27th May 2000

Mercia Charters
The Neutral Zone

Locos Used SNCB : 2621, 2634, 5108, 5118, 5950
NS : 2207, 2210 & 2212

Mercia Charters fourth Belgian railtour....with a cross border foray into Holland too.

Locos Route
5950 (1) Leuven - Dijlbrug Jn - Hever Jn - (2) - Muizen - Mechelen - Weerde - Vilvoorde - Machelen Jn - Haren Nord Jn - Schaerbeek ATD (depot visit) - Zennebrug Jn - Jette - Opwijk - Dendermonde - Schellebelle - Melle Jn - Merelbeke (freight lines alongside depot for depot visit)
5108 + 5118 Merelbeke - Oost Ledeberg Jn - Nord Ledeberg Jn - Gent Dampoort - Gent Zeehaven - (3) - Wondelgem - Langerbrugge - Zelzate (4) - Sas Van Gent
2207 + 2212 Sas Van Gent - Terneuzen
2210 Terneuzen - Sas Van Gent
5108 + 5118 Sas Van Gent - Zelzate (4) - Langerbrugge - Wondelgem  - (3) - Gent Zeehaven - Gent Dampoort - Nord Ledeberg Jn - Oost Ledeberg Jn - Merelbeke (freight lines alongside depot)
5950 (1) Merelbeke - Melle Jn - Schellebelle - Aalst - Denderleeuw - Ninove - Geraardsbergen - Galmaarden - Enghein - Halle - Nord Halle Jn - (4) - Cureghem Jn - Simonis - Pannenhuis Jn - Schaerbeek
2621 + 2634 Schaerbeek - Zaventem - Leuven

Notes :
(1) plus dead 5905 which failed with fuel pump problems en-route to Leuven with the coaching stock! Hopes to have it fixed at Merelbeke were scuppered as it would have taken too long.
(2) Booked via Hofstade to Weerde but line was closed due to engineering works.
(3) Booked via Boma Jn but took the freight route through the yard instead.
(4) Booked to drop-off/pick-up the buffet car (preserved and not passed for running in Holland) but it was decided in the end to leave it on (too much effort with the corridor connections).
(5) Booked via Beersel & Etterbeek to
Schaerbeek but a tree on the line prevented this. Went via line 28 (Brussels Ouest) instead.

Source : Gary Thornton.
(on the train throughout)

Tour Review :
(by Gary Thornton)

Hot on the heels of Fridays "Corvallen Freighter" tour came another, more traditional railtour from Mercia Charters. A nice mixture of locos and track, with the added novelty of crossing the border into Holland.

With our group staying in Brussels it was but a relatively short hop to Leuven for the tours start and we even had time for breakfast after negotiating with the hotel to open the breakfast room at 7am, half an hour earlier than the usual for a weekend. First farce (and we all hoped, last) of the day came when at 7am there was a large queue of German geriatrics already waiting to get in. Finally, at about 7.15 the doors were finally opened and a scrum began to get to the food before the Germans. We lost!

Fed and watered and it was a 5 to 10 minute walk to Nord station for 1309 (which I required for haulage!) on the 08.02 service which we took to Leuven. Shortly after we arrived and in rolled our first two tour locos, 5905 & 5950 (both required - I like days like this). They stopped in the middle of the platform despite having the signal to go to the yard to collect the tour stock. The driver hopped out to the phone so it was looking like something was amiss. Farce number one of the tour me thinks....

It was. 5905 had died en-route from the depot! 5950 then ran round the silent 5905 and propelled it to the yard. They reappeared a short time later. 5905 was still silent. Unusually (for a railtour) we departed on time! It was only a short thrash to our first piece of non-passenger track, the curve between Y Hever and Y Prinsenhoek. As we approached the first junction the brakes came on and we pulled up with the road set for the route straight ahead. A few minutes later we set off again - straight ahead! Farce number two of the tour, a diversion within the first half hour of running! For me it was not so dissapointing as I'd been over the curve on a diverted passenger service a year or so back.

Our route now took us via Mechelen and Vilvoorde then onto some freight track as we ran to Schaerbeek depot for a photo-stop and depot visit. 24 minutes later and we were on the move again, continuing via Jette to Dendermonde and our next photo-stop. On leaving here we were delayed en-route to Merelbeke due to engineering works and single line working. Our arrival at Merelbeke depot was at 11.41 instead of 11.15 as booked. A longer break here as a loco change to two Class 51's was due to take place. We had freedom to go everywhere except in the main shed. Loads on Class 13's about plus a few 51's. A peer in through the shed windows revealed brand-new DMU 4101 skulking in the shadows. The end is nigh for decent diesel traction in Belgium....

The choice of 51's left something to be desired - 5108 and 5118 - I needed the former only but for others it was 5118 that was required. I didn't hear of anyone who needed both! Away from Merelbeke and the freight curve was taken to bring us to Gent Dampoort station. Here engineering works forced a diversion through the yard to gain access to the Eeklo line. Only a short journey before reaching Wondelgem and the junction onto the freight only branch to Sas Van Gent and on into Holland.

Stagger. No thrash. Boring. But at least it was required track!

A panic bulk-buying of beer then occurred as an announcement was made that we had to drop the buffet car off at Zelzate as it was not passed to cross the border into Holland. We'd be loosing it for over three hours!

Although we stopped at Zelzate the buffet car was not removed. Sense prevailed as we had also to stop at Sas Van Gent near the border to swap locos - the coach could be removed there. At the border stop 5108 & 5118 gave way to NS diesels 2207 and 2212 - but the buffet was left on! More beers were purchased to celebrate....

The stagger continued to Terneuzen where we lost the pair of 22's in favour of 2210 for the return leg. Apparently the NS staff said they'd have given us a pair back too if they'd only known we were after as many locos as we could score for haulage. Unfortunately they did not have time to prep two locos before we left.

Despite having run late earlier in the day, by Terneuzen we were pretty well on-time and with a slack schedule back a couple of additional photo stops were arranged for when we were back over the border into Belgium. 5108 & 5118 were back in charge from Sas Van Gent and photo stops were taken additionally at Ertvelde and Langerbrugge.

A diversion via the yard again at Gent saw us pass through Dampoort station just a few minutes astray for the plan. We retraced our route to Merelbeke where 5905 and 5950 were waiting. We were hoping someone might have fixed 5905 in our absence but apparently it was not such a quick job so this loco was to escape me for haulage on this trip. Away from Merelbeke and our route was the same to Schellebelle at which point we headed for Brussels via Denderleeuw, Geraardsbergen, Enghein and Halle.

A remarkably farce free day (just two to our name, both within the first half hour). About time for another then? Yep!! At Halle we were due to take the "suburban" line via Beersel and Delta to get to Schaerbeek. Instead we went straight on towards Brussels Midi. Turned out that the line was blocked by fallen trees (it was quite windy), forcing our diversion. Our route took us over the line from Forest-Midi, Y Cureghem and Y Pannenhuis to Y Zennebrug and into Schaerbeek station. No required track for me, except for the (very) rare curve between Forest-Midi and Y Cureghem.

At Schaerbeek we lost our 59's for a pair of Class 26 electric's - a quite rare combination on any train. In a nice touch for the video brigade, 2621 + 2634 rolled onto the train whilst 5905 + 5950 rolled in alongside them on the adjacent platform.

A quick thrash back to Leuven saw us arrive just a couple of minutes behind schedule. Time for a swift drink in a nearby bar before travelling back to Brussels behind dud 1304. Noting 2742 was at Schaerbeek on a soon-to-depart Mouscron service prompted a bale at Nord station for the short wait to "get it in the book". We did the short leap to Central station from where we retired to "A la Mort Subite" for a few beers and a bite to eat.

The following comments are from Denzil Morgan, Publicity Officer for Mercia Charters, to explain the problems that occurred on the day :

1. Missed route - Y.Hever - Y.Weerde = The driver stopped at Hever and questioned the route via Mechelen to be told that the booked route was closed for engineering work!! Which it was as you could see the red flags as we passed.

2. Missed route - Halle - Schaerbeek = This line was closed due to a downed tree on the line, so we were then routed via line 28 instead.

3. 5905 not working - The fuel priming pump failed a just before or on arrival from Merelbeke at Leuven. No staff were available to repair it whilst we were visiting Terneuzen.

Gary Thornton.

Route, Distances and Timing's (Booked & Actual)
(by Gary Thornton)

18619 : Leuven - Terneuzen
18620 : Terneuzen -
18621 :
Schaerbeek - Leuven

KM's Location Booked Actual
00.00 Leuven 09.08d 09.08
02.60 Y Dijlbrug 09/11 09/12
19.00 Y Hever 09/23 09/25
20.20 Y Prinsenhoek 09/25 DIV
- Mechelen --.-- 09/31
24.15 Y Weerde 09/29 09/34
30.35 Vilvoorde 09/34 09/40
31.85 Y Machelen 09/36 09/46
33.25 Y Haren Nord 09/37 09/48
37.55 Schaerbeek ATD 09.45a 09.56
- - 10.15d 10.20
38.85 Y Zennebrug 10/21 10/27
39.15 Y Laeken 10/22 10/29
41.45 Jette 10/24 10/31
60.25 Opwijk 10/36 10/48
68.85 Dendermonde 10.44a 10.54
- - 10.54d 11.05
81.85 Schellebelle 11/04 11/17
91.10 Y Melle 11/10 11/34
94.30 Merelbeke ATD 11L15a 11.41
00.00 - 12L06d 12.27
01.00 Y Oost Ledeberg 12/11 12/29
01.60 Y Nord Ledeberg 12/12 12/30
04.70 Gent Dampoort 12/14 12.33a
- - --.-- 12.34d
05.30 Gent Zeehaven 12/16 12/36
06.70 Y Boma 12/17 DIV (via yard)
10.30 Wondelgem 12/23 12/45
11.40 Y Zuid-Everstein 12/25 12/47
12.60 Y Nord-Everstein 12/27 12/49
13.70 Langerbrugge 12/29 12/52
21.40 Ertvelde 12/41 13/06
24.65 Zelzate 12.47a 13.12
- - 12.53d 13.16
27.60 Sas Van Gent 13L03a 13.22
00.00 - 13.30d 13.31
13.60 Terneuzen 14.15a 14L16
00.00 - 14.30d 14L33d
13.60 Sas Van Gent 15L15a 15.10
00.00 - 15L35d 15.30
02.95 Zelzate 15.45a 15.37
- - 16.05d 15.48
06.20 Ertvelde 16/11 16.02a
- - --.-- ??.??d
13.90 Langerbrugge 16/24 16.17a
- - --.-- 16.23d
15.00 Y Nord-Everstein 16/25 16/25
16.20 Y Zuid-Everstein 16/27 16/27
17.30 Wondelgem 16/28 16/28
20.90 Y Boma 16/34 DIV (via yard)
22.30 Gent Zeehaven 16/35 16.39a
- - --.-- 16.42d
22.90 Gent Dampoort 16/36 16/44
26.00 Y Nord Ledeberg 16/39 16/48
26.60 Y Oost Ledeberg 16/40 16/49
27.60 Merelbeke ATD 16L42a 16.51
00.00 - 16L58d 17.08
03.20 Y Melle 17/01 17/20
12.45 Schellebelle 17/05 17/29
23.05 Aalst 17/14 17/38
29.55 Denderleeuw 17.21a 17.45
- - 17.31d 17.52
36.95 Ninove 17/38 17/59
50.05 Y Nederboelare 17/48 18/09
51.25 Geraardsbergen 17/50 18/11
59.45 Galmaarden 17/58 18/18
67.35 Enghein 18/05 18/26
83.05 Halle 18/16 18/39
84.25 Y Nord Halle 18/18 18/40
98.85 Y Watermael 18/33 DIV
99.05 Y Etterbeek 18/34 DIV
104.25 Schaerbeek-Josaphat 18/41 DIV
107.85 Y Haren Heide 18/46 DIV
108.60 Y Keelbeek Nord 18/50 DIV
- Y Cureghem --.-- 18/54
- Simonis --.-- 18/59
- Y Pannenhuis --.-- 19/01
113.30 Schaerbeek 18L58a 19.10a
00.00 - 19L26d 19.25
04.10 Y Diegem 19/30 19/29
07.60 Y Zaventem 19/34 19/33
27.00 Leuven 19.47a 19.49

a : arrival time
d : departure time
DIV : Diverted, did not call/pass
L : loco change
/ : passing time

All distances, in kilometres, are taken from the timing sheet given out on the train. No attempt has been made to verify the mileages given. Mileages not adjusted for diversions from booked route.

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