Paris to Bois-Colombes on the J-line

The train trip to Bois-Colombes takes all of nine minutes from Saint Lazare station in Paris on the J-line of the Transilien. There is only one stop along the way, at Asnières-sur-Seine, since the J-trains go through the station Pont Cardinet without stopping. The cost for a one-way ticket is € 2.80 as of 2021. During the day and evening, the J-trains run four times an hour (every fifteen minutes), or six times an hour during the rush hours.

Inside the J-train to Bois-Colombes

The J-line, as it has been called since 2004, is one of eight lines comprising the Transilien network of suburban trains run by the state-owned railway system SNCF.

The name Transilien was introduced in 1999 as a brand name for upgraded suburban trains running in the Île-de-France region on lines that have mostly been in operation since the 19th century. Unlike the five RER lines (Réseau Express Régional), the Transilien lines do not run through Paris in tunnels, but start or end at one of the traditional Paris terminals or at La Défense.

Saint Lazare station in Paris

Besides the J-line from Saint Lazare station, I have only used two of the other Transilien lines so far:

  • The H-line from Gare du Nord to Enghien-Les-Bains, when I was going to Montmorency; and
  • The R-line from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon, when I was going to see the Palace of Fontainebleau.

I could also have used the N-line from Gare Montparnasse to Saint-Cyr-l’École, where Madame de Maintenon had her school in the 17th century, but instead I used the RER C line, which goes from Paris to Saint-Cyr-l’École by a slightly different route.  

Waiting for their track numbers at Saint-Lazare station in Paris

As in most large railway stations in France, the exact track numbers for departing trains at Saint Lazare station are not posted until fifteen or twenty minutes before departure, which is why you see people staring at the departure boards, waiting for their track numbers to appear.

But there is a system of color coding which enables people to wait in the general area of where their train will be. Here, a dark blue square stands for tracks 1 to 11, a green square for tracks 12 to 21 and a light blue square for tracks 22 to 27. For each destination, the next two departures are listed, each with its own colored square.

Automatic entrance gates at Bois-Colombes station

As in the Paris Métro, the Transilien stations have automatic gates that quickly check people’s tickets on their way in. Those of us who still use the traditional cardboard tickets have to insert one of them in the slot in the yellow oval at the front of the machine. If the ticket is valid, it immediately pops up at the top of the machine (don’t forget to take it along) and the gates open.

But the cardboard tickets are gradually being phased out, and most commuters now have cards that they can wave at an automatic card reader to open the gates.

Looking down at Bois-Colombes station

When my father lived in Bois-Colombes in the 1920s, he commuted by train to his workplace in Paris.

Later, in America, he kept on commuting by train for most of his working life. It was only in the last few years before he retired that he had to start driving to the west side of Chicago, where his company had to re-locate. The reason for this was that their grimy but convenient little downtown building was demolished to make room for the new Sears Tower (which, as I have just learned, was the tallest building in the world for nearly a quarter century).

My photos and text in this post are from 2021.

See more posts on Bois-Colombes, France.
See more posts on my family history.

15 thoughts on “Paris to Bois-Colombes on the J-line”

  1. I remember seeing the beautiful glass dome in front of Gare Saint Lazare as the #80 bus to Montmartre that I was on drove past it. The first time I took the Transilien N-Line, I missed the sign indicating that the train wouldn’t be making any stops. As a result, I found myself at the Versailles Chantiers station – a funny mistake/surprise!

    Good to know that Château de Fontainebleau is accessible by Transilien R-Line – I’d love to go there one day!

  2. Travelling on trains in different countries is absolutely one of my passions (I cone from a railway family). I have ridden the train out to Fontainebleau but it was in 1978 so a long tine before modernisation!

  3. We have taken the Transilien out to Fontainebleau, the Avon station and the RER to St. Germain-en-Laye. San Francisco has a good train system using several different companies. The ones we’ve used are Amtrak, BART and CalTrain. Sacramento has a trolley system and a very nice Amtrak station. I’ve never like BART when it goes underground in San Francisco because I always worry about earthquakes. The above ground parts are great although they don’t begin to compare to Paris.

    My Dad used to take me into Chicago on the El. Being a kid from a small town in Ohio, I thought that was fantastic.

    1. I’ve used Amtrak and BART but not CalTrain, which didn’t exist in its current form when I was living there. In Chicago, we could choose between the El and the C&NW. My father’s commute was by C&NW (steam traction till the 1950s, then diesel) because their terminal was convenient to his workplace.

  4. I meant that the peace treaty with Austria-Hungary was signed in Saint-Germain, the peace treaty with Germany in Versailles. It seemed a strange coincidence to me that you visited exactly these castles…

  5. “Unlike the five RER lines (Réseau Expres s Régional), the Transilien lines do not run through Paris in tunnels, but start or end at one of the traditional Paris terminals or at La Défense.” This was completely new for me. Thank you for the interesting post. (By the way: the 5 RER lines pass via nearly 250 stations! Paris has a huge agglomeration…)

    1. Yes, the RER system is also impressive. I have used three of the RER lines so far — line A when I went to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, B when I went to the opera in Massy and C when I went to Versailles.

  6. Philadelphia and NYC also have commuter trains. I was starting to say that Baltimore did not, but they do have a rudimentary system now, especially between Baltimore and D.C. But the trains don’t run as often, and they don’t run on weekends. I used to work at an office that was right by a train stop. If I got to the station near my house early enough to find a parking place, I could get there in plenty of time. But getting home, the best train got to our station at 4:45 – 15 minutes before the end of our day and the next train would not come until 6. I was not allowed to leave early even if I got there half an hour before the start time.

    1. Chicago used to have numerous commuter trains going in all directions from the ‘loop’ (downtown). Most of these are still in operation, as far as I know, having been taken over by public agencies after being abandoned by the traditional railroad companies.

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