Saturday, March 10, 2018

Not Just Waffles and Chocolate - Trains in Belgium - Part 1

A Siemens Desiro ML trainset at the Schaerbeek train station near Brussels, Belgium
I was sent to Belgium for two weeks in February to do some programming work with a partner company. It was kind of a last minute thing, with only a couple of days between the "go" order and my flight out of Winnipeg. The work went well and I really enjoyed working with our partners.

However, this is a blog about trains and photography, so let's get to that!

I didn't know much about Belgium other than waffles and chocolate. My wife and I did some fast research and we determined a few things:
  • It was possible to travel via train from the airport to the town I was to work in;
  • I could walk from my hotel to the workplace; and therefore
  • No car was required (whew!)

To Brussels

I flew from Winnipeg (YWG) to Montreal (YUL), and thence to Brussels (BRU), all on Air Canada. The Brussels airport is commonly known as Zaventem after the municipality that the airport is in.

While waiting for my flight from Winnipeg, I amused myself by photographing a few planes... and trains.
Bearskin Airlines flight over a CP intermodal train

My two flights went smoothly. On the YUL-BRU trans-Atlantic flight, I was seated next to a mother with her very young child. It's always a challenge to fly with an infant and more so if you have to do it alone. The other woman in our group of three seats and I did our best to assist the mother. I ended up switching seats with the mother so she could have the aisle seat instead of the middle seat to have easier access to the washroom. I didn't get a lot of sleep on that flight but I'm OK with that. Her child was pretty good and slept a lot of the way but he did fuss now and then, as children do.

My plane landed around 9 AM on Sunday morning. After clearing customs and immigration at Zaventem - it's far easier to work in Europe than it is to work in the USA - I located signs for the airport train station and headed that way.

Brussels Zaventem

The airport train station is located under the airport so it only took a couple of escalator rides to get there. I bought my ticket to Brussels Centraal station at a machine, using my credit card, and I was ready to go. I had a bit of time for my train, so I took some photos of other trains as they came through.

SNCB 2717 at Zaventem / Brussels airport train station
The SNCB "class 27" locomotives are workhorses of the Belgian rail system. 60 of these 3000V electric locomotives were built in the early 1980s and can be found pulling passenger and freight trains all over Belgium.

SNCB class AM80 trainsets in Zaventem / Brussels airport train station
These three-unit self-propelled trainsets are classed as "AM80" but commonly known as "Break" for some reason. This had two trainsets together (344 and 432), for a total of 6 "coaches".

Next up was another locomotive-hauled passenger train, with a pair of class 28 locomotives bracketing a blue-and-yellow consist. It almost looked like the original VIA Rail colours! ;)
SNCB 2802 hauling a passenger train through the Brussels airport station
Most Belgian trains have first and second class coaches and/or sections. In the photo below, notice the white "1" (and "2" at far left) indicating what class the coaches are.
First class!
I'm not sure why these are blue and yellow, instead of the more common white, red and yellow colours. This may have been an international train.

Here's the trailing locomotive on that train, another class 28. Note the black marks radiating from the roof - arcing? I know so little about electric locomotives.
SNCB 2813 in Brussels' airport station
Finally my train showed up, an IC (Intercity) train destined for Brussels and Knokke. It was a Siemens Desiro ML trainset, very common in Belgium as I soon discovered.
Finally, my train!
We hustled into Belgium at a reasonable speed. I don't think we ever got above about 80 km/hr but it was fine. I took a few photos out of the window as we passed by a rail yard and a coach yard. By "rail yard" I mean a yard dealing with rails, as it looks like this handled very long rails for track use.
Lots of rails!

I saw a few of these locomotives out the window.
SNCB 5528 and 5518 in Brussels
These are class 55 diesel-electric locomotives, built in the 1960s. They have GM 16-567C diesels inside, a familiar engine to North American railfans, as they were in the F9 and GP9 locomotives, among others. I saw several of these interesting locomotives during my two weeks in Belgium, solely in work train use.

Brussels Centraal / Bruxelles Central

Brussels has several train stations - Midi/Zuid (south), Centraal (central) and Nord (north). Many international trains like the Eurostar and Thalys depart from Midi/Zuid, but the Centraal station is where I was headed to see the tourist sights in Brussels.

There are plenty of trains that come through the Central station.
Departure board at the Centraal station in Brussels

The train from the airport to Centraal takes about 20 minutes. I was happy to be on board!
On board my first Belgian train
I stowed my luggage in a storage locker at the station and walked out to see the sights in Brussels. I really didn't have an agenda on where to go, as A) I hadn't done much research, and B) my wife was going to join me the following weekend to explore Brussels and Bruge. I wandered into the tourist area of town and found the city square, which is pretty spectacular.
Brussels Grand-Place / Grote Markt

I walked around a lot, and I won't bore you with too many tourist photos. Brussels is lovely and is well worth visiting.

Brussels Nord

I basically went from big church to big church, and while doing that I found myself at Brussels Nord. There was a skate park above the station but it had a wire fence in the way. I did the best I could to shoot through it.
Trains at Brussels Nord station
On the left is an AM80 trainset (well, several together) and on the right is a Thalys high speed train. This is a Thalys "PBA" train with a top speed of 300 km/hr. Both trains were heading south and did not stop.

I should mention that the Centraal station is wholly underground, with tunnels at the north and south ends, and the tunnel entrance was just below my feet. The tunnel sees up to 96 trains/hour and is one of the busiest railway tunnels in the world.

Shifting to a different viewpoint, I caught these two Desiro ML trainsets at Brussels Nord.
Ew, graffiti


On to another location... as I wandered around "above" the train station, I saw a tram line. Here's one tram and a bonus bus, in front of the Museum of Fine Arts and near the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon.
Tram and bus in Brussels, Belgium
I will post more trams!

You probably noticed that the sky was overcast for most of the day. The sun did come out, very briefly, and I used that opportunity to photograph the church.
Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon, Brussels
Notice the green grass and complete lack of snow, in February!

At this point, I made my way back to the central train station. I was headed to Train World, a railway museum, and time was ticking on. I was a little hungry, though, so I had to have a little snack...
Enjoying a waffle in Belgium... it had to be done
I bought my ticket at the train station and headed off to Train World. That's another post!

In the meantime, maybe you'd enjoy:

Monday, February 12, 2018

SOO LINE Grain Hoppers

SOO 74362, Chaplin, SK, August 2010
I was chatting with Donald Klippert in mid-January and he mentioned that he saw a white SOO gondola. We talked about the white SOO LINE paint scheme being a favourite of ours and then we got onto the SOO grain hoppers.

I started digging through my photo collection and it turns out I have quite a few photos of them. I usually make a point of photographing a SOO car when I see one. So, without further ado, here are some SOO grain hoppers.

I've seen two basic kinds of SOO LINE grain hoppers - the flat sided ones with the external vertical ribs, and the hoppers with the somewhat rounded sides. A third kind of SOO hopper is a rounded hopper in plain grey, but they aren't lettered "SOO LINE". Here's all three in one photo:
Three SOOs in one - Winnipeg, MB, August 2017
SOO 74521, SOO 118655 and SOO 75113 in Virden, MB, April 2016

Rounded Sides

SOO 74229, Banff, AB, August 2010 with the wheat sheaf and big black SOO LINE

SOO 74453 with heavy weathering and graffiti, Winnipeg, September 2016

SOO 74154, Field, BC, June 2016
The car below has the "Colormark" logo on it. According to this Trains thread, cars were colour coded based on the loading features for the freight cars. Apparently they stopped doing this on hoppers around 1974.
ICE 50833, Burdett, AB, October 2015 with "Colormark" and smaller green SOO LINE
Some of the "Colormark" cars don't seem to have a wheat sheaf (like this one or this one or this one). I wonder if they ever had a sheaf, or if it has just faded over the years.

There are two number series for the round-side ACF Centerflow cars - the 74xxx and 76xxx cars. The 74xxx cars have a larger "SOO LINE" near the top of the car, while the 76xxx cars have a smaller "SOO LINE" vertically centered.

In general they all seem to have had the gold wheat sheaf... with one exception below.
SOO 76553, Winnipeg, MB, May 2014
SOO 76414, Field, BC, June 2016
Really weathered SOO 76534, Winnipeg, MB, July 2016
Cleanish SOO, no sheaf, Winnipeg, MB, December 2003

Flat Sides

SOO 75307, Binscarth, MB, April 2016
The flat sided SOO LINE hoppers seem to be in the 75xxx number series, with some in the higher 74xxx series (SOO 74582, SOO 74718, SOO 74953). They all seem to have the wheat sheaf, without exception.

SOO 7x1x4 (faded), Winnipeg, MB, September 2016

SOO 75350, Winnipeg, MB, August 2017
SOO 75458, Calgary, AB, October 2013
SOO 75529, Grande Pointe, MB, April 2016
SOO 75606, Grande Pointe, MB, April 2016
I invite you to click through to SOO 74289 to see a really different SOO LINE paint scheme.

That's all the SOO LINE hopper photos I have! I hope these can provide some reference for freight car enthusiasts and modelers.

I'll leave you with this flat-sided SOO hopper - not a SOO LINE, though - land locked in Solsgirth, Manitoba.

No wheels - no problem!

Further Reading

(The last two links are affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you buy something from Amazon after clicking on the link, at no extra cost to you)

Saturday, February 03, 2018

The Revelstoke Railway Museum

CP 5468 in the Revelstoke Railway Museum
My wife and I visited the Revelstoke Railway Museum last September... on my birthday, in fact. It had been on my "bucket list" and a visit here was a key piece of my big birthday trip.

We visited the inside of the museum first - featuring steam locomotive CP 5468 and CPR business car #4 - and then toured the outdoor rolling stock before returning to the inside and the gift shop.

CP 5468

Overhead view of CP 5468
The star of the show is CP 5468, a 2-8-2 Mikado steam locomotive. The museum's main building is practically built around this locomotive, with lots of room around it for viewing plus a second level "balcony" so you can see it from any angle.

CP 5468 was built in 1948 by the Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW). The locomotive weighs 124 tons (without tender). This beast is 89' long and is 15' 6" high at the smokestack.

This locomotive was displayed at the Canadian Railway Museum (Exporail) in Delson, Quebec from 1963 to 1992. It came to Revelstoke in 1993 and is, I believe, still owned by Exporail.

I guess, technically, it is owned by the Canadian Railroad Historical Association (CRHA), which owns and operates Exporail.

Speaking of the CRHA, the Revelstoke Railway Museum was founded by the Selkirk Division of the CRHA. The Division was formed in 1986 and looked at Revelstoke as a home for a museum because of its rich railway history and proximity to Craigellachie, where the "last spike" was driven on the CPR.

With the support of the city, who donated the land, and local businesses, who donated material and time, the volunteers of the CRHA worked to build the museum.

Two volunteers, Ernie Ottewell and Fred Olsson, went to Delson to prepare CP 5468 for travel to Revelstoke. It left on September 29, 1991 but developed an issue with a rear wheel that forced the locomotive to stay in Ontario over the winter.

Construction started on the main building in 1992 and opened to the public in 1993. CP 5468 arrived and was cleaned and polished up for display as the centerpiece of the collection.

But there's plenty more to see beyond the steam engine!

Business Car #4

Business car #4
CPR business car #4 is on display beside the steam engine. This car is partially restored inside with a nice set of table settings.

This car was built in 1931, I believe, and went through several name changes and makeovers. It spent 10 years as the "River Humber" before being refitted as "Cape Humber" in 1941, then "Cape Ray" in 1946, and Official Business Car #4 in 1963 before being retired in October 1992.

Railways sure like to squeeze the last bit of use out of everything!

I'm not sure what this car is being restored back to... it started as a buffet-solarium lounge car, which is quite different than what it is now.

Up Top

Upper level of the Revelstoke Railway Museum
The upper level of the museum is a mezzanine floor, basically a balcony that goes around the building. It gives a lot of great views of the top of the steam locomotive, and there are displays along the walls and in the aisle. You can see several station signs and many photos on the wall in my photo above.

One end of the second level features a model train layout operated by the Revelstoke Model Railway Club.
Part of the Revelstoke Model Railway layout
This railway depicts portions of the CP Revelstoke subdivision, with an emphasis on the portion from Revelstoke east to Rogers Pass.

The Outside Collection

Outside the Revelstoke Railway Museum
There is a large collection of rolling stock on the south side of the museum. These cars are either maintenance-of-way (MOW) or freight cars, plus one diesel locomotive - CP 5500.

Snow plow CP 401027 in Revelstoke, BC

Track 1

One track has caboose CP 437477, flat car CP 421237, service car CP 404116, flanger CP 400573, Jordan spreader CP 402811, and plow CP 401027. You can go inside CP 401027, which is nice if a bit spartan.
Inside snow plow CP 401027

Track 2

Outside braced box car CP 184254
The second track is short and only has 3 cars - an unnumbered steel box car, beautifully restored outside braced wooden boxcar CP 184254, and a newly painted but unnumbered baggage car.
Baggage car in Revelstoke

Track 3

Freight cars at the Revelstoke Railway Museum
The third (back) track has a collection of freight cars, with a double track snow plow on one end and a diesel locomotive at the other. Multimarks abound!

The double track plow, CP 400823, is quite interesting. These are pretty rare in comparison to the more common wedge plow.
Double track plow CP 400823 in Revelstoke
These plows were designed to deposit all plowed snow only on one side. This allowed them to plow double track (two parallel tracks) and sidings, without dumping half the snow on the adjacent rails.

I don't know how well they really worked. If you were plowing double track with only one plow, you'd have to plow one track, dumping the snow onto the other track; then back up and do the other track. Like most plows, this has an extendable "wing" to help direct the snow farther away from the plowed track, so maybe they could avoid putting too much snow on the adjacent track.

Behind the plow is a graffiti covered boxcar with a very small door - not sure why - with CP script under the graffit. Next is CP tank car 400126, followed by steel boxcar CP 401607 proudly bearing a multimark, then coal car CP 353119 and this car, a former steam generator car converted to a robot car.

Steam generator / robot car in Revelstoke
I've never seen a CP steam generator car. These cars contained steam boilers (with water tanks) to provide steam for heating passenger cars.

With the advent of electric heat on board trains, they became obsolete and were retired or repurposed. This one was indeed repurposed into a "robot car".

Robot cars held the radio equipment that allowed the engineer in the lead locomotive to remotely control other locomotives farther back in the train. No special equipment was required in the other locomotives - they were connected to the adjacent robot car, which looked like another locomotive to them and was able to control them with the "MU" (multiple-unit) cabling standard on almost all locomotives.

Today the radio equipment is built into most locomotives and robot cars aren't required.

CP 5500

CP 5500
Locomotive CP 5500 is an important piece of the collection, in my opinion. This locomotive is an SD40, built by General Motors' Diesel Division (GMD) in London, Ontario. This unit was the first SD40 built by GMD, in 1966.

The SD40, and later model SD40-2, was the most common diesel locomotive on Canadian Pacific for many years. In the past ten or fifteen years, they have been displaced by more modern power and many of these locomotives have been retired or rebuilt into "ECO" units. There are only a few SD40-2 units still operating on CP today.

DRF-30A2 = Diesel Road Freight - 3000 horsepower
CP 5500 was rebuilt to SD40-2 specifications during its lifetime. It was retired in 2001 and donated by CP to the museum on August 17, 2007. The museum intends to repaint it to its original paint scheme, maroon and grey with "script" lettering.

Good old Dofasco trucks
There are lots of SD40-2 units working industrial jobs at grain elevators and other locations, but they will dwindle in number over the years. I'm glad the museum has this unit.

I liked this high-rail truck!
CP Rail System - high-rail truck

Interpretive Displays

Interpretive displays
I've been a total railfan and focused on the rolling stock first. There are a lot of interpretive displays in the museum, and they are very professional and well done. The displays are focused on the area around Revelstoke, as they should be.

I really liked this "drumhead" display, showing some of the signs displayed at the ends of CP passenger trains.

Diesel Simulator

Diesel simulator
Another of the many highlights of the museum is the diesel simulator. For a toonie ($2), you can drive a locomotive through the Rockies using a real locomotive control stand.

This was a lot of fun. The screens show the "view" and you can apply brakes or throttle as indicated to take your train out on the main line, and take a short drive before bringing it to a safe stop.
Keep your eyes on the road, man!
Well worth two bucks.

Gift Shop

The museum has a well-stocked gift shop. I bought a few BRMNA books.

I really enjoyed our visit to the Revelstoke Railway Museum. This is a first class facility and well worth a few hours.
Outside the Revelstoke Railway Museum
I visited this museum during my 50th birthday tour... read on!

See Also