19th May 2001
The Big Goodbye
|Locos Used||SNCB : 1504, 2745, 5941, 5529, 6269 & 6331|
|2745||Bruxelles Midi - Bruxelles Central - Bruxelles Nord - Schaerbeek - Zaventem - Leuven - Waremme - Liège Guillemins - Y. Val Benoit - Bressoux|
|5529 (1)||Bressoux - Chertal|
|5941 (2)||Chertal - Bressoux - Y. Garde Deux - Angleur - Pepinster|
|5529 (1)||Pepinster - Géronstère|
|5941 (2)||Géronstère - Pepinster|
|5529 (1)||Pepinster - Angleur - Kinkempois AT|
|6331 (3)||Kinkempois AT - Seraing - Flémalle Haute - Huy - Statte - Moha|
|6269 (4)||Moha - Statte - Huy|
|6331 (3)||Huy - Statte|
|6269 (4)||Statte - Marchin|
|6331 (3)||Marchin - Statte|
|6269 (4)||Statte - Huy - Flémalle Haute - (5) - Seraing - Kinkempois Formation|
|1504||Kinkempois Formation - Y. Renory - Y. Voroux - Waremme - (reverse of outward route) - Bruxelles Midi|
(1) 5941 on rear.
(2) 5529 on rear.
(3) 6269 on rear.
(4) 6331 on rear.
(5) Planned visit to the Flémalle Espérance branch was abandoned owing to late running.
(by Simon Bennett)
Saturday 19th May was the day of the main event. A full day tour to the south of Belgium using various types of motive power but above all two of the recently stored class 15 locomotives were to be given their final outing on the main line. Departure was designated from Brussels Midi station at 8.15am so after a quick breakfast it was down to the station for 8.00am to settle down for a good days roving and drinking as the refreshments were to be supplied courtesy of the excellent PFT buffet car. Checking the departure board at Brussels Midi showed our train would be leaving from platform 13.Was this to be a bad omen for the day.
Well on getting up to platform 13 all we found were a collection of tour passengers and an engineering train. Oh dear first problem of the day. The stock for the tour was down at Leuven and had been placed on a non electrified road at the depot. Our locomotive for the first leg of the journey, an electric, had gone to collect the stock and could not get at it. Revised departure time given of 9.15am so it was off to the nearest bar for a drink. We arrived back for the revised departure time a little more refreshed but there was still no sign of our stock. We were reassured that it was on its way and sure enough shortly afterwards the green outline of AK coaching stock was seen. But hang on a minute that's not a class 15. Second problem. The tour engine for the first leg was class 27 electric 2745 and not the requested class 15.
Off we set considerably later than was envisaged, towards Liege and onto Bressoux where our first loco change of the day was to happen. Here the plan was to lose our electric for one of the Liege area class 55's and one of the high speed line construction class 59's. We had been warned that the class 59 may not be available and were therefore quite relieved to see 5941 sat in Bressoux yard as we arrived. The class 55 had been requested to be a no heat example of the class as these are now very rare on passenger turns since the electrification of the line from Liege to Luxembourg via Gouvy. We eagerly awaited the arrival of the class 55 and then....oh dear it's a blue one. Kinkempois depot had provided us with electric train heat fitted 5529. This being one of the designated P-train locos on line 43 for Liers to Gouvy services. But at least it was a class 55 even if Kinkempois depot did not understand our need for a no heat example of the class.
The next leg of the tour was a run down the short branch to Chertal steel works which is only used by freight services. Specifically the bulk of the traffic down this line is made up of "torpedo" trains of molten steel being transferred to one of the finishing plants on the route between Liege and Charleroi. In fact as we were waiting access to the final stretch of the branch one of these loaded trains passed and the heat given off by the torpedo's as they passed would certainly have toasted a loaf of bread. We travelled as far as the signal protecting entrance to the yard and after waiting for a short time we were informed that we would be given access to the yard for a short photo stop. As we waited another, this time empty, torpedo train ran into the yard and then we set off back towards Bressoux. The planned move into the yard for the photo stop had been scuppered by the arrival of the torpedo train for loading so unfortunately this little extra piece of line had to be lost and we made our way towards our next planned branch line.
5941 was now leading and thrashing away quite happily at the head of the train. The class 59's are well and truly on their last legs and have only survived in service thanks to the building of high speed lines through Belgium. The impending squadron introduction of class 41 diesel units to currently loco hauled passenger lines is to see a cascade of class 62's onto infrastructure duties which includes a batch dedicated to TUC rail who are responsible for the building of the high speed lines. This will undoubtedly see the end of the class 59's in Belgium although a number of the class have already been preserved as museum locos so the thrash will live on.
The tour headed on to our next reversal point at Pepinster where we were to gain access to the steeply graded Géronstère branch. This is a single line branch which has one train every hour and we had now to wait for our path along the branch. This would put us nearly two hours behind schedule as we headed up towards our photo stop at Spa, more famed for it's nearby racing circuit than for it's railway station, and having waited for the unit to arrive from Géronstère it was then on to the end of the branch for a quick stop before returning to Spa to access the little used platform 2.(This was a special request from one particular passenger who had negotiated with the local staff to ensure that we were given this routing on the return). Another short stop at Spa and then back down the branch to Pepinster before reversing and heading on to Kinkempois depot for a short visit and loco change.
One of the good things about railtours in Belgium is that you can still take trains into the depots themselves. This gives excellent opportunities for visits and photography within the depot confines and as we were walking around the depot staff busied themselves with changing the locos at either end of our train as we all photographed the proceedings. At last something had gone right as the locos added to our train were both no heat examples from class 62.6331 led our train away fro the next branch line visit and 6269 trailed to act as assist loco.
The next designated branch line was the line to Moha which is used to supply a sugar refinery on the outskirts of the town. The branch was severely restricted with speeds as low as 5kph on certain stretches which gave us little chance of picking up any time on our schedule. On arrival at the end of the line it was time to detrain and take some more photos. Or there was the option to visit the local fete which had been set up on spare land next to where we had stopped. We certainly caused a stir with the locals as trains along the branch are few and far between and passenger trains almost never.
Back down the branch to Huy for reversal and then onto Statte to gain access to the branch to Marchin. This short but steeply graded branch serves a steel complex and we were hoping to be able to see some of the shunters in this area which have recently been put up for sale. This branch successfully negotiated it was back onto the main line and a run into Kinkempois yard, the planned visit to the short Flémalle Espérance line having been ditched due to late running. Here the two class 62's dropped off the train,6331 also departing with the headboard still attached. This was the final loco change of the day and was to feature the final run of a class 15.Would we get the required loco or would we end up with 2745 back to Brussels?
Happily for everyone 1504 backed onto the train and we were able to say a "Big Goodbye" to this small but much loved class of electric locos. The route back to Brussels took in line 36A which avoids Liege rejoining the main line at Fexhe-le-Haute-Clocher. The journey back was a bit of a stagger but no-one seemed to mind too much as despite the problems encountered on the day everyone seemed pleased with the outcome. I certainly found it to be a pleasant day out and I am now looking forward to Mercia's next trip into Belgium which I am sure will live up to the standard set by previous tours i.e., wrong loco's, missed lines, great beer and a great day out.
Train Reporting Codes;
E18236 : Bruxelles Midi to Bressoux
Z18237 : Bressoux to Chertal
Z18238 : Chertal to Pepinster
Z18239 : Pepinster to Géronstère
Z18240 : Géronstère to Pepinster
Z18241 : Pepinster to Kinkempois AT
Z18242 : Kinkempois AT to Moha
Z18243 :Moha to Huy
Z18244 : Huy to Marchin
Z18245 : Marchin to Flémalle Espérance
Z18246 : Flémalle Espérance to Kinkempois Formation
E18247 : Kinkempois Formation to Bruxelles Midi
|6.10||Schaerbeek||08.25a ~ 08.26d||09.29 ~ 09.30|
|10.20||Y. Diegem West||08/30||09/33|
|64.40||Landen||09/10||10.16a ~ 10.17d|
|103.20||Liège Guillemins||09/38||10.47a ~ 10.49d|
|104.70||Y. Val Benoit||09/40||10/52|
|109.00/0.00||Bressoux||09Lp45a ~ 10Lp05d||10.58 ~ 11.11|
|5.10/0.00||Chertal||10p15a ~ 10p40d||11.32 ~ 11.54|
|9.00||Y. Garde Dieu||10/53||12/07|
|29.1/0.00||Pepinster||11.06a ~ 11.24d||12.35 ~ 13.15|
|11.70||Spa||11p40a ~ 11p50d||13.29 ~ 13.50|
|12.60/0.00||Géronstère||11p53a ~ 12p04d||13.53 ~ 14.00|
|0.90||Spa||12/10||14.02a ~ 14.11d|
|12.60/0.00||Pepinster||12.25a ~ 12.34d||14.26 ~ 14.41|
|17.60||Angleur||12/45||15.02a ~ 15.03d|
|19.60/0.00||Kinkempois AT||12Lp49a ~13Lp28d||15.10 ~ 15.42|
|28.90||Huy||13/56||16.13a ~ 16.15d|
|34.80/0.00||Moha||14p23a ~ 14.44d||16.43 ~16.55|
|5.90/0.00||Huy||15.07a ~ 15.17d||17.28 ~ 17.31|
|5.50/0.00||Marchin||15p44a ~ 15p59d||17.53 ~ 18.03|
|4.60/0.00||Statte||16p16a ~ 16p29d||18.24 ~ 18.28|
|5.50||Huy||16/31||18.31a ~ 18.32d|
|??.??/0.00||Flémalle Espérance||16P55a ~ 17p05d||DIV|
|??.??/0.00||Flémalle Haute||17.11a ~ 17.20d||DIV|
|10.80/0.00||Kinkempois Formation||17L40a ~ 17L55d||19.04 ~ 19.21|
|72.10||Leuven||18/49||20.32a ~ 20.33d|
|99.10||Schaerbeek||19.13a ~ 19.13d||20.57 ~ 20.58|
a : arrival time
d : departure time
L : Loco change or add/detach engine(s)
/ : passing time
p : Photo-stop
a time or distance in brackets is approximate.
All distances, in kilometres, are taken from the timing sheet given out on the train. No attempt has been made to verify the distances given and they do not allow for missing out Flémalle Espérance and also the reversal at Statte for the Marchin branch.
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