Belgian State Railways (SNCB)

by Michiel Rademakers

Neerpelt station
Photograph by Michiel Rademakers, 2002.

Neerpelt station can be found in the extreme north-east corner of Belgium, some 5 kms from the Dutch frontier. It is/was a largish junction station on an intersection of the ancient international Antwerp-Roermond (NS)-Koeln line with the local Liege - Hasselt - Eindhoven line which incidentally was build by the Dutch SS and is now totally dismantled. The Antwerp - Koeln line still has two heavy ore trains each way each workday, and a commuter service between Neerpelt -and Antwerp - a two hours journey!

This picture shows the station building which dates from the 19th century, built by the Grand Central Belge (Belgian Great Central Railway).

Neerpelt Blok 4
Photograph by Michiel Rademakers, 2002.

The GCB equipped Neerpelt with two Saxby & Farmer boxes, named in Belgian terms Blok 4 and Blok 5. Boxes are numbered by block post along a line. This picture shows the south junction with Blok 4 box. The line to Hasselt-Liege ran straight on, whilst the line to Antwerp turns to the right.

The box is in a sorry state, because rumour has it that it will finally be torn down in 2004 - apparently the last of its kind in all Belgium - to be replaced by a CTC setup in Mol, 20 kms towards Antwerp. Already the semaphores are replaced by colour-light signals. These signals have a strange bulge to the right, because the 'caution' aspect in Belgium is two yellow diagonal lights. In the vertical line are top to bottom: green for clear, red for stop, one yellow, and white for calling-on. This type of signal could also show two aspects related to junctions and busy areas:

  1. Green and yellow horizontally: clear for diverging route
  2. Green over yellow vertically: next signal shows double yellow and is within braking distance

These aspects are the successors of an aspect of the Belgian three-position distant semaphore.

The points are still pulled by double-wires coupled to Saxby & Farmer rocker levers - really heavy work.

Interior of Neerpelt Block 4
Photograph by Michiel Rademakers, 2002.

This photograph shows the 20 lever frame. The lever plates identify the function by colour:

The lever functions are, or (in some cases) were:

  1. Down Main Antwerp - Mol home
  2. Down Branch Hasselt home - white, disused
  3. Branch dwarf shunting disc - now color-light
  4. Double slip: to Platforms (I + II) / to loop/Goods (III + 4-6)
  5. Down Main Antwerp - Mol calling-on/shunt
  6. Double slip: to Antwerp / to Hasselt
  7. Point: to Platform I / to Platform II
  8. Point: to Platform III / to Goods 4 - 6
  9. Point: to Goods 4 / to Goods 5 + 6
  10. Point: to Goods 5 / to Goods 6
  11. Point in Goods 6: to Junction / to Cattle Siding
  12. Selector: to Mol / from Mol (normal speed) -> [1]
  13. Selector: to Mol / from Mol (track occupied) -> [5]
  14. Electric lock: junction route locked I - 6
  15. Shunt from Platform I - now selected shunt from I - 6
  16. Platform I starter - now selected platform I - Goods 6 starter
  17. Shunt from Platform II - now white, disused
  18. Platform II starter - now white, disused
  19. Shunt from Platform III - Goods 6 - now white, disused
  20. Platform III - Goods 6 starter - now taken out
Track plan of Neerpelt Blok 4
Photograph by Michiel Rademakers, 2002.

This is the track plan of Blok 4 with several track circuit lights and point control lights. It also shows the lever numbers in British fashion - Belgian signalling was essentially British/American, having three- or two-position semaphores of somewhat British look.

Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson