Belgium 20th-22nd February 1998 <  >

Back to Belgium after less than three weeks when ADL ran a track and shed bash including Antwerpen Dam which I'd managed somehow not to visit previously. I did take the still camera, but as I was concentrating on video on that occasion, only two photos were taken. One was a non-rail related subject taken for reasons so obscure that even I can't work them out, and the other was a horribly out of focus shot of 2719 at Oostende. So no pictures to accompany this very short narrative!

Friday 20.2.98

First venture abroad for the 406 [then my company car - happy days!]. Stena had provided the cheapest option and the 1015 sailing left Dover more or less on time with the car stuck on a mezzanine deck. On arrival at Calais the sequence of unloading was main deck, first 3 vehicles in row 1, first three vehicles in row2, all of row 3, rest of row 2, rest of row 1. Since mine was the fourth vehicle in row 1 this took a while! The new flyovers in the dock area still aren't complete, resulting in total chaos and almost 30 minutes between the ferry starting to unload and me getting to the motorway.

A quick visit to 'Jan the Man' (I think his name's Peter) at Nevejan in Krombeke replenished the beer stocks then it was on to Veurne to find a cash machine. Not available, as it turned out, because of a strike by the people who deliver the money for them.This has so far lasted six weeks and at the time of writing I'm not clear whether it's local or all over Belgium. [I'm still not, but I did elicit that the reason for the strike was that one of said deliverers had been shot, which seems to me a very much better reason to strike than some I've heard.] Fortunately it was mid afternoon and also fortunately I had £40 in GBP so I was able to change this at the Ippa bank which gave its usual very fair rate [no longer so since AXA took over] - just over BFr60, when UK outlets were offering 59.5 and charging commission].

Money sorted, I decided to drive to Oostende via Adinkerke to see how the tram extension was progressing. I found what appears to be [and is] a rail/bus/tram interchange under construction a#to the north of the railway line at the west end of Adinkerke (De Panne) station. The new tramway crosses the N34 on the level then curves round to pass behind buildings to the east before rejoining the road and running parallel to it on the east side towards De Panne. The tramway formation is reserved all the way although it moves to the centre of the road about 1 km from De Panne.There is only one very short (100m) 'street' section on the northbound line only. Virtually all the track is laid but as yet there is no sign of the OHLE.

I took a short video sequence of a tram leaving the terminus at De Panne then followed it for a while towards Nieuwpoort. The Brasserie Robinson [former GBG entry in the middle of De Panne] has been rebuilt and is now open for business again. Its awning advertises Brugse Tripel so presumably it isn't completely hopeless for beer [subsequent visits prove that indeed it isn't, although the selection isn't as good as before].

Another video stop was taken near Westende before retiring to the Hotel Marion for the night. The evening was occupied by a poor meal with excellent Westmalle Tripel at the Restaurant Falstaff, then a very good Binchoise Blonde and a superb Rochefortoise Blonde at the new Ostens Bierhuis (opposite t'Bottelje/Hotel Marion). [For those not too familiar with Belgium perhaps I should mention that Binchoise Blonde and Rochefortoise Blonde are two light coloured beers from the French-speaking regions!].

Saturday 21.2.98

Off to Oostende station early - but not early enough to get breakfast as the Oostende station buffet, beloved of cross Channel gricers, seemed to be completely unable to cope with a reasonable but not overwhelming level of business. On to the railtour train therefore, which was a 2x2 car Budd EMU. The tour was standard shed bash stuff starting with Merelbeke, then via Denderleeuw to Jette and into Schaarbeek. Leaving Schaarbeek round the curve to the Leuven line it proceeded to Kinkempois then returned via Hasselt (depot visit here) and the Aarschot avoider to get to Antwerpen where the Dam depot branch provided the only track of the day. Unfortunately the unit stopped just short of the works so the rest of the branch down to the running shed didn't get done. A good day was had from the numbers point of view, resulting in the finishing of several classes, notably 75 and 76. A marginally better meal was had in Oostende (restaurant name not noted unfortunately) and a further Rochefortoise at the Bierhuis before retiring.

Sunday 23.2.98

A more leisurely departure allowed breakfast before trundling off to Abele to top up the beer stock at Noel Cuvelier's. Before leaving Oostende something made me stop to look at the locos stabled in the station - effort was rewarded by 2719 which finished off class 27. Return home was via the 1345 ferry from Calais, after a video stop on the LGV near Wormhout.

A couple of months then elapsed before I set off via Belgium to Germany.

 

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