Compressed Air Trams
By John Prentice


The Paris Mékarski routes did not work without incident. The following are based on news records of the time:-

From L'Illustre National, 1st year, No.7:-

A serious accident occurred to M. Colbach, a hirer of horse carriages from Rue Bayard. Having taken his wife for a walk in the Bois de Boulogne, and driving himself back in a small carriage, he found himself on the tram tracks on Quai de Passy close to Pont Grenelle. Seeing a Mékarski loco behind on the service from Boulogne to Louvre, he crossed the rails to move out of the way, but misjudged the speed of the tram which hit the carriage, overturning it and throwing M. and Mme Colbach into the road. Mme Colbach sustained cuts and a broken right wrist, but alas her husband fell onto the rails and his head was struck by the tram, killing him outright.

From Le Petit Parisien 1st July 1900:-

Crash An artist's impression from Le Petit Parisien showing the runaway Mékarski car hitting a tree near the cafe.

This accident occurred on the route Passy-Hotel de Ville (TJ) when the 1900 series cars had just been put into service. At 5.10 pm the car had left Place du Trocadero and was descending the gradient on Avenue du Trocadero. On the ascending track another Mékarski car had stalled. The driver of the descending car M. Rougier stopped and went to help the other. He was looking at the wheels when his own car started to run away. The conductor, realising that he had no driver, applied the rear brake and then went to the driver's position at the front to try to stop the tram. Unfortunately he was unfamiliar with the controls and instead of applying the air brakes of these new cars, he opened the regulator, and the car accelerated away. At the corner of Avenue Marceau it left the tracks and mounted the pavement where despite shouts from the conductor, hit several people. It then hit and demolished a tree, coming to rest just short of the terrace of a cafe at No.6 Avenue du Trocadéro, where many were dining. Fortunately no diners were injured but the windows of the car were broken, with glass flying and there were minor injuries to the passengers. The driver, who had been running behind the car but had failed to catch it, then arrived. He found that the front platform of his tram was demolished, the bodywork broken, and the tram was quite impossible to move.

From the Illustrated Supplement of Petit Parisien 14 July 1901:-

An accident occurred at the tram stop outside L'Ecu de France at Viroflay. At this Point on the line Louvre-Versailles (TAD), there was a section of single track on a slope and with a bend. A car from Paris, fully laden with those visiting Versailles (it was a Sunday), was running ten minutes late but the driver thought he had plenty of time to pass the points at the far end of the single track, so did not slow up to wait at the point called 'La Grace de Dieu', about 20 metres before the single section. Corning the other way was a car returning from Versailles at a normal speed, fortunately nearly empty. On seeing each other they braked but were unable to stop and the two Mékarski locos collided head on. That from Paris completely demolished the front of the other, and l9 people were thrown from the Paris car receiving various injuries, some serious. Two ambulances were called and it took nearly an hour to treat the injured.

From Le Petit Parisien, 19 January 1902:-

CGO Staff A group of CGO staff in front of a Mékarski car of the 1900 series, the regulator on top of the bouillotte clearly visible.

A drama on a tram. Joseph L., who was employed as a conductor by the CGO, was the lover of Mlle. Marie R., a pretty 23-year old cook from Bordeaux. For a long time marriage had been decided. They were only waiting for an inheritance to regularise the situation.

The inheritance came, but alas Joseph L. changed his mind. He ended by saying to his fiancee 'My parents refuse to consent to our marriage. Therefore we must separate!'

But Marie R. loved Joseph L. and tried to get him back by all means, tears, screams. scandal at the company. Nothing worked.

She then took direct action. Armed with a revolver she waited at the terminal stop of Route TG - Montrouge to Gare de L'Est, at the Avenue d'Orléans, and there she stayed until the Mékarski car of her unfaithful lover arrived. At the moment when Joseph L. called out for the departure of the car, Marie R. climbed the steps and while pretending to show her ticket, drew her gun and fired a shot point-blank into the conductor's chest. He collapsed onto the platform of the tram.

Montrouge car Such a Mékarski car of the 1900 series on Route TG - Montrouge to Gare de L'Est, here seen around 1910 at Place du Chatelêt.

She would without doubt shoot again but the people nearby seized her and handed her over to policemen, who had been attracted by the sound of the shot. The injured man was transported to Cochin Hospital in a hopeless state. They were however, able to remove the bullet which had lodged at the top of his left lung, and he survived. As to Marie R, after questioning by M. Baissac, the Commissaire de Police at Petit Montrouge, before whom she showed no repentance, she was packed off to the cells.

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© Copyright John R. Prentice 1994 & 2003