The fourth European Traction rare haulage event occurred on Sunday 18th August 2019 and was at the Stoomtrein Dendermonde-Puurs preserved railway in Belgium.
It is becoming something of an annual tradition that I organise a low-key diesel haulage event in Belgium on the weekend of the “Festival” event at the Chemin de fer du Bocq. This was the third; 2017 saw us visit Stoomtrein Maldegem-Eeklo for 7408, 8040 and 9131 and 2018 the private depot of the PFT/TSP at St Ghislain for 6106, 7005, 7358, 8320, 8428 and CFL 806. These events are useful in encouraging more people to visit the Bocq – as they provide an even more attractive weekend with even more potential “lines in the book” for haulage enthusiasts that helps seal the deal to get them to Belgium for the weekend – and they also raise significant sums of money for our hosts. From those two events alone, over €4,000 was donated.
9109 and 9105 (photo: Ryan Tranmer)
August 2019’s add-on European Traction event went through several iterations, which included a possible visit to Kinkempois depot for some GM and shunter haulage over short distances, but this was placed on ice when a visit to the SDP railway came on the cards. Available for our use were 9105 and 9109 – the former being due to leave the railway at the end of the month for an uncertain future (and required for haulage by most), and the latter a new arrival that I believe was required by everybody.
I negotiated with the railway that the locos would work as a pair, in tandem, top-and-tail with the booked steam loco on the first round trip; 11:45 from Baasrode-Noord to Oppuurs and 12:40 return. The initial plan was for the 91s to power the return leg from Oppuurs to Sint-Amands, at which point the steam loco would run round to work back to Baasrode-Noord – but in the event, late running meant that the 91s worked through.
The standard fare of €12 applied. 77 (mainly British) enthusiasts travelled as a result of my “fix”, which meant that €924 reached the farebox that the SDP would not otherwise have seen; I trust that this more than covered the extra outlay they incurred in hosting us and accommodating our wishes. When extra refreshment sales are included, I can confidently state that not only did we bring more than €1,000 into the railway, but our total that we have raised for Belgian preservation over three events now exceeds €5,000. I am very proud of that, and very grateful that you all continue to support my endeavours; I am always painfully aware that it takes a lot of trust to be placed in me to pitch up at some quiet foreign backwater at silly o’clock on a Sunday morning simply because I have promised you that something will happen!
9105 and 9109 (photo: Howard Lewsey)
So, what next?
I am not anticipating a “Bocq Sunday” event in 2020, mainly as I will be on my honeymoon as I am marrying my fiancee a week or so before the “Festival”! However, I would very much encourage you to support the PFT/TSP in their aims in 2020; I am led to believe that there will be at least one VERY interesting development…
Those of you who attended this event will doubtless have noticed two things: 1) that there were other locos there that we did not use, due to weight restrictions on the line, that hopefully will be lifted very soon; and 2) that I wasn’t there! (I was volunteering on a footplate experience turn on 40106 at the Severn Valley Railway). Consequently, for both of those reasons, I anticipate that a return to the SDP will be on the cards at some point. Obviously, this would be far too late for 9105, so I stand by my conviction that this event was the right thing to pursue this year, even if I will almost certainly now never ride behind it myself. I also wish to reinstate the Kinkempois idea. If not shackled to the Bocq event, my current thinking is that I will create a whole weekend Benelux itinerary myself, with at least two different rare haulage events, for a different point in the year that hopefully will be attractive to you. Leave that one with me, but I will give as much advance notice as I can.
Aside from that, based on the types of event that I have successfully delivered so far, what would you like to see? I am obviously not going to swoop into the market with a multi-day main line railtour, but I think I am making something of a niche for myself in a currently untapped area, and I’m more than happy to continue in this vein for as long as you are prepared to support that.
Over to you…