The stamp on this maxi card and the card itself were issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the “Chemins de fer de provence” an old railway company located in the south of France which is now running a unique route between Nice and Digne-les-bains. This route, that opened in 1911, is locally referred as the “train des pignes” (the pine nuts train) as indicated on the stamp.
In 1861, Alphonse Beau de Rochas, an engineer from Digne who invented the four-stroke internal-combustion engine, wanted to link Nice, annexed to France the previous year, to Grenoble via the Var Valley, Digne-les-Bains and Gap. But, it was not until 1882 that the military authorities granted their approval for the project, which could then begin. To adapt to the very rugged relief, the engineers chose to build a narrow-gauge railway: a 1-metre gauge - instead of the standard 1.40 metres - provided for tighter curves (100 metres instead of 300 metres) and lower construction costs. In all, there are no less than twenty-five tunnels, sixteen viaducts and fifteen metal bridges on the line’s 150 kilometres.
The ‘Train des Pignes’ (pinecone railway) finally reached Nice in 1911 and was inaugurated on 3 July.
Despite many obstacles - climate, finances, the rising popularity of automobiles, war... - and thanks to close fruitful cooperation with local economic players (local communities, schools, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, travel agencies, associations), CFSF- Chemins de Fer de Provence was able to anchor the railway in the local economic fabric, thereby offering regular transport by train from the Mediterranean Sea to the Alps, also revealing the wealth of the cultural and tourist heritage of the 30 communes along the line. This pretty maximum card was given to me by my dear friend Maria.