25th April 2004
Mercia Charters Limited
The One Little Ship
|Locos Used||SNCB: 5183 & 6210|
Z18179 Gent St Pieters - Zeebrugge Strand
Z18180 Zeebrugge Strand - Brugge Dijk
Z18181 Brugge Dijk - Knokke
Z18182 Knokke - Brugge Dijk
Z18183 Brugge Dijk - Blankenberge
Z18184 Blankenberge - Brussels Nord
|6210 (1)||Gent Sint Pieters - Zeebrugge Strand|
|5183 (2)||Zeebrugge Strand - Brugge Dijk|
|6210 (1)||Brugge Dijk - Knokke|
|5183 (2)||Knokke - Brugge Dijk|
|6210 (1)||Brugge Dijk - Blankenberge|
|5183 (2)||Blankenberge - Brugge - Gent Sint Pieters|
|5183||Gent Sint Pieters - Schellebelle - Denderleeuw - Y St. Katherine Lombeek - Y Bru. Petite Ile - Brussels Midi - Brussels Nord|
(1) 5183 on rear.
(2) 6210 on rear.
Source : Duncan Jennings & Janet Cottrell (both on the train throughout)
Tour Review 1
(by Duncan Jennings)
Like Saturday's plan Sunday's had gone TU in
a big way after SNCB refused to allow access to the docks so that left Mercia
slapping together a quick flit to Knokke, Zeebrugge and Blanken
as a half day tour after which the PF contingent could still get home the same
day. Well, it pretty much went to plan - first off 6210 appeared and 78
out of 80 people got a large grin on their faces, Mr. Bates losing out again
unfortunately. It also transpired that this loco was due to be withdrawn
very shortly - possibly even today. PFT's 5183 was at the rear and that
too caused a large number of grins. Well, we pootled off to Zeebrugge
Strand, had a very nice photo stop in the sun. Then we pootled back up to
Brugge Dijk, reversed and went to Knokke for more photos in the sun, and the
sight of Wes leaping off for a bung in order to get him back to a Levellers gig
in Amsterdam. Also the reflective doors here gave some opportunities for
interesting pictures. Finally (and deliberately so) we pootled back to
Brugge Dijk and down into Blankenskeg. Here the traditional seminar was
somewhat cramped by the fact that there was a break in the next platform, and
there was a bung in our platform so we were quite a way back up it.
Nevertheless, the seminar was done and more phots taken. We then had a 51
out of Blankenskeg in the traditions of summers past, even down to leaving
Brugge via the line past the depot, and being held in the same place for the
service train to pass as the Blankenskeg - Maubege used to, aaah the memories...
Arrived Gent about 30 down and waited for phots of the departing tour, then got
some lunch and began the long drive home.
Tour Review 2
(by Janet Cotterell)
Another day, another tour, another round of last minute changes. Originally intended to be a second attempt at covering the Zeebrugge Docks complex, we were advised at a very late stage that due to a "serious incident" no Railtours would be allowed access to any Docks lines. Despite rumours to the contrary, it appears that the "incident" was unrelated to any railtours and, as far as Zeebrugge is concerned, it was the local management's unwillingness to provide the staff required for such a trip. So instead of a docks tour, we were treated to a pleasant perambulation around the Flanders coastal resorts.
Just like yesterday, it was another sociable start time with plenty of time to stock up on supplies for the tour. The stock was glimpsed arriving as we walked up to the station and had been reduced to three coaches down from yesterday's five. We had established that PFT's contribution of motive power would be required 5183 after chatting to a PFT member at Schaarbeek yesterday, but I was not holding out much hope for the Merelbeke class 62, only needing four out of the 18 based there. However somebody had come up trumps by selecting one of those four, 6210. I believe that there were only two people on the train who had had it previously, in both cases many moons ago. Rumour had it that the loco was going to be switched off / withdrawn tomorrow (shades of Britain) so a round of applause for whoever chose it.
An on time departure saw us heading straight down the main line towards Brugge then towards the relatively new station of Zeebrugge Strand. This was opened in 2001 for use at weekends and holiday periods in order to deposit the passengers right next to the beach there, the existing station being some distance away near the town. Although I had not visited this station before, the branch line it stands on was dud, as I was in the fortunate position of having been on an extensive tour of the local lines (including the Docks!) some years ago.
Following a photo opportunity where we were all allowed across the tracks in order to get some pics of the "sunny side", we retraced our steps to Brugge Dijk before reversing and heading towards Knokke. Not withstanding a photo stop at Heist (well we did Burst yesterday as well as passing through Silly - shame we couldn't get to Boom on this trip) we arrived at Knokke early, only to have a delayed departure due to the rubber ring unit on the service train being late.
En route back to the same reversing point at Brugge Dijk there was yet another impromptu photo stop next to a strip of open land providing a good view of the train, then it was on to Blankenberge, the haunt of bashers searching out rare class 51's in years gone by. For those not familiar with Belgium, Blankenberge is the main coastal destination for the country's seaside fans and is host to scores of "T" (Tourist) trains in the summer and, when there is good weather "off season", just like Skegness etc. used to (still should) be like. These trains were, and still are, many and varied both loco hauled and unit, but the best T trains to do until about three years ago were the ones from Neerpelt and Maubeuge (France) which ran with class 51 diesels in the height of summer.
I do not know whether 5183 ever made it to the seaside on such a train, but it was a real blast from the past to see it standing there amongst the empty stocks - all units today - patiently waiting for their passengers to return from the beach.
This tour had always been intended as a half day in order to give participants enough time to get back to Britain in the afternoon, so now that we had covered the three seaside branches it was back to Gent, where the tour was originally meant to have finished. Following a pause in St Pieters station to detach the 62 we set sail for Brussels behind the class 51. The stock and loco had to get back to Schaarbeek so it only required the services of a guard to run the train in passenger service instead. My Eurostar back was not until nearly four o'clock so there was plenty of time to sample this extra mileage behind the 51. The route back was via line 50 so it was a fairly gentle trundle round to Denderleeuw where we joined the main line for the run into the centre of Brussels before enjoying the rare experience of passing non-stop through Midi station. However, the brakes were applied as we entered the tunnels until we stopped at the end of Centraal station platforms. As soon as we came to a stand, 5183 was opened up for the obligatory thrash through this subterranean station accompanied by much bellowing and waving at the startled normals. I could not help thinking that yesterday's Nohab would have been more fun, but perhaps not as it would have smoked the place out and probably set the fire alarms off !
Arrival at Nord station was around half an hour late but who cares, there was no rush and there was time to take a couple more photos before we all went our separate ways. In conclusion an enjoyable tour despite it not being what we had booked. Hopefully most people felt the same way although I realise that many would have been disappointed not to have covered the Docks lines.
Timings (Booked & Actual)
(from Janet Cottrell)
|Gent Sint Pieters||09.10d||09.10|
|Y Blauwe Toren||09/46||09/49|
|Zeebrugge Strand||09.58a ~ 10.12d||10.01 ~ 10.13|
|Y Blauwe Toren||10/23||10/21|
|Brugge Dijk||10.25a ~ 10.30d||10.23 ~ 10.30|
|Y Blauwe Toren||10/32||10/32|
|Heist||10.43a ~ 10.54d||10.40 ~ 10.48|
|Knokke||11.00a ~ 11.15d||10.53 ~ 11.20|
|Y Blauwe Toren||11/31||11/39|
|Brugge Dijk||11.32a ~ 11.35d||11.41 ~ 11.53|
|Y Blauwe Toren||11/37||11/55|
|Blankenberge||11.46a ~ 12.04d||12.04 ~ 12.13|
|Y Blauwe Toren||12/12||12/22|
|Gent St. Pieters||12.50a ~ 12.55d||13.06 ~ 13.19|
|Y West Ledeberg||12/58||13/23|
|Aalst||13/20||13.44a ~ 13.47d|
|Y St. Katharine Lombeek||13/32||13/58|
|Y Bru. Petite Ile/ Klein Eiland||13/42||?|
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