B-Tourrail - Part 1

Yet another trip to Belgium in search of some required loco haulages. Although I'm over again in the middle weekend of September for the Mercia Charters railtours, work commitments mean I can only arrive on the Thursday evening, then have to leave again on the Sunday morning. As the B-Tourrail rover ticket is valid for five days in a one month period I decided to make a second trip over to get the other three days in!

Where appropriate I've shown my haulage scores underlined in red. For those interested, a full haulage list (including train identities) can be found here.

Friday 1st September - Day 1

After both Eurostar and British Airways have managed to upset me (see previous reviews) on this trip I elected to give my money to Sabena to get me over to Brussels. The morning flight from Birmingham is at 06.45, the same time as British Airways, so a mega-early start was required to get me checked in an hour prior to departure.

A pleasant flight in an Avro RJ100 (OO-DWL for those interested) got us into Brussels a few minutes early, though a large queue at the SNCB ticket office at the station lost me the time I'd gained. One B-Tourrail ticket purchased and I was on the 09.32 train (unit 392) to Brussels Nord.

With just one weekday "available" to me on this trip I had already decided to spend the day in and around Brussels on "short leaps" to get in as many required locos as I could. It turned into quite a profitable session and by early afternoon I'd travelled on (in the case of units) or behind 2109, 2744, 1320, 713, 411, 2709, 2160, 362, 2002, 904, 1188 and 1318. Scoring 1188 was particulary satisfying as it was the last class 11 I required for haulage - another class cleared completely :-)

A run out of Brussels now to Braine-le-Comte as I was at Midi station and in rolled 2106. The return leg to Midi was with 2709 which got me back just in time for the start of the evening rush-hour.

Started with the Fridays only 15.09 Aarlon which produced 2222. The moves over the next couple of hours between Midi, Centraal & Nord stations bagged me 2219, 2142, 2231, 2007, 2115, 2120 and 2114. So, by now it was just after 5pm and I'd already scored a quite respectable 14 new loco haulages! The next set of moves is one I often repeat;

P8605 Brussels Midi - Brussels Nord : 2018
P8095 Brussels Nord - Jette :
P8068 Jette - Melle :
L1888 Melle - Gent Sint Pieters : 6313

Another three locos in the bag, two of them class 23's too. Excellent!

This put me into Gent for just before 7pm and in position for train L769, the 19.16 to Eeklo which is booked for a class 51 rather than the more normal 62 used in and around Gent. I was well pleased when 5111 turned up and it was duly scooped by way of a short run to Gent Dampoort. 6249 got me back to Sint Pieters station at which point I went to check into my hotel, the Trianon2, which is located almost right beside the station.

As per usual I then wandered back out to view the 62's about on the 20.xx Eeklo, Geraardsbergen and Ronse turns. Didn't have to wait long as 6222 was on the 20.12 to Geraardsbergen so it was the short run to Gontrode for me. 19 new haulages in the day - that exceeded by far how many I was hoping to have. Imagine my surprise as I watched the return train to Sint Pieters arrive at Gontrode with 6304 in charge - 20 scores in one day, brilliant!! The 21.xx departures were all dud 62's so I headed back to the hotel for a couple of well earned beers. Just before I did though in rolled a freight with 1211 in charge - superb - my last required class 12 for sight :-)

Saturday 2nd September - Day 2

With many fewer loco hauled services available on the weekend I had already decided to head for the Antwerpen to Neerpelt line to see what class 62 diesels were on offer. A move then to Hasselt and Liege would give the chance for some CFL class 3000 haulages on the line to Luxembourg. That was the plan anyway....

I made Sint Pieters station in time to view the three class 13 hauled departures on the approach to 7.30am but as 6311 was sat on the 07.14 to Geraardsbergen my plan changed before it even started! Required 1321 was on the 07.32 to Antwerpen (my intended train!) so even more re-planning was required to enable me to "fall onto" this one later in the day. Unfortunately engineering work on the line to Zottegem meant a retimed 07.35 departure for the Geraardsbergen, ruling out the Gontrode leap for the 62 going the other way. Stayed on to Zottegem instead for 6313 back to Gent. A quick leap on "plug" 463 to Dampoort and 1321 was "in the bag" as I intercepted it on its way back to Oostende.

Gent Sint Pieters again! Decided to get to Antwerpen Berchem via Brussels and achieved this via 549 and 1185. Only a few minutes wait for the Neerpelt service. With the loco on the back I didn't know which one it was until I baled at Mol. A big smile when I saw it was a "no-heat" example - otherwise known as "a dot" because there is a dot in front of the number on the loco to signify it has no train heating capability. 6223 was the loco - yet another class 62 required haulage :-) Back as far as Lier with 6299 for 6295 onwards to Mol. Here the move is the 13.10 to Hasselt for a unit to Liege. As we rolled into Mol I was thrilled to see required 6207 on the rear of the Hasselt service - but, hang on, its coupled to the driving coach.... Oooh err, theres another 62 on the other end! Just my luck, with the required one on the back not working this would mean having to abandon the plan to go to Liege so I could score 6207 on the run from Hasselt to Mol.

Got to the front and I couldn't believe my luck - another "dot" - 6231 - and required too!!!

So, 6231 took me to Hasselt for a short break then 6207 transported me back to Mol. Quite what the gripper thought of my round trip I'm not sure, certainly he didn't bother asking to see my ticket on the return leg. I walked over to the other platform to wait for 6295 back to Antwerpen Berchem and was also rather amused to see a shunter appear and uncouple 6207 - seems the Hasselt shuttle was now to be left in the hands of 6231 alone! Good timing on my part then, or what?!?

Back at Berchem and I planned a bit of spinning on the Antwerpen to Oostende class 13 hauled rakes. Well, that was the plan.... The first one was caped, then the following "plug" unit was put up as 15 minutes late and the following 13 hauled train also caped! Time to escape on anything moving and 448 it was that got me to Gent Sint Pieters.

No sooner than I'd arrived into Gent and I was on my way to Oostende on IC538, an Eupen to Oostende service, with 1328 at the helm. Scored 1335 and CFL3019 for sight passing the yard at Brugge. A good session at Oostende also bagged me 1329, 8201, 8236 & 8244. 1321 (again!) took me back to Gent - dud as I had it in the morning, but at least it improved the mileage total a bit! Up rolled 1327 so I was soon on my way back to Brugge again. A short wait and 1317 returned me to Gent and the days finish (beer time again!).

Sunday 3rd September - Day 3

Last day - what a short trip :-(

Early start - 06.22 to Brussels (1602) for EC97 to Namur (2002 - another good mileage increase after "short-leaping" it on Friday). My plan was to cover the "kayaks" - the 08.50 to Houyet and return 09.56 to Dinant, both normally producing "Nohabs" (class 52, 53 or 54). 5214 was on the 08.50 so a happy crank was I heading for Houyet in the company of a couple of other British enthusiasts.

Short wait at Houyet and 5205 appeared with the return train to Dinant. Not worth staying any longer as these two rakes would shuttle back and forth delivering the canoe (kayak) brigade to Houyet from Anseremme. 329 to Namur where I was hoping I might be in time for the 10.44 to Charleroi. Being a "-3" connection it was unlikely, but I have been successful in the past. Not today though. Had I been successful I could have covered the 62's on the Couvin branch. OK, next move is to wait for EC296 and see what 20 was on it. The platform board was however showing a 20.35 INT service to Brussels - obviously somewhat late as it was about 11am. The 10.50 (EC296) was also late then.

In then rolled 2013 - great, a required one - on the 10.35 service....but all couchettes and sleeping cars from what I could see. Needs must so I just hopped on and found an empty couchette for the journey so 2013 was claimed. No gripper appeared so I didn't have any explaining to do! Time to chase a few 13's now on leaps to Leuven. 1314 out but a real stagger because of engineering work and I ended up arriving to see 1301 (not required) already in on the return working. Couldn't be bothered to rush for it - worst case would be to miss it and be stuck in Leuven with no loco hauled trains out for an hour or more. Stayed on to Liege then where there was the opportunity for a short leap to Angleur and back behind a couple of CFL 3000's. Bumped into another British enthusiast and we stayed together for a bit "comparing notes". 3008 out for 3006 back - damn, a dud one (I've only previously had 3002 & 3006 for haulage!).

1327 (one of yesterdays scores) appeared and we took this back to Brussels as time was now getting short. We parted company at Nord and I did a few short leaps (569, 2748 & 2741) before hopping aboard 440 for the trip back to the Airport. A Sabena Bae146 (OO-DJH) got me back to Birmingham, and I was through my front door just after 8pm.

A superb short trip out - a grand total of 30 required locos scored for haulage was well ahead of expectation and I had quite a few useful sight scores too. This trip now brings the number of belgian locos I've had for haulage to 293 - so I guess the 300th will have to be the target for my next visit!

Just about 10 days and I'll be off to Brussels again to complete the remaining days on the rover ticket, and also "do" the two Mercia Charters railtours! That trip will be a bit more of an adventure though as I'm flying on the Sunday morning direct from Brussels to Prague in the Czech Republic. I'll then be travelling onwards to Ostrava in the east of the country - a five hour train journey - ready for a weeks business in that area and also Hungary.

Gary Thornton.

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