The life of rail

The bookshop La vie du rail has moved. For many years, it was in a tiny shop in an obscure corner of a major Paris railway station, Gare Saint-Lazare, as shown here in my photos from ten years ago.

But since my last visit, the bookshop seems to have moved to larger premises at 29, rue de Clichy. This is only three blocks away from Gare Saint-Lazare, but is in a different arrondissement, the 9th instead of the 8th. (I have checked this on Google Maps, and their ‘Street View’ shows the bookshop at the corner of rue de Clichy and rue de Milan, in an image dated May 2022.)

The name La vie du rail means ‘The Life of Rail’. It also has a subtitle ‘The World of the Train and of Intelligent Travel’.

Books and magazines in the shop’s window

For anyone interested in the history of railroads, this is a great place to browse. Among the many books on display (in French, but with numerous historic photos) are ones on the early years of the Paris Métro and on industrial railways in the nineteenth century.

Books at La vie du rail

There is also a book called Paris et son 50 gares (‘Paris and its 50 stations’), showing numerous railroad stations that once existed in Paris but have now disappeared or are being used for other purposes. It seems that in the nineteenth century several railroad companies built lines and stations in and around Paris, with no overall plan.

Paris still has six major railway stations, but there used to be many more. One former station is now an art museum, the Musée d’Orsay. Another station was torn down to make room for the city’s newest and largest opera house, the Opéra Bastille.

In the Saint-Lazare station

Just in the last few years, I have come to realize that the Saint-Lazare station was the one my father used for his daily commute from Bois-Colombes to Paris when he was working there in the years 1924 to 1928. It was also his departure station in 1928, when he took a train to the port city of Cherbourg for his emigration to America.

My photos in this post are from 2013. I revised the text in 2023.

See more posts about bookshops and train travel.

18 thoughts on “The life of rail”

  1. Was just here looking for more photographic inspiration, and what do you know, find a photo of this quaint, little shop. Wish I could pop through the screen and visit even though it’s no longer there. Hopefully it’s in another location just as lovely. 🙂

  2. One of the last posts I read included many pictures of Iceland. I thus JUST asked one of my sons, whom I’ve promised a B.C. trip “someday,” if we could maybe go to Iceland instead. Now I’m thinking how much I’d like to see this bookshop, and its rail books, and maybe coming to terms with the fact I ought best plan on contemplating multiple trips in the near-ahead years. Thanks for the chance to envision being this-there. 🙂

  3. I’ve passed through gare Saint-Lazare numerous times during my travels throughout France, and I had no idea this little bookstore existed! I’m sure I must’ve gone in for a peek inside, but I have absolutely no recollection!

    1. Right next to track 1 there is a wide passageway leading to a side exit on rue d’Amsterdam / Place de Budapest. This is where the bookshop used to be. To get to their new location, take the same exit, walk two blocks north (uphill) on rue d’Amsterdam and turn right onto rue de Milan. The bookshop is at the next corner.

  4. It’s nice to hear your family connection to this station. Also, the bookstore sounds wonderful. If I get a chance to visit, I’d want a photobook of all 300+ metro stations in Paris. Thank you for sharing, Don!

    1. Hi Darlene, thanks for your visit and comment. When I browsed this bookstore, they had a large selection of books on the history of the Paris métro, but I don’t know if any of them had photos of all 300+ stations.

  5. I’ll have to check this out. My paternal grandfather was a railroad fanatic. He worked on the old Pennsylvania Railroad for over 50 years and collected rail memorabilia until he died at age 95. He and Grandma nearly always traveled by train. You used to be able to do that in the USA . . .

  6. Amazing to think Paris once had 50 stations! I do love how the Musée d’Orsay has been created – do you know if any other stations have been reincarnated for a different purpose?

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