The International Steam Pages

Former Belgian Steam Heating Locomotives

Keith Chambers writes:

At the end of 'To Austria for (a little) Steam' I recall my surprise at seeing three SNCB class 29 2-8-0s in steam when passing through Belgium in 1977.

Incredibly there were twenty five of the class converted to mobile steam generators and the last few were still in use in 1981. In addition there were a number of MacIntosh designed 0-6-0s used for the same purpose. These were classes 41 and 44 and were almost identical to the locomotives that he designed for the Caledonian Railway.

When travelling through Belgium in the mid 1980s on my way to see some West German industrial steam I noticed a couple of dumped locos alongside Leuven shed and got off to investigate. Sure enough I found one 2-8-0 (29.279) and one 0-6-0 (44.021) both of which had clearly been used as heating locos. When I later wrote to the SNCB asking for the identity of the locomotives that I had seen from a passing train I received a very strange reply. I was told that these locomotives were being kept for preservation in Belgium, if I wanted to buy a locomotive I should go to East Germany and what was I doing trespassing on railway property anyway?

So I was not too surprised when years later the writer of the letter became a hate figure in British and Belgian railway preservation circles when he ordered the sale of the locos to a scrap dealer for a nominal sum on condition that they were not resold and were scrapped immediately.

However at least two others have survived, again one 2-8-0 (29.164) and one 0-6-0 (41.195) and I visited the location of these two unrestored locomotives earlier this year. I was in La Louviere, Belgium in late February when I went to the old steam shed there where I knew some preserved items are kept. The depot is not open to the public and is impregnable. However at the rear of the shed was a former loco tender snow plough which could be from a MacIntosh loco and I began to suspect that a tenderless 41.195 might be around somewhere. This locomotive had been an unrestored plinth at Charleroi Sud station for a few years after being a heating loco but seemingly disappeared a few years ago when the station underwent some renovation work. I walked around to the front of the depot where I found 29.164. Then unexpectedly I was invited inside. There among a number of electric and diesel locos was 41.195 complete with tender!

Here are a few links to threads about SNCB steam locos which deal in part with some used as heating locos;

The last thread probably shows the same two locos that I saw at Schaerbeek in 1977. The first thread has photos (scroll down) of the two locos at Leuven which were scrapped in 2002. (And yes, I am Londonkeith.)

Rob Dickinson