Brian’s Belgian Rail Marathon—August 2013.

 

Making Use of an SNCB ‘Railpass’ Ticket.

Does Belgium offer one western Europe’s best-kept secret railway experiences?

Belgian passenger train
Interior of the upper level on a double-deck SNCB train. Exposed with my Lumix LX3.
Railway station.
SNCB station entrance at Ottignies, Belgium in August 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

In 1835, Belgium was first on the Continent to adopt the steam railway. It subsequently developed one of the densest railway networks in Europe. Today, (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belges—Belgian National Railways) operates one of the best national networks.

Although, often overlooked in favor of more scenic countries, Belgium is a great place to ride trains. I’ll be honest, while I’d made a few trips to Belgium in the 1990s, in recent years I’d generally ignored it in favor of other places. Recently, I’ve been stunned to find what a pleasant place it is to ride trains.

The railway is well integrated with other modes. Services run frequently on regular intervals across the network. On most routes there’s a good mix of local and express trains. The equipment is varied and generally comfortable, and the staff are very professional, courteous, helpful, and smartly dressed.

On the downside, I found that some stations, especially un-staffed smaller ones, were neglected and in a poor state and this tended to detract from the overall experience. By contrast, other stations were in very nice shape.

I’ve made two trips to Belgium this year. Last week (August 2013), I made good use of a 10-ride ‘Railpass’ ticket that I purchased for 76 Euro back in March.

This is an open-ended ticket where you write in your starting station and destination with date of travel for each journey. From my experience its an excellent value, and especially valuable for wandering.

My goal was to make a circular trip to explore potential photographic locations while traveling lines I’d not previously experienced.

SNCB class 18 electric.
Platform level view of an SNCB class 18 electric at Ottignies, Belgium. Lumix LX3 photo.

Beginning in a southern Brussels suburb, I rode south via Ottignies (see yesterday’s post) and Namur to Marloie, and then eastward over a scenic secondary line to a small station called Esneux, where I spent an hour making photos.

From Esneux, I rode northward to Leige, where I found a stunning surprise . . .

(To be continued . . .)

SNCB electric passenger train.
My train to Esneux arriving at Marloie, a small station in southern Belgium. I appear to be on the wrong platform! (Its a good thing SNCB makes prolonged station stops). LX3 photo.
Train interior.
SNCB electric multiple unit interior. Large windows and spacious comfortable seat compensate for a basic functional design. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

Railway station in Belgium.
SNCB station at Esneux, Belgium, August 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

SNCB station at Esneux, Belgium, August 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
SNCB station at Esneux, Belgium, August 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

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