The line up the valley is a masterpiece of engineering; in places it is carried in cornice along the face of the gorge, now cut out of the rock, and now on a terrace built up on arches. The river enters the Rhone a couple of miles above La Voute, but the junction of the line to Le Cheylard is at this place. La Voute sur Rhone is an ancient town planted at the foot of and scrambling up a rock crowned with the ruins of a castle of the great family of Ventadour. The old town, with its tortuous streets, its venerable but crumbling houses, its steep, ladder-like ascent, is almost deserted, life has run down and settled in modern houses at the foot. But even the new town is death-struck.
The iron mines which made the place prosperous, and in 1870 yielded 60,000 tons of ore, produced but 12,683 tons in 1891, and in the following year only 520; and now, none. Ruin has fallen on La Voute, and it is doubtful if it will ever recover. In the old castle of the Ventadours was set up the bureau of the company that worked the mines. Now the offices are ruinous and deserted, like the halls and towers of the feudal princes.
The fortress was begun in 1319, and enlarged and made splendid in 1582. Ichabod! Its glory is departed. The beautiful Renaissance chapel with its marbles and sculpture is crumbling away. The chapel is vaulted with delicate ribs, and against the walls are carved a Resurrection and statues of the Duke and Duchess of Ventadour. But all, sculptured capitals of pilasters, dainty cornices, figures, have suffered under the hammers of the Revolutionary fanatics.
In the valley of Erieux, where it opens out, vineyards have been staged up the mountain sides, in narrow