins and visible remains of the “plans inclinés”, a nineteenth century mountain rail transport system built to move coal from the remote Broussous valley to a railhead in La Levade. The network was operated between 1859 and 1867, just 8 short years before being abandoned (and then swiftly dismantled) in favour of conventional rail transport. (read about the system here.) The area covered by these walks includes the Broussos valley, the mountain pass at Portes, the Pereyrols ridge above La Vernarède, the Pinèdes valley and the Luminières valley.
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Nineteenth century coal and the “plans inclinés”

information panel at les Pinèdes
information panel at les Pinèdes

Coal mines, railroads, businessmen and engineers

The story of the “plans inclinés” starts around 1853. Coal mining was already in progress in the Alès basin and coal was found in a number of localities, including La Vernarède – an off-the-track village in the shadow of the Portes castle. The village found itself in the middle of a coal mining boom when several deposits of coal were located in the Broussous valley. Mining coal is one thing. Getting it to market was quite another.
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