The Canal Du Midi flows between Toulouse and Agde. Following its opening in 1681, the commercial success of the Canal du Midi was such that Narbonne traders demanded improved access to it, so in 1686 the Canal de la Robine was constructed by Vauban as a lockless open cut following an abandoned course of the Aude. The northern end of the canal is at the Aude at Moussoulens just south of Sallèles-d'Aude from where goods were transported by land to the Canal du Midi at Le Somail — a journey of approximately 6 kilometres (3.7 mi). A century later, when the Canal de Jonction was constructed, the Canal de la Robine was straightened and six single locks were built to deal with the more severe gradients, Narbonne finally had direct waterway access to the Canal du Midi. (wikipedia).
For pedestrians and cyclists it is a bit complicated to reach Narbonne. The Canal Du Midi junction with the Canal De La Jonction is easy, as there is a little old pedestrian bridge there to help you cross to the other side of the canal. But the problem is where the Canal De La Jonction ends, which is at the Aude River in Salleles d'Aude. Boats simply join the river and then connect to the Canal de la Robine. But cyclists that do not wish to swim with their bikes must find another way. What most people do is to make use of an old abandoned railway bridge to cross the Aude River.
The orange dot indicates the location of the railway bridge over the Aude River. For a more detailed map please click here.
The railway brige over the Aude River between the Canal Du Midi and Narbonne.
This railway was used by a tourist train connecting Narbonne to Bize Minervois. These tourist trains no longer run though. They stopped in 2004.
Old postcard showing the tourist train crossing the Canal Du Midi.
The train after 2004. No more tourist trains ran after 2004.
To check that indeed no trains are running here, a coin test was carried out over a 2 year period.
Coin placed on track on May 22, 2017.
Extra strong tape was used to secure the coin to the tracks. A total of 3 coins were placed on the north side of the bridge, all secured with the same tape.
July 26, 2017. The coin is still there and not flattened.
August 23, 2017. Coin still there and not flattened. Put new tape in place.
September 28, 2017. Coin still in place and still not flat. Tape is still decent.
June 9, 2018. The coin is flat! Wow! All three coins are now flat suddenly.
So, we can conclude that about once a year a train does come by here. Most likely in the winter time. From closer inspection of the bridge and railroad we can conclude that this train must be going very slowly.
Many of the railroad ties are missing bolts, indicating that trains should go very slowly to avoid derailing.
Plants are tall and grow right next to the rails, indicating that trains are very rare indeed.
Talking to some locals it was discovered that the tourist train would actually slow down when crossing this bridge because they knew that cyclists were using it to cross the river. So the one train a year that might pass here must also be well aware that cyclists use this bridge.
The only possible place for a train to be needed is the farine (flower) factory located right at the canal junction. Consulting google earth satellite images, we see one train wagon on the tracks there. Turning back the time on google earth, however, shows that that one wagon has not moved since 2005.
July 13 2018
June 2 2005.
To get from the Canal de la Jonction to this bridge is a bit tricky, as there are of course no signs here. Each time I was here, I would see lost cyclists. The map below is how you get to the bridge.
(click to enlarge)
The numbers correspond to the photos listed below.
1. Cross over the bridge at the end of the Canal de la Jonction leading towards the Gailhousty Lock building.
2. Take path behind building.
3. Immediately after building, turn left onto a very small unpaved track. Do not take the big unpaved road going downhill.
4. Go past the mile marker.
5. Follow small path to the end, which will be at the railroad track.
6. The path joins the railroad track here.
7. Cross railroad bridge.
8. At hole in fence turn right and go down concrete wall.
9. Go down this wall.
10. Follow path to the river Aude.
11. Pass under bridge and continue straight all the way to Narbonne. No need to change sides of the canal anymore.
Below a few more images of the railway bridge crossing the Aude River.
The video below has a segment about the River Aude railway bridge and its crossing by bike to get from Canal Du Midi to Narbonne. The segment starts at the 11min 30 second mark.