Friday, July 12, 2019

Noorderkempen, Aulnoye-Aymeries, Versailles

I'm leaving Breda and the Netherlands and head to France through Belgium.
The international connection between the Netherlands and Belgium is one of the best in Europe. Intercity train between Amsterdam and Brussels is a frequent service which do not require any additional seat reservation for Interrail pass holders. Since 2018 the train is using the high speed railway, which makes the trip 30 minutes faster than before.
Today the service is operated with locomotive hauled push pull train. The locomotives are leased from different companies, like this Traxx F140 MS which is originally intended for freight trains. From 2021 there will be new trains from Alstom, Coradia Stream named as ICNG.
189 199 is a Traxx F140 MS from Lineas
Leaving Breda, the train is connecting on the high speed line HSL Zuid.
HSL Zuid is continuing as HSL 4 in Belgium. There is an intermediate station along the HSL 4 line - Noorderkempen, which I'm visiting here.
The station opened in 2009, since 2018 the station is served by the international Intercity trains.
HSL 4 is equipped with ERTMS

186 001 is a Traxx F160 MS from Akiem. Here it is attached at the rear of the Intercity train
The station is built with four tracks, where two have access to platforms, while the middle two are allowing to pass the station at full speed.

SNCB Class AM08, Desiro ML is approaching the station
Before 2018, this was the only train type operating this station. AM08 can only operate in Belgium, so this station is a terminus for this train.
Middle tracks are used for the high speed trains Thalys and Eurostar.
Here is Thalys PBA and PBKA at full speed pass the station.

Thalys PBA is a TGV Réseau Series 38000 Triple voltage train manufactured between 92-96. Thalys PBKA is a Series 43000 supporting four electric systems and manufactured between 95-98. Here is Thalys 4537 (PBA) and 4342 (PBKA) together.

Bus stop outside the station
AM08 543
This is a so called rush hour service (P) between Noorderkempen and Antwerpen.

Arriving to Antwerpen

Greta is here too
I'm now taking the L train to Leuven
Same train type in Belgium can be used for both S, P, L and even Intercity services

I'm now travelling on rail line 15 (Antwerp-Lier), rail line 16 (Lier-Aarschot) and rail line 35 (Aarschot-Leuven).

SNCB Class 62

Class 66 in Aarschot

Arriving to Leuven

Station in Leuven
Next is an S train to Ottignies. S train is called RER in French
The line through Leuven is operated by Thalys trains between Köln and Brussels
Thalys PBKA 4343

Line 139 between Leuven and Ottignies is 29km long and has a maximum speed of 90km/h

Arriving to Ottignies
Ottignies is operated by Intercity trains between Brussels and Luxembourg
Also, there are freight trains operating the line.
SNCB Class 13, Alstom Tractis is a multivoltage locomotive manufactured in late 90's

My next train will be an AM08 as well
Another freight train

As it looks the two freight trains were travelling ahead of my passenger train on line 140 between Ottignies and Charleroi
Villers Abbey - Cistercian abbey, abandoned in 1796 & now a preserved ruin hosting an annual choir festival (Wikipedia).

AM08 24 at Charleroi
Class 27 is an old locomotive from 1982
Manufactured by BN/ACEC

Having a snack at the station in Charleroi
Spriou and he's squirrel Spip
Main station in Charleroi is the South station. Charleroi is the 5th largest town in Belgium.

Unlike France, there are still lockers at the stations here in Belgium
My last Belgian train today will be the service from Charleroi to the French border and the town of Erquelinnes. It is Class MSCR 970 which is a classic Belgian EMU from the 70's

I'm now travelling on rail line 130A which is a railway line constructed in 1852. Until the opening of the Paris–Brussels–Cologne high-speed lines, international passenger trains between Paris and Cologne traveled along line 130A, including the Trans-Europ Express Molière (Paris-Dusseldorf) and Parsifal (Paris-Cologne).

River Sambre

Belfry of Thuin

The line is under renovation, hence only 1 track is open

The last stop for this train is Erquelinnes. Until 2012 the train continued all the way to the first French station - Jeumont, but not anymore. There is a daily direct service between Charleroi and Maubege, but it is much later, which was not convenient for me.

So, I'm walking from the station of Erquelinnes to Jeumont by foot. It is 2,5km long walk, so it should take around 30 minutes. Unfortunately the Belgian train was delayed, so I had to walk fast in order to not miss my connection in France.
This is the border between Belgium and France

Laundry machines on the street in Jeumont
There are busses here, but the were not frequent enough during my stay here

The station in Jeumont

Unfortunately during the daytime, the trains here are replaced by busses. To summarise my experience, there is much better connection between Netherlands and Belgium than between Belgium and France. Don't try to search this itinerary in Rail Planner - the only way to cross this border by train will be with the daily train much later in the evening.

From Wikipedia: "To allow access to single-current SNCB trains, the Jeumont station has tracks with catenaries that can be switched. With the help of a protected switch, it is possible to switch off the current first, and switch from the continuous SNCB 3000 V to the 25000 V AC 50 Hz SNCF, and vice versa."

I can still feel how Trans Europe Express was once stopping here.

In order to continue my journey in France by train, I have to take a SNCF bus from Jeumont either to Maubege or Aulnoye-Aymeries.
The bus driver did not know what Interrail was, hence I got the impression that not many Interrail travellers are using this route. The bus is announced at the train departure board.
The bus is crossing the railway here in Jeumont
Road D649

SNCF train at Maubege
The bus continues to Aulnoye, where I will switch to train.


A drink while waiting for the train
The railway station in Aulnoye
At 15:50 there is a direct TER train to Paris
TER trains between Paris and Maubege are of the type locomotive and older SNCF coaches
Newer trains are used for services to Lille.

SNCF Class BB 22000

Regio 2N
I was expecting some sort of freight train here, and it turned out to be this one
Class 66 from Euro Cargo Rail

Then it started to rain

SNCF Class Z23500

The train to Paris

Inside the older SNCF coaches

I'm travelling now on Creil-Jeumont line constructed between 1847 and 1855. It was electrified in 1964 with 25kV DC

Since the windows in the coaches are very dirty, I took photos from the last coach

I could see several freight trains here

Near Creil, the line is connected together with the one from Lille for the last part to Paris.

High speed line to the right

Last stop is Paris - Gare du Nord

Gare du Nord
I'm now taking the metro to Gare Montparnasse in order to continue my journey to Versailles

The trip from Montparnasse and Versailles is short

Versailles-Chantiers station


I've wanted to visit this place for a long time, and now it was the time to do that.
Hotel de Ville will not be my hotel for the night

Instead it will be this one
Right next to the hotel is the other station of Versailles - Chateau Rive Gauche

Louis XIV statue
place d'Armes
The park is already closed, I will visit it the next morning


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