The story of "Le Meusien": The War

The Battle of the Marne

August 3, 1914! Thunderblast on Europe! After the declaration of war of Austria-Hungary and Germany to Serbia, then the intervention of Russia, it is the turn of France to be attacked by the German Reich which sweeps through Belgium .

Schéma du réseau Meusien pendant la guerre 14-18Diagram of the Meusian network during the 14-18 war

Map of the Meusian network during the First World War
The Meuse railway will then suffer significant damage during the battles of the Battle of the Marne (Ippécourt, Vaux-Marie, Vassincourt, Mognéville ...) won by the French.

The troops of the Imperial Kronprinz then retreated to positions established in a hurry and the front finally stabilized near Varennes-en-Argonne, bypasses Verdun, then follows the Côtes de Meuse and pushes the hernia of Saint-Mihiel into the French device.

The General Headquarters realizes very quickly that the stronghold of Verdun is in a critical situation in view of the impossibility to convey towards her troops, materials, provisions, ammunition with efficiency.

Indeed, of the two main lines of railway which transit by Verdun, none is able to function normally. Line 19, which runs along the Meuse Valley, is cut off by the Saint-Mihiel salient, while Line 5 (Chalons-Conflans-Jarny) is under enemy fire.

At the disposal of the French command remains only the line of local interest metric track and a difficult path that joins Bar-le-Duc to the stronghold, pivot of the French defense in the sector.

The General Headquarters is alarmed by this situation and decides to requisition the Meusian network as of December 1, 1914.

Improvement works

The year 1915 will be devoted to improving the lines leading to Argonne and Verdun by the 5th Regiment of Engineering. The 10th section of Country Railroad is responsible for its operation.

The embroidered crest of the 5th Engineer Regiment

L’écusson brodé du 5° régiment du génieBadge of the 5th Engineer Regiment

A huge project then developed that doubled the roads between Rembercourt-aux-Pots and Beauzée-sur-Aire, to build a branch from the Souhesmes to Dugny, south of Verdun.

Numerous modifications have been made: extension of the platforms, construction of overflow and avoidance lanes, transhipment routes at Revigny-sur-Ornain with the East network and at Bar-le-Duc with the Marne Canal at Rhine.

All stations are equipped with telephone.

This year 1915 is also used by the military to improve the road from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun by stepping it up and widening it to 7 meters so that the crossing of convoys of trucks became possible.

This road, let us remember, which was originally a poorly maintained road, will be the work of the Army that will employ this titanic work of territorial and indigenous from our colonies. The future canton of Baudonvilliers in Bar-le-Duc, as for him, belongs to the ancestral road known as "road of France" and is in good condition because regularly maintained by the Ponts-et-Chaussés.


At the time of the German attack on Verdun, the French are therefore, as far as possible, ready to ensure the supply of the stronghold. And from February 19, two days before the German surge, Captain Doumenc responsible for the car service of the General Headquarters is at Bar-le-Duc High School to organize transport to Verdun.

At the Meusian Railway came the mission of bringing food for men and horses. The food (balls of bread, boxes of "monkey", "pinard", etc ...) will be delivered in stations previously designated, with a tight flow, for example those of Dugny, Pierrefitte-sur-Aire, Clermont-en Argonne, Froidos, Triaucourt ...

Regiments in the area close to each of them will be required to refuel in those to which they are subscribed and will have to find what they need ... This mission will be accomplished without striking a blow to the satisfaction of the command and the regiments. This is the great merit of Varinot!

Des troupes montants dans un train à TriaucourtIn Triaucourt the troops go up

On return, the covered freight cars will be equipped for the transport of the wounded. Strings are stretched between the ceiling and the floor in which, from place to place, in suitable rings, the stretchers of the stretchers are slipped. At the same time, permanently equipped special trains each carried about 250 wounded accompanied by a doctor and nurses, and more rarely nurses.

Bar-le-Duc and Revigny-sur-Ornain, in particular, had become hospital towns. All buildings of any size, including the barracks, are mobilized to ensure the healing of the wounded and sick. In Bar-le-Duc, the Exelmans barracks, usual residence in peacetime of the 94th RegimentBar-le-Duc and Revigny-sur-Ornain, in particular, had become hospital towns. All buildings of any size, including the barracks, are mobilized to ensure the healing of the wounded and sick. In Bar-le-Duc, the Exelmans barracks, the usual residence in peacetime of the 94th Infantry Regiment, becomes the central hospital ...

Reinforcement material

To accomplish these two missions, the equipment of the Meusian network quickly proves to be insufficient: 15 locomotives to which are added 12 brand new machines of the Woëvre line rescued from the German occupation. Missing material will be taken from similar networks in remote departments of the front.

In the end, a total of 128 powerful locomotives and 800 wagons will know the Meusian network throughout the conflict. The material in the Meuse was disparate and, to overcome these drawbacks (among others, buffer height, hitch difference, brake ...), we had created homogeneous trains that never dissociated. Another difficulty involved the harmonization of traffic on the stretch from Souilly to Moulin-Brûlé where there were 4 level crossings.

The regulator of the canton of the sector was in charge of this harmonization, by alternating the traffics road and rail. On the Bar-le-Duc-Verdun line, it was possible to see a huge amount of traffic never reached before on this type of road. Double-pull convoys, often made up of 20 or more cars, ran around the clock. 22 daily trains at the beginning of 1916, 31 in March, 35 in April ensured the supplying of the sector of Verdun where 300 000 men and 100 to 120 thousand horses were permanently.

The 6.bis

From late June 1916, a new line, normal track that one, came to relieve the work of the road and Meusien. This line ran from Nettancourt-Sommeilles, on the Saint-Dizier-Vouziers line (n ° 6), to Dugny and allowed to transport the wagons of the big networks without carrying out a transhipment of the freight.

This line dubbed the "6bis" built between February 23 and end of June 1916, could ensure the delivery of 3 times more freight than the "Sacred Way" and 10 times more than the Varinot. It allowed the General Joffre to recover the trucks of its flying of command to use them during the Franco-British attack of July 1, 1916 on the Somme. Two straps were added, one going to Clermont-en-Argonne, the other connecting Souilly-Osches to Rampont on line 5. This last one allowed, moreover, to bring to work more conveniently the heavy artillery of the ALVF

From July 13, the German trampled and, little by little, the French Army regained the lost ground. The Meusian continued its service throughout the war, helping even the Americans during their offensive on the Argonne in September 1918.


In 1919, the network was returned to its legitimate owners. In the legend of the Battle of Verdun, only the road, which became the "Sacred Way", received official recognition. A bronze Adrian helmet was placed on all milestones, and it was inaugurated in great pomp on August 21, 1922. Then we forgot the rest! For the Meuse r
ailway, nothing! For line 6bis, nothing! Better, it disappeared completely from the Meuse landscape as early as 1919 ...

Les voies sacrées : route et rail

The sacred ways: road and rail

That is why we believe that this forgetting must be repaired and that the Meusian railway which "deserved well of the Fatherland", can rightly claim, like the road, the "SACRED RAILWAY".

Discover part 3 : The decline

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Before the war

The War

The decline


- Written by Jean Boucheré -