317666's BeNeLux InterRail - March 2014

Status
Not open for further replies.

317666

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2009
Messages
1,631
Location
Ely
After reading some of the trip reports on here and having nothing to do this evening, I've decided to start writing up the three European trips I've done this year, starting with the first - my BeNeLux InterRail back in March!

The plan was to spend just over a week in Belgium (with a day trip to Luxembourg), just under a week in the Netherlands, before heading back home via Belgium again. I would be travelling there using the overnight Harwich - Hoek van Holland ferry, and returning via Eurostar. To the action!

Day 0 - 14/03/14:

Day 0 as the only move was Cambridge - Harwich International on 170205... Which was my last required Crown Point DMU! As much as I despise 170s, I was very pleased as it means I won't have to go around chasing it. The ferry check-in was very smooth, and within ten minutes of getting off the 170 I was settling into my cabin.

Day 1 - 15/03/14:

What a smooth crossing that was, slept like a log. (Although the fact that I'd been up at 04:30 for work that morning probably had something to do with it!) Watched some SGMms from the window whilst enjoying a full English in the on-board restaurant, always a good feeling seeing European trains for the first time in months! Before long I was down the gangplank and on board SGMm 2960, with the 08:26 to Rotterdam Centraal. You might be wondering why I'm going to Brussels via the Netherlands, rather than taking the Eurostar direct - the answer is, quite simply, that I wanted to try the ferry out! I had decided to catch the Den Haag - Brussels IC from Rotterdam rather than being ripped off by Thalys, and soon enough 2802 rolled in with a rake of ICRm coaches. Very comfortable they are too with plenty of legroom and a nice ambience. After dumping my suitcase in a locker at Brussel-Centraal, it was on to the metro and trams for the rest of the day!

I won't bore you with every single move, but I cleared the 6 to Koning Boudewijn (after only making it as far as Heizel on the previous two attempts!), then made my way to Montgomery to do the 39 tram. The PCC 7700/7800s are my all-time favourite trams, and the first one out was 7802 on a 44, so I did this to Groene Hond and dropped back onto 7723 on the 39 to Ban-Eik.

PCC 7723 - Ban-Eik by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

Waited for the following tram, 7808, back to Stokkel and did Metro Line 1 from there, which disappointingly was one of the newer 'BOA' units. Mind you, the 1 is their real stomping ground. Also cleared the Erasmus end of the 5, before picking up the 81 at Sint-Guido to clear the Marius Renard end of that (7927 and 7914 for those interested!).

PCC 7900s - Marius Renard by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

I headed back to Zuid and at this point I decided to do the first of many desperate tunnel moves, with 2148 propelling me north to Centraal, for a cross-platform onto a trio of 'Klassiekjes', 623+654+999, back down. Later on, I cleared the Hermann-Debroux end of the 5, before heading into the city centre for a few beers until it was time to head to Centraal to collect my suitcase, bound for my hotel. 1906 and 1903 topped 'n' tailed my train to Leuven, for a much needed night's sleep! For those of you reading this who are only interested in the InterRail itself, that starts on Day 3 - don't worry!

TBC.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Day 2 - 16/03/14:

It was Sunday, so I decided not to waste an InterRail box on the weekend timetable and instead have a lie-in, before another day of STIB. 1802 and 1912, again top 'n' tailing, were my train to Brussel-Zuid. If I'm spending so much time in Brussels, why, you may be wondering, am I staying in Leuven? The answer is that it was much cheaper, even with the cost of a few Leuven - Brussels returns (and even they didn't cost much, thanks to NMBS returns being half-price at the weekend!).

Not a great deal to report - I decided to head back to Ban-Eik to walk to Tervuren along what looked like a disused railway line. The 39 to Ban-Eik was built on the trackbed of an old railway, so maybe it used to continue on to Tervuren? Got there to see that my tram on the 44 was 7723 again, although it was incorrectly blinded for the 39.

PCC 7723 - Tervuren by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

The day became much more interesting when I eventually reached Beekkant, to see a set of the old metro units on the 1! Even though I had cleared Stokkel the previous day, I couldn't resist the chance to do it again on my preferred stock. I am a big fan of the old M1-M5 units, with their distinctive humming noise, fast acceleration and beige plastic interiors - the Brussels Metro won't be the same without them. I forgot to say, I love the Tintin artwork at Stokkel!

M3 265 - Stokkel/Stockel by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

Spent the rest of the day doing a few more tram routes, but being a Sunday these were all in the hands of the dull Flexities, so not worth writing about if you ask me. My train back to Leuven that evening was annoyingly 1912 and 1802 again!

TBC.
 
Last edited:
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

Techniquest

Veteran Member
Joined
19 Jun 2005
Messages
18,226
Location
Nowhere Heath
I must say I share the love of those older Metro trains, they're most enjoyable which I was pleasantly surprised by at the time (as I no doubt made clear on my trip report last year)! Very lucky to get some of those to Stokkel, I'm not a fan of those newer Metro trains over there.

I've not been on those older trams, but I don't mind the newer ones. I still have that announcement tone that plays before each stop on those though (I'm sure you know what I mean!) :lol:

Where did you stay in Leuven, and is it worth staying at?
 

317666

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2009
Messages
1,631
Location
Ely
I stayed in the Ibis Budget. At the time I stayed there it was the cheapest option available (around £25 a night), but the bed was quite hard, and the shower a bit pathetic. That said, it was right next to the station (just up some steps) and after coming in knackered from a day's bashing I still managed to sleep. I'd say it's worth staying at if you can get it for such a low price but that probably depends how far ahead you book and the time of the year.

And yes, I do know the announcement chime you mean on the new trams, I had it stuck in my head while typing out that bit of the report!

Day 3 - 17/03/14:

So on to the InterRail proper. The plan for the day was to do a few lines in the morning, before doing a hauled peak extra in the evening (what else in Belgium?). The first move of the day was an L train up to Aarschot to change for an IR into Antwerp. I was expecting this to be an antique EMU of sorts and was both surprised and disappointed when a pair of MS96 'Rubber Ring' units (570+556) turned up instead! Although, they are very comfortable and I was only on it for about 10 minutes anyway. At Aarschot I joined MS80s 307+369 on the (very busy, morning peak) IR to Antwerpen-Centraal. Whilst they don't have quite as much character as the older 60s/70s stuff, they do make a nice 315-esque noise! Now it was time for the fun to really begin, as I was covering IC 708. Normally the IC trains from Antwerp via Kortrijk run to Lille-Flandres, but this one was terminating at Mouscron, near the border, and was booked for top 'n' tail 27s on M4 (bench-seated) coaches. I wasn't disappointed as 2731+2727 were in Platform 1, with a fairly long, empty rake as a bonus.

2731 - Antwerpen-Centraal by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

As I walked to the front of the train to phot 2731, I noticed that someone else already appeared to have bagged the front bay - bloke in a black SuperDry jacket with his feet up reading the paper. Whilst I was taking the photo however, he duly got up, walked to the front, got in the loco and started it up. It would appear that NMBS drivers don't need to wear uniform! It was an entertaining run, with said driver doing full-throttle starts from each station, making for some nice acceleration as both locos were powering. From Mouscron the fun continued with 2126 on a Schaarbeek IC, which I took as far as Brussel-Zuid to change onto a Dendermonde via Brussel-West service. This only runs on weekdays, and I was delighted to see MS73 743 in the platform - something suitably old and knackered for my liking!

MS73 743 - Dendermonde by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

The run up to Dendermonde wasn't the most interesting, with lots of stops and slow-running, although I was glad to get the track in with a 'Klassiekje' as at the time, it was one of the last local routes out of Brussels to still use them (and indeed since then it has also gone over to Desiros!). I was on a bit of a roll by this point as the IR I was then catching to Gent was a third rake of M4s hauled by 2143. Not bad going if you ask me - by my standards anyway! At Gent-Sint-Pieters, I caught MS96 544 back to Brussels along the 'direct' route, before ending up on another pair, 541+545, down to Jurbise to pick up a train doing the run to Ath along Line 90. This proved to be worthwhile as another MS73, 745, turned up. I thought this was quite a nice run, along a single-track line through fields with a very quiet, low-platform station every now and then - although that's an accurate description of many secondary lines in Belgium! From Ath I covered the rest of Line 90 up to Geraardsbergen, with MS80 394.

MS80 394 - Geraardsbergen by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

At this point it was 15:45, so in order to be back in Brussels for the evening peak I had very little choice but to put up with a trio of Desiros for 45 minutes! I didn't think they were too bad, seats and legroom were alright and ride was very smooth. Not long after leaving Geraardsbergen we ground to a halt, thanks to some schoolkids pulling the alarm. Within a few minutes we were on our way, with the driver seemingly wanting to claw back every lost second - those Desiros can certainly accelerate! We made it to Brussel-Zuid on time, from where I was covering P 8405, the 16:50 to Huy via Namur. This was a rake of M5 double deckers, a type generally only used on peak trains, with their angular roofs (and therefore lack of headroom) being reminiscent of the ex-DR coaches over in Germany. I managed to get the bay at ground level next to 2119, and had it to myself for the entire run - not bad for the evening peak! The final stretch from Namur to Huy down Line 125 was quite pretty, along the river as the sun was going down. After arriving at Huy, however, things started to go a bit pear-shaped.

2119 - Huy by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

I had intended to catch an 18-hauled IC along the rest of Line 125 to Liège, in order to cover Line 43 down to Marloie, before heading up to Ottignies to do the Ottignies - Leuven Line 139. Sadly, the IC was running 25 mins late, and I had a +10 or so at Liège. I therefore decided that, as I was going to miss the train to Marloie anyway, I would drop back onto a Statte - Liège L train to clear the rest of Line 125 on another 'Klassiekje', which was CityRail 988 as I had already seen it when 2119 stopped at Statte. From Liège I would improvise for the rest of the evening. Things seemed to be going well again, until we stopped at Flémalle-Haute. An announcement was made, but sadly my French is nowhere near as good as my Dutch (which itself isn't fantastic!) so I had little idea what was going on. Checking the NMBS website revealed that there were reports of people on the line ahead, so it looked like we were going nowhere fast. Luckily though, Flémalle-Haute has three platforms, and another train also going to Liége, MS80 371, pulled in alongside. At this point the guard came through and explained that passengers for Liège should go and get on it, so I duly did as I was sick of waiting. This then covered a freight line for the rest of the way to Liège-Guillemins, so it looks like in the end I sacrificed fully clearing three lines to get one bit of rare track in! Ah well. By this time it was getting very late, so I hopped on 1819 and 1824 top 'n' tailing a rake of the 200km/h M6 double deckers, on the high speed line back to Leuven.

I promise reports of future days will be a little more concise, just this was one of the more interesting days and needed a bit of explaining!
 

Techniquest

Veteran Member
Joined
19 Jun 2005
Messages
18,226
Location
Nowhere Heath
I would't worry about being concise, surely for most of us in the UK having more detail is not a bad thing! I did need to get my Platform 5 Benelux book out mind, but I think I've got it all pictured in my head anyway!

Sounds like you've had a good day there, jealous!

Thanks for the details on the hotel, I'll try to bear it in mind!
 

317666

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2009
Messages
1,631
Location
Ely
Day 4 - 18/03/14:

The second InterRail day, with the aim of clearing the coastal branches and riding on the 'Kusttram', the world's longest tram line.

The plan was to catch the 10:09 from Brussel-Centraal to De Panne, as this was booked for a 27. Before that though, I decided to clear the line through Mérode, in eastern Brussels, as it's only open on weekdays. Services along it are operated by MS86 units (nicknamed 'Diving Goggles' for obvious reasons!), and generally start at Mechelen. However as it was the morning peak, 912 was starting at Leuven, heading west to Mechelen through Haacht before turning south as usual. At Vilvoorde we coupled on to 948, and the run to Halle was fairly uneventful. The line in question is mostly in cuttings and tunnels so not a lot to see, but it's now scratched off before it inevitably goes over to Desiro operation!

MS86 912 - Halle by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

From Halle the plan was to head west to Ath to pick up a 21-hauled set into Brussels, and my train was MS80 431 (with 370/326/302). Unfortunately it was running late and so I had to bail at Edingen, for another pair of MS80s (421+394) back into Brussels instead. This did however give me enough time for a much-needed coffee at Centraal before 2757 rolled in on a rake of M6s. The two-hour journey to De Panne via Gent involved lots of wrong-line running and horn blasting, quite a lot of engineering works on Line 73 that day! In the end though we did arrive on time, and so it was time to sample the 'Kusttram'. The longest tram line in the whole world, and Belgium's last surviving inter-urban tramway, it's operated by De Lijn who are owned by the Flemish Government and responsible for all buses and trams in Flanders. I bought a day ticket for €5, that would have been good value even if it was just valid on the Kusttram. But no, it's valid on the entire De Lijn network - so yes, all buses and trams throughout Flanders. Incredible! 6031 was waiting to start the long (and I mean long - two and a half hours!) journey up to Knokke.

Kusttram 6031 - De Panne by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

Along the way the tram passed through De Haan, which I stayed in on holiday when I was about 5 - that brought back a few memories. More interestingly though, when we passed through Zeebrugge, a bridge was raised to allow a ship to pass underneath. Not a problem though, as there was a diversionary route making a slight detour inland over a different bridge so we didn't have to wait - means I'll have to come back and do it again to clear the normal route! Despite this though we still ended up being caught in roadworks and reached Knokke around five minutes late. Myself and most of the other passengers had to run to make the train! This was 1843, which I was catching the short distance to Brugge.

Brugge is where the IC trains to Knokke and Blankenberge join/divide, and they do this at the same time in both directions. It is a bit of a novelty having a dividing service formed of two hauled sets rather than units! I went under the subway to find 1906 (dud from Saturday!) on the rear of the Blankenberge formation of the dividing train. Blankenberge station has lots of platforms but during the winter only one train an hour, giving it a UK-style 'deserted seaside town station' feel. I think during the summer timetable it does receive extra trains, though. Of note are the old-style departure indicators with signs, still being used alongside modern screens.

Blankenberge - Departures by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

Zeebrugge and Oostende to go. It was time for a second Kusttram move, albeit a much shorter one, to get me to Zeebrugge. 6028 turned up for the run to Zeebrugge-Vaart, a short walk from Zeebrugge-Dorp station. Zeebrugge has two branches, with Dorp being served on winter weekdays, and Strand being served every day during the summer and at weekends during the winter. I would have to come back another time to clear Strand, but that's another story. MS73 698 was my unit to Brugge.

MS73 698 - Zeebrugge-Dorp by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

From Brugge I picked up 1865 to Oostende, and that was the coastal branches (mostly) complete! I had a bit of turnaround time here so decided to find a traditional 'frituur' for some chips as it was rather cold and I wanted something hot and filling (not that I need an excuse to eat chips, mind!). After that it was time to head home, via a bit of a long-winded route anyway. This started with 2117 heading south, clearing Line 66 to Kortrijk. Here I was meant to have a +3 onto an IC to Denderleeuw, but sadly NMBS' punctuality is nothing special and we ended up running about 7 minutes down. Happily though, the connection at Kortrijk was cross-platform and was held - surprised enough at that, I was even more surprised and delighted to see that the IC was formed of a pair of MS66s, 637+603! It was a bit of an experience travelling on camshaft EMUs on a fast service like this, and I was a bit disappointed that the run to Denderleeuw is only 45 minutes.

I wanted to get back to Leuven on one of the Kortrijk - Leuven IRs as these are 21-hauled, but rather than double back to Kortrijk I decided to go via Line 50, through Aalst up to Gent Sint Pieters to pick the IR up there. Refurbished MS80 320 turned up - the refurbishment has seen the original bench seating retained although it is a bit harder now, unsurprisingly. At Gent, 2123 arrived for the nice long run back to Leuven, via Dendermonde and Mechelen, in the bay next to the loco (with a sneaky window open when my end of the coach was empty!). And so ended another successful day's InterRailing!

2123 - Leuven by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr
 

eastwestdivide

Established Member
Joined
17 Aug 2009
Messages
2,069
Location
S Yorks, usually
The tram at Zeebrugge - the same happened to me, and I was surprised that the driver had to get out and change the points to divert round to the second bridge. I think those bridges lie at each end of a huge lock allowing vessels to access the inland waterways, so the barges etc would have to stop between them and therefore there's no need for both bridges to be "up" at once.
 

atillathehunn

Established Member
Joined
6 Jan 2010
Messages
1,413
Location
NL
Luckily though, Flémalle-Haute has three platforms, and another train also going to Liége, MS80 371, pulled in alongside. At this point the guard came through and explained that passengers for Liège should go and get on it, so I duly did as I was sick of waiting. This then covered a freight line for the rest of the way to Liège-Guillemins, so it looks like in the end I sacrificed fully clearing three lines to get one bit of rare track in!

This part of the world is very close to my part of the Netherlands.

I am envious of your detour on the back road! I have never been this way, even though I have many many times been stuck or delayed on the Liege - Namur route. This has to be one of the most disrupted lines in Belgium.

I assume you took the road right, and then down into the yard, and then perhaps onto the curve that takes you onto the Maastricht line? Or is there a spur up from the yard into the station? I need to get the atlas out again it seems.
 

317666

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2009
Messages
1,631
Location
Ely
I assume you took the road right, and then down into the yard, and then perhaps onto the curve that takes you onto the Maastricht line? Or is there a spur up from the yard into the station? I need to get the atlas out again it seems.

Looking at the maps on the Dutch Wikipedia pages for the lines, I think we turned right yes. I remember passing very close to Kinkempois depot, I think the route in question is the one highlighted here:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/83/Spoorlijn125A.png

I imagine the train went left at the junction near Angleur to get to Guillemins, as the Maastricht line is straight on there. We definitely turned off immediately after Flémalle-Haute station though as we didn't pass through any of the other stations on the Namur - Liège line.
 

atillathehunn

Established Member
Joined
6 Jan 2010
Messages
1,413
Location
NL
Looking at the maps on the Dutch Wikipedia pages for the lines, I think we turned right yes. I remember passing very close to Kinkempois depot, I think the route in question is the one highlighted here:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/83/Spoorlijn125A.png

I imagine the train went left at the junction near Angleur to get to Guillemins, as the Maastricht line is straight on there. We definitely turned off immediately after Flémalle-Haute station though as we didn't pass through any of the other stations on the Namur - Liège line.

I had missed that there was a spur to the left back round into the station, I knew there was the straight line and had a theory that there might be a right hand turn spur at Angleur.

You will not have passed through the other stations, the line to the right is where all the freight goes as the gradient is too steep through the station.

As you come from Maastricht and turn to the right to Liege, you can just see part of the junction there at Angleur, but not enough to get a good image in your mind.
 

47403

Established Member
Joined
21 May 2012
Messages
1,932
Location
Geordie Republic of Gateshead
What a cracking read, something completely different, for me, having never ever travelled on any European Railways, well apart from some sort of unit to Palma City in Spain or even bothering to note anything on the Railway scene whilst on holidays, this has been a pleasant eye opener.
A friend of a friends Dad, used to travel over to France, Belgium, Holland and Germany for long weekends in the late 90's, telling us, you wanna stop wasting our money on weeks rangers and save up and go abroad, there's a helluva lot more to see there. It's like starting all over again he used to say.
The diving goggles nickname certainly is appropriate and in my mind I thought exactly that, also thought if trains could mate, that would be the result of a one night stand with a 150 and a 185:D:D:D:D:D
 

Techniquest

Veteran Member
Joined
19 Jun 2005
Messages
18,226
Location
Nowhere Heath
Another excellent insight into the wonders of Belgium! Jealous of your 21 and 27 cranking!

The tram is great value at 5 Euro, it must be said. I need to do it one day, and I do need to get the atlas out to follow some of the routes taken, memory is a little hazy after about 18 months since my last visit!

Looking forward to the rest of this!
 

317666

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2009
Messages
1,631
Location
Ely
Thanks for the kind words guys. Yes Europe is definitely worth saving up for even in 2014, there's certainly a lot to discover. If you're trying to follow the routes I've taken, try having a look at the same map which I used when planning: http://www.loughrigg.org/b-rail/full2.gif It's a little outdated but does the job - you can see how Belgium has the densest rail network in the world!

Day 5 - 19/03/14:

After a pretty knackering two days of InterRailing it was time for a quieter day (he says). I decided to return to Brussels, which is far better on a weekday for various reasons. Everything is more frequent, more old PCC trams out on more routes, and of course, the evening peak in the world's busiest railway tunnel! I was going to head there in the morning peak with the hope of getting a 27 from Leuven, but I decided to catch up on sleep instead, and in the end had MS96s 563+546+533+562. These 'rubber ring' units definitely put Electrostars to shame! After reaching Brussels, my first idea was to head up to Schaarbeek, northern terminus of tram line 92 - a line I remember from my first visit to Brussels in 2008. At Zuid, 2715 and 2730 top 'n' tailing turned up on the IC there. Schaarbeek station has seen better days, with its many empty platforms and disused station building.

2730 - Schaarbeek/Schaerbeek by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

To my disappointment, at the tram stop was a row of Flexities - my memories of the line are on the long-gone (or so I thought, more on that later!) yellow and blue livery PCCs. As there wasn't a train back down for some time I caught one of them anyway to get back down into the city centre. Eventually I ended up back at Zuid and had the idea of a 'shack bash' - not something I usually do except for pretty exceptional stations! Brussel-Kapellekerk lies just north of Zuid, with around 1,200 trains passing through it each day, but the number that stop there is more like 15. From the train is looks completely deserted and run down, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to get off there for some photos! 08531 was my unit there, and I was surprised to find a good 3-4 other people also got off. As it was a half-hour wait for another train I walked to the nearby pre-metro station at Lemmonier.

Brussel-Kapellekerk/Bruxelles-Chapelle by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

So, back to trams. Lines 93 and 94 are usually solid Flexities at the weekend, but on a weekday the 93 is solid PCCs and the 94 is mostly T2000s - a strange, very early type of low-floor tram only found at all on weekdays! 2025 took me from Trammuseum up to Legrand, where I dropped back onto 7771 on the 93 (the 93 and 94 used to be one line called the 94, but it was split into two to improve reliability with a short shared section between Legrand and Louiza). Along the way I saw one of the old single-car PCC 7000s in use as some kind of snack bar at a fairground. Whilst on board 7771, I was very surprised to see a yellow and blue 7700 pass by going the other way - I had thought they'd all been either refurbished or scrapped by now! I remained on 7771 to Bockstael where I caught the metro back to Zuid for the start of the evening peak.

The Brussels evening peak just can't be missed if you happen to be there on a weekday. Trains, trains and more trains. I decided to spend an evening focussing on 21s and 27s, with a shack bash at Kongres to 'complete the set'! Moves as follows (Z = Zuid, C = Centraal, N = Noord, K = Kongres):

2148 Z - N, 2131 N - C, 1848 C - Z, 1348 Z - C, 2139 C - N, 1890 N - K, 328+301 K - N, 2758+2754 N - C, 2747+2742 C - N, 2124 N - C, 2122 C - Z, 2721+2710 Z - N. Not bad for a first go!

Brussel-Kongres is located in the tunnel between Centraal and Noord, and is very atmospheric with its dimly-lit platforms and empty ticket office. It receives a better service than Kapellekerk, and is actually reasonably well-used in the peaks.

Brussel-Kongres/Bruxelles-Congrès by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

After spending the peak searching out yellow and blue locos, it was time to head back to the 93 searching out yellow and blue trams! At Kruidtuin I surfaced from the metro to see yellow and blue 7755 sitting at the tram stop - a quick dash over the road and I was on board, fantastic timing. This certainly brought back memories of my 2008 visit, it was nice to be on a PCC in the city centre, as much as I love the 39 and 44! I travelled down to Legrand, and waited for it to come out of the turnback to go back up to Louiza.

PCC 7755 - Louiza/Louise by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

I was pretty exhausted after the evening peak followed by the dash for the tram, and as Belgium is my favourite country in the world for beer I don't think I need to tell you what the cure was! After a bit of time at the pub I caught 2110 back to Leuven - on weekdays the Liège - Saint-Ghislain ICs have some 21 diagrams so I timed it right.

Next time - Luxembourg!
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Day 6 - 20/03/14:

Luxembourg! I had only planned to do a day trip there from Leuven, covering most of the CFL network as well as both of the main lines in from Belgium. I was aiming to catch EC91 from its starting point at Brussel-Zuid, with a 27 in from Leuven, but I ended up oversleeping a little and having to catch 1923 + 1906 (pest!) to Centraal instead. 1353 rolled in at the head of the EC, and I was rather disappointed to see there were no I6 compartment coaches, the whole rake was I10s. Even more disappointingly, I found that the front coach was first class as the 13s do make a good noise - nonetheless I was pleased to be doing a long move behind one.

The train was absolutely packed, until Ottignies where it emptied out - only to become very crowded again until Namur. Past Namur I had a bay to myself so could stretch out just as the scenery got better, it was nice to have a change from the constant fields! We were already running about five minutes late but line 162 was a building site, lots of single-track running and waiting for oncoming trains. Eventually we reached Luxembourg pretty late, luckily I had allowed plenty of time for the first connection. SNCF 26166 took over the EC for the onward run to Basel via Strasbourg, and I joined DMU 628505 with an RE to Trier, which I was taking as far as Wasserbillig (the last station before the German border). Here's a map if you want to track where I went on the CFL network: http://studyinginluxembourg.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/map_cfl.jpg

CFL 628505 - Luxembourg by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

I had twenty-five minutes or so to spend in Wasserbillig, and what a lovely place too! There was a small ferry taking cars across the river into Germany, and the subway at the station had some interesting murals, including one of a BR103 and ICE-1. EMU 2022 was in the bay with a slow service back to Luxembourg but I boarded DB 628491 for a faster run. After arriving back I was now going to clear the two lines to Rodange, heading out using the slower route via Esch-sur-Alzette. CFL Cargo 4011 (identical to a DB 185) was on the rear of some double deckers, in fact the double deckers were identical to the RE160s that DB use, even down to having the same seat covers and internal signage! Not that I was complaining as they're a very good design of coach, would love to see them in the UK if we sorted out our loading gauge.

CFL 4011 - Luxembourg by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

This run was fairly uneventful, and at Rodange I caught EMU 2217 back via the more direct route. These units look pretty terrible on the outside but are quite nice to travel on, I think SNCF have quite a few similar ones. Back at Luxembourg again and I was planning to go to Wiltz and back, clearing the Diekirch branch on the way back down. 4015 was the loco for the train to Wiltz, which turned out to be a very nice run, mostly through a gorge. However, coming back down from Wiltz was when the trouble started. We started running later and later for no apparent reason and I had a tight connection at Ettelbruck for the Diekirch train. As luck would have it the connection missed - not to worry, I thought, we'll just catch the same train back to Luxembourg and we'll be back on the plan. EMU 2016 (based on the SNCF Z2 units) came off the branch with a fast IR service.

CFL 2016 - Ettelbruck by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

My plan for the evening had been to clear the Rumelange branch, which is only served in peak hours. Sadly we arrived at Luxembourg late, and I presumed that the connecting train hadn't been held as it was gone from the departure screens. While deciding what to do next I then realised that in fact it had been held, and it was just leaving from the exact same platform that we had arrived on - I'd somehow managed to miss it being right in front! Rather annoyed at missing out another bit of track and missing out on a CFL 3000 (although I did have one back to Liège, and they're identical to the NMBS 13s anyway!), I decided not to push my luck even further by trying any other moves and so looked round the city centre instead. Before doing that though I went over to see an arriving DB IC, with 181213-0 at the helm. These service are now history (December 2014) as trains from Germany are exclusively in the hands of FLIRT/KISS units.

DB 181213-0 'Saar' - Luxembourg by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

Anyways, after taking a pleasant stroll around the city, it was time to head back to Belgium. 3002 (the oldest 3000 after 3001 caught fire on test and was written off before even entering service!) was at the head of the IR to Liers via Gouvy and Liège, with a rake of three I10 coaches. Surprise surprise, the front coach was first class again! Sadly by this point it was getting dark so I couldn't see the pleasant scenery of line 42, but it did mean I could catch up on my sleep after the train had emptied out. When we eventually reached Liège-Guillemins I caught 1867 on an IC back to Leuven. So ends the third day of InterRailing!
 
Last edited:

Techniquest

Veteran Member
Joined
19 Jun 2005
Messages
18,226
Location
Nowhere Heath
SNCF do indeed have EMUs almost identical to the CFL 2200 Class double-deck EMUs, although I can't remember what SNCF call theirs. Those make it on local services from France to Luxembourg.

I didn't think much of the 2000 Class in Luxembourg, probably better on a fast run though.

I love CFLs 3000 Class too, and SNCB's 13s are indeed hellfire! Gutting you couldn't get front coach action there, definitely a front droplight moment would have been awesome!

The branch you missed is nothing of any interest, and only a short ride so you chose the right branch to do as that one is far more interesting!
 

317666

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2009
Messages
1,631
Location
Ely
Day 7 - 21/03/14:

InterRail Day 4, another day on NMBS. As well as clearing more lines I decided to aim to travel on a few more 'Klassiekjes', I still love the novelty of such an old design still running in everyday service!

I planned to start with the Quièvrain branch, but to do that I had to get to Saint-Ghislain. Luckily there's a direct IC from Leuven and 2741+2701 turned up, top and tail on M4 coaches, hellire! The train emptied out as we passed through Brussels and I had the coach to myself by the time we got there, although the weather had taken a turn for the worse. We were also running a few minutes late, but luckily the branch train had been held. A quick dash under the subway revealed that to my delight it was a camshaft-fitted unit - 654. The run down the branch was pretty uneventful, quite slow and not much in the way of scenery - I was enjoying the sounds from 654 though, very reminiscent of the sorely missed A Stock from the Metropolitan line. At Quièvrain, a former border station with France, it was raining too hard to even get a phot! For the run back to Saint-Ghislain I sat behind the cab, and for some reason the driver left the door open. No complaints from me as I got a nice view for the return journey.

MS70JH 654 - Saint-Ghislain by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

From Saint-Ghislain my aim was to head east to Charleroi, where many local turns are still operated by the old two-car units. My train was coming from Tournai along Line 78, but unfortunately there had been some disruption (level crossing problems from memory) and my train was running around 25 minutes late. Saint-Ghislain doesn't have platform indicator boards either, so I was having to rely on my awful French skills to work out what was going on from the spoken announcements. After much running to and fro between platforms, MS75 828 rolled in with my train. These units are technically identical to the later, thyristor-fitted two-car units, but have a different body design and interior, and are four cars. They've never been refurbished, still retaining orange walls and 3+2 bench seating, and are usually covered in graffiti. Proper Belgian trains!

I made my connection at Charleroi onto 'CityRail' 984 with an Erquelinnes train. This managed to lose five minutes before even going anywhere, luckily it would be the same train back so there was no risk of really missing anything. Charleroi itself is a bit of a dump, but the surrounding countryside is quite nice and hilly, and the Erquelinnes line is no exception. Until recently trains used to continue one stop further to Jeumont in France, but nowadays they turn back before the border. After a brief turnaround, 984 took me back up again where I picked up another CityRail, 975, with a train to Ottignies. This is another pleasant run, single-track for much of the way and again quite hilly.

MS73-CR 975 - Ottignies by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

I next cleared the short branch to Louvain-la-Neuve Université, with Desiro 08052. A very dull and slow run, largely in tunnel, but it cleared what would otherwise be a gap in my atlas. Had a quick look round the city but found nothing of interest, before boarding 08052 back to Ottignies again. Things were starting to look better now as I was going back into Brussels for the evening peak, and I was catching an IC which had come from Luxembourg. 1351 was on the front, and one of the bays right behind it was empty! A nice, fast and loud run into Brussels was had, as expected. My original plan was to clear the original line to Denderleeuw (Line 50 as opposed to the new 50A) on an 18-hauled peak extra. I travelled as far as Jette, two stops up the line, before deciding that actually, rather than sit behind 1852 then sit behind a Desiro all the way back, it would be more fun to have another go at the 21s and 27s - and get a few evening peak photos this time. I caught a trio of Desiros back to Brussel-Noord for the fun to begin (again!).

Managed a few photos there:

2130 - Brussel-Noord/Bruxelles-Nord by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

Contrary to what others on here have experienced, I didn't think that Noord felt particularly dodgy, at least not on the platforms. Of course I took good care of my belongings, but having travelled in London extensively I've got into the habit of doing that anyway! After the photos it was time for a few peak moves, with 1837+1801, 2723, 2116 and 2139 scratched off, before I caught a pair of MS80s (340+384) up to Schaarbeek to pick up a peak extra I was catching back to Charleroi, as I was yet to clear the Brussels - Charleroi Line 124. Schaarbeek is a great place to be in the evening peak, as hauled sets are lined up in the many platforms before heading through the tunnel one-by-one. Like Saint-Ghislain, Schaarbeek has no platform displays so you need to check the timetable posters to see which platform you need to be on - and there are plenty of platforms to choose from! 2124 was seen arriving with a rake of M5s while I waited:

2124 - Schaarbeek/Schaerbeek by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

Eventually my train arrived, hauled by 2148 - the first 21 I had right at the start of the trip. Rake of M4s too, very nice indeed! An enjoyable fast run was had, and the train didn't even get that busy considering it was the height of the peak - I had the bay to myself for the whole trip. It was getting a bit late by the time I reached Charleroi, so I caught the next IC back North, with the aim of eventually reaching Leuven. This was formed of another MS75, 804.

MS75 804 - Charleroi-Sud by Max's Rail Photos II, on Flickr

Not hard to see where the 'pig nose' nickname comes from!

After arriving back at Brussel-Zuid I had enough time for a quick spin on the Schaarbeek - Mouscron ICs, catching 2121 to Edingen for 2160 back to Brussels. While waiting for my train to Leuven I saw 5511 and 5514 in one of the platforms, I believe these are thunderbirds for high speed lines as they have 'TVM' written under the cab windows. 2110 took me back up to Leuven. Overall, despite a few issues in the morning a very successful day was had - the weather even cheered up by the evening!
 

Techniquest

Veteran Member
Joined
19 Jun 2005
Messages
18,226
Location
Nowhere Heath
Looks like a brilliant time was had! Those MS73s (and the ilk) are good fun for noise it must be said, and I'm ridiculously jealous of your run you had with 1351!

Schaarbeek is huge with the number of platforms aye, although on my off-peak visit it was deserted.

Reading this has made me really want to do a Benelux Interrail again!
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Top