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Sunday 9th September 2018: SNCF Baldwin A1AA1A 62029 private charter train

I am very pleased to announce a modest charter train featuring interesting locomotive haulage on the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin (CFTR) in north-east France.

Sunday 9th September 2018 – 62029 – 10:15 Volgelsheim to Sans-Soucis and return on the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin, France

The locomotive

The locomotive hauling our charter will be ex-SNCF A1AA1A 62000 class locomotive no.62029.

This diesel-electric machine was built in 1946 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, and has a six-cylinder, 660hp Baldwin 606NA power unit.

106 locomotives of model DRS-6-4-660 (Diesel Road Switcher, 6 axles, 4 powered, 660hp) were built by Baldwin between 1946 and 1948, all for the French Supply Council under Marshall Aid.  100 went to SNCF and the other six to Morocco, as class DB-400.  Only seven of the French machines remain extant – in various states of repair – but 62029 according to my research at the beginning of this year, although two others have worked recently, is the only one that is currently operational.  I am not sure whether any of the Moroccan machines survive, but check out a selection of Phil Wormald’s excellent photos here to see some shots of DB-405 in a deplorable state, long withdrawn at Taza.

Under normal circumstances, the steam-oriented CFTR use 62029 only to move empty stock between the depot and the operating base at Volgelsheim, and its passenger-carrying appearances are usually ad-hoc and restricted to the occasional short-distance shunt release.  For now at least, this would appear to be your only opportunity to ride behind a locomotive of this type under any real load and for a worthwhile distance.

The above is a link to an excellent 9-minute video uploaded to YouTube by user PATOU5844 showing 62029 in action light engine on its home line, with some excellent thrash to be heard.

The charter

The railway is 11km long and runs from Volgelsheim north to Sans-Soucis, adjacent to the bank of the River Rhein, across which is Germany.  This track is jointly-owned by the local port authority and is used by commercial freight traffic during the week.  We will make a round trip along it with 62029.

We are constrained both by the railway’s existing traffic requirements (including freights) and also the fact that there is only one man who can drive it for us, and therefore we can only be accommodated on a Sunday morning circa 10:15, and only one round trip can be fitted in.

It is also possible that our train carriages may get shunted a short distance by ex-SNCF Decauville-built diesel “locotracteur” Y2402, recently re-engined with a Deutz power unit and fitted with train brakes.  This is the only other nominally operational ex-SNCF diesel on site (all other diesels owned by the CFTR being of industrial parentage).  However, at the time of writing (February 2018) this machine is suffering from serious power unit issues and is not usable, although it is being worked on.

If it is able to work for us, this must be viewed as an extra bonus and it may be subject to a small additional charge for those that partake, as its current unavailability means it has not been factored into the costing of the event.

Getting there

The railway’s operating base at Volgelsheim is situated 10 miles east of Colmar in France (on the main Basel/Mulhouse to Strasbourg main line) and 2 miles west of Breisach in Germany (the terminus of a branch from Freiburg), but cannot be reached by public train services.

I have a dilemma here, in that the necessary departure time of our train is earlier than the arrival in Volgelsheim of the first public bus on a Sunday (no.1076, at 11:08, and even then only from the Breisach direction – although the stop is a 15-minute walk from the CFTR station), so it cannot be reached by public transport.  (NB: I am aware that there is a timetable online dated 2014 that shows an earlier departure, I have confirmed with the operator that this no longer runs, and this is corroborated by “Hafas”).  I will therefore be hiring a coach which will meet service trains at Colmar both before and after our event.

There are benefits to hiring a coach in any case, as it does not run the risk of members of our party being unable to travel on a public bus due to passenger volume or the risk of the bus not even turning up at all.  It also negates the 900 metre walk from the nearest public bus stop to the station.

I am aware that travelling on a coach is not everybody’s cup of tea, however I stress that the timing of the run with the Baldwin is fixed and we need to work around this somehow.  You are of course more than free to make your own travel arrangements to get to Volgelsheim.

Connections in

The bus will pick up from Colmar station at 09:40, making connections out of the 09:07 arrival (the 08:21 loco-hauled train from Basel, which again provides day train connections from Zürich, Interlaken and Luzern, as well as the overnights from Hamburg and Berlin), the 09:23 arrival (08:51 loco-hauled ex Strasbourg, which connects out of a TGV from Paris), and also the 09:30 arrival, which is the morning TGV from Luxembourg.

I do, however, need to insert the caveat that the bus will not be able to wait past 09:50 at Colmar, so please consider that when making your travel plans.

Connections out

It is also easy to get back to the UK by rail from this event the same day.

The coach will drop you at Colmar in good time to catch the 14:07 loco-hauled service to Strasbourg, which gives you a +29 onto the 15:08 TGV to Lille Europe, for a fairly tight or remarkably relaxed connection onto the 18:35 or 19:30 Eurostars respectively back to St Pancras, the latter of which getting into London at 20:03.  Connections from this include to Liverpool, Manchester, Wolverhampton, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Norwich, Exeter, Bristol, Swansea, Worcester and all across the Southern Region – as well, of course, as the overnights from both Euston and Paddington.

If you are heading south from Colmar, using multiple units you can be back in Basel before 15:30 which gives you opportunities to head into or through Switzerland or beyond.

Update 20/02/18: I had initially intended for the coach to also serve Breisach, however as the first 33 people to book only wanted Colmar – and as, most importantly, all connections with the exception of off the Höllentalbahn remain available via Strasbourg/Basel and Colmar – I have decided to simplify the process by only running the coach from, and back to Colmar.  I will, however, tee up a local taxi firm to return anybody to Breisach who wishes to travel there.

What you can combine it with

The vast array of long-distance connections both into and out of the event as outlined above mean that your weekend can take many forms – conceivably you could spend a worthwhile Saturday in at least eight or nine countries that I can think of, and still comfortably get here.  As such, I have not organised any additional haulage opportunities this time, as I feel that that would be counterproductive when there are already events going on that are very deserving of your attendance.

In terms of special events on the Saturday, the standout has to be the “Mega Bernina Festival” at the Chemin de fer-musée Blonay-Chamby in Switzerland, featuring a number of interesting electric locomotives, and including the return to service after a long restoration of RhB 181.  Our visit to Volgelsheim would form an easy and interesting stop-off on an overland trip back to the UK from that event.

Do of course keep an eye on the Haulage Calendar on the main site for updates on other unusual haulage-based events going on around this.

Fares and how to book

This does not come as cheaply as I might have liked to offer, but this is linked entirely to the amounts that I am being charged to put the event on for you.  I would very much like to think that it still represents excellent value for what is a very rare opportunity.

Train only – €25

Train and connecting coach – €40  €39

(Please also consider as above, that it may be possible to also travel behind Y2402, but that as this has not been factored into the event’s costing, it may be subject to a small additional charge).

In the first instance, please email me on jw218344@gmail.com to confirm your place on this tour, listing the names of all participants, and if you will be joining us on the coach as well as the train.  I will then email you directly at around the beginning of March, where we can jointly decide on a payment method that works for both sides.

Places are strictly limited to 100.

Caveats

I do need to emphasise that 62029 is over 70 years old and is the only currently operational example of its class, and a failure before or during the event is always a possibility.  I will provide you directly with more detailed booking information at the time that payment is being arranged.

Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th May 2018: BLS Re425 farewell railtour

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173 “Lötschental”, at Spiez with a Zweisimmen to Interlaken train on 24/08/07 (JW).

The weekend of Saturday and Sunday 26th and 27th May 2018 will see a farewell railtour to the BLS class Re425 “Brown Bomber” electrics.  The train will run from Interlaken Ost and will feature up to five locos over the two days.  Further details will become available in due course.

In the meantime, please use email smithstuart@btinternet.com as a point of reference or for registering interest.  This promises to be an unmissable railtour!

Sunday 17th June 2018: CC40110 on tour in France

Sunday 17th June 2018 sees an attractive little railtour featuring the first main line passenger run of an iconic class of locomotive in over a decade.

SNCF CC40100 class loco CC40110 will be making its first passenger train appearance in years on Sunday 17th June 2018, when it hauls a railtour on an 160-mile round trip from Paris Gare du Nord to Amiens and return.

The railtour is being operated by Matériel Ferroviaire, Patrimoine National (MFPN – in English, “Rolling Stock, National Heritage”, a name which I think sums up the ideals of railway preservation nicely) who also own the loco.

I must say that I have found the organisers to be immensely polite and helpful, and although my dealings with them to date have been in French, they assure me that they have members who speak English should you require dialogue.  I also have a PDF booking form for the tour, so if you would like a copy of this to fire off to them, please just contact me and I will email it across (this is not yet on their website).

The Loco

CC40110 is one of three surviving members of this once ten-strong class (technically there were eleven, as the original CC40106 was written off very early in its life in 1969 and was replaced by a new loco with the same number) – and the only one that is operational.

These were instantly-recognisable, visually striking (built to Paul Arzens’ “Nez Cassé” design), powerful four-voltage machines built to haul the “Trans-Europe Express” (TEE) across borders.  However, in practice, they only worked to Belgium (both Brussel and Liège).  They were withdrawn in the mid-1990s with the onset of the “Thalys” concept, which can be considered a modern-day successor to the “PBA” (Paris-Brussel-Amsterdam) axis of the TEE.

The above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user FTZvideo showing a short documentary on the CC40100s from 1967, by André Périé.

Logistics – Times and Prices

According to indicative timings, the train will depart from Paris Gare du Nord at 07:25, arriving in Amiens at approximately 09:30.  Participants then have over seven hours to explore the city, before returning at 16:35 and arriving back at the blocks at roughly 18:35.

Obviously for an 07:25 departure from Paris, you will need to have stayed in or around the French capital on the Saturday night, as there are no overnight trains that arrive early enough to reliably get you there from elsewhere.  Perhaps my Paris in a day article from May 2017 might give you some ideas about seeking out loco haulage in the local area – although, sadly, there will no longer be any diesel diagrams around the capital by the time this train runs.

Nevertheless, the indicative timings for the return leg would drop you comfortably enough onto the 20:04 (at a push), 20:34 and 21:13 Eurostars back to London on the Sunday evening (which conveniently enough also depart from Nord, of course), off which you can get back as far north as Wolverhampton, Leeds and Derby, or onto the Down “Night Riviera”, etc…

The return fare for this excursion is only €49 standard class (€74 first class).

Amiens – Enthusiasts

The most obvious activity for enthusiasts in the seven-hour layover at Amiens is to have a look at the BB67400 diesels on the route from there to Boulogne (see brief trip report from 2014 that included covering these turns here).  It is possible to make a round trip to Boulogne on one of these (IC2011 10:51 Amiens – Boulogne Ville 12:26 / IC2026 14:45 Boulogne Ville – Amiens 16:09 – but watch out for that estimated +26 onto the tour) but not a lot of other tunes that you can play on that, to be honest.

Amiens – Normals(!)

As you would expect, this tour would also be an ideal one on which to take the family.  The whole point of its running is to visit Amiens (tourist website here) on this particular day – the third Sunday of June each year sees “le marché sur l’eau” (“the market on the water”) where market gardeners in traditional dress go along the River Somme in cone-shaped boats, before setting up at the waterside and selling their fruit, vegetables and flowers.

If this does not particularly appeal to you, Amiens itself is a historic city in its own right – and its history is not restricted to that indelibly linked to 20th century wars, although both have left their mark still visible today – and there are guided historical tours offered as an optional extra when you book your railtour ticket.  The city’s imposing Gothic cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

RB48 – Heritage traction in Nordrhein-Westfalen

For observers of the German railway scene, the loss at the end of 2017 of “the Kufstein” took away a valued piece of variety.  Happily, something similar has now started elsewhere – although with less scope for such a diverse selection of traction!

The substitution of a Meridian commuter train diagram between Kufstein and München between May 2016 and December 2017 occurred as a result of a fatal collision between two of its EMUs in February 2016 which had written both off.  This “vice turn” continued until new-build replacement units entered traffic.

Sadly, history repeated itself somewhat on the evening of 5th December 2017 at Meerbusch-Osterath, near Krefeld, when a National Express Bombardier “Talent 2” EMU collided with a freight train, causing startling visual damage to the unit and most certainly breaking its back.  Some footage in the aftermath of the accident can be seen in a news report here.  Most importantly, this time there were no fatalities.  The cause is still under investigation by the EUB, but the point pertinent to this story is that National Express have consequently had one fewer unit in their fleet than previously.

Loco hauled solution

As a result, Monday 29th January 2018 saw the introduction of a modest loco-hauled operation for National Express, on the RB48 “Rhein-Wupper-Bahn” route which runs from Köln, through Solingen to Wuppertal.

This is not exactly a novel development, as National Express used locos and stock between February and May 2016 – in fact, from the same provider on exactly the same diagram…

The above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user leeseisenbahnen showing 110 469 in action on the last occasion (2016) that National Express hired in this combination of locomotive and carriages.

Diagram

The loco-hauled set will be in use from Mondays to Fridays, and there is not currently a scheduled end date for its use.  The diagram is as follows:-

RB32508 (RB20170) 06:08 Bonn Hbf – Wuppertal-Oberbarmen 07:45
RB32423 (RB20157) 08:13 Wuppertal-Oberbarmen – Köln Hbf 09:05
RB32428 (RB20158) 09:52 Köln Hbf – Wuppertal-Oberbarmen 10:45
RB32441 (RB20159) 11:13 Wuppertal-Oberbarmen – Köln Hbf 12:05
RB32446 (RB20160) 12:52 Köln Hbf – Wuppertal-Oberbarmen 13:45
RB32457 (RB20161) 14:13 Wuppertal-Oberbarmen – Köln Hbf 15:05
RB32458 (RB20162) 15:52 Köln Hbf – Wuppertal-Oberbarmen 16:45
RB32519 (RB20163) 17:13 Wuppertal-Oberbarmen – Bonn Hbf 18:44

Traction

Traction for this will be class 110 electrics from TRI Train Rental working in push-pull mode with a rake “fresh air” carriages from the same provider.  The operation has kicked off with 110 469, a 51-year-old Henschel-built electric that is now in a pretty variation of the Stahlblau livery that it entered traffic in.

12th May 2018 – Two ex-DR V100s around Magdeburg

Saturday 12th May 2018 sees a particularly high-mileage railtour featuring an ex-Deutsche Reichsbahn V100 type diesel loco (ex-DB 202 – specific loco not currently known), departing Staßfurt at 06:45, picking up through Magdeburg to run approximately 200 miles north to the Baltic Sea coastal town of Warnemünde and back.  This is being promoted by Nostalgiezugreisen Lipsia (link).  The fare for the day is an astonishingly reasonable €49.

Staßfurt – a town of only 23,000 people and with just one hotel within 5 miles of the station listed on Trip Advisor – is not the easiest place in the world to get to for 06:45, however – the only train that comfortably “makes” it is the 05:44 DMU from Aschersleben, which is not exactly the centre of the universe itself.  If you are intending to cover this excursion to Warnemünde, I would strongly suggest that you stay in Magdeburg, the state capital of Sachsen-Anhalt.  The railtour picks up there at a currently projected time of 07:10.

However, if you do so, you may wish to investigate the possibility of heading south to intercept the train, to Schönebeck – its intermediate call on the way in from Staßfurt, at 07:00.  You can do this on the 06:36 RegionalExpress DMU from Magdeburg Hbf (which gives you a +10), or – on paper – you could precede that on the 06:30 special train departure – which is another V100!

The Eisenbahnfreunde Traditionsbahnbetriebswerk Staßfurt are also running a charter on that day (link), advertised to be hauled by 202 484, departing Magdeburg Hbf at 06:30, calling at Schönebeck at 06:43 (+17 onto the other tour), running south to Staßfurt where it is replaced by steam loco 44 1486 for a day out to Meiningen.

This 11-minute video uploaded to YouTube by user ecpaganini shows V100s at work in the former East Germany two decades ago.  Those days will be resurrected in a small way on 12th May 2018.  202 484 – one of the locos involved – is seen making a strong departure at 7m20s in the video.

Of course, you may wish to alight from the northbound charter back at Magdeburg where – if all had gone to plan – you will have been able to have had two V100s on two trains by 07:10.

An important note

I should note that I have not approached the operator of either railtour myself to see if they would entertain a “part fare” on this occasion, and I strongly suggest you do this if you are considering this move.  Although very common in the UK, German railtours in general do not have any kind of “part fare” culture, although I find that railtour organisers are – in the main – happy to negotiate a reasonable arrangement if they are expecting you.

In the unlikely event that the response is a “no”, please respect that.  We are lucky that British enthusiasts enjoy a good relationship with German railtour operators and this is not something that should be jeopardised.

Saturday 24th February 2018: Norwegian NoHAB Railtour

Saturday 24th February 2018 sees the next outing with Norwegian “NoHAB” Di3.642.

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The “‘Stålvogntoget” is ready for departure from Åndalsnes. Photo: Mette Larsen

The Norsk Jernbanemuseum are taking their class Di3 loco, Di3.642 on a 340 mile round trip from Hamar to Røros and return.  The provisional timetable (subject to alteration) sees a sociable departure time from Hamar of 08:20, running via the Rørosbanen via Rena and Koppang to Røros – arriving at 12:00, and then departing back at 17:30, with a 21:54 arrival time home at Hamar.

The Locomotive

Di3.642 is one of the 35-strong Di3 class of 1,750hp General Motors 567 series-engined diesel-electrics supplied by the Swedish firm of Nydqvist & Holm AB (NoHAB) to Norges Statsbaner (NSB; the Norwegian State Railways) between 1954 and 1969.  This well-loved class were loyal servants to the Norwegians, being finally withdrawn at the turn of the century.

Di3.642, built in 1960 and withdrawn in July 2000, is one of the three members of the “Di3b” subclass which were built with an A1A-A1A wheel arrangement (as opposed to the Co-Co Di3a), and were longer, heavier and faster than their forebears. They were actually built for the Finnish market, but the Finns never took up the order.  Di3.642 is unique, however, in being the only one of this subclass still to remain in Norway; the other two – Di3.641 and Di3.643 – now eking out their existence in Kosovo.

Di3.642 will have a good opportunity to sing as it will be hauling load five – carriage numbers BF14 21728, B5-2 26021, B3-2 25579, BC5 26029 and FR3 21265.  The latter is the dining coach/coffee shop which will be serving light meals (meat stew), hot drinks, Norwegian waffles, soft drinks etc.

The Route

The train travels over the lion’s share of the Rørosbanen, which was formerly the main north-south main line in Norway prior to the construction of the line through Dovre which has assumed that role since the 1920s.

The Destination

The purpose of the trip is to visit the Rørosmartnan, a yearly market festival held in the town of Røros, which is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in a former copper mining area, containing approximately 2000 wooden houses and having a distinctly “olde-worlde” atmosphere.

Tickets

Fares are 900 NOK (£82) for the round trip, or 600 NOK for just one way, plus approximately £3 online booking fee.  Tickets are available from this Ticketmaster link, and are valid for entry to the museum itself (also at Hamar) on between 11:00-15:00 on the Friday or between 11:00-16:00 on the Sunday around the tour.  You can select which individual carriage you would like to sit in, although it is not currently known how these will be marshalled on the day.

 

My thanks once again to Mette Larsen for the information to assist with this article.

European Traction website – the future

Firstly, don’t read too much into the title of this blog post, and also please do not misconstrue it as a plea to be patted on the back either.  It’s now very nearly a year since I set this website up, and it’s an appropriate time to look back at what it has (and has not) achieved so far, and also where it proceeds from here.

The website was set up with two primary aims – firstly, to give wider publicity to haulage opportunities across the Continent to make it easier for enthusiasts of European locomotives to travel behind different or interesting ones, and secondly to serve as a platform to encourage enthusiasts who have not travelled overseas much (or at all) to do so, by showing them what there is to experience and advising how to go about it.

I would like to think that it has so far been successful on both counts – I’ve certainly received a lot of messages advising that users have ridden behind locos that they would otherwise not have done were it not for this site, and the previously oft-heard quote “I’d have done that if only I’d have known about it”, uttered for years by enthusiasts seeing photos retrospectively of events or railtours that had simply not been known about in advance, is almost a distant memory!  Equally, it has led to greater support of overseas railway events – for example, the Bocq railway “Festival”, widely publicised via this site, had an approximately seven-fold increase in the number of British visitors it received in 2017.  Positive feedback from a number of angles has been extensive and I am very grateful to everyone who has taken the time to give it.

It is fair to observe that there has been some isolated (but fairly vocal and public, it must be said) criticism of the mere concept of this website online, with the view expressed that it is futile and, indeed, counterproductive to set something up that is “in competition with European Rail Gen“.  My personal view is that it simply is not in competition with anything, otherwise it would not exist.  “ERG” exists to share urgent and interesting information on loco workings and trip reports – the former with brevity the key, given the format – and indeed I do share much of the information to be found on this site to the group myself. 

The utility of this website is to bring together (including from existing internet resources – saving you the effort of trawling and translating yourself) forthcoming haulage opportunities in an easily-referenced calendar format, usually with a link to more information about the loco involved, that – in my view at least – does far more to entice novices to get involved than a list of numbers of locos they’ve never heard of and places they’ve never been.  There are also a number of (I feel, interesting) articles on more general locomotive-related subjects.  It is also worth saying that my distinct feeling is that preservation groups/railtour organisations are far keener to share information for a semi-journalistic article searchable across the web, than to an individual in another country who may not even then visit.

The other aspect that has received some (again, isolated) criticism is that I ask for voluntary donations to cover the costs of having and keeping this website online.  I don’t personally see this as unreasonable – I have always been entirely honest about the costs involved, and this is in my time as well as money.  I emphasise that I am not out to make a profit in any way – if I was, I certainly would not go about it this way!  I merely take satisfaction from the knowledge that it is helping others, however I do need to acknowledge that it does cost me a considerable amount of my own money to do this: over £200 so far, and I have a further significant payment due to go out for website hosting next month.

With that in mind – what’s your view on these issues?  Is what is contained on ERG and elsewhere online sufficient for your needs as an enthusiast – or do you need this site?  If so, I would be delighted to continue with it – however, if you don’t, then it seems sensible that I spare myself the effort before the next sizeable bill is due.  Equally, if there’s anything you would like to see me do differently – or additionally – with the site, please do let me know.

Thanks for reading – I’d appreciate your thoughts?

Jonathan Wilcox

Museumseisenbahn Küstenbahn Ostfriesland – Belgian and German diesel power

One heritage railway in Germany that uses exclusively heritage diesel locomotive haulage is the Museumseisenbahn Küstenbahn Ostfriesland (MKO), in the far north-west of the country.

The MKO (website here) runs trains on a 16.5 km (10.3 mile) stretch of line from a junction with the “big railway” at Norden to Dornum.  Services are operated on every Sunday throughout the Summer, supplemented by occasional extra days here and there – please refer to the Haulage Calendar on this website for further details.

Ostfriesland (tourist website here) is a mainly rural area characterised by its coastline, and is often overlooked by those who travel through it bound for either its beaches or the numerous islands lying off it.  This is a shame, as it is an interesting region with a character and beauty very much of its own.

The above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user djdose100 showing operations at the railway.

Traction

An unusual aspect of this railway is that its mainline passenger fleet consists of two very similar locomotives, but one was built in Belgium and operated by the SNCB, the other in Germany and operated by the Deutsche Bundesbahn.  Both are MTU (Maybach)-powered six-axle diesel shunters.

The first is an ex-SNCB Class 80, 8062, built by La Bruges et Nivelles (BN) in 1963.  This was withdrawn in Belgium at the end of 2002 and was sold to the MKO the following year.  It has been painted into an historic DB maroon livery with yellow lining and has been given the non-authentic “German-style” running number V60 062.

The second is a genuine ex-DB V60, later class 260 under the 1971 renumbering scheme and later still class 360.  Built by Krupp in Essen in 1960, V60 555 (later 260 555 / 360 555) joined the MKO fleet in Spring 2016.  It has been painted in a similar scheme to V60 062 and carries the number 260 555-8.

Each day of passenger service sees one of these machines used.  According to the railway, “both locomotives alternately cover our trains.  Since it is always decided at very short notice with which locomotive we operate, unfortunately we cannot provide any reliable information in advance.  The other locomotive can be visited on the day of the trip in the railway museum”.

Times and Fares

On each day that the railway operates a service, there are four round trips from Norden to Dornum – at 10:30, 12:30, 14:30 and 16:30.  A round trip is a very fair €8.

Getting There

Norden station is on the main line from Leer and Emden to Norddeich Mole – the coastal terminus that serves as a ferry port for sailings to the North Sea islands of Juist and Norderney.

Among the trains that operate through it are two-hourly loco-hauled Intercity services, some of which are IC2 sets powered by class 146.5 locomotives.  These provide a comfortable +22 onto the MKO services in both directions (as they pass at Norden), although it’s an unfortunate -7 off the MKO trains back onto an IC working.

The alternate hours’ services are RegionalExpress services hauled by DB class 146s – one of which, as a result of “Storm Sebastian”, on 13th September 2017, was actually rescued by V60 062 after being incapacitated due to OHLE damage!

 

May I convey my thanks to Thomas Thiess of the MKO for his help with the research of this article.

11th, 12th & 15th August 2018: Chemin de Fer du Bocq “Festival”

One of the most hotly-anticipated events for 2018 is the annual “Festival” at the Bocq railway in Belgium, which will be held on Saturday 11th, Sunday 12th and Wednesday 15th August 2018.

The Chemin de Fer du Bocq is a 10-mile long preserved railway in south-central Belgium, deep in the scenic Ardennes forest.  Following the course of the Bocq river (from which the railway takes its name), the former Line 128 weaves its way along the valley from Ciney, through the operating centre of Spontin, to Purnode and the current end of the line at Evrehailles.  It formerly ran through to a junction at Yvoir, and hopefully one day trains will once again arrive there from Ciney.

The railway is run by volunteers of the PFT/TSP, a national society dedicated to railway preservation, and some of their locos are based at the Bocq railway, whereas others are displayed in the museum at Saint-Ghislain and others under repair at Schaarbeek.

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“202.020” (CFL 1602), 7305 and 5183 at Dorinne/Durnal, 12/08/17 (JW)

August “Festivals”

The railway tends to hold a special event each August-time, and these are always imaginative and, consequently, well-attended.  Among the many attendees at 2017’s event were an estimated 60-70 British enthusiasts, and all were very impressed, with 11 locomotives available for haulage.

One of the most attractive aspects from a British perspective was the supplementation of the PFT/TSP’s preserved diesel fleet with a number of main line freight visitors.  Although a couple of other Belgian preserved lines have recently hosted main line guests to their galas, these have generally been of older classes that were once synonymous with passenger work, now cascaded onto freight duties (such as ex-SNCB class 51 or 62).  The Bocq is different in that it is aiming generally for more modern locos that have always, and will always be, freight locos – due to the relative scarcity of haulage opportunities behind such machines, any such gala attendance could conceivably be the only time that a loco ever hauls passengers in its life.  2017’s visitors included a class 66 and two class 77s from Lineas (the former B-Logistics) and an ex-NS class 6400 from DB Cargo.

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513-10 (266 037), 7784 and 7868, all visitors from Lineas, at Spontin, 12/08/17 (JW)

2018 Event

The 2018 event is to be held on Saturday 11th, Sunday 12th and Wednesday 15th August 2018 – although I would expect the main line visitors to only be present over the weekend.  Traditionally, the weekday has been aimed more at photographers.

Negotiations are already underway for main line freight locos to attend this event and work trains at it.  Europorte have expressed the early intention to send one of their GM-engined “Euro 4000” locos to the event, subject of course to availability and commercial requirements.  Additionally (and I stress that these are not yet confirmed), currently being explored are ex-NS class 6400s from both DB Cargo and Railtraxx, more diesel visitors from Lineas (class 77 and/or class 66), and possibly also a General Motors-engined SNCB class 62 from Infrabel.  Regardless of how much of this “wish list” can be negotiated – as visitors from 2017 will attest – it will surely be a most enjoyable event!

The PFT/TSP will again be providing a variety of diesel locomotives from its stable to work at this event – it is too soon to say which ones at the time of writing (January 2018), but updates will be provided here when more is known.

The “Festivals” are traditionally mixed traction event and 2018 will be no different, with steam visitors expected to be provided too.

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6506 from DB Cargo at Dorinne/Durnal, 12/08/17 (JW)

Sunday 12th August 2018 – European Traction-sponsored diesel event

Last year, I arranged a low-key diesel day at Stoomcentrum Maldegem on the Sunday of the Bocq “Festival” weekend, which allowed those who had visited the Bocq railway on the Saturday to further add to their tally of Belgian diesel loco classes had for haulage over the weekend.  7408 and 8040 worked passenger trains for us, and 9131 was available for footplate rides, during a relaxed few hours which concluded in time for participants to get to mid-afternoon Eurostars, flights etc to return (mostly!) to the UK.

I am currently in the process of organising something similar for the Sunday morning/early afternoon of this year’s “Festival” weekend – please keep checking back on this website and the associated Facebook page for updates on this.

The Bocq Railway

Running, as it does, through such a scenic rural area, Line 128 was never really an important passenger railway, losing its timetabled service in 1960, but did have a strategic role as a freight route – not least during World War 2.

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Tunnel de Spontin (JW)

19th July 1944 saw the Tunnel de Spontin – one of the most impressive engineering features of the route – enter the history books as the site of an extraordinary act of wartime resistance.

At the time, this area of Belgium was still under German occupation.  The Luftwaffe held an air base at Florennes, about 20 miles to the south-west, and brought in the aviation fuel for its Junkers, Focke-Wulf and Messerschmitt aircraft by rail, including over Line 128.  One such train was known to be stabled in the Tunnel de Spontin, so as not to be a target for overhead bombers.

It was, however, a target for the local Resistance.  The line climbs very steeply away from Spontin towards Ciney, and on the night in question, they hijacked the loaded Spontin to Ciney limestone tripper on the incline and attached explosives to it, before sending it unmanned and unbraked back down the hill, through the station and into the tunnel, where it impacted with the stabled fuel train at a significant speed.  The tunnel burned for eight days and nights and, as Florennes’ store of fuel dwindled, severely impacted upon its ability to dispatch aircraft.  The Allied liberation of Belgium, of course, began only six weeks later.

Just something to think about as you pass through it!

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Line 128 near Purnode (JW)

Tickets

Travel will be possible by day rover (just like galas of a similar nature in the UK); fares in 2017 were a remarkably reasonable €15.

Getting There

The Bocq railway shares a station – Ciney – with the national network.  It is expected that trains during this gala will service Ciney at the 2018 “Festival”; the 2017 event saw trains only reach Braibant (with a bus connection to Ciney) due to engineering work.

Ciney is easily accessible from the outside world, sitting on Line 162, the main artery between Brussel and Luxembourg.  Some of the expresses on this route even remain loco-hauled, in the capable hands of SNCB class 13 “Alstom Tractis” electrics.  Both capital cities are approximately 1hr 30min by train from Ciney, and both still see significant amounts of loco haulage themselves.

 

Friday 11th May 2018 – Museum Buurtspoorweg diesel day

The Museum Buurtspoorweg, based at Haaksbergen, approximately 10 miles south-west of Enschede in the Netherlands, is holding a diesel event in May.

Friday 11th May 2018 sees the Museum Buurtspoorweg (MBS) preserved railway host its “Dag van de Verbrandingsmotor”, a day on which its fleet of diesels takes centre stage.

The above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user Fermon Bosman showing operations at a similar event held by the MBS in 2009.

Operations

Although all obviously subject to change, the current plan is for passenger trains to be shared by two notable locomotives – “Brommer” 451 and “Bakkie” 660.  There will be three round trips during the day – the first and third being in the hands of 451 and the second hauled by 660.

In between the passenger-carrying runs, “Sik” 259 will haul a demonstration goods train.

The Locos

The MBS has a fantastically varied collection of ex-NS diesel shunting locomotives, with several varieties of “Sik” locotractor, a Werkspoor-built class 450, and one of the English Electric class 600 0-6-0 diesel shunters.

The two machines planned to be used on passenger trains are both of particular interest – 451 is the sole survivor of a class of ten machines built in the 1950s, whereas 660 will be instantly familiar to British enthusiasts, built to a design largely similar to British Rail’s Class 11 (by English Electric at the Vulcan Foundry in 1956).

Getting There

The railway’s base is at Haaksbergen.  Although neither end is connected to the Dutch national network, it is easy to reach by public transport.  The no.53 bus from Hengelo railway station reaches Haaksbergen in 24 minutes, whereas the no.74 bus from Enschede station gets there in 20 minutes.

To note that the bus station in Haaksbergen is about 10 minutes’ walk from the station, whereas the no.53 stops on Meester Eenhuisstraat which is much closer.

Hengelo, of course, is situated on the main line between Amsterdam and Germany, which sees a class 1700-hauled Intercity train in each direction every two hours.