June 15, 2014 in Urban Exploration

Charleroi Train Graveyard

This location, in a Charleroi goods yard, used to be a depot where engineering work took place on the SNCB fleet of locomotives. In more recent years it became a train graveyard, purely used for temporary storage of engines that were on their way to the breakers yard. It must have been a very utilitarian but impressively large-scale operation during its active heyday some decades ago.

The HLR Class 73 is a type of diesel locomotive operated by SNCB (the Belgian National Railway Company). Once upon a time, it formed the backbone of the country’s fleet of “shunters” – small, high-powered locomotives with a top speed of 60km per hour that were used for assembling trains at marshalling yards before going to the station. They are a bit like the rail equivalent of a tugboat.

These engines were among the first of their kind, created as a batch of 35 units in 1965. They were put together by La Brugeoise et Nivelles, a former tram and train manufacturer who designed a wide range of vehicles including the metro of Charleroi and a variety of streetcars used throughout Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels, The Haig and Marseille.

Weighing 56 tons each, the Class 73s were driven by a six-cylinder engine working with a hefty power output of 550 kilowatts at 950 revolutions per minute. These engines were a product of Cockerill, a company founded in Seraing in 1817 that began a proud tradition of building locomotives for Belgium’s railways after producing the country’s very first steam locomotive, ‘Le Belge’.

The HLR 73s that you see here, however, have sadly reached the end of their lives and been sold for the basic value of their iron and steel components. They are due to be towed away and liquidated at some point in the future, with sugar placed in their fuel tanks so that thieves or joy-riders cannot attempt to restart the engines and get them moving again.

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