7th August 2004

Adieu a la Vennbahn

Locos Used CFL : 1602 (as 202.020) & 1805
SNCB : 5307 & 5530
Stock Used 21017+21008+21030+21015+9001+21127+21122+21026+21023

Z18298 : Bruxelles Midi to Trois Ponts
Z18299 : Trois Ponts to Büllingen
Z18300 : Büllingen to Sourbrodt
Z18001 : Sourbrodt to Trois Ponts
Z18002 : Trois Ponts to Bruxelles Midi

Loco(s) Route
5307 + 202.020 Bruxelles Midi - Bruxelles Nord - Leuven - (via "old" line) - Liege Guillemins - Rivage - Trois Ponts
5307 + 1805 (1) Trois Ponts - Malmedy - Weywertz - Bütgenbach - Bütgenbach lake photostop (2)
1805 (1) Bütgenbach lake photostop - Büllingen
202.020 (3) draw-forward towards Weywertz to meet 5307 (approx ¼ mile)
5307 + 202.020 (3) just outside Büllingen - Weywertz
1805 (4) Weywertz - Sourbrodt
202.020 + 1805 (5) Sourbrodt - Weywertz - Malmedy - Trois Ponts
5307 Trois Ponts - (reverse of outward route) - Liège Guillemins
5307 (6) Liège Guillemins - km post 95.4
5307 km post 95.4 - (reverse of outward route) - Bruxelles Midi

Notes :
(1) 202.020 on rear.
(2) 5307 removed and ran light-engine ahead of the train to Büllingen.
(3) 1805 on rear.
(4) 5307 & 202.020 on rear.
(5) 5307 on rear.
(6) 5530 banking.

Source : Gary Thornton (on the train throughout)

Tour Review
(by Gary Thornton, including all photos)

Time for another foray over to Belgium. On this occasion it was to travel on P.F.T.'s "Adieu a la Vennbahn" tour. The routing of this trip was to basically be identical to that covered on the same weekend in 2002, that tour being a farewell to the type 51 (the first farewell, there was another later but that's another story!). This time round three AFB/Nohabs were booked motive power and, having been on the 51 farewell, I knew this trip would be worthwhile from the point of view of getting photographs.

I caught the 16.25 SN Brussels Airlines flight from Birmingham to Brussels (dud Avro RJ85 OO-DJP), accompanied by my Father who had taken up the invitation to come along (he'd been saying for a while he fancied a trip over after reading some of the previous tour reviews). We got to the hotel a little before 8pm, checked in then headed down the bar. I was surprised to find it UK-crank free so we headed into town for a few beers in various local bars around the Grand Place. Arriving back at the hotel about 10pm and the bar had started to fill up. I also had a message to phone one of the tours passengers who lived locally - he then turned up for a chat so in the end it was almost midnight before I got back to the room. Was a pretty bad nights sleep - partly on account it was rather muggy (the room air-con however dealing quite well with it) but also the fact there was a very large thunderstorm which went on most of the night.

I popped over to the station early to check the departure time for the tour - I had organised half a coach-worth of passengers under the Mercia Charters umbrella but PFT had managed not to give us the confirmed timings before I had left for Belgium on the Friday! 8.09am soon appeared on the departure screens (against "approx. 8.20am as advertised) so I went back to the hotel to collect my Father. Breakfast was had on the station, far cheaper than in the hotel. Stocked up on food & drink (water - a hot day was forecast) and we went up to the platform to find the train already in. Our half a coach was third from the front and there were a few familiar faces already on board. 5307 (a required haulage for me) & 202.020 were on the front, looking good.

5307 & 202.020 at Bruxelles Midi, before departure.

We headed to Trois Ponts via Leuven and Liège Guillemins. As we left Liège the weather took a turn for the worst and the first photostop (of 14 scheduled) took place in the yard just north of Rivage in far from ideal conditions.

The train in Rivage yard, in the pouring rain.

On the approach to Coo the train stopped on a high bridge - photostop no.2 no less. We had to get out on the bridge itself and walk of it to the location to get our photos - and what a location it turned out to be!

Superb photostop - the train approaches Coo.

At least there had been an improvement in the weather by now and it got better as the day went on, not until we got back to Trois Ponts (when we ran straight into a thunderstorm) did we see any further rain. As forecast...it got hot!

We were met at Trois Ponts by CFL 1805 - the tour was supposed to have had the CFL AFB/Nohab 1604 but this was being prepared for a forthcoming Nohab-fest in Denmark so it had been decided to substitute the type 18 - a winner for me so I was not that disappointed really. The next photostop of any real note was at Masta. Now anyone who was on the type 51 farewell a couple of years ago may remember this one - the location for the photographers is in a field next to the line. Last time we were there the farmer turned up and was not a happy chap, delaying our departure for some time while he complained about the state of his fence (it was already shagged, I'm sure we hadn't made it any worse) and grass in his field (OK, a little flattened). Well, guess what....yes, the same farmer turned up again to rant at the organisers! He stood between the locos and us photographers and it took some persuasion on the part of the organisers to get him to agree to move and let us get our photos. he got a round of applause when he moved out of the way!!

5307 leads 1805 at Masta - scene of the grumpy farmer...for a second time!

A late departure from Trois Ponts never got recovered and soon we were on RST. All credit to PFT however they stayed true to the plan of scheduled photostops for most of the day, only a couple of "boring" station-type ones getting abandoned plus the return one on Bütgenbach viaduct. Oh, I haven't mentioned the first one yet, have I? This must be the most amazing location in Belgium for a photostop. Stopping on the (very high) viaduct we all baled-out to walk to the end of the viaduct, down a very steep bank, over a barbed-wire fence (and yes, my jeans suffered from the experience!) and up a steep hillside. This was also a repeat of a photostop on the type 51 farewell, and once again we were met in the field by it's regular inhabitants, a herd of cows. This time however they left us to our hobby, compared to last time where at least one photographer got knocked over by one lively cow.

Bütgenbach viaduct - 5307 & 1805 star in the show.

The fact the line is disused can easily be seen in this view near Bütgenbach
viaduct (at this point, 202.020 on the rear is still on the viaduct).

A little further on and a photostop was taken at Bütgenbach lake - though the lake looked rather dried up from what we could see of it. At this point 5307 was unhooked and ran light-engine ahead of us to Büllingen, so for the first time in the tour 1805 was the main motive power. A shuffle around at Büllingen and we left behind 5307 & 202.020 with 1805 on the back. A reversal at Weywertz put 1805 in charge again as far as Sourbrodt. Here all three locos were lined up together for a photo-call.

202.020, 1805 & 5307 line-up at Sourbrodt.

From Sourbrodt 202.020 led 1805 back to Trois-Ponts and some good thrash was to be heard from our position near the front of the train. Approaching Trois Ponts the skies darkened and it began raining heavily as the front pair were unhooked (202.020 was also bound for Denmark for the Nohab-fest). This left 5307 alone to return the train of nine full coaches to Brussels. Hmm, that leaves the interesting question as how we would get up the ferocious gradient away from Liège Guillemins. As we rolled into the station the question was answered - 5530 stood waiting for us. It dropped on the back and we set off like the proverbial scalded cat across pointwork that I am sure wasn't made for the speed we went over it at. Most of the UK contingent had headed for the back as soon as we knew it was a type 55 banker and it was well worth it, solid thrash from the station all the way to the summit at km post 95.4 near Ans. Brilliant!

The final icing on the cake was the now traditional passage through Bruxelles Central - 5307 absolutely wide-open, clagging profusely leaving many bemused punters on the station (including, it looked, the station staff). Final arrival back into Midi was just a few minutes down and once again the bar in the Ibis Midi saw it's Saturday evening takings boosted somewhat by the horde of cranks that were staying there!

Verdict : Another superb day out, well worth the effort going over to Belgium for it.

Footnote : With a mid-afternoon flight home we spent the day in and around Brussels. Keeping an eye on the Oostende / Eupen services I was well pleased to score no less than three 13's in the morning (as well as doing some shopping and having a beer at a Cafe on the Grand Place) - 1308, 1337 & 1342 being scooped - only 7 of the class to go now.

Gary Thornton

Timings (Booked & Actual)

Location Booked Actual   Booked Actual
Bruxelles Midi 08.09d 08.10   21.04a 21.08
Bruxelles Nord 08.17a ~ 08.19d 08.17 ~ 08.19   20.53a ~ 20.56d 20.59 ~ 21.01
Leuven 08.46a ~ 08.48d 08.45 ~ 08.49   20.22a ~ 20.24d 20.35 ~ 20.37
Landen 09.13a ~ 09.14d 09.14 ~ 09.16   19.51a ~ 19.52d 20.07 ~ 20.09
Liège Guillemins 09.47a ~ 09.49d 09.48 ~ 09.54   19.14a ~ 19.17d 19.31 ~ 19.36
Rivage (yard before station) 10p19a ~ 10p40d 10.18 ~ 10.32  
Rivage ? 10/35   ? ?
Trois Ponts 11L40a ~ 11L55d 11.41 ~ 12.13   17L50a ~ 18L13d 18.36 ~ 18.42
Stavelot 12.00a ~ 12.05d 12.30 ~ 12.48   17.30a ~ 17.35d 18.22 ~ 18.23
Malmedy 12.15a ~ 12.20d 13.28 ~ 13.31   17.15a ~ 17.20d 18.03 ~ 18.06
Weywertz 13.00a ~ 13.30d 14.03 ~ 14.08   16.40a ~ 16.50d 17/34
Büllingen 14.30a ~ 14.45d 15.27 ~ 15.36  
Weywertz 15.00 16.07 ~ 16.11  
Sourbrodt 15.30a ~ 16.20d 16.32 ~ 17.17  

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