EUROPE TRIP/SUMMER 1978

Netherlands Railways
June 22, 1978


While our hosts took my parents by the North Sea near their home, I rode the bus to Alkmaar to connect with the trains. The regional bus company there was NZH, which had evolved from a streetcar and interurban system based in Haarlem, and had long since become an all bus operation. NZH stood for Noord Zuid Hollandse, or North South Holland (or perhaps something like "Hollandese"). Many people use Holland to refer to the Netherlands. But technically, Holland refers to only 2 of the 11 provinces of the Netherlands. Noord Holland or North Holland, and Zuid Holland or South Holland. The two Holland provinces are in the most populated parts of the Netherlands, including Amsterdam Rotterdam and Den Haag.


The Alkmaar station still had mechanical signals, and was becoming inadequate for growth in traffic. The station would later be expanded.

From Alkmaar I proceeded southeast, making a series of connections at Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Arnhem, to Nijmegen.


Nijmegen is a short distance south of Arnhem, both those cities are close to the eastern border with Germany. Like many stations in the Netherlands, Some platforms at Nijmegen actually had 3 tracks between them, with the middle track not accessing a platform. And at the halfway point along the platforms, there would be crossovers. The center track would enable a train to bypass a train standing on one half of a platform track, and allow the train to access the other half of that platform track. This allowed for efficient track utilization at a station.

I did not enter Germany that day. I then rode south of Nijmegen on my second diesel line, to Venlo. This line used newer 3 car diesel train sets. This single track line was a pioneering installation of CTC or Centralized Traffic Control in the Netherlands, using American technology. Most modern single track CTC installations in Europe have only one signal block between passing sidings. But this CTC installation was more like those in the U.S., with intermediate signals between sidings.


Venlo is a border crossing station with Germany. And a point where international trains must make the transition between the Netherlands 1,500 volt DC electrification, and the Germany 15,000 volt 16 2/3 hz AC electrification. At Venlo, the voltage difference was handled by having a gap at the middle of the through platforms used by international trains. When a westbound train arrived from Germany, the German locomotive would drop pantographs at the voltage gap, and coast or brake into the final station stop. A diesel switcher would pull the German locomotive off the train, and push it back east into the German voltage territory.


At the Venlo station, the voltage gaps were visible from the platforms. Once the German locomotive was pushed back into its home voltage, it was safe to raise the pantograph.

In more recent years, the electrification at Venlo was revised to include switchable voltage sections, which is more customary in Europe. Such a system had already existed at Emmerich Germany, which is the border crossing station on the main line east of Arnhem. With such a system, a locomotive on an arriving train could uncouple and move away on its own power. And with that locomotive out of the way, an operator could switch the station track section to the departing voltage. And the relief locomotive could move in and couple to the train.

From Venlo, I retraced my steps through Nijmegen and Amsterdam.


At Amsterdam I took a photo in the station, which had an old arched train shed. Also visible was one of the trains operating between Amsterdam and Brussels Belgium, with an elevated cab. These were push pull trains, with a Dutch cab control car, a mix of Dutch and Belgian coaches, and a Belgian dual voltage electric locomotive. While the Dutch voltage is 1,500 volts DC, the Belgian voltage is 3,000 volts DC. In addition to these push pull trains, some trains between Amsterdam and Brussels used a special group of Dutch 2 car train sets. Dual voltage and painted blue.

From Amsterdam I proceeded on back to Alkmaar. And finally the NZH bus back to where we were staying.