18th August 2019 – Diesel haulage event at Stoomtrein Dendermonde-Puurs

Just a quick update that I have reached agreement that ex-SNCB diesel locos 9105 and 9109 will feature (powering) on the morning normal public service train at Stoomtrein Dendermonde-Puurs on Sunday 18th August 2019, along with the steam loco.  The format will be:-

Steam loco – 11:45 Baasrode-Noord to Oppuurs
9105 & 9109 – 12:40 Oppuurs to Sint-Amands (distance of approx 4 km)
Steam loco – 13:10 Sint-Amands to Baasrode-Noord (arr 13:30)

This will be available at the standard fare of €12.  My friends at the railway have arranged for a suitable selection of Belgian beers and refreshments to be on sale, and I hope you avail yourselves of this!

The use of the steam loco in each direction is due to the understandable steam-orientated nature of the railway and their need to cater for their core clientele too.  We are lucky that they are able to accommodate us and our needs at all, and this is after a lot of discussion!

This should be considered as a last chance for 9105 as it is planned for it to leave the railway at the end of August.  9109 as far as I know is required by ‘everybody’.  There are other diesel locos on site which are currently too heavy to operate passenger trains on the railway, but this situation will hopefully be resolved soon and we will be welcome to return when this is the case – but of course 9105 at least will be long gone by then.

This has been arranged to coincide with the “Festival” at the Chemin de Fer du Bocq, also in Belgium, the idea being that enthusiasts can visit that on the Saturday and this on the Sunday morning before travelling home or onwards.

Getting there

Access to Baasrode-Noord is by public bus, route 245:-

10:40 dep Dendermonde station, perron 4 > 10:53 arr Baasrode-Noord (destination Brussel)
10:07 dep Brussel Noord station perron 1 / 11:05 dep Buggenhout station > 11:11 arr Baasrode-Noord (destination Dendermonde)

Return times:-

13:37 dep Baasrode-Noord > 13:49 arr Dendermonde station (destination Dendermonde)
14:53 dep Baasrode-Noord > 14:59 arr Buggenhout station (destination Brussel)

This obviously isn’t ideal, but there is also a 13:30 no.252 bus from Sint Amands station directly to Dendermonde station (arrive 13:52) that will be much more comfortable for you and still allow you to get the winners in.

What you need to do

As this is the normal public service train you do not need to book or pay for anything in advance – but PLEASE email me if you are planning to attend, as I need to supply the railway with expected numbers so they can tailor the train formation accordingly (and I will also tee up De Lijn, the bus operator, for how many people they can expect).

Many thanks for your support and interest.

6th & 7th October 2018: Belgian diesel power

Those who were disappointed to miss the “Festival” at the Chemin de Fer du Bocq in Belgium have an opportunity to travel behind two of its stars later this year.

The occasion is the operation of the “Bocq Gourmand” – a daytime dining train on the preserved line which carries out a round trip from Spontin taking approximately three hours – so it’s very “partner-friendly” and allows you to pursue your railway interest whilst also having a “coupley” holiday!

Traction and Rolling Stock

The train will be formed of the railway’s two former DDR “Speisewagen” and a brake van with a PFT-TSP diesel loco at either end – normally 5183 and 5205.  If either are not available, another Bocq resident loco (7305 or 7402) will substitute.


5183 at Dorinne/Durnal (JW)

How to book

Bookings are not yet open for the “Bocq Gourmand” but if you check out the website, details will appear slightly nearer the time and there is an email address to register your interest.


5205 between Purnode and Bauche (JW)

This lovely little branch line runs through some of Belgium’s best scenery, hugging the Bocq river, and the trees of the Ardennes forest will surely look very pretty with the Autumn colours just coming through.

Sunday 12th August 2018: Diesel Haulage Event at PFT-TSP Depot, Saint-Ghislain


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 80670057358, 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)
– 12:22 depot to end of running line
7358 – 12:26 end of running line to depot (propel)
– 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.

Future events

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.

Thank you

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?

Jonathan Wilcox

Visit to St Ghislain – Final(?) Update


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.

My solution

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,

Jonathan Wilcox

Visit to Saint-Ghislain – Update

Hello everyone,

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 80670057358 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 jw218344@gmail.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.

Jonathan Wilcox

Sunday 12th August 2018 – Diesel haulage event at St Ghislain

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.

Jonathan Wilcox

5th & 6th May 2018 – Maldegem Steam Festival

Plans are now finalised for the key event of the year at the Stoomcentrum Maldegem, in Belgium.

This is one of my favourite European preserved railways – and one that can be visited as a day trip from the UK too.


“Fred” at Maldegem, 13/08/17 (JW)

The event will be held on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th May 2018, on the theme of “100 years since the end of the First World War”.  There should be seven steam locos in steam on both the narrow and standard gauge, as well as one diesel loco and a diesel railcar in use too.

In addition, several First World War-themed attractions are planned including re-enactors, musicians and a small memorial festival involving a steam loco and a large work of art featuring a poppy each day.  As usual, there will be an international selection of trade stands present.

The seven steam locos consist of three on the (600mm) narrow gauge and four on the standard gauge, and include foreign visitors:-

Narrow gauge

Kerr Stuart 0-6-0T “Joffre” (no.3014/1916) from the Apedale Valley Light Railway (used in the trenches)

Barclay 0-4-0T “Jack” (no.1871/1925) ex Granton Gasworks

…as well as Hanomag 0-4-0WT no.4618/1906 (this loco is believed to have been taken “POW” by the British during the First World War).


Hanomag no.4618/1906 at Maldegem, 13/08/17 (JW)

Standard gauge

SLM 0-6-0WT “Tigerli” (no.2079/1910) from the MBS at Haaksbergen in the Netherlands – formerly of the Aluisuisse factory at Chippis, Switzerland

War Department Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST WD196 (no.3796/1953)

Avonside 0-4-0ST “Fred” (no.1908/1925) ex Buxton Quarry

St Leonard 0-4-0T “Yvonne” (no.947/1893) ex Soumagne Colliery


Many readers of this website enjoyed Austerity WD196 during its appearance at the Bocq railway “Festival” in August 2017.  It may be more familiar to others in the UK as the former “Errol Lonsdale”, a name it gained whilst employed at Longmoor – where it also featured in a St Trinian’s film.  Here it is seen at Dorinne, 12/08/17 (JW).

The railway

As the above implies, the railway has both standard gauge and 600mm lines, both running from its operational centre of Maldegem which is situated 14km from the Belgian-Dutch border.  The standard gauge line runs from Maldegem east to Eeklo, and the narrow gauge from Maldegem west along the route of the former line to Brugge as far as Donk.

Getting there

The railway can be reached by train via the branch line from Gent to Eeklo.  The SCM station at Eeklo is located just across the road from its mainline counterpart.

Alternatively, should you wish to head for Maldegem first, it is linked to Brugge railway station by the no.58 bus operated by De Lijn, with a journey time of roughly 25 minutes.  Via either of these methods, a day trip is eminently feasible, either by Eurostar or by plane to Brussel.

The railway advise that for groups wishing to attend from the UK, transport from the Zeebrugge P&O Ferries terminal (served by a nightly sailing from Hull) or Brugge railway station can be arranged by preserved bus.


With many thanks to Kevin Hoggett for his help with this article.

The Wetteren derailment, 4th May 2013

On Saturday 4th May 2013, a Kijfhoek to Gent Zeehaven tank train hauled by DB Cargo Dutch class 6400 diesels 6506 and 6519 derailed at Schellebelle, Wetteren, near to its destination.


6506 at Dorinne/Durnal on the Chemin de Fer du Bocq, 12/08/17 (JW)

Single line working had been in place, and the train took the crossover back to the correct line at too high a speed; the locos remained on the rails and did not suffer damage, but the loaded wagons derailed. Three of the wagons caught fire, a fire which burned for quite some time.

Although there were no direct victims of the accident, the toxic gases released as a result of it ran off into sewer systems and caused significant health problems for local residents – including tragically killing a man and his dog who actually lived hundreds of metres away from the accident site – and over 100 were hospitalised.  More than 2,000 people were evacuated from their homes for up to three weeks.

The above is a link to a news video uploaded to YouTube by VTM in which the inferno resulting from the derailment can be appreciated – and the pair of 6400s can briefly be seen.

The locos returned to service in the Autumn, and remain in use with DB Cargo today.

Future 6400 haulage

Opportunities to ride behind 6400s are rare, but negotiations are underway to provide at least one member of the class to haul trains at the “Festival” at the Chemin de Fer du Bocq on 11th and 12th August 2018.

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.


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.


The “Festival” will give the chance to see class 62s in all three of their liveries together – the last time that this was deliberately arranged was the occasion of the PFT/TSP’s “Hulde an der Reeks 62” railtour.  Here 6253, 6219 and 6202 are seen at Langerbrugge, 05/04/14 (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.


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.  Confirmed at this point in time are 266 117 (a class 66) from HSL Logistik, a DB Cargo class 6400, three class 62s from Infrabel (one yellow, one blue, and 6219 in green), along with – hopefully – a class 55.

The PFT/TSP will again be providing a variety of diesel locomotives from its stable to work at this event – 518352057402 and “202.020” (CFL 1602) edit: “202.020” is no longer available to participate.

The “Festivals” are traditionally mixed traction event and 2018 will be no different, with the steam visitor being TKh 5387 from Maldegem – this loco may be familiar to some British visitors as a former resident of the Northampton & Lamport Railway!


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

Sunday 12th August 2018 – European Traction-coordinated 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.

This year, I have organised a Sunday morning event at the PFT/TSP’s facility at St Ghislain, about an hour’s travel time by rail from Brussel.  Subject to the usual caveats, this will feature 7005, 73588428 and CFL 806 hauling an M1 carriage within the confines of the site.  All efforts will be made to provide 7349 and/or 8320 on the day as well.  For those with cars, I hope for it to also be possible for you to reach the Chemin de fer de l’Aa at Arques, not too far from Calais, for the 15:00 round trip with former Polish “Kriegslok” Ty2-6690.

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.


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!


Line 128 near Purnode (JW)


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; Bocq trains returned to Ciney as of the second week of July 2018.

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.  However, please note that engineering work has closed the section of route into Luxembourg on the weekend in question.