EUROPE TRIP/SUMMER 1978

Netherlands Railways
June 19, 1978


After our two nights in Hilversum, my parents and I traveled to Leiden, just as I had the day before. Except this time, my parents would get to freak out over the new Heineken brewery. We checked into a hotel for 2 nights. This stay in Leiden would allow us to reconnect with the places in our lives when we had lived there. After checking in the hotel, my next train trip would take me south through Den Haag and Rotterdam to Dordrecht. When we had lived in the Netherlands before, I had only been exposed to electric trains. But from Dordrecht, I would ride my first diesel train on the line east to Gorinchem and Geldermalsen. After we had lived in the Netherlands, I later saw photos of some diesel multiple unit trains. But I was not impressed, they looked kind of old. But the first diesel train that I rode was actually decent and modern. These were 3 car train sets, painted yellow, and actually operating push pull with the engine in an engine room at one end. The electric train sets were never 3 cars, but either 2 or 4 cars, capable of being coupled together. Service east of Dordrecht was twice an hour, with hourly service further east of Gorinchem.


Gorinchem was between Dordrecht and Geldermalsen, and where every other train turned back to Dordrecht. And I myself turned around there. This line used mechanical semaphore manual block signals. Running next to the far track, was a system of heavy wires connected via pullies. In the U.S. and in Britain, mechanical interlockings normally had the switches and signals connected to the tower via sliding pipes. But in Continental Europe, heavy wires on pullies were normally used for mechanically operated switches and signals.

In more recent years, the line has been electrified.


Looking south from the Dordrecht station, the diesel route to Gorinchem and Geldermalsen was actually the straight route. While what now is the main line south to Roosendaal and into Belgium actually curves to the right.


Rotterdam was a stopover as I returned north, and had a large modern station. This main port city in the Netherlands was heavily bombed during World War II, and largely needed to rebuild.

I made another stopover in Den Haag. From there I rode a unique streetcar line, which actually continued outside the city and on to the next city which is Delft. Delft is back in the direction towards Rotterdam, and is famous for its ceramic pottery. This streetcar line was perhaps like many of the interurban railways which once existed in the U.S., with private right of way outside the cities. The car never reached high speeds, which is probably the more traditional interurbans in the U.S. Sometimes known as "America's Last Interurban" is the South Shore Line, and the only U.S. interurban railway I was ever exposed to. But the real reason why the South Shore Line still survives, is because it was a higher speed line, different from the traditional interurbans.

From Delft I rode a regular train back to Leiden, where my parents and I ate dinner at a restaurant.


I made a quick trip north to Haarlem after dinner. Haarlem is correctly spelled with 2 "a"s. The Haarlem station is on an east west orientation, with a major junction to the west, Trains either proceed straight west to the seaside resort of Zandvoort, or south or left to Leiden Den Haag and Harlem, or north or right to Alkmaar. Back east is Amsterdam.


Part of the Haarlem station had an old arched train shed. Most of the station had one wide platform. But at the west end of the platform would fork into two narrower platforms, with two stub tracks between the narrower platforms. Many stations in the Netherlands were creatively designed to meet all needs.


Back in Leiden, I walked around a bit before returning to the hotel. Including near the freight yard, which was on the line towards Utrecht.


The Amsterdam to Rotterdam line was two tracks, passing through Leiden. While the line from Leiden to Utrecht was single track. The line to Utrecht curves from the main line, as it comes down from the elevated station trackage to street level.