15th November 2003
Mercia Charters Limited
The Silent Enemy
|Locos Used||204.004, 2508, 6306, 6315, 6319, 6331 & 8234|
|Stock Used (main tour)||77023+38005 (1) +21017+21023+21015+21008+21030+21026+9001|
|EMU's Used||393 + 301 + 306|
Main tour route/Reporting Codes :
E18106 : Gent St Pieters to Hasselt
Z18107 : Hasselt to Hasselt (TW)
Z18108 : Hasselt (TW) to Genk Goederen
Z18109 : Genk Goederen to Aansl. NEFER
Z18110 : Aansl. NEFER to Signal 9.6/CW6
Z18111 : Signal 9.6/CW6 to Aansl. SIKEL
Z18112 : Aansl. SIKEL to Signal FW6 - 6W6
Z18113 : Signal FW6 - 6W6 to Aansl. Hoeker
Z18114 : Aansl. Hoeker to Kinkempois AT
Z18115 : Kinkempois AT to Gent Sint Pieters
|2508||(2) Mechelen - Y Otterbeek - Y Duffel - Y Lint - Lier - Heist op Den Berg - Y Noord Aarschot - Y Oost Aarschot - Diest - Hasselt|
|204.004||Hasselt - Hasselt TW|
|6315 + 6319 (3)||Hasselt TW - Hasselt|
|204.004 (4)||Hasselt - Y Noord Hasselt - Y Zonhoven - Y Boksbergheide - Genk Goederen|
|6315 + 6319 (3)||Genk Goederen - Y Nieuwdak - Y Bosdel - dead-end siding (!) at km post 3.2 (5)|
|204.004 (4)||dead-end siding (!) at km post 3.2 - km post 2.6|
|6315 + 6319 (3)||km post 2.6 - Aansl. NEFER (line 230 : Genk Zuid 1.3)|
|204.004 (4)||Aansl. NEFER (line 230 : Genk Zuid 1.3) - Y Bosdel - Signal 9.6/CW6|
|6315 + 6319 (3)||Signal 9.6/CW6 - Y Bosdel - Y Terrmien - Aansl. SIKEL (line 231 : Genk Zuid 1.1)|
|204.004 (4)||Aansl. SIKEL (line 231 : Genk Zuid 1.1) - Y Termien - Signal FW6 - 6W6|
|6315 + 6319 (3)||Signal FW6 - 6W6 - Y Termien - Y Kaatsbeek (6) - Bilsen - Tongeren - Y Glons - Visť - Bressoux - Y Garde Dieu - Kinkempois AT|
|6315 + 6319 (7)||Kinkempois AT - km post 100 on bridge over river (line 36A)|
|8234 + 204.004 (4)||km post 100 on bridge over river (line 36A) - round back of Kinkempois yard - Y Aguesses - stop on curve at controlling signal for Y Garde-Dieu|
|6315 + 6319 (7)||controlling signal for Y Garde-Dieu - Kinkempois AT|
|6315 + 6319||set forward approx 100m (8234 & 204.004 having been detached - see note 8)|
|204.004 + 6306 + 6331||Kinkempois AT - (via line 36A) - Y Voroux - Waremme - Landen - Leuven (goods line) - Haacht - Y Hever - Y Prinsenhoek - Y Weerde - Vilvoorde - Schaerbeek - Y Zennebrug - Jette - Asse - Dendermonde - Schellebelle - Wetteren - Gent Sint Pieters|
Additional service :
|393 + 301 + 306||Gent Sint Pieters - Melle - Schellebelle - Dendermonde - Malderen - Mechelen|
(1) 38005 was removed at Hasselt depot (to enable the generator car 77023 to actually heat the train as it wasn't possible to do this with 38005 next to it in the formation).
(2) Train was advertised to start at Gent Sint Pieters then run Gent Dampoort - Lokeren - St Niklaas - Puurs - Mechelen but the lack of a rostered driver for the coaching stock (booked away from Schaerbeek at 05.35) meant the stock was taken direct to Mechelen where it arrived a few minutes before booked time, having finally left Schaerbeek at about 8am. Passengers from Gent were transferred to Mechelen in a hastily arranged additional service formed of break units 393, 301 & 306.
(3) 204.004 on rear.
(4) 6315 + 6319 on rear.
(5) For reason unknown, part-way down the branch the train took a line which lead to a dead-end (with freight stock on it). The train was then reversed back to the points then after they were changed, continued to travel to the end of line 230.
(6) From Y Kaatsbeek the train was booked to traverse line 232 to Aansl. Hoeker (Genk Zuid 1.2) but this did not happen on the day because of various factors including late running, the controlling block post (B2) being unmanned due to a strike at the nearby Ford factory and 204.004 being close to failure (generator flashover suspected).
(7) 204.004 & 8234 on rear. The circuit of the yard that followed was not advertised but had been organised by the depot staff.
(8) 204.004 was booked to take the train back to Gent but the loco performance had been so poor that the train crew were not willing to let it work back unassisted.
(9) Although leading loco of the trio, it is reported that 204.004 provided little effort en-route back to Gent, the 62's being main train traction throughout.
(10) Pathfinder Tours also sold tickets for this tour, laying-on a coach from the UK to Belgium and back (departing Friday 14th and returning Sunday 16th November).
Source : Gary Thornton (on the main train
(by Gary Thornton)
Friday mornings 05.30 start was just a practice for Saturday. As one of the tour stewards I volunteered to be one of the group who joined the coaching stock at Schaerbeek depot to prepare the train as it was worked down to Gent, the starting point for this tour. My alarm was set for 4am and I joined five others for breakfast a little before 04.15 - first farce of the day...the Ibis hotel breakfast is due to start at 4am but the room was still in the dark. A member of staff confirmed the 4am start....but only if we'd pre-advised the hotel of our need for an early breakfast! They managed however to open it so we all got something before heading over to the station taxi rank at 04.30 to get two taxis to get us to Schaerbeek depot.
Next farce - one of our PFT contacts said all the taxi drivers would know the depot as they regularly ferried train drivers to/from there - oh yes? - ours didn't! After directions were obtained by calling our contact we then set off in the direction of Schaerbeek. What followed beat the best white-knuckle ride in any fairground. As one of our number who was in the following taxi described when we got to Schaerbeek;
"Our driver told us yours was a madman before we even set-off. We watched our speedo varying between 140km/h and 150km/h as he tried to keep up with you lot heading through the Brussels streets!"
We arrived at the depot and soon met up with our PFT colleagues and wandered over the the train. A bit of a surprise to find it was nine carriages long - the buffet car, six AK's (we normally have just four), a type L coach and a generator car.
Due off at 05.35 for Gent, departure time came and went. Our French speaker, Richard, went off to find out what was happening and, to cut a long story short, the next two hours were a pretty fraught time for Mercia Charters Matt & Richard as they discovered there was no driver allocated to the ECS move - this being on account Schaerbeek depot seemed totally unaware of our tour! After much discussion (with assistance from one of the PFT staff) a driver was eventually found at Vorst depot and he drove up to Schaerbeek. Whilst all this went on the next series of discussions took place as we were "offered" 2508 for our train rather than the requested type 23 or 26. Basically we didn't have a choice - it was 2508 or no train! A shunter (8219) put the 25 on the front and set the train back about 75m (guess who was on board at the time, thus scooping the gronk!) but about the same time it was also discovered that we couldn't heat the train through the L coach in the formation. Mind you with no-one "passed" to work the generator car it might not get started up anyway! Who said running railtours was easy!!
Luckily the shunter driver knew the generator van so started it up for us but this was still a problem because of the type L coach. As the corridor connection was rather flimsy we decided the best option was to ditch the coach before setting off. Fine, except the driver when he turned up wasn't familiar with the depot so wouldn't do it. Oh, and control by this time we think just wanted us out of their hair! By this time we had abandoned all hope of a Gent start and arrangements were made to run direct to Mechelen (the other pick-up point) and start there, despite the problems, on time. Again, due credit to SNCB as they rustled-up a 9-car break unit set and Gent and a crew and transported our Gent passengers to Mechelen...well, except the two who missed the train on account it left earlier than advertised. An announcement had been made...but only in Flemish! Said passengers were given a first class pass to get by service train to Hasselt where they joined the tour before the depot visit, thus just missing 2508 for haulage.
We set off about 8am and pulled into Mechelen a few minutes ahead of the booked time to a pretty full platform of people. I should mention that on this tour the numbers were boosted by a coach load who had booked through Pathfinder Tours - welcome on board chaps, good to have you with us again!
The run to Hasselt went fairly quick, I helped out by passing out timing sheets through about a third of the train, along with verbal apologies for the unexpected start to the tour. Running in to Hasselt we passed out next three locomotives, preserved Nohab 204.004 and type 62's 6315 & 6319.
For some reason it took absolutely ages to get 204.004 attached to the rear of our train and the road for us to depart but eventually we set off for the nearby depot. On arrival we were met by a large group of SNCB staff and several security guards. Seems our visit was going to be severely limited for reason(s) unknown (though there was a rumour that another railtour operator had recently visited the depot as part of a tour itinerary and some loco parts had been found to have gone missing about the same time - whether this is true, or if the loss of parts was in any way related to those involved in that depot visit, is unconfirmed. If it is in fact true then it is another case of a minority of irresponsible "enthusiasts" potentially spoiling it for the responsible majority). In the event the depot visit went fairly well - we were told to keep to concrete paths only (though even some of those they wouldn't let us walk down) and though the security staff said we couldn't enter the depot buildings a member of staff gave the OK, so most got a quick walk round in the shed too (apparently the inside of the depot is covered by a different manager to the outside, that's why the depot staff in effect overruled the B-Security staff). Visiting DB diesel 215 227 made a different sight on a Belgian depot and the sight of fire-damaged DMU 4117 raised a smile (but if there turns out to be a problem with the fleet then it's sadly too late to bring back loads of type 62 hauled trains as replacements).
Whilst the visit took place we managed to dump the L coach and 6315 + 6319 were added to the opposite end to the train for the short run back to Hasselt. Nohab 204.004 now took over for the thrash to Genk Goederen but very soon into the journey it was obvious all was not well with the Nohab and progress was painfully slow. Lots of clag from the rear suggested the 62's were assisting but in fact that was just thrash from the generator car! By this time however the weather had warmed up so it was decided to shut down the genny car on account it had been sent out without much fuel!
Arrival at Genk Goederen was over half an hour late, partly because of the poor performance of the Nohab but also the fact we'd been held earlier in the day at Hasselt station. Whilst in the Genk area we were booked to traverse three short branches however a strike at the nearby Ford factory put one branch under threat because the controlling block post was not manned as there was no rail traffic on account of the strike, though local staff were trying hard to locate someone who could work it, thus allowing us to traverse the line as advertised. Heading down the first branch we lost more time as a result of being routed into a dead-end line. After setting back about 0.5km we regained the correct route and made it to the end of the line, only being stopped by a car unloading ramp on the track about 100m before the buffer stops. Time for the obligatory "seminar" photo and we then set-off for the second branch (line 231). For some this was the days highlight as it is reported it had never been traversed by a charter train before. Unfortunately although we made it right to the end of the line, vegetation on both sides made a photo-stop not practical so we set-back to the sidings just short of the end to enable photos to be taken.
By this time we were running to RST (i.e. an hour late) but to avoid any compensation claims I suggested we change to running on UK time, in which case we were then magically on time. Because of the late running it proved necessary to miss out the third branch (line 232) and head straight for Kinkempois depot. About this time attempts were made to get the genny car going again as it was starting to get chilly. No problem, except soon afterwards it cut-out on account of running out of fuel!! Oh well, the idea of having it was commendable anyway!
On arrival at Kinkempois depot we got an unexpected treat from SNCB - shunter 8234 was attached to the rear of the train ad we set-off on a half-hour round trip of the yard, no doubt pleasing the track-bashers as well as those who wanted the loco.
Back at Kinkempois and everyone was invited to take a look in the museum which was located on the upper floor of the signalling centre. With a bar up there too some of our punters didn't bother going on to look round the depot! Seeing people coming out with bottled beer I was soon up there purchasing some for myself (for later consumption of course as I was stewarding). Why?
Class 77 beers - that's why!
During the depot visit we were pleased to find SNCB had agreed to our verbal request to change the two 62's for another pair - in theory we were booked to have the Nohab take us all the way back to Gent but the crew had (probably very wisely) decided it was not in good enough condition to manage that. Although the replacement pair of 62's (6306 & 6331) were "pretty mouldy" for most, no doubt some of those who were newer to the Belgian railscene probably scored one or both locos so we were happy. What wasn't expected however was the fact that 204.004 was put on the front of the pair! In the event we understand the 62's did most of the work back to Gent.
In the event this tour was one that, having effectively been pulled back from the jaws of disaster right at the start, went very well. OK we failed to get a 23 or 26 as we'd advertised, but I dare say there were a few who needed 2508. It was also a shame the Nohab didn't perform very well, but again it was a winning haulage for many on board and we will doubtless enjoy a good thrash off it sometime in the future. Loss of an advertised branch on the day is always regretted, but the additional locos hopefully made up for that. Thanks go to SNCB for their on-the-day efforts which ensured this ended up as a tour to be remembered for the right reasons! See you all again in Belgium in 2004 no doubt...
Timings (Booked & Actual)
|0.0||Gent Sint Pieters||07.08d||DIV|
|2.7||Y West Ledeberg||07/11||DIV|
|2.9||Y Noord Ledeberg||07/12||DIV|
|39.3||St Niklaas||07*42a ~ 07*48d||DIV|
|72.8||Mechelen||08.19a ~ 08.24d||(ECS 08.17a) ~ 08.27|
|77.4||Y St Katelijne Waver||08/29||08/33|
|102.6||Heist op den Berg||08/53||08/56|
|114.5||Y Noord Aarschot||09/02||09/05|
|115.3||Y Ost Aarschot||09/03||09/06|
|149.3||Y West Hasselt||09/28||09/34|
|Hasselt||09.32a ~ 09.45d||09.37 ~ 10.30|
|Hasselt TW||09p55a ~ 10p40d||10.38 ~ 11.22|
|Hasselt||10.50a ~ 11.00d||11.27 ~ 11.31|
|1.0||Y Noord Hasselt||11/03||11/38|
|Genk Goederen||11.20a ~ 11.30d||12.02 ~ 12.07|
|?||dead-end line, km post 3.2||DIV||12.21a ~ 12.25d|
|?||km post 2.6||?||12.27a ~ 12.30d|
|Genk Zuid 1.3
|11p54a ~ 12p04d||12.48 ~ 13.04|
|Signal 9.6/CW6||12.24a ~ 12.34d||13.25 ~ 13.27|
|Genk Zuid 1.1
|12p46a ~ 12p56d||13.40 ~ 13.42|
|Signal FW6 - 6W6||13.06a ~ 13.16d||14.08 ~ 14.12|
|Y Kaatsbeek||13.22a ~ 13.32d||14/15|
|Genk Zuid 1.2
|13p40a ~ 13p50d||DIV|
|8.0||Bilzen||14.08a ~ 14.12d||14.26 ~ 14.28|
|56.5||Y Garde Dieu||15/03||15/25|
|58.3||Kinkempois AT||15p08a ~ 16p08d||15.35a ~ 15.40d|
|?||km post 100 (line 36A)||-||15.42a ~ 15.45d|
|?||curve between Y Aguesses & Y Garde-Dieu||-||15.54a ~ 15.56d|
|0.0||Kinkempois AT||-||16.09a ~ 16.51d|
|40.9||Landen||16/44||17.28a ~ 17.29d|
|19.9||Schaerbeek||17.42a ~ 17.45d||18.20 ~ 18.22|
|?||Y Ost Ledeberg||18/39||?|
|170.7||Gent Sint Pieters||18.43a||19.12|
No attempt has been made to verify the distances given. No account has been
taken of the track not covered on the day.
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