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.
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 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.
In addition to the J-line from Saint Lazare station, I have also used three of the other Transilien lines so far:
- The H-line from Gare du Nord to Enghien-Les-Bains, when I was going to Montmorency;
- The N-line from Gare Montparnasse to Saint-Cyr-l’École, where Madame de Maintenon had her school in the 17th century.
- The R-line from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon, when I was going to see the Palace of Fontainebleau.
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.
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.
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.