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

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

An introduction to Luxembourg

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3006 departs Noertzange, 24/02/17 (JW)

One of Europe’s smallest countries remains a fair hotbed of electric loco haulage, and its entire network can be covered in a day.  Here is a brief introduction to the country.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, landlocked between France, Belgium and Germany, has a landmass of only 999 miles, and is home to approximately 576,000 citizens – roughly the same number as Sheffield.  It is the quintessential European country, with three official administrative languages (French, German and the local dialect of Letzeburgesch).

Its “European-ness” is underlined by the fact that it is home to the village of Schengen, on the banks of the river Mosel, where the territories of France, Germany and Luxembourg meet.  It was at this point on this river on 14th June 1985 where the Schengen Agreement, the European open-borders travel agreement, was signed.  Luxembourg survives and thrives on free movement across the borders that surround it.

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3002 at Luxembourg station, 24/02/17 (JW)

History and Geography

Officially neutral, Luxembourg was overrun by Germany in both world wars; it was actually annexed into Germany from 1942 until its liberation in 1944.  It ended its neutrality in 1948, when the Benelux customs union between Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands came into being, and it joined NATO the following year.  Despite its modern alignment with these two countries, Luxembourg has closer ties to France and Germany both historically and culturally.

The country has two distinctive regions – the northern third, known as the “Oesling”, is a part of the Ardennes massif, a sparsely populated, hilly and forested area that was the setting for much of the fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and 1945.  The larger, flatter, more populous southern portion of Luxembourg is the “Gutland”, part of the scarplands of Lorraine.  It is relatively urbanised and contains the country’s eponymous capital.

The face of the country has changed dramatically in recent decades.  As late as the 1970s it was virtually dependent on the steel industry, and belying its tiny size, it was the world’s ninth largest producer of steel prior to the 1974 steel crisis.  However, its manufacturing industry has never been great; much of the steel it produced was exported, massively aided by the arrival of the railway in 1859.  The events of the mid-70s meant that its importance as a steel nation has diminished, although the world’s largest steel producer, ArcelorMittal, is based there.

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4004 pauses at Berchem with an evening commuter train out of Luxembourg City.  24/02/17 (JW)

Luxembourg was forced to reinvent itself.  With little else by way of natural resources to fall back on, it has turned to banking and finance, which now comprises of over a third of its GDP.  It is now a formidable financial centre, being home, for example, to the European Investment Bank.  However, you don’t need to look too hard in the Gutland to see evidence that steel-making remains a prominent activity.

The development of Luxembourg is non-stop, and construction of new facilities continues apace – locals apparently joke that Luxembourg’s national bird is the crane!  Luxembourg now has the second highest GDP per capita in the world after only Qatar, but despite this, the country was ranked second unhappiest in the world (second only to the African corruption-riddled failed state of Chad) in the “Happy Planet Index” in 2016.

Railway network

The railways of Luxembourg are operated by the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (CFL).  The majority of its 170-mile network is electrified (including all of its passenger routes), most of which see at least some loco-hauled services.

All routes radiate from Luxembourg City, the station actually being situated over a mile from the city centre itself, with the bus station on its forecourt.

Here is a link to CFL’s online passenger route map.

Rolling stock

An intriguing factor of CFL rolling stock is that it does not possess any truly unique mainline designs – it tagging orders on to bigger ones from neighbouring countries or taking small batches of “off the shelf” designs.

There are two predominant types of electric loco that, between them, handle all of these hauled services.  The older of the two is class 3000, 7,000hp Alstom “Tractis” dual-voltage machines dating from the late 1990s.  20 of these were built – 3001 to 3020 – as part of a joint order with the Belgian Railways for their 60 class 13s, which can themselves be seen operating to Luxembourg on Intercity services from Brussel and Liège, as well as freights.  3001, however, did not last long in service – having entered traffic on 31st July 1998, it was withdrawn with fire damage after only a year’s use, and was finally cut up at the end of 2011.

More recently, CFL has procured a fleet of 20 class 4000 locos (4001-4020), Bombardier TRAXX machines that are a passenger version of DB’s class 185 and SBB’s class 482 designs.

Both types are also seen on freight work, and using their dual-voltage capability, can be seen operating internationally on such duties – the 3000s into France and Belgium, and the 4000s into Germany.

The rest of CFL’s passenger fleet comprises of multiple units – of three types: class 2000 (based on SNCF’s Z11500s), class 2200 “Coradia Duplex” units (as SNCF Z24500) and class 2300 “Stadler KISS” units (as used in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and further afield).

CFL do retain some diesels – some shunters, as well as slightly bigger MaK 1000BBs and Vossloh G1206s for working freights on the small number of unwired routes and sidings.

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MaK 1100BB, no.1505, shunts some coaches at Luxembourg, 24/02/17 (JW)

Times and fares

Timetables for the Luxembourg railways can be found in PDF form here.  All public transport in Luxembourg is fairly heavily subsidised, and therefore it’s quite cheap to get around.  The day rover (“Dagesbilljee“) valid on all trains and buses is great value for €4/day; Luxembourg using the Euro, as does all of its neighbours.

Those lucky enough to be under the age of 20 enjoy free public transport in the Grand Duchy, so long as they are carrying ID that proves that.  However, with effect from 1st March 2020, travel on public transport is set to become free for everyone.

How to get there

There are a couple of options to get to Luxembourg from the UK.  To do so by rail, it is easiest and quickest to catch the Eurostar to Brussels and then change onto one of the hourly Intercity services direct to Luxembourg – which are generally shared by AM96 EMUs and class 13 electric locos.  Alternatively, it’s about a 4½ hour drive from Calais.

The country has one airport, which is currently served directly from Birmingham, London City, Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, and Manchester.  It served as a Luftwaffe base during World War 2, and has now carved a niche as a major European airfreight hub.

The number 16 and number 29 buses both link it to the main station, with a journey time of approximately 25 minutes.  The latter stops at Cents-Hamm station, on the route to Trier, on the way.  Traffic congestion is an increasing problem in Luxembourg, which has the highest car ownership level in the world (661 per 1000 inhabitants), although the new tram system, currently under construction, will eventually serve the airport.

 

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