The station itself is something of an anomaly in Paris. The only working train station within Paris that is not a terminus or part of the RER network, it stands out today as quaint outpost in need of a new purpose. Barely 5 trains an hour stop here now, but its architectural merits point backwards to a time when it was busier and better loved.
Designed by the architect Julien Polti (whose brother Georges was a surrealist author), the Pont Cardinet building was a replacement for an earlier station, the Gare de Batignolles. Finished in 1922, it is built on a metal platform as a prolongation of the Pont Cardinet just 1.5km from the Gare Saint Lazare main line station. The quality of the building was recognised almost immediately.
"La nouvelle gare des Batignolles, sans aucune prétention, mais dont les lignes sont logiques et où, par surcroît, de légers motifs de céramique prouvent un souci de coquetterie, montre un judicieux emploi du ciment armé" Henri Verne and René Chavance, 'Pour comprendre l'art décoratif moderne en France', Paris 1925.
The building has kept much of the charm of its origins, with graphical patterns in ceramics on the exterior and cathederal windows in the ticket hall. Although it is more an observer of the trains rushing in and out of St Lazare today, it is also this fact that has protected it from bland, corporate makeovers.
Throughout the station, fixtures and fittings are all from another time. Little seems to have changed in the last thirty years or so, except for the blackening out of two of the large windows, perhaps to protect those inside from a too agressive sun.
To one side, an autumn flash of fire growing on a disused line. This was the ligne d'Auteuil, a line that cut through the western side of Paris out to the Bois de Boulogne. First opened in 1854, the last train left this platform on a snowy evening in January 1985.