An accidental visit to the Three Valley Heritage Railway in southern Belgium
1 We were having a short holiday in the very north of France, a part called French Ardennes which is enclosed by Belgium in three directions. At the end of the day that we travelled to Chooz we sat in the garden of our holiday home and relaxed with a cuppa when I heard a steam locomotive's whistle. Faint but definite. I told my wife I heard it and she stared back at me with this familiar "oh no" face. Before our holiday I had checked on the internet if there were any heritage railway lines in the French Ardennes and I only found a diesel operated line at Attigny about 100 km away from our house. So I was taken by surprise to hear a steam locomotive. A quick search on the internet shed light on the mystery: the line was in Belgium, and I had never heard of it before. And the good news was: it was just over 10 km away!
3 In the afternoon of the following day we took the car and visited Treignes. When we arrived an ex-Polish TKt48 was shunting in the distance
4 TKt48 was the first new locomotive of Polish design, built for PKP after WWII. It was intended mainly for passenger trains. In total of 209 TKt48s were built. Most machines – 191 – were used by PKP. According to some sources, the last of them were withdrawn from line service in early 1992, but some were reported operational in 1995. As far is known 28 examples survive.
8 A German class 52 simmers in the summer heat (it was 30 degrees that Sunday).
18 Further down the area I had a look at this (East) German class 50 from 1939.
20 Some Belgian diesels
22 The Class 50's cab
32 The station at Treignes houses a seizable museum with numerous steam locomotives. Admission fee: a mere €5,50
33 And this NMBS (Belgian Railways) class 1 was their top prize! Unfortunately space is at a premium and many of the exhibits are very difficult to photograph.
34 Some data: 1935-1962, 35 built, 209 ton, 140 km/h, 3200 hp output.(read more)
35 3200 hp, men that is twice the strongest Dutch express locomotive. The Dutch tend to see Belgium as a backwater, but in respect to railways it certainly was not.
38 Wikipedia says: "the firebox was so wide that it had two firedoors".
40 Bogies cast and fitted with roller bearings, following US practise as early as 1935. I read it was provided with a Kylchap exhaust as well.
41 Simply awesome. This loco is the only survivor of the class.
42 The sole survivor of the 375 strong 53 class (numbered 5301-5675) can also be found in this museum.
43 0-8-0, built 1904-1926 (23 years!), served until 1966, 700 hp, 45 km/h
49 Tubize 2002 (see this very atmospheric video). This industrial locomotive was built by the Metallurgical Workshops of Tubize in 1926. It was operational until the mid-seventies under the number 3. The machine was saved by the Three valleys Steam Railway at the beginning of the 80s before being sold to an individual who made him take a chocolate livery typical of northern France. It is in this dress that you can see it again on old films or postcards of C.F.V.3.V.
50 Again a sole survivor, this time of a 62 strong 4-4-2 class 16, very similar in laout to the Dutch 5500 class. Built in 1905 it lasted until 1964.
58 Another industrial locomotive. Contary to what you would expect this is a very recent locomotive: 1951. It worked in the coal industry until 1980.
59 Another industrial, again from 1951, but this time an eight coupler.
60 Now that was coincidence. I have been longing to see a similar locomotive in the Netherlands for quite a few years and on 30 May 2019 I got to see it in Goes (see Album SGB), and now only three days later I get to see a second very similar engine.
65 Rail inspection car I presume
67 a 0-6-0 tram locomotive hiding away. No 808, built in 1894
72 Skirt to keep the valve and drive gear from happily chopping up general public arms and legs.
73 A final photo before going outside again, so I thought...
74 But then I saw this symphony of steel and sunlight
77 I had to pull myself out of the museum to catch a glimpse of the departing train.
78 An my wife was so kind to portray me. All in all a very satisfying visit. We did not have time to visit Mariembourg as well, but in hindsight we should have. Well, maybe next time.