Principal information

Viaduc de Garabit, by Eiffel

by catherine levesque

While gazing upon the majestic work which spans the Truyère gorge, you may ask yourself if it has always been red. The answer is no, but this 'poinsetta red' was chosen in hommage to the orginal colour of the Eiffel Tower, and it took 38 tonnes of paint, from 1992 to 1998, to give it back its youthful look!

The Viaduc de Garabit has even been illuminated since 2001, a just fate for this extraordinary structure, designed by the engineer Léon Boyer and built by the renowned Gustav Eiffel. It is extraordinary because it was the largest metallic strucutre of its time, built from 1880 to 1884, and because it acted as a sort of laboratory for the construction of the Eiffel Tower, five years later.  Objective: open up the Massif Central by allowing the SNCF line to complete its line from Paris all the way to Béziers; just as the Viaduc de Millau, more than a century later, has done by road.

technological and human prowess

One is certaintly wont to recall the Maria Pia Viaduct, at Porto, but the builders here had to overcome much greater dimensions (565m for the span, and 122m high) !  Four hundred workers - French and Italian - laboured on this gargantuan endeavour, where the metallic structures (3250 tonnes) were assembled with no more than 600 000 rivets...without a scaffolding.

When you approach the impressive foudnations sculpted from granite, you can imagine the emotion when both parts of the arch finally came together within a millmeter's precision, and all above water ! This bold effort, an historical classified site, is used to this day for freight transport. Day and night, its ever-present elegance will continue to merit admiration.