These items come from Branch Line News International ISSN 1354-0947 (c) The Branch Line Society 1996 International Editor: Brian Philp, 11 Arden Street, Edinburgh EH9 1BR, Scotland, UK, rail@rinbad.demon.co.uk

1996

BLN 769.04][GB][FR][BE] Eurostar PSUL?: (BLN 767.0500) Eurostars are not cleared to visit Victoria. First, yaw-dampers on Eurostar vehicles foul some British platform edges, which therefore have to be checked and if necessary adjusted. At least two platforms in Edinburgh Waverley, for example, had their edges repositioned during 1995, with public notices apologising and explaining the inconvenience as being preparation for future through trains to mainland Europe. Railtrack have done the work needed at stations on Eurostar routes, but not at London termini other than Waterloo - nor indeed at Waterloo's domestic platforms. Secondly, track and signalling layouts would make it extremely difficult to handle such very long trains at Victoria, and indeed at most places. Finally, Eurostar drivers are unlikely to have route knowledge of many other lines, though they do know the West London line, since they make empty-stock movements to and from North Pole depot. If a sudden emergency required diversion of an in bound Eurostar away from Waterloo International, it would turn left at Factory Jn and go to Kensington Olympia, where some basic immigration facilities have already been provided.

BLN 769.05][BE] Charleroi - Anderlues trams: (Ball 8B1 not shown) The direct line from Pétria to Anderlues Monument was out of use before the line onward to La Louvière closed in August 1993. On both 1 June and 15 July 1993, for example, it was obstructed along its length by parked cars, and the rail-flangeways were well filled with dirt, while the trams on route 89 to Anderlues Monument and on route 90 to La Louvière were all running via Anderlues Jonction, where they connected with the bus service to Lobbes.

It seems the Association pour la Sauvegarde du Vicinal have had difficulties before summer 1995 in running the Anderlues - Lobbes - Thuin museum tramway as advertised (BLN 738.0255, 760.0370, 765.0461, 767.0501). On a July 1993 public holiday the ASVi were advertising a service, but at Anderlues Jonction dirt filled the flangeways of the line towards Lobbes. At Lobbes no activity was to be seen, only an ASVi notice dated the previous week saying that due to damage preventing the supply of traction current to the trams, services had ceased until further notice. A householder by the Lobbes tram-stop volunteered that 'this often happens', and mentioned problems with electricity bills.

BLN 769.06][BE] Brussel/Bruxelles: Y Pannenhuis - Simonis - Brussel-West/Bruxelles-Ouest - Y Cureghem (BLN 736.0203; Ball 10B2-10B1; Lijn/Ligne 28) Early on 4 December 1995 a fire started in the relay-room at Brussel-Noord, spreading rapidly through cable ducts. Firemen needed over eight hours to extinguish the blaze, by which time much signalling equipment had been destroyed, putting all points and signals out of action, as well as telephones and train-indicators at Noord, Central and Midi. The Noord-Midi line was reopened that evening, but with a very limited capacity. A resignalling scheme planned for 1998 has been hastily brought forward, but full restoration of capacity may take several months. During this time some trains instead use Lijn 28, the Ouest-Ceinture loop to the west of the city-centre with no ordinary passenger service. IC trains inbound from Luxembourg via Schuman are routed Y Josaphat - Y Zennebrug - Y Laeken - Y Pannenhuis, and take Ligne 28 southwards calling at Simonis station befo re terminating at Midi. Outbound IC trains to Luxembourg use their usual Midi-Noord route. IR trains between Dendermonde and Midi use the Y Jette - Y Pannenhuis curve and Lijn 28 in both directions, with a stop at Simonis. One local service also runs from Midi via Ligne 28, but otherwise all local services which normally use Noord are starting and terminating at Schuman, Schaerbeek or Jette. Most peak-hour P trains using Noord have been cancelled. The stop at Simonis, reported in BLN 736 as having been temporarily reopened during a previous emergency, is for passengers to connect into the Métro.

BLN 770.027][FR, BE] (Lille -) Frétin - Wannehain SNCF - Espléchin SNCB - Antoing (- Bruxelles): (Ball 7B1) BLN 768.0522 followed a Belgian source (Trans-fer, #97, p.42) in saying that not only Paris - Bruxelles TGVs but London - Bruxelles Eurostars would in June 1996 start to use the new Frétin - Antoing section of the LGV Belge, continuing via Mons instead of Ath to Bruxelles. However Today's Railways, in a useful illustrated article on the first section of the high-speed line (#10, p.32-37), refers only to the 14 daily TGVs, making no mention of Eurostars on it from 2 June. Certainly the TGVs would seem to gain more than the Eurostars from the new route, since by leaving the LGV Nord at Frétin, south-east of Lille, and taking the west-to-east side of the triangle there, they can avoid a reversal in Lille. A tricourant TGV in the new red Paris - Bruxelles - Amsterdam Thalys livery was at Tournai on 4 January 1996.

BLN 770.028][FR][BE][DE] Avoiding Belgium during strikes: (BLN 725.056; Ball 16A3-16B2-17B1-18B1 (FR) 55B3-47B1-48B3 (DE)) On 29 November 1994, and again on 16 November 1995, several trains that normally run between France and Belgium via Quévy or Erquelinnes on their way to or from Germany were diverted to avoid a Belgian railway strike, seemingly a frequent enough occurrence for Franco-German contingency timetables to be held in readiness. After a reversal at Aulnoye the route used was Charleville-Mézières (avoiding line) - Hayange - (west-to-north curve) - Thionville - Apach - (border between France and Germany) - Perl - Trier - Koblenz-Moselweiss (west-to-north curve avoiding Hbf) - Koblenz-Lützel - Köln. The first and third sections are now freight-only apart from French trains for permissionaires (= military people on leave), and the second and fourth have only limited passenger use.

BLN 770.029][BE] Brussel/Bruxelles: Y Pannenhuis - Simonis - Brussel-West/Bruxelles-Ouest - Y Cureghem (Ball 10B2-10B1; Lijn/Ligne 28) By the beginning of January, diversions via Simonis had ceased and trains were running via their usual Noord - Central - Midi route. Four weeks after the disastrous fire at Brussel-Noord (BLN 769.06), day-and-night work by engineers had provided a temporary signal-cabin, allowing the advertised timetable to be worked, with some modifications and even improvements, such as the Airport City Express trains running through to and from Midi instead of terminating at Central. An SNCB/NMBS leaflet however warns that until the definitive new signal-box is in use, which is expected by the end of 1996, services will be more than usually sensitive to 'perturbations'. On 4 January 1996, many crossovers and points at Brussel-Noord were rusty, and many signals were unlit and bearing crosses, indicating that much of the layout was unavailable. To help inform users about changes in the January-June 1996 timetable, SNCB/NMBS offer a free electronic ARIdisc timetable on diskette (BLN 742.0337) to anyone completing the form available at stations.

BLN 771.053][BE] Brussel/Bruxelles: Delta - Etterbeek - Boondaal/Boondael: (Ball 10B1) On the lines circling the city to the east, three junctions form a triangle. With restructuring of local services from 25 September 1995, regular trains run on all three sides, though not at weekends. The north-to-south Delta - Boondaal line, which gained regular direct services in September 1993 (BLN 716.06), had by summer 1995 three trains an hour, but only two now run direct and the third reverts to a previous pattern in running via the other two sides of the triangle, reversing at Etterbeek. The north-to-west Delta (Y Etterbeek) - Etterbeek curve thus has an hourly service, the west-to-south Etterbeek - Boondaal curve a half-hourly service, and the north-to-south Delta - Boondaal line keeps two trains an hour.

BLN 772.069][FR][BE] (Paris -) Aulnoye - Feignies SNCF - Quévy SNCB - Mons (- Bruxelles): (Ball 16A3-8A1; SNCB Ligne 96) From June 1996, when TGVs take over Paris - Bruxelles services, running via the LGV Nord, the LGV Belge as far as Antoing, and Ligne 78 to Mons (BLN 770.027), new SNCB dual-voltage Class AM96 units are to start working the Aulnoye - Mons cross-border section of the old route between the capitals. (European Railway News, January 1996, on Internet at Mercurio)

BLN 773.089][BE, FR] Signeulx SNCB - Gorcy: (Ball 17B1, not shown) Summer 1995 saw the end of an unusual international branch line. Built in 1875, the 4km private industrial line linked the ironworks at Gorcy in France with the Belgian railway system, probably the only case of a French industrial plant of any importance being rail-connected solely via a foreign country. Direct connection to France's own railways was inhibited not only by the terrain, but by reluctance on strategic grounds to have another line heading into France from a point so close to the frontier. At the time, just after the Franco-Prussian War, the kind of defensive thinking that led to the building of the Maginot Line fortresses permeated the French military. The Gorcy furnaces and forges therefore despatched all their production via a junction at Signeulx, between Virton and Athus on Belgium's Ligne 165 (Libramont - Bertrix - Virton - Athus). A railcar chartered by the Belgian enthusiast group GTF visited the branch on 31 March 198 4, by which time most of the works had closed, victim of Europe's steel crisis, though a wire-drawing mill was still in operation. By 1988 most activity had ceased, and only a storage facility remained on the site, employing a handful of workers. No traffic had run since 1990, but it was not until June 1995 that SNCB took the fateful step of removing the junction pointwork, finally ending the life of the Gorcy railway company, perhaps the least-known of Europe's international railways. (Trans-fer, #99, January 1996, after Salle d'Attente, July 1995)

BLN 773.090][BE] Charleroi - Anderlues trams: (BLN 767.0501, 769.05) The relaid track in the street between Anderlues Jonction and Anderlues Monument was brought into use on 28 October 1995. Museum trams shuttled back and forth on 28 and 29 October. All Charleroi - Anderlues service trams now run the same way, passing the depot at Jonction to terminate at Monument. Curiously, both route numbers 89 and 90 continue to be carried. The difference seems to be that #90 services connect at Monument with buses for Binche. The line avoiding Jonction and running direct to Anderlues Monument is again out of use.

BLN 775.0134][BE, DE] Weywertz - Butgenbach - Büllingen (- Losheimergraben - Losheim DB - Jünkerath): (BLN 734.0163, 747 suppt., 762.0404; Ball 10A1) Vennbahn services commenced running regularly over the Weywertz - Trois Ponts and Raeren SNCB - Stolberg DB sections from the 1994 season, but no passenger service was offered between Butgenbach and Büllingen during the 1995 season. Vennbahn trains still traversed that section so that the locomotive could run round, but they ran empty.

BLN 779.0212][FR][BE] Aulnoye - Feignies SNCF - Quévy SNCB - Mons: (BLN 772.069; Ball 16A3-8A1; SNCB Ligne 96) With the traditional Paris - Bruxelles trains via Mons being replaced in June 1996 by Thalys TGV services via the new LGV Belge, short workings to and from Mons now connect out of and into trains on the Paris - Jeumont SNCF - Erquelinnes SNCB - Charleroi - Liège axis. Interestingly, the first of the six trains a day from Belgium takes the Hautmont avoiding line (Feignies - Sous-le-Bois), making its connection at Maubeuge instead of at Aulnoye, where the longer-distance train does not stop (BLN 738.0252, OEIS 9582.FR38). It may be September 1996 before the cross-border route sees its new Belgian dual-voltage three-car AM96 sets, a type already christened 'boudin' (= black-pudding), perhaps because the Danish IC3-style rubber ends resemble this delicacy. (Trans-fer, #100)

BLN 779.0213][BE] (Bruxelles -) Fexhe-le-Haut-Clocher - Bierset-Awans - Liège: (Ball 9A2-9B2; Ligne 36) The Bruxelles - Liège running-lines were in the past diverted northwards to make way for extensive goods sidings at Voroux, introducing a long curve east of Fexhe and a corresponding curve west of Bierset. Now they are to be realigned back to a straight course through Voroux yards, as part of extensive engineering works which will see Voroux become the base for the building of the (Brussel - Leuven -) Bierbeek - Bierset (- Liège - Aachen) high-speed line, shortly to begin. Liège-Guillemins, the city's main station, whose present building dates from 1958, is to be very substantially reconstructed, with ten through tracks, rearranged to bring the Paris - Bruxelles - Köln TGVs in closer to the station entrance and to allow for higher approach speeds with less point-work; broader platforms long enough to take two Thalys TGV sets running in multiple; new passenger facilities on a raft above the tracks; and its own slip-road to and from the E25/E40 autoroute. (Trans-fer, #100)

BLN 779.0214][BE] Dinant - Bertrix: (BLN 722.018; Ball 17A3-17A2) Masts have been appearing on this section of the Athus-Meuse route in preparation for 25kV 50Hz electrification, though initially they will support only the fibre-optic cable of the new signalling and telecommunication system. Overbridges at Bièvre and Paliseul are being modified to give electrification clearances. (Trans-fer, #100)

BLN 779.0215][BE] Belgian car-carriers take pedestrians too: (BLN 775.0135) Like their Netherlands counterparts, SNCB/NMBS are relaunching - under the Auto-Train brand-name - their car-carrying services, which continue to be available to ordinary passengers without cars, paying ordinary fares. Indeed, the trains make passenger-only calls at certain intermediate stations, and run beyond the last car-unloading point. On the routes advertised to carry motorists to and from St.Raphaël, Narbonne and Biarritz, the trains actually run to and from Nice, Port Bou/Cerbère and Irun/Hendaye respectively. (Trans-fer, #100)

BLN 782.0274][FR][BE] Lille (Triangle de Frétin) - Wannehain SNCF - Espléchin SNCB - Antoing: (BLN 770.027, 772.069, 779.0212; Ball 7B1) From 2 June 1996 the Paris - Bruxelles service comprises Thalys TGVs leaving the LGV Nord just outside Lille and bringing into passenger use the west-to-east chord at Frétin plus this first part of the new high-speed line across the border, before returning to ordinary SNCB tracks at Antoing and making a detour south-east via Mons. Meanwhile London - Bruxelles Eurostars stick to their conventional Lille - Blaindain - Tournai route until more of the LGV Belge is ready. Early in June much work remained to be done. The new line still had no track in place, nor track panels on site, in the vicinity of Silly, but some track had been laid between Halle and Bruxelles.

BLN 788.0404][BE] Deinze - Lichtervelde - De Panne: (BLN 783.0299; Ball 7B2-7A3; NMBS Lijn 73) As well as electrification from 2 June 1996, this 71km line saw a significant 3.6km deviation to eliminate a curve and seven level-crossings at Kaaskerke between Diksmuide and Veurne. The new track came into use on 28 January 1996 (at 15:30 precisely!). De Lijn should shortly (dans un avenir très proche) be extending their Knokke - Oostende - De Panne coastal tramway the extra 4km or so inland towards the NMBS, and the plan is to bring the trams into De Panne station for cross-platform interchange. (Trans-fer, #101)

BLN 791.0463][FR][BE] Dunkerque - Bray-Dunes SNCF (- De Panne NMBS): (BLN 713.04, 718.07, 732.0134, 737.0224, 757.0295, 764.0438; Ball 6B3) Regular passenger service ceased 3 March 1969, and summer Sunday passenger trains 28 August 1994. The line is out of use east of the Valdunes private siding for scrap at Leffrinckoucke. At the frontier, 20m inside Belgium, the rusty track is blocked by two sleepers embedded in the formation in a V-shape. Nearby is the most northerly postbox in France, and a former customs-post which in this era of European Union has become a shop selling Belgian chocolates!

BLN 791.0464][FR] Lille-Europe: (Ball 10B3) After relatively quiet beginnings, traffic has built up significantly. In August 1996, the station was handling 1000 to 1300 Eurostar passengers a day. More TGVs to the south-east, and new ones in summer 1996 to the Atlantic coast, have also been a success. In August the 08:34 Lille - Montpellier had 96% of seats occupied, and the new 08:17 Lille - Bordeaux was on average 76% full. (La Vie du Rail, via European Rail News on Internet)

BLN 791.0467][BE] Antwerpen-Centraal NMBS - Breda-Prinsenbeek NS: (BLN 788.0403; Ball 8B3-3B1) By end-1996 NMBS are to apply formally for permission to build a BEF16 billion railway tunnel under the historic terminus of Antwerpen-Centraal, turning it into a through station, mainly for Paris - Bruxelles - Antwerpen - Amsterdam Thalys TGVs taking the planned new high-speed Lijn 2 northward over the Dutch border. During the engineering works, only three tracks out of ten will be available.

BLN 792.0490][FR][BE][DE] Thionville - Apach (Moselle) SNCF - Perl DB - Trier Hbf: (BLN 784.0328; Ball 18A1(FR), 55B3(DE)) For 24 hours from 22:00 on 27 October 1996 SNCB/NMBS were again on strike. As on 29 November 1994 and 16 November 1995 (BLN 770.028) Franco-German contingency timetables saw some international trains diverted to avoid Belgian railways by running via the Apach - Perl route, normally used by freight and military-leave trains only.

BLN 792.0493][BE] ... and in Belgium: SNCB's advertised excursion #102 is a trip on a rail-cycle between Falaën and Maredsous on this otherwise-disused section of Ligne 150 (Tamines - Denée-Maredsous - Falaën - Yvoir) (Ball 8B1-16B3-9A1). As it is a single track one has to follow the schedule, which is linked to local bus times. The excursion is available all year round, but it has to be booked two days in advance at any staffed SNCB station, for a minimum of two people.

BLN 792.0494][BE] Gent trams: (Ball 7B2) At the west end of the platforms at Gent-Sint-Pieters station, escalators give direct covered access to a new tram tunnel that came into use from 28 June 1996. The three tram routes from the north-west via Koning Albertlaan (#21, 22 and 40) were diverted and instead of using the anti-clockwise turning-circle around the large square outside the station, Koningin Maria Hendrikaplein, and the terminus known as Stationsplein, they terminate in the tunnel, the new terminus being called Tramkoker. From 6 August, the routes via Koningin Elisabethlaan (#1, 10, 11, 12 and 13) were temporarily cut back just short of Koningin Maria Hendrikaplein. This marks the definitive cessation of use of the southern half of the tram turning circle and of Stationsplein as a terminus, for when the track across the north side of the square reopens, those routes too will divert to Tramkoker as their terminus. The tunnel is the first phase of a project to extend tram route #1 south of the railway to Gestichstraat, an extension due to open in 1997, but at this stage the cars set down and pick up passengers in the tunnel, running empty to a turn-back siding beyond it.


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