28th April 2007

The Dark Frontier

Locos Used DB 181206, CFL 1503, 1502, 907, 802, 1817
Stock Used DB Regio refurbished "Silverfish" x 3

Route :

Loco(s) Route
181206 (1) Luxembourg - Wasserbillig
1503 (2) Wasserbillig - Igel - Konz Mitte
1502 (3) Konz Mitte - Karthaus
1503 (2) Karthaus - Konz
1502 (3) Konz - Ehrang Nord
1503 (2) Ehrang Nord - Igel - Wasserbillig
907 (3) Wasserbillig - Mertet Port
1503 (4) Mertet Port - Wasserbillig
907 (3) Wasserbillig - Syren - Berchem - Bettembourg Yard
907 (5) Bettembourg Yard - Headshunt
802 (4) Bettembourg Yard headshunt - Esch-Sur-Alzette
907 (5) Esch-Sur-Alzette - Bettembourg - Luxembourg
1817 (5) Luxembourg - Ettelbruck - Kautenbach - Wiltz
802 (6) Wiltz - Kautenbach - Ettelbruck - Luxembourg

Notes :
(1) on service train IC435, 1030 Luxembourg - Norddeich Mole
(2) 1502 on rear
(3) 1503 on rear
(4) 907 on rear
(5) 802 on rear
(6) 1817 on rear


Tour Review

The Dark Frontier Friday 27th - Sunday 29th April, 2007

(Mercia Charters in association with Pathfinder Tours)

Day 1 (Friday 27th) : Nailsworth (UK) to Gent (Belgium)

An early start was needed from the Ebley Coaches depot in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, although the people on board said that this was normal practice for travel on a railtour ! Our steed for the road section of the trip from Nailsworth to Gent was EOS coach M608 RCP and after carrying out various safety checks we headed for further pick ups at Bristol Parkway, Wootton Bassett, Bracknell and Ashford, before heading for Dover and the Sea France ferry sailing to Calais, motive power across the Channel being supplied by the 'Berlioz'. After a smooth crossing, good progress was made through France and Belgium, reaching the excellent Hotel Ascona in Gent early evening for an overnight stay.

Day 2 (Saturday 28th) : Gent to Luxembourg and main railtour

All participants were up at the crack of dawn ready to catch the 0601 service train from Gent St. Pieters to Brussels Midi with a 'bung' unit. At Brussels a successful transfer was made onto EC91 (Brussels to Bern service) hauled by SNCB electric no.2009. The 3 hour journey to Luxembourg, in comfortable compartment stock, allowed time to catch up on a bit of sleep, deprived to us due to the activities of the previous evening in the hotel bar !

Luxembourg was reached on time at 0952 and a further service train journey commenced at 1024 behind German electric no.181 206-4 for the short distance to Wasserbillig and the start of the railtour proper (due to operational circumstances, the tour could not start in Luxembourg, instead commencing at Wasserbillig).

The excursion, consisting of three DB refurbished 'Silverfish' vehicles, departed on time at 1125 for Mercia Charters first visit to Germany, using Class 1500 locomotives from the CFL fleet in top 'n' tail mode (1503 on the front / 1502 on the rear). Unfortunately, Mercia had suffered similar problems to many UK tour operators leading up to the railtour, with DB Cargo being unable to supply any traction for the train at the last minute, and thanks must go to Mercia for sticking with it and ensuring that the tour was not cancelled.

Following a number of reversals, rare curves and photo stops in Germany, we returned to Wasserbillig for our first locomotive change of the day. CFL Class 900 no.907, one of only a handful left in service, was attached to the front of the train with 1503 transferring to the rear for a sedate run along the Mertert Port freight line. This was a particularly uninspiring branch, with not much to see, but a 'line in the book' for most people in our party !

The tour then returned to Wasserbillig for the first mainline thrash of the day to Bettembourg Yard. This now allowed the rare opportunity of a good thrash with 907, normally restricted to shunting duties, and after sampling the strange sounding engine resulted in a quote from one participant "It's a mini Western Hydraulic !".

At Bettembourg, 1503 was replaced by CFL Class 800 no.802, the only survivor of this shunting class in service. This was the loudest sounding engine of the day, bringing many memories back of the CIE Class 121's in Ireland (also nearly extinct).

Following a brief visit to Esch-sur-Alzette we retraced our steps to Luxembourg where 1503 was replaced by CFL Class 1800 no.1817 for the final run of the day to Wiltz.

The run from Luxembourg to Wiltz and return was, in our party's opinion, the highlight of the tour. Mainline running at speed followed by a trip up the very scenic single line passenger branch was enjoyed by all, despite running at RST (one hour late), due to loosing our path along the single line. The performance (and noise !) experienced by 802 on the return from Wiltz to Luxembourg was immense !

Arrival time back in Luxembourg was at 1958, exactly one hour behind booked time.

Day 3 (Sunday 29th) : Luxembourg to Nailsworth (UK)

After an overnight stay in the Hotel Carlton (an excellent establishment and well recommended by Mercia staff !), we joined the 0824 service train departure to Brussels Midi, the air conditioning on the 'bung' unit working well as we enjoyed the lovely journey through the Arden. At Brussels Midi we transferred into the locomotive hauled Ostend train as far as Gent St. Pieters, motive power being supplied by SNCB electric no.1349, a satisfactory conclusion to the railway part of the tour.

Following suitable liquid refreshment at the Hotel Ascona whilst the coach safety checks were carried out, we departed for Calais and our ferry home. Prior to leaving Belgium, a brief stop was made at De-Panne for a souvenir stop (via the carriage sidings to keep one of the drivers happy !). Calais was reached on time which enabled us to join the ferry straight away (unfortunately, was the 'Berlioz', the same ferry as on the outward journey and, thus, a dud !).

The usual Sunday stagger on the motorways in the south of England meant that retracing our steps back to the depot at Nailsworth via the outward pick up points was slightly more pedestrian than on the outward. Saying this, we still arrived back 25 minutes early on the schedule !

All in all this was a very varied and enjoyable tour, even if the temperatures were a little high at times and the railtour coaching stock not as passenger friendly as what we have become used to in Belgium. A good weekend away with a sociable crowd of people and some excellent thrash ! Roll on the Dutch tour in July !

Chris Brooks & Andy Powis (03.05.07).


Timings

Train Reporting Codes :
IC435 : Luxembourg - Wasserbillig
12478 : Wasserbillig - Ehrang Nord
12479 : Ehrang Nord - Wasserbillig
94132 : Wasserbillig - Mertet Port
94141 : Mertet Port - Wasserbillig
94140 : Wasserbillig - Bettembourg Yard
96151 : Bettembourg Yard - Esch-Sur-Alzette
96150 : Esch-Sur-Alzette - Luxembourg
96163 : Luxembourg - Wiltz
96176 : Wiltz - Luxembourg

Actual timings courtesy of Andy Powis

km Location Booked Actual
0.00 Luxembourg

10.24d

 
36.9 Wasserbillig 10.51a  

Change trains to tour stock

0.00 Wasserbillig 11.25d

11.23d

4.00 Igel 11.29a ~ 11.38d  
5.30 Karthaus Nord West 11/39  
6.40
0.00
Konz Mitte 11.41a ~ 11.53d 11.41a ~ 11.57d
1.70
0.00
Karthaus 11.56a ~ 12.19d 12.01a ~ 12.19d
2.40
0.00
Konz 12.22a ~ 12.35d 12.22a ~ 12.38d
2.00 Karthaus Nord Ost 12/38  
8.30 Trier West 12.43a ~ 12.46d  
16.00
0.00
Ehrang Nord 12.54a ~ 13.06d 13.04a ~ 13.12d
7.70 Trier West 13.17a ~ 13.20d  
14.00 Karthaus Nord Ost 13/24  
14.40 Karthaus Nord West 13/25  
15.70 Igel 13/26 13/33
19.70
0.00
Wasserbillig 13.30a ~ 13.45d 13.39a ~ 13.59d
4.00
0.00
Mertet Port 13.53a ~ 14.03d 14.05a ~ 14.14d
4.00
0.00
Wasserbillig 14.11a ~ 14.18 14.28a ~ 14.32d
9.10 Wecker 14/28  
12.30 Betzdorf 14/32  
25.40 Oetrange 14/44  
29.40 Syren 14/48  
34.50 Berchem Est 14/53  
35.50 Berchem Sud 15/01  
37.00 Berchem  15/02  
41.00 Bettembourg 15/04  
43.70
0.00
Bettembourg Yard 15.09a ~ 15.21d 15.22a ~ 15.43d
6.80 Noertzange 15/30  
12.20
0.00
Esch-Sur-Alzette 15.37a ~ 15.53d 16.09a ~ 16.25d
5.65 Noertzange 16/00  
9.70 Bettembourg 16/05 16/36
13.70 Berchem  16/07 16/40
15.20 Berchem Sud 16/08  
16.20 Berchem Nord 16/10  
21.20
0.00
Luxembourg 16.19a ~ 16.32d

16.49a ~

4.30 Dommeldange 16/37  
11.50 Lorentzweiler 16/44  
18.10 Mersch 16/50 17/24
30.50 Ettelbruck 17/02

17.37a ~

36.60 Michelau 17/07  
41.10 Goebelsmuhle 17.10a ~ 17.11d 17.56a ~ 18.12d
45.40 Kautenbach 17.19a ~ 17.20d 18.17a ~ 18.21d
54.25
0.00
Wiltz 17.30a ~ 17.55d 18.33a ~ 18.56d
8.85 Kautenbach 18.07a ~ 18.12d

19.08a ~

13.15 Goebelsmuhle 18/17  
17.65 Michelau 18/21  
23.75 Ettelbruck 18/27 19/26
36.15 Mersch 18/40  
42.75 Lorentzweiler 18/45  
49.95 Dommeldange 18/51 19/51
54.25 Luxembourg

18.58a

20.00a

All distances as given in the tour itinerary.
No attempt has been made to verify the distances given.

Key;
a : arrival time
d : departure time
/ : passing time


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