26th April 2003

Adieu aux locos série 16

(Voyage no. 89)

Loco Used SNCB 1608
Stock Used 14608+14609+14611+17902+14614+14612+30039+30012

E18195 : Bruxelles Midi to Athus
E18196 : Athus to Bruxelles Midi

Loco Route
1608 Bruxelles Midi - Bruxelles Nord - Bruxelles Schuman - Ottignies - Gembloux - Jemeppe Froidmont - Ronet Formation - Namur - Dinant - Bertrix - Virton - Athus
1608 Athus - (reverse of outward route) - Namur - Rhisnes - Gembloux - (reverse of outward route) - Bruxelles Midi

Sources : Ted Slee (on the train throughout)

Tour Review
(by Ted Slee)

I saw the tour advertised a couple of months ago and decided that I would participate as I needed a fair amount of the freight only track that the tour was planning to do. The thought of taking one of the 1965 vintage Type 16s along the newly electrified Athus – Meuse line also appealed. A quick round of emails showed that I was probably the only one interested in doing the tour that was available to do it.

I arrived at on the platform and thought there had been a mistake. The train at the platform was a full overnight international set comprising five couchette coaches, a Bar Disco and two car carriers! It was only when I saw gold liveried 1608 on the front that I realised that this was the railtour set, including the two car carriers. It turns out that PFT had taken the opportunity to commemorate the end of the accompanied AutoTrains, which will finish at the end of 2003.

A quick look at the tour guide reminded me that this was a typical PFT tour, with no less than 26 planned photostops. I did not bother to check whether we had them all, or had any additional ones thrown in. Needless to say the timings were somewhat slow. The train was booked to take seven hours ten minutes from Bruxelles Midi to Athus. You can go from Bruxelles Midi to Athus via Luxembourg in less than four hours.

The train left on time and picked up passengers before taking Line 161 as far as Gembloux, where the train took the P train only Line 144, which I required. The train followed Line 144 as far as Jemeppe-Froidmont, where the train took the freight only curve on to Line 130 towards Namur. The train stopped in Ronet Formation for a planned photostop and visit to the depot and scrapyard, although the 30 minutes available for the visit did not allow anything like enough time. The scrapyard visit on the recent Mercia Charters tour was much better. After the photostop, the train set off for Namur, where we picked up the final few passengers.

On leaving Namur, the train took Line 154, for the scenic trip along the River Meuse to Dinant. From Dinant we continued on Line 166 through Houyet, Beauraing and finally to the junction station of Bertrix. My previous journey along this line was on 6th December 2002 on P8682 16.46 Namur to Bertrix. This was just one week before the end of steam heat in Belgium and the driver thrashed 5403 all the way.

We made a slight detour in to the new open air dmu fuelling point at Bertrix for yet another photostop. Shortly afterwards we passed the now closed depot at Bertrix, which must have been some place twenty or so years ago. I was now on required track, although there is a dmu only service between Bertrix and Virton. After Virton, we were on freight only track as far as Athus, where we arrived twenty minutes late despite the slack timings.

Athus itself is an unusual place. It is in Belgium, but the only passenger services are operated by Luxembourg Railways (CFL). There were two CFL emus in the station (2012 and 2017) along with SNCB 7340 and two privately owned former SNCB engines (8510 and 8520). An unexpected bonus was the appearance of .5209 and .5306 on a short works train. My attempt to put them on the front was refused, albeit with some regret, by the PFT staff.

The journey back was thankfully somewhat shorter, being booked to take only five hours twenty five minutes. One highlight of the return journey was at one of the photostops, where a herd of cows took umbrage at the number of photographers coming in to their field. The cows promptly charged at the photographers and hassled them throughout the photostop. When the photostop ended, the cows came triumphantly to the fence to see them all off.

The other highlight was turning up at the Buffet and being served a bottle of Cantillon Kriek, when I had asked for a can of Coke. It turns out that it was 4pm and the bar had just opened. The bar staff were not surprised to see an English krank at the bar as soon as it opens and automatically thought I wanted to drink alcohol. I think they are getting used to our drinking habits on Belgian railtours.

We finally arrived back at Bruxelles Midi at around 21.00, which was just about on time. After saying my goodbyes to the PFT staff, I headed off for a night out in Brussels, but that is another story.

I think I was the only English krank on this tour, but there will be a lot more on the next tour on Saturday 24th May. This is when PFT plan to take their NoHAB (202.020) to the Fond du Gras in Luxembourg. The tour will be double headed with 1604 from Luxembourg to Fond du Gras. Hope to see more of you on what should be a thrash festival

Ted Slee

Timings (Booked Only)
(from Ted Slee)

Location Booked
Bruxelles Midi 08.10d
Bruxelles Nord 08.16a ~ 08.20d
Jemeppe Froidmont 09.20a ~ 09.30d
Ronet 09.45a ~ 10.15d
Namur 10.22a ~ 10.24d
Dinant 11.03a ~ 11.07d
Houyet 11.45a ~ 11.56d
Beauraing 12.16a ~ 12.28d
Bertrix 13.15a ~ 13.38d
Florenville 14.12a ~ 14.20d
Virton 14.33a ~ 14.48d
Athus 15.15a ~ 15.32d
Virton 16.19a ~ 16.31d
Palisoeul 17.35a ~ 17.50d
Gedinne 18.06a ~ 18.25d
Namur 20.00a ~ 20.02d
Bruxelles Nord 20.50a ~ 20.52d
Bruxelles Midi 20.57a

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