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Mongy is only the survivor of a very vast whole of trams, which could be
subdivided in 2 subsystems:
- a system with metric gauge track (1m between the 2 rails) in Roubaix - Tourcoing
- a system with normal gauge (1m44) around Lille.
In many places, these 2 systems approached like at Theatre square in Lille, or close to the St Vincent church at Marcq-in-Baroeul, or even were crossing as at the crossroads in Lille between the Gardens street (rue des Jardins) and the Carnot Boulevard, with there a crossing of air lines very complex
(current captation by pantograph for Mongy, and by trolley-pole for the CGIT urban trams).
For a detailed knowledge of these very complex networks,
look at the book written by Claude Gay (see bibliography page ).
This engineer, born in Lille in 1840, and died in 1914, is the originator of these lines of tramways
that Northern France inhabitants continue to designate by its name.
He was initially a civil servant, engineer of Lille Town hall,
then for the General Council (department assembly) of North.
At the beginning of the 20° century, he created a private company with the aim
to manage tramway lines.
The Grand boulevard
From 1905, and during 4 years, was built a new "Grand boulevard"
between Lille on one hand, and Roubaix and Tourcoing on the other hand.
The old roads were narrow and badly convenient.
Lille is distant of Roubaix of approximately 12 km, and Tourcoing of 13 km.
This boulevard is in single base joint of Lille to Marcq-in-Baroeul, until in a place called Croisé Laroche,
where it is divided into 2 branches, one towards Roubaix, on the right,
the other towards Tourcoing on the left.
The orientation is roughly from South (Lille) towards North (Roubaix and Tourcoing).
This boulevard was composed in the beginning of:
- a central axis for the motor vehicle traffic,
- two side roadways for the local service road, and the heavy vehicles (at the origin at least...),
the trucks are now prohibited there,
- a bridle path and a cycle track (the cycle track was recently modernized,
the bridle path disappeared in the Sixties),
- enough broad pavements for the pedestrians,
- and spaces it for the tramway double tracks.
This boulevard was inaugurated, with the tram the Saturday 4 December 1909
Its own history can be divided into 5 principal times.
From inauguration to 1950
During 40 years, the motor coaches 400 of origin circulates,
with trailer when the traffic is intense.
These motor coaches, very modern, with bogie trucks, D.C. current 600 volts, and trolley-pole on catenary overhead line,
were fast, roomy, closed (the driver were sheltered of bad weather, situation not frequent for the urban tramways at the beginning of the 20° century), and heated. The seats were of good quality.
The use of the overhead line and the way in exclusive right of way (metric gauge track), apart from the other vehicles, allows a good speed.
This Mongy was conceived like a true interurban railroad, and not like urban tramway.
The operating company is the ELRT (electric Lille Roubaix Tourcoing), which exploits too
other lines of tramways (then of bus), in Roubaix Tourcoing primarily.
These motor coaches 400 will be built in 35 specimens from 1909 to 1926.
The 2 wars were difficult moments.
In 1914-18, the area inhabitant of Lille was occupied by the German army.
what generated many difficulties for the tramways: miss electricity, of qualified personnel which was mobilized,
lack material of replacement.
At the end of the war, the network was very damaged.
In 1940, the difficulties were of the same order. However the traffic of Mongy was considerable,
Indeed the gasoline was rare, therefore the cars and buses did not circulate quasi any more.
The tramways had to be used.
1950 - 1968
In 1950, the company buys 28 new motor coaches, 500 , the very modern ones for the time.
They were designed to circulate per pair, which was not really made.
The use of trolley-poles were change for pantographs.
Some 400, re-equipped pantographs, will continue to complete the service of the 500 during decade 50,
especially on the lines of Tourcoing and Marcq.
In 1956, after closing the urban lines in Roubaix and Tourcoing,
small motor coaches 200 (of 1936-37), precursors of the 500,
are re-used (and also equipped with pantographs) on Mongy,
for the Marcq antenna.
The considerable development of the use of the motor-cars during this time decreases the traffic of the tramways.
In 1956, was finished to close the network with metric gauge track in Roubaix-Tourcoing (exploited by the ELRT).
In 1966, the closing of the CGIT normal gauge tramways in Lille is completed.
The lines are exploited by bus.
There remains nothing any more but Mongy, like ultimate "surviving" of a double network of considerable tramways.
In 1950, the network of tramways in the Lille urban district was undoubtedly one of most significant of Europe.
1968 - 1981
The concession of the ELRT finishes in 1968.
Many wishes the disappearance of Mongy, overdrawn, and which prevents from widening the road roadways of the Grand Boulevard.
A broad movement of protest leads to the maintenance of the tramway,
and then were created the SNELRT (sn : société nouvelle = new company ELRT).
A modernization of motor coaches 500 is carried out.
New colors, new interior installations, and only one employee on board.
Indeed, before, there were an engineer who drive and a ticket-inspector (to sell and punch the tickets).
Everyboby went up by the back door of the tram, and was obliged to pass in front of him to enter: impossible fraud!
and peace for the traveller guaranteed by this double human presence.
Let us note unfortunately in 1972 the closing of the antenna to Marcq-in-Baroeul
1981 - 1994
Motor coaches 500 are
old, the 200 do not run more, it remains only two 400 used
in exceptional circumstances (cinema realization, associative journeys...).
A new owner is created at the end of 1981: the COTRALI , by fusion between SNELRT, and CGIT (last tramway user in Lille with normal gauge removed in 1966, and replaced by buses).
Cotrali means: Transport Company of Lille Urban Community.
The initials affixed on the vehicles will be TCC (public transport of the community).
The future of the tram is in discussion with its replacement by a subway line.
There is not enough money nor of will to acquire new motor coaches.
So it was temporarily decided to buy second-hand German tramways, of the Düwag manufacturer.
They became series 300 .
Six simple motor coaches will run (one body on 2 bogie trucks), and 34 articulated machines (two bodies on 3 bogie trucks).
With various fortunes. They allowed, by the greatest capacity of the double motor coaches,
to absorb the increase in the traffic, generated by the connecting between Mongy and the new subway
by boring a tunnel which made possible tramways to go under the station of Lille-Flandres.
But theses machines were almost as old than the 500,
and in despite of a good refurbishing done by the Marcq workshops, there were no miracle.
Their comfort and their reliability were not completely with what the passengers hoped.
From 1991 to 1994, Mongy underwent a cure of radical modernization.
It was finally decided to preserve it, and to make a system of powerful transport of it,
and complementary to the 2 subway lines.
All were changed!
The tracks and the overhead line were rebuilt, the tension was carried to 750 volts (what prevents unfortunately
circulation on a purely tourist or historical basis of the older motor coaches).
The stations were modernized, a few ones were put in underground
under the level of very encumbered crossroads.
The termini were modified (removed loops, put in correspondence with the subway).
The vehicle gauge was widened, carried to 2m40, by keeping the metric gauge track.
And were bought, in Italy, at the company Breda, 24 new articulated motor coaches, of great capacity,
longer than what had rolled until there on Mongy.
The power supply was reinforced by the construction of new sub-stations (only one existed before).
And new workshops were built at the place called "Rouge-Barres" (Red Bars), in the North of Lille
and thus the workshops of Marcq-in-Baroeul were closed, which had maintained all Mongys since the origin.
In a word, the tramway was completely rebuilt, in the same way if it never existed before.
It is a beautiful realization, which returns to this line its modernity, as it had had
in 1909 in the beginning, or 1950 during the acquisition of motor coaches 500.
On the site of the CNAM (see the page of links ), one reads the design features of the motor coaches of Mongy.
Certain old motor coaches of Mongy are visible in various museums ( AMTUIR , AMITRAM ),
the 433 is on the place of the Town hall of Villeneuve d' Ascq.
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