18th May 2001

Mercia Charters Ltd
The Talarian Manoeuvre

Locos Used SNCB : 7003 & 8509
Stock Used 2 x M2 coaches

Route :

Loco Route
8509 (1) Antwerpen Berchem - Antwerpen Zuid - Antwerpen Keil Yard - Boom - Puurs
7003 (2) Puurs - Willebroek - Mechelen
8509 (1) Mechelen - Willebroek - (3) - Puurs
7003 (2) Puurs - Boom - Antwerpen Zuid - Antwerpen Berchem

Notes :
(1) 7003 on rear.
(2) 8509 on rear.
(3) Booked to take direct (recently re-opened) curve between Willebroek & Boom but couldn't as it had yet in fact to be re-opened!.

Source : Gary Thornton
(on the train throughout)

Tour Review
(By Simon Bennett - taken from the Mercia Charters Website)

At just after 9.00am on Friday 18th May a band of intrepid explorers of the Belgium Railway network began to gather at Antwerpen Berchem station. The reason for so many British railway enthusiasts gathering in this far flung corner of Belgium was the first of two charter trains being run by Mercia Charters over the weekend of the 18th and 19th of May. Todays charter was to take us down line 52 from Antwerp to Puurs and then onto Mechelen before retracing our steps back to Willebroek to traverse the rarely used curve to Boom. Traction was to be two of the local Antwerp area shunters.

Shortly before 10.00am class 85 shunter 8509 arrived with 2 M2 coaches and tagged on the rear was class 70 shunter 7003.So far so good as we left for our first photo stop of the day at Antwerpen Zuid station. This station is somewhat of a building site at the moment although our short train had no problem finding platform space for us to alight for the phots. It was noticeable however that passengers arriving on the Antwerp to Oostende services which are formed of push pull rakes of I11 stock would have great difficulty in alighting from the train if they were not in the correct four coaches.

After a short stop it was on to Kiel yard where we were allowed to once again get out of the train and wander around the yard taking yet more photographs. As well as photographing our train we were also treated to a "fly past" by another shunter as it moved down the yard. Kiel yard done it was then off to Puurs for another photo stop and a reversal to head down to Mechelen.

8509 had been working away merrily at the head of the train since Antwerp but now it was time for the real thrash to happen and sure enough 7003 rose to the occasion and thrashed away to Mechelen unfortunately losing time on the way so our photo stop on arrival at Mechelen was cut short and we headed straight back towards Willebroek and the main event of the tour the curve to Boom.

Those of us who have travelled regularly on railtours in Belgium have become accustomed to things not going to plan on the day and unfortunately the "Red Cap" at Puurs station had other ideas about us travelling our booked route. Even though SNCB had agreed to the routing of our tour the final say as to whether we went our booked route lay with the local man on the ground and he was having non of it. Our tour ran direct from Mechelen to Puurs where we reversed and then headed off towards Antwerp with 7003.The official explanation we were given was that the curve was not in fact open and had only had one "test" train over it in the past. The state of the track on the curve seemed to back this up as it was very rusty indeed but this was little consolation for those who had specifically travelled to cover that piece of line.

On arrival back at Antwerp everybody left the train to make their way on to their chosen rush hour area. There was a feeling of immense disappointment that such a simple tour had managed to go pear shaped although all tour participants realised that the situation was outside of the control of Mercia Charters. Still there was always tomorrows trip and the final fling of the class 15's.

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

Train Details;
Z18233 : Antwerpen Berchem to Puurs
Z18234 : Puurs to Mechelen
Z18235 : Mechelen to Antwerpen Berchem

Km Location Booked Actual
0.00 Antwerpen Berchem 10.05d 10.05
3.00 Y.West Berchem 10/08 (10/07)
5.70 Y.Antwerpen Zuid 10/11 10/10
5.90 Antwerpen Zuid 10p13a ~ 10p25d 10.11 ~ 10.25
?.?? Antwerpen Keil 10p30a ~ 10p55d 10.34 ~ 10.54
21.75 Boom 11/15 11.12a ~ 11.15d
27.75/0.00 Puurs 11p23a ~ 11p33d 11.24 ~ 11.34
4.50 Y. Sauvegarde 11/36 11/40
5.30 Willebroek 11/43 11/43
13.20 Y. Heike 11/48 11/54
17.90/0.00 Mechelen 11p54a ~ 12p05d 12.01 ~ 12.06
4.80 Y. Heike 12/12 12/13
12.60 Willebroek 12/18 12/26
13.40 Y. Sauvegarde 12/25 12/27
??.??/0.00 Puurs DIV 12.33a ~ 12.36d
17.90 Boom 12p28a ~ 12p40d 12.45 ~ 12.47
??.?? Antwerpen Kiel 13/00 13/07
33.95 Y.Antwerpen Zuid 13/04 13/13
36.65 Y. West Berchem 13/07 13/16
39.65 Antwerpen Berchem 13.10a 13.18

a : arrival time
d : departure time
L : Loco change or add/detach engine(s)
/ : passing time
p : Photo-stop
a time or distance in brackets is approximate.

All distances, in kilometres, are taken from the timing sheet given out on the train. No attempt has been made to verify the distances given and they do not allow for the diversion via Puurs on the return journey.

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