My latest blog posts can be found here, but plenty of other articles are to be found elsewhere throughout the website – I suggest using the Country List as a starting point!
Building on last year’s success at Stoomcentrum Maldegem, I arranged another Sunday morning diesel haulage event in Belgium to coincide with the eagerly-awaited “Festival” weekend at the Chemin de Fer du Bocq. It seems to be a winning format and encourages people to visit Belgium and attend both events, who may not have done so had just one of the events had been occurring.
93 people (including me – as ever, I also paid my way!) turned out to travel behind the operational members of the PFT-TSP’s collection of diesel locomotives based at their depot facility at Saint-Ghislain. Four locos were advertised – CFL 806, 7005, 7358, and 8428 – and these four all worked as booked. 8320 also worked the train – a loco that had been mid-repair at the time the event was advertised, and indeed work was still being carried out on it on the morning, hence the slightly late start of our visit! We also enjoyed the bonus working of 6106 – considered by many who attended as the highlight of the day. This gave a total of six locomotives hauling our train, as compared to four initially advertised – a real success.
Of interest, had Ryanair not cancelled a number of their flights, causing a number of people to sadly miss their weekend in Belgium altogether, we would have had an attendance just scraping into three figures. Perhaps that is a target for another time.
Facts and Figures
I know that we do not often see numbers against this type of event so I thought it would be interesting to give a quick rundown of the proceeds from the day:-
Fares – €2,760 (2 visitors at child fare)
Fares for optional run with 6106 – €367
Additional donations – €45.19
This gives a total of €3,172.19, to which we must add €310 taken in beer sales within the depot too. Just to reiterate, every single cent went directly to the PFT-TSP for their preservation projects. Added to the estimated ticket sales at the Bocq railway over the weekend, the PFT-TSP have received over €5,000 from just its British visitors over the course of the two days – and that’s before sales of food, drink and merchandise at the Bocq are taken into account. This is phenomenal and I am personally very grateful and more than a little proud that we are able to say this.
Although I was busy throughout the visit I did try to keep a record of what we did – however I will be far from offended if you feel you can offer any corrections!
8428 top, CFL 806 tail – 09:56 end of running line to depot
CFL 806 top, 8428 tail – 10:01 depot to end of running line
8428 top, CFL 806 tail – 10:05 end of running line to depot
CFL 806 top, 8428 tail – 10:07 depot to end of running line
7005 – 10:35 shunt from one road to another on depot
7005 top, 8320 tail – 10:40 depot to end of running line
8320 top, 7005 tail – 10:44 end of running line to depot
7005 top, 8320 tail – 10:48 depot to end of running line
8320 top, 7005 tail – 10:52 end of running line to depot
6106 – 12:07 depot to end of running line
6106 – 12:11 end of running line to depot (propel)
7358 – 12:22 depot to end of running line
7358 – 12:26 end of running line to depot (propel)
7358 – 12:32 depot to end of running line
GPS measurements of the running line indicated a length of approximately 615 metres (0.38 miles).
I am personally very pleased with how the event went, but it’s the first on this scale that I have tried and I am well aware of some aspects of this visit that I can learn from for the future. Please do contact me if you do have any comments on the day, positive or negative, or if I may ask, any testimonials that you would allow me to place (anonymously) on this website.
I am happy to say that following the success of this event, I have already received a couple of extra bookings on my next one – a visit to the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin in north-east France on Sunday 9th September 2018 to ride behind 1948-built Baldwin-engined ex-SNCF diesel loco 62029. Limited space remains on this trip, and it would be great if you could join us too.
I am even happier to say that this success has led to discussions already beginning regarding further haulage opportunities within Belgium – keep an eye on this website for any announcements.
I would like to point out that although the many “thanks JW” comments that I have received and read are humbling indeed, today has been a team effort. Of course, none of it would have been possible without the trust placed in us by the four PFT-TSP staff on site that such a bizarre-sounding endeavour would be worth their while – let alone their tireless efforts in near-30° heat on the day – especially Simon de Ridder.
I would also like to publicly acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Simon Moore at all stages of the process, to Josh Watkins and Andy Read for manning the bar, and to Miles Williams, Alex Cook and Ed Graham for their help tidying up at the end of the visit.
Of course, a big thank you is reserved for the 93 people who attended. This – and the seminar photo taken during the visit – are cast-iron proof when negotiating future haulage opportunities that people really will turn up and pay good money for this type of event in such great numbers, which I am sure will be invaluable.
Same time next year?
Many thanks to those of you who provided your thoughts on the options we have for Sunday. Almost everyone has responded, which means I have as good a cross-section of opinion as I could have expected. My apologies if you have not yet had the chance to reply, but I have had to make a decision; similarly, my apologies if you’re not reading this until after you return from Belgium and you were not aware of any changes ahead of time.
Interestingly, not one person has expressed a preference to just proceed with just the four ‘core’ locos at €25. Everyone seems prepared to pay €5 extra per ‘additional’ shunter given the circumstances, and I am grateful for your understanding and support with that.
Unfortunately, I have since been informed that despite all efforts one of the ‘extras’ – 7349 – will most likely not be ready in time for Sunday. With a favourable wind, however, 8320 is more likely to. Objectively 7349 is the ‘best’ of the two to miss out on, if we must lose one of them, as it worked a Mercia Charter in 2002 and some of our participants will have already ridden behind it.
6106 has predictably been a more contentious matter, being ‘dud’ for haulage for more participants, and has been the only source of negative comment – with a significant number of people not wishing to pay extra for this loco’s participation. At the same time, there is a greater number of people telling me that it would be the loco they’d be most looking forward to.
I am all too aware that it is impossible to please everyone in this scenario, but I have tried my best to come up with a straightforward plan that will tick most people’s boxes and is agreeable to the PFT-TSP.
The fare for the event, on the basis of five shunters being available, will be €30. I will collect this at a ‘barrier’ upon entry to our carriage at the start of the event. (If 8320 is not ready, this will be €25 – we will know by then).
During the visit, I will ask everybody to leave the carriage and 6106 will be attached. I will then make another ‘barrier’ at the entrance to the carriage and charge a further €5 for those who wish to get back on to travel behind this loco. Those who do not wish to pay this do not have to, but will not be able to travel behind 6106 – the bar will be open so this could be visited instead. After 6106 has been detached, the event will continue. Please note that some work remains ongoing with 6106 too; so it is a possibility that it too may not be ready for use and this may all be academic.
I hope that this is an acceptable solution to most – if you have any further thoughts on this, please do get in touch. Regretfully I will not be able to offer this ‘opt-in’ facility for any of the other locos and the basic fare will remain so.
Many thanks once again for your understanding with this eleventh hour amendment – I really hope it will give us as good a day out as possible. As ever, please do bear in mind that the availability of any of the locos is subject to the usual caveats that you would apply to machines that are up to 64 years old, but be assured that our Belgian friends are really pulling out all the stops for us.
With best wishes,
Firstly – this is not at all bad news! – hopefully quite the opposite. However I would be very interested as a matter of some urgency in the thoughts of those planning to attend.
I have received an update today (08/08/18) that the four ‘confirmed’ locos – i.e. CFL 806, 7005, 7358 and 8428 – remain confirmed, and as of right now are available for traffic.
The extra locos…
You will be aware that our hope all along has also been to use 7349 and/or 8320 – however these have not to date been operational. I am pleased and very grateful to say that the PFT/TSP volunteers have been working like trojans on them with a view to having them available to haul our train.
However, numerous parts (including at least one full set of batteries) have had to be purchased and some work remains to be done, by people who I speculate may possibly rather be helping with preparations for the Bocq “Festival”. They are however very willing to do this, but have asked that – if these locos are to be used and turn out on the day – a supplement of €5 is levied per locomotive for their use to cover the work and parts involved and the extra cost incurred in operating them. This would not be charged if 7349 or 8320 did not work. For clarity – if one of these locos worked, then the fare for the day would be €30, and if both worked, €35.
Additionally, we have been offered Cockerill Bo-Bo 6106 for our train, within the same timeframe in addition to the other locos, which would equally come at a small additional price (I expect this to also be €5 and will confirm ASAP).
I am very keen for this not to be seen as any kind of cynical move either by the PFT/TSP or myself in ‘suddenly’ asking for more money at the last minute. That is not the case at all; any and all extra fare money will be specifically to cover further expenses in providing what I hope would make a more enjoyable event. That is also why I am asking you, as the participants, for your input to the decision making process on this – the options seem to me to be:-
- We plan to use 806, 6106, 7005, 7349, 7358, 8320 and 8428 at a fare of €40 (TBC, see above)
- We plan to use 806, 7005, 7349, 7358, 8320 and 8428 at a fare of €35 (€30 if one of the ‘extras’ could not work)
- We remain with the four confirmed locos (806, 7005, 7358, 8428) at €25 as advertised
Please do contact me as soon as possible at email@example.com to let me know your thoughts as I would be interested in everyone’s opinion. I can’t promise that the eventual outcome will please everybody, but I am keen not to make the decision for people, and to give everyone a voice. I emphasise that it remains very much an option to proceed with just the four locos you were expecting at the price initially advertised.
A fine stock of Belgian triples and strong beer will be available at Saint-Ghislain for you to purchase on site, either to consume straight away or to take home.
There is indeed usually a shop at Saint-Ghislain however understandably the stock will all be at the Bocq railway for the weekend, so this will be closed. I can highly recommend perusing this whilst you are at Spontin!
Please can I remind you that a yellow (not orange, or any other colour I am afraid) high-vis vest will be required for admittance to the event.
I extend my sincere thanks to the PFT/TSP and all of their hardworking volunteers for everything that has been done to date. I very much look forward to a sociable event on Sunday, to catch up with many good friends and hopefully make new ones.
The small Balkan country of Albania has no passenger rail connection to any other country and is one of the least visited by railway enthusiasts. It would be fair to say that its rail system is struggling, but it is still worth a visit.
Albania has a skeleton of a rail network and a sparse service. Travel is generally quicker by road. As if that was not enough, its capital – Tiranë – lost its rail service in 2013, the trains now running only as far as Kashar. The station in Tiranë is allegedly being rebuilt on another site and the service will return there, but this does not look likely to be any time soon.
The timetable as currently understood (July 2018) is as follows:-
Below is a map of the current passenger routes currently thought to see a service. Not to scale.
All trains are hauled by Czechoslovakian-built class T669 diesel-electrics, formed nowadays generally of ex-East German carriages in deplorable condition.
There are no rover tickets valid for travel in Albania.
Although not strictly within the remit of this website, I thought I would also cover the Eurotunnel car trains under the Channel, as they do provide an element of loco haulage to and from the Continent.
From its opening in 1994, the Channel Tunnel gave two new ways for passengers to travel between the UK and the Continent – by Eurostar between London and Paris and Brussels, and on the car-carrying “Le Shuttle” between Cheriton (Folkestone) and Coquelles (Calais). This article looks briefly at the latter.
The view from a car boarding a train at Coquelles of 9810 on the rear of a car train to Cheriton. Taken by my lovely fiancee Nic as I was driving at the time!
The car shuttle service
The car-carrying shuttle is operated by Eurotunnel and operates to a fixed timetable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with up to four departures an hour in each direction. There is no provision for foot passengers – all passengers need to be in cars or coaches. Certain commercial coach services do use the shuttle (whereas others use the Dover to Calais ferry). The journeys take approximately 35 minutes.
Access to both terminals is directly from each country’s motorway network – the M20 in England and the A16 in France. As such, it’s probably best considered not so much as a train service at all but as a tolled section of motorway on which vehicles happen to be conveyed on board trains and pre-booking of a slot gives a cheaper fare.
The trains are worked in top-and-tail fashion by Bo’Bo’Bo single-cabbed electric locos assembled by Brush Traction in Loughborough from the early 1990s. The initial batch dating from 1992 were numbered 9001 to 9038. One of these – 9030 – was destroyed in a catastrophic fire in the Channel Tunnel on 18th November 1996, and was replaced by a new-build loco, 9040. Since 2004, these locos have been going through a comprehensive upgrade programme, from which the locos so treated are emerging as 7 MW (9,400hp) machines and renumbered in the 98xx series (with the last two digits remaining the same).
There are also 20 similar locos dedicated to the freight shuttles (9101 to 9113, and 9701 to 9707), but these are outside the scope of this article.
Such a service is inherently “unbashable” in that you cannot wait for a “winner”, in fact not only do you not see the identity of one of the locomotives at all until you are driving down the ramp towards the train, but you never actually see the other locomotive at all.
However, the on-board staff are invariably very helpful in advising you of what its number is. They walk through after departure and as long as you are sensible and polite about how and when you ask them if they could find out for you and above all explain why you want to know, they tend to ask the question and come back with the answer and a smile.
Do also note that (in my experience) if you travel out and back from the UK on the same day in your car – even if the outward was by ferry – you are likely to get pulled by UK Customs back at Coquelles for a thorough interrogation and search of your vehicle.
Austria is another country to see withdrawn locomotives plinthed at unlikely locations well away from the nearest operational railway line.
1955-built ÖBB class 2060 diesel shunter 2060 009 is, however, on former railway property – the site of Stammersdorf station, on the northern outskirts of Wien (Vienna), which closed in 1988 (see photo here). Almost all trace of the railway has been obliterated from Stammersdorf, with the exception of the station building (now dilapidated and with little by way of betraying its former purpose) and two track panels on the site of the former platform area, upon one of which the 2060 now sits (upon the other are a pair of steam loco wheels).
How to get there
The 2060 is easily viewed and is permanently on accessible public display. It is precisely adjacent to the platforms of the terminus of the no.30/31 tram line operated by Wiener Linien. These both serve Wien-Floridsdorf railway station – a 13-minute ride away. A little trip to see the 2060, therefore, might provide you with a useful diversion in amongst sampling the loco haulage to be found in the city.
To see the Google Maps map and street view of 2060 009‘s location, click here.
The remit of this site allows me to write about many of my great interests, but I might not have expected American railroads to be among them!
The flow of locomotives across the North Atlantic has always been much more from America to Europe than vice versa. However the 1970s did see two particular European locomotives make a brief sojourn to the USA (and I’m not talking about “Flying Scotsman”!).
The 100mph streamlined Art Deco 2-Co-Co-2 “GG1” electric locos built for the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1930s were, by all accounts, highly impressive machines, but by the time of the creation of Amtrak on 1st May 1971, they were showing their age. Consequently, the nascent organisation quickly sought to replace them with new traction. At the time, there was nothing appropriate “off the shelf” in the States, but procurement of a suitable fleet from Europe would have taken years. Amtrak therefore looked to General Electric to rapidly develop an express (120mph) passenger version of its brutal-looking “E60” locos – 6,000hp machines under construction at that time for heavy freight work on the Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad. The initial E60 order was placed by Amtrak in early 1973.
The E60s were not a success. Their fate was largely sealed on Monday 24th February 1975 when loco no.950 derailed at 102mph in Elkton, Maryland whilst on test, and the cause was traced to fundamental wheelset issues. The fleet were restricted to 85mph. Behind the scenes, steps were made almost immediately to pursue the European route after all…
The 1976/1977 Trials
Amtrak therefore selected two modern electric locomotive designs from Europe to test on its famed Northeast Corridor: one from Sweden (which they numbered X995) and one from France (X996). These plans were formalised in October 1975 with both locos to arrive roughly a year later.
The “Swedish Meatball” – X995
The first to arrive, in August 1976, was brand-new SJ Rc4 electric loco, Rc4 1166, built by Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget (ASEA). This was painted in Amtrak livery and numbered X995. Until April 1977, it was tested on the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington DC at up to 200km/h.
Upon return to Sweden, it was painted into SJ’s red livery and entered service. As a reminder of its early travels, it obtained a cabside plaque (photo here), although this is understood to have been stolen. Rc4 1166 remains in service to this day with Green Cargo (see photo here).
The “French Fry” – X996
By comparison, although the nominated French machine was relatively new, it was not fresh off the production line. CC21003 was one of a fleet of four dual-voltage machines built to the classic Paul Arzens “nez cassé” (“broken nose”) design; it had entered service with SNCF in June 1974. During 1976, the loco was lent back from SNCF to its builders – Alsthom, in Belfort – from where it was turned into an American demonstrator (no mean feat considering the significant modifications involved – not least a new transformer for the different voltage of 11kV a.c. used over there). CC21003 – by now X996 – was ready by the end of the year and was shipped to the States from Le Havre in January 1977 (see photo here).
X996 was put to work being tested under the same conditions as the Swedish machine. However, these tests were not as successful. Following the debacle with the E60s, Amtrak were understandably tetchy about locomotive suspension, ride quality and wheelsets, and X996 did not shape up in this respect. The Americans concluded that the loco’s design did not pass muster for their needs; the French maintained that the loco was fine but the condition of the track was the issue. The loco was only used in anger over there for a month, between March and April 1977; the testing was then terminated and the loco was returned to Belfort in the June.
It was promptly converted back to the dual-voltage loco it had been when SNCF had returned it there in 1976. CC21003 returned to French metals. In the mid-1990s, along with its three sisters, it lost its a.c. capability and was reclassified accordingly as a CC6500; it became CC6577. It was withdrawn in 2005 and then quietly scrapped.
Predictably, given the issues identified with X996, the lightweight Swedish machine won out with the Americans – and indeed an order for a fleet was forthcoming. These were manufactured under licence by General Motors’s Electro-Motive Division (EMD) in La Grange, Illinois, with bodyshells from Budd and bogies and electricals from Sweden. This fleet, which was delivered to Amtrak from 1980, was designated AEM-7 (ASEA Electro-Motive – 7,000 hp) and eventually numbered 54 machines. Commuter rail operators MARC and SEPTA also purchased small fleets.
Amtrak’s AEM-7s gave sterling service up until the withdrawal of their last examples in Summer 2016. MARC’s followed suit in 2017 and SEPTA’s examples are expected to be gone by the end of this year; ending over four decades of Rc4 technology on American metals.
One enterprising business to have “repurposed” former railway rolling stock is “EsS Bahn”, which uses redundant former Berlin S-Bahn class 475 and class 477 vehicles – the name being a play on both S-Bahn and the German verb “essen”; to eat. These are housed at airports and are used to sell sausages; in particular currywurst, sliced Bratwurst in a curry ketchup-based sauce. Currywurst is said to have been invented in Berlin in the immediate post-war years, therefore both remaining Berlin airports have “EsS Bahn” booths. The third that uses a former railway vehicle is at Stuttgart.
Here are some of my photos – of varying quality! – of the three vehicles concerned. Just something for you to keep an eye out for next time you pass through any of these airports on your way in or out of Germany!
475 079 at Berlin Tegel Airport, 19/06/17 (JW)
477 119 at Berlin Schönefeld Airport, 06/11/10 (JW)
475 608 at Stuttgart Airport, 08/06/18 (JW)
There are also “EsS Bahns” airside at two more airports – Köln/Bonn and Shanghai(!). However, these use mock-ups and not genuine former S-Bahn vehicles.
This article is the latest in my occasional series about the plethora of European locomotives that can be found in (occasionally surprising) places away from railway property.
The locomotive in question is ex-DB class 104 electric 104 020, a 1-Co-1 machine built by AEG in 1934, initially as Deutsche Reichsbahn E04 20. Withdrawn from use at the start of 1977, it passed to the collection of the DB Museum, and did indeed power railtours on the main line.
However, since 3rd November 2002, it has had a purely static existence.
The view of E04 20 in its current resting place, as per Google Maps!
It – along with Mitropa coach WR4ü 1189 – are on display on a short length of track outside the DB Headquarters on Idsteiner Strasse in Frankfurt am Main (see street view and link to map above).
How to get there
This must be one of the easiest such locomotives to visit – it cannot be seen from a train, but it is on permanent public display and just a 300 metre walk from the nearest station – in this case Galluswarte, on the S3, S4, S5 and S6 S-Bahn routes. Galluswarte is just a matter of minutes’ ride from Hauptbahnhof and indeed – as long as you don’t hang around(!) – it’s actually possible to get out to see 104 020 and return in a 30-minute layover there.
Do you find this type of article useful or interesting? I tend to try to focus on haulage-related subjects with this website, but I’d like to try to gauge interest in things that are a little outside of that remit.
I am pleased to advertise a modest diesel haulage event at the PFT/TSP’s facility at St Ghislain on the morning of Sunday 12th August 2018. This has been arranged to coincide with the much-anticipated “Festival” at the Chemin de Fer du Bocq occurring over the same weekend.
The event will consist of all operational diesel locomotives giving rides in an M1 coach for short distances within the confines of the depot site. As of this week, the man on the site advises that these consist of ex-SNCB locomotives 7005, 7358, 8428 and ex-CFL 806. All attempts will be made to also use ex-SNCB 7349 and/or 8320, but this will not be able to be confirmed until the morning itself.
Meeting Point & Times
We will meet at St Ghislain SNCB station promptly at 09:10, immediately after the arrival of the 09:02 arrival from Charleroi (ICT6704) which is booked for class 18 haulage – although if you could get there earlier, I would recommend doing so. A PFT/TSP representative will take us to the train, a distance of approximately 100 metres’ walk. Each of the available locomotives will then haul the carriage in turn within the depot site. We will endeavour to return to the station by 13:30. It will not be possible to join or leave the event between these times as there will be no access to the depot site other than on the train with the rest of the group.
Fares for the event at St Ghislain – which do not cover any travel to/from it – will be €25 for adults (€15 for under 16s) payable in cash on the day. I would very much appreciate the correct fare being tendered please. All proceeds will go directly to the PFT/TSP to help their preservation projects, and none to me.
Even if you have already registered your interest, please send me details of the names of all members of your party, specifying if any are already members of the PFT/TSP, by 1st August. These details will be kept safely and privately with myself shared only with the PFT/TSP for the purpose of enrolling every individual as a temporary member for insurance purposes. As a result, it’s an event that will require compulsory pre-booking with me, although the money will be collected on the day. My intention is to retain your information on my personal secure database, which is not shared with anybody, to keep you informed of similar further events I organise – if you wish your details to be deleted after this event, please advise me by email and I will do so.
You will need to bring a yellow (NOT orange) high visibility vest to take part in the event. Brand new ones are available for less than £2.00 on eBay. Please get in touch with me if you encounter any issues procuring one.
Caveats & Notes
The availability of any of these locos is subject to the usual caveats that you would apply to machines that are up to 64 years old! We can be sure that our Belgian friends will pull out all the stops to do their best for us.
Although I have tried my best to plan the event to permit connections into and out of main line services e.g. from Namur and Brussels – both of which allow loco haulage for some of the journey – I cannot be held in any way responsible for delays or cancellations of these. In anticipation of questions, the event has been timed so early for a number of reasons; but most importantly because the PFT/TSP volunteers facilitating our visit are working at the Bocq railway gala later that day. Of course, this is also convenient for UK-based enthusiasts who need to return home afterwards.
Refreshments will not be available on site so please ensure that you bring your own – but please take all rubbish with you. I like to foster a relaxed and friendly atmosphere at my events and therefore I do not intend to draw up lists of ‘rules’ or impose any restrictions on behaviour; I trust attendees to exercise common sense and obey any instructions from our hosts.
If you do have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I look forward to a sociable day!
My sincere thanks to Simon de Ridder and Simon Moore for their help in obtaining the opportunity to do this.
Future European Traction Events
The success of this event and positive publicity/funds generated for our hosts will pave the way for similar events in the future, and I have several irons in the fire for 2019. Please do feel free to have a chat with me if there is anything in particular you would be interested in.
Firstly, however, please may I also take this opportunity to bring to your attention the next in my calendar of rare haulage events – a visit to the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin, near Colmar, in France on Sunday 9th September 2018 to ride behind 1946-built ex-SNCF Baldwin diesel-electric A1AA1A 62029. Aside from ad-hoc short-distance shunt releases, no other opportunities to ride behind this class of loco are anticipated for the foreseeable future. Additionally, subject to its repairs being completed in time, ex-SNCF Decauville shunter Y2402 may also haul our coaches for a short distance. This event can easily be combined with numerous events elsewhere over the same weekend; most notably the much-anticipated gala event at Blonay-Chamby and the use of BLS Ae6/8 electric loco 205 on an additional service train in Switzerland. It would be great if you could join us.