Antwerp(en) - tram

This week’s blog is about Antwerp’s tramline-network. It is 75 kilometers (over 45 miles) long and, after Brussels, the second biggest one in Belgium. Pictured is a diagrammatical plan of the network. We have to admit that, especially when seeing it for the first time, such a plan does not make a lot of sense to us.

Eureka! On the reverse side of the same leaflet there’s this plan – now with Antwerp’s streets visible too. That helps a lot. Trams have served Antwerp uninterrupted as from 1873. Nowadays there are 13 lines – all with their own colour, though it is sometimes difficult to distinguish one colour from the other.

Knowing the system is pretty long standing, the temptation to look for old pictures is irresistible. Here’s line 10, then (when?) from Deurne, via the Central Train Station, to the Melkmarkt (Milk Market) and vice versa. The present line number 10 still runs from Wijnegem, beyond Deurne, to the Melkmarkt. In those days the cars were modest and the advertisement advised us all to smoke Bastos (‘Rook Bastos’), a brand similar to Gouloises (no filter, a filter is for sissies).

Line number 7 could not be skipped, as it is ‘our’ line – the most nearby one. Then, and now, from Mortsel, via the Central Bank, to Tolhuis (Toll House) and vice versa. The name Tolhuis is replaced by Sint Pietersvliet; the same spot – a less ‘romantic’ name, we think.

Already in those days, say the fifties/sixties of last century, it was unwise to mess around with trams. This Beetle was extensively crushed – hopefully when parked (too close next to the railtrack?). There will be more pictures of accidents because there is, we feel, a comedy caper-element in almost each of them. Of course we sincerely hope no one was hurt. It seems that this type of tram is still in use, see the next seven pictures.

Again line 10 wich makes a loop at the Melkmarkt-end, hence the single track here, where the tram is at the corner Korte Nieuwstraat/Korte Koepoortstraat (we think…). Isn’t this an utterly charming street view?

As stated before, number 7 is the closest from where we live and this is the tram stop at Sint Pietersvliet – a loop too, ‘proven’ by the course of the track.

Screeching tram

After entering the tram it takes the loop, creating a screeching sound and converges again with the other track.

The view in- and outside of the tram. We noticed that the majority of passengers entered the first carriage, leaving the second one almost empty.

Again inside a tram, now in the first (or only) carriage, as the driver is visible. Note the chairs: the single ones just, only just, wide enough for an average bum, the double ones creating a rather intimate togetherness with a possible complete stranger.

A nice feature inside. Normally, well we’ve never seen otherwise, a red light switches on when someone wants the vehicle to stop. Inside the type of tram we have seen with the last pictures this sign hangs from the ceiling with the text ‘Halte Gevr.’ (Gevr. = Gevraagd) rather obviously meaning ‘Stop Asked For’.

Sorry, but again this caused us chuckling. Don’t park your car next to a track hoping for the best. It could end up in huge disappointment!

The type of tram we have already seen mixes nowadays with this new type. Smooth admittedly, but far less appealing than the old one, don’t you think?

The new type in front of the building ‘Nationale Bank’, an important junction where buses as well as four tramlines (4, 7, 12, 24) meet each other.

Less-than-a-minute journey

A short ride, 48 seconds to be precise, from Centraal Station to busy Franklin Rooseveltplaats, another tram meeting on the way.

This modern one might have collided with a car or something. We like to think that this one (line 6) just travelled too fast and did not quite make the bend. The firm traffic light-post luckily prevented a more substantial disaster.

Overground changes to undergound

There’s an overground part of the system as well as an underground one. Both worlds are to be seen at Antwerp’s most important high-street, the Meir. Being a tram driver overground is supposedly, although more stressful, more interesting than being one underground – where there’s mostly concrete and darkness.

The underground part, called ‘premetro’, during construction. For more about a premetro in general, see The premetro-part of Antwerp’s tram-system is made visible by dotted lines on the second picture.

A view of a premetro station. We forgot which one, but they all look more or less the same by nature.

Keep your distance

It’s not abnormal at all that a tram has to wait for entering an underground station -or overground stop- until its forerunner has left. As you can see the same line/track is in use by both types of tram.

One can’t imagine that one of the trams was on the wrong track – although trains in Belgium (and mostly France for that matter) travel on the left hand side. It was probably not a peekaboo game coming from the ‘underworld’ but rather a simple head tail collision. Looks weird all the same.

After an eventful (come on…. don’t exaggerate) day we catched our trusted line number 7 to go home again. The required one is already visible in the distance.

The city council, without any doubt supported by the regional government, the national government and, yes, what is considered the European government, is planning to extend the tram network. Coming March construction of the ‘Noorderlijn’ (North Line’) will start. This poster tells us ‘The Noorderlijn is coming’. (Is ‘on its way’ more appropriate?) It will turn out to be closer to the Willemdok -our winter mooring- than line number 7. Having said that, we might be overwintering in a total different place… This is called ‘lifting a tip of the veil’, at least in Dutch. Keep watching this space. Bye for now.