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The first European heritage diesel haulage opportunity which I organised was on Sunday 13th August 2017, at the Stoomcentrum Maldegem in the Oost-Vlaanderen area of Belgium.
Organised to coincide with the Festival at the Chemin de Fer du Bocq in the south of the country, this was a relaxed affair that allowed participants the opportunity to have travelled behind an impressive total of 9 different classes of diesel loco in Belgium over the two days (with footplate rides available on a 10th).
The railway was accommodating enough to agree to replace the booked diesel railcar with their class 74 and class 80 diesel locomotives sandwiching two carriages on the first round trip of the day. The 11:30 departure time meant that it was possible to easily reach Maldegem via public transport from all over Belgium (regardless of where the previous day’s Bocq attendees spent the night), and also gave ample opportunity to get home to the UK before the end of the day.
In addition, the railway was using Avonside-built 0-4-0ST steam loco “Fred” (formerly of Buxton Quarry) on the booked steam diagram, along with a Hanomag 0-4-0WT on the 600mm narrow gauge line.
23 British enthusiasts visited Maldegem purely because of the use of the diesel locomotives, which meant that €276 extra reached their farebox – supplemented by sales of souvenirs, and not least the beers and refreshments that the railway had kindly laid on for us on board the train!
The railway has a third ex-SNCB diesel locomotive – diminutive General Motors-powered “locotractor”, no.9131. This cannot haul passenger trains, on account of having no train brakes. However, our new friends at the railway were kind enough to have placed it near the station for photographs, and then provided it for footplate rides upon our return from Eeklo. 9131 took interested participants up to the carriage shed, and we were treated to a brief guided tour of the rolling stock that we would not otherwise have seen. One of these was the now-unique Flanders-built standard gauge steam loco, 0-6-0 no.41.195, built in Tienen in 1910 to a distinctly Scottish-flavoured McIntosh design – which the railway is trying to raise funds to one day restore. This will form the basis of a future article on this website – although the main focus of this site is heritage diesels and electrics, I would dearly love to see this important locomotive one day run again.
As a token of our appreciation of the railway “going the extra mile” for us and using the class 91, we conducted a whip-round and were able to present them with an extra €100 before we left.
All in all, our brief visit to the railway led to them receiving at least €400 extra cash on the day, for what I hope was relatively little (but all very much appreciated) extra effort on their part. The opportunity to travel behind diesel locomotives – no matter how “ordinary” – is something that British enthusiasts will certainly support and, importantly, pay for.
Every single person went away extremely happy, impressed and appreciative of the SCM, its people and rolling stock. Many of us are already making plans to attend their steam festival in 2018, which is held in early May, and I would certainly encourage you to make a trip there as part of a visit to Belgium.
260.040 (ex-8040) – 11:30 Maldegem – Eeklo SCM (7408 on rear)
7408 – 12:20 Eeklo SCM – Maldegem
9131 – cab rides within station limits at Maldegem
7408 – 14:40 Maldegem – Eeklo SCM
260.040 (ex-8040) – 15:20 Eeklo SCM – Maldegem (7408 on rear)
My sincere thanks to Koen, Rik and Jan at Stoomcentrum Maldegem for their assistance in providing us with a truly fantastic day out, and to those of you who supported it.
James is travelling around Europe on an Interrail ticket from 7th to 14th August 2017 and has asked for some pointers on interesting routes and traction to include in his itinerary.
A week-long Interrail ticket with the flexibility of travelling anywhere in the continent is a fantastic thing to have. One of the defining moments of my life was as the stereotypical backpacked teenager, walking out of Paris Gare du Nord with the endless possibilities of travel to, from and through 30 countries that my ticket afforded me.
It’s purely a personal view, but I’ve always preferred to maximise haulage and travel when I am on rovers such as this, rather than to go spotting or photographing whilst I have a fairly expensive ticket burning a hole in my pocket. Similarly, I’ve tended to shy away from “insect leaps” with the sole aim of travelling behind as many locos as possible whilst on global Interrails, preferring to make longer journeys over interesting routes that don’t have cheaper ticketing options for another day. I also find that a global Interrail is a good way of “testing” out countries I’ve not been to before.
With that in mind, I’d recommend a fairly fast-paced adventure around the continent, not spending much time in any particular place, but taking in as much as possible in the short amount of time.
A good way to cover as much ground as possible is to use overnight trains, which both give you the “immediacy” of finishing a day in one place and being able to start the next somewhere else, and also save the money of a hotel booking. I certainly wouldn’t recommend a week of solid overnights though – I had a phase of doing them in my late teens, and it did me no favours! Reservations and/or supplements are compulsory on most overnights, so do check before travel with the information you get with your Interrail and/or the operator.
The amount of overnights on offer across the continent reduces year-on-year, but there are still a few useful ones. A useful run-down of sleeper trains can be found here, although there are plenty of seated-only overnights all over the continent. These can be entirely variable in quality, however.
One of the most interesting overnights in Europe, though, is EN300/EN301, the “Berlin Night Express” between Berlin and Malmö (Sweden), which travels on the Sassnitz to Trelleborg train ferry overnight. The section on German metals is currently the only place to travel behind one of the 7,200hp class 155 heavy freight electrics – 155 110 and 155 159 of Wedler Franz Logistik are currently the staple motive power for these. For the 2017 season, these replaced the previously-booked class 109 “Holzrollers” that had worked this diagram for years, as none of the 109s were serviceable – however 109-3 (109 073) had a test run with 155 159 today (20th July 2017) so this may lead to a reprieve.
The “Berlin Night Express” leaves Berlin Hbf at 19:07 on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and Malmö at 17:00 on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays – until 14th August.
Sassnitz to Trelleborg is not the only passenger train ferry in Europe, indeed there are two others, both of which see daytime services.
The other one in the area is that from Rødby (in Denmark) to Puttgarden (in Germany), due to be replaced in the next decade by a fixed link, however the only trains that use this are now DMUs; those on the København to Hamburg route. However, on weekends, Puttgarden also sees a loco-hauled service on Saturdays and Sundays – a DB class 218 works the 08:21 and 14:26 from Hamburg Hbf, returning from Puttgarden at 11:10 and 17:10 – although it must be said that this stopping train across the slow-paced flatlands of Schleswig-Holstein does not exactly give the loco the opportunity to stretch its legs.
In theory, you could travel on the Friday night Berlin to Malmö, arriving in Sweden on the Saturday morning – then crossing to København in Denmark before catching an ICE via the Rødby train ferry to Puttgarden, dropping back onto the 17:10 Puttgarden to Hamburg 218.
The third European passenger train ferry runs between Villa San Giovanni in Italy and Messina on the island of Sicily. Due to the time involved in getting to the very foot of the Italian “boot” and back to sample it, I might not recommend it for a week’s global Interrail, but it is still well worth experiencing.
In terms of traction, it would be easy to say “well, all the best stuff is withdrawn now” and indeed that sentence could probably have been said (with some truth) for the last 50 years. My honest opinion is that there is still plenty to go and experience on the continent – indeed, that’s the reason I set this website up.
I shan’t cover absolutely everything, as that would not be possible, but I will pick out selected highlights that I feel should be covered in a week’s Interrail. If you think I’ve missed anything, please comment below!
In terms of heritage diesel and electric loco haulage, do check out the haulage calendar on this very site, which lists a number of railtours, galas and events that are happening – although, again, if I was in possession of an Interrail I’d probably prefer to spend my time travelling on trains it was valid on, rather than specials. However, I would strongly recommend the Bocq railway diesel gala on 12th and 13th August in Belgium, and you can also join us for 7408 and 8040 at the heritage railway at Maldegem on the Sunday morning.
James expressed a particular interest in sampling the DB class 218 diesel-hydraulics, and I can’t recommend the 06:55 Hamburg Hbf to Berlin Ostbahnhof highly enough. This is a temporary diagram running to the end of August 2017 (excluding Sundays) and really gives the locos a chance to show what they’re made of. It’s definitely the best diagram to experience them on; they can also be found on Intercity workings between Itzehoe and Westerland, the weekends-only Puttgarden regional diagram as mentioned above, trains between Ulm and Lindau, Eurocity workings from Lindau to München, as well as one or two other routes where they either are not taxed or can be hard to pin down at times.
Another diesel loco type with a sizeable following amongst British enthusiasts is the class 749/751/752 of the former Czechoslovakia. In terms of passenger diagrams, there is now very little. The best bet is the “Rakovnický rychlík” Saturdays only service: 08:42 Praha hl n to Rakovník (R1581) and 15:32 return (R1580), which has produced the booked loud 749 on all but one occasion that it has operated so far this year. 749 107, 121 and 264 also see limited use around Praha, mainly at weekends – link to spreadsheet here. 749 259 has also recently seen use on a daily diagram for Regiojet between Komarno and Bratislava in Slovakia, however it looks as if motive power for this has reverted to a KDS “goggle” now, with 753 197 hauling the train on 24th July 2017.
Heading south-west, the Iberian peninsula has a lot of interesting diesel loco haulage to offer you. This summer sees a diagram for the English Electric class 1400 diesels in Portugal, along with a turn for metre-gauge Alsthom diesel no.9004 on Saturdays only not too far away. Spain still has a fair amount of main line long-distance diesel loco haulage too, which can be sampled on the way to and from Portugal quite easily.
The south-east of the continent also has plenty of traction interest, although given the distance and time involved in getting there and back, I might not recommend much of an excursion into the Balkans for a week’s Interrail. However, it’s difficult not to endorse the Croatian class 2044 GMs on the scenic route out of Split.
This leads me on nicely to the scenic routes of Europe. Sadly, the “perfect marriage” of fantastic scenery and decent diesels does not occur in many places on the continent these days; the Split route probably being the best remaining example.
This list of scenic rail routes in Europe is hard to argue with, many of which do see loco haulage, but solely of the electric variety.
Switzerland is often described as the most scenic country in the world, and it is home to plenty of scenic railways, many of which are narrow gauge – although check if your Interrail is valid if you intend to travel on any of them.
I would be tempted to head to Scandinavia, as an astonishingly scenic region, but also one that is notoriously expensive to travel in whilst on “normal” tickets, and also one where long distances are involved. A possible itinerary would be to travel up the Nordlandsbanen in Norway, 453 miles from Trondheim to Bodø, in the Arctic Circle with GM Di4 diesel power, then by bus or plane to Narvik, before returning electrically-hauled through Sweden. Getting there and back would, however, take up most of your week – although it would be a proper Interrail adventure.
Whatever you end up doing, please post what you see and travel behind to the various appropriate gen groups!
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In Part 1 and Part 2, we looked at the locomotives of the former Jugoslovenske Železnice (Yugoslavian Railways, JŽ) that are now to be found in Kosovo. However, as I will explain in a future article, political developments in the Balkans in the 1990s directly led this small disputed territory to now possess what may well be the most diverse selection of locomotives to be found anywhere in Europe.
Locos now to be found in Kosovo hail from Norway, Sweden and France – and that’s not to mention the British and German diesels that have spent time there in recent decades, as part of the combined effort to rebuild post-war Kosovo, nor the German V60 shunters that were bought by JŽ before the break-up of the federation. There are also a handful of locomotives that have been delivered to Kosovo from new. Here is a photographic record of them, all taken 17-20/09/15.
Ex-NSB Class Di3
2640 001 (ex-Di3 619)
2640 002 (ex-Di3 633)
2640 003 (ex-Di3 641)
2640 004 (ex-Di3 643)
DAL 3180C (ex-Z65 548)
New build JT38CW-DC
New build G1700BB
New build MDD3
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In Part 1 we looked at the 11 General Motors-designed diesel locos of the former JŽ that are now in Kosovo, but they do not comprise even half of the machines from the former Yugoslavia that can still be found in the disputed Balkan state. Here is an illustrated look at the other 13 locos – all taken 19/09/15.
Ex-JŽ Class 641
Ex-JŽ Class 734 (previously DB Class 260/261)
734 031 (ex-260 418)
734 109 (ex-261 690)
Ex-JŽ Class 01
01.043 (plinthed at Fushë Kosovë)
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Saturday 26th August 2017 sees an unusual railtour operated from the former East Germany into the Czech Republic and return, featuring the sole surviving ex-Deutsche Reichsbahn class 107 diesel loco and a Czech sister machine.
With an urgent need to replace its fleet of 21 inherited class 80 steam locos, and without a proven home-grown diesel design, 1962 saw the East German Deutsche Reichsbahn procure a fleet of 20 type “V75” diesel-electric locos from the Czechoslovakian manufacturer CKD (Ceskomoravska Kolben Danèk). These were identical to the type T435.0 “Hektor” design which had been successfully supplied by CKD to the Czechoslovakian state railway, ČSD.
These 750hp, six-cylinder Bo-Bos operated primarily in the Leipzig and Halle area, almost exclusively on local freight work. Under the renumbering scheme of 1970, V75 001 to V75 020 became 107 001 to 107 020.
The 107s were largely ousted by class 106 in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the majority were then scrapped. However, two – 107 004 and 107 018 – passed into industrial use at the Karsdorf cement works, giving them a stay of execution that took them through German reunification, and they then passed to the KEG (Karsdorfer Eisenbahngesellschaft) in 1991, who used them on works trains on the main line.
107 004 was cut up in 2011, but 107 018 now belongs to Railsystems RP GmbH and spends most of its time on engineers trains across Germany.
The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by the user LudmillaPOWER featuring scenes of a railtour hauled by 107 018 in 2015.
Roughly once a year – usually in late summer – as befits its lack of train heating capability – 107 018 ventures out on railtour duty with the Eisenbahnmuseum Schwarzenberg.
In 2017, this tour is advertised for Saturday 26th August 2017, and sees 107 018 paired with one of its Czech cousins – T435.0145 (ČD 720 145). Fittingly, this tour runs from East Germany into the Czech Republic. Initially, the destination was advertised as the beautiful spa town of Mariánské Lázně, but engineering works have necessitated a switch to Chyše.
Times and fares
Tickets are €84 (€50 for children) and are available from the Eisenbahnmuseum Schwarzenberg website.
The tour departs from Schwarzenberg at 07:25 (arrive back 21:20), calling at Antonsthal at 07:40 (21:00) and Johanngeorgenstadt at 08:00 (20:25), running over steeply-graded routes via Karlovy Vary to Chyše, where it arrives at 12:30 and departs at 16:15.
Getting to the tour
Schwarzenberg is a fairly large town, however its location in the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) is perhaps not the best to base yourself. However, it is possible to access this tour from Zwickau, the fourth-biggest city in Saxony (via RB23857, the 06:09 ex-Zwickau which is a +30 onto the tour); equally there is a +40 off the tour onto RB23888, the 22:00 to Zwickau.
Zwickau is no longer on the Intercity network – in fact, it has no booked loco hauled services at all any more – but is easily accessible from Leipzig, Chemnitz and Dresden, as well as across the erstwhile Iron Curtain into Bavaria.
One thing which may be of interest is that by doing this tour in just one direction, it can be combined with the “Rakovnický rychlík” which is also booked to run that day. You can travel on the outward leg of the tour, followed by Os16711, the 13:08 DMU from Chyše to Rakovnik, which gives a +73 onto the “Rakovnický rychlík” to Praha at 15:32. Alternatively, the outward “Rakovnický rychlík” can be travelled on from Praha to Rakovnik (arriving 10:30), for a choice of DMUs to Chyše, for the return leg of the railtour.
Having a population of only 585, Chyše – Chiesch in German – may at first glance be an odd choice of railtour destination. This town, situated on the river Střela 5 miles north-east of Žlutice, is probably most well known as the location of a Baroque castle, entry to which is included in the price of the tour ticket. The castle is home to a brewery, which tour participants are also encouraged to visit during the 3¾-hour layover.
Chyše also has a ruined synagogue, a tragic reminder of the events of 1938-1945, when this area was part of the “Sudetenland” ceded to Germany. Indeed, the 1930 census saw the town with over the twice the number of citizens than it has today. There is certainly plenty of history in the country through which this tour passes.
A welcome development in Portugal this summer is the re-emergence of a predictable passenger diagram for the English Electric class 1400 diesel locos.
To be entirely fair, they have been frequent performers on both the Minho and Douro routes out of Porto, but only vice-DMU, and unfortunately some enthusiasts have travelled to the region in the hope of riding behind one, only to have several fruitless days at a time. There is also, of course, the Presidential Train, but with fares from €500 per person, that is not exactly basher-friendly!
As part of CP’s small catalogue of “heritage” tourist-oriented operations for summer 2017, however, a daily round trip on the Douro route has been advertised for haulage by the class – roughly 90 miles each way through some of Portugal’s best scenery – under the “MiraDouro” name. This is booked until 30th September. 1424 is specified as the nominated loco on CP’s publicity, but 1413 and 1415 have also worked on the turn so far.
Times and Fares
The diagram is as follows:-
20815 09:25 Porto São Bento – Tua
20816 16:34 Tua – Porto São Bento
The full PDF timetable document for the Douro line for the summer – including the two trains booked for the 1400 – can be found here.
Reservations on the trains are stated to be compulsory, however fares are the same as for the service trains on the route, i.e. €11.60 each way.
Route and Traction
The Douro route is so named as it follows the valley of the Douro river, and therefore water is a common theme, along with bridges and tunnels! It is commonly considered to be one of Europe’s most scenic journeys, and with good justification.
The 1400s are 1,330hp English Electric machines with 8CSVT power units. The first ten (1401-1410) were actually built at EE’s Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows, whereas 1411-1467 were constructed under licence by SOREFAME at Amadora in Portugal. These are often considered as “Portuguese Class 20s”, however this is perhaps something of a simplification, their more powerful intercooled power units really pitching them as half a BR Class 50, or indeed half a CP class 1800, with which they share common parts.
Shunters aside, they are the only operational English Electric diesel locomotive type on the European continent.
What can I combine it with?
The Portuguese loco-hauled scene is a mere shadow of its former self, but there are a couple of other things worth doing whilst in the area.
On Saturdays and Sundays throughout the tenure of this diagram – as well as on Wednesdays in August and also on Tuesday 15th August – the Douro also sees a steam working – 15:22 Regua to Tua and 18:32 back. The outward leg of this arrives at Tua at 16:33, i.e. one minute before the “MiraDouro” departs (although if that +1 made, you would have a nice fill-in move!). This is another of CP’s historical workings, and is booked for haulage by 0186, a 2-8-4T built by Henschel in 1925. More details here.
The other heritage operation in this neck of the woods that may be of interest to haulage enthusiasts is the metre-gauge operation on the Vouga line, using Alsthom no.9004, again until 30th September. This runs on Saturdays only and consists of a return trip from Aveiro to Macinhata at 13:40. Aveiro is situated on the Porto to Lisboa main line and Intercity services on this route are hauled by class 5600 electrics.
Bashing by stealth… taking the family
This is an entirely “family friendly” day out, with sociable timings (09:25 off Porto, arriving back between 20:30 and 21:15 depending on date) and, of course, fantastic scenery en route, with some decent time at the destination.
Porto – Portugal’s second-largest city – itself also should not need much selling. The city centre has held UNESCO World Heritage status for over 20 years and has visible heritage stretching back to Roman times. The city is, however, very hilly (being built on valley sides surrounding the Douro), and a defining feature of it is the double-deck iron Dom Luís I Bridge spanning the river. São Bento station itself is something of an accidental tourist attraction, with 20,000 decorative azulejo tiles adorning its walls, depicting events from Portuguese history, dating from 1905-1916 by Jorge Colaço.
Porto has an airport and receives flights from Birmingham, Gatwick, Liverpool, Luton and Manchester.
This is a photographic record of the General Motors diesel locomotives of the former JŽ (Jugoslovenske Železnice; Yugoslavian Railways) locomotives in Kosovo, all taken 17-20/09/15.
Ex-JŽ Class 645
2620 005 (ex-645 033/HŽ 2044 031)
2620 016 (ex-645 018/HŽ 2044 010)
There is no photograph of 2620 016 as this locomotive had yet to be delivered at the time of my visit – although I’m sure I have a picture of it in Croatia that I hope to find soon!
Ex-JŽ Class 661
2640 006 (ex-661 132)
2640 007 (ex-661 228)
2640 008 (ex-661 231)
Ex-JŽ Class 664.0
…and there’s actually a twelfth…
There are a handful of other GM diesels in Kosovo – four Swedish-built NoHABs acquired from NSB (the Norwegian State Railways) and also a curious, unique device now numbered 2640 010. This machine was built by TŽV Gredelj in Zagreb in 2010, as a heavy rebuild of withdrawn “Kennedy” 661 203 – although in practice only using the bogies and braking system from the 661. As the “original” 661 203 still stands largely intact, buried in a clump of trees in the scrap line at Fushë Kosovë, for the purposes of this survey the “rebuild” will feature in a future blog post about the new-build locos that Kosovo has obtained!
Once a “part of the furniture” across the former West Germany, the centre-cab diesel-hydraulic locos of the V100 family are now fairly rare to pin down on passenger-carrying workings.
Due to a number of simultaneous steam loco failures, however, three of them are planned to be used on passenger-carrying trains within relatively close proximity in the south-west corner of Germany this coming Sunday, 2nd July 2017. These last minute substitutions are leading to something of an impromptu “diesel gala” in Baden-Württemberg.
A class 213 (presumed to be 213 340) from the Albtal Verkehrsgesellschaft will haul the following:
16:47 Baiersbronn – Karlsruhe Hbf arr 19:38
This is a monthly endeavour by the Ulmer Eisenbahnfreunde / Dampfnostalgie Karlsruhe, ostensibly booked for 2-10-0 steam loco 58 311, but this is currently out of traffic. “Krokodil” E94 088 (ex-ÖBB 1020 010) is its replacement, but this too is unavailable this weekend, hence the substitution by the 213. More information here.
212 309 will haul three round trips from Korntal to Weissach as part of GES Stuttgart’s “Feurige Elias” calendar:
17:43 Weissach – Korntal arr 18:38
Again, this is due to the unavailability of steam traction. More details here.
212 084 of the DBK Historische Bahn will also be substituting for their excellent 2-6-2T 64 419, which is temporarily out of traffic too.
17:35 Welzheim – Schorndorf arr 18:34
More details here. To note, reaching Schorndorf from Stuttgart is made more difficult this weekend due to engineering work between the two, necessitating the use of rail replacement buses to bridge the gap.
It is possible to ride behind all three V100s during the course of the day. There is more than one way to do it – all of which involve several buses and multiple units – but probably the most palatable is as follows – in a 12-hour day centred on Stuttgart:-
08:48 Stuttgart Hbf – Korntal arr 09:01 (S-Bahn, route S6)
09:16 Korntal – Weissach arr 10:11 (212 309)
10:17 Weissach – Leondorf arr 10:41 (no.634 bus)
10:47 Leondorf – Stuttgart Hbf arr 11:12 (S-Bahn, route S6)
11:45 Stuttgart Hbf – Waiblingen arr 11:59 (S-Bahn, route S3)
12:07 Waiblingen – Schorndorf arr 12:37 (rail replacement bus)
12:50 Schorndorf – Welzheim arr 13:14 (no.228 bus)
14:35 Welzheim – Schorndorf arr 15:34 (212 084)
15:48 Schorndorf – Endersbach arr 16:02 (S-Bahn, route S2)
16:08 Endersbach – Waiblingen arr 16:24 (rail replacement bus)
16:40 Waiblingen – Stuttgart Hbf arr 16:55 (S-Bahn, route S2)
17:08 Stuttgart Hbf – Karlsruhe Hbf arr 17:51 (IC2366)
18:09 Karlsruhe Hbf – Rastatt arr 18:22 (RE4737)
19:09 Rastatt – Karlsruhe Hbf arr 19:38 (213 340)
20:05 Karlsruhe Hbf – Stuttgart Hbf arr 20:58 (IRE4915)
So, in conclusion, desperate, but – as long as everything runs, and to time – eminently doable!
I have previously posted about haulage opportunities for haulage by Spanish metre-gauge Alsthom no.1003 on the outskirts of Barcelona this summer here. However, one of the six such machines sold to Portugal in 1974 will also be working regularly for the next few months.
CP 9004 (ex-1025) will work each Saturday from 8th July to 30th September on a historical train on the Vouga metre-gauge line, situated approximately half an hour south of Porto.
The historical train will depart from Aveiro at 13:40, running approximately 90 minutes to Macinhata do Vouga. After just over an hour there, it returns to Aveiro – including a 75-minute break at Águeda – arriving back at Aveiro at 19:08.
The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user EDUARDO BALEIZÃO showing 9004 at work on the Vouga line in May.
The metre-gauge station is on the same site as the “main line” station at Aveiro, which is on the Porto to Lisboa route, the Intercity trains on which see haulage by class 5600 electric locos. The Porto area also sees sporadic haulage by English Electric class 1400 diesels (based effectively on BR class 20) on IR services to Valença, but is largely unpredictable.
A second Portuguese heritage train operates through the summer – on the Iberian gauge Douro route, between Régua and Tua, with steam loco no.0186 (built 1925 by Henschel in Kassel, Germany), and combined tickets for the two are available that apply a little bit of a discount.
Many thanks again to Charles Hinton for his help with this information.
One of Europe’s smallest countries remains a fair hotbed of electric loco haulage, and its entire network can be covered in a day. Here is a brief introduction to the country.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, landlocked between France, Belgium and Germany, has a landmass of only 999 miles, and is home to approximately 576,000 citizens – roughly the same number as Sheffield. It is the quintessential European country, with three official administrative languages (French, German and the local dialect of Letzeburgesch).
Its “European-ness” is underlined by the fact that it is home to the village of Schengen, on the banks of the river Mosel, where the territories of France, Germany and Luxembourg meet. It was at this point on this river on 14th June 1985 where the Schengen Agreement, the European open-borders travel agreement, was signed. Luxembourg survives and thrives on free movement across the borders that surround it.
3002 at Luxembourg station, 24/02/17 (JW)
History and Geography
Officially neutral, Luxembourg was overrun by Germany in both world wars; it was actually annexed into Germany from 1942 until its liberation in 1944. It ended its neutrality in 1948, when the Benelux customs union between Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands came into being, and it joined NATO the following year. Despite its modern alignment with these two countries, Luxembourg has closer ties to France and Germany both historically and culturally.
The country has two distinctive regions – the northern third, known as the “Oesling”, is a part of the Ardennes massif, a sparsely populated, hilly and forested area that was the setting for much of the fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and 1945. The larger, flatter, more populous southern portion of Luxembourg is the “Gutland”, part of the scarplands of Lorraine. It is relatively urbanised and contains the country’s eponymous capital.
The face of the country has changed dramatically in recent decades. As late as the 1970s it was virtually dependent on the steel industry, and belying its tiny size, it was the world’s ninth largest producer of steel prior to the 1974 steel crisis. However, its manufacturing industry has never been great; much of the steel it produced was exported, massively aided by the arrival of the railway in 1859. The events of the mid-70s meant that its importance as a steel nation has diminished, although the world’s largest steel producer, ArcelorMittal, is based there.
4004 pauses at Berchem with an evening commuter train out of Luxembourg City. 24/02/17 (JW)
Luxembourg was forced to reinvent itself. With little else by way of natural resources to fall back on, it has turned to banking and finance, which now comprises of over a third of its GDP. It is now a formidable financial centre, being home, for example, to the European Investment Bank. However, you don’t need to look too hard in the Gutland to see evidence that steel-making remains a prominent activity.
The development of Luxembourg is non-stop, and construction of new facilities continues apace – locals apparently joke that Luxembourg’s national bird is the crane! Luxembourg now has the second highest GDP per capita in the world after only Qatar, but despite this, the country was ranked second unhappiest in the world (second only to the African corruption-riddled failed state of Chad) in the “Happy Planet Index” in 2016.
The railways of Luxembourg are operated by the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (CFL). The majority of its 170-mile network is electrified (including all of its passenger routes), most of which see at least some loco-hauled services.
All routes radiate from Luxembourg City, the station actually being situated over a mile from the city centre itself, with the bus station on its forecourt.
Here is a link to CFL’s online passenger route map.
An intriguing factor of CFL rolling stock is that it does not possess any truly unique mainline designs – it tagging orders on to bigger ones from neighbouring countries or taking small batches of “off the shelf” designs.
There are two predominant types of electric loco that, between them, handle all of these hauled services. The older of the two is class 3000, 7,000hp Alstom “Tractis” dual-voltage machines dating from the late 1990s. 20 of these were built – 3001 to 3020 – as part of a joint order with the Belgian Railways for their 60 class 13s, which can themselves be seen operating to Luxembourg on Intercity services from Brussel and Liège, as well as freights. 3001, however, did not last long in service – having entered traffic on 31st July 1998, it was withdrawn with fire damage after only a year’s use, and was finally cut up at the end of 2011.
More recently, CFL has procured a fleet of 20 class 4000 locos (4001-4020), Bombardier TRAXX machines that are a passenger version of DB’s class 185 and SBB’s class 482 designs.
Both types are also seen on freight work, and using their dual-voltage capability, can be seen operating internationally on such duties – the 3000s into France and Belgium, and the 4000s into Germany.
The rest of CFL’s passenger fleet comprises of multiple units – of three types: class 2000 (based on SNCF’s Z11500s), class 2200 “Coradia Duplex” units (as SNCF Z24500) and class 2300 “Stadler KISS” units (as used in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and further afield).
CFL do retain some diesels – some shunters, as well as slightly bigger MaK 1000BBs and Vossloh G1206s for working freights on the small number of unwired routes and sidings.
MaK 1100BB, no.1505, shunts some coaches at Luxembourg, 24/02/17 (JW)
Times and fares
Timetables for the Luxembourg railways can be found in PDF form here. All public transport in Luxembourg is fairly heavily subsidised, and therefore it’s quite cheap to get around. The day rover (“Dagesbilljee“) valid on all trains and buses is great value for €4/day; Luxembourg using the Euro, as does all of its neighbours.
How to get there
There are a couple of options to get to Luxembourg from the UK. To do so by rail, it is easiest and quickest to catch the Eurostar to Brussels and then change onto one of the hourly Intercity services direct to Luxembourg – which are generally shared by AM96 EMUs and class 13 electric locos. Alternatively, it’s about a 4½ hour drive from Calais.
The country has one airport, which is currently served directly from Birmingham, London City, Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, and Manchester. It served as a Luftwaffe base during World War 2, and has now carved a niche as a major European airfreight hub.
The number 16 and number 29 buses both link it to the main station, with a journey time of approximately 25 minutes. The latter stops at Cents-Hamm station, on the route to Trier, on the way. Traffic congestion is an increasing problem in Luxembourg, which has the highest car ownership level in the world (661 per 1000 inhabitants), although the new tram system, currently under construction, will eventually serve the airport.