14th November 2004
Mercia Charters Limited
|Locos Used||ex-SNCB: 8463, 8467 & 8509|
|8467 (1)||BVS Sint Gillis - Baastrode Noord - BVS Puurs|
|8509 (2)||BVS Puurs - Baastrode Noord|
|8463 (2)||Baastrode Noord - BVS Sint Gillis|
(1) 8509 on rear.
(2) 8463 on rear.
Source : Gary Thornton (on the train throughout)
(from Janet Cottrell)
This must be some kind of record, a third tour in as many days but with one subtle difference – this was on a private railway, the BVS, which roughly translates to the “Belgian Friends of Steam Locomotives”. However we were not here for the kettles, the railway is also home to some ex SNCB gronks which were the main objective of the visit. A further reason was that, unlike preserved railways in Britain, there are very few operating days over the course of the year so it can be rather hard to have a trip on this line unless you are in Belgium at the right time.
The original plan was to be collected from Dendermonde SNCB station by the lines preserved rail bus but this went by the board when it transpired that the SNCB certification for the said machine had expired earlier this year. As is usual with such things these days the cost for re-certifying the beast was exorbitant and not worth it for just one day, so alternative arrangements were made to start from the BVS station at St. Gillis, a short walk from the SNCB station of the same name.
We arrived with the first party from Brussels and were met and escorted round to the other station where 8467 and 8509 awaited top and tail on some rather ancient coaches. Well perhaps the description of station would be rather generous as the “platform” was no more than what could have been a former loading dock adjacent to a road and in front of some houses. The health and safety freaks would have been further withered by the trains heating arrangements, a gas fire connected to a gas bottle placed in one of the seating bays !
Once the rest of the party had arrived from Gent we set sail behind 8467 to the lines headquarters at Baasrode Nord, stopping en route to view the local brewery. We paused for a short time at Baasrode before departing with the promise that we would have a longer stop on the return to view the lines stock.
Puurs also hardly merited the description of a station, basically being a paved area around 100 metres from the SNCB station. There was a school hall or similar with a children’s dance / gymnastics class taking place next to the train and some patience was required to take photographs whilst trying to avoid the passing cars and bikes.
End of the line - 8467 at BVS Puurs (photo: Gary Thornton)
8509 leads 8467 en-route back to Baastrode Noord (photo: Gary Thornton)
On the return journey with 8509 we stopped off at a couple of choice places for photographs before arriving back at Baasrode Nord for our promised break. We were allowed to roam round the site at will but I could not find any sign of the kettles which give the line it’s “name” although there were a couple of wrecks on site which looked to be very long term restoration jobs indeed. There were some industrial diesels present amongst the varied bits and pieces as well as 8516 and 8463. The former looked rather forlorn and unserviceable but latter looked as if it had been used recently, in fact the driver went over to start it up and it was announced that it would work our train back to St. Gillis in place of 8509. This would no doubt please many as 8509 had seen use on a previous Mercia Charters tour (The Talarian Manoeuvre on 18th May 2001), I had not covered this tour so was grateful to scratch all three engines. An added bonus for John and myself was a brief cab ride on 8509 as it was shunted back into the siding, we were fortunate enough to be standing next to it when the driver went to move it, and he was kind enough to make us the offer.
8463 at Baastrode Noord (photo: Gary Thornton)
There was still time to take in the well stocked bookshop in the station building and it was pleasing to note that it appeared to doing a very brisk trade although I could not help wondering what their normal turnover is. Arrival back at St. Gillis was in ample time to wander back to the SNCB station where we went our separate ways after a very satisfying weekend indeed.
Timings (Booked & Actual)
(from Gary Thornton)
|BVS Sint Gillis||10.00d||09.55|
|Baastrode Noord||?||10.11a ~ 10.26d|
|BVS Puurs||?||10.51a ~ 11.08d|
|Baastrode Noord||?||12.06a ~ 12.48d|
|BVS Sint Gillis||13.00a||13.01|
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