The railway between Paris and Rennes was completed in 1857. The Western Railway Company wanted to extend the railway line to Brest through the centre of Brittany. Such a route would have avoided the construction of many large viaducts over the deep valleys of the northern coast. The towns of Morlaix, St Brieuc and Guingamp objected to this proposal. They argued that by taking the railway through the least populated parts of Brittany the railway would lose more trade than if they built it along the north coast. Eventually Napoleon III made the decision that the railway had to be built to pass along the north coast to serve St Brieuc, Guingamp and Morlaix.
It was decided that the railway station serving Morlaix would be built on St Martin’s Hill at the end of a new viaduct. The construction of the viaduct took 900 men two and half years, between 1861 and 1863, to build. It was the biggest construction site of the day in France, similar now to the recent construction of the viaduct at Milau.
In 1861 the top of the harbour at Morlaix finished close to site of the new viaduct. Stone from the quarries arrived by boat and were carved to shape on the quayside. These stones were used in the external facing to the viaduct.
The stones used in the interior of the structure are not carved and irregular in shape. This makes the structure of the viaduct more flexible and more able to resist the pounding and vibrations generated by trains passing over it. All the building materials were lifted into position by steam crane.
When this railway line was built the construction of the railway embankment just north of Coat Amour effectively cut off the spring water feeding the leat that powered the watermill belonging to the estate.
When Jenny and I moved to Coat Amour we found a surveyors map, dating from 1863. The map shows the line and levels of the then proposed railway line from Morlaix to Concarneau passing though the estate. It fell into disuse and is now a Voie Verte (public footpath) that passes right alongside Coat Amour. It is a marvellous resource and we often go for a stroll along it with Phoebe our dog. Many of our guests use it for an early morning run, whilst others arrive by bicycle via this Voie Verte. The map, bye the way, is framed and on the staircase going up to the first floor.